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Digital Clocks

3.31 pm

Mr. Speaker : I have a brief statement to make about the operation of the new digital clocks. It might help if I were to tell the House that, during the recess, new digital clocks have been installed in the Chamber. They are designed to assist the Chair and hon. Members in the timing of their speeches. Whenever the Chair calls on an hon. Member to make a speech on which there is a specific time limit, for example applications under Standing Order No. 20 and on days when a 10-minute speech limit has been imposed by the Chair, the Clerks at the Table will operate the clock. Half a minute before the conclusion of the time limit allowed, the digital clocks on each side of the Chair will flash intermittently. [Laughter.] Order. It is designed to be helpful to Members. When that time has been reached there will be a light to indicate that the time is up. I hope that the new system will enable hon. Members who are speaking within a set time limit to know exactly when that limit is about to be reached.

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Interest Rates

3.32 pm

Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of considering a matter that is specific, important and requires urgent consideration, namely,

"The rise in interest rates to 15 per cent. and the failures of Government economic policy."

The matter is specific because, after 15 months of the highest interest rates, the worst inflation, and the biggest trade deficits with our major competitors, and after 15 months of sacrifices from millions of home owners, inflation is still rising, the trade gap is still widening and interest rates are still moving up.

This has all taken place in the real economy before and irrespective of any impact from this week's stock exchange fluctuations. On Friday, inflation rose to 7.6 per cent.--the highest in Europe but for Greece. A week before, interest rates went up to 15 per cent.--the worst in Europe. Next Tuesday's trade figures will confirm that the balance of payments deficit is not only the worst in Europe, but the worst in our history.

For a year, the Chancellor has promised that inflation is a temporary blip on the road to zero inflation. It is not. For more than a year, he has sought to convince us that the trade deficit would correct itself. It has not. For a year, his advice to home owners has been to cut back on something else, and thousands now cannot. For a year, he has compounded, rather than corrected, the errors of his policy by his exclusive reliance on high interest rates.

Industry is paying an extra £1.5 billion for its borrowing costs, small businesses by the thousands face difficulties and home owners by the millions are paying an average of £80 a month more for their mortgages --all the result of the mistaken policies of a discredited Chancellor in a failed Government.

The matter is important, because in addition to the damage to businesses and home owners, the Chancellor's greatest and most central failure is his failure to create the long-term stable environment for industry that a modern economy needs. With imports even this year rising twice as fast as exports, with our deficits concentrated in the new high-technology industries, with no new policy for training or research or investment in the regions that could bring the deficit down, the Government persist in claiming that the trade deficit, even approaching £20 billion, is a matter of no consequence, to the extent that the Chancellor did not mention it in his Conservative conference speech and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was not even allowed a conference speech to mention it.

The matter requires urgent consideration because a change of national economic policy is essential in the interests of the nation. Before the Chancellor's speech to the Mansion House, before he completes his Autumn Statement and before he makes further mistakes by his mismanagement, he should be forced to defend his policy to a more critical audience than the Conservative party conference in Blackpool--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

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"the rise in interest rates to 15 per cent. and the failure of the Government's policies."

As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20 I have to take into account the requirements of the order and announce my decision without giving reasons to the House. I listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman said, but, as he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the business already set down for this evening or for tomorrow. I regret that the matter that he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order, and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.

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Ulster Defence Regiment

3.37 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the announcement by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic that the basis for and the future of the Ulster Defence Regiment would be on the agenda of tomorrow's Anglo-Irish conference."

A concentrated and concerted effort is being made by the IRA, the Dublin Government, the Social Democratic and Labour party and a certain unextraditable Roman Catholic priest utterly to discredit the Ulster Defence Regiment, which has lost 180 members by the murderous actions of Republican terrorists in Northern Ireland.

The aim is the abandonment of the regiment. The night before Dr. Garret FitzGerald and Mr. Dick Spring signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough, they made it clear in Dublin that their aim was to put the regiment out of existence.

