Boris Johnson joked about Michael Gove’s Aberdeen antics telling the the 1922 committee that he “sent ministers to enjoy” the newly opened nightclubs.
The gag came as the vaccines minister was told by backbenchers to “rediscover the courage of his own convictions” after a dramatic U-turn on vaccine passports- which will seem them enforced at nightclubs by the end of September
Nadhim Zahawi was reminded of his former opposition to the passport concept he called “discriminatory” as Conservative MPs voiced concerns over the proposal.
One backbencher even told him to pass a message to Michael Gove, last seen raving in an Aberdeen nightclub called Pipe until 2.30am, to “desist from his machinations”.
Boris Johnson joked to Tory MPs on the House of Commons terrace on Monday night: “We opened up the night clubs and we sent our ministers our to enjoy them.”
The Government has since confirmed it intends to press on with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs, an idea which has previously been met with criticism from MPs in both main parties, by the end of September.
The scheme would see members of the public required to show proof they have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to gain entry to clubs and other large-scale events.
Mr Zahawi said concerns over the “potential of self-testing fraud” is among the reasons for the shift away from access to a venue based on a negative Covid test.
Conservative William Wragg (Hazel Grove): “Given the overwhelming evidence both moral and practical against Covid vaccine passports, would (he) rediscover the courage of his own convictions, as he once described this proposal as discriminatory, and if the idea behind the scheme is not his own could he kindly convey a message to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Michael Gove) to desist from his machinations.”
Mr Zahawi replied: “This is an incredibly difficult area… to keep industries like the nightclub industries open and sustainable, especially in the next few months, then we have to look very seriously at how we keep them safe and not have super-spreader events.”
He added: “We’re looking at Covid certificates for domestic use in large gatherings indoors, especially where have seen these mass-spreader events and that is exactly why we are looking at by end of September to (introduce) that.”
Mr Zahawi, replying to a separate question from Conservative MP Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge), said: “The reason for the shift by the end of September when all 18-year-olds will have had the opportunity to get two jabs is that testing provides a limited protective assurance, and also allows for the potential of self-testing fraud.
“The effectiveness of testing-based certification is also undermined by a single incursion to a setting, whereas transmission – serious illness and hospitalisation – is reduced using vaccination-based certification, even with incursion.
“So that’s the thinking behind this.
“Nobody does this lightly, because we don’t curtail people’s freedoms lightly. It is purely so we can keep industries and sectors open and without having to – if there is a super-spreader event – close them down again.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone pressed on when the debate and vote on vaccine passports will take place in the Commons.
Mr Zahawi replied: “Shortly.”
Labour’s Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington) earlier warned: “Does he recognise that the industry representatives don’t support this proposal… Not only is it impractical, indeed unworkable, but it could potentially lead to an increase in illegal events, raves, large house parties, the kind of super spreader events that he’s worried about and in those case, they’ll be fewer safety measures.
“This is a hammer blow for an industry that has suffered more than almost any other industry over the last year and a half.”
Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) added: “Can I ask when are we going to get the vote he promised us?”
The vaccines minister replied: “It’s important that when politicians have new evidence, new data that they’re able to change their mind.”
It came as more than half a million people with severely weakened immune systems and who are most at risk from Covid-19 will be offered another vaccine dose beginning this month, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
But that announcement is separate from any decision on a booster programme, with news on this expected soon.
Mr Zahawi told MPs: “The booster programme is probably the most important piece of the jigsaw yet to fall into place so we can actually transition this pandemic, this virus, to endemic status.
He added: “We are ready to go as soon as – Cov-Boost, which is imminent to report – we will be able to operationalise a massive booster programme.”