Pub passports: public health vs individual freedom

Keir Starmer asserts that pub passports aren’t British and won’t meet with public support, but, according to a MORI poll, the Labour Leader is quite wrong.

Indeed, into my inbox pops the results of the latest MORI research which shows that some 62% of respondents would support the introduction of such passports for those visiting restaurants and pubs, and that’s with half the population still unvaccinated. [An even greater proportion, 78% agree with vaccine passports being needed for travel].

As a restaurateur myself, I fully understand the pain the hospitality sector is going through and want to get customers back through the doors as soon as is practicable as we move out of the pandemic. The government shouldn’t hinder anything that would safely contribute to such a return to normality, but equally it shouldn’t put in place any unnecessary barriers.

A requirement on licensees to require vaccine passports would require them to have staff on the doors checking the documentation of those who enter, whether in hard copy or digitally, placing an unfair and unjustifiable burden on hospitality businesses at a time when many are already in dire financial straits through no fault of their own.

A “public house” or other licensed premises is not a “public place” and a member of the public cannot insist on being there. There is alerady a common law right to refuse entry to whomsoever a proprietor chooses, provided the refusal is not on grounds of sex, race, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion or belief. Being refused actual entry to premises is a simple extension of the right of refusal to serve, so a door supervisor is acting on behalf of, or under instructions from the licence holder and therefore can exercise the right of refusal on the licence holder’s behalf.

Not discrimination

A refusal to grant access would surely not constitute discrimination on the grounds of disability, because under the Equality Act 2010 a person is disabled only if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on the ability to do normal daily activities. That test would not be met by simply not having been vaccinated.

Striking the balance

So, the right balance, surely, for a Conservative government balancing public health against individual freedom, would be to provide a means for individuals to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated without, in this case, imposing a requirement to do so, thus leaving it to the judgement of the owners of the businesses concerned.

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