Thirteenth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Business practice and regulation

Television Multiplex Services (Renewal of Multiplex Licences) Order 2021 (SI 2021/941)

14.This Order amends the Broadcasting Act 1996 to enable Ofcom to renew five national multiplex licences on the digital terrestrial television platform (Freeview)7 until 2034. The licences would otherwise expire in 2022 and 2026. The amendments also allow Ofcom to revoke the multiplex licences, if they are renewed for a further period until 2034, for spectrum management reasons, on the condition that there is a five-year notice period and that revocation cannot take effect before the end of 2030. The Order also streamlines the licencing renewal process, so that licence holders will not have to submit new technical plans or marketing proposals. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says that while such submissions were relevant in the early days of digital terrestrial television, they are no longer needed now that the service is mature. The Order also removes Ofcom’s power to set a Percentage of Multiplex Revenue (PMR),8 which has consistently been set at zero for current licensees, and ensures that a Multiplex 29 licence is contingent on Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) status which requires the Multiplex 2 licensee to be controlled by a PSB.

15.DCMS says that without the power to renew licences, Ofcom would be required to hold an open competition to award new licences which would require a two-year lead time, resulting in increased uncertainty and costs for the sector. The Department adds that the competitive bid process is outdated, and that primary legislation would be needed to update it. DCMS concludes that an open competition would not be in the interest of the sector or consumers at this time, given the current challenges and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.


Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) (Amendment) (No. 10) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1003)

16.This instrument changes the “bubble” requirements in the International Travel Regulations10 so that amateur and international sportspersons can compete at the same event. As currently framed, the isolation provisions of paragraph 44 of Schedule 4 prevent non-elite sportspersons from attending a domestic competition against international counterparts who may attend by virtue of the elite sports exemption. The urgency of this change is due to an upcoming international fixture taking place on 9 September with an elite international team and a non-elite domestic team which, if it could not take place, would have implications as to the British team’s participation in the Deaf Olympics in 2022.

Public services

School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/953)

17.These Regulations deal with arrangements for the exclusion of pupils from school during the pandemic. They extend temporary measures implemented by three earlier instruments, so that they apply to exclusions occurring between 25 September 2021 and 24 March 2022.11 Without the extension the temporary measures would expire on 24 September 2021.

18.The extension will have the effect that meetings of responsible bodies12 and independent review panels (IRP) can continue to take place virtually to consider exclusions, if it is not reasonably practicable for the meeting to take place in person because of the pandemic, if participants agree to meet remotely and if certain conditions are met to ensure procedural fairness. Where the conditions for a virtual meeting have not been met, the timescale for the meeting will be extended by “such longer period as is reasonably necessary for a reason related to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus”.

19.The instrument does not extend provisions included in the earlier instruments for a longer application window of 25 school days within which a parent, carer or adult pupil can apply for an independent review. This period will revert to the original statutory timeframe of 15 school days. The Department for Education (DfE) says that it has considered scientific advice and views of stakeholders from across the education sector, including teachers, governors, unions, local authorities and stakeholders representing parents and pupils. According to DfE, parents and carers have not been making use of the extension for requesting an independent review and organisations which advocate for parents and carers did not raise concerns about the reinstatement of the statutory timeframe during discussions.

School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/992)

20.This instrument extends until 30 September 2022 the period during which more flexible rules apply to school admissions appeals. The revised rules were introduced by an earlier instrument in 202013 and subsequently extended.14 Without this second extension, they would expire on 30 September. The extension allows admission appeals to continue to be conducted effectively during the pandemic, when self-isolation measures remain in place for those testing positive for COVID-19, and while there remains a risk that further restrictions may be applied should there be a resurgence in infection rates or a new variant of concern. The instrument allows appeal panels to consider appeals as a panel of two (rather than three) and hearings to be held remotely on the basis of written submissions (rather than in person). It also provides more flexibility in relation to the deadlines for the determination of appeals.

21.The Department for Education (DfE) says that these flexibilities will be used only as contingency: when it is reasonably practicable to comply with the usual appeal requirements, admission authorities will have to do so. A survey of key stakeholders showed unanimous support for the further extension and, according to DfE, the new expiry date of 30 September 2022 should allow sufficient time to deal efficiently with the next annual peak in appeals in relation to children starting new schools at the beginning of the 2022/23 academic year, which will be heard between April and July 2022.

7 Digital terrestrial television licences give licensees the right to use certain radio frequencies (spectrum) to transmit television services across the UK in a digital format.

8 PMR is a tax based on revenue to reflect the benefits of holding a licence that the licensee may be required to pay to HM Treasury over the course of the licence term.

9 Multiplex 2 is licensed to a joint ITV and Channel 4 subsidiary and carries commercial PSB channels ITV/STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as some of the PSB portfolio channels, such as ITV 2, Film 4 and More4.

10 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/582).

11 School Discipline (England) (Coronavirus) (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/543), School Discipline (England) (Coronavirus) (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/908) and School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/204).

12 The ‘responsible body’ is the governing body in the case of a maintained school, the management committee in the case of a pupil referral unit, and the proprietor (Academy Trust) in the case of an Academy.

13 School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/446).

14 School Admissions (England) (Coronavirus) (Appeals Arrangements) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/14) .

© Parliamentary copyright 2021