The controversial trade deal between Europe and the US has come under further fire after campaigners accused the government of blocking access to legal advice that shows its impact on the health service.
Campaigners warned on Tuesday that the legal documents could reveal the extent to which private health companies can sue the government using a secret tribunal system if a Whitehall policy change were to hit their profits.
As part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), businesses can sue governments or public sector bodies for any loss of profits. The TTIP is an attempt by the US and EU to renegotiate thousands of trade tariffs and reduce the regulatory burden on exporters.
The business secretary, Sajid Javid, said in answer to a freedom of information request that disclosing the legal documents would make civil servants cautious when they “need space in which to seek candid advice from their lawyers”.
He said: “They are less likely to seek such advice if there is an expectation that it will subsequently be disclosable.”
But Global Justice Now, which has campaigned for greater transparency in trade negotiations, said the decision would fuel concerns that NHS trusts could come under attack from private contractors using the ISDS (investor state dispute settlement) tribunal system.by