Matt Hancock called to High Court to explain pub closure reasoning

Writing for The Telegraph, Hugh Osmond claimed that it ‘makes no sense’ for indoor non-essential retail to reopen ‘five weeks before indoor hospitality’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has been called to give evidence at the High Court following a legal case brought forward by Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, Sacha Lord.

The summons follow former Pizza Express boss Hugh Osmond and club operator Lord’s decision to launch a legal challenge which suggests the government has failed to provide “evidence” for delaying the return of indoor dining. 

Mr Justice Swift ordered that Hancock “shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6 file and serve his response to the application”.

Writing for The Telegraph, Osmond claimed that it “makes no sense” for indoor non-essential retail to reopen five weeks before indoor hospitality.

He said: “The Government left us no choice but to take it to court and regardless of the eventual outcome of the case, I am grateful to Mr Justice Swift (whose name seems so apt) for recognising that this is a truly urgent matter affecting the lives of millions of people, that simply cannot wait.”

While a government spokesperson told the publication that it could not comment on legal proceedings, they said that the current roadmap “sets out a phased approach to cautiously easing restrictions, informed by scientific experts”.

However, in a Tweet, Sacha Lord said that “there is no evidence” to maintain the closure of indoor hospitality until 17 May, instead calling for “data, not dates” and “facts, not fiction”.

A government spokesperson told Catering Today that they want this lockdown to be the last and to achieve that, “the approach to cautiously easing restrictions is informed by the best available science and the latest clinical evidence”.

They added: “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.”

It comes as pubs and restaurants across England are set to re-open for outdoor trading on 12 April. Yesterday, Boris Johnson confirmed the decision, keeping in line with the government’s lockdown roadmap.

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