Government backbenchers block Harrow West MP’s cross-party amendment to protect the NHS from being undermined by future Trade deals.
Harrow West MP and Shadow International Trade Minister Gareth Thomas voted and argued for full scrutiny of future trade deals and to keep the NHS “off the table” last week.
In the last big Parliamentary debate before the Summer recess, Government backbenchers voted to stop amendments being added to the Trade Bill that would protect the NHS from further privatisation and drug price hikes.
The Harrow West MP and Shadow International Trade Minister wrote and co-authored changes to the Trade Bill to stop for example a UK-US deal allowing big American pharmaceutical corporations forcing up the prices for drugs used in the NHS, or to prevent further privatisation. The amendment was rejected by the government with Harrow MPs Bob Blackman and David Simmonds both voting to oppose Gareth’s safeguards.
Ministers claim the NHS isn’t “on the table”, yet evidence from Global Justice shows pharmaceutical firms lobbying hard to get US negotiators to prioritise targeting the NHS.
Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West said:
“The only way to stop the NHS being an issue in Trade negotiations such as with the US is to put into law that Trade Agreements cannot affect the future of the NHS.
We know US drug firms are pressing Donald Trump’s top Trade negotiators to force Boris Johnson to lift restrictions on US drug firms so they can charge the NHS higher prices for longer.
It is astonishing that the Government will not take these basic extra legal steps to protect our world class NHS.”
While Thomas was supported by other Labour, SNP, Lib Dem, Green and Plaid Cymru MPs in voting for the amendment, not a single Conservative MP voted for the amendment.
In a tweet following the vote, Trade Secretary Liz Truss MP tweeted that:
“In any trade negotiations, the NHS will NOT be on the table.”
Gareth Thomas MP called out Truss on Twitter, saying “Funny how your tweets don’t appear to match up with your votes? Last night you had the opportunity to keep the NHS off the table, your party whipped against it.”
Details on New Clause 17: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2020-07-20c.1948.0
Lobbying from pharmaceutical companies reported by Global Justice: https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2020/mar/4/dont-be-fooled-governments-pledge-keep-nhs-out-trump-trade-deal-these-are-just-empty