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Mr. Dismore: In view of what my hon. Friend the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10

Interpretation and regulations

Amendment made: No. 35, in page 5, line 20, after "(1)", insert--
'Except as provided in section (Assessments: parents of disabled children)(6),'.--[Mr. Pendry.]

Clause 11

Short title, commencement and extent

Mr. Dismore: I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 5, line 41, leave out subsections (2) to (6).

This is a relatively short probing amendment, which would delete the Bill's provisions dealing with its commencement and extent. I have tabled the amendment to put my hon. Friend the Minister on the spot and to give him the opportunity to tell the House when the Government want the Bill to come into effect.

Mr. Pendry: The amendment would cause the Bill to come into effect as an Act on the day on which it received Royal Assent. In general, the normal convention is that no Act or part of an Act should come into force earlier than two months after Royal Assent has been granted. It is desirable that at least a reasonable period should be allowed, and in this case time will be needed for consultation with interested parties on the content of policy, the guidance for local councils and the content of regulations. For that reason, the Bill, when enacted, should be brought into force by the commencement order.

Clause 11(5) provides that the Secretary of State may make an order extending the application of the Act to the Scilly Isles, if there are good reasons for so doing. Such an order would be subject to the negative procedure.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) will agree that the commencement and extent provisions are an integral part of the Bill, and that he will therefore withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hutton: When he moved the amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) asked me to indicate how soon the Bill might be brought into effect

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after receiving Royal Assent. I made it clear in Standing Committee that the Government want the legislation to be in operation at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Bill is hugely important. For the first time, it will allow a range of services to be provided directly to carers. It provides and extends choice and opportunities in other areas as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon is anxious to ensure that the Bill comes into effect as soon as possible; the Government are, too. We have not done all the work involved to amuse ourselves--we want to improve the services and support available to carers and to disabled children and their families, and thereby improve people's lives.

The Bill is an important step forward for carers and we do not intend to delay its implementation in any way. It will be introduced as soon as possible, but I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that I am not in a position today to give a precise date. However, I assure him and the House that we will not hang around; we want the legislation in place at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Dismore: I am grateful for that assurance. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.

1.44 pm

Mr. Pendry: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As the House has heard, the Bill enjoys wide support among individual carers and also the voluntary organisations that want to ensure that the needs of carers, and of parent carers, are properly addressed. I have been extremely encouraged by the cross-party support for the Bill that has been evident throughout our proceedings, and I am grateful for it. I thank hon. Members from all parties who have made positive and constructive contributions and assisted the Bill's passage through the House.

I particularly wish to place on record my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Minister for all his help, not least for helping me today because of my recent illness. My thanks go to Patsy Holland from his Department, who has done sterling work in acquainting me with some of the details of the carers world, and to the Carers National Association and other caring organisations. From my own constituency, Carol Ann Morgan, an expert in children's disability, helped me enormously.

I was very touched by a little book by Leon Simons. For many years he looked after his wife, who had great disabilities. He wrote a book called "For the love of Lily", which I recommend to anyone who cares about these issues.

I also thank my friend of long standing, Lord Morris of Manchester, for his wise counsel. I have known him since the age of 15, when we were in the Labour league of youth. To them, and to many others, I give my thanks.

It is a fact that many of us, at some time in our lives, will care for someone else. We give care willingly, because we love those who are nearest and dearest, but for many that caring role will become a larger part of their lives, taking up more of their time, because someone close becomes ill or disabled. The care provided by the carers with whom the Bill deals is not provided on a formal basis

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by organised, paid professionals. Informal care delivered by family and close friends is provided unpaid; it draws on feelings of love and duty.

Caring is often very hard work and can be emotionally draining. It takes many forms within many types of relationship. Some caring takes place within families, where parents care for their ill or disabled children. Many such parents have provided full-time care since the birth of their child or shortly after, and expect the need for care to be lifelong. Parents may have been thrown unexpectedly into a caring relationship at the birth of their child. Today, with advances in medical treatment and health care, together with pre-natal screening, more parents are forewarned. However, being forewarned does not necessarily prepare parents for how their lives will change.

The onset of illness or disability can be sudden or gradual--sometimes there are elements of both. For example, multiple sclerosis can involve the gradual erosion of ability and a sudden loss of mobility. Parents of children with conditions such as schizophrenia may find themselves learning to cope with very violent behaviour.

Another type of care within families is that which one partner in a relationship gives to another. The circumstances that create the need for care can affect couples at different stages of their lives. In middle life, one partner may be diagnosed with arthritis, a condition that causes severe pain. As the condition deteriorates, more and more care becomes necessary. For some couples, one partner has, over time, become the full-time carer of the other. A stroke in later life can affect eyesight, leaving the stroke victim no longer able to read or complete forms and pay bills. Mobility may be seriously affected following a stroke, as may short-term memory.

Along with many of my hon. Friends, I am aware, from talking to my constituents in my surgeries, of the manifold problems that carers face. They often struggle to continue in their caring role and want help in maintaining their valuable contribution to the care of a loved one. Although the circumstances that lead people to become carers may be different, many of the difficulties faced by carers are common across their situations. The impact of caring on their lives can be similar, including the distress of seeing a loved one in pain, the emotional loss as the nature of the relationship changes, the effect of the caring relationship on other relationships, a sense of isolation and loneliness, and feelings of stress or depression.

I make no apologies for spelling out those examples. I am sure that many hon. Members could give examples of their own. I hope that the examples illustrate the importance of the Bill reaching the statute book. Recent years have seen a growing recognition of the importance of informal care and the effects on carers. In 1995, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North (Mr. Wicks), who was here at the beginning of the debate, introduced the Carers (Recognition and Services) Bill. In 1998, the Prime Minister announced a Government-wide review of measures to help carers as part of a national strategy for carers. That strategy brings together a range of initiatives designed to address carers concerns and give them support.

The Bill is an attempt to change the law so that social services departments may, for the first time, offer support to carers and parent carers. That support will help carers

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to continue to care, and will assist carers in such a way that they can be assured that their own health and well-being are considered.

Clause 1 provides that a carer or parent carer has the right to ask for an assessment from a local council of his or her ability to provide, and to continue to provide, care for the cared-for person if he or she intends to provide substantial and regular care. The assessment will enable the local council to decide whether to provide services to the carer under clause 2 or the parent carer under the Children Act 1989. This is an important change to the way in which social services departments may provide support. The Bill focuses on enabling carers without detriment to their own health or well-being. There will be services which, although provided by the carer, may be delivered to the cared-for person by way of community care services.

For reasons that have already been outlined, I do not intend to speak for much longer. The Bill is extremely important. I sincerely hope that, having heard the debate today and in Committee, hon. Members will recognise that caring organisations and carers themselves look to us to ensure that it is carried.

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