Labour members of the environment select committee claimed ministers were centralising power, as they would decide who was 'best'.
Ms Armstrong said: 'The whole issue of beacon councils came from my concern that too often it is the poorest that control local government. It is not going to be ministers deciding on their favourites. It will be a process of assessment and evaluation using straightforward criteria.'
She told Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman a group would advise the government on the criteria. The group would be appointed once the legislation is passed, she said.