The legal action has brought forward by Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond and nightclubs operator Sacha Lord, it was reported. The two businessmen want to try and force the early opening of hospitality venues.
According to documents seen by the Sunday Telegraph, they are challenging the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 ‘to the extent that those Regulations provide for non-essential retail businesses to reopen before indoor hospitality businesses’.
Hancock has been ordered to file and serve his response to the application by April 6. It is likely officials from within his department will have to attend court on his behalf.
Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens should begin reopening from April 12 according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown – but indoor venues, such as restaurants and pubs – won’t reopen before May 17.
Mr Osmond stated that delayed reopening of indoor hospitality venues was a ‘truly urgent matter affecting the lives of millions that simply cannot wait’.
He wrote in the Telegraph: ‘Government has been given an easy ride in Parliament with the official Opposition being nowhere to be seen.
‘This has led to arbitrariness, randomness and a complete lack of logic in the rules, and we’re starting to see it being accompanied by something even more sinister: an arrogance, and a sense that ministers are above scrutiny.’
A Government spokesperson said they could not comment on legal proceedings, but noted that Johnson wants his roadmap out of lockdown to be irreversible.
They went on: ‘Our roadmap sets out a phased approach to cautiously easing restrictions, informed by scientific experts, and we continue to act in response to the latest available evidence to protect the NHS and save lives.
‘We have continued to support the hospitality sector throughout the pandemic, including our new £5 billion 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.’
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