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.]
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.
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
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.
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—