The acceleration of ageing starts to happen before we get old, and we must look at the public health opportunities to engage with and pre-empt some of the issues that we might face as we get older. That leads me on to keeping people out of care. The three biggest reasons for people

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going into care are dementia, incontinence and accidents, such as falls. Are we looking at those three factors in enough detail? This morning, on the radio, we heard about a drug that could help people to stay more able despite their dementia, and I hope that it will become more widely available.

I said earlier that I had worked in the area of incontinence. It is one of the most easily managed conditions, so why is it not properly supported? Why are so many people referring their family members to residential care for that reason, when the condition can be addressed easily and extremely cheaply? We are not addressing the condition, and we need to look at it in a lot more detail to ensure that more people can keep their relatives at home. I also mentioned falls. Why do we wait until someone breaks their pelvis before going into their house to see whether they have a handrail, whether their lights are working or whether the ramp is in the right place? None of this is rocket science, folks. It is perfectly straightforward, and I do not understand why such interventions are not being made much earlier.

We have a system that is broken, but we are not doing the necessary pre-emptive work. Instead, the system rewards acute services. It finds installing handrails or wet-rooms less thrilling than ambulances and broken hips. That makes no financial sense, and no human sense. The public know where the system is going wrong, and they can see that earlier intervention would make a difference to their loved ones. Many people have spoken about carers today, and we need to do as much as possible for them. They are at the heart of keeping people out of the care sector.

If we re-engineer our care system, making prevention and pre-emption the gold standard, we must look at a re-engineered funding mechanism, too. I believe that there is a policy framework that is a little like the green deal: for those who support people out of care, there is a bonus and an incentive, rather than the current financial model that rewards hospitalisation and pays far too little for those in home support.

I welcome the comments of hon. Members about how little care workers in homes are paid. My word, if we look at the value we get from that particular care intervention in comparison with extreme nurses in hospitals, we should start to understand that we have a very unbalanced system.

In conclusion, if we have a vision for decent and dignified care, the public will enter into a contract with the Government. They might even do so more than the Government think; they might even pay more than we are currently asking them to contribute. However, they will do that only if they see a re-engineered system that places the foremost priority on delivering care—quality care—that they can trust, rely on and understand.

5.21 pm

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): My hon. Friends the Members for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) and for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) made interesting points specifically about caring for carers, which is the issue I want to address, too. I have one specific policy suggestion for the Minister, on which I would be interested to hear his thoughts: we should seriously consider introducing a post-retirement carer’s allowance.

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It has always been the case in our society that no more than about a fifth of all the caring that goes on has been achieved by the state. In recent years, that fifth has expanded slightly to about a quarter, but if we were to try to pay via the state and taxation for all the caring in our society—whether it be for children, disabled relatives or the elderly—we would never raise enough in tax to be able to achieve it. For me, it has always seemed nonsense simply to look at the budgets and try to spend a bit more and a bit more. That will not be the solution in the longer term, particularly in an ageing society where the issue will crop up time and again.

I applaud my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton and for South Thanet for focusing instead on the carers—the people who carry out the caring. There are currently about 1 million people in England alone who are aged over 65 yet are caring for a relative. A constituent wrote to tell me that he was disabled, that his wife was his carer and that they also had a disabled adult child for whom his wife had been the carer since the child was born. He told me that his wife, who had retired at 62, was not eligible for any carer’s allowance because she was drawing a state pension. She is trying to care 24/7 for a disabled husband and travelling at her own expense to care for an adult disabled child. That is simply impossible, and he told me that it was inevitable that the family would have to go to the local council and call for help. His wife will give up that caring role because she will not be able to cope—financially, let alone physically—with the stress of having to care for two people in her own family.

If we turn that on its head and think about what happens with a carer’s allowance, we find that the carer gets £55.55 for 35 hours of care a week—£1.58 an hour in comparison with the national minimum wage of £5.59 an hour for an adult. Carers thus get an incredibly small sum of money. Looked at from the state’s perspective, it is an absolute bargain. If the person was not doing that caring for that kind of money, the state would be the default and have to pick up the pieces, as that is how things work in this country.

What we should be looking at is how we can continue to benefit from the love and cherishing of family members in order to give the people being cared for a quality of life that is so much better. We all know that £1 spent in the home saves £4 in the NHS. How much more is £1 spent on a carer who knows and loves the person they are caring for worth than £1 spent on a carer who, perhaps, comes in periodically through the day and who may frequently be replaced by another carer? The outcomes for the person being cared for are so much better if they are cared for by someone who genuinely loves them.

We should therefore seriously consider introducing a post-retirement carer's allowance that is available only to retired carers who continue to be the only carer for their loved one. That carer's allowance would cease on the day that they call on social care from social services or the local council. There will therefore be an incentive for people to continue to care for their loved ones, which is better for everybody. I absolutely take on board what my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton said about the need to provide a care package for the carers themselves, but the principle of enabling carers to continue to provide that support for as long as possible should not be overruled by the need to care for the carers.

