Contribution by Dave Anderson MP in Debate on TTIP, 15 January 2015
Mr David Anderson (Blaydon [on-Tyne, UK]) (Lab): I support fair trade, but properly regulated trade. Countries that trade are less likely to end up fighting each other. We would be daft, as the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr Walter) said, to turn our back on a market that includes the biggest consumer society in the world. If we have the opportunity to work those people properly, why would we not do so?
However, experience tells us to be wary. At the heart of the matter is trust, or the lack of it, in the people we deal with, the failure to be able to hold people accountable, and the worry that the power of Government and big business will be used to abuse people, exploit people and get away with things that it should not get away with.
I have personal experience of going to the World Trade Organisation summit in Seattle in 1999 and the one in Qatar in 2001. The 1999 summit was a summit of hope. People from around the world went there with a belief that we would make great strides. The big stride that we were looking for from the labour movement was to build into trade negotiations core labour standards whereby nations that wanted to trade with the rest of the world would not use child labour or slave labour.
Unfortunately, those talks fell apart because of the behaviour of some people on the ground and the over-reaction of the Seattle police, which led to the stalling of the conference.
Two years later in Qatar there was no such hope. Two years later, in the aftermath of 9/11, there was only one game in town—George W. Bush wanted to go through Pakistan to Afghanistan to chase al-Qaeda. Nothing else mattered. The Pakistanis, who were crucial to a discussion on core labour standards, did not engage at all with anybody. Because they did not engage, the Americans did not engage. That led to the failure of that round, which has resulted in the stalling of world trade discussions ever since.
We are now 15 years on. The hon. Member for North Dorset described the process as slow and grinding. It is not slow and grinding; it has virtually halted. That is why we are talking today about another way round what went on or did not go on in those discussions. To have any chance of going forward, we need safeguards, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) pointed out. We need the right of scrutiny and the people need reassurance. When he was in opposition, the Prime Minister lectured the Labour party time and again about the need for transparency and the benefits of letting the sunshine in. That is what we are talking about here.
It would have been better if, since he became Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman had put that policy into practice—for example, by releasing the papers relating to the miners strike and behaviour of people at the Orgreave coke works, and the papers that go back 42 years to the Shrewsbury pickets. Some of those men are now nearly 90 years old and still cannot access the papers held in the Cabinet Office and other Government buildings that would prove they were innocent.
Lectures on transparency do not work; facts do. If there is nothing to hide in the negotiations, give us the scrutiny we need. Give us the scrutiny we demand and deserve. Cut out the secrecy and closed doors, and stop using the confidentiality claim. Shine a light so that people can see what is going on.
Let us be clear. The huge doubt that exists is not engendered solely by organisations such as 38 Degrees or the trade union movement. There is huge doubt in the public mind about the role of these trade negotiations in undermining vital public services.
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?
Mr Anderson: No. There is not much time.
The truth is that people in this country are sick to death of the way public services have been treated over the past three decades. We have the nationalised train companies of other countries running our train services. We have multinational energy companies fleecing the old and poor in this country who are trying to keep their lights on and their houses warm. We have foreign postal companies undermining the universal service obligation. We have water companies—dealing with the basis of human life—that do not know where the people they provide the service to live. We have a coal industry where 200,000 people lost their jobs and communities were devastated, and we buy in coal from some of the most unstable regimes on earth. And now we worry that the health service will be fragmented before our very eyes.
That is why people do not trust, and are very worried about, these negotiations. That is why they are saying to us, “We are sick to death of seeing privateers feast on the goodies of privatisation. If TTIP is another opportunity for them to do the same, we do not want it.” The Government—and my party, if it wants to get behind this—have to say to the people of this country, “We are going into these negotiations in the proper manner. We will open them up to people in this House and Europe”—MEPs from all parties have said they are concerned about the lack of scrutiny—“We will do it properly. We will come back to the House and the country and say, ‘This agreement is sound. It covers your concerns. It works in these areas, but we will not allow it to work in these other areas.’”
If we do not do that, TTIP will not deserve the support of ourselves, the nation or the EU.