Press release: Regulations temporarily suspended to fast-track supplies of PPE to NHS staff and protect companies hit by COVID-19

  • Business Secretary eases requirements to ensure hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment reaches NHS staff more quickly
  • By cutting red tape, new companies will be able to produce and distribute safe hand sanitiser within a matter of days
  • Government also announces it will amend insolvency law to give companies breathing space and keep trading while they explore options for rescue

New measures announced today will give vital support to frontline NHS staff battling COVID-19 and support businesses under pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

To help get personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser to NHS staff as quickly as possible, Business Secretary Alok Sharma is easing administrative requirements and barriers to imports of these essential tools, without compromising on their safety.

By reducing the amount of red tape, new suppliers and businesses that produce ingredients for safe hand sanitiser and PPE will be able to bring their products to market in a matter of days.

Companies including Brewdog and Ineos have already stepped forward to offer their services in creating hand sanitiser. This week HMRC confirmed manufacturers of hand sanitisers and gels will have their applications for denatured alcohol fast-tracked.

Efforts to boost availability of essential supplies involve temporary measures including:

  • Asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authorities to fast-track PPE through the product safety assessment process and prioritise this activity over other market surveillance activity
  • Allowing PPE equipment providing protection against COVID-19 which lack the CE mark onto the market provided products meet essential safety requirements
  • Providing new guidance for local authorities and ports and borders enforcement officers on the import and safety testing of hand sanitiser

The Business Secretary has also announced he will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency.

This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

The government is doing everything in its power to save lives and protect livelihoods during these unprecedented times.

Applying a common-sense approach to regulation will ensure products are safe and reach the market without any unnecessary delay, getting vital protective equipment such as face masks to frontline staff as quickly as possible.

Today’s measures will also reduce the burden on business, giving bosses much-needed breathing space to keep their workers employed and their companies going.

Commenting on the new PPE rules, James Watt, Co-Founder of BrewDog said:

We started making hand sanitiser at our distillery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire in response to the national shortage and are providing it free to charities and frontline workers.

We really welcome the government’s announcements today, which will mean that making this crucial product will become a much faster and easier process.

The government’s flexibility in these unprecedented times allows us to do even more to help those most in need.

Commenting on the new PPE rules Sir Jim Ratcliffe INEOS Chairman said:

We welcome today’s announcement. These measures will help INEOS as we build two factories in the UK and Germany in under 10 days, to produce and supply substantial quantities of hand sanitiser gel to the NHS for free.

INEOS is a company with enormous resources and manufacturing skills. If we can find other ways to help in the Coronavirus battle, we are absolutely committed to playing our part.

Speaking about the reforms to insolvency law, Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, Confederation of British Industry, said:

The CBI welcomes these interventions at a critical time for business. The temporary suspension of wrongful trading provisions, along with other measures, will give much needed headroom for company directors to enable otherwise viable businesses to use the government’s support package and weather this crisis.

The Business Secretary also announced today that the government will introduce legislation to ensure those companies required by law to hold Annual General Meetings (AGMs) will be able to do so safely, consistent with the restrictions on movement and gatherings introduced to address the spread of coronavirus.

Companies will temporarily be extended greater flexibilities, including holding AGMs online or postponing the meetings.

This measure follows an announcement earlier this week that companies would automatically and immediately be granted a three-month extension to the filing of their accounts following a fast-track online process.

Over 10,000 businesses have already successfully applied for the extension.

Notes to editors

The Office for Product Safety and Standards, part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is the government regulator responsible for the safety of consumer products in the UK. It has written to Local Authorities and HSE to ask them to prioritise equipment which is essential to the NHS.

The government previously consulted on changes to the corporate insolvency regime and announced plans to introduce new insolvency restructuring procedures in August 2018. The new legislation will implement these plans, including a short moratorium or ‘breathing space’ that will give companies in difficulty time to explore options for rescue.