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The Department for Work and Pensions has estimated that this year the cost of simply retaining the carer's allowance alongside the state pension would be about £950 million. What it did not take into account was the fact that there would be a commensurate reduction in the pension credit, and also the enormous potential reduction in the cost of providing social care. We might be paying a family loved one £1.53 or £1.58 an hour, but we would be paying an official carer £10 or £20 an hour, perhaps, to go in and look after that person—and in a far less assiduous way.

The taxpayer, through Government aid, is simply not going to be able to foot the bill for all the care that will be needed in the future. We must find a way to support society, communities and carers, so that loved ones can continue to care for their own family members. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this idea.

5.27 pm

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): I have good news: people in their 40s and 50s are at the pinnacle of evolution, according to Dr Bainbridge writing in the New Scientist. I do not think my children would agree with that assessment, but they would agree that they feel rather outnumbered. This is a cause for celebration, however, and we should note it in this House: it is a good thing that we are all living longer—after all, the alternative is very unattractive indeed. A man who reaches the age of 65 can now expect on average to live a further 18 years, and a woman at 65 can expect to live even longer—to 85 and a half. We should welcome that on international women’s day. This is good news all round, therefore, but these extra years must be lived well. We should add to people’s years of life while also helping them live with independence and dignity.

I have the privilege of serving on the Health Committee, and I have also had the privilege of working for 24 years on the front line in the NHS. I have therefore met many carers, and also many people who, sadly, are suffering from dementia. Many Members have commented on that topic however, so I will not discuss it further now.

I want to focus on the Select Committee’s recommendations following our inquiry into social care. I acknowledge that, by 2014, an extra £2 billion a year will be spent on social care, and I welcome that investment. There is still an issue that needs to be addressed, however, and it transcends party politics.

As the King’s Fund and the Dilnot commission have made clear, demand is outstripping supply—by 9% over the past four years—and the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have stated that this underfunding is a long-term problem. According to the King’s Fund, the funding gap could be as high as £1.2 billion by 2014. Also, about 890,000 older people in social care may have a need that is not being met. As the Select Committee heard, some councils are tightening their eligibility criteria, so that people who perhaps would have been classed as having “substantial” needs are now being classed as having “moderate” needs. Other councils are setting a different benchmark, so they are funding only “substantial” needs, rather than both, as they might have done in the past. Obviously, the problem goes beyond the total spend. Government Members are taking a realistic attitude to our national debt, knowing that there are no blank cheques. However,

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we need to continue to increase our social care funding slightly, so that we can achieve what we want to achieve for our older people: dignity and independence.

It will not matter how much we spend unless we change how we spend it. One thing the Dilnot commission examined well was how we divide our spending. We know that we spend £145 billion a year on older people in England, about half of which goes on benefits, such as pensions, housing-related benefits and pension credits. Some £50 billion is spent on the NHS but only £8 billion goes towards social care. That balance is not right. If we were designing the system from scratch, we would not set the funding in that way. That structural problem has been recognised for decades, but the White Paper and the changes in the Health and Social Care Bill give us an opportunity to address it. I therefore ask the Minister to rebalance things by examining the Select Committee’s key recommendation, which was to deliver integrated health and social care, with a single commissioner or a commissioning body, and to drive this joint working by also looking at pooling budgets.

Some wonderful examples of that approach are available, as we found when the Select Committee visited Blackburn with Darwen PCT and Torbay Care Trust. I am fortunate that the Torbay Care Trust covers much of my constituency, because it achieves real results: low average lengths of stay; rapid access to equipment, thus avoiding hospital admissions; and getting people out of hospital much quicker. The key to all that is recognising that keeping people independent in their own homes, rather than admitting them to expensive hospitals, saves money. As has been said, for every £1 we spend on integration, we save £2.65 for the health service—as is so often the case, the best care turns out to be the cheapest care.

I was disappointed to hear the Minister describe the care trust model as an experiment that never really got “out of the lab”. I urge him to get back into the laboratory with care trusts, because this is good practice. They bring a positive culture on joint working, pooled budgets and putting patients first. In Torbay, they have considered an imaginary patient, “Mrs Smith”, who has complex care needs and at every stage in the system they have designed everything around her, putting her needs first. That sometimes means sweeping away the silo working that we so often see. In many parts of the country, six different phone calls have to be made when dealing with a patient with complex care needs, and there are endless delays and frustrations, and repeated assessments, but Torbay has a care co-ordinator with a single number. We need to adopt that kind of working.

