Clause 5 - “Protected period”

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 9 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

Clause 5 sets out the protected period from which rent can be referred to arbitration. The Government are committed to supporting landlords and tenants to resolve rent that has built up. For the arbitration scheme to do so, the parties and the arbitrator must be clear on from which periods rent can be referred to arbitration. Closure requirements and other restrictions were lifted at different times for different types of businesses as part of the appropriate road map out of restrictions, and the reducing of alert levels. That is why the protected period runs from the start of closure requirements until the last day that a business was either required to close or subject to another specific restriction on how it could operate or use its premises.

The period is not affected by general restrictions that applied to all businesses and requirements to give or display information, such as requirements to display information about the wearing of face masks, but where particular types of businesses were subject to a restriction under coronavirus regulations, the period takes account of that restriction. It is intended to take a clear and appropriate approach to the rent debt that may be referred to the arbitrator. The arbitrator will not necessarily award relief in respect of all debt relating to the period, as the appropriate relief will depend on the circumstances, but I urge the Committee to support the clause.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank the Minister for his remarks. Clause 5 defines what is meant by the protected period and specific coronavirus restrictions for the purposes of the Bill. He has outlined the dates for the protected period, and that a specific coronavirus restriction means any requirement other than a closure requirement that regulated any aspect of the way that a business was to be carried on. Requirements to provide information on premises, or requirements that applied more generally to businesses, are not included under the specific coronavirus restrictions.

Clearly, as we have discussed, many businesses continued to experience significant covid impacts beyond the end of the protected period. However, we recognise the need to strike the right balance between the interests of landlords and tenants, and therefore the need to limit the protected period to one that is clear about how arbitrators will look at and assess claims and that is clearly aligned with policy. I hope that the Minister will have heard the reflections of stakeholders, including Andrew Goodacre from the British Independent Retailers Association, that businesses that were not forced to close—essential businesses—may still have suffered significant economic consequences.

We want to ensure that there is fairness, and that all viable businesses that suffered an impact will be supported to continue through the ongoing recovery. Overall, we support the measures and definitions in clause 5, and will support it standing part.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

The hon. Lady is right: this is a focused Bill, looking at the first period of the pandemic. However, as I have said, we will continue to listen to various sectors and work with them to ensure that we can recover equally.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.