HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc148-9W
Mr. Weir

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive on the impact of GATS on health services in Scotland; [76658]

(2) what procedures she has put in place to ascertain the views of the health service in Scotland on the possible impact of GATS; [76659]

(3) what discussions she has had with (a) the Scottish Executive and (b) principals and vice chancellors of Scottish universities on the impact of GATS on universities and other institutes of higher education in Scotland. [76670]

Ms Hewitt

Public services (i.e. services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority) such as in health and education are excluded from the GATS. The GATS defines these as services supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with other service suppliers. For services within the scope of the GATS (that is, those supplied by the private sector), countries can choose in which sectors to make, or not make, commitments and any limitations or conditions they wish to impose.

The United Kingdom has already made GATS commitments, allowing foreign companies to provide private services in the UK in the health and education area. The Government have made clear to the House in the past that we will not make further commitments that could call into question our continued ability to maintain public health and education services.

My Department has recently issued a consultation document inviting views on requests for liberalisation of services that we have received in the current round of GATS negotiations. The document was drawn up in close co-operation with the Departments of Health, and Education and Skills, with input from the Scottish Executive and other devolved Administrations. Comments are requested by 3 January 2003. My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment has written to all Members drawing attention to this consultation. The document is available on the DTI website www.dti .gov.uk/worldtrade/service.htm and printed copies are being placed in the Libraries of the House.

DTI and DFES officials are in close contact with universities and higher education institutions and the Scottish Executive is also keeping in touch with Universities Scotland on issues related to GATS.