Government Criticized For “Lack Of Transparency” On Hospitality Restrictions

A parliamentary committee has criticised the government’s lack of transparency with the hospitality sector, and has been urged to publish data which influence its decisions to impose restrictions in the hospitality and on trade sector.

A report entitled “government transparency and accountability during Covid 19 -the data underpinning decisions “published by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said: “The evidence the committee received was inconclusive over whether restrictions on hospitality and entertainment sectors were sensible and indeed it is not the purpose of this report to come to a judgement on that. However, building trust with these sectors is absolutely essential and the level of transparency has not been sufficient.”

The report even said it is likely that failures in data sharing have undermined the response.

Chair of the committee William Wragg said: “For the government to build public confidence, it is absolutely vital that it is open on how it reaches its decisions and the data underpinning them.

“Lessons must also be learnt on how the government shares information with local partners. Delays in sharing vital data, and a reluctance to share detailed data almost certainly hampered the local response.”

Lifting lockdown and the road to normality

Ministers were unable to provide the Committee with sufficient information about the decision-making process governing the decision to lift the first lockdown and the data underpinning it. A range of factors must have been considered, including health, economic and educational outcomes, meaning that the Cabinet Office should have played a central role.

The framework for lockdown and tiering decisions has changed repeatedly throughout the pandemic. The report added that “while the Committee does not object to the inclusion of new factors in decision making, changes in the framework so far have not appeared to reflect new information. This has amounted to a moving of the goalposts, created uncertainty, and must stop.”

Lockdown decisions, it went on to say have been met with confusion because the data has been unclear. Data was not initially available for local leaders to understand the tiering decisions and there were no adequate frameworks for escalation and de-escalation in place. The hospitality and entertainment sectors have not had sufficient data on the decisions relating to their businesses. Building trust with these industries is vital and the level of transparency has not been sufficient.

The committee said:

  • it has serious concerns about the lack of transparency and clarity in decision making. The Cabinet Office must outline in its response to this report the range of data and information it will use to lift current and future lockdowns.
  • The priority must now be a clear and consistent framework for making lockdown and tiering decisions as a path back to normality is charted. The Committee welcomes the Government’s roadmap. No further changes should be made to it, such as setting new tests or boundaries.