Wednesday 9 December 2020
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Companies House: Reform
My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Climate Change and Corporate Responsibility (Lord Callanan) has today made the following statement:
The Government have today published three further consultations to take forward their plans to reform the UK’s register of company information and give businesses greater confidence in who they are doing business with.
These consultations follow the Government’s response to the 2019 consultation to enhance the role of Companies House and increase the transparency of companies and other legal entities, which was published on 18 September 2020.
The key proposals of the consultations are:
Querying power consultation: Companies House will have new powers to query information, which will be exercised on a risk-based approach. The consultation also explores how its powers will be strengthened in a range of areas, including to close various loopholes and remove information from the companies register.
Accounts filing consultation: This consultation invites views on how companies might in future be able to file accounts once with Government, instead of providing separate filings to Companies House, HMRC and other agencies. We are also reviewing the way small companies submit accounts to get the balance right between minimising burdens whilst ensuring the information provided is actually informative. We are also proposing to require all companies to file accounts to Companies House in digital formats, and to give Companies House more powers to check information in those accounts.
Corporate directors’ consultation: To tackle opaque corporate structures, we propose that corporate directors will be prohibited unless their own boards comprise all natural persons, and those natural persons have their identities verified.
These consultations are another important step in the developing the detail of our package of reforms and will have a negligible impact on the speed at which incorporation and other filings are completed: we still expect the vast majority of companies to be able to incorporate easily within 24 hours.
A copy of the consultations will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Lifetime Skills Guarantee
In his announcement about the Lifetime Skills Guarantee in September, the Prime Minister set out his vision to transform the training and skills system for the 21st century economy and help the country to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic. As a country, and as a Government, we believe passionately that everyone should be helped to reach their potential, and that opportunities to do so, across a lifetime, must be increased. Today I am pleased to be able to update both Houses on key steps we are taking to deliver the Lifetime Skills Guarantee through a major extension to the level 3 entitlement for adults, which will be funded from the National Skills Fund.
Now more than ever we need to ensure adults can upskill and retrain, to support the immediate economic recovery and to boost the nation’s skills with the expertise employers need, which is a key part of the Government’s plan for jobs. It is also vital that we deliver for the large number of adults who do not go straight from school to university.
The National Skills Fund is a long-term, substantial investment of £2.5 billion—£3 billion including devolved Administrations—which will drive adult retraining and support our ambitious agenda for reform of further education. It is essential that adults reap the benefits of our reform through a skills system that meets their needs along with the needs of employers across the nation.
Starting from April 2021, any adult looking to achieve their first full level 3— which is equivalent to a technical certificate or diploma, or two full A-levels—will be able to access a fully funded course. This will give them new skills and greater prospects in the labour market. We will ensure that if they choose to study a short course this will not prevent them from taking a further course. We plan to spend £95 million on this important new commitment in year one. This will include a funding uplift for qualifications included in this offer, to support providers to scale up their level 3 provision for adults and meet the needs of learners as we build back better from the pandemic.
It is important that this is a truly national offer, and we must ensure that all learners can access this valuable training regardless of where they live. We are working closely with providers and local areas, including the mayoral combined authorities and Greater London Authority, to ensure this national offer is delivered effectively across the nation and that funding is targeted at valuable subjects that are a key priority for the nation.
We have identified a range of qualifications that will meet current and future skills needs across the nation, and have engaged with business representatives, local areas and education and training providers on the development of the qualifications list. We have focused on provision that ensures good returns for individuals, employers and the economy, as well as those most critical skill areas.
We will keep the course list under regular review to ensure it adapts to the changing needs of the economy. Adults accessing this new level 3 adult offer can do so in the confidence that they will be gaining skills that are valued by employers and will help them secure a better job that may have previously been out of reach. There will be a facility for awarding organisations and local areas to suggest additions to the list.
The courses on offer will deliver a wide range of skills that will open the door to many jobs and sectors. Qualifications in these sector subject areas will help individuals access new jobs and, in many cases, earn higher wages too. From April we will be offering access to qualifications to support the following areas:
Building and Construction
Transportation Operations and Maintenance
Accounting and Finance
Medicine and Dentistry
Horticulture and Forestry
Health and Social Care
ICT for Users
Mathematics and Statistics
Nursing and Vocations and Subjects Allied to Medicine
Child Development and Wellbeing
Teaching and lecturing
Warehousing and distribution
We will continue to build on our wider plans for adult skills and I will update the House on our progress in due course. In the meantime, we will continue to engage closely with stakeholders as we progress and develop detailed plans for the National Skills Fund, including our consultation planned for spring next year.
Housing, Communities and Local Government
High Streets: Rent Arrears Moratorium
I have today laid a statutory instrument that will extend the moratorium on commercial landlords’ right to forfeit a lease due to the non-payment of rent until 31 March 2021.
This will also automatically amend the commercial rent arrears recovery measures led by the Ministry of Justice, through which landlords can seize goods in lieu of unpaid rent. To ensure alignment between this measure and the moratorium, from the next quarter date on 25 December the total number of days’ outstanding rent required for this tool to be used will be increased to 366 days, and this will be in place until 31 March. Accompanying restrictions on the service of statutory demands and winding-up petitions, currently in place until 31 December, are also being extended until 31 March 2021. This means formal demands for the repayment of debt and requests to the courts to liquidate a business owing rent, cannot be made until after the final moratorium comes to an end.
The moratorium was established via section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and was due to expire on 31 December 2020. It has now been extended for a final time by three months and will expire on 31 March 2021.
The objective of this extension is to protect businesses unable to pay their full rent from eviction until March 2021, taking the length of these measures to one year. This will give them time to start to recover from the impact of the pandemic, plan for the future and protect jobs. The Government have brought forward this measure to support the businesses struggling the most during the pandemic, such as those in hospitality. We are clear that those able to pay their rent, must do so.
We recognise the impact that this extension has on landlords and lenders, therefore Government are being clear that this is the final extension to this temporary measure. We expect both sides of the sector to use this time to negotiate and the Government will issue further guidance to facilitate constructive discussions.
We are aware of concerns that some tenants who could pay rent are refusing to do so. The Government are clear that this measure is not a rent holiday: where a tenant is unable to pay in full, landlords and tenants should be coming together to negotiate in good faith, using the principles set out in the voluntary code of practice we published in June. This recommends that those tenants who can pay in full should do so, those who cannot should pay what they can and those landlords who are able to grant concessions should do so. This code of practice and approach was supported by a wide range of sector bodies representing tenants and landlords.
While we have seen many constructive discussions happening between landlords and tenants, I am aware there are growing concerns that the current commercial leasehold legislation has not kept pace with the commercial realities of the sector.
I am therefore also announcing we will be launching a review of the commercial landlord and tenant relationship in the new year. The review will make recommendations to the Government on how to ensure a flexible and fit-for-purpose legislative framework that enables sustainable occupation of thriving high streets/town centres in the future. It will consider a broad range of issues including the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 part II, different models of rent payment, and the impact of coronavirus on the market; for example if we can improve the experience of UK businesses by ensuring that foreign-based landlords have an agent operating in the UK. Both landlords and tenants have previously called for such a review and I will make further announcements on the detail, including a timeline and full scope, in due course.
England, Northern Ireland and Wales are covered by the protection from forfeiture in the Coronavirus Act. Section 82 relates to England and Wales, and the Welsh Government are currently considering an extension to their equivalent moratorium. Section 83 relates to Northern Ireland, who are also considering a similar extension. The Scottish Government passed separate emergency legislation to implement similar measures.