Vaccine passports plan ‘railroaded through’ despite ministers’ concerns

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Nightclub  - Rob Pinney/Getty
Nightclub - Rob Pinney/Getty

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.

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.

Following the announcement on July 19, multiple sources have claimed that the policy was “railroaded” through at a Cabinet Covid O subcommittee meeting, which took place earlier that day.

Several of those present at the meeting said ministers were taken by surprise, as the proposal, which was the second item on the agenda, was only put to them in official briefing papers just minutes before the meeting began.

It is understood that during the discussion, a “majority” of those taking part raised concerns over the timing of the announcement, as well as fears over equalities legislation and the potential risk of legal action against venues.

Another source said that “every member of the meeting”, with the exception of Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary - who all reportedly spoke in favour - called for the announcement of the policy to be postponed.

Those advocating for the plan are said to have argued that there was a need to drive up vaccine uptake among 18 to 30-year-olds. There are currently three million people in this age group who have failed to take up the offer of a first jab.

Mr Gove, who chairs key meetings relating to the pandemic response, is accused of then pushing the plans through, despite the concerns of many involved in the meeting.

The plan was later announced by Boris Johnson at a press conference on Monday evening, just hours after nightclubs were allowed to reopen for the first time in 16 months.

Others have hit back at the claims, suggesting that Mr Gove was merely implementing the wishes of the Prime Minister.

They pointed out that the issue had been discussed at length earlier in the day during the Prime Minister’s morning Covid meeting, which was attended by Mr Gove and Mr Javid.

The row comes after The Telegraph disclosed this weekend that ministers are now discussing extending the passport requirement to include Premier League matches and seated events with a capacity of 20,000 or more.

It has also been reported that Mr Johnson has suggested that university students could also be required to be double jabbed before attending lectures and seminars next term - a proposal which was not put to the Covid O meeting.

Currently, large venues are being encouraged to adopt Covid-19 status certification, which requires customers to present proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test, or a positive test taken in the previous six months.

However, the extent of unease in Cabinet over the plans can now be laid bare.

Recounting last week’s meeting, one senior minister involved said: “Quite a few of us are okay with passports. However, the rush was not okay and as a consequence there were things that needed to be ironed out that weren’t.

“There has been no assessment, no legal advice … they haven’t provided it to other committee members. That’s what is frustrating.

“The big push was, ‘No, we’ve got to get young people vaccinated.’ It’s only been a month since we allowed 18-year-olds to get vaccines.

“That was the frustration, that it felt like a knee-jerk reaction. Michael [Gove] acknowledged the concerns but said they would press on.”

Several on the call, while broadly in favour of Covid-19 status certification, have also privately expressed their concern at removing the option to provide a negative test.

One told The Telegraph they did not understand why it was being ditched, as France, which is rolling out similar plans, is still proposing including the option of a negative test as part of its own health pass.

Another said: “Every member of the meeting said to postpone it, bar Grant Shapps and Michael [Gove].”

“People were asking why are we announcing it now ... we shouldn’t be announcing it now,” a third said.

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