Conservative MPs Remove NHS Protections From Government Trade Bill
Conservative MPs have removed an amendment from a government trade bill that would protect the National Health Service from being sold off.
The protections also prevented the NHS from being undermined by the government’s trade deals with other countries.
Last month, a clause had been added to the trade bill by the House of Lords banning any agreement that ‘undermines or restricts’ the UK’s ability to provide ‘a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery’.
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Kenny MacAskill described the motion as ‘absolutely essential’ and told the chamber, ‘We have to ensure the integrity of the NHS and ensure that it is not being undermined’.
However, in a vote that took place last night, January 19, MPs rejected the new clause being added by 357 votes to 266, despite more than 10,000 people writing to their local MP asking them to vote in favour of it.
According to the Independent, no Conservative MPs backed the motion.
Justifying the vote, Trade Minister Greg Hands said there was no need for the clause to be added because ‘the NHS is not and never will be for sale’ and said the claims were ‘offensive and absurd’.
Agreeing with Hands, Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said she understood why the House voted against the motion because it ‘cuts to the chase of the debate over whether the NHS is on the table when it comes to trade negotiations’.
Thornberry added: ‘To some people, that concept would mean private healthcare companies from overseas being able to compete against the NHS to provide taxpayer-funded healthcare, but in fact it is much more realistic and pernicious. What it means is those same companies winning a greater right to provide services to the NHS through open procurement contracts and thereby gaining access to the vast resource of NHS patient data, which, quite frankly, they have been actively pursuing for years.’
In October last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ‘our national health service will never be on the table’.
The vote has now been criticised, with campaigners expressing concerns that the NHS may now be opened up to American healthcare companies.
Johnbosco Nwogbo, member of the We Own It campaign – a movement to stop the NHS being privatised – described it as ‘disgraceful’.
He told The National:
It’s frankly disgraceful Conservative MPs have steamrolled through a Trade Bill that offers absolutely no protection for our precious NHS.
We’re now at risk of higher drug prices, private companies having increased access to our NHS and those same companies being able to sue the government if it tries to limit their ability to profit from our healthcare.
Nwogbo continued, ‘Worse still, parliament now won’t even have a say in any future trade deals – meaning our NHS could be offered up on a silver platter to the highest bidder, and we wouldn’t know a thing about it before a trade deal is signed and sealed.’
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