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Trade Bill protection for NHS ‘not worth paper it is written on’

A NEW clause in the Trade Bill supposedly protecting the NHS was dismissed as worthless today by campaigners, who urged MPs to prevent a “power grab” by corporations.

The Commons held a crucial vote on the amendment, which would supposedly safeguard the health service in future trade deals, after the Morning Star went to press.

A more comprehensive amendment to protect the NHS had been tabled in the House of Lords but was withdrawn by Labour’s Baroness Thornton after the government pledged to make compromise proposals.

In January, Conservative MPs voted against a similar amendment, causing campaign group We Own It to brand them “disgraceful.”

The group warned today that the Tory government’s protection for the NHS is “not worth the paper it’s written on.”

The amendment states that future trade agreements “must be consistent with maintaining UK publicly funded clinical healthcare services.”

We Own It campaigners argued that this would offer little protection for the NHS.

They pointed out that the amendment only covers “clinical healthcare services,” rather than the whole of the NHS, and merely seeks to maintain “public funding” of the service, rather than public ownership.

Failure to protect the NHS in law could lead to medicines becoming more expensive, the rights of US healthcare companies to access the NHS being enshrined in international treaties and privatisation being “locked in,” the group warns.

We Own It campaigns officer Johnbosco Nwogbo said: “The government’s amendment falls well short of what is needed and frankly it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. 

“Our NHS is already suffering under years of privatisation, with as much as 26 per cent of the NHS budget being spent on the private and independent sector.

“So maintaining publicly funded healthcare services won’t stop the private healthcare sector in the US or any other country getting their hands on huge chunks of our precious health service.

“What’s needed is to ensure the NHS remains publicly funded, but also that it remains publicly owned – and for protections on ownership to be written into the legislation.”

More than 300,000 people have signed a We Own It petition calling on the Lords to exempt the NHS from trade deals, while over 20,000 people have written to MPs urging them to vote to protect the NHS.

Three-quarters of the public want the NHS to have explicit protection from trade deals, a Survation poll suggests.

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