There are concerns re the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union and its potential impact on the NHS.
As a Liberal Democrat I strongly support TTIP, which could bring economic benefits to the UK of around £10 billion. That’s the equivalent of nearly £400 for every household in the country. TTIP also demonstrates what can be done when, as Liberal Democrats firmly believe, we work closely with our partners in Europe.
Of course, it’s vital that our NHS is protected and Liberal Democrats have a strong record in this area. We stopped the Conservatives’ privatisation plans and we reversed Labour’s policy of allowing private companies to ‘cherry pick’ lucrative NHS contracts and get special favours. The Labour Government paid private companies £250 million for operations they didn’t perform and in Government, Liberal Democrats have made sure that can never happen again.
The UK has nearly 100 bilateral trade agreements already in place and not one has threatened the NHS or changed the fundamental principles of the NHS – that it should be based on need and not on ability to pay.
The European Commission has explicitly ruled out public services from the scope of any liberalisation in TTIP and TTIP will not require EU Member States to open up their health systems to private companies. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has been absolutely clear on this.
Indeed, far from putting the NHS in danger, TTIP has the potential to benefit NHS users through extra collaboration and opportunities across the pharmaceutical and life science industry. Medical equipment developed in the US may become more readily available and more affordable for the NHS through TTIP and I think that’s something to be welcomed.
If and when the EU reaches an agreement in principle with the United States, the text of the agreement will have to be ratified by all 28 EU Member States, as well as the European Parliament. If TTIP doesn’t deliver on the objectives of the EU, or the values and standards we have in the UK, the TTIP will not become reality.
I have signed the petition to exclude NHS from TTIP and will campaign vigorously to ensure that this is not changed.