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Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, responding to Nick Clegg's letter to Lib Dem MPs and Peers on the Health Bill, said:

"This stage-managed letter is clearly part of a face-saving exercise for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. It is a panic move in advance of the Spring conference and will convince nobody.

"In effect, it is a huge admission of Liberal Democrat failure.

"Clegg has had the best part of two years to sort out his position on this Bill. He must accept his share of the blame for the mess that has been created and the damage caused to the NHS.

"Clegg and his MPs nodded the Bill through the Commons, denying concerns about competition. But the very nature of the amendments he seeks confirms what Labour has been saying all along: that this Bill will turn our NHS into a full-blown market.

"But the reality is that the cosmetic amendments he proposes don't go anywhere near far enough to remove market forces. Just two weeks ago, Baroness Williams called for deletion of part three on competition. Today she has abandoned that position in favour of these minor amendments.

"Last week, the President of the Liberal Democrats admitted that the Bill should have been dropped. The truth is that this is what many Lib Dems want. But, sadly for the NHS, we find ourselves in this unacceptable position, with these half-hearted efforts at the eleventh hour, because Clegg and Co. haven't had the guts to stand up to Mr Cameron.

"The truth is that this confused mess of a Bill, as described by a former NHS Chief Executive, shouldn't get anywhere near the Statute Book. Clegg's self-serving posturing will only strengthen Labour's call for this damaging Bill to be dropped altogether."

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