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Bucks MPs vote against NHS protection motion

The Green Party & Labour are worried about outside meddling in the health service.

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rory Butler at 2:04pm 27th July 2020. 4-minute read.

Bucks MPs vote against NHS protection motion

Five Buckinghamshire MPs voted down a legal bid to protect the NHS from any form of control outside the UK post-Brexit.

The House of Commons ballot concerned an amendment to the government Trade Bill intended to guard the NHS and other publicly funded health care services from influence outside the UK after Brexit.

A handful of MPs in Buckinghamshire voted against it.

They are:

  • Steve Baker (MP for Wycombe)
  • Rob Butler (MP for Aylesbury)
  • Cheryl Gillan (MP for Chesham and Amersham)
  • Joy Morrissey (MP for Beaconsfield)
  • Greg Smith (MP for Buckingham)

All five are members of the Conservative Party.

Rob Butler in Parliament
Rob Butler in Parliament

The amendment, named ‘New Clause 17’, was put forward by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and supported by Labour leader Kier Starmer whose party had tried to enshrine the protection in law.

Shadow trade minister Bill Esterson called for a “cast-iron” commitment from government.

New Clause 17 was designed to ensure a “comprehensive and publicly funded health service free at the point of delivery” was not compromised by any future trade deal, while protecting NHS staff wages, health care service quality, drug costs, and patient data.

It was voted down by 340 votes to 251 on Monday.

The MP for Buckingham Mr Smith said the claim the NHS was on the table was Labour and other party “scaremongering” and an attempt to make headlines.

Adding:

“The NHS is not on the table in any trade deals. The government has repeated that time and time again.

“Just because Labour and other opposition parties desperately want headlines by repeatedly scaremongering in this way does not make their wild claims true.

“The Trade Bill was not about new trade deals in any case, but ensuring existing trade deals we are part of through the EU roll over into UK operation at the end of the transition period.  

"Furthermore, the UK’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) coverage does not, and will not, apply to the procurement of UK healthcare services.”

Greg Smith
MP Greg Smith

Dame Cheryl, MP for Chesham and Amersham, said the “scope” of this amendment – one of more than 50 put forward for consideration – had been “wilfully misinterpreted by some, as is often the case with opposition amendments.”

Adding:

“New Clause 17 was in legislative terms inappropriate as it added nothing to existing protections. The government has to ensure that legislation passed is coherent.

"Amendments such as NC17 are often laid with little other intention than to prompt parliamentary debate on a topic.”

Backing the amendment were 180 Labour MPs, 44 MPs belonging to the SNP (Scottish National Party), ten from the Liberal Democrats, six DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), three belonging to Plaid Cymru, two SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party), one Independent MP, and one for the Greens. Some 336 Conservative MPs opposed the amendment.

Cheryl Gillan
Dame Cheryl Gillan MP

MPs for whom no vote was recorded include 24 Conservative and 19 Labour.

Since the result, previous campaign slogans like the NHS is “not for sale” and “Protect the NHS”, as seen throughout coronavirus, have been called into question.

Other MPs in neighbouring constituencies who chose not to back the amendment include Adam Afriyie (Conservative MP for Windsor), Theresa May (Conservative MP for Maidenhead), John Redwood (Conservative MP for Wokingham), and James Sunderland (Conservative MP for Bracknell).

The MP for Chesham and Amersham added:

“The government has made a clear and absolute commitment that the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade agreements to which the UK is party."

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