Vaccine Passport Scheme

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 12:15, 6 December 2021

We are about to embark on a vaccine passport scheme. All Members will recall that the House was told, certainly publicly if not necessarily on the Floor, that there would be a debate and a vote before the introduction of such a scheme. I checked the business diary for this week and saw no schedule for a debate and a vote on the introduction of such a scheme. I understand the nature of things moving quickly and the Executive having to react to events. Throughout the pandemic, we have become accustomed to granting retrospective approval for measures introduced by the Executive. The measures kick in, and the House votes to approve them afterwards. Given the nature of the scheme being proposed, that is not appropriate. In fact, it is really important that we, as Members, are afforded the opportunity to see evidence that such a scheme will work in combating the threat of the virus. It is really important that these issues are argued and debated on the Floor of the House.

The Northern Ireland Executive are comprised of Members of the House. There are more Members of the House than there are members of the Executive. It is our job to question, debate and argue issues out. Given the fundamentally different nature of the proposal from that which went before it to combat the threat of COVID-19, which we all recognise and want to see tackled, it is essential that we, the Members of the Assembly, whether we are for the idea or against it, are allowed the opportunity to debate it and thrash out the arguments on the Floor of the House. The Minister of Health has a very difficult job and faces a very difficult time over the coming months, but our job is not only to support the Minister when he is right but to question, debate and tease out the evidence. That is why I am very disappointed to see no reference in the business diary to such a debate taking place; it absolutely should take place.