United Kingdom

Sir Keir Starmer 'could U-turn and support PM's vaccine passports'

Boris Johnson's plans to introduce domestic vaccine passports have received a boost after it was claimed Sir Keir Starmer could perform a U-turn and back the policy.

Sir Keir said last week that the Prime Minister's proposals for 'Covid Status Certification' were a 'complete mess' and 'we do not support the Government's plans in their current form'. 

Some 40 Tory MPs are opposed to the policy and ministers were concerned the Conservative rebels could combine with Labour and the SNP to reject the PM's initiative if and when it is put to a vote in the House of Commons. 

But shadow cabinet figures now concede that the Government's proposals are not as draconian as they feared, according to The Times.

Meanwhile, Labour former home secretary Lord Blunkett has backed the proposals as he argued that asking for proof of jab or negative test in certain circumstances would be 'perfectly in line' with current age verification requirements. 

Sir Keir Starmer said last week that the Prime Minister's proposals for 'Covid Status Certification' were a 'complete mess' and 'we do not support the Government's plans in their current form'

Ministers had feared that a Tory rebellion combined with Labour opposition would have been enough to sink Boris Johnson's plans

Lord Blunkett, the Labour former home secretary, said 'I can't see how [a certification scheme] infringes on civil liberties'

The Government has said the passports will consist of a mix of vaccination, testing and immunity data. 

The inclusion of rapid testing data and suggestions that the documents will only be deployed in limited settings means shadow cabinet members now reportedly believe the scheme is 'much more open' than they had thought.  

That could pave the way for a humiliating U-turn as Labour MPs warned Sir Keir against being on the wrong side of public opinion on the issue. 

A recent poll conducted by YouGov found that 61 per cent of Brits support the passports if they mean venues can lift social distancing while 29 per cent said they would still be opposed to the documents. 

One senior Labour backbencher told The Times: 'It's one thing saying the Department of Health might mess up the computer scheme, but if we look like we're not in favour of something which will help businesses end social distancing as early as possible then we'll be on the wrong side of the public.'

Lord Blunkett, who tried and failed to introduce a controversial national ID card when he was in government, has backed the plans. 

The Labour grandee told the newspaper:  'I can't see how [a certification scheme] infringes on civil liberties. 

'We already in certain circumstances require proof of age, and proof of vaccine or proof of test seem to me to be perfectly in line with that.' 

Sir Keir said last week during a visit to Plymouth: 'We do not support the Government's plans in their current form, it's as simple as that.

'In fact the Government's plans seem to be changing on an almost daily basis. Only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister was saying he was thinking of vaccine passports to go to the pub – now he says isn't. One day he's talking about tests – then it's certificates. It's a complete mess.'   

The Labour leader had earlier suggested the documents would be un-British, telling The Telegraph: 'My instinct is that, as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don't actually want to go down this road.'   

Last week it emerged that ministers are considering including 'sunset clauses' in any laws needed to underpin the use of the documents in a bid to reassure Tory rebels the checks would only be temporary. 

Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, is leading a Whitehall review into how the scheme could work and he is expected to update Parliament before the end of the month.

The initial findings of the Government review on Covid Status Certification said the documents could have an 'important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure'. 

The Government ruled out using the documents to determine access to public transport or essential shops. 

But the findings said 'it is possible that COVID-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings'.

Many Tory MPs support the use of the documents for international travel but are opposed to using them in everyday domestic life, warning it would create a 'two tier' nation.  

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