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Is there any Point in Parliament?

November 7, 2013

For a long time I have wondered whether the House of Commons serves any useful function. Certainly senior civil servants have dubbed it the ‘monkey house’. Both government and opposition front benches are more answerable to corporate interests than the people who elected them, and the vast majority of MPs follow their instructions like sheep. This distressing trend will shortly be accelerated by a US – EU treaty due to be concluded at the end of 2014. This is known in Europe as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

In common with many other international trade agreements are concerned with eliminating not just tariff barriers but also sensible national regulations which other countries party to the agreement have failed to pass. However the most worrying feature of recent trade agreements which is likely to be incorporated in TTIP is the ‘state – investor’ dispute resolution mechanism, whereby corporations can sue any government which passes regulations which limits their profits. This is not just theory as citizens of Canada and Australia know to their cost. Claims for compensation can run into billions. Many many proposals for much needed regulation have been dropped after threats from corporate lawyers.

Under this mechanism these disputes are not heard by courts in the defendant nations (which according to the European Commission are hopelessly biased) but instead by a very small cabal of arbitrators who are corporate lawyers (operating in secret) who will have worked for the corporations concerned (and therefore clearly not biassed!). These lawyers trump our supreme court.

You don’t believe me? Read George Monbiot’s article at , also published in the Guardian on 5 November under the title This US Trade deal is a full frontal assault on Democracy’. He quotes a number of references all of which I have read, and which support his conclusions.

So what will the consequences for the UK if this deal goes through? Monbiot concludes,

Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to renationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw left-wing politics…” Not just left wing politics surely. Is it left wing to want to defend your local community? Is it left wing to want to encourage local businesses? Is it left wing to expect your bank to be trustworthy? The treaty would threaten all these things. Monbiot goes on to say,

“This is why there has been no attempt by our government to inform us about this monstrous assault on democracy, let alone consult us. This is why the Conservatives who huff and puff about sovereignty are silent. Wake up people, we’re being shafted.”

This government claims that fracking in the UK will be much better regulated than in the US. If this is the case at present, the regulations will need to be rescinded when TTIP comes in.

I will be asking South Dorset MP, Richard Drax whether he will ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on TTIP before Christmas, and in particular what is his position on state – investor dispute resolution?

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