I have received a number of emails concerning the vote on last night’s Trade Bill and why I did not vote on an amendment proposed by Labour regarding the NHS.
Let me clear. The NHS is not and never has been for sale to the US. This was set out clearly at Page 11 of the Conservative Party’s manifesto which said:
“When we are negotiating trade deals the NHS will not be on the table. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. The services the NHS provides will not be on the table.”
I do not need to vote for Opposition Amendments to commit to what I have already promised to do.
This was further reinforced in the Government’s official negotiating objectives for a US-UK trade deal, which have been published and you can read here.
The Trade Bill cannot be used to implement future trade deals. It was not a Bill about the content of future trade deals, or the future of the NHS and it is misleading for the Opposition to claim otherwise.
Within our negotiating objectives we have set out the following:
- Protecting the right regulate public services, including in the NHS;
- Ensuring patent provisions do not result in higher prices for drugs;
- Ensuring that Government Procurement maintains existing protections for NHS health services.
Scrutiny of Future Trade Deals
To answer further points, Parliament will retain through the CRAG process, the right to block any treaty from being ratified.
Free Trade Agreements cannot change UK law. Parliament will retain the right to reject any domestic implementing legislation necessary for a trade treaty. By blocking any legislation, should it be required, it can also block ratification. This is in line with other jurisdictions including Canada and actually goes further than countries like Australia and New Zealand where their domestic Parliaments cannot block a trade deal. Any trade treaty will be made public before ratification and the Government has committed that, where time allows, a report will be drafted by the relevant Committee before ratification to allow time for independent scrutiny.
The Government will not compromise our standards on environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. These commitments were all set out clearly in the Conservative Manifesto before the December 2019 election.
Under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Act we are transferring all existing EU food safety provisions including import requirements, onto the UK statute book. All imports must meet our own strict food safety standards and Parliament retains final say over such standards so that in the future it can block any change should it wish to do so.
Amendments demanding that all agricultural imports meet our domestic production standards could have negative effects for the UK food supply, UK food manufacturers who rely on imports and the ability of developing countries to sell to the UK.