A senior Conservative has warned that the party could “irretrievably” split if Boris Johnson introduces compulsory vaccine passports.
Some crowded indoor venues would be required to deny access to people who do not show proof of either having had two Covid-19 vaccine doses, a negative test result, or natural immunity – Prime Minister Mr Johnson announced on Monday.
It was a change from Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement on 12 July that “high risk setting” businesses and events would be “encouraged”, but not required, to make attendees show their vaccine passports.
A plan pushed by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove could see millions of university students be required to get double-jabbed before they are allowed to attend lectures or stay in halls of residence.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and his department fear it may be open to legal challenge.
It comes as nightclub owners are threatening legal action over the plans that they say are unfair to them. Nightclubs are to be required to check vaccine passports from September, while other hospitality venues such as pubs and bars will not.
Former minister Steve Baker is against the idea of having universities come under the scheme, and has slammed it as “an outrageous proposal”.
The deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tories told The Sun: “Who are they now trying to coerce? Whose education are they now trying to deny?
“I believe the government is in terrible danger of splitting the Tory Party irretrievably – after all we have been through with Brexit.”
Tory MP Peter Bone had threatened to boycott the Conservative Party conference if a vaccine passport is required to attend.
He said: “If you are standing up against vaccine passports then you yourself comply with it, it seems to be wrong.”
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat has likened the vaccine passport system to a “social credit system of control”.
He added: “If we need a vaccine to for events like a party conference or a nightclub – why not to travel by a train, or go to a university lecture or a shop? What other choices will result in denial of service?”
More than 40 Tory MPs have signed a declaration by campaign group Big Brother Watch saying they are opposed to using “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.
Some Tory MPs are in favour of the passports. Sir Roger Gale has said: “In a crisis, it’s not unreasonable for government to mandate a vaccine. You don’t have to go to a nightclub if you don’t want to be vaccinated.”
A Cabinet minister said, according to the i, that the policy has “no advocates”, and that Mr Johnson could quietly ditch the plans if the uptake of vaccines among young people continues to grow to a level of around 85 per cent by September.
They suggested that plans to make the passport compulsory for entry into some settings could be shelved if there is a lack of support among MPs.
But the Labour Party has said that it would back the scheme for mass-attendance events such as sports.
Mr Johnson would need Labour and the SNP’s support for the vaccine passport for his government to be able to legislate on it when MPs return from summer recess in September,
On Monday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that he was ready to support “passports plus testing” to enable mass-attendance events to admit large audiences, but said he would rule out checks to access “everyday venues and services” such as healthcare or food shops.
The passport is on an app that shows someone has either typically had two doses of a vaccine, a negative PCR or lateral flow test result within 48 hours of entry to a venue, or “natural immunity” after being infected by Covid-19 and a period of self-isolation. A Covid pass letter can also be requested by people who cannot, or do not want, to use the app.
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