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There is a legitimate difference between principle and purpose. That is not, as it might seem, axiomatic. The principle on which the Bill is founded-that of care in the home-is shared across the Chamber. The purpose of the Bill, however, is less clear. Its purpose in respect of delivering that principle is-I put it as kindly as I can-questionable, because although the Secretary of State claimed in its defence that it was paving legislation, when challenged repeatedly through interventions and by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen, he conceded, quite generously and certainly openly, that further legislation would be required. Indeed, he spoke of "a major reform" being necessary, but he made no attempt to suggest that
this Bill was that major reform; he said merely that it anticipated the major reform that was essential to satisfy the principle and to deliver the objective that all Members share.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: I am listening in awe to my hon. Friend's great speech, which is clearly schooled by the great compassion that he has for his many constituents who find themselves in difficulty. One thing of which I am sure he is conscious is how the Government did not make their case that there was a bridge between the Bill and the Green Paper process, which had legitimised so much of the debate to date. Does he therefore agree that it would be appropriate for the Government to provide time for amendments to be made to the Bill to widen its ambition and ambit, not least so that we can put it into the context for which he argues on behalf of his constituents?
Mr. Hayes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, because he, as a Front-Bench spokesman on these matters, knows far more about them than I do. He is right that I am, however imperfectly, a champion for my constituents' interests, particularly my most vulnerable constituents, for the cause of the most vulnerable lies at the heart of Conservative passion; for a core tenet of Conservatism is the elevation of the people: the responsibility that the fortunate have for the less fortunate.
On my hon. Friend's intervention, it seems to me that the Government have two options: either they can do as he invites and make the Bill bigger, build on its slim elements and create the major reform that the Secretary of State acknowledged was necessary; or they might choose, as a result of this debate or further reflection, to withdraw the Bill, continue the process that they began earlier in the year, recognise that bigger legislation is the best way of proceeding with these matters and acknowledge-I suppose rather grudgingly, but it would be to their immense credit if they did-that this Bill was a gimmick and that the subject deserves more.
Dr. Ladyman: Let us assume that there is a White Paper in the new year; that there is a discussion about it; that a consensus begins to emerge; that a new Government are elected, perhaps, in May; and that they come to the House with a much wider social welfare reform Bill, which would take the best part of 12 months to go through. That would mean that the wider reform of which the hon. Gentleman talks would take, with the best will in the world, approximately 18 months. Is it not reasonable for the Government to introduce this small measure, which will help some people with the most serious needs between now and the conclusion of that process 18 months hence? He seems to argue for doing nothing for those people who need help now, while we carry on debating the issue for perhaps another 18 months.
If we were having that debate at the beginning of the life of a new Government, or at the end of the first term of a new Government, that might be a reasonable point. But, as the Government have
been in power for a considerable time, it is odd that this Bill should emanate at this juncture. As I have said, I try not to be cynical about these things, but a more sceptical person than I might argue, "Better a Bill that works later than an imperfect Bill now." If the hon. Gentleman's scenario came to pass, it is not only likely that the best bits of this Bill would be included in that legislation, but that, more significantly, proper consultation with all the interest groups, local authorities and representative organisations of those most affected by the legislation could and would take place. That process would inform the Bill, which as a result would change and develop.
I see the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope) in his place. I know him well because I shadowed him in another life, as it were, so I cannot believe that he does not find persuasive the argument that we really need to think again about the Bill. We need to measure its likely effects in terms put by various third parties. I shall refer to them later, because thus far it has not received an uncritical reception from the groups that I just mentioned. We need either to flesh it out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) proposes, or to withdraw it and start again.
I say to the hon. Member for South Thanet that the people most affected want a Bill that is best, a Bill that works for them; they certainly do not want a short-term measure that has to be either amended or replaced rapidly with something quite different.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that another consequence of the Bill taking effect and disappointing people is that it, in its production, it will inevitably raise expectations considerably among vulnerable people? If they find that those expectations are not met, will they look with favour on further discussions-cross-party or otherwise-about the future of social care?
