Published: 03/02/2005, Volume II4, No. 5941 Page 9

Centre-left politicians should not 'kneel at the altar' of the market or the state, health secretary John Reid said this week at an event organised by the Social Market Foundation.

He used a speech launching his pamphlet Limits of the Market, Constraints of the State: the public good and the NHS as a rallying cry, urging doubters in the Labour Party to get behind the government's reforms of the NHS.

'The theme is not to open up public services; we have to close down the dogma that has so often constrained us in the past, ' he said.

Mr Reid said the future of the health service lay in a 'synthesis' of state and market - not the simplistic argument over which was better.

'If we allow the dividing line to be presented like this it is inevitable that New Labour reformers will be branded privatisers. But it is a misleading caricature, ' he said.

Mr Reid said choice and plurality of service were essential if the NHS was to meet the public's increasing expectations. 'People should not be told to shoehorn their expectations and ambitions into an old - and in some cases ossified - and certainly out-of-date delivery system.'