Ripon and Skipton Conservative MP Julian Smith has written to the Stray Ferret defending his decision to vote in Parliament against protecting the NHS from a future trade deal with the United States.
Last week an amendment was put forward to the government’s Trade Bill to ensure the NHS principle of being “free at the point of delivery” was not compromised by any future trade deal. The amendment failed by 251 votes to 340.
Included in the amendment were attempts to protect NHS staff from having their wages or rights cut as the result of a trade deal, protections around the pricing of medicines, and stopping confidential patient data being sold off to private companies.
However, Mr Smith said that he did not believe the amendment would have been legally binding.
“I recognise the strength of feeling about the provisions in new clause 17. However, for what I believe are sensible and practical reasons, I felt it best not to support the clause.”
Mr Smith said he does not believe any future trade agreement will lead to standards in the NHS being lowered.
“No future trade agreement will be allowed to undermine the guiding principle of the NHS: that it is universal and free at the point of need. I welcome the government’s clear and absolute commitment that the NHS will be protected in any future trade agreement. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table and nor will the services the NHS provides.
“It is important to bear in mind that the Trade Bill is a continuity bill. The powers within the bill could not be used to implement new free trade agreements with countries such as the US.
“Instead, the bill only allows for trade agreements that we have been party to through our EU membership to be transitioned into UK law.
“My ministerial colleagues have no intention of lowering standards in transitioned trade agreements, as the very purpose of these agreements is to replicate as close as possible the effects of existing commitments in EU agreements. None of the 20 continuity agreements signed have resulted in standards being lowered.”
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones also voted against the amendment. Mr Jones did not respond to the Stray Ferret when asked for comment.