Covid passes for large venues introduced in England despite PM suffering huge Tory rebellion

Political Editor Robert Peston reports on the Tory rebellion that was even bigger than the PM and Tory whips feared

Covid passports have come into effect after MPs backed the government's plans to introduce them from Wednesday as part of its Plan B coronavirus restrictions, despite the prime minister suffering a huge Tory rebellion.

Boris Johnson had to rely on Labour votes to get his proposals - to show proof of Covid vaccination or a negative lateral flow test - approved, with 96 Conservative MPs voting against the plans.

The government won the contentious vote on Covid passports amid opposition from dozens of Tory backbenchers, with a majority of 369 to 126.

This marks the largest rebellion of Mr Johnson's premiership so far, with Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown warning he has has until the summer to "turn the ship round" or risk a leadership challenge.

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The vote means that from Wednesday, large venues must require customers to prove their Covid status before entry.

Covid passports will be required for:

  • Access to nightclubs

  • Access to indoor events with more than 500 attendees, such as music venues

  • Access to outdoor settings with more than 4,000 people, such as music festivals

  • Access to all settings with more than 10,000 attendees, for example, sports stadiums.

The PM also suffered the second-biggest rebellion of his leadership when MPs later voted on mandatory Covid vaccination for frontline NHS workers in England in order for them to remain in their jobs by April 2022.

Again, a Labour backing ensured the vote passed, by 385 votes to 100 - including a rebellion of 61 Tory MPs.

MPs also approved the compulsory wearing of face coverings in most indoor locations.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vote was a “very significant blow to the already damaged authority of the Prime Minister”.

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Politicians also approved regulations to drop the requirement to isolate and instead do daily Covid tests for fully vaccinated people who are contacts of a positive coronavirus case.

Ahead of the vote, Labour had given its backing to the measures, meaning there was little doubt they would not clear the Commons, but having to rely on the Opposition is not a good look for a prime minister with a huge majority of 80 seats.

Several Tories vocal about their opposition to strict Covid measures attacked the government over the plans.

Former minister Desmond Swayne said the government has been "absolutely complicit" in developing a "ministry of fear" during the pandemic by continually introducing restrictions.

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Ahead of the vote, former Tory chief whip Mark Harper urged MPs to not back plans for Covid passes, saying it would send a "clear signal" to the government to "rethink its approach".

Another Tory MP, Marcus Fysh, previously compared the introduction of Covid passes to Hitler's Nazi regime.

"We are not a 'papers please' society. This is not Nazi Germany," the MP said on Monday.

Labour decided it would not take its chance to severely damage the PM by inflicting what would have been his first Commons loss since the landslide 2019 general election victory, with Keir Starmer it was a "patriotic duty" to vote through the measures.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said the measures were "necessary".

"We can't be sure about the severity of the Omicron variant, but we can be certain that it's spreading and spreading fast, faster than any other variant and even if a smaller proportion of Omicron victims are hospitalised, the rapid advance of the virus through the population could see large numbers of people admitted to hospital during the months in which the NHS is under greatest pressure."

Also on Tuesday, Downing Street continued to insist no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced beyond the Plan B measures brought in this week, but according to Robert Peston, Mr Johnson gave a commitment to Tory MPs that if he feels more restrictions are needed while Parliament is on its winter break, then he will recall it.