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"The purpose of this Part is to enable disabled people aged 18 or over to exercise greater choice"-
"in relation to, and greater control over, the way in which relevant services (as defined by section 31) are provided to or for them"
The Government seemed to be saying-and I agree with them-that they wanted to move in the direction of individuals having greater control over the services. However, what we are seeing now is a move towards less control. Nobody has explained to me-perhaps the Minister could explain this evening-exactly how those two things are meant to relate to each other.
Previously I asked-and would like to ask again-what would happen to the money in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Will it be handed over as a lump sum? Will attendance allowance be based on need or will it be based on the Barnett formula? Will it be open to the devolved Governments to continue with attendance allowance in Scotland and Wales, even when it is eventually phased out in England? I did not quite hear the Secretary of State's earlier answer, but if I understood him correctly, he said that he would brief the devolved Governments. I hope that he would go a little further than just briefing them and enter into a consultation with them on how the proposals might work out.
We have received the assurance that only new claimants will be affected, but that leaves a number of questions about the future. Who will be paying for the protection? Will the money go through the local authority or will it be transitionally protected under the social security system? Will it affect local authority budgets, and what happens if local authorities cannot or will not pay? Is the money inflation proof, or will it not be increased each year in line with inflation and thus gradually reduced in real terms? If that is good enough for existing recipients, why should other disabled elderly people not receive at least the same? We will end up with a two-tier system, and potentially for quite a long time.
What happens to people on the middle or high rate of DLA if they reach 65 after the new system is in place? Will they be protected or will they lose the benefit when they reach 65? The current protection appears to affect those on benefit at the time of change, not afterwards, but if so many people are to be protected, what is the point? Should we not continue with something much closer to the present system? What would the impact be on carer's allowance? It is not particularly generous at
the moment, at £53.10, but if it is abolished, what will happen to someone who looks after a person who receives attendance allowance or DLA at the higher or middle rate? Similarly, will there be an impact on pension credit?
Locally, the Labour campaign against me often refers to how often I might vote with the Conservatives, but sometimes it forgets to say that, very occasionally, the Conservatives are right and the Labour party is wrong. I must admit that, in this particular debate, I remain suspicious of the Conservatives' motives. I am suspicious of what they might cut instead, if they are going to protect these benefits. However, it is hard to say that Labour has not moved further to the right of the Conservatives on this issue.
The Government have rightly given undertakings about DLA for the under-65s, and, yesterday, new reassurances that those receiving cash will continue to do so. I suggest, however, that it was cynical to get people this worried in the first place, and then apparently to give ground. In the longer term, how can it be right to change the system to give future claimants less control over their benefits?
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): I was enjoying the speech made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, East (John Mason), until that last bit. He can rest assured that he can vote with us; he does not have to convince himself that we are right, but he can be absolutely certain that the Government are wrong. It was also a delight almost to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Chloe Smith), who demonstrated in her thoughtful speech her clear understanding of and care for her constituents.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) set out our case comprehensively and-despite what the Secretary of State said-in a measured, thoughtful way. He exposed the weakness of the Government's case. My right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell), a former Health Secretary, made a thoughtful and typically well-informed speech that raised a number of important questions.
This debate has exposed a Government who are in disarray and running scared on this issue. The Secretary of State-wherever he happens to be-has today effectively holed his own Green Paper below the water line. We did not think that it held the answers anyway, so, from our point of view, that is welcome, but he has effectively destroyed it. He changed the language today. Up until this morning, when the Government's amendment to the motion repeated the words
"would continue to receive an equivalent level of support",
Ministers had stuck doggedly to that language-not that anyone knew what it meant. Many interpreted it to mean that benefits such as attendance allowance and disability living allowance for those over the age of 65 would be taken away and put into a social care system, leading to less control and independence.
Despite what the Secretary of State said, those concerns were not got up by the Opposition; 105 MPs of all parties have signed early-day motion 1, including 39 Labour Members. I think that I heard the hon. Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry) correctly when he said that, despite having signed that early-day motion, he was going to vote against exactly the same wording on
today's Order Paper, purely because today's motion had been tabled by us. He has a good reputation on these issues, and I think that he let himself down in making that argument.
