David Davis warns ‘discriminatory’ vaccine passports could be illegal

23 March 2021, 15:33 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 19:34

David Davis said vaccine passports could be indirectly discriminatory
David Davis said vaccine passports could be indirectly discriminatory. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Domestic vaccine passports being considered in the reopening of the economy could be illegal, former cabinet minister David Davis has said.

Mr Davis suggested introducing Covid status certificates could be discriminatory against communities reluctant to take up the vaccine. 

The Government is consulting on whether to introduce a certification system which could also include details on Covid-19 test results.

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Ministers are reviewing whether such certificates could play a role in reopening the economy, for example in gaining entry to pubs, theatres and football stadiums.

Mr Davis told MPs: "The impact of this would be discriminatory. Under the law, it would be indirectly discriminatory and that is illegal.

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

Younger people were also less likely to have the jab and "some people have ethical or religious objections", he told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

"There are a variety of good reasons for people not to take a vaccine. I've had a vaccine and I think most of the reasons are not ones I would subscribe to.

"But people have that freedom. What this proposal does is, in effect, coerce those people."

He said the implications were "so serious" that if the Government decided to introduce the certificates it should be prepared to table a new law which would go through the full scrutiny process of both Houses of Parliament, rather than as a piece of secondary legislation.

The former minister suggested the move was being pushed by officials in Whitehall who had long backed some form of identity documentation.

"It seems to me that we are creating a permanent solution for a temporary problem," Mr Davis said.

"We know that Whitehall loves the concept of identity management, loves the concept of having control of this data."

But it would be "very antagonistic to our national traditions" in Britain, he said.

He also played down the reason for introducing the measures, arguing they were aimed at protecting people who declined the offer of a vaccine rather than society as a whole.

If there were 10 unvaccinated people out of 100 in a pub, "the 90 vaccinated are not going to die" and are "very unlikely" to become seriously ill due to the protection offered by the jabs.

"The people you are protecting are the other non-vaccinated, you are saying to people 'you can't go to the pub because you yourself might get infected' and that's not actually the job of government, any more than it is to tell me I should not go rock climbing or whatever," he said.

He insisted the Government was "very, very confused about the ethical basis of who you are protecting".

Despite his opposition to domestic certificates, Mr Davis did accept there was a case for international vaccine passports.

"I am in favour of an international vaccine passport, that seems to me to be perfectly reasonable because the balance of advantage heavily favours that and the intrusion on the individual's liberty is much lower," he said.