With reference to his Department's “COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021”, if his Department will publish scientific evidence in support of the efficacy of mandatory vaccine passports.
And I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on a magnificent display in Chorley over the last week. I think that if there were to be an election there, the majority would be in six figures following such a splendid occasion. Chorley turned out for it.
The Cabinet Office conducted a review of covid status certification, which found that its use would have a public health benefit, on the basis of evidence gathered from bodies such as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and from the events research programme. Analysis of the ERP conducted by Public Health England found that certification should reduce the likelihood of someone transmitting highly infectious amounts of virus to large numbers of attendees. The autumn and winter plan published this month set out the Government’s position, which is that we will keep mandatory certification in reserve in case it is required to help prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS and to enable venues to remain open more safely.
I welcome the Minister’s very full answer, and I welcome him to the Dispatch Box. It was always a pleasure to work with him in his previous role, and I hope it will be a pleasure to work with him in this one as well.
The Government have had no fewer than 13 different positions in relation to vaccine passports. They have said “yes” three times, “no” four times, and “maybe” or “we are having a review” six times. Rather than just asserting that the evidence is there, will the Minister commit himself to publishing it? If he is ever going to take his own Back Benchers with him, let alone the general public, the case will have to be made, and the Government have not made it yet—and, incidentally, are we going to get a vote before vaccine passports are introduced?
We have published brief summaries of the evidence in the autumn and winter plan, which is publicly available on gov.uk. As I said earlier, we are keeping vaccine certification in reserve in case it is required to help prevent pressure on the NHS. We hope that it will be unnecessary, but the responsible thing to do is prepare for all eventualities.
I welcome the new ministerial team, and look forward to working with them constructively in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I am sure that they share that enthusiasm ahead of any forthcoming appearances.
May I reiterate to my right hon. Friend—whom I congratulate on his appointment—that vaccine certification is useless now and will no doubt be useless then? We have fresh pairs of eyes in the Department, and fresh perspectives. Can we please just bin it now?
I thank my hon. Friend for his supportive tone! What I can say to him is that in the light of the growing voluntary uptake of certification and the latest data on the state of the epidemic, we do not expect mandatory certification to be needed from the end of September.
In his evaluation, has the Minister looked at the experience of a number of European countries where this is happening and British holidaymakers and visitors are using the system without any detriment? Has he looked at the views of Scotland and Wales, which are introducing certificates? Can he assure the House of his view that in the event of its looking as though this may be necessary, it must be better to have vaccine passes than once again locking down the hospitality, entertainment and leisure industries, given the impact not only on customers but on hundreds of thousands of jobs?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I can tell him that we do look at how the system is operated elsewhere. We work closely with the devolved Administrations, because there must be a four-nations approach to this. Incidentally, residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can demonstrate vaccination status via a letter that can be requested from the NHS.