Many residents of Brent North are rightly concerned about the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, and the impact that it may have on British businesses and, especially, on our NHS. Barry has set out his position on this matter below:
I fully appreciate that there is considerable concern about the TTIP negotiations and, indeed, I have received a large volume of correspondence from constituents in relation to the matter. I agree that it is essential that these proposals receive proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level and that any final deal must have transparency and accountability at its heart. I share your concerns about how little information about these negotiations has been placed in the public domain and believe that the Government need to do more to address these concerns and assure they are covered in the negotiating process.
From the outset I should make clear that I support the principles behind TTIP in general and that I believe there are ways that such an agreement could bring significant benefits to Britain, including removing trade barriers between our two most important markets (the EU and USA), boosting growth and creating jobs. It is crucial, however, that the benefits of TTIP filter down to employees, small businesses and consumers, that the deal is open and accountable and that it does not water down current labour, consumer, environmental and food safety standards.
It is also my view that we should only support a deal that fully protects public services – in particular the NHS. Our NHS and public services need to be more, not less, integrated and I am concerned at the worrying fragmentation of health services that is taking place under this Government. That is why I believe the Government should commit, as the Shadow Health Secretary has, to exempt the NHS from any final deal.
I know particular concern has also been expressed about the proposed inclusion of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in TTIP. I am not convinced that the proposed ISDS mechanism is either necessary or desirable in its current form and believe there needs to be greater transparency on this. The European Commission’s public consultation on ISDS was welcome and it is right that the European Commission has decided to temporarily suspend negotiations on ISDS until the final stages of the negotiations. I hope the Government will use this opportunity to call for far greater transparency around an exclusion for legislation in the public interest, like the NHS.
The Labour Party is pushing hard on the ISDS issue in the European Parliament, alongside our peers in the Social and Democratic Group of MEPs, as the Government and EU Commission consistently state that it will never be used in a deal with the US. If that is the case, then I believe it need not be included at all, especially given that our respective legal systems are reasonably similar with robust contract law precedents that should be adequate to cover any breaches of such contracts.
You may be aware, that a debate on TTIP took place in the House of Commons on 15th January 2015 during which many of these concerns were discussed and shared with the respective Government Ministers
I hope that the Government now listen and respond to these concerns and ensure that TTIP delivers the jobs, growth and fairer deal for consumers that we all want to see. Please be assured that the Labour Party will continue to press the Government on this matter and that I will be following any developments closely.