A new regime for stripping failing NHS foundation trusts of their freedoms has been dismissed as “window dressing”.

Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien said the moves, introduced in the wake of the scandal at Stafford Hospital, risked making public relations the “prime motive” for policy.

And he hit out at ministers for only proposing the measures at report stage of the Health Bill, saying there was “no reason” why they could not have been included in the legislation earlier.

Earlier Mr O’Brien said it was vital to “learn the lessons” arising from the Mid Staffordshire case and ensure that such events cannot happen again.

A damning report from the Healthcare Commission published in March detailed a catalogue of failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Ministers have proposed changes to the process of “de-authorisation” - removing autonomy from failing NHS foundation trusts.

But Mr O’Brien said there was already a process for de-authorisation, claiming ministers were seeking to strengthen it because they realised it was not as “rigorous” as the process for creating NHS foundation trusts.

He claimed the new regime would compromise the independence of foundation trusts and give the health secretary an incentive to meddle and “play politics” with them.

And he highlighted concerns that the moves could lead ministers to intervene whenever an issue of media interest arose, adding: “‘This is not the first time we have seen the government put public relations as the prime motive for policy.”

The bill received an unopposed third reading and will now return to the Lords.