On the 16th June 2021, the Government announced that the ban on presenting winding-up petitions based on statutory demands served on or after 1 March 2020 would be extended to the 30th September 2021. The temporary measures were initially due to expire on the 30th September 2020 however they have been extended multiple times during the course of the pandemic.
The extension is just one a selection of measures designed to delay creditors from enforcing debts against defaulting companies.
The relevant legislation is the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (the ‘Act’). Schedule 10 of the Act deals with the ban on presenting winding up petitions during the ‘relevant period’. The relevant period has been extended by the introduction of further regulations, the most recent being the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus)(Extension of the Relevant Period) (No.2) Regulations 2021 which extended the end of the ban from the 30th June 2021 to 30th September 2021.
Under Section 20 of the Act, The Secretary of State has the power to amend corporate insolvency or governance legislation by way of secondary legislation (the so-called ‘Henry VII’ powers). It is therefore entirely possible that the Government may decide to further extend the restrictions in an attempt to buffer the effect of a rush of enforcement action following the lifting of restrictions. The extension on winding-up petitions was also accompanied by the announcement that the ban on evicting commercial tenants would be extended to 25 March 2022.
Debts incurred during the pandemic
As noted by the Government in its press release, the measures enacted are designed to insulate businesses from the financial impact that the pandemic has had on trade. Creditors and practitioners should note that the Act contains a caveat which states that in certain circumstances, a winding-up petition may be brought in cases where a creditor can demonstrate ‘reasonable grounds for believing that coronavirus has not had a financial impact on the company’.