Senior Tories urge government to reveal details on easing UK lockdown | World news

Growing numbers of senior Tories are ramping up pressure on the government to provide details of how the lockdown could be eased, saying “the time is now” to give the public more information.

Influential Conservatives, including former ministers, have said No 10 needs to be more transparent with the public and businesses on potential exit strategies and must deliver a statement on the issue soon.

Their message came as Nicola Sturgeon used her daily press conference to explain how Scotland might lift restrictions on some businesses and allow pupils to return to school. Northern Ireland’s first minister, Arlene Foster, has also suggested she could lift restrictions before England.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative party, told the Guardian on Thursday: “The UK government now needs to recognise that the time is now. They need to bite the bullet and do it.”

The government has so far said it does not want to give details of how the country might come out of the lockdown because it might lead to people no longer obeying the rules.

Duncan Smith said: “My concern is that people are already beginning to do that. I’ve already noticed shops opening. I think they need to explain that we are not ready to come out yet but when we are, this is what’s going to happen.”

He said Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was wrong to think that the government would lose control of restrictions by giving the public more information. Talks are going on within government privately on the way out of a lockdown, he suggested, and it was essential this was conveyed to the public as soon as possible.

Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary, said government advisers now needed to come forward with more details of what they perceived to be the exit route.

She said: “We need a roadmap for a release from lockdown. I’m of course not saying that we should dispense with the advice of scientists and medics, but I think that ministers need to be more transparent now about how we will get to the point where the lockdown can be lifted because we need to give that hope to businesses who have been severely impacted by the crisis.

“There is a case for a more transparent approach on all of this. I think the time has come where we need a clear signal about how and when we are going to return to a degree of normality.”

My flight to Europe is cancelled. All I’m being offered is an alternative flight or vouchers. Is this legal?

No. But that hasn’t stopped a number of airlines doing exactly that. All flights on EU carriers within, or into the EU, and all flights leaving from an EU airport, are protected by the EU’s “denied boarding” rules, which require a full refund in seven days when flights are cancelled.

The problem for consumers is that enforcing these rights is proving very difficult. After initially promising to refund passengers within 20 working days, Ryanair has now said passengers should accept vouchers valid for 12 months, or wait until the Covid-19 pandemic is over for a refund.

Refunds at British Airways are only being processed by customer services which, of course, is impossible to contact. easyJet, initially only offered refunds through customer services but now has a web portal to request refunds.

Note: the EU cancellation rules do not apply to non-EU carriers where the flight started outside the EU – for example, a Korean Air flight from Seoul to London.

In the face of a no-refund policy, what should I do?

Taking the offer of replacement vouchers in the current climate is highly risky given the airline may not be around in six months. While some will be happy to accept vouchers, many will not. 

Coby Benson of the specialist flight compensation lawyers, Bott and Co, advises passengers to submit their refund request in writing, using the following text:

I understand that my flight [fight number] on [flight date] has been cancelled and I therefore request a full refund pursuant to articles 5(1)(a) and 8(1)(a) of EC Regulation No.261/2004. You are reminded that the refund must be made within seven days. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not accept a travel voucher.

If the airline does not respond or does not agree then the passenger can either issue court proceedings or use Alternative Dispute Resolution.

If your flight cost more than £100 and was booked using a credit card, you can hold the card provider jointly liable. When things calm down we suspect many passengers will be forced down this route. 

My flight operated as scheduled but I was unable to go on it. What then?

The fact that the government advised against all but essential travel means travel insurance policies should pay foreign trip cancellation claims provided you bought your policy before the pandemic was declared on 11 March. 

Miles Brignall

Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of Tory MPs, said the government had not got its strategy wrong yet but “it’s got more to do to get it right”.

Most prescient is bringing business leaders into the conversations going on at the heart of government on when restrictions might be lifted and how. “It’s time to make them part of the conversation. Now is the time. That doesn’t mean ending lockdown tomorrow but businesses need reassurance,” he said. “The economy is lives – it’s not mutually exclusive.”

The justice select committee chair, Bob Neill, said Boris Johnson should deliver the message himself, when he has recovered from the coronavirus. While he remains concerned about a second wave of infection should restrictions be lifted, it is an appropriate time to have the discussion, he said.

“There comes a limit to people’s tolerance. People will go along with things if they know where we are. Ultimately scientists and medics are there to advise, but these are policy decisions so ultimately that means politicians are accountable and have to take that decision on board. Hopefully Boris Johnson will be back in the harness by then.”

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a backbencher, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he believed garden centres and DIY stores with social distancing measures could be reopened.

He said he accepted that opening up the country again could risk infection but that businesses desperately needed support or could cease trading. “I think on behalf of the businesses of this country begin to give them a little bit of hope as to when we might be able to get back to normality.”

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