In the Government’s determination to put Covid behind us (and I share this determination) we must be careful not to create a two tier society.
The drift towards ‘Jabs or Else’ is a very risky price to pay for freedom from all restrictions. Jabs or no access to venues, events and even offices is not the British way and will create a divided United Kingdom. It is absolutely contrary to the Levelling Up agenda which seeks to ensure everyone has equal opportunity irrespective of where your home is, your health, your background, gender or race.
To avoid a two tier Britain care must be taken to ensure people who hold strong views about the vaccine and those who can not have the vaccine for medical reasons are not discriminated against. We have already committed to discriminate against these individuals by having full vaccine as a condition of entry to venues and clubs etc in October. If we accept this kind of control on people’s lives and freedoms other infringements will follow and be very difficult to resist.
Other than specific laws that require care home staff to have the Covid vaccine Ministers have ruled out any plans to introduce legislation requiring employees to have the vaccine but the subtle tones of some Government officials supporting the rights of employers to require staff to have the vaccine is very unwise. Ministers must be much clearer about what is expected of employers. It is not in their interest or that of the employee to bar people who have not been vaccinated. We don’t need this approach. It is clear that the Government has already taken the action needed to protect employees.
The ‘Jabs for All’ rollout of the Covid vaccine in the UK has been remarkable. We know the approach works because we see a fraction of cases scientists and ministers predicted after lifting restrictions in July. The figures are very much lower than the 100,000 cases a day suggested. Confidence is growing and more and more people are enjoying activities and interactions that have been ‘out of bounds’ for so long. These developments are very welcome. The vast majority of us have had the vaccine achieved through a positive national effort and not through legislation.
I and many Conservative colleagues are concerned that, if we now switch to a carrot and stick approach, much of the good-will shown by the British public will turn sour. I understand the motivation of those pushing for a more stringent enforcement of the take up of the vaccine. The pandemic was a shock and the effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19 and protect people’s jobs have been dramatic, unprecedented and expensive to the public purse. No-one wants a return to this.
However, as things settle and data confirms that the threat is no worse than many other illnesses and health challenges that we ignore or learn to live with, I hope scientists and Government Ministers will see sense and drop all measures that seek to determine how individuals go about their daily lives. The harm, if we don’t, on our civil liberties will be significant and almost certainly irreversible.
The shooting in Plymouth that ended five innocent lives is a very rare occurrence which we can all be grateful for. The investigation into what led to this terrible event will not bring back lives or ease the pain families are experiencing and will for life. However, I hope it changes the way gun licensing is controlled and I hope it will expose any weaknesses in the current system. If it is found that adequate controls were not in place within Devon and Cornwall Police I hope the necessary action will be taken so that this can never happen again. Responsibility for policing ultimately sits with the Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and, whatever the outcome of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation is, he must be sure that everything is done within Devon and Cornwall Police to reduce the risk of any repeat of this tragic loss of life.