Bradshaw – Jeremy Hunt must rule out NHS sell-off in US trade deal

Former health minister Ben Bradshaw MP has this evening written to Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to ensure that the NHS is excluded from any trade negotiations with the United States, and to confirm that he would not support any trade deal that allowed greater access for American companies.

The letter follows Theresa May’s refusal at Prime Minister’s Questions to provide an absolute guarantee that the NHS will be excluded from the scope of any future trade negotiations.

 

In the letter, Ben Bradshaw, who is also a member of the Health Select Committee and a leading supporter of Open Britain, writes:

“This is a matter of grave concern to everyone who cares about the future of the NHS. It is quite extraordinary that the Government does not yet have a position on whether it will fully protect the health service in future trade negotiations.

“It is even more remarkable coming just days after President Trump took to Twitter to attack the principle of a publicly-funded National Health Service.

“Could you therefore confirm that you will use your position to ensure that the NHS is excluded from any negotiations with the United States, and that you would not support any trade deal that allowed greater access for American companies?

“Anything less will only create further anxiety at a time when the NHS is already experiencing such severe pressures.”

/ends

 

Notes to editors

 

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Jeremy,

I am writing to express my concern at the Prime Minister's refusal to rule out allowing American companies greater access to business in the NHS as part of a potential future trade agreement with the United States.

Asked by the Leader of the Liberal Democrats if she would give an absolute guarantee that the NHS will be excluded from the scope of any future trade negotiations with the United States, she categorically refused to do so. When pressed on this question, a Downing Street spokesman later said: “We do not yet have an existing position on a trade deal that is yet to be negotiated."

This is a matter of grave concern to everyone who cares about the future of the NHS. It is quite extraordinary that the Government does not yet have a position on whether it will fully protect the health service in future trade negotiations. It is even more remarkable coming just days after President Trump took to Twitter to attack the principle of a publicly-funded National Health Service. Given the robust defence you made in response to that insult, in which you made clear your support for the principle of a taxpayer-funded health system that provides universal coverage, I hope you will agree that there can be compromising over whether US healthcare companies should have greater involvement in the UK health system.

Voters were promised a stronger and better-funded health service after Brexit, bolstered by an alleged £350m extra per week. Nobody was told that leaving the EU would result in trade negotiations with the United States involving the NHS. And there is little public support for such a policy. So there should be no equivocation from the Government.

Could you therefore confirm that you will use your position to ensure that the NHS is excluded from any negotiations with the United States, and that you would not support any trade deal that allowed greater access for American companies? Anything less will only create further anxiety at a time when the NHS is already experiencing such severe pressures, not least because of staffing shortages and the weakening of the public finances since the referendum.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Ben Bradshaw MP