REBEL Labour MPs in the North-East are threatening a humiliating defeat for Prime Minister Tony Blair today over his plans to set up "super-hospitals".

MPs opposed to the creation of foundation trusts pledged to defy mounting pressure from their own whips to vote against the Health and Social Care Bill.

The oppositions threatens Mr Blair with a defeat in the Commons today, although Labour loyalists last night were predicting a narrow Government win.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust are in line to win foundation status next April, with the right to borrow extra cash and set different pay rates.

A further four trusts - South Tyneside, Gateshead, Harrogate and York - could be in a second wave of foundation trusts.

Frank Cook, MP for Stockton North, and Gerry Steinberg, Durham City MP, were among 62 Labour backbenchers who cut the Government's majority to 35 in the last foundation hospitals vote, in July.

Since then, Labour's conference has overwhelmingly voted against the proposal and, two weeks ago, the measure was thrown out by peers in the House of Lords.

Last night, Mr Cook said: "I have every intention of voting against the Bill again and I think there will be more Labour MPs voting against it than last time."

Mr Steinberg said: "We are bringing back the internal market that was introduced by the Tories.

"It will create a situation where we have local hospital versus local hospital. It is very, very divisive."

If MPs vote against foundation hospitals, Mr Blair will be faced with dropping the idea or losing other important changes in the Health and Social Care Bill.

Labour has promised that all hospitals will gain foundation status, but not for five years - raising fears of a "two-tier" health service.