Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, responds to an Urgent Question on the Government plans for covid vaccine passports.
The Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment (Nadhim Zahawi)
Our vaccination programme has given this nation a wall of protection against this deadly virus. Data from Public Health England estimates that two doses of a covid-19 vaccine offers protection of around 96% against hospitalisation and that our jabs have prevented over 100,000 deaths, over 143,000 hospitalisations and around 24 million infections. It is this protection that allowed us to carefully ease restrictions over the past few months. However, we must do so in a way that is mindful of the benefits that both doses of the vaccine can bring.
On 19 July, the Prime Minister announced that
“by the end of September—when all over 18s will have had the chance to be double jabbed—we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”
We will be confirming more details in due course.
This approach is designed to reduce transmission and serious illness. It is in line with the approach we have taken on international travel, where different rules apply depending on whether someone has had both jabs.
I would like to end by urging people to come forward to get the jab. Some 88% of people have had one jab and more than 80% of people aged 16 and over have now had the protection of both doses. It is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community, so please come forward and join them, and make our wall of protection even stronger.
Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
First, thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to ask this urgent question; as Big Brother Watch brings its campaign against vaccine passports to Westminster today, it is certainly timely.
The introduction of vaccine passports will have enormous practical implications for the literally thousands of businesses across the country that will be required to gather and to hold our data. It is on those aspects that the answers are most urgently required from the Government—this must not be “in due course”, as the Minister has just said. The deadline for the implementation of this scheme is now just three weeks away. We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that a scheme of this sort opens the door to a major change in the relationship between the citizen and the state. Never before in peacetime have a Government in this country controlled, in this way, where we can go and with whom, and what to do. If the Government have concluded that this now has to change, at the very least this House must have a chance to make its voice heard and its views known. So when will we get the vote that the Minister promised us before the recess?
The case for vaccine passports is riddled with inconsistencies. Nightclubs have been open since July and, notwithstanding recent events in Aberdeen, they have been relatively safe. If they are safe today for people to enjoy responsibly, what do the Government expect to change between now and the end of the month? On Monday the Minister told me at the Dispatch Box:
“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.”—[Official Report, 6 September 2021; Vol. 700, c. 75.]
The 40% figure highlights one of the biggest dangers of the whole idea: taking people into large social gatherings where they think they will be safe from infection but in fact they are not. The Minister will know that there will always be some who cannot be vaccinated, so if entry to nightclubs or events is to be dependent on demonstrating vaccination, those people will be excluded. So can he tell the House: what assessment have the Government done with regard to their duties under equalities legislation? A study by the Night Time Industries Association found that 69% of its members view the introduction of vaccine passports as having a negative impact on business, and 70% said they were not necessary for opening their business. Why are the Government not listening to the experts in the industry? When will nightclubs and other businesses be told how will they be expected to check the vaccine status of their patrons? What legal authority will they have to do that and what will the consequences be for them if they do not do it?
On 12 July, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care told the House:
“As we move away from regulations, there will no longer be a legal requirement for any establishment to have covid vaccine certification”.—[Official Report, 12 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 32.]
When did that change and why?
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s questions and I will attempt to address them. I will begin by saying to the House that no one in this Government, and certainly not this Prime Minister—it is not in his DNA—wants to curtail people’s freedoms or require people to show a piece of paper before they enter a nightclub. The reason we are moving forward on this is that we have looked at what has happened in other countries, where nightclubs were opening and then shutting again, and opening and then shutting again, and we want to avoid that disruption and maintain sectors that can add to people’s enjoyment of life and dance, as was the case for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. We want them to be able to do that sustainably.
The reason behind the end of September date, which the right hon. Gentleman asked about, is that by then all 18-year-olds and above will have had the chance to have two doses.
The right hon. Gentleman was quite right when he quoted what I said to him at the Dispatch Box a few days ago: 60% of people who are doubled vaccinated will not be infected and therefore will not spread the infection, but 40% may do. The view of our clinical experts is that the additional relative safety of people having to be doubled vaccinated before they can enter a nightclub does begin to mitigate super-spreader events, which could cause us, in effect, to take a decision to close nightclubs, which we would not want to do.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the disruption to business; as he will know, this is a tried and tested solution that has been used extensively throughout the Government’s events research programme. It requires venues to check or scan the NHS covid pass, in the same way as nightclub bouncers check ID before entry.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the equality impact assessment. I assure him that we conducted a full equality impact assessment and consulted widely to understand the potential equality impact of covid status certification. We spoke to ethicists and representatives of disabilities, race and faith groups. The system allows both digital and non-digital proofs, to help to ensure access for all. Constituents who do not have a smartphone, for example, can confirm their vaccine status by calling 119 and getting proof via email or written letter.
