The government may not introduce vaccine passports if more young people have jabs, Boris Johnson has suggested.
As Conservative MPs geared up to ally with Labour to defeat plans for passports, the prime minister indicated that the plan could be ditched anyway.
Johnson announced this week that from the end of September people would have to show they had been fully vaccinated against coronavirus as a condition of entry to nightclubs and other crowded indoor settings.
The proposals caused uproar among some Conservative MPs, who believe that the measure is tantamount to making vaccinations compulsory.
At a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs yesterday, Johnson is understood to have said the policy was designed to “show the young it is in their interests to get vaccinated”.
A senior government source also played down the idea that the plans would ever come to a vote, suggesting that the announcement of mandatory certification was primarily a gambit designed to increase vaccine uptake among younger people. “The number of people coming forward has surged in the past two days,” they said.
Opponents of passports were joined by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, who said that requiring people to show they had a recent negative test result would be a more effective measure.
“We need to see the detail of what the government puts forward regarding vaccine passports,” a Labour spokesman said. “We oppose the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services. It’s costly, open to fraud and is impractical. Being double jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus.”
Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence, told Times Radio: “I just don’t think that businesses, like your local nightclub or local pub, would be able to police it, and I don’t think it’s fair on them.”
Despite Johnson’s huge Commons majority, there may be enough Conservative rebels to rule out passports with Labour also opposed.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid recovery group of MPs, said: “If you can’t do normal things without being vaccinated then that’s compulsory vaccination by the back door.”
Tory WhatsApp groups were inundated with complaints about vaccine passports, many coming from members of the 2019 intake. One MP elected in Johnson’s landslide said: “Vaccine passports are not Conservative, create a two-tier system and just signal that further restrictions will come. It’s a total cop-out.”
UKHospitality, the trade body, said that Covid certificates would be a “costly burden that run the risk of creating flashpoints between staff and customers, as well as raising potential issues with equalities legislation and the handling of customer data.”