Lib Dems Slam Vaccine Certs: Some Things Don’t Mix, Like ‘Government and People’s Data’

TOPSHOT - A woman, wearing a face mask, walks past the closed iron curtain of a restaurant
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The Liberal Democrats have criticised Boris Johnson’s administration for considering domestic vaccine passports, saying it “takes advantage” of Britons’ desperation to get back to normal life and that when it comes to personal data, the government should not be trusted.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is leading a review on vaccine certifications for domestic use, with an update expected in April and a final report in June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week. Such vaccine passports could be used for going to the pub or other public venues, with Mr Johnson recently saying that “the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us”.

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Alistair Carmichael, said that he objected to any document being required for Britons to go about their daily business, telling talkRADIO on Wednesday that the government was “taking advantage of people’s desperation to get back out into some sort of normal life”.

“Vaccine passports are… a fundamental redefinition of the relationship between the citizen and the state. Basically, I do not give my consent for the government to insist that I prove my health status in relation to coronavirus” or in relation to any other health condition, the MP for Orkney and Shetland said.

“There are some things in life that just don’t mix: oil and water; water and electricity; government and people’s data. They [government] don’t respect it. Eventually, you know it’s going to be hacked or be left on a memory stick in the back of a taxi somewhere.

“That’s why people are right to be sceptical. Governments have to earn trust, and for that sort of intimate, personal detail, I just don’t trust them. And I don’t think anybody should,” Mr Carmichael said.

It is not the first time that the Liberal Democrats — which hitherto had spent much of their political energy campaigning to remain in the EU as well as to stop or delay Brexit and bring back the Free Movement migration regime — has criticised the notionally conservative government’s perceived bend towards authoritarianism.

Speaking during the debate ahead of last week’s vote to extend coronavirus laws for a further six months, former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called the extension of the “draconian powers” an “overreach”.

“All this seems to indicate that we have a Conservative party in government that loves talking about liberty until it has to do something about it in practice, and when it comes to dealing with these issues in practice, its instincts are authoritarian,” Mr Farron told fellow MPs in the House of Commons, before all 10 Liberal Democrat MPs who voted went against the extension of the Coronavirus Act.

The Labour Party, led by Sir Keir Starmer, backed the government last week despite being the official Opposition. Only 76 MPs — fewer than half of them Conservative — rejected the extension of the emergency laws, one year after they were put in place, with 484 Members of Parliament voting in favour.

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