Swayne unleashes rant on stuttering Zahawi as backbenchers yell ‘rubbish’ on vax passports

Vaccines Minister challenged on necessity of vaccine passports

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Nadhim Zahawi was accused by Sir Desmond Swayne and Conservative backbencher William Wragg of not believing in his own government’s policy of introducing vaccine passports at the end of the month. Mr Zahawi, who has been opposed to vaccine passports in the past and stated they would not be introduced, was barraged by Tory opponents who said the move was a breach on liberty and individual freedoms. Mr Wragg went as far as to call Mr Zahawi’s position “rubbish” as he questioned why the Conservatives were pushing ahead with a policy many of them disagreed with.

Places like nightclubs will be expected to ask for proof of vaccination as a condition of entry by the end of September as the majority of over-18s will have been offered both of their jabs. 

Ministers argue it will allow sections of the economy to remain open but hospitality bosses have said it would destroy the nightlife industry as many people may not have the documents or be jabbed yet. 

The decision to introduce vaccine passports has been slammed by former government advisor Professor Neil Ferguson who said “coercing” people to taking the vaccine is unfair. 

Earlier this year, Mr Zahawi also said on Twitter he had no plans to introduce vaccine passports with Cabinet Minister Michael Gove also hinting they could be scrapped during a committee appearance.

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Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Desmond attacked Mr Zahwawi over the implementation of vaccine passports at the end of the month for large venues and events. 

He said: “Isn’t the super spreader event, the spread of illiberal discriminatory and coercive policies from this despatch box?”

Mr Zahawi paused and stuttered through his response and said: “It pains me to have to stand in this despatch box and have to implement something that goes against the DNA of this minister and his Prime Minister.

“But we are living through difficult times, unprecedented times, as one of the major economies of the world I think we’ve done an incredible job

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“This is a precautionary measure to ensure that we can sustain and maintain the opening all sectors of the economy.”

Mr Wragg quickly took to his feet and said: “What a load of rubbish, I don’t believe my honourable friend believes a word he just uttered.

“Because I remember him very persuasively stating my position, which we shared at the time, that such a measure would be discriminatory and yet be sent to the despatch box to defend the indefensible.

“This is a needless fight that we seem prepared to have in this house over this issue, it is completely unnecessary.

“We all agree that people should be encouraged to take the vaccine and I again encourage everybody to do so.

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“But to go down this route which is overtly discriminatory will be utterly damaging to the fabric of society.”

During his speech, Mr Zahawi said it was right for the passports to be introduced as large events could often be traced as being a superspreader moment.

He told the house: “The reason that we are moving forward on this is because, if you look at what has happened in other countries where nightclubs were opening and then shutting again, opening and shutting again, we want to avoid that disruption and maintain sectors that can add to people’s enjoyment of life and dance, as it did for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.”

On Sunday, 37,001 cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK and 68 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

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