I rose at 2.14 pm
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on securing this debate and the other hon. Members who signed the motion.
I want to focus on the potential impact of the investor-state dispute settlement on our NHS. Before coming to this House, I worked in the NHS for 15 years, so it is personally important to me. Many of my constituents have also sent me emails stating that they are very concerned about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the potentially damaging effects on consumer safety, environmental protection and public health.
The ISDS allows investors to bring proceedings against foreign Governments who are party to the treaty in tribunals outside the domestic legal system. The Government state that the ISDS provisions are still under negotiation and that they must strike the right balance on protecting investors. I believe that that threatens to lead to greater corporate interference in public policy, as Governments may be motivated by fears that they are going to be sued by private companies. Therefore, I was particularly concerned when in February the summary of a legal opinion commissioned by Unite—a left-wing union of which I am a member—suggested that there are real risks arising from the TTIP that could impact on the NHS unless a robust carve-out is put in place.
I am encouraged by the Government’s answer to a parliamentary question on 28 October that they have protected the national health service and public services in these trade agreements and that it would be possible for a future Government to terminate private provision of services, but I am deeply concerned that they will facilitate further privatisation under this Government. Many campaigners, including People’s NHS, who took to the streets in November, also fear for the NHS.
I end my speech by asking the Government, first, to clarify their position on the use of the ISDS element of TTIP and, secondly, to reiterate their guarantee that it will not interfere with our ability to de-privatise our NHS.