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By Matthew Barrett
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The Lords has just voted to defeat an amendment tabled by Lord David Owen, the former leader of the SDP, and Lord Peter Hennessy, the constitutional expert – both crossbench peers.
The amendment would have placed the whole of part three of the Health and Social Care Bill – the section relating to competition in the NHS – in a special select committee for further scrutiny.
As covered this morning, the 7th Earl Howe, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, warned that the:
"…potential for slippage in the timetable carries grave implications for the government's ability to achieve royal assent for the bill by the end of the session. The bill cannot be carried over from this session to the next. … The House must have proper time to examine the bill but the proposal put forward by Lord Owen could result in delay, which could well prove fatal to it. This is not a risk that I believe this House should take."
Government ministers will breathe a sigh of relief, as the amendment was defeated by 330 to 262 – a relatively comfortable margin, considering the media interest in the amendment over the last few days.