Mr. Hayes: That is where I began my speech-by reaffirming the point about the desirability of quality. The Bill must deliver quality care. Those expectations will be for just that kind of care, and quality care often manifests in the contribution of a range of agencies and individuals bringing in all kinds of different skills: the holistic approach that one had every hope might spring from the Green Paper consultation, a White Paper and well considered legislation. One disadvantage of proceeding now is exactly the false expectation to which my hon. Friend draws our attention, and its consequences in terms not just of disappointment, but-I go further-heartache.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien:
The hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) said that we should support this-by his own admission-small measure in the overall architecture of care, be that domiciliary or residential care, and my hon. Friend effectively replied that we do not oppose it, but we do question it. First, we want more Committee time to question it; secondly, in response to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), we need more capacity. This is about the quality not just of the offering, but of the promise that can be delivered-if that is what is on
offer-in October 2010. If that quality of promise cannot be kept, the damage done to vulnerable people will be so cruel as to be not worth thinking about.
Mr. Hayes: The shadow Secretary of State said that the issue was not just funding or organisation, but quality. My hon. Friend's intervention leads me to conclude that the problem is not only about quality, but-to go further than the shadow Secretary of State-about organisation and funding, because some the Bill's effects may be perverse. We agree with its principle, but its too limited nature may of itself be detrimental to the principle that we share.
"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it".
The Government certainly have the right to introduce this legislation, but I am not sure that a politician of the distinguished status of the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Corby would want this Bill on his record when he could have a much better Bill if he did the thing properly.
Chloe Smith: I thank my hon. Friend for affording me just a few moments. Does he agree with me and, I am sure, other Members-at least on the Opposition Benches-that the part of society under discussion is a particularly vulnerable one to, as it were, monkey around with, and that we face a particular demographic challenge that such hasty legislation does nothing whatever to combat?
Mr. Hayes: Yes. As long ago as 2002, when the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill, which this Bill amends, was introduced, the then Secretary of State pointed out exactly that. In introducing the Bill, he said:
"Ours is an ageing society. We should not fear but celebrate that. However, it poses formidable challenges for our key public services in providing better, faster care to higher standards"-[ Official Report, 28 November 2002; Vol. 395, c. 501.]
based on the desire for older people to have independence, not dependence. That is the principle that I am describing as the one on which we all agree, supplemented by an absolute determination that such care should be of the highest quality and provided from the best sources-that we get the who, what, when and where questions right.
To that end, I will focus briefly on the principle of care at home. In doing so, I want to draw attention to the time of year at which we debate these matters. As we approach Christmas, it is appropriate to remember Charles Dickens, is it not? Chesterton wrote that
"in everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight: that thing enjoys Dickens."
"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration."
For me, the concept of home is at the heart of civilised life. This is much more than speaking about housing. To talk of housing is one thing; to talk of home lifts us on to a different emotional plane. Home stands at the bright centre of our lives; home is where lives start and end. It is where we return to at the end of each day, and where we hope to return to at the end of all our days. It is right that people should be enabled to live in their homes for as long as they possibly can and that we should provide adequate support in order for them to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire referred to quality in respect of care. For me, that is intrinsically linked to the security, certainty and familiarity associated with the home, all of which contribute to care in all kinds of ways that are supportive not only of a reasonable quality of life but a reasonably healthy life.
Ministers might claim-as indeed they have, not entirely convincingly; in fact, I do not think that they themselves are entirely convinced-that the legislation before us attempts to enable people to return home at the end of their days, or to stay at home. However, the Bill's purpose is both limited and contradictory. It contains just two clauses, and that paucity of content reveals its true purpose. It is not intended to address the substantial reasons why so many people are forced from their homes and into care, but simply to help one person to stay in one home. That person is the Prime Minister, and the home is 10 Downing street. I have to conclude, reluctant as I am to do so, that this is, in essence, a political Bill fired by partisan interest. I know it is hard to credit, but I think I have to say it. It is fired by partisan interest rather than by a genuine desire to introduce meaningful legislation.
That is not to say that Ministers do not care about these matters-of course they do. Members of this House across the party divide care about these issues because they encounter them in their constituencies day by day. No political party has a monopoly on care or concern, or on decent people. However, it does Government no favours when they put that genuine concern to one side to pursue a narrowly political interest.
