This past week has been a busy one in public affairs. As well as continued engagement with Government on the ever evolving issues surrounding COVID-19, we have started to see some shift towards (the new) normality regarding other issues returning to prominence – principally food advertising – as well as the marching on of the Immigration Bill.
COVID-19 Business Support Measures
The Coronavirus Future Fund opened for applications yesterday. The Future Fund will provide Government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.
From Tuesday 26 May, businesses with under 250 employees can claim a rebate on statutory sick pay related to the coronavirus. Claims can be made for current and former employees, and can be backdated to March 13th.
The AA held our bi-weekly COVID-information sharing call on Wednesday, 20th May. As well as many of our members, we were joined by a number of civil servants from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and the Department for International Trade (DIT). Credos, the advertising industry’s think tank, presented the results from the latest stakeholder survey and members presented the findings from their own stakeholder research and industry experience. The group discussed remaining concerns surrounding recent Government announcements on credit insurance and other support schemes, such as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and the Job Retention Scheme.
Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland’s lockdown would begin easing next week, on Thursday, May 28. Schools will reopen on August 11, with a mixture of classroom and home learning.
The AA held its bi-weekly COVID-19 information gathering call with Scottish members yesterday, May 21. We were joined on the call by officials from the Scotland Office within UK Government as well as the Scottish Government’s Creative Industries, Screen and Media team. Discussion focused on UK Government support measures and the Scottish Government’s plans for lifting the lockdown.
During the COVID-19 crisis there has been an increase in media coverage on obesity as a possible contributing factor in patient deaths. This has prompted a number of NGOs to call for brands to stop advertising of HFSS products during the crisis and until the Government resumes work on measures outlined in the Childhood Obesity Plan, such as the 9pm watershed.
On Thursday, Action on Sugar and Action on Salt highlighted a decision by Kellogg’s to discontinue advertising around Joe Wicks’ exercise sessions on YouTube, following a complaint to the ASA regarding an advert that appeared for Pringles. In light of this, Action on Sugar, Action on Salt and the Children’s Food Campaign called again on food and drink companies to refrain from advertising HFSS food and drink products before 9pm across all media platforms during the pandemic.
You can find a statement by AA Chief Executive, Stephen Woodford, here about why this is not the right approach, and how advertising can be used to inspire healthy lifestyle changes. The statement was carried in Campaign here.
The AA has a number of working and steering groups dedicated to measuring, reducing and offsetting the carbon output of the advertising industry, with the AA’s Climate Action Working Group and the Media Agencies Sub-Group both meeting this week to discuss this crucial topic.
The Immigration Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday. The legislation will end free movement at the end of this year and lay the foundation for a new points-based immigration system. A guide to the points-based immigration system for employers can be found here. Further guidance will be published over the coming months.
There is a call for evidence on what occupations should be included in the Shortage Occupation Lists under the new system. The deadline to respond is 23:45 on 24 June.