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Government surrender on attempts to offer up NHS in return for trade deals

by Steve Beasant on 26 March, 2019

Ahead of the House of Commons debating the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, the Government have said they will accept the changes made by Liberal Democrat Peers as part of a cross-party effort in the House of Lords.

The two cross-party amendments which restricted the application of the Bill to the EEA and Switzerland and also restricted the scope of the regulation making powers were passed by the House of Lords by 36 and 38 votes respectively earlier this month.

Fears were raised by the Liberal Democrats that, unchanged, the Bill would have not just guaranteed that UK citizens can continue to benefit from their EHIC cards in the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as was originally set out, but in fact give ministers the power to sign these deals with any country in the world, not just replace the deals we currently have with the EU. 

Commenting on the announcement, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Judith Jolly said:

“The victory in the Lords was a crucial step in limiting the Bill to only allow ministers to replace the health deals we already have.

Liberal Democrats ensured that in a no-deal scenario access to the NHS was not up for grabs in return for a trade deal, and today’s announcement that the Conservative Government have surrendered and will not overturn these changes is obviously welcome.

“Handing over NHS access to a multitude of new countries without Parliament having any say was alarming, especially as we all know Liam Fox is completely desperate to sign trade deals, whatever the cost.

“We know the NHS has long been struggling due to unprecedented demand on its services. The fact we had to go to such lengths to stop the Tories selling our NHS down the river truly demonstrates how desperate this power hungry Conservative Government has become.”

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