NHS doctor
The NHS and immigration will be the two biggest issues at the 2015 General Election in BritainReuters

The bill aimed at repealing some of the most toxic elements of the unpopular Health and Social Care Act continues to gather momentum in Parliament.

The National Health Service (amended duties and powers) bill passed through the Second Reading stage of its parliamentary passage today, and is aimed at eliminating private competition to the NHS.

It would also remove the clause that means all NHS contracts must be tendered and that hospitals can make 49% of their income from the private sector.

While critics have said that it sets no upper limit on the income hospitals can make from private patients, it restores parliamentary sovereignty over the NHS, meaning that ultimately, the privatisation buck stops with the Secretary of State for Health.

The bill would also exempt the NHS from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade agreement between the EU and US which is currently being negotiated.

The private members bill was passed through for a second reading on a 239-20 vote. It has been tabled by Clive Efford, the MP for Eltham, who said: "The NHS as we know it today will disappear if we continue to allow services to be contracted out to private companies.

"The government's own figures for 2013-14 show that more than £10bn (€12.6bn, $15.7bn) was spent on the purchase of healthcare from non-NHS bodies. If this is allowed to continue it will seriously undermine the capacity of the NHS to provide services in the future, leaving us at the mercy of the private sector. This Bill will halt the rush to privatisation and put patients rather than profits at the heart of our NHS."

Regarding any future TTIP agreement, the bill says that no ratified bill "shall cause any legally enforceable procurement or competition obligations to be imposed on any NHS body entering into any arrangement for the provision of health services in any part".

The NHS is not up for discussion as part of TTIP, but each EU government is free to negotiate the inclusion of their own public services. The UK government has repeatedly said that there is no need to use a veto to exempt the NHS, but has refused to confirm whether it will negotiate its inclusion on a bilateral basis.

"My Bill will also give Parliament sovereignty over the NHS and will protect it from TTIP which threatens to allow private companies to use the courts to force the wholesale privatisation of the NHS," Efford said.

Opponents to the bill claimed that exempting the health sector would be detrimental to the UK's economy. Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP for Banbury, said that UK pharmaceutical and medical equipment would risk losing the benefit of an open export market with the US.

At the bill's debate on 21 November, the new Ukip MP for Rochester and Strood, Mark Reckless, made his return to Parliament and spoke of his party's "opposition to privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS". This is despite the fact that Reckless voted in favour of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

Reckless confirmed that his party wishes to see the NHS exempt from TTIP. He said that he is "very sceptical of TTIP", saying that it is less of a free trade agreement, more of a set of regulations to which companies must subscribe.