Lord Owen condemns “conspiracy of silence” on the EU-US trade deal

Introducing his revised NHS bill, Lord Owen calls today for transparency from Prime Minister David Cameron over the secret mandate for the EU-US Trade Negotiations which he hopes to boost at the G8 Summit in five weeks time in Northern Ireland.

Image: Prime Minister's Office

Sources close to the mandate negotiations say that unlike the CETA (the Canadian EU trade negotiations) that there is at present no plan to exclude arrangements for health care and protection and in particular for the NHS in its different forms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Because of the intense secrecy surrounding the proceedings it has been so far impossible to obtain any assurances on this crucial issue. The British press so far only cover the trade aspects.

The Prime Minister writing in the Wall Street Journal on Monday made no mention of health nor the alarming prospect of investment protection being extended to the whole raft of private health contracts in the UK that American health care companies and consultancies expect to be awarded to them in the next few years.

Such protection could have the effect of health contracts being virtually retained in perpetuity with no democratic right for an incoming government to discontinue the contracts once their term had expired without being able to prove gross negligence and risking very heavy compensation payments. Ominously, the Prime Minister suggested that “everything must be on the table” in the negotiations.

The Prime Minister in his WSJ article actually had the gall to lecture about ‘transparency’, saying ‘It is to the shame of the whole world that a lack of transparency’ over the illicit diamond trade had such effects. What about the appalling effects of the lack of transparency on our NHS? There is a conspiracy of silence about this matter and about the extent to which EU legislation is challenging the philosophy and principles of the NHS that cannot be allowed to continue.

It is why I have today presented a short Bill for the reinstatement of the English NHS. Amongst other important matters, Clause 9 follows the spirit of section six of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978 which provides that any increase in the powers of the European Parliament can only be ratified or agreed to by UK Ministers in Brussels if there has been prior approval by an Act of Parliament. The Clause would make it impossible for example  in the pending US-EU Trade Negotiations for any provisions to be agreed by UK Ministers affecting NHS provision  without the UK Parliament or the relevant devolved legislature giving its approval prior to any agreement on or Treaty signature.

This Clause will be a matter on which candidates from all parties in the June 2014 European Elections will be asked for their views, including UKIP.

 

A fuller account of the changes to the Reinstatement bill can be read here, and the revised bill itself, with explanatory notes, can be read here.

About the author

David Owen: Under Labour Governments, David Owen served as Navy Minister, Health Minister and Foreign Secretary. He was co-founder of the Social Democratic Party and its Leader from 1983-87 and 1988-90. He was created a Life Baron – Lord Owen of the City of Plymouth – in 1992 and sits as an independent Crossbencher in the House of Lords. He was a Member of Parliament for Plymouth for 26 years from 1966-92.