Published: 03/02/2005, Volume II4, No. 5941 Page 10

The questioning by a top businessman of New Labour's use of 'pseudo markets' in the NHS received widespread coverage last week.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, BP chief executive Lord Browne said the use of internal markets for public services was 'damaging professional people who probably should not be subject to these pseudo markets'.

Unions welcomed the attack from such an unlikely quarter while an unnamed Downing Street advisor told the Financial Times that Lord Browne was talking 'rubbish'.

'Why do businessmen hold such views on something they know nothing about?' he asked.

Former second private secretary at the Treasury Sir Steve Robson took a similar view: 'Diversity of provision allows you to keep things like the health service free at the point of use but then allows competition to raise standards.

'What is the alternative?'