THE BLOG
05/06/2015 13:34 BST | Updated 05/06/2016 06:59 BST

The Future of the NHS Is Under Serious Threat - Ukip Is the Only Party Prepared to Defend It

The future of the National Health Service is under serious threat in the European Parliament next week - yet Ukip is the only major British political party prepared to defend it.

Despite all their endless rhetoric about "saving" the NHS during the general election last month, Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are now preparing to throw this cherished institution to the chomping wolves of avaricious American corporations.

Nye Bevan, the founding father of the NHS, must be turning in his grave.

In Strasbourg on Wednesday, the European Parliament - of which I am a part - will take a vote on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the USA.

It may sound tremendously dull, but the not-so-small print within it is anything but.

My particular concern within this proposal is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which could allow American corporates to win contracts in the NHS - and then potentially sue the government if a change in policy cuts their profits.

This sets up glaring liabilities for both the British taxpayer and the NHS itself, which I as an individual and Ukip as a party regard as totally unacceptable.

That's because it threatens the very fabric of the NHS, with its potentially highly profitable parts becoming sitting ducks in the deadly crosshairs of big American business.

Even so, at the EU's International Trade Committee meeting on 7 May, the big political groups to which Labour, Lib Dem and Tory MEPs belong, rejected a Ukip amendment to ensure the NHS was ring-fenced in any negotiations with the United States of America.

It's not as though there haven't been any prior warnings about the mess this could end up in, either.

Australia has a TTIP-style agreement with Hong Kong for "the promotion and protection of investments".

But when the Australian government proposed to bring in rules regarding plain packaging for cigarettes, the tobacco giant Philip Morris challenged it in court arguing that the law was a breach of the Hong Kong-Australia agreement.

That case rumbles on but it demonstrates that when governments sign up to these agreements they no longer have the final say.

The policies of a democratically elected government could be overturned by big business and their expensive lawyers.

Indeed, Ukip has perhaps unusually found itself aligned on the TTIP issue with the UNITE union and their leader, Len McCluskey, who is also against the ISDS.

I declared last year that Ukip will fight alongside Unite to ensure the NHS is excluded from this agreement, because the NHS is about our welfare, caring and protecting the people of this country, and it should not be an article in a trade agreement between the EU and the USA.

We firmly believe that NHS care should be free at the point of access, and TTIP threatens that.

Plus, TTIP is being negotiated by the unelected European Union Trade Commissioner behind closed doors - a situation that is actually supported by Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Ukip is of course in favour of free trade, but TTIP is a corporatist stitch-up and it should be for the British people to decide their stance on this vital issue.

It is almost inevitable that such ill thought-out rules will be created when the people negotiating them are not accountable to the voters.

The full European Parliament will vote on TTIP when it meets next week in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday 10 June.

I will be voting "no" - and I urge all others to do the same.

Louise Bours is Ukip MEP for the North-West