The health secretary will be able to “direct” the independent regulator Monitor, under legislation set out in today’s health bill.

Clause 59 of the bill “confers powers on the secretary of state to direct Monitor in cases of serious failure by Monitor to carry out its functions,” the accompanying memorandum states.

It says the power is similar that which the health secretary already has over the Care Quality Commission. It allows the health secretary to direct the regulator “under exceptional circumstances” if it has failed, or is failing to discharge any of its functions.

The memorandum goes on to imply that were Monitor to fail to follow the direction – for example an instruction to tell foundation trusts to behave in a certain way –   the health secretary could step over it.

It states: “If Monitor fails to comply with such a direction, the secretary of state may discharge the function that the direction relates to or make arrangements for another person to discharge the function on behalf of the secretary of state.”

The clause follows controversy in 2009 when the previous government’s consultation on a failure regime for trusts proposed a power to “allow the secretary of state to make suggestions to the foundation trust regulator Monitor”. The power was never enacted.