Current insolvency rules stipulate that directors of limited liability companies can become personally liable for business debts if they continue to trade when uncertain about whether their businesses can continue to meet their debts. Relaxation of these wrongful trading rules will reassure directors that the difficult decisions they have to make about the future viability of their business will not have to be unduly influenced by the exceptional circumstances which are entirely beyond their control.

Legislation to introduce these changes will be introduced in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. Provisions will be included to enable the changes to be extended if necessary.

HMRC relaxed rules on alcohol duty

HMRC announced on 18 March that manufacturers of hand sanitisers and gels will have their applications for denatured alcohol fast-tracked during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Under new measures, HMRC is fast-tracking applications so that manufacturers wanting to produce hand sanitising products can be quickly authorised.

Additional information on changes to insolvency laws:

Under the plans, the UK’s Insolvency Framework will add new restructuring tools including:

  • A moratorium for companies giving them breathing space for from creditors enforcing their debts for a period of time whilst they seek a rescue or restructure;
  • Protection of their supplies to enable them to continue trading during the moratorium; and;
  • A new restructuring plan, binding creditors to that plan

The proposals will include key safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid while a solution is sought.

The government will also temporarily suspend the wrongful trading provisions to give company directors greater confidence to use their best endeavours to continue to trade during this pandemic emergency, without the threat of personal liability should the company ultimately fall into insolvency.

Existing laws for fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against director misconduct.

Additional quotes:

Jennifer Marshall, president of the Insolvency Lawyers Association and chair of the City of London Law Society Insolvency Sub-Committee said:

We welcome and support these proposals. Suspending wrongful trading, in particular, will assist directors in accessing Government or bank funding without concerns regarding personal liability.

The insolvency profession in the UK is hugely talented and these reforms, together with existing rescue tools such as administration, could really assist in saving livelihoods.

Norman Tenray, CEO of Obas UK and Non-Executive Director of North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said:

I am delighted that the Business Secretary and UK Government has today taken hugely positive action in suspending the regulations for the importing of much needed PPE equipment.

This will help me to do more to protect our hard-working Doctors and Nurses at this extremely challenging time.

I am aware of a number of overseas manufacturers who have NHS standard protective products and equipment ready and waiting for dispatch which could reach our shores even more quickly now as a result of the government’s excellent announcements today.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update 27 March 2020: Information for licensees and industry on coronavirus response

On 23 March, the Government announced new rules people must follow to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). These include social distancing measures, requiring people to stay at home, and immediate self-isolation for 1.5 million Britons most at risk of needing hospital treatment.

Here we have listed links to the Government guidelines issued alongside resulting industry-led commitments.

We are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation. Our priority is to protect consumers, especially the vulnerable, while ensuring reliable and secure supplies of gas and electricity to homes and businesses are maintained.

The Government is leading the response and we will do all we can to support their efforts to ensure that energy consumers and those working in the sector are protected as best they can be. We expect companies to prioritise customer and staff safety.

Information last updated: 5pm, 27 March 2020

Official public health guidelines

Official guidance is regularly updated and can be found at the links below.

Employers and staff must follow government guidance, and employers ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health guidelines. This includes:

  • maintaining a 2 metre distance from others
  • washing hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds
  • using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available.

GOV.UK guidelines on going to work state:

  • At all times, workers should follow stay at home and self-isolation guidance if they or anyone in their household shows coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.
  • Work carried out in people’s homes and businesses, for example by workers carrying out essential repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided workers are well and have no symptoms.
  • No work should be carried out in any property which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as essential emergency repairs.
  • No work should be carried out by industry professionals who have coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

If you have concerns or questions, raise this with your employer straightaway.

Key links

National Statistics: Energy Trends: UK oil and oil products

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  • Press release: Government to suspend competition law to support Isle of Wight ferry routes

    • Business Secretary to waive competition law for vital Isle of Wight crossings
    • ferry operators allowed to coordinate to keep routes open and essential goods flowing
    • part of measures to support communities and businesses impacted by coronavirus

    The government is temporarily suspending competition law to allow ferry operators in the Isle of Wight to work together and maintain a crucial lifeline between the island and the mainland during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly reduced demand for the day-to-day services provided by the 3 operators, Hovertravel, Wightlink and Red Funnel. Possible staff absences due to self-isolation and illness are also likely to pose a challenge to keeping these essential ferry services going.

