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Unions demand ministers stop ‘moving the goalposts for culture’

West End composer Andrew Lloyd Webber launches legal action to force the government to publish results from its Covid-19 pilot events scheme

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

UNIONS have demanded ministers “stop moving the goalposts for culture,” as the government faces legal action to publish results from the Covid-19 pilot events scheme.

West End composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, backed up by entertainment figures including theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and music industry trade body Live, called for urgent action today, accusing ministers of making life impossible for the sector by shrouding the Events Research Programme in secrecy. 

Participating events so far include the Brit Awards and the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. Attendees must provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test on arrival and submit to regular testing afterwards.

Downing Street has faced accusations of putting off the findings of its research over fears it would contradict the decision to halt the lifting of all legal limits on social distancing from June 21 to July 19.

The group’s statement said: “These events have been a huge success, but the government chose to keep the live entertainment industry under severe restrictions while allowing hospitality, public transport and retail to operate.”

Future plans, which include allowing 60,000 fans into Wembley stadium for Euro 2020 football matches, are “little more than a way of allowing certain high-profile events to go ahead while keeping the rest of the sector shut,” the statement charged. 

Equity general secretary Paul W Fleming told the Morning Star: “If [ministers] launched a proper basic income guarantee for performing artists, insurances for producers, and a shuttering fund for venues, we wouldn’t be having a false debate [pitting] public health against our industries.”

Backing the legal action, entertainment union Bectu’s head Philippa Childs said: “The flexibility shown for Euro 2020 has evidenced that where there is a will there is a way — we call on the government to stop moving the goalposts for culture and act with consistency.”

Earlier this week, Culture Minister Nigel Huddleston promised to publish the pilot scheme data “very soon indeed.”

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