Reluctant Burnley MP backs Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues, but wants government to find more 'sustainable, long-term approach'

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Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said he only backed plans to introduce Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues after it was made clear lateral flow tests would always be an option.

A total of 98 Conservatives MPs voted against the government in the House of Commons this evening, the biggest rebellion of Boris Johnson's premiership to date.

The requirement for people to show a Covid pass – proving their vaccination status or a recent negative test result – will come into force from tomorrow. It was passed by 369 votes to 126.

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Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

Mr Higginbotham said he did not want a repeat of last Christmas, and the data presented to him by the chief medical officer convinced him these measures were necessary for the time being.

However, he also said he had made it clear to senior government ministers they were not sustainable in the long term.

“This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my career," said Mr Higginbotham. "There will be some staunchly opposed, and some staunchly in favour. And as with all of the Covid-19 related decision, there was no good answer.

"I have been clear with ministers for months that I would not support vaccine passports – where people can only take part in certain activities, or visit certain venues, if they take the jab.

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"But on this announcement they shifted significantly, accepting that lateral flow tests should always be an option.

"This significant change, along with the data that was presented to me by the chief medical officer on the potential outcomes over the next few weeks from Omicron, and the need to ensure we don’t repeat last Christmas, is what convinced me that these were necessary.

"Whilst we all hope the data continues to show a variant that is manageable, to rely only on this would be a huge gamble after such a long period of sacrifice.

"But I also made clear to senior members of government that this is not a sustainable, long-term approach. Once the booster expansion is fully rolled out we must start to move on, finding better ways to deal with variants as they emerge.

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"I would encourage all residents to get a booster jab, and use the free LFT tests so we can move forward.”

Plans to make Covid vaccinations compulsory for frontline NHS workers in England were also passed by 385 votes to 100. This will come into force in April.

Mr Higginbotham also voted with the government on this.

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