Ministers eye NHS reform finish line

By Alex Stevenson

Hugely unpopular NHS reforms are set to clear the Commons for good on Wednesday, despite desperate last-gasp efforts to stall the health and social care bill.

The opposition will call on the Commons to defer the completion of the controversial legislation's passage through parliament until the risk register is published.

Department of Health officials have not yet released the document, which details the potential negative impacts of the reforms on the health service, despite an order to do so from the information commissioner and a high court judge.

Monday saw Commons Speaker John Bercow accept a request for the debate made by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

He told MPs: "Parliament has a right to know before it is asked to make a final judgment that will have huge implications for everyone in this country."

Mr Burnham added that people have a "right to know" and accused ministers of "insulting parliament by expecting it to support these plans whilst withholding information that could change the way MPs vote".

The debate will, at least, delay the passage of the bill by 90 minutes. It is being inserted into the Commons schedule before MPs consider the amendments made to the bill in the Lords.

That follows the final collapse of opposition to the legislation in the upper chamber on Monday afternoon, when David Owen's Lords amendment seeking to delay the legislation was firmly defeated by 328 votes to 213.

"In the debate tomorrow the government must come clean about the damage this bill will do to the NHS and publish the risk register," Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Monday evening.

"If they persist in piling secrecy on top of broken promises, the public will be in no doubt that they want to hide the truth. And nobody can ever trust them again on our NHS."