The regiment has been accused of leaking information to loyalist paramilitary groups about suspected IRA terrorists. The Royal Ulster Constabulary has also been accused. As a consequence, members of the Ulster Defence Regiment have been treated as terrorists. In a round-up in Northern Ireland using 300 policemen, 28 of them were arrested. That public exercise pinpointed where those men lived and put them and their families at grave risk. They should have been taken in for questioning when they were on duty, as policemen were taken in for questioning on similar charges. Many of those men have been released with no charge against them, while a number have been charged on petty charges and released on bail. Only two have been charged with obtaining information.

Every day the campaign against this regiment goes on. Now, on the eve of another Anglo-Irish meeting, Mr. Haughey lends his support to this process. As the House of Commons voted the Ulster Defence Regiment into existence, surely it has a right to debate the regiment's future publicly. Just because some members of the regiment have gone wrong, that does not mean that the whole regiment is to be condemned. I do not hear anyone anywhere saying that because the majority of the Irish Republican Army killers belong to the Roman Catholic Church the Roman Catholic Church should be abandoned. I say--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am sorry to curtail the hon. Member's speech, but he has had his three minutes.

The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the announcement by the Irish Prime Minister that the basis and the future of the UDR will be on the agenda of tomorrow's Anglo-Irish conference in Belfast."

I have listened with care to the hon. Member, but I regret that the matter which he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order. I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.

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Kurdish Asylum-seekers

3.41 pm

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter, that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"those Kurdish asylum-seekers scheduled for removal from the United Kingdom this afternoon should not be removed and the removal of other Kurdish asylum-seekers should be suspended in view of the fear felt by Kurdish asylum-seekers."

I raise this matter because of the serious situation in this country. Since May, a considerable number of Kurdish people from Turkey have arrived in Britain and sought political asylum. They have been interviewed by welfare organisations, medical foundations and a number of other legal practices. The thread running through the evidence is that they have been badly treated in Turkey, have suffered torture and oppression and have a well- founded and legitimate fear of returning to Turkey. That must be the basis for an asylum application.

One of these people, Mr. Siho Iqueuen, sought asylum in this country. His removal was deferred two or three times, and eventually he was taken on 4 October to the Harmondsworth detention centre. The Home Office was again informed about the deep concern about his medical condition. The man barricaded himself in his cell, together with one of his friends. He set fire to himself and, after suffering 60 per cent. burns, died a few days later in Mount Vernon hospital. I understand that another Kurdish asylum- seeker is due to be removed from this country today. His case has been adopted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The United Nations recognises him as a refugee. It is of deep concern when a body such as the UNHCR puts pressure on the British Government to mend their ways in dealing with asylum cases. This matter merits debate in the House. What has been happening since May this year is a disgrace to the British Government and this country. It is a sordid tale of people who have fled oppression and torture. People who have a well-founded fear of persecution have had their asylum applications refused. The British Government refuse to give financial support to the local authorities and voluntary organisations that have done wonderful work in supporting these people, who are threatened with removal from this country. One person who was sent back last week was held by the police for two days as soon as he stepped off the plane. I am concerned about whether that is the end of the story.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will recognise the urgency and seriousness of this matter and that you will be prepared to grant a special debate on this vital matter.

Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, "those Kurdish asylum-seekers scheduled for removal from the United Kingdom this afternoon should not be removed and the removal of other Kurdish asylum-seekers should be suspended in view of the level of fear felt by the Kurds."

Again, I am sorry to give a disappointing response. Although I have listened with care to the hon. Member, I regret that the matter does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order. I therefore cannot submit the hon. Member's application to the House.

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Scottish Fishing Industry

3.45 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the crisis facing the Scottish fishing industry."

