Tory rebels have “overstated” the issues created by the Plan B coronavirus measures, the Deputy Prime Minister said as the Government sought to avoid the biggest revolt of Boris Johnson’s premiership.
Dominic Raab said the mandatory use of Covid passes for entry to nightclubs and large venues in England was not a “big step or a slippery slope”.
Scores of Tory MPs are expected to vote against the Government or abstain when the measures are put to the test in the Commons on Tuesday night.
But more than 70 Tories have expressed concerns about the Covid pass proposals – due to come into effect on Wednesday – with claims they are illogical and illiberal.
But Mr Raab told Sky News: “Even if you haven’t had the double jab or, in due course, the booster, you can still rely on the lateral flow test, which is why I think some of these concerns about this are overstated.”
“I don’t think this is a big step or a slippery slope, but I do understand the concerns and that’s why we should have a proper debate.
“But, ultimately, I think people should vote for these measures, they are a proportionate, targeted approach given what we don’t know and the precautionary approach we need to take, just temporarily, while we get to grips with Omicron.”
Despite the prospect of the largest revolt under Mr Johnson, the measures – which also include the extension of mask-wearing which came into effect last week – will pass as Labour is supporting the package.
Senior Tory Tobias Ellwood questioned why proof of vaccination status should be considered as a condition of entry to clubs and other mass gatherings.
He acknowledged that showing a negative test result “makes sense” but told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “If you can turn up with just a piece of paper, that documentation you’ve received that says you’ve had two jabs completed six months ago, that will not prevent Covid from entering a large venue.”
He added: “Leadership is about taking people to where perhaps they didn’t realise they needed to go, but they must understand the plan, and this is illogical at the moment.”
The strong emotions on the Tory benches led one MP, Marcus Fysh, to compare the introduction of Covid passes to Hitler’s Nazi regime.
“We are not a ‘papers please’ society. This is not Nazi Germany,” the MP said on Monday.
The comments were condemned by Mr Raab, whose Jewish father fled Czechoslovakia in 1938.
The Deputy Prime Minister said: “I don’t like that kind of language and I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
He said he wants “to play the issue not the individuals”, but added: “Actually, I don’t think comparing what we are trying to achieve to an authoritarian or Nazi regime is quite right. I think a lot of people find that crass.”