19.This instrument triggers the end of most lockdown restrictions in England by revoking these regulations (and certain amending regulations listed in the schedule) with effect from 23.55 on 18 July 2021:
20.This instrument also extends the expiry date of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/750) to the end of 27 September 2021 to ensure that local authorities retain powers to respond to local serious and imminent public health threats as a result of the spread of coronavirus. The Explanatory Memorandum sets out the Government’s assessment of the four tests which has led them to believe free movement is now permissible.
21.These Regulations amend the Self-Isolation Regulations1 to reflect new policy. With effect from19 July they allow a person to leave self-isolation to put an antibody test into the post. With effect from 16 August certain people will no longer be required to self-isolate if they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus:
22.Regulation 2 also sets out a transitional provision to provide that, for anyone who is self-isolating at the time these amendments come into force, that duty will fall away. The Explanatory Memorandum states public health modelling suggests that the current rise in case numbers will have peaked by mid-August, so introducing this change then will reduce the risk of transmission, hospitalisations and deaths. It will also allow more people to be fully vaccinated, reducing the risk of severe illness.
23.SI 2021/864 was made two days after the original Regulations to correct a cross-reference, without which the part of SI 2021/851 that deals with posting COVID tests is inoperable.
24.This Order makes changes to enable the electronic service of notices and documents by the Secretary of State and by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) on behalf of the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) explains that the current process of serving notices and documents through physical copies is expensive, time-consuming and environmentally costly, and that during the pandemic, the process placed additional burdens on the regulator and on companies which have had to deal with notices sent to their registered offices. BEIS says because of the pandemic, Ofgem temporarily began sending email copies of notices, in addition to physical copies, to stakeholders who had agreed in advance to accept electronic communications. This Order will allow Ofgem to deliver certain regulatory responsibilities electronically against a background of future uncertainties about COVID-19 restrictions and increased remote working practices.
25.This instrument extends further (from July 2021 to the end of February 2022) transitional provisions which currently postpone the introduction of phyto-sanitary (SPS) controls on imports from the EU into Great Britain (GB) of animals and animal products, plants and plant products, including food and other imports relevant to the agri-food chain. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that this further extension will allow businesses which continue to be affected by the pandemic to familiarise themselves with the new SPS compliance requirements and IT systems and ensure that necessary infrastructure and processes can be put in place at Border Control Posts. The instrument also extends (from July to October 2021) the grace period during which GB can legally accept current EU model Export Health Certificates (EHCs) accompanying consignments of animals and animal products imported into GB. Defra says that this extension will give exporting countries more time to incorporate the new GB EHCs into their export systems.
26.This Order builds on an earlier instrument1 which allowed schools in England to hold an extra In Service Training (INSET) day to help teachers train and prepare for coronavirus testing in schools after the Christmas holidays. The Order modifies the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2020 and Guidance on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (“the Document”) to reduce by one the number of days a teacher must be available to teach pupils and perform other duties in the academic year 2020/21, and to allow one extra day on which a teacher must be available to teach and perform other duties or must be available to only perform other duties. The Department for Education says that this change enables schools to have provided the extra INSET day without breach of their contractual terms under the Document.
27.The Department told us that INSET days are teacher training days, so all teachers employed by a school will be paid for attending. As for teachers supplied by an agency, they would not usually attend INSET days, but if they were asked to do so, they would also be paid. We note in passing that there is an argument that supply teachers should attend all INSET days where this is helpful for them or their students, and that financial considerations by their agencies should not be a factor in deciding their attendance.
28.This instrument extends certain exemptions that were given to self-employed claimants of Universal Credit during the pandemic: the Gainful Self-Employment (GSE) test, the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) and Start-Up periods were suspended. The exemptions were due to expire on 31 July 2021 and these Regulations extend them until 31 July 2022. However, they also give the Department for Work and Pensions flexibility to manage the re-introduction of the tests as the economy recovers. For example, regulation 2(3) allows for the MIF to be reduced to zero but only for those who can demonstrate that they are still financially impacted by COVID Government restrictions, and that decision is subject to review by Work Coaches at two monthly intervals, and limited to six months in total.
29.This instrument ensures that payments under the Covid Local Support Grant and equivalent schemes delivered by the Devolved Administrations are disregarded as income for the purposes of tax credits, so that tax credit recipients will receive the full benefit of these support payments. The Covid Local Support Grant provides additional support for children, families and the most vulnerable during the period of lockdown restrictions and is an extension and follow-on scheme to the earlier Covid Winter Support Grant. The instrument also extends the definition of approved training to include the “Skills for Life and Work” programme which has been introduced in Northern Ireland to ensure that young persons under age 20 undertaking such training can continue to be eligible in respect of the payment of Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.