A Tory revolt against Covid vaccine passports for pubs and restaurants has grown to 41 MPs, putting Boris Johnson at risk of an embarrassing parliamentary defeat.
More than 70 MPs from across the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats have today signed up to a campaign, launched by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, against the proposed internal Covid vaccine certificates.
This includes Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Tory MPs Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Steve Baker and Esther McVey.
Davey said the Liberal Democrats “were against ID cards when Blair tried to introduce them and we are against them now”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer yesterday told the Telegraph that the idea of vaccine passports would go against the “British instinct”, sparking speculation he could whip Labour to vote against the measure if it is brought to parliament by the government.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is leading a review into whether the government will roll out a Covid vaccine certificate, which could see pubs and restaurants turn away patrons if they haven’t had a jab or a recent negative test.
The Times reported this week that NHSX has already begun developing the app in anticipation of getting the green light from Gove.
At least 60 Tory MPs would have to vote against the government, if all opposition parties do not back any future vaccine passport proposal, to overturn Johnson’s majority.
Duncan Smith told City A.M. that there is “a lot of concern about” the possibility of domestic vaccine passports among the Tory ranks.
“I just don’t see how it will work and the hospitality sector is up in arms – it’s very difficult to implement and it’s really intrusive,” he said.
“We’re planning on having everyone vaccinated, so why would you have vaccine passports?”
Johnson indicated last week that it could be up to businesses to police the use of vaccine passports, with speculation that venues who implement them may not have to follow social distancing restrictions.
Hospitality and retail bosses have expressed concerns that the use of digital Covid certifications for entry to venues could face “legal challenges” and create enforcement problems for businesses.
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the CBI this afternoon, UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls said vaccine passports posed “quite a challenging issue for a lot of people to wrestle with”.
One Conservative MP said “it’s not going to happen, there’s such a big backlash now among MPs and even the hospitality industry are saying there’s no way they’ll police it”.
It comes after one of the government’s former top cyber security advisers yesterday told said a Covid vaccine passport app could become a major target for hackers and cyber criminal gangs.
Peter Yapp, ex-deputy director of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said any app should keep data localised, like the Test and Trace app, so it is tied to individuals’ phones and should not include sensitive information like people’s date of birth or NHS number.
“Centralised databases means you’re putting a lot of data in one place so it becomes an attractive target for hackers and the like so it’s like a honeypot – it attracts people in and they’re going to have a go because there is so much data,” he said.
“It’s not viable to try and access everyone’s phones individually, but if you go to one central place to get millions of records it is a honeypot.”
The Cabinet Office was contacted for comment.