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Labour in bid to halt NHS reforms

Labour is mounting a last-ditch bid to keep the Government's controversial NHS reforms off the statute book after the legislation cleared the House of Lords.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has secured an emergency Commons debate in a final attempt to delay the Health and Social Care Bill.

The legislation completed its passage through the Lords after the Government saw off two blocking amendments - one tabled by Labour and the other by the former SDP leader, Lord Owen.

The Bill now returns to the Commons where MPs will consider amendments made in the upper chamber in what is expected to be the final stage of its passage through Parliament before receiving the royal assent.

In theory, Labour's emergency debate could allow MPs to delay the Bill's progress until the Government publishes an internal assessment of the risks posed by the reforms to the NHS in England.

But with a previous Commons attempt to halt the legislation having failed last week, despite a revolt by a handful of Liberal Democrat MPs, Labour's chances of success appear slim.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "The Government must come clean about the damage this Bill will do to the NHS and publish the risk register. 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."

The 90-minute debate will allow MPs to decide whether the transition risk register document should be published before the Commons considers the Lords' amendments. The Information Commissioner has ruled the document should be released and a tribunal upheld the decision after an appeal by the Government to block its publication.

Meanwhile, scores of people have joined in 25 protests across the UK to draw attention to the proposed reforms. Families held banners and candles in one of the peaceful protests at Newcastle's Grey's Monument to ask for the halt of the Government's Health and Social Care Bill.

Carl Kennedy, 34, a father of one from Heaton, organised the vigil, saying: "The key purpose of the meetings is to demonstrate that the UK people do not want this Bill to become law. We are here regardless of our political affiliations to say the NHS belongs to us, and it should stay that way."

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