Matt Hancock 'summoned to High Court to justify reopening priorities'

4 April 2021, 09:30 | Updated: 4 April 2021, 13:20

Matt Hancock has reportedly been summoned to the High Court on Tuesday
Matt Hancock has reportedly been summoned to the High Court on Tuesday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Matt Hancock has been summoned to the High Court to justify why non-essential shops are being reopened ahead of pubs and restaurants, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.

The health secretary has been ordered to the court in London as part of a legal action brought by businessman Hugh Osmond and nightclubs operator Sacha Lord.

A report in the paper says it has seen High Court documents which show the two businessmen 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".

Mr Hancock has been told to file and serve his response to the application by 10am on Tuesday by Mr Justice Swift, the Sunday Telegraph has claimed.

Shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen from 12 April at the earliest.

However, indoor hospitality and entertainment venues, as well as the rest of the accommodation sector, will not be able to open their doors until at least 17 May.

Mr Osmond writes in the Telegraph: "The government left us no choice but to take it to court. This is a truly urgent matter affecting the lives of millions that simply cannot wait."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "As the prime minister has said, we want this lockdown to be the last.

"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."

Boris Johnson is set to on Monday set out plans to develop a "vaccine passport" scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease in England.

A series of trial events are being planned over the coming months as ministers look to find a way for venues, such as football grounds and nightclubs, to reopen without the requirement for social distancing measures.