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Fairness and Security in Old Age

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 10th September 2003.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health 3:45 pm, 10th September 2003

The debate has been, as usual, good-humoured and enjoyable. It has also been informative, although I doubt whether it informed us in quite the way that the Liberal Democrats hoped. It tells us that they have not changed their ways—they would rather make a lot of noise and issue a lot of press releases than do any serious thinking about an issue. Although this is their Opposition day, and they started by saying that the issue is one of the most important of the day and absolutely key to their policies, at times they did not even have any Back Benchers in the Chamber and very few tried to contribute to the debate.

We have heard so many contradictions that it is difficult for me to figure out where to start, but I shall do so with a word that was mentioned by Mr. Webb—choice. That represents the key dividing line between what the Liberal Democrats intend for older people and what this Government intend. When Mr. Burstow opened the debate, he used the phrases, "People stuck in hospital when they are ready to go to a care home," and, "We want elderly people to go to a care home at the right time and the right place." The assumption that the Liberal Democrats make in all their planning is that the right place for older people is a care home. That is the inevitable consequence of everything that they try to do in local government and other places where they have positions of power, such as Scotland, and of what they are trying to do here in Westminster.