I am delighted to follow Nic Dakin, as I completely agree that this issue is about leadership. Some of my hon. Friends alluded to a better-tempered debate, such as the Back-Bench business debate, to which all parties made thoughtful contributions, based on a great deal of expertise from different walks of life—whether from people in the medical profession, those who had spent their life in social services or those who had a personal point of view from being a carer. We heard some heartfelt contributions in that debate, so I think we are united in the desire to do something about this issue.
What I have found deeply disappointing about today is the fact that this debate was called in the first place. There was significant and genuine desire by this coalition Government to solve once and for all this problem that everyone agrees needs to be solved. Everyone agrees that it needs cross-party support—for reasons that are obvious to anyone sitting in the Gallery or watching this evening’s debate and to all the various voluntary organisations that have been very substantially misquoted or very selectively quoted this evening. There is a unity of purpose, but it is not being served by the Opposition who are tabling Opposition day debates, falsely dividing the House.
If the Opposition were to put their efforts into working closely with the two parties that form this coalition to come to a sensible solution, I believe that measures would be in the White Paper, but we are still seeing sledging and negative comments from Opposition Front-Bench Members as we have seen all day. It is deeply disappointing that the Opposition are so thoroughly letting down the people whom they claim they represent. I do not believe it is too late, and I really urge them to get back to the table and to be more positive about the steps that the Government are taking—[Interruption.] Here we go again; I cannot even finish a sentence without Opposition Members chuntering.
The fact is that I worked very closely with a number of Opposition colleagues. Various Members have talked about the very good work we did in the inquiry led by the all-party group on local government that looked at this issue. There was an all-party agreed proposal that identified many measures—which the Government have picked up in the draft White Paper—that we can achieve together. The effort should be focused on what we agree on, so that we can offer the reassurance that is needed by the desperately worried people all around the country that have been quietly identified this evening. People are worried not only about the social care system now, but the social care system in the future. We should be reassuring these people and giving them hope that this House has the necessary combined will and determination. I do not think any of us want to face the electorate at the next general election saying that this problem has not been solved.
As to the timetable, yes, I would love to be able to stand here today and congratulate the Government on finding every penny to fund a long-term solution. If we can get the cross-party talks into gear in September, we should be able to put in place the mechanism that, as confirmed by the Secretary of State, could be built into a Bill and put before Parliament. When all parties have agreed on how this is to be funded—as many people have rightly said, it will cost billions of pounds every year and we are in a very difficult financial situation, so all parties must agree on how those billions can be found—there is every possibility that such a Bill will get through Parliament and, when next year’s comprehensive spending review is developed, the money will be found.
Yes, it is frustrating if we have to wait another year or 18 months. Before I entered the House, I spent the best part of my adult life working for Age Concern England and for the International Longevity Centre in the UK, coming up with solutions that previous Governments certainly kicked into the long grass, so this is our best hope in a generation.