CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to step up their fight to protect the NHS after a legal bid to prevent it being “on the table” in post-Brexit trade deals was voted down by Tory MPs.

A series of amendments to the Trade Bill aimed at protecting the NHS from control from outside the UK and allowing more parliamentary scrutiny of deals were rejected in the House of Commons last week.

More than 230,000 people have now signed a petition urging peers to introduce fresh amendments to the Bill when it goes to the House of Lords in the autumn.

Pascale Robinson, campaigns officer for anti-privatisation pressure group We Own It, said unless specific protections were in place for the NHS, there was the risk of the health service being opened up in trade deals to American healthcare firms and drug prices increasing.

She said the huge response to the petition in the space of just a few days showed how angry people were at the result of the voting down of the amendments.

“It has shown that platitudes about protecting our NHS are a barefaced lie – and that we will not forgive or forget those MPs who did not stand up for the NHS in that vote,” she said.

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Robinson also pointed that while health was devolved in Scotland, the proposals around the UK “internal market” meant it would be impacted by any trade deal. She added: “They call it levelling the playing field, meaning there is the same access – what will happen is Scotland will have to accept goods and services of the same standard as the UK.”

The British Medical Association said it was “disappointing” the amendments were voted down, adding it would have “gone some way to protecting the health service and public health in trade agreements”.

BMA council deputy chair and trade negotiations lead Dr David Wrigley said: “The BMA is clear that the only true protection we have is if our health service and standards are protected by law. As the Bill moves on for consideration by the Lords, it is vital this pivotal point to do so is not lost.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas had put forward an amendment to stop the health service being a part of trade deals, saying “red lines” were needed in the negotiations. The bid to give MPs and peers a say on any new trade deals signed by UK ministers was a rebellion led by Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly.

Meanwhile, SNP MPs were among those who submitted an amendment to ensure Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could give their consent to trade regulations containing matters within their remit, which was also rejected.

All six Scottish Tory MPs voted against these amendments, which were backed by the SNP, Labour and LibDems.

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Following Monday’s vote, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie was one of a number of Conservatives who pointed to the party’s manifesto commitment which pledged the NHS will “not be on the table” in any trade negotiations.

“Just to be clear no one voted to sell the NHS last night. It is not for sale. It is not on the table,” he tweeted.

But Gay Lee, a nurse and member of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said: “That is the argument of well, we promised, so we don’t need to put it in writing and we don’t need to put it law.

“The Government is not particularly trusted at the moment, so how they think that argument is going to wash with people I don’t know.”

The UK Government has also insisted that any changes affecting the NHS would have to come before parliament.

However, at present the role of Westminster in approving treaties is based on rules established 100 years ago, which means there is no systematic scrutiny and consent to ratification is given by default, with no debate or vote required.

Dr Brigid Fowler, senior researcher at think tank the Hansard Society, said the view of most constitutional lawyers who had examined the issue is that the current system is not fit for purpose – and particularly now the UK is negotiating its own free trade agreements.

She said: “This was the first time that a Conservative MP had put his head over the parapet and said we think we should amend this.

“It was really significant that there are now clearly some Conservative backbenchers who aren’t happy – but there weren’t enough of them.

“At the moment there’s nothing in law to stop a UK minister just signing a free trade agreement without MPs having seen it.”

She added: “You’re making a form of law when you sign an international treaty like that and you’re also making economic policy.

“It could have massive implications for different industries and for different parts of the country.”

Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, pointed out peers had successfully passed a democratic scrutiny amendment in the previous Trade Bill. The bill was subsequently dropped by the UK Government when Westminster was prorogued last year.

“It is really interesting that this is one of the few areas where there has actually been a Tory rebellion,” Dearden said.

“The Government is really under the most enormous pressure on this.”