Keir Starmer has clarified Labour’s position on domestic Covid passports, telling LBC radio station today that he supports “passports plus testing” for mass events but not for “access to critical things”.
The Labour leader, who is self-isolating because his 13-year-old son has contracted Covid, made clearer his party’s position on the government proposal, which would need support from opposition MPs to pass.
Starmer said: “We’ve got to be careful at mass events. The principle of double vaccination and a negative test is one I would support… I think tests are more useful than double vaccinations.”
Speaking to Nick Ferrari during the ‘Call Keir’ session, he added: “The idea we can go back to mass sporting events or other events without any checks is not one I subscribe to.”
Asked about the vote on Covid passports expected in September, he said: “Passports on their own aren’t enough. As we know, sadly, you can be double-jabbed and still get the new variant. It’s got to be passports plus testing.
“And that would be for sporting events, et cetera. It depends on what the government puts on the table. What I don’t want to see is vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things, like health, dentistry, food, et cetera.”
Last week, Labour described the government’s plans to require vaccine passports for entry to certain venues as “unworkable”. Shadow minister Jess Phillips said it would be “better if it relied on testing rather than vaccination”.
A spokesperson for Starmer at the time said: “Being double-jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty.”
Asked today about the suggestion of strike action by key workers in transport and food who are told to ignore being ‘pinged’ and go to work, Starmer said he would not support the industrial action.
“No, I don’t think that’s the right way,” he replied. “If it is possible to show that, with a double vaccination and a negative test, critical workers can go back to work, I would support that.”
On the 3% pay rise for NHS workers, the Labour leader described the proposal as “not fair”, but also said the 15% suggested by unions is “high” and the ultimate increase would “have to be negotiated”.
Dawn Butler was ordered to leave parliament last week after refusing to withdraw comments in the chamber stating that Boris Johnson has “lied” repeatedly during the coronavirus crisis.
Asked about the incident, Starmer said: “I agree with what Dawn had to say, I think the Prime Minister is the master of untruths and half-truths, and Dawn was simply giving some examples of that.
“I think there’s a lot of people that feel that it’s the person who’s not telling the truth, rather than the person who’s calling it out, that ought to be on the hotspot. So I agree with Dawn on that.”
He added that the temporary deputy speaker, Labour MP Judith Cummins, also “did the right thing” as “she was following the rules” by telling Butler to leave the chamber for the rest of the day’s sitting.