NHS (Future Trade Agreements)

I understand concerns regarding standards in future trade agreements, the scrutiny of such agreements, and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. Given that ISDS mechanisms are a complicated subject, I can understand why there is some confusion surrounding them. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the inclusion of such provisions in trade agreements is routine and has no impact on UK sovereignty.

The Government is committed to transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of its trade agreements. Parliament will be able to inform negotiations, be regularly updated, and will ultimately play its role in the ratification of any new Free Trade Agreement through the process set out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. I am confident these measures will ensure that both the public and parliamentarians get the chance to have their say on future trade agreements.

The UK has more than 90 bilateral investment treaties in place with other countries and there has never been a successful ISDS claim brought against the UK, nor has the threat of potential claims affected the Government's legislative programme.

I would like to reassure you that ISDS does not, and cannot, force the privatisation of public services such as the NHS. In addition, the UK supports transparency in ISDS. The new United Nations Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration, to which the UK is a signatory, are specifically designed to address such concerns.

The Government is committed to protecting the NHS. Indeed, the NHS is safeguarded by specific exemptions in all EU trade agreements and, as our country leaves the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is party to.