    The relaxation of rules under the Competition Act 1998 will help ferry operators to continue to run essential services despite reduced usage during the virus, maintaining a vital route for those who cannot work from home and those needing medical treatment.

    It will also mean the operators can work together to allow for essential food, freight and medical supplies to be transported between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.

    The operators will be able to discuss and agree routes and coordinate staff resourcing to ensure that ferries will still run regularly across the Solent, delivering a critical service on which Isle of Wight residents depend.

    Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

    Ferry operators provide an absolutely vital service to the Isle of Wight, and it is more important now than ever that this crucial lifeline is kept open.

    Our plans to temporarily suspend competition law will allow cooperation between the operators to ensure that essential food, freight and medical supplies can get to the island during these unprecedented times.

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

    By taking action today, we are helping ensure people, goods and services can continue to move freely between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.

    These routes remain fundamental to people’s everyday lives and this action underlines the government’s commitment to support transport operators providing vital services at this difficult time.

    Notes to editors

    Secondary legislation temporarily suspending elements of the Competition Act 1998 for Isle of Wight ferry operators will be laid today (Friday 27 March).

    The Competition Act 1998 prohibits certain types of anti-competitive behaviour, including collusion and cartels. This covers agreements between businesses that prevent, restrict or distort competition. This can, for example, include price-fixing, sharing pricing information and sharing markets.

    In the Act (paragraph 7 of schedule 3) there is a mechanism to allow the Secretary of State to exclude this prohibition – the one that covers agreements between businesses that prevent, restrict or distort competition – in exceptional and compelling reasons of public policy.

    Guidance: ESF claim applications and Self-Declared Adjustments

    Published 20 June 2017
    Last updated 26 March 2020 + show all updates

    1. Updated the ‘Transaction List’.

    2. The ESF E-Claims Process for Self-Declared Adjustments (SDAs) – Applicant Guidance has been update to reflect and explain changes to EClaims functionality and to clarify Technical Clerical Adjustments.

    3. Added the ESF dual forecast and submission form – claims 2020.

    4. The Participant Data Schema has been updated to apply a fix to the drop down menus. The Claims Guidance for Co-Financing Organisations and the Claims Guidance for Grant Recipients have been updated to include new/amended eligibility and expenditure checks.

    5. Updated the Participant Data Schema Outputs and Results. The only change is “white – other” has been removed from a list in cell V16.

    6. The Participant Data Schema (now version 9.1) has been updated. The following changes have been made. The drop down options relating to the ‘Gaining Level 2 Skills or below on Leaving’ and ‘Gaining Level 3 Skills or above on Leaving’ columns have been amended to make sure ‘not applicable’ is available on all rows. The pre-populated data that was showing has now been cleared. The ‘Other Disadvantaged – Homeless (Broad Definition)’ drop down options now have 3 options instead of 4, which reflects the guidance. Further work has been done to speed up the export function.

    7. Published revised versions of the Participant Data Schema (now version 9) and Participant Data Schema guidance (now version 5). Added 2 new documents, Participant Data Schema Aggregation and Participant Data Schema Output Results. The Participant Data Schema supplementary guidance has been removed from the page – this guidance is no longer required. Find more information about these changes on the page.

    8. The ESF Dual Forecast and Submission form 2019 has been added.

    9. The ESF Claims Guidance for Co-Financing Organisations and the Claims Guidance for Grant Recipients has been updated.

    10. The Participant Data Schema has been updated.

    11. E-Claims process for Self-Declared Adjustment (SDAs) – Applicant Guidance has bee updated showing a minor change to the ‘How to create an SDA’ section.

