Boris Johnson is facing a renewed backlash within his party over the “threat” of domestic vaccine passports, with demands for MPs to be recalled from their holidays to debate the proposal.
Andrew Bridgen, one of 43 Conservative MPs to sign a declaration opposing vaccine passports, said Parliament should be recalled from its summer recess if ministers are “serious” about asking people to show proof of their vaccine status to gain entry to domestic venues and events.
The call means cross-party backing is emerging for the Commons to return before September.
Last week, the Liberal Democrats, said a change rolled out to the NHS app, allowing users to prove they had been double-jabbed to access domestic settings – as well as for international travel – warranted a recall.
Conservative grandee Sir David Lidington, who was de facto deputy prime minister under Theresa May, added his voice to growing numbers in the Tory Party who are concerned about the prospect of vaccine passports, which are being used in some European countries, including Denmark and France.
The former cabinet minister told Times Radio that introducing a “government certificate of approval” to access certain events would set a “dangerous precedent”.
The prime minister has announced that he intends to change the rules in September so that only those who are fully vaccinated can attend nightclubs, in a move designed to increase the take-up of vaccination among young people.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), about two-thirds of people aged 18 to 29 in England have received a first dose.
The nightclub stipulations would be stricter than the coronavirus status certificates used at some mass events in recent months, with clubbers not allowed to use proof of a negative Covid-19 test or evidence of having had the virus to gain entry.
But Johnson was warned by one of his backbenchers that he faced an “embarrassing defeat” if he put the “authoritarian” proposal to a vote in the Commons.
North West Leicestershire MP, Bridgen, told LBC: “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.”
Bridgen suggested the government had looked to change tack in its approach to enticing young people to get jabbed because it knew objections to vaccine passes were growing.
‘Kebabs for jabs’
Labour shadow environment secretary, Luke Pollard, said the party was “very cautious” about domestic Covid passports, with leader Sir Keir Starmer ruling out supporting them for use in “everyday life”, setting up the possibility of a government defeat on the policy.
Bridgen said: “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 this carrot inducements for young people.”
The so-called “inducements” will see young people offered vouchers and discounts for popular takeaways and taxi rides in exchange for getting a jab.
Uber, Bolt, Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims are among the brands who will be offering incentives to encourage youngsters to get inoculated, DHSC has announced.
Taxi app firm Uber will offer discounted Uber rides and meals on its Uber Eats platform for young adults who receive a vaccine, while Deliveroo is planning to give vouchers to young people who get jabbed.
Labour MP Pollard, who dubbed the offer “kebabs for jabs”, said he doubted the concept “is going to be enough to get that last 30 per cent of young people” vaccinated, and called for youngsters to be given more of a role in leading the campaign to get protected from the virus.