POLITICS

Cameron Sacked The Guy Meant To Protect The NHS In Controversial TTIP Trade Deal

14/08/2014 15:36 BST | Updated 15/08/2014 16:59 BST
Oli Scarff via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Conservative party leader, David Cameron (L), beside Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, introduces Ken Clarke (R) to his economic team at Portcullis House on January 19, 2009 in London, England. Mr Clarke returns to the Conservative front bench to assume the role of Shadow Business Secretary. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

David Cameron no longer has a cabinet minister responsible for the controversial trade deal that critics fear could open up the NHS to "irreversible" privatisation.

Ken Clarke oversaw the negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations as minister without portfolio. However, the former Tory chancellor was reshuffled out of government in July, with the Prime Minister so far not giving the responsibility to another cabinet minister.

The deal has attracted controversy due to the apparent secrecy of its negotiations and the fear that the NHS could be opened up to US companies in an "irreversible" privatisation process.

Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey told the Huffington Post UK: “The fact that Cameron has failed to name a minister responsible for TTIP only adds to the confusion coming from Whitehall. Our call for a clear NHS exemption has been met with a series of contradicting statements and evasive answers.

"First David Cameron claims that there are no exemptions, then EU Trade Commission Karel De Gucht suggests that the NHS may have been exempted. Now civil servants are sending out statements claiming that the NHS was never in TTIP to begin with. It seems the government simply does not know what the world’s largest bilateral trade deal actually covers.

"What is clear is that David Cameron can choose to exempt the NHS if he’s prepared to fight for it. He was prepared to go to Europe to defend bankers’ bonuses; will he act now and insist on an exemption for the NHS, before our local services are permanently sold off to predatory American corporations?”

Supporters of the EU-US trade deal point to an assurance given by Europe's lead negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, that the NHS "can be fully safeguarded". However, concern remains as Bercero said that health remained "within the scope" of the negotiations.

9 Problems You Didn't Know About The TTIP US-EU Deal

Labour MP John Healey urged Cameron to find a cabinet minister to oversee the trade deal negotiations, warning: "The Prime Minister should reconsider his decision and restore a top-level Cabinet role to battle for Britain on this TTIP deal. If he does not respond, then it is hard to see how he can honour his commitments a year ago at the G8 summit or how we can win over a sceptical public and powerful international interests to secure an EU-US deal that delivers for Britain.”

See also:

A Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed that no cabinet minister would be responsible for overseeing the TTIP negotiations, with it falling to trade minister Lord Livingston.

“Lord Livingston will continue to oversee the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as part of his role as Minister of State for Trade and Investment," the spokesperson told HuffPostUK. "He will report to members of the Cabinet – including the Prime Minister – on the progress of these negotiations as appropriate.”

Syed Kamall, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, recently poured scorn on the "myths' surrounding the TTIP negotiations.

Blogging on the Huffington Post UK, he wrote: "If the TTIP negotiations cover issues other than trade, it becomes known as a "mixed agreement" and will have to be ratified by the British Parliament.

"Democratic oversight and transparency is a core shared objective of the parties and Members of the European Parliament across the political spectrum are closely monitoring the different stages of the process in order to inform our citizens and to engage them in the process."