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The Week in Parliament

We’ll not be looking at the big parliamentary news of the week here, for that we’ve done a separate article here. The devolved administrations were relatively quiet too this week, so just a quick newsflash from Westminster today.

Westminster

Perhaps the most interesting debate outside the budget this week came to us from the House of Lords, where the topic of vaccine certification was raised by Lord Harris of Haringey. After insisting for so long that they wouldn’t consider implementing some sort of vaccination passport scheme to help lift covid security measures, it came as little surprise to experienced Westminster watchers when the Prime Minister ordered a review of the potential role that such a scheme could play.

The question of the vaccine passport is one of those ones where it’s quite difficult to judge exactly how controversial it would actually be. Polling evidence has consistently throughout the pandemic demonstrated pretty overwhelming support for lockdown and covid prevention measures, and whilst I’m not aware of any particular polling on vaccine passports (do send it over if you have some), it’s one of those subjects that a very vocal minority are very shouty about, and therefore ends up seeming more controversial that it in all likelihood is.

That being said, it is undoubtedly a policy that has significant implications for liberty and privacy, albeit probably not many more than a lot of other laws. Their Lordships however were seeking further details about the review, something we’re quite interested in too. We’re not sure if it’ll be a full consultation, it seems more likely to be an internal review of pre-existing evidence. Baroness Walmsley asked if the Government planned to consult with organisations representing those individuals who for medical reasons cannot have the vaccine. In responding, whilst the minister said that issue would be taken into consideration, he did not clarify if those groups would be consulted.

If the Government does not intend to consult on this matter, then they do run the risk of accusations that they are picking and choosing the evidence they look at. In this particular case, given that most senior ministers are instinctively opposed to the idea anyhow, it is conceivable that their cynicism will provide a balance to any scientific evidence in support of the idea. Either way, not giving the public any say in a matter that would require them to carry additional documentation seems inadvisable. Much like peers, it seems for now that we will have to wait for further details of the review. It may well be back here when we have those details…

About the Author

Stephen serves as the Institute’s Legal and Parliamentary Officer. Before joining the Institute Stephen studied Law at Bangor University and pursued a Masters’ degree in Aviation and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal. After this, he returned to London and was called to the bar in 2016 at the Honorable Society of Gray’s Inn, before deciding not to go into practice and move towards public policy work instead. Within the Institute, Stephen provides legal, political and policy analysis of UK and global current affairs of interest to consultors and consultees.

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