Despite personally vowing that the government would not introduce vaccine passports domestically, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government will look to impose health passes by the end of the month.
Zahawi suggested that businesses may face further shutdowns from the government in the winter if vaccine passports are not mandated for public venues.
“When the evidence that you are presented is so clear cut and that we want to make sure the industry doesn't have to go through [an]open-shut, open-shut sort of strategy, then the right thing to do is to introduce that by the end of September when all over 18 year-olds have had their two jabs,” he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
“One thing that we have learnt is that in large gatherings of people, especially indoors, the virus tends to spike and spread.”
The statement is in direct contradiction to previous proclamations from Mr Zahwahi, who said in January that the government had “no plans to introduce vaccine passports,” adding: “No one has been given or will be required to have a vaccine passport.”
When pressed by Baroness Fox of Buckley if the public could “hold him” to this statement, Zahwahi replied simply: “Yes you can Claire”.
In February, the vaccines minister further outlined his opposition to domestic health passes, arguing that they would be discriminatory, saying: “Vaccines are not mandated in this country…that's not how we do things in the UK. We do them by consent. We yet don't know what impact of vaccines on the transmission is, and it would be discriminatory.”
Good to hear. Again. Can we hold you to this? https://t.co/S3Z9JdFoHj
— Claire Fox (@Fox_Claire) January 12, 2021
The vaccine passport system is likely to be based on the existing National Health Service (NHS) app, which allows citizens to prove their vaccination status by scanning QR codes.
Yet, the system has already come into question as over 700,000 vaccination records were revealed to have contained mistakes when Britons attempted to use the app to travel to countries that require vaccine passports for entry.
The mistakes included false records on whether individuals had received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, resulting in some being barred from leaving the country.
The stated goal of the scheme has been to encourage more young people in the country to take the vaccine, however, a survey conducted by the Lancet medical journal found that imposing health pass restrictions will likely have the opposite effect.
SAGE committee member Prof John Drury said of the study: “Not only would vaccine passports create exclusion, that exclusion would be structured by existing inequalities. You only need to look at the data on who isn't yet vaccinated to understand this – the young, the poor, ethnic minorities stand to be excluded.”
Mr Johnson, who announced in July that his government would seek to impose the draconian system domestically, is expected to face backlash from within his own party in the House of Commons when the measure is put to a vote.
Thanks @BBCNews, but we live in something called a "parliamentary democracy" which means introducing internal health passports isn't something ministers can just "start" but something parliament has to vote on.
Well fight tooth and nail for the Government to lose that vote. https://t.co/KWRSr3lB4C
— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) September 5, 2021
So far, 44 Conservative MPs have signed a declaration against “the divisive and discriminatory Covid status certification to deny an individual access to services, businesses or jobs” put together by the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.
Eleven of the twelve Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons have also signed the pledge, with Lib Dem leader Ed Davey labelling the scheme “divisive, unworkable and expensive”.
The opposition Labour Party, which has waffled on the issue under the leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, has not made it clear which way the party will vote, however, 25 Labour MPs have signed the Big Brother Watch declaration.
With one independent and one Green Party MP signing onto the pledge, the current vote tally against the move is at 82, one vote shy of being able to defeat Prime Minister Boris Johnson's working majority of 83 votes in the House of Commons.
As Not Seen on the BBC: Thousands March Against Vaccine Passports, Medical Coercion in London https://t.co/653c8AJrn3
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 30, 2021
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka