|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we are not ignoring this very important issue, which is why we introduced Section 318 into the 2008 Act. The reason a more straightforward statutory instrument would not work is a bit complicated, but basically the noble
17 Mar 2010 : Column 599
Earl Cathcart: My Lords, in January last year there were a massive 1,276 unauthorised Traveller sites that have to be tolerated due to the special treatment given to them; a further 1,086 sites on Travellers' own land that were not tolerated; and a further 1,315 unauthorised sites on other people's land. Will the Government give councils which have provided authorised sites stronger powers to tackle unauthorised development and illegal trespass?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I would not accept the proposition of "special treatment", which I think was the noble Earl's phrase. We believe that the framework we have in place in terms of enforcement and encouragement of the identification of provision of sites to be the right one, and that is what the task group basically supported. The noble Earl has, however, partly put his finger on the issue that so long as 20 per cent of people living in caravans have no authorised place to stay, there are going to be these ongoing challenges. It is therefore important that local authorities go through their requirements to identify and bring forward additional sites. A statistic that surprised me when I read the brief is that across the country, it would take in aggregate no more than one square mile to accommodate all the additional authorised sites we would need.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, does the Minister accept that Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are almost invisible recipients of racial prejudice in this country, and will he work with colleagues, particularly in the education and justice departments, to ensure that appropriate provision is made for this often ignored minority ethnic group?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I fear that that proposition is right, which is why the Government are seeking to ensure, through a range of measures, that we support these groups. They are covered by the Equality Bill, which is just finishing its passage through your Lordships' House and we addressed them quite recently, for example, in the context of the Child Poverty Bill. The right reverend Prelate has rightly identified issues around health and education, and it is important that we move forward with measures to deal with them.
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Corporal Richard Green of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, Rifleman Jonathon Allott of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, Rifleman Liam Maughan of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, Lance Corporal Tom Keogh of 4th Battalion The Rifles, part of the 3 Rifles Battle Group, and Corporal Stephen Thompson from 1st Battalion The Rifles, part of the 3 Rifles Battle Group, as well as the three soldiers who have not yet been named from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, who have been killed recently because of operations in Afghanistan.
On the Question, it is the Cabinet Secretary's responsibility, not Ministers', to issue guidance to government departments on their activities during the election period, including how they should communicate. Guidelines have been agreed between officials in the Cabinet Office and in the Ministry of Defence about the implications for reporting on operations to ensure that facts about events in Afghanistan can continue to be made public. As during the 2005 general election, some restrictions on visits to theatre will apply.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I associate these Benches with the Minister's condolences to the families and friends of the riflemen and the three soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment. On the Question, this war is of national importance and the British public have every right to know what is happening, including the many acts of heroism. Sixteen servicemen have received the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and scores more the Military Cross. Are the Government gagging the press for fear that they may uncover inconvenient truths that are damaging to new Labour during the election campaign?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I regret the comments of the noble Lord. The experience of recognising the gallantry of those who are fighting in Afghanistan should unite the whole House and not divide us. As I said in my opening remarks, the guidelines are not issued by Ministers and the decisions are not taken by Ministers; they are taken by the Cabinet Secretary and his officials. The Chief of the Defence Staff has said clearly that no one within the military-anyway, it would be against Queen's Regulations-should be undertaking any activity that could call into question political impartiality. It is in the interests of the armed services that no one calls their impartiality into question.
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, on behalf of the Cross Benches, I add to the condolences expressed by the Minister. Can the Government find a way of
17 Mar 2010 : Column 601
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a good point, which the whole House could support. It is clear that what we are doing in Afghanistan is not just a military operation; it is also about ensuring long-term stability. That is dependent on the comprehensive approach, which includes looking at the economic and social progress that many people are trying to bring into effect. Those who are working in that area deserve our recognition also.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I include these Benches in the earlier tribute. Can the Minister say where this nonsense is going to end? Is it the intention of the Government to gag the military commanders in the field in some way during the election campaign? Is it not an insult to our forces, who during the campaign will be laying their lives on the line for us, not to have the normal continuous reporting that we have got used to? Should not the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary stop sheltering behind the Cabinet Secretary and reverse this wholly untenable and unacceptable position?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the noble Lord is asking us as Ministers to interfere in an area where Ministers should not make and are not making decisions. The guidelines would be political were they being imposed by Ministers. It is an insult to suggest that the picture that the noble Lord presents is the case. The Chief of the Defence Staff has made it clear that his military people can continue to brief on progress with operations, can release factual information and can maintain blogs from operational theatre. However, they must stick to factual information only. Those guidelines are not ministerial. They are supported by the military and they are decided by the Cabinet Secretary and officials. I believe that they point us in the right direction.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, perhaps I, too, may express my condolences not just to those who have lost their lives in the recent tragic incidents, but to the seriously injured, whom we often forget. They are brought back and, with the wonders of medical science, are able to pick up their lives, but they are very seriously wounded. I hope that we never forget them.
I think that the noble Baroness is profoundly mistaken. As somebody who had to endure certain problems with the press embedded with our forces in the first Gulf War, I none the less took the view that they must always be allowed to report. While the Cabinet Secretary is admirable in giving his guidance, there is a Government with Ministers, who can discuss this in advance of the election with the leaders of the opposition parties. I am sure that that would be in the interests of the country. The noble Baroness must realise that, otherwise,
17 Mar 2010 : Column 602
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, that impression is given only by those who want to give it. The clarity of the guidelines that have been drawn up will ensure that there is direct reporting on a factual basis from those in the military who know what is going on on the ground. General Messenger's briefings in London will continue. They will be on a factual basis and that is the way it should be. We should be wary of allowing political interference. That is why it is right that Ministers should not be involved in these kinds of decisions.
Let me take up the other point that the noble Lord made, which was about recognising those who have been seriously injured and the wonders of science that have kept them alive. We have seen this week some of those scientific wonders, with someone seeing through their tongue. It is appropriate to recognise the progress that is being made and the contributions of those who have sacrificed much of their future in many ways.
"( ) impose on local authorities duties relating to the portability of the free provision"
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton: My Lords, the House will recall that, in Committee, I tabled a similar amendment calling for arrangements to be put in place to ensure that recipients of free personal care are guaranteed seamless support in the event of moving from one local authority to another. My concern has been to ensure that no one's human rights are compromised by avoidable interruptions or breaks in
17 Mar 2010 : Column 604
I have witnessed situations when care funding has stopped for nearly six months, while a severely disabled person renegotiated a similar care package in his new local authority. This person was not only forced to make all his assistants redundant-they were due to move with him while he looked for new staff locally-but he was left with absolutely no money to pay for backup care in his new home. He managed to scrape by, by taking a loan out and praying that family and volunteers would just about cover the costs. He survived the journey but, due to the stress and disruptions to care on top of the anxiety we all go through when moving, others have not. Even a few weeks' delay or uncertainty can be dangerous for this group of people with personally challenging disabilities or illnesses.
This Bill attempts to create some of the foundations of a future national care service. One important feature of this modern service will be to provide universal consistency and portability of care. Therefore, it seems vital to me to seize this opportunity to test how we can deliver portability in practice. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said in Committee that the Government would take this issue away with a view to making appropriate provision for transitional protection in regulations. I am very pleased to inform noble Lords that she has been true to her word. It feels like I and my colleagues from the Royal Association for Disability Rights-RADAR-have been locked in a room with officials for weeks, looking for the very best and clearest way to actualise the portability policy intent. This has been a complex and challenging task. Noble Lords will know that community care law is plentiful and tortuously complex.
I am pleased to say that we have emerged with what I think are clear and robust enforceable regulations and directives. I am very much indebted to the Minister for her passion and determination to find a workable solution, and to her officials who have worked with me in the true spirit of co-production, which is extremely hard to get right. We have been working on it for many years. I also acknowledge and thank Luke Clements, who gave me excellent legal advice, and RADAR for its usual high standard of support and knowledge. Finally, I am very grateful, as always, for the strong support this issue has received from all sides of the House. I know that the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Williams, share my passion to extend this freedom of movement to the most disabled in our society.
My purpose in retabling this amendment is to ensure that the Government can set out on the record the fruits of our deliberations and the shape of future regulations. We must have it on the record. I shall say no more now because the Minister will doubtless give a full exposition in her response. I beg to move.
Baroness Barker: My Lords, I am very happy to support the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, on an issue which has been debated in this House many times. It is a shame that it has taken such a long time to come to a successful conclusion.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, suggested in her speech in Committee and today, one of the deepest concerns of people who move from one area to another is the time lapse between assessments. Often their needs are urgent and have not changed, but the process of assessment delays their receipt of care. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for the letter that she sent the other day, in which she made it explicit that there will be a continuity of service pending an assessment by the receiving authority. It should not be incumbent on a receiving authority to carry out an assessment in all cases. Will the Minister clarify that I am right that under the provisions of the Bill and the regulations it will be possible for people to move and for it to be accepted that their needs remain the same? We would not want to put people through an unnecessary process of assessment, which would just waste everybody's time. That is the point of clarification that I wish to hear.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Thornton): The noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, has tabled this amendment, supported by the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilkins and Lady Barker, to discuss once again the important matter of portability of care. It is an issue on which she has long campaigned with great determination, and which she again described most eloquently.
Of course, we recognise the potential for disruption to patterns of care, which can be the reality for a disabled person who moves from one local authority to another. The issue is addressed in the forthcoming White Paper as one of the long-term challenges of the care system.
Further to our confirmation in Committee that we would include provision to effect transitional protection in regulations, as the noble Baroness said, I am pleased to confirm that I believe that we can now achieve what has been long proposed: portability of the free personal care element of a package of community care services when someone moves from one authority to another for a transitional period.
In other words, where a person in receipt of free personal care moves from one authority to another, they must continue to be provided with the same package of free personal care as they had before their move, until the new authority has assessed their needs for community care services and decided what services to provide in the light of that assessment. They do not need to make that assessment; that is for them to decide.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|