Roger Berry: That was not the reason that I gave. I was angry at the way in which the Opposition have scared a number of elderly and disabled people by making the untrue statement that the Government had already made their decision. They have not, and to say that they have is not worthy of support from anyone.
Mr. Harper: The hon. Gentleman's intervention is inaccurate. He knows that, outside the House, every single organisation representing disabled people has opposed taking away these national disability benefits. He said that himself. These concerns were not got up by the Opposition. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire quoted the Disability Alliance's survey, which had asked its members whether attendance allowance and other benefits should be taken away, and found that 93 per cent. said no. RADAR, a pan-disability organisation, said:
"RADAR is adamant no one is getting their mitts on vital extra-cost benefits. These benefits are to help meet a wide range of extra costs, not just care, but extra heating, laundry and so on. Take them away and people would lose choice, control and independence and more people would fall into poverty."
"we have always opposed any move to take DLA care component and AA into broader social care funding and will continue to do so."
Those concerns are shared not only by Members on both sides of the House but by all those organisations, so to pretend that they have somehow been got up by the Opposition as part of a scaremongering campaign-
What did we hear today from the Secretary of State? As my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) said, he effectively said "Read my lips-no cash losers". Some might think that that was all well and good, but there is a problem for the Government. What the Secretary of State-who still has not turned up for the winding-up speeches-said today is not compatible with the amendment that his party tabled to our motion this morning. It is actually closer to our motion than to the amendment. It is also contradicted on a number of occasions by his own Green Paper.
There are three options on page 95 of the Green Paper, which the Government say are their favoured options. They are the partnership model, the insurance model and the comprehensive model. They all use disability benefits to extend care to those who do not get it now. The Secretary of State's saying today that there would effectively be no cash losers rules out all the Government's preferred options in the Green Paper.
"we want to consider the different ways in which this could be funded, including through integrating funding from the social care and benefits systems."
"We want to use the money that is in the system to make sure that everyone who qualifies for care and support will get some help with paying for their care."
However, if care is to be extended to those who do not currently get it, the money will have to come from within the system, which means that it will have to come from those disability benefits. If the Secretary of State is now ruling out touching those benefits, he is ruling out this proposal in the Green Paper. Given that some people are not getting care at the moment, the costs will have to go up. If there are to be no cash losers, that will simply not add up.
"if the social care system were able to mostly meet the care needs of people who may currently only be supported through the disability benefits system, there would be less need for some of these benefits, and there might be a case for integrating some disability benefits such as Attendance Allowance into the care and support system."
"We can use the taxpayers' money that is already in the system to provide everyone with some care."
As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire pointed out, page 109 of the Green Paper makes it clear that there will be more people getting social care funding under the national care service than at present. According to the Green Paper, the only place that the money can come from is those disability benefits, as the Government have ruled out funding the increased spending from taxation, which I know is the favoured system of hon. Member for Kingswood.
So the Secretary of State cannot have it both ways. If there are to be no cash losers, this Green Paper is not worth the paper it is printed on. Page 114-Members, especially Labour Members, will be pleased to know that this is the last quote-states:
"The state would put in existing funding from taxes which are used for social care and any disability benefits that were integrated, and would use this to support the costs of everyone's care."
That is not about ensuring that there are no cash losers, or that people could have the money and spend how they wanted to, on supporting their independence and choice; it is about using the money to support the cost of everyone's care. That is clear. None of the preferred options can be reconciled with what the Secretary of State said this afternoon.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, asked an important question. If it is true that there are to be no cash losers, and that people will be able to keep the money, will they be able to spend it as they choose-as they can now-on supporting their independence and choice and enabling them to live the life that they want to live? The Secretary of State, who still is not here, could not-or would not-answer that question. So will the Minister tell us whether people will be able to spend that money as freely as they can now?
The Secretary of State made a point of quoting my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), and he was quite right. We support what the Government want to do on extending personalisation. Indeed, the Welfare Reform Bill allows social care funding to be integrated into the right to control only because we pressed for that in this House, although we were opposed by the Government- [ Interruption. ] The Secretary of State has finally joined us. Conservatives in the other place, together with Liberal Democrats and Cross-Bench peers, put together a majority which meant that the Government were forced to table their own amendments, with cross-party support, to do the opposite of what they were going to do when the Bill was in Committee in this House. If anyone looks at the record, they can see that that is exactly right; it is very clear.
