The government’s Trade Bill went through its final stages in the House of Commons yesterday. Unfortunately, the Tories were able to defeat every amendment and pass their version of the Bill.
The Bill gives alarming powers to Tory ministers to negotiate trade deals without reference to MPs or the public we represent. This is especially concerning given the Trump administration has made clear that the US, operating from the principle of ‘America First’, will be aiming to prise open UK markets to floods of US goods that fail our standards of quality, animal welfare and environmental impact. They also want to unravel our NHS by opening it up to US pharmaceutical companies.
Given the interest in the Bill and the specific amendments, I thought it would be useful to share voting breakdown for each amendment (‘New Clauses’) that were selected for debate last night:
- Amendment NC4 (Rebel Conservative amendment, supported by Labour): International trade agreements must be subject to approval in Parliament. Result: 263* for / 326 against – Government win
- Amendment NC10 (Opposition amendment): The draft text of proposed international trade agreements must be made publicly available. Result: 244 for / 345 against – Government win
- Amendment NC11 (Opposition amendment): Any agricultural imports in a trade deal must meet existing UK standards. Result: 251 for / 337 against – Government win
- Amendment NC17 (Opposition amendment): Health and care services must not be opened up to private companies through a trade deal. Result: 251 for / 340 against – Government win
- Final vote on the Trade Bill (Government motion). Result: 335 for / 243 against – Government win
The full breakdowns can be found online (here). Labour MPs voted consistently for the amendments and against the final bill, while the smaller parties voted variously.
Clearly, these results reflect the bitter reality of the Parliamentary arithmetic following last December’s General Election. It is worth highlighting, though, that so many Brexiteer Tories who campaigned in the EU Referendum on promises to protect the NHS and restore Parliamentary sovereignty lined up to effectively sell out those principles last night. Even the handful of Tory MPs who rebelled to support amendments didn’t oppose the final bill.
This is a disappointing and upsetting outcome. I know that some campaign groups said this was the ‘last chance to save our NHS’. My simple message would be: it’s not. This bill enables the Government to sell out our health service or our food safety standards to Trump, but it does not make that inevitable. There will be many fights ahead for us all to hold the government to account and block such a trade deal.