Boris Johnson’s vaccine passport plans could spark the first Tory party split in nearly 200 years, a senior Conservative MP has warned.
The contentious proposals of forcing people to prove they have had a negative test or are fully vaccinated to attend certain events has been met with cross-party condemnation.
The Telegraph revealed that football supporters will have to be double-jabbed to attend Premier League games , university students could be barred from attending lectures unless they can prove they have been fully vaccinated and people will need a vaccine passport to enter a nightclub under the plans.
The vaccine passports plan for nightclubs was forced through despite a majority of ministers calling for it to be postponed at a meeting just hours before it was announced, it has emerged.
And The Telegraph can disclose that widespread concerns have been raised in the Cabinet after Boris Johnson last week stated that people attending nightclubs would be required by law to be double jabbed by the end of September.
Now, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tories, has said the issue threatens to drive the biggest wedge through his party since it was formed in 1834.
He told The Sun: "It is an outrageous proposal, and one that doesn’t seem likely to do any good.
"Who are they now trying to coerce? Whose education are they now trying to deny?
"I believe the government is in terrible danger of splitting the Tory Party irretrievably – after all we have been through with Brexit."
The plans have received a lukewarm endorsement from a perhaps unexpected source – Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
He said he backed the “pragmatic” use of Covid vaccine passports – but also stressed the importance of testing as part of the certification scheme.
While Mr Johnson has signalled that the Covid pass will be required for nightclubs in England from September, when all adults will have had the opportunity to be double-jabbed, with tests no longer sufficient.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has indicated the documents could be required for a far wider range of settings, suggesting festivals and sport events as areas where there were concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
Labour has previously indicated it could side with Tory rebels in voting against the mandatory use of vaccine-only passports for nightclubs, but Sir Keir acknowledged that checks of some sort were necessary for major events.
Sir Keir set out his views on LBC Radio, saying that tests were more useful than just a record of vaccination – highlighting Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s situation as a double-jabbed person who contracted Covid-19.
He said: “I think tests are actually more useful than double vaccinations, as the Health Secretary has shown.
“He, of course, got Covid just about 10 days ago now, I know he’s through it now, but he had been double-vaccinated. So, I actually think tests are much more useful.
“I think that the idea that we can go back to mass sporting events or other events without any checks is not one I would subscribe to.”
Asked whether he would support the Government in a vote, he said Labour would “look carefully” at proposals and added: “What I don’t want to see, just to be very clear about this, is I don’t want to see vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things like health, dentistry, food, etc.
“So, for sporting events, I’ll look at what the Government puts on the table.
“I want to be pragmatic because we all want all business sectors and sporting sectors to return as quickly as possible. But not for everyday use.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the current plans for vaccine passports were “unworkable” and risked adding to the burden on already stretched firms.
“Many businesses – the practicalities, whether it is in hospitality or in other organisations – they have absolutely struggled during this pandemic and there is absolutely no way that these businesses can go around vetting and checking these vaccine passports are legit,” she said.
Speaking on a visit to co-working space Impact Hub, in central London, Angela Rayner said: “We think it is unworkable actually and we should be encouraging people to get the vaccine as soon as they possibly can, and also encouraging people to take regular tests as well. Because that is how we keep control of the virus.
“Of course, even with the two vaccines you can still get Covid, so therefore testing has got to be an important part of that scheme.”
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