Phil Hope: That is my intention. The hon. Gentleman has spoken very eloquently, as he is wont to do. We have met on many occasions to debate many different topics in the past, and his erudition is there for us all to admire. He spoke eloquently about the importance of the home. Given that these proposals are about providing free personal care at home, I assume that I can look forward to seeing him in the Aye Lobby later this evening.
Mr. Hayes: I talked about the principle of the Bill being right, but I made it absolutely clear that I thought that its purpose was at best unclear and possibly worse, and suggested that it might have unintended consequences that were the negation of that principle. On that basis, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you would hardly expect me misguidedly to follow the hon. Gentleman into the Aye Lobby and encourage the delusion-I am being generous in using that word-that lies at the heart of the Bill. I cannot believe that it is wicked, so it must be deluded.
Mr. Hayes: No, because I retain my sense of optimism, as I think I have made perfectly clear in this all-too-brief contribution. That optimism leads me to conclude that it is just possible that the Ministers responsible for the Bill, and those who follow them on the Government Benches, will be persuaded by the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire and others that it could be improved-that, with reconsideration, it might grow into the bigger piece of legislation that we all acknowledge is necessary and that, indeed, the Government heralded in their Green Paper just a few short months ago. It is not the principle that is wrong-it is the Bill.
Phil Hope: I am hugely persuaded by the possibility that the Conservatives, of whom the hon. Gentleman is a very eloquent representative, will support a comprehensive Bill on a National Care Service in future, as he has just said that he would like to see a much bigger Bill. May I take it from his remarks that the Conservative party is pledged to support the creation of a national care service in future?
In response to the hon. Gentleman's question, there is clearly a need to rethink this area of public policy; that is widely acknowledged. It was acknowledged in the Green Paper and identified by my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State in his speech. The reconsideration of this public policy area must take account of five criteria: first, a proper assessment of need, which means an assessment in terms of numbers and the character of that need; secondly, the views of all the organisations affected, by which I mean representative organisations, charitable organisations and local authorities; thirdly, a consideration of the implicit dynamism of this subject, because need changes rapidly and it is multi-faceted, so it requires the involvement of all kinds of specialists and skills, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham described; fourthly, some estimate of cost, which is sadly lacking in the Bill, not least because the consultation necessary to come to firm conclusions about cost has been imperfect or non-existent; and finally and fundamentally, a wraparound consideration of our societal objectives in respect of care.
This is a big debate that has been taking place for many years, and views on it have changed, developed and evolved. However, I think there is a growing consensus that where possible, care is best delivered in the kind of secure and familiar circumstances that the home exemplifies.
Mr. O'Brien: I am glad to find that my hon. Friend has been paying such close attention to areas outside his own brief that he has articulated party policy very adequately. He made a serious point, on which the Minister sought to challenge him, about the question of consensus. I think there is a mood in the House that we need to try to establish, where we can, a consensus on the way forward on an issue that we can all see is coming down the track not just for our political generation but for those who succeed us.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be quite interesting to get an invitation from Ministers to join them in a round-table discussion that might identify areas of consensus, and that we would be happy to accept it? Given the Minister's challenge to him, would not a good start be for the Minister to accept that if the Government amended the Bill to include our home protection scheme, that would protect not only the people whom he seeks to protect-a small number, according to the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman)-but those whom we seek to protect, who are fearful because they might have to sell their homes to pay for long-term residential care?
Mr. Hayes: The Minister has positive form in that respect. It was his willingness to listen and learn that allowed him to shape Government policy on skills largely around my analysis, as he knows. I retain high hopes, and that optimism is borne out to some extent by the title of the Government's consultation paper, which, as my hon. Friend knows, was "Shaping the Future of Care Together". That is consensual by its very nature. So it is more in sorrow than in anger that I point out that after the promising beginning of a Green Paper to open up discussion, we have ended with a Bill on the back of a party conference speech. As the Minister knows, the Bill's narrow scope directly contradicts the wider focus of the Green Paper.
Phil Hope: I noticed that the hon. Gentleman failed to take up the offer from his party's spokesman to support an amendment to the Bill that would incentivise people towards residential care rather than living in their own home. I assume that he did not pick up on that offer because, like me, he wants incentives that keep people living longer in their own homes.
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