4 The debate on TTIP |
57. It is clear that the TTIP negotiations have inspired
extensive debate within Parliament and outside; and have been
subject to a number of European Commission consultations. However,
not all of the debate or opinion has been based on evidence. We
are concerned that there has been an oversimplification and misrepresentation
of arguments on both sides. When we discussed the quality of debate
with Lord Livingston claimed that at times, the debate could be
characterised as "the wellinformed but illminded
are misleading the illinformed but wellminded".
We believe this applies to both sides of the argument.
58. The European Commission and the UK Government
must shoulder some of the blame as the level of information originally
available to the public was minimal. When he came before us the
Minister acknowledged that a greater level of transparency was
necessary and that this was now being addressed. He told us that
he wanted to see "a wider distribution to MPs" of information
relating to TTIP and to gain equivalent access rights to information
enjoyed by MEPs. He also highlighted a number of resources which
had already been made available to Members of Parliament and stressed
that he was focussed on "being very clear about the facts",
and would "concentrate on the genuine issues that there are
in such a complex trade agreement".
59. Outside of Parliament, the availability of and
access to information is irregular. When we took oral evidence
our scrutiny was, on occasion, frustrated by the information given
by our witnesses. In our first evidence session, David Babbs,
Executive Director of 38 Degrees, was asked about the information
38 Degrees made available to its members. The example of the correspondence
between John Healey MP and the European Commission on the impact
of TTIP on the NHS was raised and Mr Babbs told us that it had
been put on the 38 Degrees website together with a critique of
how much of the NHS operates in the private sector.
However, in supplementary evidence, he acknowledged that this
was incorrect. We
also asked him about a 38 Degrees article entitled "the ten
things you need to know" about TTIP. That article included
the headlines "Goodbye NHS, hello permanent privatisation"
and "Imagine a world where the profits of healthcare companies
decide how we help the sick and the elderly". 
60. We were concerned by this article because the
level of certainty in it did not, in our view, closely reflect
the evidence we had received. In evidence, David Babbs told us
that he "had not seen" the article and repeatedly told
us that it was put up by someone outside his organisation. However,
in supplementary evidence, Mr Babbs acknowledged that this was
incorrect and that the article had been written by a 38 Degrees
61. In a subsequent evidence session, BritishAmerican
Business (BAB), a lobby organisation in favour of TTIP, was questioned
on its submission to the European Commission on ISDS provisions.
The organisation describes itself as "the leading transatlantic
business organization, dedicated to helping companies connect
and build their business on both sides of the Atlantic".
It also provides the secretariat for the APPG on TTIP.
We therefore expected it to be well-briefed and in a position
to offer an informed and detailed assessment of TTIP. This was
not the case. When its representatives gave evidence to us they
appeared incapable or unwilling to elaborate on its publicly stated
views on TTIP. When we questioned the BAB on its ISDS submission
to the European Commission, the responses were "I would ask
that we could respond in writing", "I would ask that
we could get back to you in writing on that" and "I
would prefer that we get back to you in writing on any specific
questions on that contribution to the consultation". BAB's
subsequent written evidence shed little, if any, further light
on any of the issues it sought to defer in the evidence session.
62. We are not the only Committee to have considered
proposals for a TTIP. In the House of Commons, the Environmental
Audit Committee published a Report on the environmental impact
of TTIP, while the
European Scrutiny Committee has also been taking evidence from
Lord Livingston on the matter.
In addition, the House of Lords European Union Committee also
published a Report on TTIP in May 2014.
The evidence provided to these Committees by outside organisations
and the Government, should help to increase the amount of information
available for the UK public to consider. However, that will only
be the case if organisations engage fully. It is also the case
that Government needs to share a greater amount of information
with these organisations so that the wider public can be better
63. 38 Degrees has an extensive membership, which
it encourages to become active in all areas of society. It therefore
can have a significant impact on debate. We encourage 38 Degrees
to highlight this Report in its entirety, alongside those of the
other Parliamentary Committees, to its membership so that the
debate on TTIP can be moved forward.
64. BritishAmerican Business is a well-funded
and vocal advocate of a trade deal. It therefore has a responsibility
to engage fully in the debate on TTIP and not cherry-pick those
areas it will and will not engage with.
- We welcome the Ministers ambition to share
more information and detail on TTIP with Members of Parliament
and we recommend that Government continues to engage with all
interested Parliamentary Committees. However, we do not believe
this goes far enough. We recommend that the Department actively
signposts information to all organisations involved in either
supporting or opposing TTIP.
77 Q396 Back
38 Degrees TTI04 Back
38 Degrees TTI04 Back
BritishAmerican Business (TTI13 ) Back
Environmental Audit Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2014-15,
Environmental risks of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,
Oral Evidence taken before the European Scrutiny Committee, 11 June 2014
HC 292 (Session 2013-14) and 26 February 2015 HC 1084 (2014-15) Back
House of Lord European Union Committee, Fourteenth Report The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,