On Friday 15th January I will be presenting my Private Members Bill for its second reading in the House of Commons. The Trade Agreements (Exclusion of National Health Services) Bill delivers a key SNP manifesto promise from December 2019, to protect the NHS from future trade deals.
The Bill will explicitly prevent any future UK Government from signing up to any agreement that made the NHS, in any part of the UK, a bargaining chip of any kind in any future trade deals – something which could endanger the foundations of the health service as free at the point of need, and which could threaten to push up drug prices.
If the Bill makes it on to the statute book it will be enshrined in law that the NHS must be protected as publicly owned, publicly operated, and its services publicly commissioned.
It will deny any UK minister the power to sign a trade deal unless it excludes the NHS. It will require the explicit consent of the four national parliaments of the UK to the effects of any proposed deal on the NHS in their respective countries. The Bill is being co-sponsored by MPs from 6 parties and all four nations in the House of Commons.
After several delays due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, I am delighted that the House of Commons has finally got on board with remote participation for all business so I can present my Bill for its second reading. Sadly it is likely that the Tories will use Parliamentary procedure to prevent my Bill from being heard on Friday, which is just another example of the problem this Bill addresses.
While health policy is devolved to Scotland, we cannot currently stop Westminster signing away our NHS in a damaging trade deal, or entering agreements with other nations that would dramatically push up drug prices or risk our public services. That is why I am bringing forward a Bill that will protect each of the National Health Services across the whole of the UK.
Boris Johnson’s Tories have made clear that they do not respect the devolution settlement. The UK government’s Internal Market Bill is a thinly-veiled power grab on the Scottish parliament which will allow them to overturn years of work by our SNP Government in bringing vital parts of the NHS back into public ownership and control, and pave the way for our precious Health Service to be sacrificed on the altar of a trade deal with the USA.
My Bill will protect each of the National Health Services across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. My message to the UK government is clear - our NHS is not for sale, not to anybody, not at any price, not now, and not ever.