Labour is calling on peers to reject controversial secondary legislation governing competition and the tendering of NHS services.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the opposition had tabled a rare “fatal” motion, in response to new regulations on when contracts should be opened up to competition.
If passed, the motion would see the regulations dropped in their entirety, Labour said.
Mr Burnham claimed Parliament had been “conned” during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill. Minister’s promises to let clinical commissioning groups decide when and where to introduce competition for services would be “rendered worthless by regulations mandating compulsory competitive tendering across the NHS”, he added.
The “fatal” motion is so-called because it sees the House of Lords reject a statutory instrument introduced by the government, the strongest measure available to the upper house.
Labour has used the motion only twice since the Coalition government took office in 2010.
The regulations are due to come into force at the start of April, but the debate and vote will now take place in March.
The government published secondary legislation covering competition and procurement earlier this month.
It is intended to put the “principles and rules of co-operation and competition” used by the NHS Co-operation and Competition Panel on a statutory basis, and to charge healthcare sector regulator Monitor with enforcing them.
The panel was an advisory body to the Department of Health and relied on the health secretary to order implementation of any recommendations it made. Under the Health and Social Care Act it will become part of Monitor.
Lawyers working in the NHS have told HSJ the new regulations could have wide-reaching implications for the mix of providers of NHS-funded services.
The rules ban “any restrictions on competition that are not necessary” and would see Monitor overrule clinical commissioning groups to tender a service if GPs could not prove a decision not to do so was “in the interests” of patients.
The regulations say contracts can only be awarded without tender for “technical reasons” or “reasons of extreme urgency”.
One health service lawyer told HSJ: “I think this is a real move towards privatisation, towards opening up a market.”
Asked about criticism of the regulations earlier this week, Lord Howe told HSJ: “I had a very useful meeting with my Liberal Democrat colleagues yesterday and it’s clear that they share the anxieties that you’ve spoken about.
“So it’s right that we reflect on those concerns which we are now doing. The thing we want is for the health service to get a different message to the one that we have been giving consistently up until now, because there is no change in policy.”