Home » Politics » Boris taken to court by Andy Burnham aide – PM issued legal threat over lockdown roadmap
Boris taken to court by Andy Burnham aide – PM issued legal threat over lockdown roadmap
April 1, 2021
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Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night tsar, and entrepreneur Hugh Osmond say they were left with no choice but to take legal action after the Prime Minister pushed back the reopening date for venues five weeks beyond that for “non-essential” retail. Under Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of England’s third national lockdown, gyms, clothes shops and book stores are allowed to roll up their shutters from April 12 – but pubs and restaurants can only reopen to serve customers outdoors.
Hospitality venues will have to wait until May 17 at the earliest before they can welcome guests indoors.
Mr Osmond argued that Mr Johnson had been unfair to certain industries in his roadmap.
And he said the rules fly in the face of scientific studies which showed a low rate of Covid transmission in pubs and restaurants last year.
He said: “Nobody, not even government ministers, not even during a pandemic, should be above the law.”
On Thursday Mr Osmond and Mr Lord started judicial review proceedings against the Government after they claimed ministers snubbed their requests to meet for discussions.
After this, they said, it became clear that they “had no choice but to take the Government to court.”
Mr Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns, former director of Pizza Express, and director of Various Eateries plc, accused Rishi Sunak of “contradicting the conclusions upon which the Government is basing the roadmap” when he pushed his Eat Out to Help Out scheme last summer.
He explained: “Earlier this month, Sacha Lord and I wrote to the Government, outlining our concern that the hospitality roadmap was based on prejudice rather than evidence.
“Given the huge implications lockdowns, restrictions and business closures have on the over three million people who work in our industry and the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors, we were hoping for a conversation with ministers and officials to find some sort of resolution.
“We were and remain keen to work with the Government to seek to resolve these issues outside litigation, yet we’ve been told that even a meeting would not be ‘fruitful’, even though the Judicial Review process urges parties to meet to attempt to avoid court.
“The Chancellor himself, in defending the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme said analysis of PHE data had revealed ‘a very small percentage’ of the causes of transmission were hospitality settings, warned of a ‘big difference between correlation and causation’, and cautioned against us ‘jumping to simplistic conclusions.’
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“And yet the Government’s opening programme has done just that.”
Last month Mr Osmond and Mr Lord penned a letter to Mr Johnson warning him that the “cost of lockdown to the hospitality industry is £200million a day”.
In its reply on March 23, the Government said that “a meeting with senior officials or a formal mediation, would not be fruitful.”
But Mr Osmond and Mr Lord called the snub a “total rejection of any attempt whatsoever to resolve this issue outside of litigation”.
In court, lawyers representing the pair will argue that the Government has no “evidence or justification for the prioritisation” of non-essential retail over hospitality.
They are seeking an instruction for ministers to “urgently reconsider the Roadmap if the sequencing is found to be unlawful”.
They will argue that pubs and restaurants are significantly safer than non-essential retail stores
And another argument will be made on the grounds of equality.
The pair will say that the Government’s decision targets females, ethnic minorities and those on lower wages because these groups make up large parts of those employed in the hospitality industry.