Electrical safety and online marketplaces
I am familiar with Electrical Safety First's campaign for better regulation of online marketplaces. As you will know, the UK has a strong product safety system to ensure products are safe before they can enter the market, and this includes products sold online.
I understand your concerns regarding this issue, and I take the problem of counterfeit electrical goods seriously. It is therefore welcome that the Government is working across the industry and with law enforcement colleagues on a number of initiatives to tackle this issue. You may also welcome the fact that officials in government are working with representatives from online platforms to discuss the availability of counterfeits on their platforms. Action is also underway to ensure a co-ordinated law enforcement response against the sellers of these counterfeits.
In addition, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is reviewing product safety legislation to make sure the existing legislative framework is adequate. This is due to changes to traditional supply and distribution chains as a result of e-commerce.
I will continue to follow the developments in this area and in particular the OPSS review into the current product safety legislative framework. This is an important issue and the Coronavirus pandemic highlights how more and more consumers are relying on e-commerce.
Night Time Economy
I know that it has been a particularly challenging time for those operating within the night time industry. I sympathise with anyone who is currently facing redundancy during this difficult time.
It is important that as our economy begins to recover, with more businesses reopening and staff returning to work, that there is a welcoming and safe night time economy. The night time economy is hugely important to our entertainment and culture in the UK, and it is the UK's fifth largest sector. To help the smallest businesses operating in the night time economy, the Government has put in place grants which have been distributed through North Devon Council. Further, all businesses operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector can benefit for a business rates holiday for 2020-21 as the Chancellor removed the previous threshold on eligibility for this support.
To support jobs, both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Coronavirus Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) provided a taxable grants worth 80 per cent of an employees’ wages, or a self-employed person’s average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. I welcome the extension of SEISS which means that self-employed individuals can qualify for a second and final taxable grant, when the scheme reopens for applications this month. This second grant will be worth 70 per cent of average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total, and according to the same eligibility criteria as the first grant. This extension matches the support available under the CJRS as the Chancellor announced that the CJRS will continue until the end of October, with new flexibility having been introduced from August to also help get employees back to work. This includes furloughed workers being able to return to work on a part-time basis, with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of furloughed staff.
Temporary new measures have been introduced to protect tenants renting commercial property from aggressive forms of rent recovery. To achieve this, the Government has legislated to enact a moratorium on commercial forfeitures due to non-payment of rent, due to end on 30 June; temporarily voided statutory demands and winding up petitions issued to commercial tenants; and changes have been made to the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery.
As you may know, bars may reopen provided their premises are Covid-19 Secure. The full details of the guidance can be found online at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery. Unfortunately, nightclubs, casinos, bowling alleys, indoor skating rinks, and some other venues must remain closed until it can be proven that their premises can be made Covid-19 Secure. I know that the evidence is being kept under review and Ministers are working with industry representatives to draw up further guidance. The full list of businesses which can reopen is available online at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/opening-certain-businesses-and-venues-in-england-from-4-july-2020.
I will continue to raise your industry-specific concerns at the highest level to make sure that the Government is aware and I will follow any developments closely.
Support for the Aerospace Industry
Aerospace is an important strategic sector of the UK economy and I am concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on the industry. The Government have put support in place, which is on top of the longer-term assistance delivered through the Aerospace Growth Partnership.
The Government is providing targeted assistance to firms, in addition to the £2.16 billion of loans that have been paid to airlines and aerospace companies through the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Finance Facility to support businesses affected by loss of funding. Current sector-specific assistance includes the provision of £450 million research and development funding through the Aerospace Technology Institute, as well as the establishment of the Jet Zero Council to oversee the UK’s mission to produce the first zero carbon transatlantic passenger jet. In total, over £6 billion of support has gone to the aviation and aerospace sector, which I hope will protect the industry and jobs. I will continue to monitor the situation closely.
However, I know that there is still a high level of concern about the future of the aerospace sector. I will continue to raise those concerns with Ministers to ensure that the Government is doing everything it can.
I have received a number of emails from constituents concerned about reports that there may be a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading legislation. I strongly believe that it is important for Sunday to remain special, and I do not want to see workers lose the extra time they get to spend with their families. I am therefore instinctively nervous about the media reports. However, as with all media reports of this kind, we must be careful to remember that there actually may not be any plans to relax Sunday trading legislation.
If such proposals were put before the House of Commons, I would want to be absolutely certain that such a change was temporary, and that it would provide a meaningful economic benefit which would support our post-pandemic economic recovery. I would need to both of those conditions to be fulfilled before considering supporting such proposals.