Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs, Alistair Carmichael MP, has spoken out against the Coronavirus Act during a debate on its renewal last night. Mr Carmichael highlighted the concerns of civil rights organisations about possible new measures like vaccine “passports” which could be required in order to go to bars and restaurants.
Despite opposition by the Liberal Democrats and some Labour and Conservative rebels, the renewal of the Act’s provisions was passed, 484 to 76.
Speaking in the House Mr Carmichael said:
“When we enacted this legislation last year, we did not know what would be the course of the pandemic or how this place would work, so we were right to be cautious. A year on we know a lot more than we did then.
“Many of the powers we gave to the Government last year were not needed. 252 people have been charged with criminal offences under this Act, with not one single prosecution as a consequence. That and that alone should surely be ringing alarm bells. It will always be the case that when we give a Government a power, they will want to hold on to it. It took a private citizen to raise a court case in 1952 before we saw the back of the identity card scheme [introduced during the war].”
Mr Carmichael highlighted the risks of a vaccine “passport” required to access services:
“Mention of identity cards brings me to vaccine passports and the idea, today, of some sort of certification of people’s vaccine status that will allow them to get a pint in a pub. This idea of vaccine passports is a dangerous one. It is the very thin end of a thick and illiberal wedge. If it is okay to force people to confirm their health status in relation to this particular virus, is it then going to be okay for people to carry a piece of paper, under some future Government, that says they are HIV-negative, or whatever it is?
“I do not know whether many on the Treasury Bench have ever worked in a bar for a living. I did it for five years. If those on the Treasury Bench think that the best way to bring us in this country to a place where we become a sort of “papers please” society is by doing that through pubs, I warn them that they are mistaken.
“For all sorts of reasons, both practical and due to matters of high principle, the Government are currently going in the wrong direction. By renewing the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, we will not be doing the job that our voters sent us here to do.”