Andrew Lansley has replied to shadow health secretary John Healey attacking Labour’s record on competition and saying amendments to his bill would be tabled to make clear that there will be no price competition.

Two weeks ago Mr Healey wrote to the health secretary asking him to clarify where he stood on price competition in the NHS, saying: “If in the light of the chorus of criticism you have changed your mind on this matter, then clearly a change to the legislation is required.”

Today Mr Lansley has written back, saying: “I understand that the references to ‘maximum prices’ in the [Health and Social Care] bill can be taken to mean that we want to set a price ceiling below which price competition will be allowed. This was never the intention.”

He added the reference to “maximum price” was a policy first outlined by Labour and that the bill “sets up a regulated price”.

Referring to Labour’s creation of Independent Sector Treatment Centres Lansley said: “What the bill does is limit the scope of the government’s powers in order to prevent the kind of misuse of taxpayers’ money over which your government presided.

“To that end, it prevents the kind of rigged market in favour of the private sector which existed under Labour – one which not only undermined local NHS hospitals but cost 11 per cent more than them.”

Mr Healey responded in a statement: “Ten days after I wrote to Andrew Lansley seeking urgent clarification over efforts to turn the NHS into a free market, he is now insisting he never wanted price competition in the health service. But a whole raft of services will still be tendered out to the lowest bidder rather than the best provider.”

“Labour will campaign against the broken promises and waste of this Tory-led government which threatens to take its chaos and incompetence into every family doctor’s surgery.”