Paul Burstow: The hon. Lady is making an important set of contributions to this debate. That comment I made during the Health Committee’s evidence session was very much born out of frustration—it is frustration that my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) has echoed. How we spread best practice and get it adopted is one of the key challenges in delivering more integrated health and social care, and it is one of the things we are going to address in the White Paper. The Select Committee’s contribution to that process has been very helpful.

Dr Wollaston: I thank the Minister for that encouraging response. I am glad to hear him say that rolling out good practice is key to this. I ask him to consider the

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Select Committee’s recommendation that the way that we can best drive that is by having a single outcomes framework. We are currently going to have outcomes frameworks for housing, for social care and for elderly people in health. Bringing those together would drive proper integration. Having a single commissioner for all these services would bring people together. If we do not have that, we risk carrying on as we are. When budgets are stretched, as we all accept they are, there is more of a tendency for organisations to say, “This money is for social care”; where spending the money would perhaps improve only health outcomes, there is less of an incentive to spend it. We should consider pooling the budgets, and having a single commissioner and a single outcomes framework. I am not saying that we should be too rigid in imposing how that is done, but we should set out what we expect. In addition, we should recognise how important housing is in this area. We should not leave it out of the equation when we consider how we help older people to continue to live independently.

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Would my hon. Friend include more informal forms of care, such as referring patients who are socially excluded to local walking or singing groups where they can participate and be with other people? There are some good models of that in my constituency.

Dr Wollaston: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and agree with him absolutely. In the past couple of weeks, I have visited an organisation called Brixham Does Care in my constituency as well as another, Saltstone Caring, and I am sure that we all have wonderful examples in our constituencies, sometimes involving social enterprises and sometimes charities.

I feel that one of the most encouraging things about the Health and Social Care Bill is that it will give commissioners the flexibility to draw in partners, because there is sometimes an assumption that only the NHS can deliver good care. The NHS remains at the core of good care and I trust that GPs will have the sense to commission integrated care pathways that do not fragment local services. I do not know a single GP who wants to privatise the health service or social care; GPs want the flexibility to bring all these elements together while having the good sense to protect their much valued local NHS services. I am very encouraged to see that there will now be a focus on integration, but I ask the Minister specifically to consider integrated care with a single commissioner, because the Committee felt that that would be the most encouraging way forward.

In conclusion, let me return to Dr Bainbridge in the New Scientist, who describes middle-aged people as

“the most impressive things yet produced by natural selection.”

The Minister fits that bill perfectly and has a fantastic opportunity to achieve what we have been trying to achieve for 50 years: an integrated health and social care model. It can be done and I hope that he will look at the Health Committee’s report and make it a reality.

5.37 pm

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Well, they make them out of strong stuff in the west country. It is a joy to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes

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(Dr Wollaston), who brings great medical and intellectual wisdom to the debate, and I am honoured to be speaking in a debate introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton).

I would be humble in my approach to this matter, but I would like to think we are united in the sense that Members from all parties have a common desire to tackle what is probably the most intractable problem we face. There is in effect no dispute about what we want from social care: we want independence, dignity and privacy for those who are being cared for, and the people who provide the care need patience and humour and to know their individual clients and their family members. The question is how we develop a social care network that treats people as people within the confines of a budget that is ever changing and ever more difficult to reconcile.

How a society treats the vulnerable is surely the best definition of that society. I came into this House in my 40s, I am delighted to say, and I thought I was in the prime of my life, until last year when I became unwell. I am probably the only person in the Chamber at this moment who has needed social care. It was a great effort to become better researched in preparing for this debate, obviously, but becoming ill last April gave me a great deal of knowledge and insight from a personal standpoint about the degree to which such care is necessary and about the great service that is provided. Today’s debate is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the great work done by individual carers in the public and private sectors and, not least, the work done by families.

I speak as an MP for the north-east, and there are shining examples of how the north-east leads the way in the provision of care to individuals. There is outstanding palliative care in my constituency through the Charlotte Straker palliative care teams in Corbridge. If I need to make a declaration it is that last summer I raised in excess of £3,000 for the charity Tynedale Hospice at Home, which provides care in Hexham. All of us as MPs will go around individual care homes in our constituency. The Helen McArdle organisation does an amazing job across the north-east, including at its Acomb Court service in Hexham. I was lucky enough to be asked to present some prizes at Wentworth Grange in Riding Mill and it was noticeable that more than 35 awards were made to individual staff members because there was a great deal of ongoing training to improve the quality of individuals’ care. I could name many others throughout the constituency, including Wellburn House in Ovingham, but I will move on, given all the support there has been across the House, to talk about the White Paper.

