Thank you for contacting me about New Clause 17 and the Trade Bill.
At its core, the Trade Bill is a continuity Bill. It cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries. Instead it can only be used to implement the free trade agreements that the UK has been party to through EU membership.
All these agreements have already been subject to scrutiny as underlying EU agreements, through the European Scrutiny Committee (of which I was a member) or equivalent.
The NHS is already protected by specific carve outs, exceptions and reservations in these trade agreements. There is no intention to lower standards.
The very purpose of these agreements is to replicate as close as possible the effects of existing commitments in EU agreements. None of the 20 continuity agreements signed have resulted in standards being lowered.
It is also clear that no future trade agreement will be allowed to undermine the guiding principle of the NHS: that it is universal and free at the point of need. The Government’s clear and absolute commitment is that the NHS will be protected in any future trade agreement. Indeed, the price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table and nor will the services the NHS provides.
Overall, I believe this approach strikes an appropriate balance and I fully support the Trade Bill.