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In 1979, luncheon clubs provided meals for 15 million old people. In the last year for which figures are available, they provided meals for only 7 million people. Those clubs provide old people not just with a meal but with a chance to get out and enjoy a bit of company—to stir out of their homes, in which some of them feel imprisoned because they are fearful of going out. Will more or fewer pensioners be having meals in luncheon clubs as a result of today's announcement?
As for care in the community, there are all sorts of calculations about NHS funding, local council funding, voluntary sector funding and private sector funding. I admit that the system is byzantine in its complexity, but the evidence of people's eyes and of our advice services and post bags show that the figures speak for themselves—sad figures, stumbling around the streets with no one to look after them. People have come to us because their neighbours cannot help being a nuisance when they are in a crisis, but there is no one to look after them; there are no acute or secure beds to cope with them. From the inner cities to the shire counties, care in the community is not working properly—and we all know it.
I shall continue with a few more examples of what seems likely to happen. No doubt the Government will refer to them as anecdotes. These days, the definition of an anecdote is a reality that gives the lie to Government statistics. The Government claim that the threats to services are exaggerated by councils. There may be some truth in that; there may be exaggeration by teachers and by pensioner groups. For every spoonful of hyperbole on the part of local people, we get a bucketful of litotes from Ministers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Of what?"] For Conservative Members who have not had the benefit of a classical education, I shall try again. For every ounce of exaggeration by local people, we get a ton of complacent understatement from Ministers.
In Warwickshire, there is a threat to schools. Yesterday, I encountered someone in a meeting to do with the green side of my environmental duties. Towards the end of our discussions, he suddenly said, "I hope you are going to oppose what is happening to schools in Warwickshire, because we are faced with a possible loss of one teacher from every primary school and every secondary school. That will harm the education of my children and of the children of my neighbours." Does the Secretary of State deny that that is likely to happen?