Disability Benefits for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Opposition Whip (Commons), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 5:37 pm, 8th December 2009

My right hon. Friend makes the obvious point, although until today I would maintain that there was still a reasonable element of confusion about exactly who would be affected. I suspect that there probably still is. If what the Secretary of State has announced today was so blindingly obvious, why was it not made clear when the policy was being discussed, just two or three weeks ago? Why have so many people been disturbed about it? It is not simply a question of politicians making something out of it; it could have been squashed at a very early stage, but it was not, and it was not squashed because the Secretary of State had not developed the policy far enough. I submit that what we have extracted from him today was not in his brief this morning.

The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Jonathan Shaw, had a similar opportunity to explain what the policy was in his interview with Disability Now. The magazine asked whether older people would be affected adversely if attendance allowance were abolished under a reformed social care system. The Under-Secretary rightly said:

"The amount would be put into a social budget of the local authority and people would receive care services in the way that they might use their Attendance Allowance to pay for that now."

Again, when the concern was raised there was no suggestion whether that would apply now or in the future. It was left hanging. I suggest that there are real concerns about that matter, so my right hon. and hon. Friends are quite right to have tabled a motion that is widely supported and endorsed by agencies outside.

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