A judge has ruled that the legal action seeking to reopen indoor hospitality at the same time as non-essential retail will be fast-tracked through the courts after the government attempted to argue against a fast resolution of the case.
The legal action has been brought by Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, and Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond to try to force the early opening of hospitality venues, and yesterday (Tuesday 6 April) the government was ordered to the High Court to justify why it is permitting the opening of non-essential shops before pubs and restaurants on April 12.
The Government’s response followed a request by the High Court last Friday that “the Secretary of State shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6 2021, file and serve his response to the application”.
In the response received this morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stated the department “opposes the case” and that there is “no proper basis for expedition” of the case. He noted “the Court is asked to refuse the Claimants’ request for expedition and to allow the claim to proceed on the normal timetable for judicial review.”
Sacha Lord said: “We are pleased with the Judge’s decision today to expedite the case and believe the Government’s response this morning was yet another stalling tactic to divert attention away from the lack of scientific data to justify the ongoing closures.
“With non-essential retail opening on Monday, there is clearly a firm basis for the case to be heard immediately. The Government has continuously failed to introduce any new evidence as to why indoor hospitality cannot open on 12 April alongside non-essential retail, or any justification for their prioritisation of retail over hospitality.”
He added: “While I’m pleased outdoor hospitality remains on course to reopen on Monday, there are thousands of operators who do not have outdoor space or the financial capability for outdoor set up, and are, therefore, forced to stay closed for a further five weeks (17 May).
“We estimate this affects around 60% of all operators, many of whom will cease trading as a result.
“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.
“We will now look forward to the next phase of the case on 19 April.”