VACCINE passport laws are set to be given a time limit in a bid to try and reassure the public that life will go fully back to normal and head off a growing Tory mutiny.
Ministers are drawing up plans to include “sunset clauses” in the legislation for so-called Covid certification to demonstrate that it is only intended as a short-term measure.
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Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion over his vaccine passport plansCredit: PA
The move comes with the Government facing a knife-edge Commons vote over the plans with at least 40 Tory MPs set to rebel, and Labour, the Lib Dems, and the SNP all currently opposed to them.
A source close to the ongoing review into Covid passports, which is being led by Michael Gove, told The Telegraph officials are looking at wording to make clear they would be “explicitly temporary”.
But the olive branch has left Tory rebels deeply unimpressed and almost certainly won’t be enough to head off a sizeable and damaging mutiny.
Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said he’s against the idea of “papers for the pub” at all.
He added: “We now hear that they mightn’t start until everyone is vaccinated and they’ll ‘only be temporary’. If so, what is the point of them?””
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the group, expressed doubts that the Government is sincere about making Covid papers time-limited.
He said: “Every year, clause 1 of the Finance Bill makes it clear income tax is just charged for that year.
“But no one believes income tax is temporary. Believe that, you’ll believe anything.”
The PM is facing a real fight to get the plans through the Commons due to growing unrest on Tory backbenches.
So far 41 Tories have put their names to a letter calling vaccine passports “divisive and discriminatory”.
Tory MPs like Steve Baker are opposing the planCredit: AFP
Opposition parties are also against the plan, threatening the PM’s majority
That puts the Government’s majority of 87 in jeopardy and means it may need the support of opposition MPs.
But Labour has already said it is against the proposals as they currently stand.
Its leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “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 PM 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 SNP initially threw No 10 a lifeline by hinting it may support the blueprint.
But it has since rowed back after receiving a barrage of criticism for supporting the Conseveratives.
Ian Blackford, the party’s Westminster leader, said: “The UK Government hasn’t published any proposals yet, and the Tory position has been mired in confusion and contradiction.
“On the basis of the information available, there is not a proposition in front of us that SNP MPs could support.”
The Lib Dems have come out more strongly against the plan than other opposition parties, saying the idea of coronavirus papers is unacceptable.
Leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Vaccine passports are actually Covid identity cards by the back door. They take away people’s freedoms.
“We think they’re unworkable, and we think they’re unnecessary and illiberal.”
Mr Gove will update parliament on the Government’s plans for vaccine passports before the end of this month.
Ministers have repeatedly said they won’t be introduced in time for the next stage of the unlocking roadmap, on May 17, when bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve customers inside again.
But in an update of the rolling review into their possible use published week they said said pubs may have to demand them to ditch ruinous social distancing rules in future.
The document said vaccine passports “may be required for a period after all adults have been offered a vaccine, in order to prevent a surge in hospitalisations which could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS”.
And it made clear such documents will almost certainly be required to attend large scale events such as football matches, theatre performances, and music festivals.
It states: “The Government believes that COVID-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure.
“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.
“However, the Government recognises this has significant implications for businesses and their customers, so this will be further considered in consultation with industry.”