The White Paper on social care is coming this spring. I know that spring is drifting on, that there are pressures and that people are calculating what kind of spring it is going to be, but let me reassure the Minister. Last year, we all celebrated the Arab spring across the near and far east, which changed things. That Arab spring lasted quite a long time—virtually the entirety of last year—so we will not necessarily be critical of the Minister if the White Paper does not come within the technical confines of spring. Surely—I make a serious point—it is more important to get this right than to rush it. I accept that there have been a plethora of consultations and assessments over the past few years, but there is no doubt that the way we have approached this issue, on a cross-party

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basis with constructive attention to detail, is much more important than rushing something out that is not the right way forward. I welcome the fact that the White Paper is coming and I urge that we get it right and work on a cross-party basis.

This issue, I regret to say, is not about funding. There will always be small issues about the way that individual local schemes and individual approaches are funded, but the issue we will decide in the House this year is not about funding from the state: it is far more about outcomes. How do we reform the system such that we have an outcomes framework that integrates all the services for particular individuals? I endorse entirely what my hon. Friends the Members for Truro and Falmouth and for Totnes said about this. I hope that health and wellbeing boards can deliver a single commissioning process with a single outcomes framework whereby older people’s health, care and housing services in a particular area are integrated. That has never happened in the entire existence of the NHS or previously; it is a genuine aspiration. Less important than funding is attention to that detail because at the moment we have a patchwork of care.

I am conscious of the time and eager for my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) to get in. We speak so much in the House that we are now the rear gunners of every debate—of democracy. It is a shame because we feel that we have much to contribute but we contribute so much that we are always the last to speak. I must not dispel any chance for the House to hear from the great man from South Swindon so I shall try to abbreviate my comments.

I agree that the Dilnot proposals are correct but there has to be genuine understanding and we all need the ability to sell to our constituents what Dilnot means. The idea that Dilnot will not—I will not try that again—cost us in any way whatever is hard to grasp and hard to convey to our constituents. There are nettles that need grasping. Funding will be an issue, and a contribution from individuals will be unavoidable. If we do not accept that, there will be grave difficulties ahead.

I welcome the fact the NHS budget is protected at present. Given all the difficulties, we should celebrate the choices that are being made and that extra money is being spent on social care. It concerns me, for example, that the Government spend eight times as much on cancer research as on dementia research. I welcome the extra money going to dementia patients, but more needs to be done, as many groups have made clear.

I want to put one point to the Minister that I hope will assist. I tabled a question to the Department of Health and received the answer on 7 February. It was:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy that the influenza vaccine should be compulsory for all public and private sector care workers.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2012; Vol. 540, c. 199W.]

I accept that certain people will want to retain the choice not to have the vaccination, which would be given only on the basis of informed consent, but it would be of great assistance to the vast majority of care workers. Vaccination would clearly cut the prevalence of infection and other problems, and the Government should lead the way. Some, for religious or other reasons, would not to want be vaccinated, and they should be exempted, but it would be a good move for the Department of Health in addressing what is clearly a problem of infection and of staffing when staff become ill themselves.

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I support public sector carers, who need to be valued just as much as any other public sector workers. They do a difficult, messy and not always entertaining job. They are the unsung heroes. We also need to support our family carers and recognise the services that they provide. We must ensure, as many have said, that there is a decent system of respite care because if the family carer cannot care there will be huge problems for the Department of Health and the NHS.

With that, and allowing sufficient time for the sage of Swindon, I will sit down.

5.47 pm

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): I do not know whether I should thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) for that warm-up act. I know my place, and I am more than happy to take part in this interesting and varied debate.

There is no doubt that the facts that face us all as parliamentarians are pretty stark. We know that 11 million people alive today will live to be 100 and that the population who are over 65 is projected to grow by 50% over the next 20 years. The expected number of working age adults with a learning disability will rise by about 30% over the same period. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) reminded us that we should celebrate the fact that we are all living longer rather than being a permanent Jeremiah figure when it comes to these statistics. However, they do pose us quite a stark challenge.

Much has rightly been said today about the army of carers. I add my voice to that chorus of opinion about the invaluable work they do. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) estimated that their work saves our economy £119 billion a year. I support the arguments made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) in respect of carer’s allowance for people post retirement. It is a sensible and thoroughly appropriate point to make in this debate, bearing in mind the need to create an incentive to care for people at home.

Many hon. Members have mentioned local carers centres. I pray in aid my local centre, the Swindon carers centre, which provides an excellent support service for carers, many of whom are young people still at school caring for an adult relative. It provides a focus and brings people together in the way that has been described and organises carers days in my constituency in which I and others take part. The messages we get from those events are messages not just of emotion, but of hard facts about the reality of life for carers on the ground. Frankly, they are the greatest experts on the people they care for, which is why they must be involved as service users in developing the services on which they rely. Carers are a huge resource, as we have heard, and must be an important part of the service.

Two key principles underlie the reform of social care: first, transparency—I have already mentioned the need for carers to have knowledge of and access to local services—and the way we track national funding and how it is spent locally; and secondly, predictability and reliability for those who need care and their families. They need to know that they can work within the system and rely upon it in the long term.

