On 12 October 2020, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion to approve the following instruments:

The instruments have already come into force and are subject to the ‘made affirmative’ procedure. Both Houses must approve them within 28 days or they will cease to apply.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) Regulations 2020 and the
amendment regulations were laid in both Houses on 17 September 2020 and came into force on 18 September 2020. They must be approved by 14 October 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Protected Areas and Linked Childcare Households) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 were laid in both Houses on 21 September 2020 and came into force on 22 September 2020. They must be approved by 18 October 2020.

What do the instruments do?

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) Regulations 2020 apply additional restrictions to specified areas in the north east of England. The areas covered by the regulations are:

  • Northumberland;
  • North Tyneside;
  • South Tyneside;
  • Gateshead;
  • Newcastle;
  • Sunderland; and
  • Durham County.

The regulations prohibit gatherings of more than two people from different households from meeting in a private dwelling or garden. In addition, venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars must operate with table service only and close between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Delivery services can continue to operate during these hours.

The restrictions on businesses have since been introduced across the UK under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 5) Regulations 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 correct some typographical errors made in the original legislation.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Protected Areas and Linked Childcare Households) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 place additional areas in the north of England under local restrictions. The regulations add areas to the following SIs already in force:

  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford) Regulations 2020
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Leicester) (No. 2) Regulations 2020
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North of England) Regulations 2020
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull) Regulations 2020
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Bolton) Regulations 2020
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) Regulations 2020

Due to the addition of locations within the north west of England under these regulations, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) Regulations 2020 has been renamed the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East and North West of England) Regulations 2020. Full details of the areas included under these regulations can be found in the Government’s explanatory memorandum.

These regulations also create an exemption to local restrictions to allow households with young children to link with one other household for the purposes of childcare.

Why have further restrictions been introduced?

On 17 September 2020, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, gave an update on Covid-19 to the House of Commons. As part of this statement, Mr Hancock outlined the need for additional restrictions to be imposed on parts of the north east of England. He said:

We have seen concerning rates of infection in parts of the north east. Sunderland, for example, now has an incidence rate of 103 positive cases per 100,000 of population, and in South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle the figures are all above 70 per 100,000. As a result, local authorities wrote to me earlier this week asking for tighter restrictions, and we have taken swift action to put them into place.

On 21 September 2020, Mr Hancock announced further restrictions for areas in the north west, West Yorkshire and the Midlands due to “concerning rates of infection in those areas”. During this statement, Mr Hancock also outlined the reason for the childcare exemption:

I have heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements. For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline, without which they could not do their jobs. Today, I am able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults where that is necessary for caring purposes. That covers both formal and informal arrangements. It does not allow for playdates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed.

Changing rates of infection

Area Week 37, between 7 and 13 September 2020 Week 39, between 21 and 27 September 2020
North East 52.3 133.3
North West 79.2 136.1
West Midlands 43.1 59.1
Yorkshire and the Humber 49.9 75.1
Average for England 36.5 58.7

(Source: Public Health England, ‘PHE Weekly National COVID-19 Report’, accessed 7 October 2020)

What parliamentary scrutiny have the instruments had?

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) has considered these instruments and did not draw them to the special attention of the House. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) Regulations 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (North East of England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 but did not report on them.

The House of Lords is due to debate the regulations on 12 October 2020. A debate in the House of Commons is yet to be scheduled.

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