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NHS: Trade Deals

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

We have been clear that the NHS, the price it pays for medicines and the services it provides are off the table in our trade negotiations. No trade agreement has ever affected our ability to keep public services public, nor forced us to pay for more medicines. My Department works closely with the Department for International Trade to ensure that this is reflected in the negotiations of new trade deals.

Last week we proudly celebrated the wonderful creation of the NHS—the most cherished of all national institutions—yet grave fears remain about its ultimate privatisation under this Government. If the Government are determined to sign up to the provisions in the trans-Pacific partnership for investor-state dispute settlement, can the Minister at least do one thing today to limit that damage? Will he guarantee that the NHS will be totally exempt from the scope of those ISDS lawsuits and ensure that that exemption is written into the terms of the UK’s accession?

The Government have been clear in our published approach to negotiations, both on the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and any US trade deal, that protecting the NHS is a fundamental principle of our trade policy. The UK will ensure that the terms we sign up to in any trade negotiation uphold the Government’s manifesto commitment that the NHS, its services and the cost of medicines are not on the table, and that we hold true to our principles underpinning the NHS—of a service available to all at the point of need, free.