Lib Dems activists vow to veto Health Bill

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The Independent Online

Liberal Democrat activists will defy Nick Clegg over the Government's controversial health reforms by seeking to "kill" them at a party policy-making conference next week.

Rebel party members are not satisfied with the concessions won by the Deputy Prime Minister as the Health and Social Care Bill completes its troubled passage through Parliament. Mr Clegg (pictured) had hoped that his latest intervention would allay fears that injecting more competition into the NHS could lead to "back-door privatisation."

But prominent activists vowed yesterday to press ahead with plans to table a hostile emergency motion about the Bill at the Lib Dem spring conference in Gates- head. If it were passed, it would put Mr Clegg in a difficult position. He could come under enormous pressure to withdraw his backing from the Bill, a move which could scupper it. If he continued to back it, he would be ignoring his own party's official policy.

Accused by Ed Miliband yesterday of sitting on the fence over the Bill, Mr Clegg told him in the Commons: "I support it."

Although David Cameron has agreed to Mr Clegg's demands on last-minute changes to the bill, some Lib Dem activists still fear the Bill will be "political suicide" and as damaging for their party as its spectacular U-turn over university tuition fees.

David Hall-Matthews, chairman of the left of centre Social Liberal Forum, said the group would continue to call for increased competition to be removed from the measure. "We would rather see the Bill withdrawn than passed in its current form," he said.