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Publicans Call Vaccine Passport Plans "Absurd" As Boris Johnson Faces Anger From Tory MPs

The plans have been branded "unworkable" by hospitality industry leaders

3 min read

Tory MPs and hospitality leaders have slammed Boris Johnson's proposals which could see customers turned away for pubs if they are not vaccinated.

The Prime Minister told a liaison committee hearing on Wednesday that pub landlords could be handed new powers to refuse service to people who cannot prove they have had a Covid jab or recent negative test.

"I think that's the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans. It may be up to the landlord," Johnson said when asked about the possibility for a 'vaccine passport' scheme.

"The basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us."

But the plans have faced strong criticism by some industry groups, with Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, saying it would be "unworkable".

"It's crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification," she said.

"It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Jonathan Neame, chief executive of the major pub chain Shepherd Neame, said he would not make it a mandatory condition for people to visit his pubs, warning it could lead to issues around "discrimination" and "data protection".

"The whole essence of a pub is that they are diverse and inclusive environments, where everybody, and families in particular, are extremely welcome," he said.

"It's absolutely fine to exclude people where there is a situation of bad behaviour or drunkenness, and that's already enshrined in law, but if you're going to exclude people for what they are, or what they have not done, that's a wholly different issue which does touch on discrimination, civil liberties, and in this case data protection issues."

Under the current roadmap, pubs will be able to serve food and drink to customers outdoors from 12 April, before being allowed to resume indoor service from 17 May.

Also speaking to the BBC, nightclub boss Peter Marks, said while the plans "could work" because of his "younger demographic", he feared the introduction of the system could lead to months of further delays before they can re-open their doors.

Tory MPs have threatened to rebel during a Commons vote later today on the extension of the emergency Covid-19 laws in response to the plans.

Describing the proposals as a "ghastly trap", Tory MP Steve Baker said the PM was treading a "dangerous path".

"First they said we'll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub," he said.

Baker, who is deputy chair of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, added: "Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine.

"Or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.

"We must not fall into this ghastly trap."

Fellow Conservative MP David Davis said any vaccine certification scheme could lead to "indirect discrimination" among groups where vaccine uptake was low.

"The impact of this would be discriminatory. Under the law it would be indirectly discriminatory and that is illegal," he said.

"You may well find that black and ethnic minority communities are less inclined to get vaccinated, well that would be indirect discrimination."

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