Over 90 Parliamentarians call on International Trade Secretary to stop UK blocking global agreement to improve supply and distribution of lifesaving pandemic tools

The cross-party group cites risk of new variants in urging UK Government action to end monopolies on COVID-19 technologies that are prolonging the pandemic.


STOPAIDS and the People’s Vaccine Alliance have obtained a copy of a letter signed by 92 parliamentarians from all parties and both houses that has been sent to the Secretary of State for International Trade, Rt. Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP.

  • Signatories include:

    • Dr. Dan Poulter, Conservative MP and Chair of APPG on Global Health.

    • Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP and Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus.

    • Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP and former Secretary of State for International Development (2010 – 2012).

    • Baroness Elizabeth Sugg CBE, former Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development at the FCDO (2020).

    • Hilary Benn, Labour MP and former Secretary of State for International Development (2003 – 2007).

  • The UK is one of a few governments blocking passage of a global agreement – known as the TRIPS waiver – that would suspend intellectual property rights pertaining to vaccines, tests and treatments.

  • Over 100 nations, including the United States, support the waiver.

Since the letter was written, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has cancelled the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) where ministers from across the world were to meet to review the functioning of the multilateral trading system.

The letter, delivered on 28th November, urges the International Trade Secretary to use the MC12 to show Global Britain in action by backing the TRIPS waiver and have the UK stand shoulder to shoulder with the many countries who are calling for equal access to vaccines, tests and treatments to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver on COVID-19 tools could end the monopolies prolonging the pandemic by allowing laboratories around the world to increase the global supply of lifesaving pandemic tools and bring down prices.

Current efforts to vaccinate the world are falling short; as of October 2021, less than 15% of the 1.8 billion doses promised by wealthier nations to low- and middle-income countries have been delivered. To date, just 4.5% of people across low-income countries have received their first dose of a vaccine, compared to the 68% of the UK’s population who are double vaccinated. There is also great inequity in testing and other treatments.

Mike Podmore, Director at STOPAIDS, said:

“It is great to see strong cross-party recognition of the need for a TRIPS waiver. 

We cannot overcome this pandemic whilst the global supply and distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19 is constricted by technology monopolies. Big pharmaceutical companies are making record-breaking profits whilst thousands continue to die needlessly worldwide and new variants emerge. Instead, these companies should be required to share their technologies so as to allow manufacturers to increase the global supply of these pandemic tools.

If the UK Government is serious about ending the pandemic worldwide, it must immediately work to implement the TRIPS waiver.”

Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager at Oxfam GB and People’s Vaccine Alliance Spokesperson, said:

“The vaccine apartheid that rich countries and the World Trade Organisation have refused to address is ultimately responsible for the decision to postpone these talks. 

It should be a stain on the conscience of those who have blocked the waiver of Intellectual Property that South Africa is now facing the threat of a dangerous new virus variant with less than a quarter of its population fully vaccinated, especially given the fact the country has been so vocal in calling for the waiver which would allow more vaccines to be produced globally.

There can be no more delays, putting pharmaceutical profits before people’s lives is clearly a risk to us all. We do not need a ministerial summit to agree to this, we just need governments to put the good of humanity above the profits of a handful of companies.”

Text of the Letter to Secretary of State Rt. Hon. Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MPSecretary of StateDepartment for International Trade3 Whitehall PlaceLondon, SW1A 2HN

28 November 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

As a group of 92 cross-party parliamentarians, we write to you today to express our deep concern for the continued inequality in global access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments and to ask you to support the proposal at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily suspend intellectual property barriers on all COVID-19 technologies.

We have much to be proud of as a country in how we have navigated through this global pandemic. We have seen communities come together, our NHS work harder than ever, and helped create new and innovative technologies to test, prevent, and treat a novel virus. However, as we proudly continue to roll out COVID-19 vaccines and boosters and our economy continues to open, millions around the world still remain without access to life-saving vaccines, treatments and other medical tools. To date, just 4.5% of people across low-income countries have received their first dose, yet in contrast, over 68% of the UK’s population are double vaccinated, and over 9% have received a booster dose. This stark inequity is similar for tests, where in the UK there are over 4,500 tests per 1000 people compared to just 29 per 1000 in Mozambique.

Despite commitments from wealthy nations to donate vaccines, as of October 2021, less than 15% of the 1.8 billion doses promised have been delivered. The UK itself has delivered less than 10% of the 100 million doses it has promised to lower-income nations. COVAX has unfortunately not lived up to its promises as richer nations have hoarded global supplies and pharmaceutical companies have continued to sell their doses to the highest bidder, leaving COVAX almost entirely dependent on the charity of high-income countries.

