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TTIP “bigger than the Common Market agreement”

16th January 2015

TTIP “bigger than the Common Market agreement”

House of Commons Debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership January 15th 2015

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab):

In my traditional role as the last Back-Bench speaker, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), as others have done, for bringing the subject before us.

These Back-Bench debates enable us to come to a view on a particular matter. It does not look as though there will be a vote today, apart from a shouted vote, in favour of my hon. Friend’s proposal, which aims for some element of democratic involvement in the process. For the record and for my constituents, if there were a vote today with regard to TTIP, I would vote against it. I think the majority of Members would vote against it because it is a pig in a poke. We do not know what it is.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar). It is a good job that he is not here, as he would probably have a heart attack hearing that. He described TTIP as the establishment of the biggest institutional trade agreement since we joined the Common Market. That is true. If one considers the scale of this agreement, the population that it covers and the immensity of the world trade that it covers, it is bigger than the Common Market agreement. I cannot understand why we are not going through the same process. When we entered the Common Market, we went through a lengthy process. There were Green Papers and White Papers. There were consultation papers that went to every household, and there was eventually a referendum because we thought it had such significance for the sovereignty of the people of this country.

The TTIP agreement passes over economic sovereignty on a scale that is equivalent to the establishment of the Common Market and the European Union, so I cannot understand why the Government are allowing that to happen without the full involvement of the people. Well, I think I can understand it, because most people have guessed it by now. This is about the corporate capture of policy making in this country and in parts of Europe. The only direct response MPs have had from the Government dates back to last September, when our constituents started contacting us. Eventually we got a letter from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills trying to assuage the anxieties expressed to us by our constituents. He went through a series of points.

We need to start having a real debate with our constituents on the points that the Secretary of State made. He argued that there would be immense economic benefits. We heard that today—at least £10 billion of increased trade as a benefit to this country, and a significant number of jobs. The bizarre thing about it is that the work commissioned by the Government and the Centre for Economic Policy Research states that there is a risk of a million jobs being lost in this country overall.

Each point the Secretary of State made is now contested. On small businesses, he argued in his letter that the trade agreement would be good for small business in this country. That is contested by the small business lobby in this country and right across Europe in every sector, particularly agriculture. On deregulation, the Secretary of State tried to allay fears about deregulation and said that there would be a levelling up rather than a levelling down. We heard today from a range of speakers. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who went through a series of areas where there is a risk to the standards we have set in this country across the provision of services.

With regard to the NHS being under attack and the assurances that we have been given, the person who said that TTIP would cover the NHS was not on the Opposition Benches. It was the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). He was asked whether the NHS would come within the ambit of the agreement and he confirmed that it would. We have had assurances since then, but the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) pointed out that since those assurances, if we look at the detail of the paperwork provided to us at last, it demonstrates that there is a series of caveats. That means that the NHS is still at risk.

We come to the main issue at stake, the ISDS process. This is a transfer of power and decision making from democratically elected sovereign bodies to a group of corporate lawyers sitting in private and in secret. This country might not have lost cases, but in countries where this process has operated and where sovereign Governments have made decisions about the provision of public services, the countries have lost out, and it has cost them billions. In some instances, it has impoverished whole countries and whole sectors of a particular industry.

TTIP presents a huge risk. I hope that if we pass the motion today unopposed, the Government will recognise that there needs to be a democratic process in place, not just for this House to scrutinise at each stage, but for the people of this country to be involved in the process. That is why I commend all those who pressurised us to have this debate today.

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