We have heard a lot today about care for the elderly, and I support the observations made by hon. Friends and Opposition Members. Rather like the hon. Member

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for Mansfield (Sir Alan Meale), I want to focus on those with learning disabilities. I am grateful to him for raising the issue of autism, which is rather close to my heart, as I think most Members will know, as I chair the all-party group on autism. Before dealing with the issue, it is right that I emphasise the importance of advocacy for people with learning disabilities.

There are many independent charities and voluntary organisations across the country that provide a voice for adults with learning disabilities. In my constituency the Swindon Advocacy Movement, which receives sustainable funding from the local authority, works hard on that philosophy. It draws in people in with learning disabilities so that they can be part of the planning for the service, which enables them to speak for themselves, because advocacy is not just about people like us talking for people like them; it is about enabling those people to do it themselves. I know that the hon. Member for Mansfield and I agree on that point, because I raised it when I intervened on him earlier. What we want to see is a service that enables people with learning disabilities to stand on their own two feet as much as possible and to play a full and active part in our society. That is why I believe passionately in local advocacy, which will help us see an end to the Winterbourne Views of our society and the betrayal of all the principles we believe in become very much a thing of the past.

We also heard about overarching frameworks within which care services should be developed, and I want to thank my hon. Friend the Minister publicly for following my advice, and that of many others, by referring the quality standard for care of adults with autism to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. He knows that I and others have been working on that issue for some time. It was the subject of a 10-minute rule Bill I introduced last year. As an aside, I urge him to look at a quality standard for care for children with autism, because I strongly believe that it is the transition from childhood to adulthood that we are still getting so badly wrong in this country.

I will pause for a moment and deal with the threshold into adult social care and how we need to plan adequately for that while the person is still young so that adult social services are working hand in glove with children’s services. In particular, when we develop our policy on special educational needs—I know that this is not the responsibility of the Minister’s Department, but it is a point that should be made—we must ensure that the new care, health and education plans go up to the age of 25. It is absolutely vital that we stick to that proposal, which was set out so helpfully in the special educational needs Green Paper, so that the threshold issue can be dealt with properly and there can be proper and adequate further education provision for young adults. There is a dearth of provision for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, particularly those with autism and related conditions. It is in those seven key years of life that adult social care often fails and when we do not address issues of education for young adults with autism. Ambitious about Autism’s “Finished at School” campaign, which I had the privilege of launching in Parliament a few months ago, calls for that extension of provision.

I have referred to the key principles that underlie the Law Commission’s report on adult social care that was published last year, which we all know about. There

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needs to be a single duty on authorities to meet eligible needs, a duty for carers assessments to be undertaken and—something that we have perhaps not touched on in this debate—a duty for adult protection cases to be investigated by local authorities or other agencies. We are getting child protection largely right, but let us not forget vulnerable adults, whether they be elderly people or people with learning disabilities. To return to the Winterbourne View scenario, there needs to be a proper mechanism by which we investigate cases in which the welfare and safety of vulnerable adults has been called into question.

It has been a pleasure to take part in this debate. It was particularly reassuring to receive a clean bill of health from my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes. Dare I say that I am in the same age group as her? I will leave the Chamber thoroughly reassured. Finally, if we do not address these issues, we will fail not only current generations, but the generations to come.

5.56 pm

Sarah Newton: This has been an excellent debate in the breadth and depth of its contributions. We have seen the experience, passion and commitment of Members from all parts of the House.

In particular, I thank the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), with whom I work in the all-party parliamentary group on social care. The contributions have been wide-ranging. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler), the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir Alan Meale), my hon. Friends the Members for Southport (John Pugh) and for Banbury (Tony Baldry), the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), for South Thanet (Laura Sandys), for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) and for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), and our famous rear gunners, my hon. Friends the Members for Hexham (Guy Opperman) and for South Swindon (Mr Buckland).

There can be no doubt from this debate about the cross-party support for delivering a re-engineered care system for the people who need care and for our vital carers. The system needs to be shaped around the person who needs care and their carers. I wish the Government and Opposition teams good fortune in their vital work to negotiate a new system for providing and funding care, so that we can all be proud to have created a society that we all want to grow old in.

Question put and agreed to .

Resolved ,

That this House believes there is an urgent need to reform the current system of providing and paying for the care of adults in England and Wales; recognises that social care, unlike the NHS, has never been free at the point of need irrespective of income; notes the central role of informal carers in the provision of care; welcomes the Coalition Agreement pledge of reform and legislation; further welcomes the plans for better integration between adult social care services and the NHS; welcomes the extension of personal budgets; urges the Government to ensure that fairness is central to reform, including access to advice, advocacy, assessment of need, care services as well as funding options; recognises the need to break down the barriers to portability; and further urges the Government to publish its White Paper as soon as possible, and to bring forward legislation.

