Covid: MPs urge ministers not to introduce domestic vaccine passports

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

Government ministers have been warned against introducing vaccine passports by a cross-party groups of MPs, including senior Conservatives and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

More than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, as well as peers from the House of Lords, have launched a campaign to oppose the move which they say would be “divisive and discriminatory”.

It comes as a report in The Daily Telegraph suggested a series of pilot tests for coronavirus passports were being planned.

Events could include the FA Cup final and other sporting occasions in May, although Number 10 maintained any proposals were still under review.

Labour's Baroness Chakrabarti told ITV News that introducing domestic vaccine passports would lead to discrimination throughout the UK.

The former shadow attorney general said: "Passports are fine for international travel and that kind of travel is a privilege. But crossing the street, as opposed to crossing borders, that's not a privilege. That should be a fundamental right that comes with living in our community.

"Internal passports and internal vaccine passports would be a tool for discrimination, bullying, corruption, segregation in a society which needs to move through this pandemic together."

A pledge, signed by Mr Corbyn as well as other prominent figures such as Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and ex-Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, warned the Government against bringing in the scheme.

  • ITV News Political Reporter Hannah Miller has more on the discussion around passports

It has also been backed by a string of Tory former ministers including Esther McVey, Nus Ghani, Mark Harper and Harriett Baldwin.

The pledge states: “We oppose the divisive and discriminatory use of Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs.”

Tory MP Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee and is also a signatory to the pledge, insisted the aim should be to return to normal life.

  • 'Definitely' a role for international vaccine passports, says Boris Johnson

“Covid-Status Certification would be divisive and discriminatory,” he said.

“With high levels of vaccination protecting the vulnerable and making transmission less likely, we should aim to return to normal life, not to put permanent restrictions in place.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that coronavirus certificates could be a way of getting people back to “doing the things they love”.

“Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is conducting a review, which I am of course participating in, as to whether we could make Covid status certification work,” he told BBC News.

“This is not about a vaccine passport, this is about looking at ways of proving that you are Covid secure, whether you have had a test or had the vaccine.

“Clearly, no decisions have been made on that, because we have to weigh up different factors, the ethical considerations and so on, but it may be a way of ensuring we can get more people back doing the things they love.”

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Earlier this week, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested the “British instinct” could be against the use of such a scheme.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the idea, saying “there’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports”.

During a trip to Middlesbrough, he told reporters: “You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in those and there’s a logic to that.”

The European Commission unveiled their own vaccine passport for international travel across EU members states on Thursday.

Calling Peston on passports in the pub:

The campaign has been backed by Big Brother Watch, Liberty, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Privacy International.

The Government has insisted no final decisions have been taken on whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening the economy.

A spokeswoman said: “The review is considering a range of issues, including the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.”

It is also understood pilots of live events are due to begin in April.

People have been urged to stick with lockdown rules after crowds gathered to enjoy the weather earlier this week Credit: QingD/PA

Meanwhile, UK Hospitality (UKH), the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII) – have also raised their concerns over the proposals, describing the measures as “impractical burdens”.

They also objected to Government guidance asking every hospitality customer aged over 16 to give their contact details to staff or check in via the NHS Covid-19 app once restrictions are eased.

In a joint statement, the pub representatives said: “Government has promised the country that we will be reopening but we are now being told that this will be with our hands tied behind our backs.

The Cabinet Secretary discussed his deep ‘regret’ over sending scathing WhatsApp messages about Boris Johnson during the pandemic Credit: PA

“Pubs will already be trading at a loss when they reopen with all the existing restrictions and Covid-secure measures in place.

“Adding further disproportionate and discriminatory measures threatens the very survival of thousands of businesses.

“It’s unfair to single out our sector again with these added impractical burdens that will have economic consequences and risk our recovery.”