The Government will not allow TTIP negotiations to harm the NHS. Any suggestion to the contrary is both irresponsible and false. I am grateful to the former Labour shadow Health Secretary for confirming that.
That is an interesting answer but, without specific exemption from TTIP, how can the Secretary of State give any reassurance that predatory organisations such as the Hospital Corporation of America, which was prosecuted for fraud in the US, will not use the TTIP provisions to seek contracts in our NHS?
The best assurance I can give the hon. Gentleman is not what I have said, but what the EU Trade Commissioner, Karel De Gucht—I challenge colleagues in Hansard to spell that correctly without looking at my notes—has said. In an interview in September, he said:
“Public services are always exempted—”
“there is no problem about exemption. The argument is abused in your country for political reasons but it has no grounds.”
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I was quite amused to see that I have a future career as an estate agent, along with the Prime Minister, when our hopefully long careers in politics are over, but the point is that this is scaremongering and it is wrong to scaremonger about something as important as the NHS. To suggest that the NHS is being privatised is fiction. What is not fiction is Labour’s legacy of poor care.
The Secretary of State’s definition of “harm” is not the definition that Labour Members have. My Bill, which was passed overwhelmingly on Friday, would require the Secretary of State to bring the matter back to this House should TTIP apply to the NHS in any way whatsoever. Will he support my Bill going into Committee without delay, so that we can discuss the detail and answer the questions he has?
Given the uncertainty of the French and German Governments on the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, as well as the indication by EU Commission President Juncker that he will not back it, why have this Government not done more to protect the health service from a practice that would leave it vulnerable to private sector intervention?
This is what the EU chief negotiator said to the former Labour shadow Health Secretary, who is chair of the all-party group on TTIP:
“the rights of EU Member States to manage their health systems according to their various needs can be fully safeguarded…There is no reason to fear either for the NHS as it stands today or for changes to the NHS in future as a result of TTIP.”
It could not be clearer than that.