Tory MPs vote down Lords bid to protect NHS from post-Brexit trade deals

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

Tory MPs have voted down a House of Lords amendment aimed at protecting the NHS from post-Brexit trade deals.

The amendment, proposed by peers, would have blocked trade deals that “undermines or restricts” the ability to provide “a comprehensive publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery”.

But Tory MPs voted down the proposals saying it was not necessary because the idea the NHS was up for grabs was "offensive and absurd" and "never will be for sale."

“This amendment cuts to the chase of the debate over whether the NHS is on the table when it comes to trade negotiations," shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry told the Commons.

“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.

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“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.

“This amendment seeks to prevent that, and I cannot see why any Member of the House would disagree with it.”

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The amendment was defeated in the Commons by 357 votes to 266 with no Tory MPs voting in favour.

The MPs also voted against an amendment to the Bill which sought to ensure that parliament is able to scrutinise trade deals before they are signed by the government.

We Own It campaigner Johnbosco Nwogbo responded: “It’s frankly disgraceful Conservative MPs have steamrollered 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.

"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.

“Conservative MPs have prioritised the interests of private healthcare companies over patients and public health. It’s a slap in the face to all of our heroic NHS staff, and every person who has relied on the NHS to help us through this pandemic. They should all hang their heads in shame.”

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