Fishing is one of the basic natural resource industries of Scotland and is 10 times as important to the Scottish economy as to the United Kingdom's economy as a whole. Offshore and onshore, between the catchers, processers and support industries, it employs 30,000 people. In many coastal communities around Scotland, it is by far the dominant industry. Now the industry is in crisis, caught in the vice between falling revenues and rising costs, between low and erratic supplies and penal interest rates. In particular, the North sea haddock quota, which provides the mainstay of the Scottish fleet, is exhausted.

Thoughout the last year, fishing Members of Parliament have warned of the developing crisis and called for policy action. Instead, we have seen a mixture of complacency and confusion on the part of the Government. That complacency was well in evidence in the Lord President's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) a few moments ago.

Fishing Members of Parliament and the communities we represent are looking for answers from the Government. We want to know why the structures and licensing policy has been in suspended animation for two years. We want to know if the Government will take advantage of European funding for a lay-up scheme to provide major assistance to the industry. We want to know if and when the Government will introduce a decommisioning policy to restructure the fleets and reduce catching capacity in a humane manner. We want to know when the industry can expect any response to its imaginative proposals for real conservation of fishing stocks as opposed to the ineffective system of low quotas. We want to know from the Government by what mysterious process the wrecking of the finances of the fishing fleet in the north-east of Scotland through penal interest rates contributes to the reduction of inflationary pressures generated in the south-east of England.

The Scottish fishing industry is caught between a Scottish Fisheries Minister who cannot act and a Minister of Agriculture who will not act. In his first comment on the crisis, the new Minister blamed the fishermen and accepted no governmental responsibility. Given the history of the Government's inactivity in this crisis, that is an absurd claim and the Minister may wish to know that his indifference to the plight of the industry has caused enormous offence in the north-east of Scotland. Clearly he does not, or says he does not, understand the seriousness of the position. We need a debate to educate the Minister, to tell him that Scotland's fishing industry will not be allowed to be sacrificed on the altar of his complacency, to demand an answer to our questions and to force the policy action which is required to save this vital industry and the communities it supports.

Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) seeks leave to move the Adjournment of

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the House under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the crisis facing the Scottish fishing industry through the exhaustion of this year's North sea haddock quota."

Again, I have to say that I have listened to what the hon. Member has said with great care, but I regret that the matter that he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.

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Clocks and Lighting

3.49 pm

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This matter arises out of the statement which you made to the House earlier. Could the House be told by whose authority the flashing clocks were installed, and at what cost? Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) finds the lighting in the Chamber extremely bright, and he is not alone in that. Are we not supposed to be saving energy? Why do we need another eight enormous lights over and above the other lights which we have in the Chamber, particularly when, as I understand it, mercifully, we are not yet being shown on television?

Mr. Speaker : The clocks were recommended by the House of Commons Services Committee and I hope that the House will agree that they are an improvement and help Members.

As for the lighting in the Chamber, the hon. Gentleman well knows that there is to be an experimental televising of the Chamber and these are temporary lights. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) who sits next to the hon. Gentleman, finds them a bit bright.

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Points of Order

3.50 pm

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With regard to ministerial accountability to this House, you may remember that on 16 May there was a debate on Government publicity in which reference was made to a Cabinet Office minute on guidelines on the nature and content of allowable publicity. The guidelines mentioned that publicity should be objective and that it "should not be personalised".

In the course of the past few days, most hon. Members will have received a document entitled "Britain in Southern Africa" which purports to be an explanation--paid for by the Foreign Office, and hence by us--of British foreign policy towards southern Africa. The document, which is blue, contains a union jack and a photograph of the Prime Minister adorns the front page--

Mr. Speaker : Order. What is the issue for me in this? It is not a matter for me.

Mr. Grocott : It is. In the course of 23 pages, the document, which was paid for but not authorised by us, displays five colour pictures of the Prime Minister. I would not have the slightest objection to the document if it had been paid for by Conservative central office, but I object to having to pay for it myself. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to determine by what authority public money has been spent on this blatant party political propaganda.

