MP Robert Halfon dismisses claims he voted against protecting NHS in post Brexit deal
News / Tue 21st Jul 2020 at 12:28pm
HARLOW MP Robert Halfon has dismissed class that he voted against protecting NHS in post Brexit deal in the House of Commons on Monday night.
Labour put forward an amendment to the Trade Bill which would have barred any deal which “undermines or restricts” a comprehensive public-funded health service, free at the point of delivery.
The amendment would have banned any deal that undermined the ability “to maintain the quality and safety of health or care services”.
It would also have legally guaranteed the UK’s ability to control the pricing of medicines, and maintained the current level of protection for patient data.
But Tory MPs voted the amendment down – along with a separate Labour bid to keep “chlorine-washed” chicken and other poor-quality US foods out of the UK.
Robert Halfon said: Last night, I voted for the Trade Bill which will allow us – for the first time in 40 years – to set our own trade policy and strike trade deals around the world. We can do this because we are delivering Brexit and moving on.
However, as always, there are a few myths flying around in relation to the amendments to the Bill. The first is that our NHS will be sold off – this is absolutely untrue and the Government has been explicitly clear – the NHS is not and will not ever be on the table in any trade negotiations. We are protecting our NHS with more nurses, more doctors and a brand new Harlow hospital.
The second myth is that we will be importing chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef – again completely untrue. It is because we have left the EU that we can raise our animal welfare and import standards. I have a letter from the International Trade Secretary setting out that this myth is completely false and we will never allow sub standard food to make its way to our supermarkets.
So, good news – we are getting on and delivering our independent trade policy and the myths stoked up by many are completely untrue.
But Shadow Trade Minister Bill Esterson told the House of Commons he put forward the amendment because “the threat to our NHS is right at the top of the list.”reports the Daily Mirror.
Mr Esterson said last night: “The Prime Minister told us he favours a social insurance system in his Daily Telegraph article, so when Ministers tell us not to worry about the NHS, it simply will not wash.
“Statements alone are worthless. It is very simple: the detailed text of all agreements must include cast-iron commitments.
“Because it is not just the Prime Minister who wants to hand over our NHS to the healthcare corporations; it is his friend the US President, and it is in the US negotiating objectives, which refer to ‘full market access for US products’.
“They want access to NHS medicines and more, and they are not shy about saying so.”
Labour MP Kate Jarrow told MPs: “For the President of the United States the interests of corporate America come first.
“He will demand that the NHS pays higher prices for US drugs in a trade deal with the UK.
“As the Bill currently stands, it gives no protection to our NHS.
“We know that our NHS has already been turned into a market, making services vulnerable to being included in the deal unless they are clearly and comprehensively excluded.
“I can see no evidence so far that the Government want to ring-fence the NHS and keep it out of trade discussions.”
The amendment was voted down by 340 votes to 251.
Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP, Greens, DUP and Plaid Cymru all voted for the amendment but 335 Tories, plus ex-Tory Julian Lewis, voted against it.
A number of Conservative MPs abstained, but none voted against the amendment.
Tory MPs also defeated a string of other amendments – including one designed to keep US chlorine-washed chicken out of the UK.
Labour’s amendment would have barred any food imports unless they were produced with “as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law”.
But Mr Hands said: “That could have massive unforeseen consequences.
“The Opposition think they are talking about chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef.
“But are they actually able to look people in the eye and say that cocoa from the Ivory Coast has been produced to at least as high environmental standards as in the UK?
“Are they able to say that beans from Egypt are being produced to at least as high labour standards?
“Are they able to say that tea from Sri Lanka comes with the same high labour standards?
“I think they are putting a lot of this country’s existing trade at risk.”
That amendment was defeated by 251 votes to 337. Two Tory MPs – Simon Hoare and Neil Hudson – rebelled to vote with Labour.