Hancock accused of 'stalling tactics' as reopening challenge fast-tracked

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Legal challenge: Sacha Lord (right) and Hugh Osmond believe indoor hospitality should be allowed to open at the same time as non-essential shops (image: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street via Flickr)
Legal challenge: Sacha Lord (right) and Hugh Osmond believe indoor hospitality should be allowed to open at the same time as non-essential shops (image: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street via Flickr)

Related tags: High court, Sacha Lord, Manchester, Punch, Hospitality, Legislation, lockdown, Coronavirus

The Government has been accused of “stalling” as a legal challenge over indoor hospitality’s reopening date will be fast-tracked through the High Court.

Night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester and operator Sacha Lord and hospitality entrepreneur Hugh Osmond have challenged Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the decision to reopen indoor hospitality five weeks after non-essential retail.

The Government argued against the expedition of the case yesterday (Tuesday 6 April) but the judge ruled to fast-track the case through the High Court. 

Mrs Justice Eady said: "There is a need to expedite consideration of this matter if the challenge is not to be rendered academic by passage of time."

Case expediated 

The High Court requested last week that Health Secretary Matt Hancock file a response by 10am yesterday (6 April).

Hancock responded the Department of Health and Social Care opposed the case and argued there was not a proper basis for the case to be expedited. 

He called for the claim to proceed on a normal timetable for judicial review, according to Lord’s team.

The case will now be put before a judge of the High Court for consideration during the week commencing Monday 19 April.

Lord accused the Government of a “poor stalling tactic” and said it was intended to “divert attention away from the lack of scientific data to justify the ongoing closures.”

The Government has “continuously failed to introduce any new evidence” to explain why indoor hospitality could not reopen alongside non-essential retail, Lord added.

An estimated 60% of all operators will be unable to trade until indoor hospitality is permitted to reopen from Monday 17 May, the night czar added.

“These same operators have spent millions of pounds creating Covid secure environments and we firmly believe these regulated venues have much safer measures in place than most retail stores,” Lord explained.

Punch founder Hugh Osmond said the decision to fast-track the case was “only a small step to hold the Government to account, but an important one.

“Win or lose now, the Government will have to provide proper evidence to support its position. That is a victory in itself,” he added.

A Government spokesperson said: “We have been clear that we want this lockdown to be the last and to achieve that our approach to cautiously easing restrictions is informed by the best available science and the latest clinical evidence.

“The Government has supported the hospitality sector throughout this global pandemic, including our new £5bn Restart Grant scheme, extending the furlough scheme and the VAT cut, and providing 750,000 businesses in hospitality and other sectors with business rates relief.”

Related topics: Health & safety

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