CONSERVATIVE MPs have been branded “disgraceful” after they voted down an amendment to the Trade Bill which sought to ensure the NHS is excluded from future trade deals.

MPs first voted against the amendment to the bill that sought to protect the NHS in July 2020, but held a second vote today after the House of Lords backed it in December.

MPs voted 357 to 266 against the amendment today. MPs also voted against an amendment to the bill which sought to ensure that parliament is able to scrutinise trade deals before they are signed by the government.

SNP MP Kenny MacAskill had argued that it is “absolutely essential” for the NHS to remain free at the point of the delivery.

He told the chamber: “We have to ensure the integrity of the NHS and ensure that it is not being undermined.”

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MacAskill also pointed to the Brexit trade bill, which he said “really was shameful in terms of the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny”.

He added: “The almost total absence of an opportunity [for Parliament to scrutinise trade deals] cannot be allowed to be replicated.”

Following the vote, criticism of Tory MPs came from campaign group We Own It, which has been campaigning for nearly 18 months to secure protections for the NHS in trade deals.

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Campaigners from the group claim that failing to pass the NHS protection amendment means the service could be opened up to American healthcare companies.

They said this right to access our NHS could be enshrined in international treaties, and privatisation could be “locked in”, making it increasingly difficult for a future government to reverse.

Speaking on the vote in parliament, We Own It campaigner Johnbosco Nwogbo said: “It’s frankly disgraceful Conservative MPs have steamrolled through a Trade Bill that offers absolutely no protection for our precious NHS.

“We’re now at risk of higher drug prices, private companies having increased access to our NHS and those same companies being able to sue the government if it tries to limit their ability to profit from our healthcare.

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"Worse still, parliament now won't even have a say in any future trade deals - meaning our NHS could be offered up on a silver platter to the highest bidder, and we wouldn't know a thing about it before a trade deal is signed and sealed.

“Conservative MPs have prioritised the interests of private healthcare companies over patients and public health. It’s a slap in the face to all of our heroic NHS staff, and every person who has relied on the NHS to help us through this pandemic. They should all hang their heads in shame.”

Opinion polling suggests that the public share campaigners’ fears. According to a poll from Survation, three quarters of the public want the NHS to be explicitly protected from trade deals.

In advance of the vote, over 10,000 people wrote to their MP asking them to vote for the NHS protection amendment.