Compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for care home staff in England have been approved by MPs – despite them not seeing a key document detailing the policy’s impact.
From the autumn, anyone working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption under regulations approved by the House of Commons by 319 votes to 246 – majority 73.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a fresh backbench rebellion as Conservative MPs lined up to criticise the Government for not publishing an impact assessment of the policy ahead of the vote.
Thirty Tories rebelled to oppose the regulations, with a further two acting as tellers for the noes to enable the vote.
Health minister Helen Whately told MPs the “impact assessment is being worked on”, sparking fury from MPs.
Conservative MP William Wragg (Hazel Grove) said he was “in despair”, adding: “You could perhaps have a painting next to me of Munch’s The Scream and get towards the feeling I have over the conduct of Government business in this House.
“The Government is treating this House with utter contempt. Ninety minutes on a statutory instrument to fundamentally change the balance of human rights in this country is nothing short of a disgrace.
“The fact no impact assessment exists, and I contend that it does not exist – and if that is proven to be the case then I’m afraid the minister will be in a tricky position if she contends it does and it doesn’t – is a disgrace.”
Mr Wragg went on to raise a case of a care worker who fears losing her job as a result of the policy, asking: “Is that what we’re prepared to do to our fellow citizens as a Conservative government?
“It’s absolute lunacy. You’d expect this in a communist country.”
Conservative former minister Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown sceptic Covid Recovery Group, earlier said: “If there’s uncertainty, share the uncertainty with the House.
“It isn’t good enough to expect us to vote on something that is difficult and controversial and complicated, and not share the information with the House that the minister has at her disposal, it is an abuse. It’s not good enough.”
Labour’s Rachael Maskell (York Central) added: “We’re having to make a decision in the House this evening on the balance of risk and therefore we haven’t been given the data because the impact assessment hasn’t come forward.”
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, said: “I hope the minister will accept on reflection that it is simply wrong to bring these measures forward without giving the House that impact assessment in advance.”
He asked the minister to bring the proposals back at a later date, adding: “This is a very serious innovation, a legal requirement being imposed for people to undertake a medical intervention which may be against their will is a remarkable change in our law.”
Conservative Sir Charles Walker, a former chairman of the Procedure Committee, said the explanatory memorandum for the regulations stated a “full impact assessment has been prepared” and would be submitted.
He added: “Can I ask that Mr Speaker and the Clerk of the House conduct an investigation into this memorandum to ascertain whether the House has been misled by the Government and whether the minister’s conduct at the despatch box was good enough this afternoon?”
Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said it was a “totally unsatisfactory” situation and he would raise the issue with the Speaker.
For Labour, shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said: “To force carers to choose between losing their jobs or taking a vaccine they’re afraid of is inhumane.”
Dr Allin-Khan pressed for the Government to do more to promote the benefits of the vaccine and tackle misinformation.
Outlining the proposals, which come into effect 16 weeks after they have been made, Ms Whately earlier said: “We recognise some people feel workers should have freedom of choice about vaccination while others (view) this as a duty of care to protect people most at risk … Vaccination is a safe and effective way of preventing the spread of Covid.
“The majority of care home workers have already taken up the vaccine and it’s essential that all care home workers who can have the vaccine do so in order to protect those in their care.”