Travel industry entrepreneur Clive Jacobs requested support to legally challenge the UK government over the data behind its traffic light system
The initial crowdfunding target to support a legal challenge to the government was surpassed in just over 24 hours. Jacobs sought legal advice on action on behalf of the industry after hopes of a partial summer restart were thwarted by the government’s removal of Portugal from the green list of destinations and refusal to add Malta.
As thousands of British expats living in the GCC wait to be allowed to visit their home and loved ones again since the outbreak of Covid-19, the news inspires hope that UK leaders may reconsider strict travel regulations. Currently, Britons must pay for a 10-day hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK, making the journey impossible for those who can’t afford the hotel costs or take an extra 10 days off work.
The chairman of Jacobs Media Group, which owns Travel Weekly, Jacobs launched a crowd-funding appeal to support a group action aimed at forcing transparency on the methodology and data behind decisions on the traffic light system and claiming compensation for industry losses.
Jacobs said: “Travel has clearly been the sector worst affected by the pandemic, as hospitality and retail have been able to ease back to some extent.
“But the government has given no signs that it cares about the industry and the people in it, when it’s clear the vaccination programme is working and protecting people from the virus and that two jabs stave off hospitalisation.”
He argued: “The UK government keeps going back on its word. Despite the best efforts of industry organisations to lobby the government, they’ve found their efforts falling on deaf ears and ignored.
“Lobbying has proved ineffective – that was demonstrated by the Portugal debacle. Now the government needs to be challenged legally to provide the criteria for allowing travel.”
Jacobs has set up a crowd-funding site at Crowd Justice to support the legal action, with backing from a group of industry figures. He intends to engage lawyers at Blackstone Chambers to advise on a challenge.
Setting a Precedent; Upsetting a Prime Minister
It was Blackstone Chambers QCs who challenged the government on behalf of businesswoman Gina Miller in September 2019, winning a Supreme Court ruling that prime minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament for five weeks that autumn. Blackstone also acted for Miller in 2016, overturning a government attempt to leave the EU without a Parliamentary vote by winning a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament had to legislate on Brexit.
Jacobs said initial discussions with lawyers on a legal challenge had been positive and encouraged him to move to the next level.
He argued: “Hundreds of thousands of people are uncertain about their futures because of the actions of this government around international travel. People are becoming despondent and fearful. There are people who are absolutely desperate.
“This is about giving people who work in the industry some hope, some encouragement. I hope it contributes to putting pressure on the government, to holding it to account over the way it makes decisions that are destroying people’s lives.”
Jacobs noted: “Chief executives of companies are hamstrung to an extent in the way they can tackle the government [on this]. That is why I’m taking this initiative to force the government to be transparent about its decision making.
Travel Industry at a Standstill Makes a Stand
Andrew Botterill, Travcorp Holdings executive chairman, backed the action. He said: “Travel businesses can’t plan anything right now. There is a complete lack of transparency around the traffic light system and we’re being stonewalled in our efforts to have any meaningful dialogue with ministers.
“It’s time to take direct action and utilise the law to flush out the information the government is making its decisions on. I hope the industry will support this process.”
Olly Brendon, chief executive of ATD Travel Services, also backed legal action saying: “The government has ignored pleas and lobbying from the industry. They have ignored common sense and more pragmatic MPs from both sides of the house. They have ignored the data.
“They failed to shut down the borders when it would have been beneficial to do so. They’ve even failed to implement their own policies after months of consultation with a travel task force they created.”
Brendon insisted: “They are so grossly incompetent that – in the interests of the whole industry – it’s time to take legal action. I’m very happy to support Clive with this class action against a pitiful government.”
Lucia Rowe, managing director at A-ROSA UK and Ireland, argued: “Across the EU, we’ve seen countries acknowledge that rebuilding tourism is a priority. However, in the UK it has been almost an afterthought.
“Our hugely successful vaccination programme is not being used to open up travel. In fact, the UK government is acting as if we have no protection by the vaccine.
“For a second year, operators can’t easily welcome British guests to Europe even though many destinations are considered safe.”
Rowe said: “As an industry, we need to stand up for travel to ensure it is treated fairly and to give our industry a chance of survival. We need urgent action, certainty and sector-specific support.”
She added: “Confidence has all but been destroyed. We need to give the people of the UK hope they will be able to holiday again soon.”
Holiday Discount Centre managing director Steve Campion said: “I’m fully supporting Clive’s efforts to mount a legal challenge to the government over its treatment of the sector.
“The ongoing restrictions and chaotic approach to international travel are not supported by the data and it’s vital the government is held to account before the UK travel industry is decimated.”
Rob Kenton, owner of Triangle Travel, also backed the legal challenge, saying: “The industry has not stopped shouting since the start of the pandemic, but nobody in government has listened. It is now time to force them to listen.”
Jacobs founded car rental firm Holiday Autos before selling it to lastminute.com and has a portfolio of brands, including Jacobs Media Group, Connecting Travel and a luxury tour operation in North America.