COVID-19: Publicans and Tory MPs’ fury at PM’s ‘vaccine passports’ for pubs idea

Boris Johnson is facing a Tory rebellion on lockdown rules in the Commons, 24 hours after telling drinkers they may need a COVID vaccine or negative test to go to the pub.

MPs are due to vote on extending emergency COVID legislation for six months until 25 September and current lockdown rules into July, but ending proxy voting in the Commons on 21 June.

Senior Tory backbenchers have denounced the 2020 Coronavirus Act as “the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history” and are threatening a rebellion by up to 60 Conservative MPs.

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The vote comes after an angry reaction from MPs and the pub trade to the prime minister’s shock warning about “vaccine passports” for pubs being enforced by landlords.

The PM’s move is part of a review of “vaccine passports” being led by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, which could lead to venues demanding a recent test or proof of vaccine and relaxing rules on social distancing.

Mr Johnson made his proposal as he appeared before the Liaison Committee of senior MPs when he was asked by Conservative MP William Wragg if “COVID vaccine certification” could be required for pub-goers.

Mr Johnson replied: “I think that that’s the kind of thing. It may be up to individual publicans. It may be up to the landlord.”

The PM said: “The concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us.” For example, doctors had to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, he said.

But instantly there was a furious reaction from Tory lockdown rebels, led by Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the COVID Recovery Group.

Mr Baker hit out: “The Prime Minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic COVID certificates.

“First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.

“Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine.

“Or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.

“We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”

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From the pub trade, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification.

“It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.”

Looking ahead to the Commons showdown, Mr Baker said: “Following the prime minister’s comments, the vote on the Coronavirus Act has become a rare opportunity for MPs to say no to a new way of life in a checkpoint society, under extreme police powers, that we would not have recognised at the beginning of last year.

“I was glad to hear the Prime Minister reassure William Wragg that anything that is redundant will go in relation to Coronavirus Act powers. Draconian police powers under Schedule 21, which have a 100% unlawful prosecution record, must be considered redundant to say the very least.

“I am seeking to table an amendment to the motion asking ministers to suspend those powers. I now hope the government can support it.”

Downing Street officials defended plans to renew the Coronavirus Act’s emergency measures for six months.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “The Coronavirus Act needs a renewal vote every six months, that will mean this is the second such vote.”

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