Mr. Speaker : That is not a matter to do with order in the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman must raise it with the Government ; I have no doubt that what he has just said has been heard.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some time between now and 21 November, could you arrange for the Procedure Committee to look again at the wording of Standing Order No. 20? It is obvious that all the applications this afternoon concerned important matters--no one could deny that--but the word "urgency" needs special definition. If it is not redefined, our proceedings will begin day after day with application after application. Hon. Members are abusing the procedure by making the speeches that they would make in the debates, if you granted them.

Mr. Speaker : That is not a matter for the Procedure Committee. The words are a matter for me. I shall examine them carefully, but I accept what the hon. Member has said. Today I took into account the fact that we have been away for some weeks. Inevitably after such an absence, there is a large number of Standing Order No. 20 applications, but I hope that when the time comes to televise the House procedure will not be abused--it is important for Back Benchers.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I took careful note of what you have just said, and, reading between the lines, it seems to me that you may have been saying that when television comes in on 21 November applications under Standing Order No. 20 may be looked at more carefully, and perhaps refused, because of television. I hope that there will be no change in the rules merely because of the cameras--

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Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman must not put words or even thoughts into my mind.

Mr. Skinner : If the television cameras will make no difference to applications under Standing Order No. 20, which usually deal with topical issues and which many would argue--although not today, because we have a good debate to come--are more sensible than the planned debates because of their topicality ; and if hon. Members, irrespective of cameras or anything else, want to raise important matters which affect their own constituencies, I hope that it will not be said that that is an abuse of procedure. Most of the matters raised today are important and affect the nation or, in some instances, constituencies, so I hope that consideration of these matters will not be conducted against a background of television producers trying to change the system to suit themselves.

Mr. Speaker : In order to forestall any other hon. Member who may have thoughts along those lines, may I say that I strongly adhere to the view that, when television comes here, it must adjust itself to the procedures of the House. I have no intention of reducing the number of opportunities that Members have to raise important matters through Standing Order No. 20 applications. I was merely commenting on the point which the hon. Gentleman made--and this is a supposition--that when the cameras are here, there might be an incentive for some hon. Members to raise matters that are not entirely legitimate. Knowing the House as I do, I am sure that that will not be the case.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that about 10 years ago the Procedure Committee recommended that there should be restrictions on applications under Standing Order No. 9, now Standing Order No. 20? Fortunately, that recommendation was substantially defeated in the House. Do you not agree that, regardless of television cameras and bearing in mind how restricted Back Benchers already are, any further restrictions would be totally wrong?

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the procedure about points of order has been changed and they are now taken at a different time. I am not criticising that, but it would be extremely unfortunate if an hon. Member who had come to the view that a matter was sufficiently important was not able to try to raise it under Standing Order No. 20 even though we know that such applications are usually rejected. I remind you that, between 1974 and 1979, when the Conservatives were in opposition, there were on average five or six applications every day. You may remember that, Mr. Speaker, because you had a different role at that time.

Mr. Speaker : I hope that the House will not pursue this matter because, as I have already said and I now repeat, Standing Order No. 20 applications are an important opportunity for Back Benchers to put a point before the House in prime time. I have no intention of making that more restrictive. The House has charged me with responsibility for making a judgment as to whether the applications meet the criteria. That is a difficult matter and when the time comes to televise this place I and the whole House must consider whether those outside will know why the Chair may turn down an application. We may all be aware of the criteria for the Chair turning down or

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granting an application but an explanation must be given to those who are watching outside because they may not know the rules.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise a different point of order in connection with the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) about the television lights? This is a serious matter, Mr. Speaker, and you and many hon. Members have expressed concern about the lack of attendance in the Chamber. The heat caused by these lights is acutely uncomfortable on the Back Benches ; those of us who are members of fitness clubs can tell the House that it is roughly equivalent to the heat of a sauna. Although this is an experiment, may we appeal to you to ask the Services Committee or those responsible to ensure that the temperature in the Chamber is considerably reduced, because if it is not the attendance will be worse than before?