As I say, this is not something we do lightly; it is something to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic status. We are coming towards the winter months, when there will be upward pressure of infections because of the return to school and winter. Large gatherings of people, especially in indoor venues such as nightclubs, could add to that. The mitigation against that, to allow us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status, is the booster programme that I hope we will embark upon later this month, after the final recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
What a load of rubbish. I do not believe that my hon. Friend believes a word he just uttered, because I remember him stating very persuasively my position, which we shared at the time, that this measure would be discriminatory. Yet he is sent to the Dispatch Box to defend the indefensible. We in this House seem prepared to have a needless fight over this issue. It is completely unnecessary. We all agree that people should be encouraged to have the vaccine, and I again encourage everybody to do so, but to go down this route, which is overtly discriminatory, will be utterly damaging to the fabric of society.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made his view clear to me on many occasions. It pains me to have to take a step like this, which we do not take lightly, but the flipside to that is that if we do not and the virus causes super-spreader events in nightclubs and I have to stand at the Dispatch Box and announce to the House that we have to close the sector, that would be much more painful to me.
Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab)
I thank the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) for bringing this important topic to the House.
I associate myself with the Minister’s opening remarks regarding vaccine uptake. It is incredibly important that people take up the vaccine where possible, and I reiterate that from the Opposition Dispatch Box.
We are weeks away from implementation, but while Ministers were relaxing over the summer, there was no clarity from the Government about these plans. Businesses remain anxious. Our priorities are clear: to protect the NHS and our economy. We absolutely cannot be faced with an unmanageable winter crisis for both. My first question to the Minister is really simple: what does he think this will achieve? How and when will the UK Government decide which businesses must implement vaccine certification, and will they rely on low-paid staff at venues to act as public health officials, and what support will they be getting?
The NHS covid pass application currently allows individuals in England to either input a negative test result or complete a vaccine record. That is important for those who cannot, for legitimate medical reasons, take the vaccine. Will the Minister explain why the Government plan to drop the negative test option? Will they improve and keep available the NHS covid pass application or will it be replaced or outsourced?
Let me be crystal clear: we cannot support any potential covid pass scheme for access to everyday services. Can the Minister categorically assure me that no one will be required to have a covid vaccination pass to access essential services?
This Government have dithered, dawdled, and, as some have said, dad danced away the summer. They have not planned or prepared, and they have not provided the reassurances or presented a clear path forward. UK businesses have had a hell of an 18 months during this difficult pandemic. They need a proactive, supportive Government, and it is about time that Ministers worked towards that aim.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her opening words and for urging those who have not had a vaccine to come forward and be protected. She asked a number of important questions relating to this measure, including what it will achieve. She will know that double vaccination was important for people to be able to travel, and the implementation of that was largely successful. We need to go further to make sure that we recognise other vaccines from other countries around the world. Those vaccines need to be recognised by the WHO, our regulator and other regulators to make it even easier for people who are double vaccinated to travel to the United Kingdom. The NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stands ready to continue that joint work, as does NHSX in terms of the technology.
The hon. Lady asked about people’s access to essential settings, which is incredibly important. I can assure her that some essential services will not require people to show covid vaccine certification. They include settings that have stayed open throughout the pandemic, such as public sector buildings, essential retail, essential services and, of course, public transport.
She also asked what certification will achieve domestically. I hope that, combined with the vaccination programme, the booster programme and all the work that we have done around education, we will be able to transition this virus, post winter, from pandemic to endemic status. The reason for this very difficult decision is that it allows us to sustain the opening of the economy, including the nightclub sector, without having to flip-flop, go backwards and close down sectors because of super-spreader events. The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, tells us that in absolute terms. As I said earlier, if people are double jabbed, only 60% will not be infected by the virus and therefore not spread it, but 40% could be infected. In relative terms, putting that downward pressure on infection rates is important in that journey towards transition from pandemic to endemic.
Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con)
I have to say that I agree with the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr Wragg). The Minister set out earlier this year that this policy was discriminatory. He was right then and that remains the case. It is a discriminatory policy. The vaccines are fantastically effective at reducing hospitalisation and death. They are very much less effective in reducing transmission of the Delta variant. This is a pointless policy with damaging effects. I am afraid that the Minister is picking an unnecessary fight with his own colleagues. I say to him that the Government should think again. The Leader of the House has been clear that we do not believe—the Government do not believe—that this policy is necessary for us to meet here in a crowded place. Let us not have one rule for Members of Parliament and another rule for everybody else. Drop this policy.
My right hon. Friend asks about my previous position. I addressed it a few days ago from this Dispatch Box. Back in January and February, we did not have the level of evidence on the Delta variant, which he mentioned. That variant is far more infectious—it requires only a few particles of Delta for a person to be infectious. Let me repeat the data that I cited earlier: 60% of people who are double vaccinated will not be infected by Delta and therefore will not spread it, but 40% could be infected and then spread it.
As for the policy being discriminatory, there will, of course, be exemptions—for example, in exceptional circumstances where a clinician recommends vaccine deferral, where that vaccine is not appropriate, and where testing is also not recommended on clinical grounds. Then there are those who have received a trial vaccine, including those who have been blinded or given a placebo as part of the formally approved covid vaccine trials in the United Kingdom.
This is not something that we enter into lightly, but it is part of our armoury to help us transition over the winter months from pandemic to endemic status. I hope to be able to stand at this Dispatch Box very soon after that and be able to share with the House that we do not need to do this any more as we will be dealing with the virus through an annual vaccination programme.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP)
I pay tribute to all those involved in the vaccination programme. It has been extraordinary. In Scotland, we have 4.1 million adults with a first dose and almost 4 million with a second dose, which means that north of 90% of all adults have had at least one dose. It is a fantastic result across the UK since last December, but the pandemic is not over. Lives are still at risk and the pressures on the NHS are very real, so we in Scotland are introducing a vaccine passport, but, broadly, it will be limited to nightclubs, outdoor standing events with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people. While the rules in England may be slightly different, I hope that they are as proportionate as that.
May I go back to the issue of essential services? It is not enough simply to say that a person will not need a vaccine passport to get an essential service. It has to be any setting where a person’s attendance is unavoidable—shops, public transport, medical services and education. We need the confirmation that no setting where a person’s attendance is unavoidable will require a vaccine passport.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his excellent citation of the vaccine success in Scotland. NHS Scotland has done a tremendous job, as has the NHS in Wales, Northern Ireland and, of course, England. He raises an important point about essential services. In the process of parliamentary engagement and scrutiny, we will be able to share the detail of that in due course.
Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con)
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister, who is defending a policy that I do not think his heart is truly in. May I ask him a technical question? If a fake vaccine passport is used, who will bear responsibility? Will it be the venue, the person who checked it, or the individual who used the fake passport? Who will police it? Will we be asking our local police, our local authority or some other agency?
My right hon. Friend asks an important question. When I or a Minister from the Cabinet Office stands at the Dispatch Box and shares the detail of the implementation, we will address that issue in full.
Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
The Night Time Industries Association and others have expressed concerns about the practical implementation of this policy. As the Minister has highlighted, those questions remain and need to be answered quickly. Will the Minister also publish clear guidance on which events and venues will require a covid passport? There will also be increased costs for businesses at a time when they are recovering, so will they also be getting extra funding, and when will that be announced?
Absolutely, we will issue clear guidance about venues. Nightclubs are a particular concern when it comes to evidence from other countries of super-spreader events, but, absolutely, we will do that.
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
Isn’t the super-spreader event the spread of illiberal, discriminatory and coercive policies from this Dispatch Box?
It pains me to have to stand at the Dispatch Box and implement something that goes against the DNA of this Minister and his Prime Minister, but we are living through difficult and unprecedented times. As one of the major economies of the world, our four nations have done an incredible job of implementing the vaccination programme. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that we can sustainably maintain the opening of all sectors of the economy.
Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
I almost feel sorry for the Minister because he really is struggling to defend this policy. However, he has failed to answer the fundamental question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about this deeply illiberal, discriminatory and unnecessary policy: will this House get a vote on the implementation of covid vaccine passports—yes or no?
There will be appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, as I have said today and in the past.
Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
I fear that my hon. Friend is on a sticky wicket. Let me point out to him that, if people have had covid but have not had any vaccinations, they will not get the passport that he is proposing and therefore will not be allowed into nightclubs. We are a proud, liberal party in that we believe in freedoms; whatever happened to a laissez-faire attitude? Nightclubs have been open since July. My hon. Friend has not closed them yet. There is no need for a vaccine passport.
That is an important question. My hon. Friend is quite right that nightclubs have been open since July. The end of September date was chosen deliberately to allow over-18s to have the opportunity to be double vaccinated. On people who may have had covid and not had the vaccine, there is evidence—for example, on the beta variant—that it can be much more harmful to people unless they get vaccinated. I urge people who have had covid and recovered to get the vaccine, get double jabbed and get protected.
Let us hear from the former voice of the DJs of the north—Jeff Smith.
Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
Thank you, Mr Speaker. As somebody who worked in nightclubs for 25-plus years, let me tell the Minister that this is a recipe for chaos on the doors of nightclubs. As my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) said—and as I said to the Minister the other day—the Night Time Industries Association has said that this will cripple the industry. This industry has been massively hard hit and it relies on walk-up trade; this is going make it impossible for nightclubs to run.
Let me ask the Minister two questions. First, how does he define a nightclub, as opposed to a late bar with a DJ playing music? Secondly, there is no rationale for this—as the hon. Member for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney) said, nightclubs have been open for weeks—so why close them now? Why require vaccine passport for nightclubs, as opposed to other crowded indoor venues, such as the Chamber and the voting Lobby of the House of Commons?
That is an important question. As I said earlier, part of the trials gave us the confidence that we can do this and do it well. These passports have already been implemented for international travel and other countries in Europe have them for nightclubs. We think this is the right thing to do to help us transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status. We will be coming forward with the details for parliamentary scrutiny in due course.
I call the voice of pirate radio—Michael Fabricant.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Although I understand the libertarian argument regarding this policy and the very good points put forward by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), is it not the prime duty of any Government to protect their own population, whether in peace or war? And in many ways, are we not in a unique war with this virus? The passport is easily available. I have it on my iPhone now, although it shows my date of birth, which I would rather it did not do. I certainly agree, by the way, that if we want equality, we should be using these passports to get access to this Chamber, because it is also a crowded place. Will not the vaccine passport also encourage more people to get double vaccinated?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a very strong libertarian argument and not one with which I would disagree. This is a difficult and important decision. As he says, we are still not in a place where I can stand here and say, hand on heart, that we have transitioned this virus and that it is no longer a pandemic. That is why we are having to take this decision. I slightly disagree with his latter point; public buildings should obviously remain accessible and open to all without these passports, because there are relative measures that we can take to allow us the additional protection as we head towards the booster programme.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
Mr Speaker, I am feeling sheepish about earlier; my apologies—touché.
This is just nonsense. I am 100% in favour of vaccination and 100% opposed to vaccine passports. There is no legal definition of what a nightclub is, as opposed to a place where other people might be bouncing up and down, and shouting at one another across a Chamber in a room of 500 people. There is no legal definition that the Minister is going to be able to rely on. The Government will effectively be turning bouncers on the door into legal officers, who will be deciding whether somebody has had a placebo or not. This is for the birds. We can relieve the Minister of all his pain; he just has to say that he has thought again and he is not going to do it.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his question. Bouncers will not have to decide if someone has had a placebo or not, because anyone who has been on a trial will be deemed to be vaccinated and will receive their certificate.
Even though they’re not?
I said this at the Dispatch Box before recess. Actually, the Secretary of State took to the World Health Organisation a plea to the rest of the world that people in trials should be considered fully vaccinated, whether they have had the placebo or otherwise, in order to encourage them to come forward for vaccine trials. I repeated that today. It will not be an issue for nightclub bouncers.
Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
The measures presented by the Minister today are unsupportable because they are bereft of any rationale. I ask him to think carefully about whether this Government wish to take powers that were deemed to be emergency powers and make them the normal powers of a Government in a free society. I, for one, think that that is extremely unwise and that there is no case for this.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the times that we are enduring are not normal. This is a measure that we are having to take. As he will hear from our chief medical officers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this is a mitigation to allow us to continue to transition this pandemic over the winter months and not have to reverse our policies. I say, with a heavy heart, that I would much rather stand here and take from colleagues arrows in the back—or in the front—than come back to this House and have to close down nightclubs because the virus has caused a super-spreader event. I do not want to have to explain that to the whole industry, because it would be much more detrimental to businesses to have to open and shut them, and open and shut them again.
Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
The Minister cannot underestimate how much freedom has been limited for those with medical exemptions. I have heard from some of my constituents that they feared even leaving the house. The idea that they will see those freedoms limited again is abhorrent, so how can the Minister ensure that the medically exempt will not have further restrictions on their freedoms because of his vaccine passport plan?
We have spent a lot of time, energy and resource on ensuring that those with medical exemptions, who have underlying medical conditions, were prioritised in both category 4 and 6 of phase 1 of the vaccination programme, as the hon. Member will recall. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has gone further for the immunosuppressed. As I said earlier, there will be exemptions from this particular set of rules for people who, for whatever reason, cannot be vaccinated or cannot have a test for medical conditions.
Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the duration of these passports, whether they are passed by the Government or it is done by a vote, would only last as long as it is considered that the United Kingdom was in a pandemic state, not an endemic state, in terms of the disease? Will he also set out when that transition happens so that we can judge and understand it for ourselves?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s thoughtful question. There is great difficulty with knowing at what stage we feel confident that the virus has transitioned from pandemic to endemic. We have now entered a period of equilibrium with the virus because of the success of the vaccination programme. The upward pressure on infections is obviously schools going back. The downward pressure on infections will be the booster programme and mitigating policies like the one we are debating. The Government certainly do not see this as a long-term power grab to restrict people’s liberties.
Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op)
I feel I should try to help the Minister by thanking him for the regular briefings on vaccination uptake over the recess, which was very helpful to me in terms of encouraging a number of people from the BME communities to take up the vaccine. However, this policy is not going to work in Vauxhall. A number of businesses that have been hampered over the last 18 months want to get back. A number of those businesses are fearful of the looming rent increases for private commercial tenants. A number of businesses are fearful about the backlog of business rates that they have to pay. We are now probably going to ask those same businesses to pay to implement this policy. I want to go back to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra): what funding will be available to those businesses and when will they receive it?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s kind words about the engagement that we have maintained throughout the vaccine deployment programme. We will continue to do so, by the way, as we enter the booster programme, which, in some weeks, will hopefully break all records that we set in phase 1 of the vaccination programme. I think what is more detrimental to businesses in Vauxhall is having to open and shut, and open and shut again. The reason for this policy is to sustain their ability to trade, and hopefully trade profitably.
Miss Sarah Dines (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)
I think we all agree that vaccine take-up among the young is essential. What additional incentives can you offer the young people I work with on Hurst Farm, a social housing estate in Matlock, to take up the vaccine?
Young people have been coming forward in droves to be vaccinated. We have walk-in centres all around the country where people do not even have to book an appointment. There have been many different ideas for incentivisation of young people. The great incentive, I hope, is to protect themselves, their families and their community, but also to enjoy the freedoms that come with double vaccination.
Can I just say that I will not be giving any incentives? When the hon. Lady said “you”, it meant me, and I definitely do not want to do that.
John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
As the Minister has indicated, many countries are already introducing checks in hospitality and entertainment venues, and a large number of our own citizens are visiting them on holiday, showing vaccine passes issued free by Her Majesty’s Government and having already undergone checks at airports. I have been arguing since February for the introduction of vaccine passes in order to save venues and jobs. To ensure that they can stay open, will he now cut through the hysteria and get on with it?
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
On Sunday, I joined dozens of volunteers for a thank you event with Medicare Pharmacy for the 58,000 jabs that it has delivered to local people this year. What more, though, can the Minister do to encourage—I stress the word “encourage”—those who are still to have their jab to come forward and do so?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s work. He has been a champion of the vaccination programme and I am grateful to Medicare Pharmacy. We continue to have pop-ups at universities and walk-ins around the country, and incentives to young people to get vaccinated. We also continue to redouble our efforts to keep the vaccine evergreen for those who have not yet had their first dose.
Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
Last week, I spoke to a constituent who is a widow with four children and has been working for the NHS on the frontline throughout the pandemic. One of her children has a range of very complex needs that can only be met by full-time residential care, and there is only one setting in the entire country that can meet his particular needs. She has been told that it cannot take him because of a shortage of care staff, and that the particular difficulty in recruiting at the moment is the requirement for care staff to have had two jabs. As the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), who is no longer in his place, highlighted, the vaccine does not prevent infection or the spread of covid. So why, given the crisis in recruitment of care staff, do we still have this requirement for two jabs when it is not effective and is depriving vulnerable people of the care they need?
If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I wish to reiterate that what she said is inaccurate in the sense of the vaccines not preventing infection. Sixty per cent. of people who are double-vaccinated will not be infected and therefore cannot spread the virus, but 40% can. This is an important measure. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable in care homes in ensuring that the staff are double-jabbed, and they have until 11 November to do that.
Simon Jupp (East Devon) (Con)
Make no mistake: vaccine passports will create a two-tier society with the hospitality industry having to police an unethical policy that will hammer its recovery. Given the Government’s own words that we need to live with this virus, will my hon. Friend confirm how long vaccine passports will be in place—if passed by this House?
We will set out in detail in due course exactly how the vaccine pass will work for domestic use: for example, in nightclubs.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
I thank the Minister for all the hard work he does and for answering these very difficult questions. It would seem that each region of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has differing versions of the system in relation to offering vaccine passports, and that confuses people whenever they read or hear it in the national news. What discussions have taken place with regional Administrations on this issue? Are there any plans to standardise each region to have a one-size-fits-all UK strategy that people can understand and follow?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s excellent question. I am very proud, as are the Ministers from the devolved Administrations, of the work we have done collectively on the vaccination programme, which we will continue to do for the booster programme. As he heard earlier, this is a devolved matter but we try to co-ordinate wherever possible and do the right thing together.
Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
I congratulate the Minister and all those involved in the vaccination roll-out on four-fifths of over-16-year-olds now being double-vaccinated. This Government have worked night and day to ensure that we have the testing capacity to test over 1 million people a day, and many millions more with lateral flow tests as well. Surely a nightclub full of people who have tested negative is safer than a nightclub of people who are double-vaccinated.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s championing of the vaccination programme. He raises an important point. One of the issues around lateral flow tests is the risk of people fraudulently inputting their test result, but also those are for a single excursion whereas being double-vaccinated means that people can go and enjoy nightclubs as many times as they like.
Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
May I, on bended knee, implore my hon. Friend to summon all his courage and say no to vaccine passports to protect our civil liberties? He has been so courageous in the vaccine roll-out, so will he please protect our civil liberties and say no to vaccine passports?
I hope that when my hon. Friend pauses and reflects on what we will be bringing forward, she will see that it is that it is much better for the nightclub industry to be able to open sustainably while we get through the next few months. The winter months are going to be tough and challenging not just for covid but also for flu. It is a far better option to listen to the clinical advice of the CMOs and implement something that is difficult for me to do, and goes against everything I believe in, but nevertheless is the right thing to do.
Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
We have a whole summer’s worth of data from the events research programme that shows how organisers of events such as the British grand prix at Silverstone in my constituency had to meet extreme costs to put in the planning and the checking of vaccine passports at the gate. Before this policy is put to a vote in this House, will my hon. Friend commit to publishing the data on the cost to business of vaccine passport checks through the events research programme, so that we can be fully apprised of the cost of this policy?
My hon. Friend’s question is important and is one that we will be looking at. Suffice to say, as I mentioned earlier, the events research programme certainly gave us the confidence that people can deal with this measure relatively easily. In the way that a nightclub bouncer can check ID, they can check covid vaccination status.
Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe) (Con)
Like many across the House, I am instinctively wary of this idea. Will my hon. Friend give me a clear answer to a specific question: will right hon. and hon. Members receive a vote? For the avoidance of doubt, I am talking about a vote and not scrutiny of the policy.
I have said that there will be parliamentary scrutiny around this, and we will be coming back and setting out in detail what that looks like.
Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
I am flabbergasted, depressed and annoyed that we are even discussing this matter. It is absolutely wrong on a fundamental level. Putting to one side the practical implications of how it will be policed, more important are the general data protection regulation implications of bouncers having medical data in their hands. What are we doing in regard to the data? Nightclubs have been open for over two months. Is there any data to support this policy, because I do not think there is?
The very strong advice from the chief medical officers—we have heard from our colleagues in Scotland, too—is that this will be an important mitigating measure. It is something we do not do lightly. I completely understand my hon. Friend’s sentiment and emotion on this. In terms of the data presented, it will be limited simply to the vaccine status and the name of the individual. It can be on a smartphone, but if someone does not have one, it will be physical or by email.