Helen speaks out on TTIP


I was pleased to participate in the TTIP debate and the motion was passed. I used the opportunity to raise my concerns about the value of TTIP, calling for full consideration of the significance of the economic benefits of TTIP weighed against the well documented disadvantages

In particular, I am not convinced that the rights and powers we may surrender are worth the returns.

You can read my full speech below or watch here.

Rest assured I will continue to keep a close eye on this issue.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I wish to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on securing this debate. I am very grateful to him for asking me to support his application to the Backbench Business Committee for this very important debate, and I agreed with everything that he said about the risks of TTIP and about the need for us to think more deeply about the institutional architecture as we move forward, so that trade, environment and labour standards are all put on an equal footing.

I also want to say what an excellent speech my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) made. He drew out the problems that similar arrangements have caused in developing countries. The point that he made demonstrated that those of us who are raising questions are fully in the tradition of all those who back the human rights and democratic values of Europe and America.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has analysed the benefits of TTIP. Its estimate is that the gain in this country by 2027 in terms of higher GDP would be £7 billion. When one hears the figure of £7 billion a year, that sounds like quite a lot, but let me put it in the context of the amount of trade we have in this country and the huge uncertainties about the forecasts as we go forward.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): I just want to make the point that statistics are bandied about for political advantage. My hon. Friend is quite right about the £7 billion, but how would it compare with the £62 billion of trade deficit with the European Union? Those are the kind of figures that make £7 billion very small indeed.

Helen Goodman: The point that I was going to make was that the Office for Budget Responsibility, in its forecast of GDP out to 2020, has an uncertainty of 6% in GDP. That is £160 billion, so we lose the £7 billion of economic benefits in the rounding. I am not saying that there will not be some economic benefits, but we should consider how significant they are and weigh them against the disadvantages that other hon. Members have mentioned. Will this have a significant benefit for our level of exports? By way of comparison, the impact on the level of growth in the markets to which we export is expected to be £338 billion over the next five years. If we have variations in the exchange rate, that will be far greater than the possible benefits we can get from this trade deal.

I am resting my case on the analysis from the Minister’s Department. On the assumption that the Department has got this right, each person in this country would benefit to the tune of £110 a year, or about £2 a week. It is very nice to have £2 a week and I am sure that we 

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would all rather have it than not, but if the price that has to be paid is a loss of working conditions, labour standards and potential improvements in the national minimum wage or national living wage, the benefits will not in practice accrue to ordinary people in this country. That is why people have doubts about this.

Colleagues have raised the concerns about the national health service, the environment and food standards. I think that the carve-out in the European Commission’s negotiating mandate secured by the French on audio-visual services is extremely important; it is also important that we maintain our cultural resources.

Let me come to the big downside of TTIP, which is the loss of sovereignty inherent in the investor-state dispute settlement. The intellectual integrity and honesty displayed in the speech of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made it a very important contribution to the debate.

Mr Spellar: Is not the logic of the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) just as much that he would rather we were not involved with the EU either, as another supranational body? Is there not a danger in this line of argument?

Helen Goodman: There is nothing in our arrangements with the EU that is similar in any way to the private court system under the ISDS. That was the point that the former Secretary of State was making.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) said earlier that not many cases have been taken under ISDS or won under ISDS, but it inhibits ministerial action because Ministers are worried about court cases. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester made the point that in developing countries the costs of running these court cases are a further inhibition on ministerial and democratic action.

Geraint Davies: Does my hon. Friend not agree that in most ISDS cases, we are the investor in developing countries, and we would be the ones to take action? In the American cases, they would be taking action against us. We have all the fire to come.

Helen Goodman: My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but I just want to say that I think that Ministers are inhibited from taking policy action by fear of court and legal proceedings. When I was a Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, albeit a very junior one, I was interested in considering the entitlements to benefits of migrants from eastern Europe. My officials not only would not make the changes I was asking them to make, but would not even give me advice on the matter. They said, “Minister, to advise you on that would be to advise you on an illegal action.” That is exactly the kind of conversation Ministers will get into with the ISDS.

Mr Lilley indicated assent.

Helen Goodman: I am pleased to see the right hon. Gentleman nodding in agreement.

Robert Jenrick: The UK has 110 bilateral investment treaties, almost all of which have ISDS, including with some very sophisticated countries such as Singapore 

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and Hong Kong, where the legal system, certainly for commercial cases, is acknowledged to be excellent and akin to ours. Is the hon. Lady saying that the UK should withdraw from all or some of those bilateral investment treaties, on the basis of her previous experience as a Minister?

Helen Goodman: I am not saying we should withdraw. Perhaps we should have more parliamentary scrutiny of what is going on under the arrangements we have; perhaps we are shedding a light on them; and perhaps we should be grateful for those constituents who have alerted us to the issue. I am grateful not because we have to accept every single message in its last detail, but because they have triggered my looking into this more deeply.

Lack of transparency in the negotiations, weak parliamentary scrutiny and the risks mean that it is very important that we do not agree to this measure unless we strip out the ISDS. I am extremely pleased to support the motion this afternoon.


published this page in Helen in Parliament 2015-12-22 16:59:53 +0000

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