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am glad to say that there was a good attendance at Question Time and I welcome that. This is the first day of the experiment. The hon. Member should make his representations to the Select Committee looking into these matters. I share the hon. Member's views about the generation of heat, because I am wearing rather more clothing than he is.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : May I return to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Wrekin (Mr. Grocott)? Surely the matter that he raised is one of concern for you and the House, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : Order. I have dealt with it. It may well be a matter of concern, but it is not a matter of order in the House and is not therefore a matter for me. The hon. Gentleman should take the matter up with the Government. He must not take it up with me or with the Government through me.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is an easy way out of the problem. There could be a picture in that document of the Leader of the Opposition being arrested by the Tanzanian police.

Mr. Speaker : Order. We would do well to move on.

Mr. Tony Banks rose --

Mr. Speaker : I say to the hon. Gentleman that I can say no more than I have already said to his hon. Friend and to him. It is not a matter of order for me.

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Community Care

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Chapman.]

Mr. Speaker : Two right hon. Members and many hon. Members have indicated their wish to participate in the debate. Therefore, I propose to put a limit of 10 minutes on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock. If hon. Members who are called before that time also try to stay within that limit, it may be possible, in fairness to all hon. Members, to take that limit off later in the debate.

4.1 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. David Mellor) : I am encouraged by the announcement that you have just made, Mr. Speaker, which shows that there is to be a full participation in this debate by a wide range of hon. Members, because that is precisely what was in our minds when we tabled this subject for a debate on the first day of the spillover session. As the House will be aware, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health, in his statement in July, made clear the Government's broad acceptance of the principles set out in Roy Griffiths' report, but said that further work would be done in the subsequent months leading to a White Paper, which it is intended should be published towards the end of the spillover period, early in November.

It is of the essence of these arrangements that the fullest account should be taken of the views of all groups and interests. That is what we have been seeking to do during the recess, with organisations representing the disabled and the providers of care, with local authority representatives, with the Association of Directors of Social Services, and so on. Today represents an opportunity to have the most important consultation of all, because the Government will hear what the House thinks about an issue that is of fundamental importance to all of us, and of which all of us, as Members of Parliament, are only too well aware because of our pastoral work within our constituencies.

Community care is of the most direct relevance to the interests of significant numbers of our constituents and, whatever our other differences, we should be capable of discussing it objectively and of recognising the enormous benefits that will flow from our endeavours to move these policies forward. By community care, we mean policies that enable people to live as full a life as possible, in whatever setting best suits their needs. That may be in their own home, sheltered housing, a group home, a hostel or a residential home. An increasing number of vulnerable people live in our community and they will require assessment under these new arrangements for community care. Therefore, our aspiration to provide individually tailored care will command support across the political spectrum and will be recognised as a necessity. Obviously, the real test is not that we accept that this is an important topic or that we accept that something needs to be done, but that we are able to create a framework that will enable us to turn these high aspirations into reality. That was the practical task with which Roy Griffiths was asked to deal in his report, and on which we have been engaged for some months now. I hope that the House will turn its attention to that practical task for the next few hours.

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Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : My hon. Friend has referred to a suitable setting. Is he aware that in Lancashire the full cost of a local authority home place is £190, whereas these arrangements allow for only £140 in a private home? Is it not possible to raise that level so that people can make a choice and may have a chance to keep these excellent private community homes going?

Mr. Mellor : It is of significance to know the proper level of support for those who are in long-term residential care and the proper level of charging that should be made for that support. One of our aspirations is to have a range of different providers, whether from the private, voluntary or local government sectors. Such a range would establish a framework within which it should be possible for good care to be offered at a sensible cost to the public purse. It is obvious that long- term residential care will be an expensive option, and we cannot afford to neglect the necessity to obtain value for money. We have discovered--this was one of the primary reasons for wanting to reopen this area--that there has been a massive movement of resources into long-term residential care, and this has had implications for the development of other forms of care.

