MPs call for Johnson to publish lobbying messages from Big Pharma
Date: 26 April 2021
A cross-party group of MPs and peers have signed a joint statement with patient advocacy organisations calling for the Prime Minister, ministers, and senior civil servants to publish all email, text, and WhatsApp messages exchanged with pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists.
Signatories want to understand if private lobbying has influenced the UK’s “outrageous” opposition to a waiver of intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in the wake of scandals involving Greensill Capital and Dyson.
Labour, Scottish National Party, Alba, Liberal Democrat, Green, and Independent MPs and peers have signed the statement, including Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbott MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Zarah Sultana MP, Richard Burgon MP, Clive Lewis MP, Kenny MacAskill MP, and Baroness Sheehan, the Liberal Democrat International Development spokesperson in the House of Lords.
Patient advocacy and vaccine equity organisations have also signed the statement, including Global Justice Now, Just Treatment, StopAIDS, Frontline AIDS, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines UK, Students for Global Health, and Nurses United UK.
The statement notes that factories capable of producing vaccines are “sitting idle” as intellectual property rules have restricted production of Covid-19 vaccines to the supply chains of patent-holding pharmaceutical companies, restricting production.
More than 100 countries have supported a temporary waiver of Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) at the WTO proposed by India and South Africa, but the move has been blocked by a small number of countries including the US, UK, and EU.
175 former heads of state and Nobel Prize winners, including Gordon Brown, Mary Robinson, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Francoise Hollande wrote to President Biden to support the waiver to enable the rapid scale-up of vaccine production across the world.
Independent SAGE voiced their support for the measure at a dedicated briefing, with Prof Gabriel Scally writing in The Guardian that opposing a patent waiver could be a “historic mistake” with consequences “far greater still” than the government’s mistakes handling the pandemic last summer and in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2020.
Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now, said:
“The UK’s opposition to an intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines is utterly indefensible. With a real scandal emerging over big business’s preferential access to this government, we must ask: is the UK’s reckless opposition to a patent waiver because of undeclared big pharma lobbying? We have a right to know if the Prime Minister has thrown low and middle income countries under the bus to protect private profits.”
Diarmaid McDonald, Lead Organiser at Just Treatment, said:
“Boris Johnson hailed corporate ‘greed’ as the cause of the UK’s vaccine success but that greed is in fact worsening the pandemic, putting millions more lives at risk – including NHS patients. We need to fully understand what is motivating the government to consistently side with big pharma to oppose measures that could break unfair monopolies, scale up vaccine production and save lives. Sadly, it seems we may only get an answer to that question if we can read the PM’s text exchanges with the industry. Democracy and the pandemic response make their publication essential.”
Notes for editors
The full statement and list of signatories is included below:
Statement on Prime Minister’s communications with the pharmaceutical industry:
“The alleged ease of access that wealthy business people have had directly to the Prime Minister in order to influence his behaviour and government policy, has rightly alarmed people across the country. Over the last year the government has transferred billions of pounds of public money to pharmaceutical companies in secretive deals that have resulted in the UK getting preferential access to limited vaccine supplies. However, the UK has also become one of the loudest voices at the World Trade Organisation opposing calls – from over a hundred countries with little or no access to vaccines – for the monopolies on COVID medicines and vaccines to be broken.
“With spare vaccine manufacturing sitting idle and COVID cases rapidly rising around the world it is outrageous that the government continues to side with the pharmaceutical industry and their profits over the action needed to save more lives and end the pandemic.
“We urgently call for the Prime Minister, government ministers and senior civil servants to publish all their private text messages, emails and WhatsApp communication with pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists since the start of the pandemic. There must be public scrutiny of any corporate influence over the government’s domestic and international vaccine policy to ensure that no preferential access has been given and no secret deals have been made using taxpayers money without accountability or oversight. We cannot allow wealthy corporate executives to have access and influence when it comes at the cost of the lives of people around the world whose voices are being ignored by the PM.”
- Mary Kelly Foy MP, City of Durham
- Apsana Begum MP, Poplar and Limehouse
- Claudia Webbe MP, Leicester East
- Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Pavilion
- Clive Lewis MP, Norwich South
- Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Streatham
- Navendu Mishra MP, Stockport
- Kenny MacAskill MP, East Lothian
- Kim Johnson MP, Liverpool Riverside
- Rachel Hopkins MP, Luton South
- Tommy Sheppard MP, Edinburgh East
- Jonathan Edwards MP, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
- Zarah Sultana MP, Coventry South
- Paula Barker MP, Liverpool Wavertree
- Virendra Sharma MP, Ealing Southall
- Neale Hanvey MP, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath
- Diane Abbott MP, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
- Mohammad Yasin MP, Bedford and Kempston
- Mick Whitley MP, Birkenhead
- Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
- Richard Burgon MP, Leeds East
- Dan Carden MP, Liverpool Walton
- Baroness Sheehan
- Wera Hobhouse MP, Bath
- Just Treatment
- Global Justice Now
- Frontline AIDS
- Universities Allied for Essential Medicines UK (UAEM)
- Students for Global Health
- Nurses United UK