Boris Johnson will face Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer for the final time before the summer recess at Prime Minister’s Questions this lunchtime – though he will do so virtually due to self-isolating at Chequers.
It will be the first session of PMQs since almost all lockdown measures were lifted in England on Monday, and this is likely to be a key topic of debate.
Labour have opposed the Government’s lifting of restrictions as ‘reckless’, arguing for an approach which sees face coverings and similar mitigations remain mandatory. The wearing of face coverings in most settings in England is now a personal choice – however, they are still required on Transport for London services and in other parts of the UK.
The Government’s announcement on Monday that vaccination passports will be required for entry to nightclubs in England from September will also likely raise questions later, with the topic so far proving to be divisive. The Liberal Democrats have already said they would not support the plans in Parliament, while industry leaders are concerned that such rules will result in more work and less customers.
Outside of political chambers, the public’s reaction to the idea of vaccination passports has long been volatile, with some seeing them as representing a further restriction on people’s freedoms. Numerous protests have taken place against the use of vaccination passports, including in London earlier this week.
Some have argued that the COVID pass system, which proves whether people have been double vaccinated or have had a recent negative coronavirus test, is a ‘common sense’ mitigation. The use of the COVID pass system is recommended but optional in nightclubs and other event venues, though it appears it may soon become mandatory if not used as the Government would like.
The Government’s proposals for the Autumn would see the testing element removed from the COVID pass system, with the Government keen to increase the number of young people vaccinated against the virus. However, some have argued that a recent negative test may be a better mitigation to include on such passports, as people who are double vaccinated can still contract the virus.
Away from coronavirus, the Prime Minister may face questions at PMQs on immigration, with record numbers of migrants recently risking channel crossings in small boats.
Other topics of debate this lunchtime may include the UK’s travel list, which has changed this week to allowed fully vaccinated Britons to avoid isolation on return from amber list destinations. There are ongoing debates over how effective the travel restrictions are, including checks at the UK border, and there has been speculation that more holiday destinations could soon be moved to the ‘amber plus’ or red list.
The latest easing of restrictions in England comes against a backdrop of rapidly rising coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths. On Tuesday, a further 46,588 COVID-19 cases were reported in the UK, while 96 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported.
The final session of PMQs before the summer recess comes just days after ‘Freedom Day’, though many questions will undoubtedly focus on the continuing coronavirus crisis.
PMQs can be watched live on social media, parliamentlive.tv and major news channels from 12pm on Wednesday.