Over the decade there has been a movement in the cost of private residential care from £10 million to nearly £1 billion for this financial year. With a movement of such significance, we have to ask ourselves whether it is necessary, whether value for money is obtained and, if it is not, whether enhancing domiciliary care might be a better option for some of those who, as a result of the perverse incentives which Roy Griffiths has identified, had to go into long-term residential care. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State with responsibilities for social security and the disabled is only too well aware that one of the essential matters that the Government have always to keep under review is the adequacy of the financal provision that is made to meet needs.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West) : Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Mellor : I am troubled because, if I continue to give way, especially so early in my speech, I shall detain the House and prevent others from participating in the debate. I shall give way to my hon. Friend but I hope that the House will understand that I shall not be able always to give way to others.

Mr. Ashby : Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the disparity between those who pay for their own care and those for whom the state pays? Should there not be tax relief for those who are bearing the cost of residential care because they are disabled or for some other reason?

Mr. Mellor : It is an interesting question, but my response will not give my hon. Friend any satisfaction. Tax relief is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I was saying by way of introduction that, while we all can agree on the need for an effective framework for community care, it is not a policy that can be easily implemented successfully. We have increased sharply the resources and the manpower that are devoted to community care over the past 10 years. As I shall demonstrate, these have been years of achievement in community care. As a central starting point and as an

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evidential base on which the debate can proceed, I shall explain what the achievements have been. It is equally clear, however, that, notwithstanding the achievements, we must recognise that progress in developing adequate services has not been as even or as rapid as we would like ; hence the need for further effort.

Over the past 10 years there has been unprecedented expansion. For example, during the financial year 1978-88, the cost, as best as we can estimate it, of core community care services, not including administration or joint finance, was £3,444 million as against £1,169 million in 1979-80. In eight years we have witnessed an increase of 68 per cent. in expenditure of core community care services in real terms.

Back in 1979, about 55 per cent. of local authority gross expenditure was on residential care for elderly people, younger disabled people, mentally handicapped children and adults and mentally ill people, with 45 per cent. on domiciliary services. By 1987-88, local authority gross expenditure was more evenly balanced, with slightly over 50 per cent. on residential care and just under 50 per cent. on community-based services, especially on home helps, day-care centres, meal services and adult training centres. That is a sign of movement in the direction of domiciliary services that I am sure we would all like to see enhanced as a result of our acceptance of the new framework that Roy Griffiths proposes. Most of us who deal with these matters in practical ways at our advice centres week in and week out are aware that most people would rather stay in their own homes for as long as possible if proper support can be provided, and go into long-term residential care only as a last resort.

We are in the middle of a two-decade span, when the number of the old elderly in our society--that is, those over the age of 85--will double, and it is quite clear that there will be an enhanced, not a diminished, need for long-term residential placements. We must be aware of the impact of demographics on provision, because not only do we aspire to do better for those in need of community care now, but we must recognise that, year on year, as we progress through the 1990s, there will be more people in that category. That poses a challenge not only in making resources available, but in ensuring that they are used to the maximum benefit to provide the best possible care. There is manifestly no room for waste at such a key time.

During this decade there has been a sharp increase in the number of places at day centres--up by 16 per cent. ; an increase in home help staff of almost 30 per cent. ; an increase in the number of meals served by meals-on -wheels and lunchtime clubs of about 14 per cent. ; and a significant growth in a whole range of other personal social service provision. I am confident, looking ahead to the next decade, that there will be a similar increase in that provision ; and some even envisage an enhanced increase.

In the presence of my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security, I should also point out that the same period has witnessed a striking growth in social security payments to people in need. I have already singled out the increase in independent sector residential and nursing home support, which has risen a hundredfold, from £10 million to £1 billion in May this year. I must repeat that, when committing such large sums of public money, it is our duty to ensure that it is spent in the best and most appropriate way to provide care for the clients that best meets their needs. It is in that spirit that we asked Roy Griffiths to undertake his analysis. It is in that spirit that I believe he delivered one of the most cogent and

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