“As Nye Bevan said, the NHS will survive as long as there will be people there to fight for it. Now is the time to fight.”
By Johnbosco Nwogbo, We Own It.
In July last year, the government asked MPs to vote for its Trade Bill – the legislation which sets the framework for trade deals now that Britain has left the European Union. Because our NHS has been split into chunks and opened up for private companies to bid to run services, it is on the table in trade deals by default.
What this means in practice is that we could see more US private companies bidding for and winning the right to run NHS services. We could see the rights of those companies to access our NHS enshrined in international treaties. And we could see privatisation ‘locked in’ through trade agreements, making it increasingly difficult for future government’s to reverse.
In short, trade deals threaten the very fabric of our NHS, with the interests of profit hungry companies put above the interests of patients. It’s a million miles away from the service Nye Bevan envisaged and built.
That’s why Labour MPs tabled amendments to the Bill – backed by other opposition parties – to explicitly exclude the NHS from any future trade deals. Writing protections into law in this way is crucial as it is the only way we can make sure that our precious health service isn’t included in trade deals in the future.
But despite all of Boris Johnson’s blustering reassurances and continuous promises when it came to the vote, he whipped his MPs to vote down those amendments. One by one, Tory MPs disgracefully lined up to vote to allow our NHS to be carved up and sold off in trade agreements with the USA or other countries. Each one of them betrayed our country and betrayed our NHS.
What happened next was nothing short of beautiful. The public stood up and fought back. Over 300,000 people signed the petition to the House of Lords demanding that they put those amendments back into the Bill. After the herculanean efforts of the public, the Lords just did that.
Now we need to channel that spirit once again. We’ve learnt that despite the government having an 80 seat majority, it is incredibly susceptible to public pressure and has governed by u-turn. That means this is a fight we can win.
The Trade Bill is returning to parliament on Tuesday 19 January, when MPs will have the chance to protect our NHS once again. It’s absolutely crucial that this time they vote the right way.
That’s why We Own It is asking everyone who cares about the NHS to take part in the fight. We’re asking people to spread the word as far as possible online by recording and sharing a short video explaining why protecting the NHS from trade deals is so important, and telling two of your friends to do the same. The videos are being shared on #NHSProtectionNow, and there’s a guide for making your video here.
As Nye Bevan said, the NHS will survive as long as there will be people there to fight for it. Now is the time to fight.