The question for the Minister to answer is why until today the Government were sticking to the line that people would be given "an equivalent level of support", which is what it says in the Government amendment, and only now that the Secretary of State effectively said, "Read my lips-no cash losers." As I have comprehensively demonstrated, what the Secretary of State said this afternoon cannot be reconciled with what is in his social care Green Paper; he has effectively holed it below the water line. The Minister needs to answer those questions. He may not wish to answer the Opposition, but he needs to answer his own colleagues, particularly those who signed early-day motion 1. He also needs to answer respected Members of all parties and all those organisations outside the House that are very concerned about the Government's plans. Will he set out just what Government policy now is-what it was this morning, what it was at 4.06 pm when the Secretary of State appeared to change it from the Dispatch Box, which I would like the Minister to confirm, and what it is now? I commend the motion to the House; we look forward with interest to hearing the Minister's defence.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): This has been an important debate about what many Members have described as a policy that affects every member of our community. It is one of the most difficult issues we need to grasp, not least because, as we all know, we are living longer. In the next 25 years, the number of 85-year-olds will double, the number of people reaching 100 years will quadruple and the ratio of people in work to people in retirement, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs. McGuire) said, will become 2:1 rather than 4:1 as it is at present. We thus need a debate about how we shape a new national care service that will meet the demands within our communities and meet the higher expectations people quite rightly have in 2009.
People are rightly no longer willing to be just passive recipients of what they are told is good for them. They want to be involved, they want to be consulted and they want to help shape the future. That is why the Government have set out in the Green Paper the available options so that we can have the big care debate. We have had some 40 formal big care debates and I know that hon. Members have had them in their communities, and we thank them for the contributions they have sent to the Department. I have certainly spoken to a great many people as I have travelled around the country.
We have said clearly that no one currently in receipt of attendance allowance or disability living allowance at the time of reform would be a cash loser. It is also important that alongside these reforms, as referred to by a number of hon. Members, we plan to provide greater power for people to control the public funds that we make available to them from the various funding streams. Within the "right to control" legislation in the Welfare Reform Act 2007, we made provision to cover access to work, the disabled facilities grant, the independent living fund, supported employment and, of course, as the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) mentioned, adult social care.
I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman put forward amendments in the debate on the Welfare Reform Bill and that I opposed them. We then had a mature and wider debate in the House of Lords- [Interruption.] If I am to accept the point the hon. Gentleman made in good faith, I hope that we can think about how we should frame this discussion. We are all talking about having a mature debate, so I accept that I opposed that amendment and I accept that in the debate in the other place, the amendment was put forward by my noble Friend Lord McKenzie of Luton and by Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who commands respect throughout Parliament. She said that the changes we made to accept adult social care were done through co-production and she welcomed the way in which all parties had worked together. That is how we need to approach this issue rather than in the disappointing way in which the hon. Member for Forest of Dean chose to present it on this occasion. He normally does a lot better than that.
Bob Russell: In that spirit of reconciliation and unity of purpose, will the Minister explain why he hopes that the 39 signatories to early-day motion 1 will vote against exactly the same motion in a few minutes' time?
Jonathan Shaw: I am sure that my colleagues will listen closely to my arguments. The hon. Gentleman mentions the early-day motion, and it is interesting to note that Conservative Members laid great store by it. They have followed the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) in that respect, yet despite that great store, only a paltry 16 of them could bring themselves to sign it until recently, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Roger Berry) quite rightly pointed out.
To return to the point I was making about the benefit streams and adult social care, what distinguishes them is that some are national and some are local; some are national means-tested and some local means-tested. It is our ambition to bring all of those within the ambit of allowing people to choose to spend how they want. A number of hon. Members characterised social care from the local authority as a very constrained way of allowing such flexibility, but I would say that they should find out what people are doing with direct payments from social care.
Let me give hon. Members an example. I recently attended a Mind event where a lady said that she had received direct payments as part of her individual budget. She had a mental health condition and she was using that resource to pay for dance classes, which were not organised by the local authority. By using that money, she found a new way of socialising, she learned to dance and it provided her a springboard on which to find her way back into work. She certainly will be able to continue to have such classes in the future, and I say that clearly-
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