WHO Treaty

Thank you for contacting me about a potential new international treaty for pandemic preparedness. Due to an existing diary commitment, I was unable to attend the debate on 17 April. However, I understand there was a robust cross-party discourse and the Minister outlined the Government's position on the treaty.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges to the established international order since the Second World War; a global threat that has required global solutions borne out of global cooperation. As in the late 1940s, where, to avert a repeat of the catastrophe of total war, world leaders united to establish the multilateral system we have today, the Government believes it is reasonably fair to argue that a similar effort is required on the part of world leaders to strengthen preparedness for potential future pandemics. It was the suggestion of the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, writing with other world leaders in 2021, that the international community should commit to producing a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response. I understand that such a treaty would aim to foster greatly enhanced cooperation in order to better protect the UK from the health, social and economic impacts of pandemics.

Discussions are ongoing at the World Health Organisation to this end. The UK Government wants to reach agreement on its priority areas such as improving transparency, timely data sharing and supporting equitable access to vaccines and treatments. I appreciate your concerns about this; however, the Government will not support any treaty which compromises the UK's sovereignty. There is nothing in the proposed treaty that would impact our ability to take decisions about national lockdowns or associated measures at the national level and we should not support one which gave the WHO powers to make such decisions, which are rightly the preserve of national governments.

Once adopted, international treaties only become binding in the UK when ratified by Parliament in accordance with our constitutional process. No international treaty can by itself change UK law. If changes to the law are necessary, then a treaty could not be ratified until domestic legislation, agreed by Parliament, was put in place.

Thank you again for contacting me.