It was Andy Burnham who recently uncovered the scale of Tory party donors’ profits from the NHS – with contracts to the tune of £1.5 billion.
Less headline grabbing – but probably even more important – is his understanding of the implications of the EU/US Trade agreement for the NHS – as for all our public services.
He is planning a trip to Brussels to lobby for the exemption of the NHS and of healthcare in general from that agreement.
The EU/US Trade agreement is the sort of backstairs activity which escapes the public eye. Mention it to most people – or even worse its acronym the TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – and their eyes will probably glaze over.
But as we’ve written before, it is the single most important threat to our NHS – as to all our public services. It threatens to set in the stone of legal framework the competition which the LibDem/Tory Coalition has been introducing and pushing.
It will, for example, mean the threat and likelihood of legal challenge to any attempt to prevent predatory US Health providers getting access to the NHS.
The UCU [University and College Union] has produced an important briefing paper on the agreement and its likely results.
In summary it states that
“The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed trade deal between the EU and the US, supposedly being pursued in the interests of free trade.
UCU believes that it poses a profound threat to public services in general, including education, leaving them wide open not only to greater privatisation but making it harder for any future government to regulate foreign private sector companies operating in our public services.
The TTIP is also an affront to democracy. The talks are being pursued without any transparency or democratic oversight by the EU and the US. If they succeed, they will take disputes between companies and governments away from independent courts and make them the preserve of unaccountable tribunals dominated by corporate lawyers. “
The briefing paper explains why UCU is calling for all public services to be protected within any trade treaty.
It concludes that such an agreement ‘would make it hard for any government with a mandate to reverse liberalisation and privatisation to do so without being sued by foreign investors under the terms of the Treaty. So whatever voters actually wanted, the trade treaty would place major barriers in the way of any government giving expression to their democratic will.’
This is a fundamental threat to our public services, but also to our democracy.
As we’ve reported before, our Yorkshire and Humber Labour MEP, Linda McAvan is alert to its dangers and is gearing up against it.
And Andy Burnham is also now working actively to limit it.
As he told the New Statesman
‘we need to say that health can be pulled out.
In my view, the market is not the answer to 21st century healthcare. . . . .
I’m going to go to Brussels soon and I’m seeking meetings with the commission to say that we want, in the EU-US trade treaty, designation for healthcare so that we can exempt it from contract law, from competition law.’
This LibDem/Tory Coalition’s time in office has seen the rapid advance of marketisation into our public services. The EU/US Trade agreement would cement their legacy in place – with dire results for the NHS and more widely.
It is essential that the negotiations over this agreement move up the political agenda.
As the attitudes of people like Lind McAvan and Andy Burnham show, the political parties are NOT all the same here.
Britain Must Do Better Than This – and it will, with Labour.
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