More Than 50 Tory Rebels to Vote Against Discriminatory Vaccine Passports: Report

Anti-vaccination protesters, including one holding a placard against coronavirus vaccine passports, gather in Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on July 19, 2021 as coronavirus restrictions are lifted in England. - Day-to-day pandemic restrictions were lifted in England on July 19 but "freedom day" was met …
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

The number of Conservative MPs reportedly preparing to vote against the government over vaccine passports has risen to at least 50, but will not be enough to disrupt Boris Johnson’s plans without support from the major Opposition party, Labour.

Boris Johnson announced this month that from late September, proof of vaccination will be required for entry into nightclubs, with suggestions they may also be mandatory for university, travel, and other large events.

The number of party rebels preparing to vote against the measures, should the proposal make it to the House of Commons, has been growing, with the Daily Mail reporting on Friday that the number had increased to 50.

An anonymous MP told the newspaper that there was “almost universal objection” to the proposals in the Conservative Party; however, that does not appear as yet to have manifested into numbers preparing to oppose the measures, which are currently only a fraction of the 363 Tories in the lower house.

One of the most vocal opponents of domestic vaccine passports is also the chairman of the influential backbench (non-governmental) group of MPs, the 1922 Committee. Sir Graham Brady had told Sky News that ‘the policy would discriminate against the young, against those who have medical or ethical reasons why they can’t be vaccinated and many ethnic minority groups.”

Tory MP Peter Bone has said that domestic vaccine passports would create a “two-class society” by introducing “identity papers by the back door”.

Likewise, the Liberal Democrats, who remain firmly opposed to ID cards and have been for many years, said that upgrading the NHS App, which includes options to “get your NHS COVID Pass”, had “introduced Covid ID Cards by stealth onto the nation’s phones”.

On Friday, the Lib Dems demanded the recall of parliament, which has risen for the summer recess, over the changes to the app, with Alistair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesman, saying: “The government has just committed to vaccine passports by stealth.

“This deceitful move is deeply shameful. We now have a new ID card snuck onto our phones without even as much as a whisper from the government.

“Just this morning, Ministers on TV and radio were flapping about when asked simple questions how this would actually work. Now it is on all our phones.”

The Conservative government has already pushed through the Commons a bill enforcing vaccination on care home staff, a move that privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch warned could result in “millions of other workers” facing the prospect of “vaccination demands at work due to the expanse of this law”.

Remain-backing Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers had already declared a ‘no jab, no job’ in January. A British Chambers of Commerce survey from this week found that nearly one-third of companies with more than 50 employees were considering mandatory vaccination for staff, and almost one in ten had already introduced the requirement while eight per cent said they were “likely” to do so at some point in future.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also claimed on Thursday that businesses would think it was a “smart policy” to consider having mandatory vaccines for employees.

“I can understand why employers think that that would be a smart policy or approach to encourage [double vaccination], whether or not there should be hard and fast legal rules I think we need to look at carefully. But our message overwhelmingly is get the jab,” Mr Raab said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was forced to clarify on Friday that “we are not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office” — however, then claimed on Sky News that “it is a good idea” and admitted that “yes some companies will require it”.

However, the relatively small Tory rebellion could be fruitless if Labour decides to back the government, with the left-wing party having so far failed to commit to a clear position.

It took three days after the vaccine passport announcement for Labour to state an opinion on the measure, saying last week that they “oppose the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services”, but claimed that “testing for access to venues would be more efficient”.

Labour’s Khalid Mahmood later confirmed that Keir Starmer would “absolutely” reject vaccine passports, only for the party leader to suggest days later that he would back vaccine passports and testing for sporting events and other situations Starmer would not elaborate on.

“It depends on what the government puts on the table. What I don’t want to see is vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things like health, dentistry, food, et cetera,” Starmer said.

Labour’s position on the matter was further confused on Friday., Jonathan Reynolds MP said on Friday that Labour while “wouldn’t support that” (vaccine passports), he went on to tell Julia Hartley-Brewer on talkRADIO: “We accept that for big cultural events, festivals, and so on, if the only way to get them on is a combination of passports and testing, we would accept that.”

“But no, we don’t want them for everyday life,” Mr Reynolds said but failed to outline the definition of the size or kind of “large-scale events” where Labour would back vaccine passports and testing.

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