MPs have voted against protecting the NHS from foreign control - here's what that means

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 11:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 11:55 am
The clause was introduced as an amendment to the Trade Bill (Photo: Shutterstock)

UK MPs have voted down a trade clause intended to protect the NHS and publicly-funded health and care services from foreign control.

The clause was voted down with 340 "Noes" to 251 "Ayes" during debates over the Trade Bill in Parliament on 20 June.

What was the clause and when was it voted on?

According to the House of Commons, New Clause 17 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."

The clause was a Labour amendment to the Trade Bill, which aims to help with the process of “transitioning” the EU’s trade agreements to UK agreements ahead of the UK's exit from the EU at the end of 2020. The remaining stages of the Trade Bill were debated in Parliament on Monday 20 July.

Who voted the clause down?

The vote was split across party lines, with no Conservative MPs voting for the amendment to protect the NHS from outside control in any future trade deals.
The "noes" were made up almost entirely of Conservative MPs, with one Independent also voting the amendment down.
All Labour MPs present voted in favour of the amendment, along with members of other political parties like the SNP and Liberal Democrats.
You can see the full list of MPs who voted, and how they voted, by following this link.

What were the finer details of the clause?

As well as protecting the NHS from foreign control in any trade deal, the amendment also proposed protecting other elements of the NHS. This included:
  • Ensuring that the ability to provide a “comprehensive and publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery” was not jeopardised by any trade deal
  • Protecting the quality and safety of health and care services
  • Regulating pricing and control of medicines
  • Protecting NHS staff from having their employment terms changed, including their rights at work or pay
  • Protecting patients from having their data sold off
  • Protecting the NHS from investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) clauses which would allow foreign investors to sue governments for any measures that harm their profits

How have MPs reacted?

The government has said that UK law offers protections for the NHS and that any changes would have to come before parliament in order to be implemented.

Advocates of the clause, however, say that the result of the vote will leave the NHS open to damaging trade deals. Shadow international trade minister, Bill Esterson, said that the health service may be left “wide open to pharmaceutical giants” as a result.

Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard MP tweeted after the vote, "MPs are now voting on a Labour amendment that would explicitly exclude the NHS from future trade deals. Despite all their warm words on the NHS the Government whipped Tory MPs to oppose it and it is defeated 251 to 340. NHS remains on the table for a deal with Trump."