Vaccine Passports Passed in Welsh Parliament by One Vote After Tory Couldn’t Log in to Zoom Chat

A protestor displays an anti-vax placard during a 'Unite For Freedom' march against Covid-19 vaccinations and government lockdown restrictions, in Trafalgar Square, central London on May 29, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

The Welsh assembly has passed the implementation of vaccine passports by one vote, apparently on a technical glitch because a Conservative Member of the Senedd could not log in to the Zoom call to oppose the measures.

The left-wing Labour government only controls half of the seats in the Welsh assembly, the Senedd, and was expected to lose Tuesday night’s vote on introducing vaccine passports in the Celtic country in a draw, according to local reports.

However, Conservative MS Gareth Davies, who was set to vote against the measures along with the anti-identity card Liberal Democrats and Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, could not log in to the Zoom call to cast his vote, according to regional newspaper the South Wales Argus.

Despite the pleas of fellow Conservative MS Darren Millar that there was “one member still desperately trying to get into Zoom”, the vote went ahead, with Presiding Officer Elin Jones saying: “No — we have made every opportunity possible for that member to get in.”

According to The Telegraph, Ms Jones claimed Mr Davies could not be contacted, while the Conservatives maintained the member was not absent for the vote but was experiencing “technical difficulties” logging in.

The Senedd operates a hybrid parliament where members can attend in person or remotely using technologies like Zoom as well as electronic voting.

The Labour government’s plan for domestic vaccine passports was approved by just one vote — 28 to 27.

Under the rules of the Welsh assembly, a tie would have resulted in the presiding officer breaking the tie by voting against the measure, resulting in a loss for the Labour government, or calling for another debate before voting again. The South Wales Argus noted that questions will be raised over the legitimacy of the vote passing thanks to what it called a “technical glitch”.

The measures mean that anyone entering nightclubs and big sporting events will need to show proof of full vaccination or of a negative Covid-19 test before entry, the measures coming into force on Monday.

Labour’s Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford — who last year banned supermarkets from selling ‘non-essentials’ and toys before Christmas during the country’s lockdowns — avoided responding to questions of whether the assembly should vote again because the government only won on a technical fault.

Instead, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday: “It was an extraordinary moment, but what was really extraordinary was the fact that opposition parties were not prepared to support this simple measure which will help to keep people safe from coronavirus.”

Asked again to address the question of the legitimacy of the vote, the Labour regional leader claimed it was not the government’s role to question how the parliament holds votes, but responded: “It is members’ responsibilities to make sure they are in the chamber or on Zoom and 59 of 60 members managed to do that… We move on.”

The vote comes after Scotland, led by the leftist Scottish National Party (SNP) First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, enforced its own vaccine passport scheme last week, which was marred by technical glitches affecting the app.

The UK’s parliament cancelled the planned introduction of vaccine passports for the end of September in England, however, holds the plans in reserve if hospital numbers increase over the winter. Both the Scottish vaccine passport scheme and the potential measures for England require proof of vaccination to allow entry to night-time hospitality and other large events.

Speaking to talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer on Wednesday, Chris Green, a Conservative  MP in the Westminster parliament and member of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG), said that England should be “deeply concerned” after vaccine passports were introduced in Wales, saying that now with half of the country’s nations having vaccine passports, England and Northern Ireland “will not doubt follow soon enough” and “each have their own ID card”.

Mr Green also said it was “extraordinary for such an important vote [on] civil liberties” in Wales to potentially having been passed due to technical difficulties.

Calling for the Senedd to hold an inquiry, the Bolton West & Atherton MP warned that having “this incremental change in terms of our civil liberties, the way people relate to the state” occur “by accident” was “really problematic”.

He added that it was “understandable why people at home, whether in Wales or anywhere else in the UK, be deeply concerned by what’s going to happen in England”, and warned against the creeping reach of vaccine passports into other parts of Britons’ lives, which is part of the “compulsory vaccine agenda that is also being pushed”.

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