THE Health Secretary told parliament today he was seeking fresh legal advice over the potential closure of Lewisham's A&E.

During a debate over today's announcement by the Trust Special Administrator, who has submitted final proposals to Jeremy Hunt, Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock questioned the legality of dragging Lewisham into the mess left by the South London Healthcare Trust's financial meltdown.

Ms Ruddock said: "These proposals would lead to a major reconfiguration by the back door."

Mr Hunt said that he believed there were powers to change Lewisham services under the Unsustainable Providers Regime, saying: "I'll be seeking fresh advice on that particular point because I recognise it's an extremely important one."

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham claimed Lewisham was being used as a pawn to solve problems in neighbouring boroughs, saying: "This process is attempting to re-write the rules on making changes to hospital services."

When asked by MP Heidi Alexander if he would meet with protestors, Mr Burnham declined. He claimed the proposals would not be backed unless they met four tests - being supported by the medical profession, that the public have been involved in the process, that the decision is clinically based and that it provides a choice of good quality providers.

Mr Hunt is due to make a decision on February 1 and revealed he would meet with Mr Kershaw on January 10.