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Pressure grows for recall of parliament over domestic Covid vaccine passports

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

The prime minister is facing a renewed backlash against plans to introduce domestic vaccine passports for entry into large-scale events, with demands for parliament to be recalled from its summer recess to allow debate on the issue.

The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has called for the return if the government is “serious” about its plans.

His comments mean that cross-party backing is emerging for the House of Commons to return before September. Last week, the Liberal Democrats said a change rolled out to the NHS app – enabling users to prove they had been double-jabbed in order to access domestic settings, as well as for international travel – warranted a recall.

Bridgen, a member of the lockdown-sceptical Covid Recovery Group, is one of 43 Conservative MPs to have signed a declaration opposing vaccine passports.

Speaking on Sunday to LBC, the MP for North West Leicestershire said: “I think if the government is serious about the threat of bringing in domestic vaccine passports, then of course parliament should be recalled.

“This is a very serious infringement on people’s liberties. It is basically unprecedented in this country, and I and a number of colleagues would oppose it.

Related: How will England’s domestic Covid vaccine passports work?

Bridgen predicted that a Commons vote on the issue would result in an “embarrassing defeat” for the government.

He said: “I think it is a very blunt instrument, to threaten people with domestic Covid passports. I personally don’t think it would get through the House of Commons in any event and that’s why the government has moved on to these ‘carrot’ inducements for young people.”

Bridgen is one of a growing number of Conservatives on the party’s “libertarian” wing who have threatened to boycott this year’s party conference if attendees are required to present proof of vaccination. Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group, Peter Bone and Mark Jenkinson have said they will not attend the conference, which is being held in Manchester from 3 to 6 October.

The government was accused of trying to introduce vaccine passports “by stealth” this week after the NHS app was updated to include a domestic Covid passport section.

The Conservative grandee Sir David Lidington, who was the de facto deputy prime minister under Theresa May, was another to raise concerns. The former justice secretary said introducing domestic vaccine passports would set a “dangerous precedent”.

Lidington told Times Radio: “I’m much more cautious about the government laying down a law that people should actually have access to particular events in civil society only if they’ve got some sort of government certificate of approval.

“I think that’s a pretty dangerous precedent and it also raises all sorts of really difficult practical problems about implementation. I mean, whose responsibility is it to actually carry out these checks? What sanctions do they have against an individual who resists having a check?”

He added that he thought there were “better ways of persuading young people to take up the vaccine” than denying them entry to nightclubs.

Government data released on Sunday showed that a further 65 people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, while a further 24,470 lab-confirmed Covid cases were also recorded.

The latest figures show that a total of 85,196,986 vaccine doses have been administered in the UK, with 46,851,145 people receiving a first dose (88.6% of adults) and 38,345,841 people receiving both (72.5% of adults).

Dominic Wilkinson, a professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, said there was a “strong case” for vaccine passports in allowing fully vaccinated people to return to socialising.

Wilkinson told LBC Radio: “I think the idea of using vaccine passports as a stick to beat people up and punish them if they haven’t been vaccinated is ethically flawed.

“But there is a strong case for vaccine passports, which is the other way round, which is that those who are vaccinated, or potentially have other evidence that they are at low risk of passing on the virus, should not be unduly restricted from enjoying the normal things in everyday life.

“They are no longer at serious risk of passing on the virus so, ethically, they ought to be able to travel, go to work, go out and socialise in a more normal way.”

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