Lib Dems are failing to stand up for the NHS

The Liberal Democrats are displaying a dangerous disregard for the impact that TTIP will have on our health system. Despite promising to stand up for the NHS there is no sign of any protection in the documents that have been seen so far, but the Lib Dems just ask us to trust them to protect us. A recent leak of a 103 page secret document that shows what the EU have asked to be excluded from the deal reveals that there is no specific exclusion of the NHS. Instead it says:

“The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”.

This is ambiguous language that could open the door to a decision being made by the government to allow the sell off of the NHS, unless this language is tightened up we would have no protection against this happening. This decision to accept this ambiguous word is deliberate tactic by governments to allow mass privatisation without attracting too much attention. The NHS is a huge market opportunity, so you can bet they are pouring money into making sure this is ambigously worded, so that if we don’t let corporations into the NHS, they can sue the UK for damaging their profits. In research into who lobbies most on TTIP, big pharma was found to be one of the biggest (see the Excel spreadsheet). Any MP who says they are standing up for the NHS needs to commit to blocking TTIP unless wording around protecting the NHS is explicit, otherwise their claims are meaningless. Once privatised, TTIP essentially makes it impossible to re-nationalise the NHS. If TTIP sells off our NHS, it may be lost forever. One huge area that is not mentioned in his response is the area of drug prices. Companies that develop drugs have a certain period of time where they have exclusive rights to develop the drug. When the patent expires any company can develop and sell the drugs, meaning generic cheap durgs become available. These cheaper drugs save a huge number of lives. However there are differences in patent laws in the EU and US – standardising these will have an impact on the availability of low cost medicine, and this could costs suddenly soar, people can no longer afford them, and would force the NHS to potentially spend massive amounts to keep using the same drugs as it is now. Even scarier is that since TTIP will be used a standard with which other trade deals are benchmarked, future deals with developing countries could include patent restrictions that price poor nations out from life saving drugs, and could cost huge numbers of lives. That radical organisation Stop AIDS has released a document urging people to say no to TTIP. They say that TTIP is a “question of life and death”. At a recent talk from John Hilary, he explained that the Lib Dems are the biggest supporters of TTIP, ideological believers in the mantra that “free trade fixes everything”. John met with Vince cable to explain that ISDS would mean corporations could sue governments for billions through secret decisions made by unelected officials. But Vince Cable just repeated his mantra about free trade, as if something that encouraged free trade could never possibly have a negative impact, and therefore could not be criticised. The facts do not agree. The Lib Dems need to overcome their infatuation with a free markets, because their ideas are disconnected from devastating reality that free trade deals damage our world. People do not want any more market liberalisation, people want the things they love to be protected. The full message from Mark Hunter: Will you stop TTIP? Thank you for your email regarding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations and any potential impact on the NHS. From the outset I would like to reassure you that TTIP will not have any negative impact on the NHS, and I would never support it if it did. TTIP is being designed to bring significant benefits to individuals and businesses by removing as many unnecessary barriers as possible, much in the same way as the EU Single Market has done over the past few decades. If the deal does not deliver the objectives we in the EU have demanded such as boosting jobs and the economy, or challenges the values, standards and principles we have developed and hold dear here in the UK, then we will withhold our consent as a country and TTIP will go no further. What TTIP is absolutely not about is reducing standards of public services. Neither the EU nor the US are looking to lower standards through the TTIP process and we have not authorised the EU to agree to anything in TTIP that would do that. The European Commission has been clear that it is not seeking to privatise publicly run services through this or any other trade agreement and that they will uphold high European standards of environmental, health and consumer protection. I know some people are worried about the potential impact on the NHS. Far from putting the NHS in danger, the TTIP negotiations have the potential to actually benefit NHS users through extra collaboration across the pharmaceutical and life science sectors. There will be no change in access to the NHS for private providers and there will be no change to the principle that access to NHS services is based on need, not ability to pay. The balance between public and private provision of public services will – quite rightly – continue to remain with national governments regardless of the progress of TTIP. We already have free trade agreements with many countries, as well as over 90 bilateral investment treaties. These haven’t damaged, altered the founding ethos, or in any way led to the privatisation of the NHS. If and when the EU is satisfied and reaches an agreement with the US in principle over TTIP, the final agreement will be sent to the 28 EU national parliaments which must unanimously agree to the final deal, as well as the European Parliament. The UK Parliament will receive the complete draft text of any TTIP agreement and will have the opportunity – in plenty of time – to scrutinise it through debates in both Houses of Parliament. This has been confirmed by Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable. I would like to reassure you that I will always resist any attempts by other parties to privatise the NHS. The Liberal Democrats have, as a party, been very clear that while in some cases we see a role for competition and the private sector inside the NHS – just as previous Governments have – we strongly believe that the NHS should always remain free and be based on patients’ needs, not on their ability to pay. It is these principles that I am hugely proud of – principles that form a very important part of the fairer society that the Liberal Democrats are seeking to build. The NHS is our most treasured public service and it must always be protected as well as improved. For that reason I very am pleased that on top of our current commitment to protect the NHS budget, if in Government again, the Liberal Democrats will be providing an extra £1 billion of real term funding for the NHS in the years 2016/17 and 2017/18. This would meet in full the extra investment that has been called for in proposals by NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens. Finally, can I just make clear I am always willing to meet with constituents to discuss this, or indeed any other issue. Yours sincerely Mark Hunter MP