THE BLOG

No Government Has a Mandate to Allow the Irreversible Sale of Our NHS

09/09/2014 17:30 BST | Updated 09/11/2014 10:59 GMT

At the TUC conference in Liverpool on Wednesday, trade unionists representing millions of working people are expected to demand that David Cameron use his veto in Europe to protect our beloved NHS from a dangerous trade deal called TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it," so said Nye Bevan, who founded the National Health Service 66 years ago.

Two years after the government launched the biggest attack on our health service in its history, we are seeing communities coming together in the fight of their lives to save our NHS. Now growing numbers of people are getting wise to this sinister trade deal which is threatening to make the Tory sell-off of the NHS irreversible.

In 2012 the Tory's Health and Social Care Act forced the NHS to put billions of pounds worth of vital services up for sale. Over 70% of tendered services have gone to private health firms such as Circle, whose investors have donated an estimated £1.5million to Conservative coffers.

No government had a mandate to sell-off our NHS or to sign an agreement that effectively allows the irreversible sale of our NHS to American corporations. Unite has uncovered what we believe to be corruption in regard to politicians who voted for the sell-off of the NHS, which we will be exposing.

We know what previous sell-offs have meant - just look at energy. At the time we were told that the privatisation of energy would mean a better service and cheaper bills. But energy bosses are making record profits and our bills keep going up. David Cameron called the six energy companies to his office about six months ago about the cost of bills and tariffs and they told him to go away - you don't own us was their message. This is what it will be like for health but worse as privatisation will be irreversible under TTIP. Our NHS would be in the hands of profiteers and we would have no say.

TTIP is being negotiated behind the closed doors of the European Commission, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation of the NHS irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers.

TTIP would grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, the power to sue the government if it ever attempted to take privatised health services back into public ownership.

This has already happened in Eastern Europe, where the government of Slovakia was forced to pay over €22million to Dutch insurer Achmea when it attempted to introduce public health insurance.

Yet, it isn't only US companies who could sue. It could be any company with US investors. Big Wall Street players like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the private health firms taking over the NHS.

So you won't be surprised to hear that health firms are very keen on TTIP. Circle for example took over the UK's first privatised hospital in Hinchingbrooke Cambridgeshire. The CEO of Circle Holdings, Michael J Kirkwood is an Advisory Director for British American Business, the transatlantic business group lobbying for TTIP.

Big business is lining up to cheerlead for the deal and the government and the European Commission hoped that they could keep this iceberg, which could sink the NHS, hidden from the view ordinary people - but they have got it very wrong.

There has been a major groundswell of opinion against the deal. When people learn what TTIP means for the NHS they feel a sense of genuine outrage. The scale of opposition was first seen in July, when the Commission was swamped by 150,000 responses to its online consultation. Over 52,000 came from the UK - unheard of for an EU consultation.

Polling funded by my union Unite found that 68% of voters in key marginal seats opposed the inclusion of the NHS in TTIP and 64% said Cameron should seek to exclude the NHS.

There are campaign groups across the UK fighting to save the NHS. From Dorset to Dumfries people are spreading the word about the dangers of TTIP. More and more voters are asking their MPs about what they are doing to put pressure on David Cameron to use his veto and exclude the NHS.

Rather than meet campaigners' concerns head on, the UK government aided by the European Commission have orchestrated a campaign of misinformation and spin, taking full advantage of the secrecy surrounding the talks. That's why I have written to all UK MEPs to debunk the spin and to urge them to vote against TTIP if the NHS has not been exempted.

But ultimately responsibility for this trade deal begins and ends with David Cameron and the Tory party. He could act today and demand that the NHS is exempt from TTIP. The French have already succeeded in exempting their film industry. There is nothing stopping David Cameron from doing the same for our beloved NHS.

I believe that the NHS is one of the greatest achievements ever and a reason to be truly proud of our country. It is the ultimate symbol of a civilised society. We can rely on the NHS, for ourselves and our families. Everyone gets treated equally, regardless of how much money they have. We don't pay to see a doctor or to go to hospital.

Why hasn't David Cameron acted to protect the NHS from this trade deal? The Prime Minister has tried to stop the EU capping bankers' bonuses, he's threatened to veto an EU treaty if it failed to protect the City of London. David Cameron has even vowed to veto the Albanian membership of the EU.

On TTIP his silence has been deafening. So it's our job to shout and make our voice heard. The man who is trying to sell the NHS needs to be told that we are prepared to fight for it and he and his party will face their reckoning at the ballot box.