Plaid Cymru wants to stop Trump getting hold of our Welsh NHS – why won’t Labour help us?

Donald Trump. Picture by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Delyth Jewell AM, Plaid Cymru AM for South East Wales

At election time, the NHS often dominates debate. But the reason why the future of our beloved health service is so starkly at stake in this dark December election is just this: if Boris Johnson gets his Brexit deal, there’ll be little to stop parts of the NHS being privatised in order to make way for a trade deal with the US.

In the Senedd today (Wednesday), Plaid Cymru is holding a debate that’s aimed at ensuring that this privatisation can’t happen to our NHS in Wales. Unfortunately, Welsh Labour seem unable to put politics aside and are on course to water down the motion down.  Why is this?

We’ve known for months that Donald Trump wants the NHS to be on the table in future trade deal negotiations, and documents released last week showed that Whitehall is preparing the ground for allowing full market access for US drugs in the NHS. You can almost hear the big pharmaceutical companies’ cash registers ringing in delight.

If this nightmarish future comes into being, NHS funds would be diverted from frontline services, and patient safety could be compromised by deregulation and a race to the bottom with standards. It would be unconscionable for us to allow this to go ahead. Especially when we know what actions are needed to stop it.

Most people understand that certain policy fields like health and education are devolved, and that responsibility for these areas lies with the Welsh Government. So far, so good: you’d expect that this would mean that no such threat to the Welsh NHS could go ahead.

Damningly, however, there is a little-known (and, until now, unused) provision in the Government of Wales Act 2006 in Section 82 which allows the UK Government to interfere in these devolved fields if international obligations are in question. That means that a UK Government Minister could be allowed to ride roughshod through devolution and compel the Welsh Government to comply with an international trade deal – including one that puts the NHS up for privatisation.

And I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t trust the Tories with our NHS.  I never have and never will, but this latest threat is one that strikes at the very heart of our health service.

 

Vote

It’s for this very reason that Plaid Cymru AMs are calling for Section 82 of the Wales Act to be repealed – so that no Westminster government could force any Welsh Government to comply with their bogus and dangerous trade plans. We’re also calling for devolved parliaments in the UK to be given a veto over trade matters that affect devolved fields.

After all, there are some countries where even regions within nation-states are given a veto in these circumstances, such as Wallonia in Belgium. If a Belgian region can have this right to block dangerous deals from affecting their citizens, why on earth shouldn’t the nation of Wales have that same right?

It’s baffling to me that the Welsh Government look set to vote against these measures in our debate this afternoon.  Let’s make no mistake here: Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are a threat to our NHS in Wales.

I think we should take every step that we can to protect this national institution from destruction. I can only hope that Labour will change their minds before it’s too late.

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Huw DaviesSibrydionmawrjr humphrysAdam Watkinsjonesy Recent comment authors
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Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Complying with international trade treaties if Wales had to approve or could veto any one of the myriad regulations would give real power to our elected representatives. They could hold the uk to ransom and demand extra funding for anything in order to be bought off. Could be interesting times ahead.

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

Wallonia is almost half of Belgium. Comparing the UK’s lopsided devolved and not devolved constitution and the Belgian constitution is like comparing a pomegranate to a bunch of grapes. Consequently saying Wallonia has the right to x or y doesn’t tell us much. It might be best to avoid the Belgian approach considering the overall picture.

Ken Davies
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The principle remains the same surely. The point is that Section 82 should be repealed. We do not need a precedent.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

(Devil’s Advocate)Why would Trump want the NHS? He is, at heart, a businessman whose God is profit. The NHS will never make a profit from the funding given by every UK Government. When he said he wouldn’t want it ‘even if it was handed over on a silver platter’, I think he was actually saying it wasn’t worth his while to take it over and turn it into a profitable business. The US people are used to the idea of paying for health care, the UK are into the fifth generation of people getting healthcare free at the point of… Read more »

Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

These are really interesting points, The NHS currently buys drugs from big US Pharma but as a monopoly purchaser the profitability for manufacturers is low. When we get scare stories about drug shortages it’s because manufacturers prefer to sell them to other markets where profit (therefore return on investment) is higher, so we shouldn’t complain. Corbyn’s plan to build from scratch a big UK drug manufacturer is nonsense, if he’d said he was going to do it in cars and take on (say) Toyota, he would be laughed at. The NHS problem is structure and management. As the national religion… Read more »

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

Tories will introduce “Nurse” – surgeries as a first line, or online (that should put a few wrinklies off ).
Should anyone actually make it to a health centre, the nurse is who they will see first.
People with money will see a doctor straight away. Johnson has said what he thinks of the lower orders
so once in power he will joke and flannel his way to winkling us out. Trump said he will not “interfere in UK politics”, but “Boris will do a great job”, and “Brexit is a good thing”.

jonesy
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jonesy

THis is a total red herring and fodder to an electorate who are politically iliterate- can you give us some policies that matter please, instead of scaremongering ,both Plad and Labour

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

The “other HD” agrees with much of the comment made by the Devil’s Advocate above. If the USA Big Pharma wanted the NHS, I’m sure the Tories would contrive a means of selling it on, but points about the huge cultural and social changes involved are valid. Also it might prove to be too big a pill for Big Pharma to swallow ( forgive me, I couldn’t resist that one !). The biggest challenge for next few decades is to save the NHS from itself. It remains wasteful, but such is its elevated sacred status that we are not allowed… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

Do you drive? If you do, then of course you’ll realise that it could cost the taxpayer money if you have an accident and have to be admitted to hospital for treatment. Now there might be extenuating circumstances, such as you live in a rural area with no, or at least a very limited public transport. But if you live in a more urban area, there is no need to drive you car because there is regular and frequent public transport, so you don’t need to be so selfish, causing not only traffic congestion, but also local pollution of the… Read more »

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Some interesting points raised there. If you are a driver you could get involved in an accident. You may be at fault or it may be the fault of the other party. Both parties should be insured. Accordingly the NHS & Ambulance Services, and possibly Fire and Rescue Services should be at liberty to levy charges for their services to recover costs. Insurance companies would have to sort out eventual liability but just as they do when funding repairs to cars they should fund the repairs to people. Lots of drunks attend rugby matches and other events. Some fall down,… Read more »

Adam Watkins
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Adam Watkins

Edit: Ignore.

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

Parliamentary arithmetic may sometimes force the English to accept interference from their “Celtic” conquests. But does anyone honestly think the English would willingly hand over a veto on trade deals to the Scots, N.Irish or the Welsh as soon as they repatriate the power from the EU? The government in London will not give up the right to interfere in any devolved administration or dependency. OK, they did in the Caribbean Associated States, then followed the embarrassment of Operation Sheepskin, Anguilla, 1969.

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

Let’s get Exit Brexit done, then.