Government should publish legal advice about NHS and TTIP

25 February 2016

The People's NHS has launched a new campaign to raise awareness on the potential impact the TTIP deal could have on the NHS, based on legal advice drafted by a renowned lawyer, Mr Michael Bowsher QC. It confirms that, as it currently stands, the NHS would not be fully secured in TTIP: while no trade deal can force the privatisation of any public services, loopholes could be used to prevent a future Labour government from renationalising services that have already been tendered out.

The Tory Government also commissioned its own legal advice, but unlike the People's NHS it refused to make it public. Jude Kirton-Darling MEP has written a letter (attached below) to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, requesting that this legal advice be made public. In an FOI release the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills decided to withhold legal evidence proving that the NHS would not be subject to TTIP.

The department chose not to disclose this evidence on the basis of section 42(1) of the Freedom of Information Act. The response further argues that such disclosure "would very probably make officials within BIS more cautious about obtaining legal advice in future case on other sensitive aspects of TTIP" and that "[ministers] are less likely to seek advice if there is an expectation that it will subsequently be disclosable".

Labour MEPs have been pressing the European Commission and UK government for a full exclusion of all public services from TTIP, not just the NHS. Thanks to these efforts, this call is now the official position of the European Parliament. MEPs are not directly in charge of the negotiations, but can veto any trade deal – and have made it clear that we will vote against any TTIP deal that fails to fully exclude the NHS and all other public services.

Protecting the NHS from US competition is up to the UK government. Other countries, such as Germany have requested far broader exemptions for their own public services. When it comes to saving our public services, it's the Tories we have to fear – not the EU.

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP said:

“The government is trying to dodge having to reveal the truth about TTIP to the British people.

“Disclosing this information should not be a concern for the government unless they intend to disregard the legal advice they have received.

“There is significant public opposition to TTIP, and in order to make a convincing case in support of TTIP the government needs to prove to the public that the NHS will be safe.”


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