‘Too early’ to back vaccine passports, says Chancellor

Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent
·3 min read

It is “too early” to say whether the Government can support rolling out vaccine passports while a review is under way, the Chancellor has said.

Rishi Sunak admitted there are “various practical, legal and ethical issues” with asking people to prove they have either been vaccinated or tested negative for coronavirus before being permitted into venues or businesses.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is currently leading a review for Prime Minister Boris Johnson on whether bringing in “Covid status certificates” would help with reopening the economy once virus restrictions have been lifted after June 21.

The Chancellor said the review could take months and only after it has been completed can ministers weigh up the pros and cons.

Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Sunak said: “It is a difficult and complicated question because it raises various practical, legal and ethical issues.

“We are working through those, so the Prime Minister has a committee and we have not just ethicists but doctors and business people working together to look at that particular question, to consider all the issues in the round and come up with some recommendations in a few months’ time and we will see if they can play a part.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair is a strong advocate for vaccine passports, arguing last week that it would be “hard to see how people have the confidence to go back to life as normal” without them.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs “it is clear” that individuals will need a way of showing that they have had a jab, with the European Union confirming plans for a “digital green pass” to allow people to travel into the bloc by showing they have been vaccinated or had a negative Covid test.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said ministers will be able to weigh up the pros and cons once the review has been completed (Tolga Akmen/PA)

But Mr Sunak, asked whether he is “minded to back” so-called vaccine passports, said he wants to make a decision after the review has been finalised.

“It would be too early for me to use a phrase like ‘minded to’,” he continued.

“(There) is a committee to look at the various issues that it throws up; there are some obvious challenges – some people are not able to, for health reasons, to get vaccinations.

“And then there is the practical aspect – how do we verify it, what kind of technology would one use, what circumstances would it be appropriate to use it?

“It is too early to say anyone is minded to do anything – that is quite a specific phrase – but I think it is right we go through all of that to surface what some of the issues and benefits might be, and then we can decide and make a decision in the round in the coming months.”

The Chancellor said he had extended furlough and other support past June 21 in his Budget on Wednesday in order to give businesses an “extra cushion” and to “accommodate even the most cautious view of exiting from the restrictions”.

“It is important to remember that, just because the restrictions end, businesses will still need to take time to recover, things will take a bit of time to get back to the way they were, so I think it is important to provide that extra cushion,” he told GMB.