CHIPPENHAM MP Michelle Donelan has hit back at critics who attacked her for voting against an amendment to a Trade Bill that allegedly would open the NHS to foreign involvement.

Critics condemned several of Wiltshire’s MPs for voting with the Government against the amendment, including Miss Donelan, Devizes MP Danny Kruger and South West Wiltshire MP Dr Andrew Murrison whose constituency covers Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury.

Miss Donelan said: “As you may know, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas put forward an amendment to the Trade Bill with the support of the Labour Party this week that has caused significant controversy and has resulted in a number of misleading reports.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that those who are suggesting that MPs who voted against this amendment are against protecting our NHS from foreign involvement are either being dishonest or do not understand the legislative system. The Labour Party have fuelled this narrative which is misleading the public and irresponsible of them.

“Amendments like these are a standard parliamentary tool used by the opposition to fearmonger, mislead and ultimately to stir up anger in the press and on social media. The aim of this amendment was not to protect the NHS in future trade deals at all, the aim of the amendment was to force the Government to vote against it, thereby creating a misleading story.

“I appreciate that if you are not already familiar with this opposition tactic, you will understandably be outraged by the headlines in recent days – I would be too if I were a constituent and did not know the context behind the vote. The basic mechanism of this tactic is for the opposition to put forward an amendment which contains a vague commitment that everyone agrees with, in this case to protect our NHS in future trade deals – something I and the whole of Parliament agrees with.

“However, by attaching it to a bill it is not relevant to and wording it wrongly, the opposition renders the amendment impossible to implement, thereby requiring the Government to vote against it."The result is that the opposition and supporting press can misleadingly suggest the Government is opposed to the stated aim of the amendment, despite this not being true.“Indeed, you can see for yourself that the Trade Bill to which this amendment was proposed does not and will not apply to the procurement of UK health services."In fact, the Trade Bill does not even have anything to do with future trade agreements with other countries.

"The Bill is simply about rolling over existing deals so we can continue to trade with other countries on existing agreements after December.

"Please do read the Bill so you see that it has nothing to do with healthcare or with future trade deals. Therefore, amendments to this bill regarding healthcare and future trade deals cannot be supported by the Government and the opposition knows this full well.

“The reality is that any future trade deals or indeed legislation pertaining to future trade deals will have to be put to Parliament in a vote.

"Remember, the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Health, Secretary of State for International Trade and almost all MPs all agree that the NHS will never be put on the table in future trade deals.

“Indeed, even if by some disaster we ended up with a Prime Minister who was in favour of doing so, MPs like me would still have to vote on it.

"I can say with absolute certainty that if a deal was negotiated that sold off our NHS or that even put it on the table, I would unquestionably vote against it – as would the vast majority of MPs from all parties."You have my word that I will always stand up for our NHS.

"However, the Government has already stated that the NHS is not and will not be put on the table in any future trade negotiations.

“I hope that this clarifies what occurred regarding this vote and indeed you have my commitment in writing that I will not support any future trade deal that sells off our NHS. It is a great shame that dirty tactics like these are being utilised by the opposition to scare people, rather than genuinely and constructively scrutinising Government policy as is their job.

“In my view, the public are becoming more aware of these tactics and indeed are appalled at the opposition’s attempts to mislead people as to the meaning, purpose and mechanism of voting on amendments like these.

“I hope that in the future the opposition will ditch these tactics and opt for a more honest approach, but in the meantime I am always more than happy to clarify the motivations behind my votes in Parliament, I hope I have done so in detail here.”