I beg to move, That this House
disagrees with Lords amendment 1.
Copy and paste this code on your website
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government motion to disagree, and Government amendment in lieu.
Lords amendment 2, and Government motion to disagree.
Lords amendment 4, and Government motion to disagree.
This Bill, as the House knows, reaches out to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. We want to ensure that they can benefit from these reforms. I can therefore confirm to the House that we will look to offer free personal care at home for those with highest needs from April 2011.
However, we have listened to local government and we have listened to the concerns expressed in another place. By accepting Lords amendment 2, and given our intention not to move the amendment in lieu, we are recognising that a new Parliament may wish to confirm the arrangements for implementing this important first step towards a future national care service. Local authorities will still have the time that they have told us they need to implement the legislation most effectively, subject to Parliamentary approval of the commencement order.
I now turn to the Lords amendments. Mr. Speaker has designated Lords amendments 1 and 4 as involving privilege because they would alter the financial arrangements made by this House. However, we wish to agree with Lords amendment 2, as this recognises the collective desire for more time to implement these measures and more time to scrutinise them. It does so by requiring a commencement order to be laid and approved by both Houses before the Act can come into force.
Lords Amendment 1, in its current wording, would delay implementation of the scheme until June 2011 at the earliest. This is because it would prevent regulations from being made until
Lords Amendment 4 would insert what is known as a sunset clause, and would require the Act resulting from this Bill to lapse at the end of two years after Royal Assent unless there were regulations in force. In addition to the question of privilege, Lords amendments 1 and 4 are inappropriate and unnecessary. They seek to delay implementation of the Bill beyond what is reasonable.
Today's White Paper makes it clear that the personal care offer enabled by this Bill is an integral part of the staged route to a national care service. However, we accept that a future Parliament may want to confirm the arrangements for implementation and will therefore accept Lords amendment 2. Lords amendment 2 would require that a commencement order be made before the provisions of the Bill could come into force. Additionally, such an order would need to be approved by the affirmative procedure, with consideration in both this House and the other place. This would give adequate time for a future Parliament to consider the measures, or leave them free to put the Act into force immediately if they so wished.
This Bill has been subject to rigorous debate both in this House and in another place. By disagreeing with amendments 1 and 4 on the grounds of privilege, I am not in any way intending to criticise the quality of debate in the Lords, which was of a consistently high standard and led us to include transitional portability of assessment. I hope that these proposals now clearly show that we have tried to achieve a consensus on the way forward.
It is absolutely clear that the Government are keen to get this Bill through, and we too are extremely keen to see social care reformed. Although we have proposed improving amendments during the passage of the Bill, let me stress that we have never opposed it. We believe that the noble Lords, on both sides of their House, who have amended the Bill have done so for the better and for the betterment of social care provision. They have done their constitutional job, and they have done it well, so I congratulate their lordships.
As much as I would relish the thought of debating the Bill through the night, and as much as these amendments represent the usual, slight embarrassment and defeats for the Government in the Lords, at the hands of those on both sides of that Chamber, including their own, I start by saying that the Government can have their Bill, because they have taken on board the advice of the Lords and because, in particular, they are supporting Lords amendment 2, which offers the opportunity and time for the provisions to be reconsidered in a future Parliament.
I pay tribute, however, to the nearly 6 million social care users in this country-a catch-all category that speaks of conditions from dementia to disabilities of which we will all be aware-and to the 6 million carers in this country, who, alongside the professionals in local authorities and the care services industry, work so tirelessly for the vulnerable and the less vulnerable, who just need a little help. They should be at the forefront of our minds as we consider the Bill tonight.
On the back of that, I would say very quickly that the Bill actually helps very few of those people. The Secretary of State has paraded the figure of 400,000, but the free personal care section is aimed only at 276,000, of whom well over half-166,000-already receive free care. So the policy helps 110,000, when social care users will number 6 million by 2012. According to the Government's estimate, the provisions will take just 2,384 people out of care homes-one of the stated aims of the policy-out of a care home population of roughly 500,000.
I shall briefly put this in context. Earlier today, by way of a written ministerial statement, the Secretary of State announced the social care White Paper. This is not the moment to suggest either that it would have been more helpful to have an oral statement or that, during Health questions, he did not actually rule out the death tax option. However, it is important to recognise that the White Paper recommends that we have yet another commission, like the one ignored by the Labour Government in 2000. It states that the issue will be dealt with in the Parliament after next, but the Secretary of State pledged unstoppable momentum for reform in the next Parliament. Indeed, on Labour's timetable, reform will begin in 2017-20 years after Tony Blair's promise to end the scandal of people selling their homes to pay for the their care.
