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Personal Care for the Elderly

– in the Scottish Parliament at 4:58 pm on 25th January 2001.

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Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour 5:07 pm, 25th January 2001

Thank you. It is right to say that other parties were not given notice of this statement, but the change of subject for debate here today was not notified to the Executive or to other parties.

The entire Scottish Executive listened very carefully to the debate in the Parliament arranged at short notice today and to the debate outwith the Parliament about the care of the elderly over recent months. We have taken cognisance of the views expressed yesterday and today, especially the sincerely held views of our colleagues in the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties. Today's very helpful amendment commits us only to move forward, but I want to put on record on behalf of the Executive where the process will lead us. I can therefore assure the Parliament that the Executive will bring forward, as soon as practicable after consideration of the development group's report in August 2001, proposals for the implementation of free personal care for all— [Applause.]

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

That will be accompanied by— [Interruption.]

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

It will be accompanied by an analysis of the costs and implications of so doing. [Applause.]

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Order. [Interruption.] Mr Cleland, I will have to suspend the meeting if you do not leave the gallery.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

It is absolutely disgraceful, given that the Government— [Interruption.] Never has a word seemed more inappropriate— [Interruption.]

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Government has had three opportunities in the past two days, but it has taken— [Interruption.] I think that you should call some order, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The chamber will come to order and members will refrain from trying to give me instructions. Ms Sturgeon, you may continue. I expect silence from the other members.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The Government—a word so inappropriate—has had three opportunities in two days to clarify its position and it is disgraceful that it has taken until two minutes before a vote in which it was staring defeat in the face to clarify its decision. The Government is driven less by care for the elderly and more by consideration of its own political survival.

Let me make it clear that I welcome the movement by the Government this afternoon. However, let me make it equally clear that it is nothing short of tragic that the Government has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to give justice for Scotland's elderly people. This afternoon is a victory for the elderly people of our country. The Government does not know its own mind from one hour to the next—it is a Government in disarray. It has been roundly humiliated in the chamber this afternoon. Let me make it abundantly clear: the Government will never be forgiven for failing the pensioners of Scotland.

In light of the rather hurried statement that we have just had from Tom McCabe, there is no reason whatsoever for any member to vote against the motion in the name of John Swinney. I expect a unanimous vote in favour of the motion calling for full implementation of the Sutherland report.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Before we proceed, I must insist that members hear out members quietly and with courtesy.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I welcome in part the statement that has been made by Mr McCabe. It represents a victory for many people who have campaigned for the implementation of the Sutherland recommendation on personal care costs. I appreciate the fact that the Executive has listened on that point. In a sense, it represents a triumph for all those members—of all parties—who have campaigned for that initiative.

However, I would say that the Liberals have been bought off somewhat cheaply. If we read the motion that they were apparently intending to vote for later today, it calls for not only an "unequivocal commitment" to Sutherland, but

"a definite timetable for its implementation."

I may have misheard Mr McCabe, but I do not think that his statement included any such definite timetable for implementation. All we were told is that, some time after August, once the Executive has received the report of its development group, another set of proposals will emerge. What the Executive has said—although I welcome it in part—falls well short of what members of the Scottish Parliament intended to vote for. If the Liberal Democrats wish to maintain momentum on the issue and to achieve what many members seek, they should vote for the original motion, because it calls for a definite timetable, which is absent from Mr McCabe's statement.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I would have preferred the Minister for Parliament's statement to have been made during this morning's debate, or even during First Minister's questions. That would have shown courtesy to the Parliament and to all its members.

I welcome the Executive's belated move in the right direction. Will the minister confirm that the Executive is now giving a clear, firm, unequivocal commitment to free personal care for all?

On the definite timetable—a question that I was going to raise even if Mr McLetchie had not mentioned it—will the minister now tell the chamber that the development working group, which was announced yesterday, will in August 2001 produce a definite timetable for the full implementation of that commitment, and that that statement will be made as soon as the Parliament resumes after the summer recess?

That was a question. I would like an answer to it.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We will now move to decision time.

Members:

Oh!

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Swinney, I was about to take Mr Raffan's point of order.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. It is normal practice in this chamber to ask questions of the minister when a ministerial statement is made, which is why I put my response in the form of a question. I would be grateful if the Minister for Parliament could reply to it.

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

The Executive is unequivocally committed to bringing proposals to this chamber that will implement free personal care for all. Those proposals will allow every member of this chamber to take a decision which implements those proposals.

Members:

When?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

We have to move to decision time.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

On a point of order. Speaking as somebody who has enjoyed a great deal of consensus on this issue in the past, I would like us to speak with one voice on this issue today—

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Can we have a point of order?

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

We have delivered what we came to this Parliament to do, so I ask John Swinney to withdraw his motion, and the others to withdraw their amendments, to allow us—

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

That is not a point of order, Mrs Smith.