The House of Lords began its debate on Tuesday of Part 3 of the Health Bill - the most controversial section that deals with proposals to increase competition in the NHS.
Labour health minister Baroness Thornton began the debate with a warning that health secretary Andrew Lansley aims to privatise the NHS in the same way as the gas and electricity sectors.
Mr Lansley is against a publicly run public sector and instead believes competition solves every problem, she said.
Baroness Thornton added that the Health Bill had been ‘conceived and constructed’ around plans to create a regulated market in the NHS.
She said: ‘It has become abundantly clear that the reason we have this mammoth Bill, bringing about the expensive and risky reorganisation of our NHS, is to create a regulated market in the NHS.
‘This Bill is a mess. It is now a catalogue of compromises, except the framework that we have on offer in Part 3, which would, over time, allow Mr Lansley's vision to be fulfilled. He must be hanging on to that for dear life.’
But health minister Lord Howe said increasing competition in the NHS would improve the quality and productivity in the NHS.
He said: ‘This is the first time that any government has attempted to bring together under one umbrella the disparate parts of our existing system for regulating and controlling competition.
‘We have that system in skeletal form, but there are lots of gaps and inconsistencies. By bringing them under one umbrella, as this Bill does, we will have a coherent system of regulation for the future.’