The White Paper does not mention costs, which no serious debate would ignore. It states that the Government have chosen the comprehensive funding model, but it is not actually a funding model; it is a delivery model. The funding is the question: where does the money come from? The flagship policy, which was taken from our last manifesto-we have, obviously, moved on further-is to fund the cost of people's care after they have spent two years in a care home, on the basis that they will avoid what the Secretary of State calls catastrophic costs. However, those two years will cost the individual £52,000. In that context, I hope that he will recognise that £52,000 is catastrophic, compared with the £8,000 we have proposed.
We have listened carefully to what the Government have done, which is not to move the earlier manuscript amendment and to accept the advice of the Lords in amendment 2, which affords the time that is required and was rightly requested in order for the costs to be properly evaluated and for local authorities to have the time that they have politely said that they need.
Will my hon. Friend contrast the consensus, which he supports, on care of these very vulnerable people with the fact that, in constituencies up and down the country, the Labour party is writing to them, saying that were there a Conservative Government, many of their benefits would be taken away? Is that not a disgraceful use of Government powers in dealing with vulnerable people?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Indeed, it would be a disgrace were anybody to claim that any Opposition party, including the Conservative party, had suggested removing pensioner benefits. In the same way, it is not us who have suggested removing cash benefits, which are vital for those vulnerable people and their carers, in the form of either the attendance allowance or the disability living allowance for the under or over-65s, either now or going forward. My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and, having placed what I have said on the record, I hope that we will have no more such suggestions, in what I hope can be a clean campaign as we face the electorate.
Will my hon. Friend be good enough to confirm that the Government have in fact performed a massive climbdown? Their proposals, as expressed on the "Today" programme this morning by the Secretary of State, indicate that they do not quite appreciate the extent to which they have done a massive U-turn. Does my hon. Friend have any idea of when the appointed day on which they will bring in the proposals is likely to be, because after all, they might not even be the Government then?
My hon. Friend makes the point, which I think the Government accept, that they have sought to introduce the Bill at breakneck speed. We have often discussed the provenance of the Bill, which was quickly put together for the Prime Minister's conference speech last September. The Government then produced a Green Paper, yet the principles that underlie this Bill seem to fly in the face of the principles that they ruled out in that Green Paper, and only today has a White Paper been produced. The costs have been estimated in a way that they first had to be withdrawn, and they remain uncertain. Many local authorities signed a letter to the newspapers to suggest that they had not had a chance to get the scheme ready for the time proposed. Ultimately, therefore, my hon. Friend is right that there has been some concern, but it is important that we should portray what the Government have done as an attempt at an honourable retreat, rather than as a U-turn.
Above all, local authorities will have a chance to take advice and make the necessary estimation of the cost if the Bill is introduced by way of a commencement order under the affirmative resolution procedure, as would be the case under Lords amendment 2, which the Government have rightly agreed should be agreed. That will give whoever forms the next Government the opportunity to decide how the Bill sits in the context of the policies that are developed going forward, and whether it should form part of a retrospectively justifying stage 1 of a White Paper or what we hope will be a much speedier process of total social care reform, although we shall have to wait and see what the judgment of the electorate is in the forthcoming general election.
With those comments I am happy to welcome the approach that the Government have taken, in having taken the advice of the Lords and deciding to take the process forward in the way that they have.
We, too, have listened carefully to what the Government have proposed, and we accept the position. We are critical of the Bill for the same reasons that the noble Lords Lipsey and Warner set out in the other place. We feel that it cuts against the process of reform that was first set out in the Green Paper. We do not see the Bill as a bridge to reform, as the Government have described it, but, at the very least, the amendments before us offer an opportunity to pause for reflection in the next Parliament. Likewise, we, too, take the view that we must move to implement a fundamental reform of social care in the next Parliament. It cannot wait until the Parliament after that.
It is for that reason that I have concerns about the White Paper, which was published today, in that it delays a fundamental reform of the system, a reform that we think is long overdue. There are things in the White Paper that we strongly support, particularly the much closer integration of health and social care, the focus on prevention and ensuring the maximum choice and freedom for individuals in how the money is used, but we believe that there is an overwhelming case for getting on with reform, which we would want to see early in the next Parliament. Following the election we will continue to make the case for the three parties to work together to secure that reform as quickly as possible.
Lords amendment 1 disagreed to.
Lords amendment 2 agreed to , with Commons privileges waived in respect of Lords amendment. .
As I advised the House earlier, Mr. Speaker has given careful consideration to Lords amendment 3 to the Bill. He is satisfied that it would impose a charge on the public revenue which is not authorised by a resolution of this House. Therefore under paragraph 3 of
Lords amendment 3 deemed to be disagreed to (
Lords amendment 4 disagreed to.
Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendments 1, 3 and 4;
That Mary Creagh, Phil Hope, Norman Lamb, Mr. Stephen O'Brien and Phil Wilson be members of the Committee;
That Phil Hope be the Chair of the Committee;
That three be the quorum of the Committee;
That the Committee do withdraw immediately.- (Mark Tami.)
Committee to withdraw immediately; reasons to be reported and communicated to the Lords.