Member Article

Speaker intervenes in Simon Dolan’s legal fight against lockdown

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has stated he will intervene in a legal fight between Simon Dolan and Cripps Barn Group against the Government’s lockdown restrictions.

Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons says he will intervene in the case because it raises issues of ‘constitutional importance’.

Businessman Simon Dolan and leading wedding venue operator Cripps are challenging the restrictions on wedding receptions which are devastating the hospitality industry and seeking a judicial review. They argue that the Rule of Six, the 10pm curfew and the limit on wedding receptions to 15 people were introduced illegally and without proper scrutiny by parliament.

The claimants say the Government misused legislation to bring in the new regulations. They say the Government introduced the new measures through the Public Health (Control of Infectious Disease) Act 1984 by certifying the legislation as ‘urgent’. That loophole allowed Ministers to make the laws effective immediately without prior approval in parliament.

However, the Speaker has written to say that he is concerned that when the court examines this aspect of the claim it could breach Parliamentary privilege which is enshrined in Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689. Hoyle has stated that, if that happened, it would “amount to an attack on the ability of each House of Parliament to determine when and how to exercise its functions in scrutinising legislation, subject to the time limits imposed by statutory provisions.”

UK civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch has also stated it will file evidence in the case as an interested party.

Last Thursday lawyers acting for Simon Dolan and Cripps went to the High Court to seek an injunction against the measures and to declare them illegal. Mr Justice Swift denied the application for an injunction at the Royal Courts of Justice at an all-day hearing.

However, Simon Dolan and Cripps are continuing with the case and are applying for a judicial review into the lockdown restrictions which prevent proper weddings from taking place.

Simon Dolan said: “It is absurd that the Speaker now getting involved in this case. But it shows how important our legal fight is and how seriously it is being taken. The whole reason we are fighting the Government in court is because Parliament was not given a chance to scrutinise the latest lockdown restrictions. Hoyle even stated himself that was unacceptable. The Government could have decided to have the laws looked at and approved if it wished. It hasn’t tried to do so – deliberately – because it does not want Parliament involved. Hiding behind the notion that its lockdown laws are too “urgent” to be subject to scrutiny by Parliament is wrong.

“The decision by Mr Justice Swift last week was disappointing. I do not think he looked closely enough at the specific data about where infections are being passed on. He was happy to rely on what he had seen in ‘the news’. But that is not a detailed examination of the evidence. Coronavirus is not being spread in hospitality situations. The wedding sector is being unfairly destroyed by nonsensical laws which were imposed without proper debate or scrutiny in parliament.

“We will continue our legal fight against the restrictions on weddings. We are seeking a judicial review into those measures and how they were brought in. This comes on top of our other judicial review into the wider lockdown measures. We are also asking the Court of Appeal to rule on whether the initial lockdown measures were brought in ‘ultra vires’ – outside the scope of the law they relied on in the Public Health Act.

“Since we started the legal fight against the Government’s lockdown in May people have been increasingly supportive of our arguments. It is now widely accepted that the harm from lockdown is greater than the risk to public health from COVID-19.

“The answer to coronavirus is not a circuit breaker or a three-tier system. It is to let people get on with their lives and their livelihoods.”

Family-run wedding and events firm Cripps has seen their business devastated by the Government’s restrictions. The business is being badly damaged by the new rule limiting weddings to 15 people – while pubs and restaurants can host unlimited numbers within individual groups.

Mark Henriques, Managing Director of Cripps & Co, said: “Last week’s decision is another blow to our business and to the wider hospitality industry. We were hoping the court would see sense and halt the new restrictions until they had been properly debated. We will now seek to have the restrictions examined at a judicial review.

“It makes no sense that spacious wedding venues, including some that seat 1,500 people, have to restrict themselves to 15 people. By next March the wedding dreams of around 500,000 brides and grooms will have been shattered. A wedding meal for 100 people, with guests spaced as in restaurants, with no mingling or dancing, with modest consumption of alcohol and strict supervision, poses a very small risk indeed. We must overturn this absurd legislation so people can get on with their lives. We are doing this on behalf of wedding couples, business owners, staff and suppliers.”

Simon Dolan has been attempting to bring the Government to judicial review over the original lockdown measures and quarantine laws since May. That case is under appeal and has now crowdfunded over £360,000 from 12,000 supporters. It will be heard at the Court of Appeal on October 29. The key challenge from Dolan’s lawyers is that the original lockdown measures were ‘ultra vires’ – or outside the scope of the 1984 Public Health act which was used to implement them.

The Claimants were represented in court last week by Michael Gardner of law firm Wedlake Bell LLP, and barristers Francis Hoare and Anna Dannreuthers, from Field Court Chambers. The Government was represented by one of country’s top QCs, First Treasury Counsel Sir James Eadie and three other barristers.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Nathan Stennett .

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