Eurosceptic Tory rebels are threatening to vote down the Queen’s Speech unless Prime Minister David Cameron agrees to a Labour Party amendment to exempt the National Health Service (NHS) from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
25 potential Tory rebels are reportedly considering whether to unite with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour opposition and the Scottish National Party to impose a historic defeat on their own party. The last time a government was defeated on a Queen’s Speech amendment was back in 1924, after which Stanley Baldwin had to resign as Prime Minister leaving Ramsay MacDonald to form the first Labour government in British history.
Tabled today, the amendment in question will be published tomorrow. It calls for House of Commons to “respectfully regret that a Bill to protect the National Health Service from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was not included in the Gracious Speech”.
The cross-party supported amendment, which seeks to secure a specially-protected status for the NHS in the final TTIP deal, stands a chance of passing as the Conservative Party’s majority in the House of Commons is just 17.
Its proposal follows warnings from the likes of former Foreign Secretary and Minister of State for Health, Lord Owen, who has warned the NHS faces a “myriad of dangers” from TTIP.
The Labour Party offered its support for the amendment saying “it’s completely in line with our manifesto commitments in 2015”. However The Independent reports that some pro-European Labour MPs see it as further evidence of their party leader’s apparent ambivalence towards Britain’s membership of the European Union.
One of the Conservative Members of Parliament jointly tabling the amendment is the former Secretary of State for Social Security, Peter Lilley. Explaining his support for the amendment he said:
“I support free trade. But TTIP introduces special courts which are not necessary for free trade, will give American multinationals the right to sue our government (but not vice versa) and could put our NHS at risk.
“I cannot understand why the government has not tried to exclude the NHS.
“I and other Tory MPs successfully lobbied to bring a failing private Surgicenter serving our constituencies back into the NHS. It would have been impossible or hugely costly under TTIP had there had been an American owner who could have sued the NHS in a TTIP Court.”
According to The Guardian a spokesman for the prime minister said: “The health service is completely protected under this agreement. Members do not have to outsource services to private providers. I refer you to the Prime Minister’s previous statements on this when he told Parliament that it would be the ‘reddest of herrings’”.
The vote on the amendment is due to take place next Wednesday.