14/03/2012 09:06 GMT

NHS Bill: Nick Clegg Should Tell Lib Dem Peers To Kill Health Reforms, Says Harriet Harman

Nick Clegg has defended the coalition's controversial NHS Bill during fiery exchanges with Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman in the Commons.

Standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the Lib Dem deputy prime minister said Andrew Lansley's Health and Social Care Bill would deliver a "more equal" NHS.

But Harman said Clegg should tell Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords to vote against the legislation on Monday in order to make sure it did not become law.

"People are still against this bill because it hasn't changed one bit," she said. "It's still a top down reorganisation."

She told MPs: "He could stop the bill but he wont. He says the Lib Dems make a difference but they don't. What has happend to that fine liberal tradition? They must be turning in their graves."

The Labour Party has been strongly lobbying to get the government to scrap its controversial health reforms which they say are too expensive and introduce too much private competition.

Harman said that Clegg was refusing to "stand up for the NHS" as "the only thing he stands up for is when the prime minister walks in the room".

Clegg hit back by accusing Labour of creating "sweetheart deals" for private sector providers in the NHS while in power, which the coalition was now scrapping.

"The shadow health secretary says it is irresponsible to increase NHS spending. They don't believe in more money for the NHS, we do," he said.

"They presided over inequality in the NHS which again we are making a statutory obligation in this bill to deliver a more equal outcome."

He added: "The Labour Party used to believe in reform, now they believe in starving the NHS of cash and failing to provide reform."

Clegg also dismissed accusations that his party had failed to influence the direction of the Bill.

"Some of her colleagues must think the Lib Dems make a difference because they were handing out leaflets in the conference in Gateshead while her leader was throwing a sickie and going to watch Hull City instead," he said.

Ed Miliband was recently criticised for saying he could not attend a rally on health care because he was ill but then deciding to go to a football match.