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Mauritania (Fishing Agreement)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Michael Fabricant .)

5.58 pm

Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) who is responsible, by default, for my bringing this debate before the House. He visited Mauritania last year and, following his excellent report, I conducted investigations into the fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Mauritania. I am sure that many Members will agree that he has put great efforts into our relations with north Africa and the middle east. He has far greater expertise in this area than I. No one has done more to further Anglo-Mauritanian relations than he.

The first EU fisheries agreement was with Senegal in 1979. The number of such agreements rose sharply in the 1980s, following the ratification of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea and with the accession of Spain and Portugal in 1986. Those countries brought with them a number of bilateral agreements with other countries, particularly in west Africa.

The first fisheries agreement with Mauritania was in 1987, and it entered into force in December of that year. The current fisheries partnership agreement with Mauritania will end on 31 July 2012, and a new protocol was negotiated on 1 August 2008. The financial contribution is set at €86 million in year 1, reducing to €70 million in year 4; €11 million, increasing to €20 million, is to be used for national fisheries policy, with €1 million a year for—

6 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9( 3 )).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Greg Hands .)

Sheryll Murray: There will be €1 million a year to support the parc national du banc d’Arguin, a national park. Licence fees costing an estimated €15 million are paid by ship owners to Brussels. The agreement with Mauritania is by far the most expensive and important for member states such as Spain, which is already moving to negotiate a bilateral agreement if the EU negotiations fail.

The fleet can be broken down into two sections, the industrial and the artisanal. The industrial fleet is made up of a variety of vessels targeting various stocks. A few Scottish and Irish vessels catch pelagic stocks—mackerel, horse mackerel, sardine and sardinella. Sardinella are bonier and larger than sardines, and are mainly sold to the African market. Those vessels pair trawl, and they are fitted with saltwater tanks to store the fish, similar to a vivier tank in a crabber. The catch is trans-shipped to factory ships, and one Norwegian factory ship in the area is called the Ocean Fresh.

Factory ships and pair trawls are permitted by derogation from Mauritanian fisheries law. The sector is permitted a catch of 15,000 gross tonnes a month, to be averaged over the year. Dutch freezer trawlers catch pelagic stocks, and the catch is frozen on board. There are 17 licences, for a reference tonnage of 250,000 tonnes. There are 32 licences for 13,950 gross tonnes of cephalopods—species such as octopus and squid. Spain holds 24 of those

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licences and also catches tropical round fish and white fish, working in competition with the artisanal sector. Other licences are issued, mainly to Spain, for different fishing methods and species.

The artisanal fleet comprises mainly pirogues, constructed sometimes from laid wooden planks but increasingly from aluminium. Those boats operate with an outboard motor, and many are crewed by Senegalese fishermen. The crews operate with only a satellite or mobile telephone for communication, and they often have no navigation lights on their vessel and no VHF radio.

The Mauritanian Government have drawn up a development plan for the artisanal fisheries. The pirogues fish for cephalopods using pots or traps, and when shoals of tropical round fish, white fish and sardinella come close to the shore, the pirogues fish for them with nets. Most of the artisanal catch is landed locally in the port of Nouadhibou, where there is a quay.

As was pointed out in the report produced following the visit by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham—

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): Just honourable, not right honourable.

Sheryll Murray: My hon. Friend's report pointed out that landing facilities are sparse, with just one small factory that can take 100 tonnes of mixed pelagic fish. I know that he would be pleased to confirm that, but he is prevented from speaking on the matter owing to his position as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister. His report makes the following observations:

“The fish are either auctioned in open air for the local market or auctioned in the purpose built facility with chilled storage units to buyers that deal with European fish and seafood firms. The operation here was of a reasonably efficient standard, however there was no large scale refrigeration available, meaning the fish were left out in the 30 plus degree heat.

There was one small room where a refrigerator from above was creating ice for use with some of the fish stocks, however the scale was not sufficient to deal with the volume of catches of different fish species, which were as a result liable to lose freshness and therefore value as a consequence.

In addition to the lack of refrigeration, there was also an absence of any other automated processing of any kind.

The port was littered with rudimentary stalls that ranged from people gutting and de-scaling fish, to making various broths and dishes with the catches. There were also basic sheds which sold various supplementary goods for the fish, as well as maintenance sheds for the boats and port workers.”

The current EU fisheries partnership agreement contains several promises. Some have been honoured, but others have not. Annex IV of the current protocol makes specific promises for port facility improvements. First, on progress on the refurbishment of the port of Nouadhibou, I understand that some work is being carried out, with the contract awarded to a Spanish contractor. Secondly, progress was to be made on refurbishing and extending the non-industrial fishing port of Nouadhibou. Thirdly, a number of measures were to be carried out to bring the fish market into line with standards. Fourthly, progress on the creation of landing stages for non-industrial fisheries was promised. Finally, a number of wrecks were to be removed from the Nouadhibou area.

