Campaigners concerned about a trade deal they fear could end up affecting the most vulnerable people in Sheffield handed in a petition to their MP.
Members of online campaign group 38 Degrees in Sheffield Hallam want to stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP – a trade and investment treaty being negotiated between the EU and America.
Their fears focus on the impact they claim it could potentially have on the NHS, as private companies would be able to take legal action against foreign governments if their profits are threatened in an ‘investor state dispute settlement.’ A Swedish company has sued the German government because it is phasing out nuclear power.
And campaigners want action to be taken particularly because of devolution, which has already handed powers and cash to Manchester to run health services.
Sheffield City Region’s in-principle £900m devolution deal does not include any transfer of health services but campaigners say the city could follow Manchester’s example.
Greystones resident Geraldine O’ Connor, who handed in the petition of 1,057 names to Hallam MP Nick Clegg, said: “If the national NHS is taken to court, government would deal with the costs.
“Once there is a devolved authority they will have the budget and have to pay to defend themselves in court and cover all the legal costs.
“That would mean there would have to be further cuts to pay for those legal costs, which will affect the most vulnerable people.”
Campaigners say the deal should be stopped, legislation created to protect the NHS, or health service funding ‘ring fenced’.
Mr Clegg said: “Having spoken to the EU Commissioner in great detail about this, it is quite clear to me that the reported threats to the NHS I don’t think will materialise – and I certainly wouldn’t vote for an agreement which curtails our right to control and organise the NHS as we wish.”
He said he shares concerns about other aspects of the deal such as transparency, and would write to Business Secretary Sajid Javid about them.
He praised campaigners for their interest in the issue and said it was important trade rules were not ‘written for us’ by countries ‘on the other side of the world.’