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You have been a great servant of this Parliament

Why did the Prime Minister previously say the health service was not on the table in any post-Brexit trade deal?

Business Standard 

File photo of Boris Johnson. Photo: AP/PTI
File photo of Boris Johnson. Photo: AP/PTI

Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Mr Speaker, I know that the whole House will want to join me in recording that, after 10 tumultuous years, this is your last Prime Minister’s questions. As befits a distinguished former Wimbledon competitor, you have sat up there in your high chair not just as an umpire ruthlessly adjudicating on the finer points of parliamentary procedure with your trademark Tony Montana scowl, not just as a commentator offering your own opinions on the rallies you are watching — sometimes acerbic and sometimes kind — but above all as a player in your own right.

Although we may disagree about some of the legislative innovations you have favoured, there is no doubt in my mind that you have been a great servant of this and this House of Commons. You have modernised, you have widened access, you have cared for the needs of those with disabilities, and you have cared so deeply for the rights of Back Benchers that you have done more than anyone since Stephen Hawking to stretch time in this session. As we come to the end of what must be the longest retirement since Frank Sinatra’s, I am sure the whole House will join me in thanking you and hoping that you enjoy in your retirement the soothing medicament that you have so often prescribed to the rest of us.

I know that Members across the House will want to join me in wishing the England rugby team the very best for the final in the world cup on Saturday.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): Mr Speaker, I hope you will indulge me one moment while I say a word about you. I want to thank you for the way you have used your speakership over your decade-long tenure. You have done so much to reform this House of Commons, and our democracy is stronger for the way you have done it.

You have given real power to Back Benchers, vastly expanded the use of urgent questions, which has been overwhelmingly popular with all Ministers, and opened up the number of emergency debates, which is even more popular with even more Ministers. In the traditions of the great Speaker Lenthall and others, you have stood up for when it has to be stood up for, and we thank you for that. You have also carried that message internationally in terms of the role of parliamentary democracy and Parliaments holding governments to account. As we hope to form a government in the future, we hope to be held to account by as well.

I am sure the whole House would agree with me that you have done excellent work in opening up Parliament to visitors, exhibitions and children. You have reduced some of the strange customs and strange garments that people wear in this building. I know you are all jealous of my tie, but it is okay. You have used your office to increase diversity among the staff in the House and make this a much more LGBT-friendly place. You have taken it from being a gentlemen’s club that happens to be in a royal palace to being a genuinely democratic institution. I want you to accept our thanks and pass on our best wishes to Sally, Freddie, Oliver and Jemima, your wonderful family, for the support they have given you. There will be a great celebration today — I am sure the whole House will join us in this — when you and I celebrate Arsenal beating Liverpool tonight. [Interruption.] The Labour party loves a debate and loves a bit of banter. The Prime Minister’s planned sell-out deal with Donald Trump means yet more national health service money being siphoned off into private profit. Why did the Prime Minister previously say the health service was not on the table in any post-Brexit trade deal?

The Prime Minister: It is because it is not on the table. I pay tribute to officials of the NHS, who have just done a brilliant job in reducing the cost of Orkambi — made in America, by the way — so that cystic fibrosis sufferers in this country get the treatment they need, at a cost that is reasonable to the taxpayers of this country. If the gentleman want to know how the people of this country are able to afford the stupendous investments we are now making in the NHS — £34 billion, the biggest ever investment in the NHS, with 40 new hospitals that we are building as a result of the decisions we are taking — I can tell him that it is because this is the party that supports wealth creation. The reason we are able to invest in the NHS is that for the last nine years this economy has been growing. It has grown by 19 per cent since the Conservatives first came into office, and he would ruin this economy and ruin our ability to fund the NHS.

Jeremy Corbyn: We all welcome the fact that Orkambi will now be able to be provided in this country under the NHS. The shame is that we are not told what the deal is with the company concerned. We learned this week that government officials have met US pharmaceutical companies five times as part of the Prime Minister’s planned trade deal. The US has called for “full market access” to our NHS, which would mean prices of some of our most important medicines increasing by up to sevenfold. While the government are having secret meetings with US corporations, it is patients here who continue to suffer. Can the Prime Minister explain why the number of people waiting longer for urgent cancer treatment has tripled over the past nine years?

The Prime Minister: This government is investing £34 billion in the NHS. We are seeing improvements in cancer survival rates throughout the country, thanks to the investment that the government are making. I think it absolutely satirical that he should claim credit for getting Orkambi and other drugs delivered at a reasonable price; that is the work of the UK Government and the NHS, supporting the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to ensure that people in this country get affordable treatments.

Jeremy Corbyn: Of course, we need to import medicines from various places; I just want it to be done in an open and transparent way.


Edited excerpts from Question Hour in the House of Commons, UK, October 30

First Published: Sat, November 02 2019. 20:14 IST
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