Whilst donations of vaccines are welcome, it is clear that we cannot rely on them alone to vaccinate the world. The UK must now do more to increase the supply of all COVID-19 health tools and support low and middle-income nations, who are on the frontlines on the current inequity, to manufacture vaccines, tests and treatments locally. A clear way to increase supply is through the temporary waiver of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) for COVID-19 technologies, and for the ‘tacit’ manufacturing know-how for vaccines and other technologies to be shared via the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

A TRIPS waiver would increase and diversify global production of COVID-19 health technologies. Currently, pharmaceutical monopolies are controlling the supply of these medical tools, limiting availability and driving up prices. Temporarily lifting intellectual property barriers, including patents and trade secrets, would mean that producers in countries where there is existing production capacity could manufacture vaccines, treatments and tests for roll-out in low- and middle-income countries at affordable prices. A year has passed since the temporary TRIPS waiver proposal was tabled at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), led by India and South Africa, and supported by over 100 other nations, including the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The proposal also has support from over 100 international IP academics, UN experts, human rights lawyers, global civil society organisations, and Pope Francis, amongst many others. The UK remains one of a few nations that continues to actively oppose it.

The upcoming WTO Ministerial meeting, the MC12, on November 30th is a critical moment to make progress towards a decision on the waiver. This is a key early opportunity in your role as International Trade Secretary to show Global Britain in action, and stand shoulder to shoulder with the many countries who are asking our Government to allow them the same level of access to pandemic tools that we here in the UK have been fortunate enough to enjoy. As the Prime Minister has rightly said, the UK must do its bit to make sure that everybody, in every country, gets the vaccines that they need so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together. This call for global solidarity must be backed by concrete action if the UK is to uphold its reputation as a force for good in the world.

The impact of these decisions will have an effect on people in the UK. SAGE experts have said that if COVID-19 is allowed to continue to run rampant across the world, new mutations of the virus will continue to flourish and could render our existing vaccination efforts obsolete, risking further lives and our economic recovery. The Economist Intelligence Unit has estimated that delayed global vaccination will cost the global economy $2.3 trillion in 2022-25.

We urge you to use this moment to show UK leadership and support the proposal at the WTO for a temporary suspension of the TRIPS agreement, as outlined above, and refrain from blocking this proposal at the WTO MC12 meeting in November. Without progress at this meeting, thousands more people will be deprived of access to life saving vaccines and health technologies, risking lives and wreaking havoc on local economies for years to come.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Dan Poulter MP, Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP, Debbie Abrahams MP, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Barker, Apsana Begum MP, Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Lord Bird, Lord Black of Brentwood, Baroness Blower, Rt Hon Lord Boateng, Steven Bonnar, MP Baroness Brinton, Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson MP, Kim Johnson MP, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Darren Jones MP, Rt Hon Lord Jones, Ben Lake MP, Ian Lavery MP,Chris Law MP, Clive Lewis MP, Baroness Lister of Butersett, Tony Lloyd MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Diedre Brock MP, Rt Hon Lord Browne of Ladyton, Ian Byrne MP, Lord Campbell-Savours, Dan Carden MP, Lord Cashman, Rt Hon Baroness Chakrabarti, Wendy Chamberlain MP, Sarah Champion MP, Bambos Charalambous MP, Daisy Cooper MP, Rosie Cooper MP, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, MP Baroness Cox, Lord Crisp, Jon Cruddas MP, Lord Davies of Brixton, Martyn Day MP, Allan Dorans MP, Peter Dowd MP, Lord Dubs, Stephen Farry MP, Marion Fellows MP, Mary Foy MP, Barry Gardiner MP, Patricia Gibson MP, Patrick Grady MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Claire Hana MP, Neale Hanvey MP, Baroness Harris of Richmond, Helen Hayes MP, Wera Hobhouse MP, Christine Jardine MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Kenny MacAskill MP, Angus MacNeil MP, Baroness Masham of Ilton, Chris Matheson MP, Andy McDonald MP, Anne Mcloughlin MP, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Layla Moran MP, Rt Hon Baroness Northover, Kate Osborne MP, Lord Purvis of Tweed, Anum Qaisar MP, Rt Hon Lord Reid of Cardowan, Bell Riberio-Addy MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Lord Russell of Liverpool , Virendra Sharma MP, Tommy Sheppard MP, Lord Sikka, Alyn Smith MP, Lord Strasburger of Langridge, Baroness Sugg, Zarah Sultana MP, Owen Thompson MP, Richard Thomson MP, Baroness Thornhill, Baroness Tyler of Enfield, Claudia Webbe MP, Nadia Whittome MP, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Beth Winter MP, Mohammad Yasin MP.