Gov threatened with legal action about mandatory Covid passports

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Industry concerns: the letter to the health secretary raised a myriad of issues about the mandatory Covid passport plan for nightclubs (image: Getty/Martin Barraud)
Industry concerns: the letter to the health secretary raised a myriad of issues about the mandatory Covid passport plan for nightclubs (image: Getty/Martin Barraud)

Related tags Night-time economy Hugh osmond Late-night venues Government Legislation

A group of trade experts have joined forces to warn the Government of legal action over compulsory vaccine passports from September for clubs, as planned.

Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond wrote to health secretary Sajid Javid, warning of legal action if the Government do go ahead with Covid-status certification in nightclubs and event venues.

The letter was supported by Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) chief executive Michael Kill, Rekom UK chief executive Peter Marks alongside Jamhouse CEO Stephen Thomas.

The group wrote: “For the avoidance of doubt, we consider if the Government were to proceed with this proposal without seeking input from those who it knows are involved in the running of the night-time economy…through a proper and adequate consultation process, any decision to introduce new rules would be highly likely to be unlawful.

“Our client’s rights to challenge a decision to adopt the proposal on that or any other ground are fully reserved.”

It went on to highlight that mandatory vaccine certification as a condition of entry to any venue would disproportionately impact young people, who are less likely to have been jabbed than older age groups.

Furthermore, the letter stated the impact was further exacerbated when the only venues currently suggested to be affected are nightclubs – who’s demographic is likely to be mainly younger adults.

Proper justification needed

The letter also pointed out the implications of the policy on those “with medical conditions meaning vaccinations are not clinically appropriate.

“Is the Government planning to bar such persons from nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather, or will there be some form of exemption arrangement?... It is entirely unclear to us how… people can secure proof in order to gain an exemption and how door staff are supposed to assess whether sufficient proof has been provided”.

Moreover, they wrote: “It is also well known levels of vaccination are lower in some ethnic groups than others and there is therefore, likely to be a discriminatory effect on grounds of race as well.

TheCertification Report ​acknowledged this point and referred to the ‘potential for certification to exacerbate existing divisions and inequalities issues’. There will therefore need to be proper justification for the introduction of any such measure.”

They also raised concerns about the definition of precisely which venues are set to be subject to the mandation.

Osmond said: “Once again, it seems that arbitrary governing rather than a rigorous following of the data, the evidence and the science is at the heart of this Government’s approach.

“Our objective is to ensure that, when taking momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens, the Government must base its decisions on evidence not prejudice and must be held to account if it does not."

Two tier society

He added: "Mandatory Covid-status certification would strike at the heart of our liberal democracy, create a two tier society, discriminate against society’s already most marginalised groups and disproportionately affect young people who enjoy and work in this industry – who have already suffered intolerable burdens on behalf of society over the last eighteen months.

"This 'Case for Hospitality' is for the more than 3m people who work in hospitality, many of whom are young, female and from an ethnic minority.  It's for the tens of thousands of businesses who rely on our industry.

"Challenge and accountability are integral parts of living in a democracy and for those who cherish British democracy, rational governing and freedom, it’s vital our Government doesn’t restrict our liberties or impose such draconian policies on the basis of such flawed logic, little justification or evidence."

NTIA boss Michael Kill highlighted previous research conducted by the organisation found more than three quarters (80%) of night-time operators opposed a vaccine passport policy.

He said: “Leaving aside the fact this is yet another chaotic U-turn that will leave night-time economy businesses, which have been planning for reopening for months, now having to make more changes to the way they operate, this is still a bad idea.

“[Some] 80% of late night economy businesses have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about challenges around staffing, difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in walk up custom, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with other businesses that aren’t subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.

“The Government’s own report into vaccine passports found they were more trouble than they’re worth – so what could possibly explain the about turn, just as millions across the UK experience their first weekend out in a year and a half?”

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