Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called on the government to come clean about a coming vote on its “Covid ID” plans to force people at events and inside venues to prove vaccination status, with just days or weeks until the scheme is due to come into force. A range of civil liberties organisations have voiced concern about the government’s plans, mirrored in Scotland, to impose a centralised system forcing people to confirm their health status before accessing services, despite ministers previously claiming no such system would be imposed.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“It will not be lost on many people that the various lines of defence that the Minister listed in his statement did not actually include his plans for vaccine passports, presumably because they do not offer us any defence at all. May I remind the Minister of what he said on Twitter on 12 January? He wrote:
“’We have no plans to introduce vaccine passports…No one has been given or will be required to have a vaccine passport.’
“[He was asked] ‘Can we hold you to this?’”, and replied:
“Yes you can.”
“For the many who want to hold the Minister to his words, may I ask when we will get the vote that he promised us?”
Responding, Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP said:
“The difference between then and now was first that the Delta variant is so much more infectious than the previous variants and secondly that we have learnt from the experience of other countries which attempted to reopen sectors such as the nightclub sector and then had to close them rapidly because of super-spreader events. We do know that 60% of people who have had two jabs will not become infected with the Delta variant and therefore cannot infect someone else, although 40% will and can. This is a relative risk that we want to avoid: what we do not want to do is open the industry and then have to shut it down again because of those super-spreader events.
“I hope that I have explained myself to the House. It is important that when politicians have new evidence—new data—they are able to change their minds.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“The minister’s response was incoherent and evasive. He gave no information on any vote on his Covid ID card scheme and no credible answer on his shameless flip-flopping. He says they want to learn lessons from other countries – if that were true then why would they reopen every part of the economy at once for months before implementing these policies? It defies common sense.
“Vaccines are the best way out of the pandemic, and we need to convince as many people as possible to get the jab. We do not do that by threats and compulsion – we do it through education and support. Covid ID cards are authoritarian and backward-looking whether they are being imposed by overbearing governments in Westminster or Holyrood, and liberals will keep fighting them.”