Northampton's MPs vote down Brexit Trade Bill's 'NHS Protection' and 'food standards' clauses brought by opposition

Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands called the areas of concern raised by all three clauses "opposition myths".

By Alastair Ulke
Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 10:40 am
Northampton's MPs - Andrew Lewer and Michael Ellis - voted against a series of opposition amendments on the post-Brexit Trade Bill.
Northampton's MPs - Andrew Lewer and Michael Ellis - voted against a series of opposition amendments on the post-Brexit Trade Bill.

Both of Northampton's MPs last night voted down a clause on the UK's post-Brexit Trade Bill intended to protect the NHS "from any form of control from outside the UK".

Parliament last night (July 20) voted through the third reading of the Trade Bill designed to steer any of the UK's post-Brexit trade deals. It will now be passed to the House of Lords.

But the sitting also included three highly-publicised amendments brought by opposition parties and Tory backbenchers.

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These included New Clause 17, which was intended to "protect the NHS and publicly funded health and care services in other parts of the UK from any form of control from outside the UK".

It also called on the Government to not sign any deal that underminded the country's ability to provide "a comprehensive and publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery", regulated the pricing of medicine and protected NHS from having their employment terms changed.

It was voted down by a majority of 86.

Another was Clause 11, which called for all imported agricultural goods to be let into the UK if they met standards as "high as, or higher than" UK law. It was voted down by a majority of 63.

The third was Clause 4, which would have prevented trade deals being signed unless it was first approved by Parliament. It was voted down by a majority of 63.

All three clauses were voted against by Northampton's MPs, Andrew Lewer [Northampton South, Con.] and Michael Ellis [Northampton North, Con.].

Both MPs have been contacted for a comment.

Andrew Lewer told the Chronicle & Echo in a written statement: "When we are negotiating trade deals, the NHS will not be on the table.

"The Trade Bill cannot be used to implement future trade deals. It was absolutely not about the content of future trade deals and the future of the NHS, and it is misleading to claim otherwise. That also goes for Agricultural food standards.

"Any future trade deal will be discussed, examined and debated extensively by Parliament. [...] There is no need today to vote for an amendment which requires more scrutiny as there will be more scrutiny. It is not a good idea for Parliament to try to fix its own future agenda in law."

Today, opposition groups and national newspapers have criticised the votes as a combination that will put the NHS and food standards 'on the table' for a US-trade deal.

Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard MP tweeted after the vote: "NHS remains on the table for a deal with Trump". Shadown international trade minister Bill Esterson said the health service may be left "wide open to pharmaceutical giants".

Jonathan Djanogly, the Conservative MP who raised Clause 4, told the House of Commons, the UK was at risk of having "less scrutiny of free trade agreements that we had before Brexit".

Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands called the areas of concern raised by all three clauses "opposition myths".

He called the clause for food standards "extreme" that put "a lot of this country's existing trade at risk", and asked if "cocoa form the Ivorry Coast" and "tea from Sri Lanka" sold in the UK was produced to UK's-own labour standards.

He further stated: "The NHS remains protected and will never be on the table at any trade deal, and that includes the prices we pay for drugs."