Lord Owen, the Social Democrat Party (SDP) leader, who left the Labour party in 1981 because of its resistance to reform has recently donated 7,500 pounds to Labour. The Labour leader Ed Miliband has received the backing of 86% of his party for his proposed leadership voting reforms, which have implications for Labour’s ability to fundraise and traditional trade union power.
Lord Owen has seen this as a convenient time to award a donation to his old party saying that; “this is a bold and brave reform’ and ‘to help Labour reverse the 2012 NHS legislation…I have made a declarable contribution of over 7,500 Pounds to Labour funds.’ The former neurologist has been among the most ardent critics of the NHS legislation stating that ‘saving the NHS is my main political priority.’
It is clear then that Lord Owen thinks that NHS legislation is reversible in spite of the TTIP trade agreement between the EU and the USA. TTIP could potentially see NHS reforms stabilized on an international legal footing by potentially harmonising UK and US health systems and opening the door to private healthcare providers, essentially making NHS privatization permanent. Although the agreement is far from being signed, it is being protected from unofficial influence by what Lord Owen has called a ‘conspiracy of silence’.
Yet it is unclear if the trade agreement is ratified, whether or not the NHS will be exempt. Labour’s health minister Andy Burnham has called for the NHS to be exempted from the agreement, while a precedent in the form of the Canadian-EU trade agreement saw health provision removed from the list of Investor rights. US companies have higher expectations, probably spurred on by David Cameron writing in the Wall Street Journal that ‘everything must be on the table’.
Lord Owen seems sceptical about Britain’s ability to remain a member of the European Union and return to old NHS structuring. He has told the House of Lords that he would prefer to see an EU referendum in 2015, two years before the date that Cameron has proposed.