Following the emergence of the Omicron variant the government announced Plan B last week, making masks mandatory in certain settings and advising a return to working from home where possible.
Plans to make Covid passes mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather were backed in the Commons last night with 369 MPs voting in favour and 126 against.
Among the 126 to vote against were Wealden MP Nus Ghani, Crawley MP Henry Smith, East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas.
Those who voted in favour were Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman, Hastings and Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Mid Sussex MP Mims Davies, Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith, Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley and Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb.
Meanwhile Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell, Horsham MP Jeremy Quin and Hove MP Peter Kyle were not recorded as voting.
Ms Lucas said the Government’s ‘mixed messaging has been incredibly unhelpful’ and suggested what was needed is a reduction on social contacts, which could be assisted both with better sick pay and financial support for business if fewer people are going to their premises.
She added: “People are not getting vaccinated because of a lack of trust, and trying to force them into it, either through vaccine passports or through mandatory vaccinations in some settings, compounds that mistrust, as does berating them or ‘othering’ them.
“If we want more people to be vaccinated—and believe me, I absolutely do — that is the bottom line, but we have to build the sense that vaccination is being done for the community, not to it.”
Meanwhile Mr Loughton said: “I will vote against Covid passports, which are a key part of plan B. I appreciate that they are not vaccine passports, but that is the Government’s plan C, and that is what I fear.
“It is passport creep. We have already heard about passports for pubs and other venues. However much we want to get people vaccinated, we do not want a society where we ask for papers and deprive people of their liberty.”
Mr Smith said on Twitter: “In Parliament this evening I can’t support introducing Covid passes or mandatory vaccination - both would be counterproductive and don’t work - worse, they overly empower the state and damage Britain’s recovery. I do urge all get Covid inoculated to protect yourself and others.”
But on the other side, Mr Merriman said in the Commons: “There is a larger issue at play, which I find infuriating. Over 80 per cent of my constituents have got themselves vaccinated. They are keeping themselves and their communities safe. They are minimising their own impact on the NHS.
“There are a small minority who are not playing by the same rules, and have the temerity to lecture me on freedom. Let me tell them this: their freedom to remain unvaccinated and then do as they choose is reducing the freedoms of those who have done the right thing for themselves and the wider community.”
Writing on her website earlier this week, Ms Hart said: “Contrary to media reports, the Government is not introducing ‘vaccine passports’ – a negative test is enough. Like many of my colleagues, I voiced my concerns over the principle of vaccine passports and pleased that ministers listened to our concerns and are not proceeding with vaccine passports as originally intended in Plan B.”
Similarly, Ms Caulfield said on Facebook: “I am not supportive of ‘vaccine passports’ as some people may not be able to have the vaccine for medical reasons, which is why I am glad the government listened to concerns and will not be introducing a vaccine-only certification system and will instead also allow a negative lateral flow test to be accepted.”
After the decision, Ms Davies wrote on her Facebook page: “I do not believe it [the Government’s decision] restricts our freedoms whatsoever, both medical and personal. We are facing some difficult weeks ahead, but I believe these measures find the right balance between countering the spread of the Omicron variant, while ensuring we keep our economy open.”
Mr Russell-Moyle wrote on Twitter beforehand: “On night clubs and events: I want to keep our entertainment industry open. Last year social isolation was unbearable, we can not allow venues to close (which is the other option) and so keeping them open but asking them to see a test or vaccine is proportionate. I will vote for.”
Mr Kyle is currently in Northern Ireland, but said he would have voted for the measures.
MPs also voted to approve mandatory mask-wearing in most indoor settings and compulsory vaccinations for NHS workers in England, the latter also being opposed by Ms Ghani, Ms Lucas, Mr Loughton and Mr Smith.
Plans to replace self-isolation with daily tests for Covid contacts who are fully vaccinated were also agreed.