Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - Business, Innovation and Skills Contents

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".[77] 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".[78]

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.[79] However, in supplementary evidence, he acknowledged that this was incorrect.[80] 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". [81]

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 staff member.[82]

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".[83] It also provides the secretariat for the APPG on TTIP.[84] 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.[85]

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,[86] while the European Scrutiny Committee has also been taking evidence from Lord Livingston on the matter.[87] In addition, the House of Lords European Union Committee also published a Report on TTIP in May 2014.[88] 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 informed.

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.

  1. 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

78   Q396 Back

79   Q79 Back

80   38 Degrees TTI04 Back

81  Back

82   38 Degrees TTI04 Back

83 Back

84 Back

85   BritishAmerican Business (TTI13 ) Back

86   Environmental Audit Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2014-15, Environmental risks of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, HC857 Back

87   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

88   House of Lord European Union Committee, Fourteenth Report The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, HL179 Back

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Prepared 25 March 2015