February 24, 2024

High Court backs Government on legal action over traffic light system

The High Court has backed the UK Government over a legal action calling for transparency over its traffic light system.

A legal challenge, led by Manchester Airports Group and backed by Ryanair, IAG, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and others, had argued that the Government must be obliged to publish the data behind its decisions on which destinations go on the green, amber and red lists.

Although the High Court ruled there were grounds for a judicial review, it rejected a series of challenges based on a duty to give reasons and transparency behind decisions.

Judges said if a country remained on the amber list “the reason is the precautionary approach plus the lack of sufficient evidence to the contrary. In context, that is sufficient reason”.

They added: “The Secretary of State only needs to go further in cases where, relying on specific evidence, he decides that a country should move to or away from the amber list, default position.

“The linked reason is that any further obligation would impose unrealistic burdens on the Secretary of State in the context of a review which…must be undertaken at least every 28 days.”

A spokesman for MAG said now that the verdict has been published, the interested parties would “assess options, take stock of that and then decide if they want to appeal”.

Responding to the ruling, MAG issued a statement which read: “British businesses and consumers deserve to understand how the Government takes decisions on the traffic light system so that they can book their travel with confidence whether for business, visiting friends and family or simply taking a holiday. The way decisions have been taken to date has not been transparent and has created huge confusion and uncertainty for the British public. In a recent poll 80% of UK consumers agreed. 

“The most recent changes including to the status of travellers from France which overnight created yet another category of “amber-plus” were shambolic and made it even harder for consumers and businesses to plan.  The Government should do the right thing by consumers and provide clarity on any changes it makes to the system.

“If the Government is truly following the data then it must make significant changes to the ‘green’ list including adding the US and major EU countries. There is also no reason why travellers from the US and EU should not be exempt from quarantine and testing as soon as possible. The UK has already fallen behind the EU’s reopening and our overly cautious approach to international travel will further impact our economic recovery.”