    12. Revised European Social Fund participant data schema supplementary guidance, now dated October 2018.

    13. Removed the Participant Data Schema pre quarter 1, 2018. The updated Participant Data Schema is available for use from quarter 1, 2018 onwards.

    14. The Claims Guidance for Grant Recipients and Co-Financing Organisations has been updated. In addition the ESF E-Claims External User Guidance has been added together with the E-Claims best practice document.

    15. The ESF Dual Forecast and Submission form 2018 Claims has been updated to version 2.

    16. The ESF Dual Forecast and Submission Form – Claims 2018 has updated to make it suitable for use with 2018 claims.

    17. ESF E-Claims Process for Self-Declared Adjustments (SDAs) Applicant Guidance published. This replaces the Interim Guidance and Form.

    18. There are now 2 versions of the Participant Data Schema (PDS), one should be used for claims covering Qurater 1 2018 onwards and the other for claims predating this period. Additional PDS Supplementary Guidance has been added and the PDS Guidance has been updated.

    19. The ESF Claims guidance for Grant Recipients and Co-financing Organisations has been added.

    20. First published.

    Horizon 2020 funding

    Published 20 March 2017
    Last updated 25 March 2020 + show all updates

    1. Changes to email contact details

    2. Contact details changed for some National Contact Points.

    3. New contact added for Transport.

    4. Added new contacts.

    5. Changes to contacts.

    6. Change to sector contact.

    7. Changes to contact points.

    8. New contact added.

    9. First published.

    Symbio Energy Limited: Final Order

    On 10 January 2020 the Authority published a notice of proposal to issue a final order on Symbio Energy Limited (“Symbio”) in accordance with section 26 (1) and (2) of the Electricity Act 1989 and section 29 (1) and (2) of the Gas Act 1986.

    The Authority had been in discussions with Symbio regarding the requirement to become a DCC User (as defined in standard licence conditions 42.11 and 48.11 of the gas and electricity supply licences respectively). 

    Standard licence conditions 42.8 of the gas supply licence and 48.8 of the electricity supply licence require licensees to become DCC Users by 25 November 2017. As highlighted in the Authority’s open letter from December 2017, those suppliers who entered the market following the 25 November 2017, should not exit Controlled Market Entry without being a DCC user.

    The particular behaviour of concern giving rise to the proposal to make a Final Order was that Symbio failed to become a DCC User by the deadline and remains non-compliant. By failing to be a DCC User in accordance with the licence condition, its existing customers with smart meters are suffering harm because they do not have smart meter functionality. There will also be harm to customers who will lose their smart functionality on switching to Symbio. Representations or objections with respect to the proposed final order were invited to be made to the Authority by 10am 3 February 2020.

    Symbio made written representations to the Authority. The Authority has noted the representations received from Symbio in the context of the consultation undertaken pursuant to section 26(1) of the EA89 and section 29(1) of the GA86. The Authority notes that Symbio is close to becoming a DCC User, but the fact remains that Symbio is not currently a DCC User. The Authority remains of the opinion that it is requisite in all the circumstances of this case to make the final order to ensure that Symbio will remain focused on completion of the DCC User Entry Process to become a DCC User as quickly as possible. 

    Therefore, on 6 March 2020, the Authority made the final order, pursuant to section 25 (1) of the Electricity Act 1989 and section 28 (1) of the Gas Act 1986, requiring Symbio:

    • to become a DCC User by no later than 31 March 2020
    • not to acquire any new customers or add any customer accounts by upgrading to dual fuel from the date that the Final Order is made until Symbio can demonstrate that it is a DCC User. 

    As soon as Symbio becomes a DCC User, the sales ban will be lifted and the Authority will begin the process of revoking the final order.

    On 25 March 2020, the Authority received satisfactory evidence from The Smart Energy Code Administrator and Secretariat (SECAS) that Symbio had completed all the required steps to become a DCC user and had therefore met the requirements set out in the Final Order for it to be able to acquire new customers and add new customer accounts by upgrading to dual fuel.

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