Matt Hancock Summoned to High Court to Justify Opening Shops Before Pubs

Why is it that pubs and restaurants cannot open at the same time as “non-essential” shops? Matt Hancock has been ordered to the High Court to justify this decision, following legal action by Sacha Lord and Hugh Osmond. The Telegraph has the story.

Matt Hancock has been ordered to the High Court on Tuesday to justify why he is allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants.

The legal action has been brought by nightclubs operator Sacha Lord and Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond to try to force the early opening of hospitality venues.

According to High Court documents seen by the Telegraph the pair 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”.

The order from Mr Justice Swift says that “the Secretary of State shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6th, 2021 file and serve his response to the application” from the pair.

Although Mr Hancock has been summoned to the High Court, it is likely that officials in his department will have to attend court on his behalf. 

“Non essential” shops will be able to open from April 12th, while indoor hospitality businesses will have to remain closed until at least May 17th. Mr Osmond has said that this case offers “some hope… for those of us who cherish British freedom and who crave a return to rational and democratic governing”. He continued:

In a democracy, evidence and rationality should still matter, and so too should transparency, challenge and accountability. 

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.   

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.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has congratulated Sacha Lord and Hugh Osmond on Twitter for forcing the Health Secretary to justify opening non-essential businesses, but not indoor hospitality businesses, in court.

Every Customer Must “Sign in” When Pubs Reopen

In yet another blow to the hospitality industry, the Government has announced that all customers at pubs, restaurants and cafes must provide contact details (either written or via the NHS Test and Trace app) on entry. Previously, only one member of each group had to provide details. Doing so was voluntary (staff were only asked to “encourage” customers to provide their details). But the new guidelines state that those who will not provide their details must be “refuse[d] entry”. BBC News has the story.

New rules to help pubs, cafes and restaurants reopen outdoors safely in England on April 12th have sparked anger from industry groups.

All customers will have to sign in on entry, not just one member of the group like before. It is also unclear whether payment at the bar will be permitted. …

Under the new guidance, every customer aged 16 and over will have to check in to NHS Test and Trace before entering a venue, or give their contact details to staff.

Pubs and restaurants must take “reasonable steps” to stop people who won’t comply from coming in, or they could face fines.

Carl Ford, an accountant based in Tamworth, told the BBC he was frustrated and confused by the rules.

“I feel like it’s almost like going back to school where I have to sign in and out,” he said. 

“I don’t understand why I have to do this in a restaurant or pub, but I don’t need to do this in a supermarket where you have a free for all. People don’t have to sign in and they can pick up fruit with their hands.” …

In a joint statement, UK Hospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping said the rules would add “more confusion and inconvenience for customers and staff”.

When pubs and restaurants opened last summer, customers were “encouraged” to provide their contact details, but to do so was not mandatory (see official guidance below).

These guidelines have, however, since been updated: venues must now take “reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide contact details”. Compliance is no longer a personal choice. It is mandatory.