SNP could save PM from Tory revolt over domestic vaccine passports
The SNP could save Boris Johnson from a growing Tory revolt over domestic vaccine passports as Labour hardened its opposition to the documents.
Some 40 Tory MPs have made clear they are against domestic ‘Covid Status Certification’, warning that introducing the checks in everyday life would create a ‘two tier’ nation.
Labour is also increasingly critical of the proposals with a leaked briefing note for the party’s MPs stating ‘on the basis of what we’ve seen we would oppose domestic vaccine passports’.
The combination of Labour opposition and a 40-strong Tory rebellion had sparked speculation that Mr Johnson could lose a vote on the issue in the House of Commons.
But Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, has said his party will ‘look constructively at any proposals’ that would help secure a return to normal life, in a boost for the PM.
It came as Jeremy Hunt, the Tory former health secretary and chairman of the Health Select Committee, said he believed the public will accept the documents if they are the ‘only way to socialise in public places safely’.
Boris Johnson, pictured during a visit to an AstraZeneca manufacturing centre in Macclesfield yesterday, is facing a Tory backlash over his domestic vaccine passports plans
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has suggested his party could support the proposals but criticised a lack of detail from the Government
The initial findings of a Government review on how the passports could be used left the door open to the documents being required for access to pubs and restaurants.
Many Tory MPs support the use of vaccine passports for international travel but are vehemently opposed to using them in everyday life, warning they would create a ‘two-tier’ Britain.
The scale of the Tory disquiet represented a significant headache for the PM who is under pressure to guarantee a vote in the Commons on the issue.
But the potential backing of the SNP would likely be enough for Mr Johnson to see off the Conservative rebellion.
There are currently 44 SNP MPs which means the Tory revolt would have to grow to approximately 80 in order for the PM to lose.
It would mean that even if Labour opposed the documents Mr Johnson would likely still have enough votes to get over the line.
Mr Blackford told The Telegraph: ‘Obviously we’re keen to take steps to get back to normality, but in a way that is inclusive.
‘We would look constructively at any proposals that would help us get there, including Covid status checks. It is important that people are not excluded.
‘Therefore such checks would have to include people who have had a Covid test as well as those who are vaccinated.
‘When it comes to SNP MPs potentially voting on such matters in Westminster, these measures will affect Scots visiting friends or for work in England.’
Mr Blackford subsequently said that as things currently stand the SNP will not support the domestic plans.
He said: ‘The UK government hasn’t published any proposals yet, and the Tory position has been mired in confusion and contradiction. On the basis of the information available, there is not a proposition in front of us that SNP MPs could support.’
It came after a leaked Labour note sent to the party’s MPs suggested Sir Keir Starmer is hardening his opposition to the documents.
The note, seen by the Huffington Post website, said: ‘On the basis of what we’ve seen we would oppose domestic vaccine passports. Labour’s focus would be on getting the vaccine out, fixing self-isolation and contact tracing.’
Despite the high levels of opposition in Westminster to the idea of domestic vaccine passports, Mr Hunt said he believed the public would accept them.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Well, in normal times if you were being asked to show your health records or your Covid status before going into a pub or something like that it would be absolutely abhorrent.
Sir Keir Starmer appears to be hardening his opposition to the documents with a briefing note to Labour MPs stating ‘on the basis of what we’ve seen we would oppose domestic vaccine passports’
‘But this is a pandemic. Now, it may not be necessary to do any of that if the vaccine programme is as successful as we hope and if cases fall to low enough levels.
‘But if the only way to socialise in public places safely is to ask people to demonstrate that they are not likely to be a risk to others then I think people are quite sensible and pragmatic about this kind of thing.’
The initial findings of a Government review on the certification scheme said the documents could have an ‘important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure’.
The Government ruled out using the documents to determine access to public transport or essential shops.
But the findings said ‘it is possible that COVID-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings’.
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