A number of my constituents have written to me about the impact of TTIP on the NHS. Many people are rightly worried that this partnership is going to encourage the commercialisation of our shared assets.
The NHS is one of the things which sets Britain apart as a nation. The fact that we have the opportunity to access healthcare free at the point of use is something to be proud of and something to be protected. We cannot take the security of the NHS for granted and I am proud to represent a political party which defends the NHS at every opportunity, something that cannot be said for the Tories.
It is my strong belief that the NHS should be exempt from TTIP and the Investor-State-Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in particular. This is the part of the treaty that many fear will allow private firms running hospital services to sue the Government if it chooses to return services to the public sector. One of the key strengths of the NHS is its ability to plan services in the public interest at a national level. The Government is being negligent in dismissing the fear that companies would be able to use TTIP and ISDS in particular to sue the Government. The French Government have negotiated to make their film industry exempt from TTIP so why won’t our Government to the same to protect the NHS?
Giving large international companies the ability to sue the Government will mean that money which should be being spent on patient care, would end up being gifted to wealthy businesses. We cannot afford to waste money in such a foolish way when the NHS is under such pressure. The Government is wrong to not be taking adequate precautions to ensure that this will not happen.
In 2015 a cross-party group of MPs on the Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee reiterated that future Governments must be allowed to expand the NHS without the fear of legal challenges under TTIP. The BIS Select Committee have also said that the ISDS clause is unnecessary, seeing no reason why business disputes would not be able to be resolved through existing legal systems.
Overseeing the NHS is one of the most important responsibilities for any Government. Tory rhetoric focuses on protecting our NHS, but reality is very different. The Health and Social Care Act put the market at the centre of the NHS. I believe that the landscape of our health service has changed, putting the needs of companies before patients. TTIP will open the market further to American companies. I led the opposition to the Act in the committee stages, and have argued strongly that it was entirely inappropriate to bring competition to the heart of the NHS.
The Government’s assault on junior doctors is yet another example of their disregard for our National Health Services. Their clear disrespect for our trusted medical professionals is downright foolish and illustrates that they are out of touch with reality in many of our hospitals.
Can the Tories be trusted with our NHS? The evidence all points to one answer; no. I can assure you that I will continue to stand up for the NHS and lobby the Government to exclude it from TTIP.