The Government has voted down a plan to protect the NHS from foreign interference – raising fears that the health service could become part of a trade deal with the USA.
MPs voted against a move intended to ‘protect the NHS and publicly funded health care services from any form of control from outside the UK’ by 340 to 251 late on Monday night.
It calls into question numerous assurances from Boris Johnson and other Conservative cabinet ministers that the NHS is ‘not for sale’ – a charge repeatedly made by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the last election election.
But Tory MPs have sought to reassure the public that voting against the amendment does not mean they want to sell the NHS off – rubbishing the idea as ‘spurious’ claims and ‘scaremongering’ by Labour. Ministers insisted the plan was not needed because standards will not be lowered and the NHS will not be included in any post Brexit deals.
The vote was split along party lines, with Labour, Liberal Democrat and other opposition parties backing the plan and Conservatives voting against.
In a video posted on Twitter, Burnley’s Tory MP Anthony Higginbotham said: ‘We will not put the NHS up for sale in a trade agreement.’
The Labour plan that he voted against read: ‘This amendment would aim 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 said that an international trade agreement should not undermine a ‘comprehensively public funded health service free at the point of delivery’, protect employments of public sector workers in health and care sectors or medicine pricing regulations.
The House of Commons later deleted a tweet summarising the vote with wording from the amendment, because it ‘led to concerns about how our impartiality was perceived’. Conservative MPs have welcomed the move.
The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords.
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