Many shipwrecks have been removed, financed by the EU, and the contract was awarded to a Dutch contractor. However, I understand that there has been

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no progress on improving the artisanal side of the ports of Nouadhibou or Nouakchott. The three other landing piers to spread the artisanal sector more evenly along the coast have not been provided.

The joint motion for a resolution by the European Parliament of 10 May 2011 confirms that. The preamble states:

“owing to the scant development of the fisheries sector in Mauritania, including the lack of significant landing ports outside Nouadhibou, the country is being deprived of the added value it would obtain, if it were exploiting its fishery resources itself (including processing and sales)”.

The resolution continues:

“as envisaged in Article 6(3) of the current protocol, the EU should support the fastest possible construction of adequate facilities for landing fish along Mauritania’s central and southern coastlines, including—but not limited to—Nouakchott, so that fish caught in Mauritanian waters can be landed at national ports rather than outside the country, as is often the case at present; this will increase local fish consumption and support local employment”.

Talks between the EU and Mauritania collapsed last December according to Euronews, which reports that a negotiator from the west African country said that the two sides failed to make an arrangement regarding money. For far too long, EU bilateral agreements and the successor fisheries partnership agreements have failed both conservation and the local fisheries sector of the host nation.

I urge my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to make representations to the European Commission and fisheries Ministers from other member states, calling for the inclusion of the European Parliament’s recommendation in any future FPA with Mauritania. That should include: delivery of all promised port facilities; a requirement to land all catches from EU vessels, including pelagic and cephalopod, in Mauritania; and support for the artisanal fleet, including education about fishing practice, management, safety equipment and marketing advice.

Will my hon. Friend also investigate, with all parties at UK, EU and Mauritanian Government level, the possibility of helping create a sustainable, self-supporting fishing industry in Mauritania? That could be through the formation of a fish producer organisation or a non-governmental organisation similar to the Sea Fish Industry Authority. In the UK, both those organisations are funded by a levy. Such a levy would be easy to apply if all catches were landed in Mauritania. It would provide the financial means for marketing, management and safety training to the local industry among other things, and could allow Mauritanian fisheries to become self-supporting and sustainable, thereby eradicating the need to rely on handouts of aid from the EU or Government sources, and boosting the Mauritanian economy. Most importantly, it could provide the means for scientific data collection and ensure that those rich waters are not plundered by large third country vessels to a level where the fish stocks they contain fall below the safe biological limits. The EU has a responsibility to ensure that fisheries agreements do not harm nations such as Mauritania.

In conclusion, I should like to describe disgraceful behaviour that has taken place off west Africa, as highlighted by the European Environmental Justice Foundation. Fish caught by pirate vessels were trans-shipped

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to a larger factory ship—the Seta—before being landed in Las Palmas. The EU confiscated the catch under the recent regulation concerning illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Some four months later, claiming a discrepancy in translation, the Spanish Government released the catch, allowing the pirates to sell it and receive the income. Will my hon. Friend the Minister investigate that matter with both the Commission and the Spanish Government?

6.10 pm

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) for allowing me to contribute to her Adjournment debate. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for his report highlighting the problems in Mauritania.

I want to talk not only about what is happening in Mauritania, but about the agreements in principle. I spent 10 years in the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009 and voted against every agreement, because—quite simply—the EU should not be buying up the resources of west Africa or anywhere else, and taking fish from the mouths of those fishermen and families. Boats often run down and destroy local fishing boats. If we are to help those countries, we should buy fish from them and help them to build up their fishing and port industries.

The agreements are absolutely morally wrong, and we should not use our taxpayers’ money or European taxpayers’ money for them. That money very often goes not to the people of west African countries, but to their various Governments of various types. I shall be reasonably diplomatic—for me—and say that not much of that money gets to the indigenous population. It more likely lands up in Swiss bank accounts. I am blunt about that, because we know how governance in such countries often takes place.

The Minister is a great warrior, and I know he will go to Brussels and raise those points. It is time we stood up to be counted as a country within the EU and said enough is enough. One has only to go to Spain and see the amount of fish eaten there to see why they are so hungry for fish, but if Spain wants fish, it should buy them from those African countries, not plunder their waters at European taxpayers’ expense, which destroys the livelihoods of the fishermen and communities in those countries.

I urge the Minister to take strong action. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall is an expert on fishing and was able to describe the species and types of fish being caught. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish are being taken from Mauritania. It is completely and utterly indefensible.

6.13 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) both on requesting and on securing the debate, building on the expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski). I should also acknowledge the powerful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). I shall explain shortly why this debate comes at an opportune moment. It is important that we debate such issues not only in the

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House, but where it counts, in the European Union. I shall go on to explain the Government’s policy on the external dimension of the common fisheries policy.

