Coercion? Anti-Lockdown MP Warns UK ‘Moving to Compulsory Vaccination’
A leading member of a group of anti-lockdown Tory MPs has warned that the UK is “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that a vaccine passport will be the condition of entry for large venues like nightclubs.
On Monday, the day touted as ‘Freedom Day’, Prime Minister Johnson announced: “By the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be doubled-jabbed, we’re planning to make full vaccination the condition for entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.”
Faced with the prospect of Britain going down the route of introducing its first domestic vaccine passports, Mark Harper MP, the chairman of the Conservative lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG), said: “I have to say I don’t welcome the minister’s statement, particularly vaccine passports for crowded venues, which is effectively moving to compulsory vaccination.”
Mr Harper also suggested in comments reported by The Guardian that the government could fail to win support when the measures are voted on in parliament, saying: “I do however look forward to the debate and the vote in parliament when he will bring forward the evidence because I don’t think that is supported by the pilots that have taken place.”
The Liberal Democrats, who have been consistent in their opposition to vaccine passports, condemned the measures, with the party’s Home Affairs Spokesman Alistair Carmichael saying: “Vaccine passports are Covid ID cards: unworkable, expensive and divisive.”
Labour, which habitually backs the government in votes on lockdown measures, has so far only offered a non-commital, milquetoast criticism of the plans, with Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders condemning “this make-it-up-as-you-go-along government is causing more chaos”.
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However, even if Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other members of the Opposition vote against the measures, the Conservative Party still has a commanding 83-seat majority. Current estimates point to there being around 40 Tory backbenchers who will vote against vaccine passports.
Other Conservative lawmakers have also been vocal in their opposition to using the NHS Covid Pass as a digital domestic vaccine passport, including former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who suggested it could lead to social controls similar to those in Communist China.
“If you look at China, it uses technology to increase the control they have right down to street level. It’s quite staggering. You cannot go anywhere in China, buy anything, see anybody, travel on anything without the Chinese governing knowing exactly where you are, what you did, how much you spent, and who you saw,” Mr Duncan Smith said.
Adding: “Freedom, you really don’t understand the value of it is until the day that they start knocking at your door and telling you that you are in trouble because you disobeyed rules from the government in areas that you once thought were matters of personal choice. That is the problem we face.”
Tory WhatsApp groups are also reportedly being inundated with complaints about the proposals, with Simon Jupp MP warning: “We potentially risk creating a two-tier society.”
There is also criticism of senior ministers going back on their word or other long-held convictions. After Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi’s reiterated Johnson’s vaccine passport order, social media users were prompted to refer to Zahawi’s previous remarks where he called vaccine passports “discriminatory” and his pledge to unaffiliated peer Claire Fox, the Baronness Fox of Buckley, that there were no plans to introduce them.
Concerns have also been raised in recent weeks that vaccine passports were just the first step to identification cards. Last week, a firm developing a health pass for the government said that it could be redeployed as a national ID card, in what Silkie Carlo of the civil liberties campaigning group Big Brother Watch warned was a “mission creep” and a “giant leap towards ID cards”.
One Cabinet Minister speaking anonymously to The Times on Tuesday was alive to the prospect, saying: “It’s a stepping stone to ID cards. I’m not in favour of compulsion. The young aren’t affected by Covid. The policy is not zero Covid, the policy is cutting deaths and trying to stop the NHS from falling over. There aren’t many unvaccinated elderly people going to nightclubs.”
In just 2004, when the then-libertarian Boris Johnson was a columnist for The Telegraph, he had rejected any form of ID card to go about normal life in Britain, writing: “But I tell you this. If I am ever asked, on the streets of London, or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along and breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it.”
On Monday, he authorised the first use of a mandatory vaccine passport.
The morality of coercing Britons to be vaccinated to undertake activities they could otherwise freely do two years ago was also questioned by the chairman of the ethics advisory board to the government’s technology arm of the National Health Service, the NHSX.
Sir Jonathan Montgomery told Times Radio: “We should have a debate about where incentive reaches coercion. Maybe this is more like hanging a carrot out — if someone would like to go to a nightclub then they need to get vaccinated. But it raises the question about the impact on people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons, or ethical reasons, or people who just don’t want to get vaccinated.”