The Liberal Democrats are campaigning for parliament to be recalled from summer recess to debate proposals to introduce the use of vaccine passports.
The party’s leader Sir Ed Davey has written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson accusing his government of “committing to vaccine passports by stealth” which he warned was “a recipe for chaos and dissent”.
Sir Ed added that the use of such a scheme would be “a grotesque misuse of government diktat” and said MPs must be brought back from their summer holidays immediately to vote on the matter.
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The PM has said individuals will need to be fully vaccinated to go to nightclubs from the end of September and that proof of a negative COVID test will no longer be sufficient.
And the prospect of people having to prove their COVID-19 status to access a range of other venues has been raised in recent weeks with universities, music events and sporting fixtures all having been mentioned as possible other settings for certification.
Sir Ed said businesses will suffer greatly under the proposals.
“It is deeply unsettling to see you and your government committing to vaccine passports by stealth. This goes against all our country’s traditions and is utterly deceitful,” his letter published on Friday states.
“Parliament must be recalled immediately.
“How businesses or indeed even churches will be expected to decide who can or cannot pass through their doors has not been made clear.
“This is a recipe for chaos and dissent on many doorsteps throughout England.
“It would be a grotesque misuse of government diktat to introduce ID cards without any scrutiny, let alone a vote of MPs.
“The government owes this to all those individuals and businesses who will suffer as a result of your rushed and botched scheme.
“The nation is calling out for leadership, not deception. It is time to step up, to own your decision on COVID ID cards and put it to a vote to parliament. You must recall parliament now.”
A number of Conservative MPs have told Sky News they do not think the government will follow through and actually introduce domestic vaccine passports.
More than 40 Conservatives recently signed a declaration from the campaign group Big Brother Watch expressing opposition to the idea.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, told Sky News that vaccine passports for domestic use would be a “massive step and a misguided one”.
Some Tory MPs contacted by Sky News say they think the prime minister is bluffing in a bid to increase vaccine uptake, while others expressed their belief that the government would pull any vote on the matter if there is a realistic prospect of them losing.
“I don’t think they will,” Wellingborough MP Peter Bone said when asked if he thinks the government will follow through and introduce vaccine passports.
He added that he was against vaccine passports because they are “identity papers by the back door” and risked creating a “two class society”.
Fellow Conservative Craig Mackinlay, meanwhile, said he thinks the government is adopting a “carrot and stick approach” to increase vaccine take-up.
“I hope that is as far as these plans go,” the MP for South Thanet said.
And Andrew Bridgen described vaccine passports as “completely unnecessary, bureaucratic and unworkable”, adding that they would “create a divided society”.
The Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire accused the government of engaging in “sabre-rattling” as part of a “crude attempt to coerce young people to take the vaccine”.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he “can see a case for vaccine passports” for mass events, but not for “day-to-day routine”.
Asked whether people should have to prove they have had two vaccine doses before returning to the office, Sir Keir told reporters: “I don’t agree with that.
“I can see a case for vaccine passports, alongside testing, when it comes to big sporting events or mass events, certainly for international travel.
“But for day-to-day routine – access to the office, access to health services or dentistry or even food – I don’t agree with vaccine passports for day-to-day access.”
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He added: “We can’t have a situation where someone can’t have access to a health service or dentistry or supermarkets – that is something I don’t think anybody could seriously countenance, so we have to make this distinction.
“But we need to be pragmatic, we need to look at whatever the government puts on the table when it comes to longer term events, mass events etcetera.”
A government spokesperson told Sky News on Thursday: “There has been no change to our plans to introduce vaccine certification in September.
“The government is focussed on protecting the public and reducing the impact of the virus, including mandating COVID certification in certain settings.
“Vaccines are the best possible way to protect you and your family against the virus and we strongly encourage people to come forward.”