The government’s controversial NHS reforms cleared another major hurdle in the House of Lords on Tuesday night.
A Labour move to delay the implementation of the competition clauses of the Health and Social Care Bill failed on a vote and the legislation then completed its seven-day report stage.
The Bill faces one further major test in the Lords, at third reading on Monday, before it is sent back to the House of Commons.
Peers are likely to vote on Monday on whether to delay third reading until after a confidential risk assessment drawn up by civil servants has been published.
A Department of Health appeal against an order by the Information Commissioner to publish the “transition risk register” was thrown out by a tribunal last week.
Ministers have said they will not decide whether to launch a further appeal until they have seen the full judgment from the Information Rights Tribunal.
But former doctor and SDP leader Lord Owen put down a motion that would delay third reading until after the government had responded to the full judgment or until “the last practical opportunity” for agreeing the Bill before the end of the parliamentary session in early May.
And if Lord Owen’s move fails, peers might take the extremely rare step of forcing a vote on whether to kill off the legislation altogether.
Ministers will be confident of winning any votes as they have suffered just two Lords defeats on the Bill - one at report stage and one during the 15-day committee stage - and Liberal Democrat peers have signalled they will not rebel in great numbers despite party activists refusing to back the legislation at their spring conference in Gateshead.