Local MP speaks out against government’s Trade Bill for failing to protect the NHS

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22 May 2020
Margaret Greenwood MP has spoken out against the government’s Trade Bill, saying that it ‘fails to protect the future of the NHS, since it does nothing to prevent trade deals from being done behind closed doors without proper parliamentary scrutiny’.

The Wirral West MP was participating via video link in the second reading debate of the Trade Bill as social distancing restrictions mean that only a limited number of MPs are able to be in the House of Commons at any one time.

Ms Greenwood also used the debate to pay tribute to the doctors, nurses and other NHS workers who are ‘putting their all into serving all of us’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

She highlighted other concerns that she has about the Bill including that it fails to protect high farming production standards in the context of international trade negotiations. She also argued that new trade agreements must not undermine UK standards of animal welfare, food safety or environmental protection.

The Bill also makes provision for a newly-established Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) by which the government can investigate the use of alleged unfair trading practices to damage the competitiveness of domestic producers.

Ms Greenwood argued that, while the UK needs its own TRA to investigate alleged unfair practices, the one provided for in this Bill lacks the independence, parliamentary oversight and accountability needed to ensure that it will operate transparently and fairly. Furthermore, there is no provision for ensuring a voice on the TRA for industry bodies or trade unions, and there is no mechanism proposed for their ongoing consultation on trade practices affecting the competitiveness of UK industries or the employment of workers therein.

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“There is a great deal of concern about this Bill because it fails to provide effective parliamentary scrutiny of future trade agreements.

“In effect the government will have free reign to do what it likes in signing trade agreements with countries around the world – including countries that do not have the same level of environmental protections, food safety and animal welfare regulations that we currently have.

“Organisations including the British Medical Association, the National Farmers’ Union and Compassion in World Farming have all raised serious concerns about the Bill.

“I am also very concerned that, while NHS and care workers are doing everything they can to tackle Covid-19 and to provide care and support to anyone who needs it, the government is seeking to pass a bill that does nothing to enable elected representatives to meaningfully scrutinise trade deals to protect the NHS.

“There should be rigorous parliamentary scrutiny of all future trade deals.”

You can watch Margaret Greenwood’s speech via this link: https://tinyurl.com/yc5dta8j