Friday, May 28, 2021

UK getting ID cards by stealth, critics charge

Government accused of introducing ID cards ‘by stealth’ as ministers sign renewable vaccine passport contract | i - Poppy Wood:

May 27, 2021 - "MPs have accused the Government of introducing ID cards 'by stealth' after ministers signed a vaccine passport contract that may last several years, i can reveal.

"Speaking in the Commons today, Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the Government is still reviewing whether Covid-status certifications could be used ... at large-scale pubs and ... major events such as Premier League matches. Asked whether vaccine passports might be used to reopen the hospitality sector, Mr Gove added: 'It might be the case in venues like nightclubs you could see a role for it.... We don’t want to inhibit spontaneity, we just want to work with those who organise venues and activities which are so important to our life to make sure they are as safe as possible'.... He added that in his 'own view' any vaccine passport programme 'has to be rescinded at some point in the future'.

"However, i can reveal that the government has already signed several vaccine passport contracts, including one worth up to £21m that can be renewed each year. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) earlier this month signed a contract with HH Associates, a subsidiary of outsourcing firm HH Global, to produce paper vaccine passports for people who do not have access to a smartphone or computer. The contract, worth up to £21m this year, will see the Surrey-based firm print and post vaccine passports to members of the public in England unable to access their vaccination status for free digitally. The agreement is due to expire in May 2022 but can be extended annually.

"It comes after the Government unveiled its much-anticipated vaccine passport programme last Monday ahead of the lifting of restrictions on international travel.  People in England who have received two doses of a Covid jab are now able to access their Covid vaccination status via the NHS app, or by printing off a PDF of their certificate for free from the NHS website. Those who do not have access to a smartphone or computer can call 119 to order a letter confirming that they have received both doses.... 

"The Government’s website states that the certificates are for those who wish to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination. But MPs and politicians have accused ministers of opening a backdoor to permanent ID cards without proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

"'This is the biggest shift in civil liberties in the history of the United Kingdom. Why is it OK for this to happen by stealth?' said Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, former director of advocacy group Liberty. She told i: 'This is a recipe for bullying and discrimination with no public consultation or Parliamentary consent. They promised us this was going to happen by consultation, and instead it’s happening by stealth. Liberal and libertarian Conservatives, like all UK citizens, must stand up.'

"Steve Baker, deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory MPs, told i: 'The Government appears to have decided to introduce Covid-status certification — a two-tier checkpoint Britain — by stealth, without a vote in Parliament.' He called on the Prime Minister to 'pull the plug on that attempt' immediately and for Parliament’s spending watchdog to scrutinise the £21m annual cost for the paper certificates.... 

"HH Global ... has previously been awarded two other government contracts, including a £2.4m printing deal with DHSC, and a share of a £420m agreement to provide printing facilities to the Crown Commercial Service signed in January. HH Global declined to comment. A DHSC spokesperson said the ability to order a vaccine certification letter was an 'essential service' for many people who do not have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer."

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