NHS reform plans could be sent back to a committee of MPs, a senior government minister has confirmed.
Commons leader Sir George Young said a decision would be taken once ministers had responded to Professor Steve Field’s review of the far-reaching shake-up.
If the Health and Social Care Bill were to be sent back to committee it could hold up progress for weeks or months, but Sir George insisted he wanted MPs to have “adequate time” to examine any proposed changes to the legislation.
Responding to questions on future Commons business he said: “I think it makes sense to await the outcome of the Field review and the government’s response before we take a decision about whether or not the Bill should be recommitted.
“But … we spent more time in public bill committee on that Bill than any Bill since 2002.
“Whatever the outcome, recommital or report stage, I am determined the House will have adequate time to debate the remaining stages of the Health Bill.”
Last month deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said he thought the Bill would have to be sent back to a committee of MPs for detailed scrutiny as a result of the scale of changes the government would make.
Shadow Commons leader Hilary Benn said it would be “unacceptable” for the Bill not to be sent back to the committee.
Labour’s Joan Whalley called for a fresh debate on the Bill, saying: “The founding principles of the NHS are now at risk and the legal duty to provide healthcare, to secure the provision of healthcare, will be abolished unless this House looks in detail at that.”
Sir George told her: “The founding principles of the Bill are not at risk … I am determined that there should be adequate time to debate the Health Bill.
“I think it does make sense … to await the outcome of the Field report and then see what amendments the government proposes to table to it and then take a decision as to whether it’s recommitted or whether we deal with it on report.
“But I am determined that the House should have adequate time to consider the important remaining stages of this Bill.”