Thank you to everyone who has contacted me to raise concerns about the proposed Covid measures we will be voting on in the House of Commons today.
I know that many people are – quite rightly – very angry about recent revelations regarding the parties that took place this time last year in Downing Street and other government offices while we were banned from mixing indoors. I totally share that anger, but do not believe that we should let it get in the way of doing the right thing in the national interest. Throughout the pandemic my Labour colleagues and I have always supported the Government’s public health measures when we have believed they are the right course of action.
As I am sure you are aware, Omicron is a new variant of the Covid-19 virus and we need to act swiftly to limit its spread. In response to this, the Government has brought in new measures to limit transmission.
Many of the emails I have received, and indeed many news articles, refer to ‘vaccination passports’. This is not, however, what is actually being proposed. Today’s vote will include the introduction of ‘Covid passes’, which means that people will have to show proof of either their vaccination status OR a negative lateral flow test in order to gain entry to large venues and mass gatherings.
This system has been operating in Wales for quite some time now and many venues have been asking for proof of a negative test result on a voluntary basis. This is why my Labour colleagues and I called on the Government to include the option of a negative lateral flow test as an alternative to proof of vaccination status.
I know that some people are very strongly opposed to compulsory vaccination and I totally appreciate those concerns. However, the measures being voted on today will not force people to get vaccinated. I will be voting in favour of the measures because I don’t regard having to present evidence of a negative lateral flow test or having to wear a face mask in certain places as an unreasonable response to the threat posed by the much more transmissible Omicron variant.
Turning to the issue of mandatory vaccination of the public, I am opposed to this, as is the Health Secretary. I am also opposed to the use of Covid status certification for access to essential services. Forcing the general population to have the vaccine would not only be wrong – risking the creation of a two-tier society and discriminating against people who for a variety of reasons have not been vaccinated – but would also be impractical. The Government has not brought forward measures to introduce this, but my Labour colleagues and I will not support any future attempt to do so.