Unite, Britain’s biggest union, is calling on Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, to intervene and ensure the release of legal advice on how the trade deal TTIP could affect the NHS (see notes to editors).
Until recently the government has spent months trying to hide or even deny that the NHS was in the scope of TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Now it transpires that the Department of Health has sought and received legal advice on the trade deal.
The Department of Health has controversially blocked a freedom of information request from a member of the public who requested details of the legal advice on how TTIP might affect the NHS. Despite the Department of Health confirming that it “holds information pertaining to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is relevant”. The Department of Health concluded that the “public interest of withholding the information substantially outweighs any public interest that there might be in releasing the information”.
TTIP is being negotiated behind the closed doors of the European Commission, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation of the NHS irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers. Secret courts could grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, the power to sue the government if it ever attempted to take privatised health services back into public ownership.
A poll, carried out by Survation, questioned over 2,600 voters across 13 marginal Conservative-held seats. Respondents were asked if health should be excluded from the deal and if David Cameron should use Britain’s veto. Across all constituencies 68 per cent said they opposed the inclusion of the NHS as part of the deal. Opposition was highest from those planning on voting for Labour or Ukip, 78 per cent and 77 per cent respectively, and just 23 per cent of Conservative voters supported inclusion.’
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We have consistently warned that TTIP means the irreversible privatisation of the NHS – what is the Department of Health trying to hide?
“The government has spent months trying to hide or even deny that the NHS was in the scope of TTIP, now it transpires it sought and received legal advice on the trade deal. It’s extremely worrying that the Department of Health is refusing to release it.
“As head of the NHS we are calling on Simon Stevens to intervene and tell the people of this country how TTIP will affect our health. Our country is united against this trade deal and the disastrous impact it will have. The people of this country oppose it, parties from across the political spectrum oppose it, unions and NGOs oppose it. It’s time Simon Stevens intervenes and it’s time for Cameron to use his veto and exclude the NHS from TTIP.”
Response to freedom of information request
For further information contact Ben Norman on 020 3371 2095
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.