The future of the fisheries partnership agreement with Mauritania is important, as is the future of all EU fisheries partnership agreements with other countries. The EU spends around €120 million each year on fisheries partnership agreements with countries outside the EU in exchange for EU vessels being permitted to fish in their waters. That is a large amount of money, representing 15% of the total EU fisheries budget. I am determined that these agreements should provide value for money, support good governance and apply only where the exploitation of fish resources is sustainable.

Over the past four years, the EU has paid €305 million to the Government of Mauritania so that its vessels can fish there. In total, the EU catch is about 300,000 tonnes of fish each year. Rather than it all being landed into the EU or Mauritania, much of it finds its way to other African countries, as my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall said. In fact, very little of the fish caught in Mauritanian waters by EU vessels is actually landed into Mauritania. In 2006, only 8% of the EU’s catch was landed in Mauritanian ports. In response, Mauritania insisted on the inclusion of a clause in the latest protocol stipulating that, if vessels did not land into Mauritania, they had to pay higher licence fees. That has encouraged some additional landings but even now they are only around 12% of the total.

Vessel operators claim that they are unable to land into Mauritania because the conditions are simply not adequate for them to do so. In some cases, they say that to land into Mauritania could put the safety of the crew at risk, cause significant damage to the vessel and risk damage to the wider marine environment through oil spills. In 2011, the European Parliament issued a declaration that called on the EU to support the rapid construction of adequate facilities for landing fish into Mauritania. That would increase local consumption and support local employment—the kind of aims that a real partnership agreement should seek to achieve and, indeed, aims that are supposed to have been fulfilled in this agreement. The European Parliament also considers that more effective mechanisms must be in place to ensure that funds earmarked for development, and in particular for infrastructure improvements in the fisheries sector, are used properly. I entirely agree. We must be able to demonstrate that these public funds are being used for the purpose for which they were provided.

An independent evaluation of the Mauritania agreement indicated that, although it was better than previous agreements, there were still substantial deficiencies. For example, it concluded that most stocks offered to the EU by Mauritania were either fully exploited or over-exploited. If the EU wishes to be regarded as a responsible fishing entity, it must only fish against stocks considered sustainable. The scientific advice must be more robust and then adhered to by both parties to the agreement. The EU should not be contributing to overfishing in the waters of other countries by vessels that are, to all intents and purposes, subsidised by our taxpayers.

I am pleased to report that we are making progress. For example, all agreements now have to contain a clause allowing the EU to terminate them in the event of serious human rights concerns in the countries with which the agreements have been negotiated. I have also

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noted that the European Parliament has recently added its weight to the debate and called for money paid as compensation for access to fish stocks in Mauritania waters to be decoupled from financial support, so that reductions in fishing opportunities do not necessarily lead to reductions in financial aid.

I want the proportion of funding for fisheries agreements that is paid for by vessel operators to be increased significantly so that public money is not used to subsidise EU vessels fishing in developing countries. In 2012, only 20% of the money given to Mauritania was contributed by vessel operators themselves. We must ensure that these agreements represent value for money to the EU taxpayer and the local populations, and that these subsidies do not work against precisely what we seek to achieve on the development of sustainable fisheries.

We have been criticised for allowing vessels to operate around the globe that are no longer economically viable for fishing in EU waters. That criticism is well founded and we now need to take action to address it properly. I also want to ensure that, when these vessels fish under these agreements, they are subject to the same standards of control that apply to vessels fishing in EU waters. That means ensuring that a sufficient proportion of the funds under the agreements is spent on strengthening inspection and enforcement capability.

In that regard, I note what my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall said about a factory ship landing in Las Palmas. We will certainly make inquiries with the appropriate authority to investigate that. What she described is a disgraceful situation—if it can be proved—and we will work hard to ensure that, where possible, such matters are decided.

I should also report to the House that my discussions with other Fisheries Ministers from west African countries have shown me that what they require is a single point of contact with the Commission, so that if an EU-registered vessel is held and those concerned are arrested for malpractice of any kind, that information can be transferred to the Commission and appropriate licensing action can be taken by the EU. At the moment, that does not happen. We currently have a crazy situation, where a vessel can leave a port and just go out to sea, perhaps carrying on fishing illegally without the kind of sanction that should be applied by us, as the EU, from where it is licensed.

I have already been pressing those points in a number of forums. Over the coming months, we will have a number of opportunities to tackle the issues and bring about real change that will improve the governance of the agreements, ultimately benefiting both the EU and—more importantly for this debate—the countries with which we have those agreements. That is why this debate is so timely. The first such opportunity falls in about 10 days or so, at the March Fisheries Council, where I will be discussing with fellow EU Fisheries Ministers the external dimension of the common fisheries policy, as part of the reform of the common fisheries policy to deal with fisheries partnership agreements. I can assure hon. Members that I will be maintaining the pressure and reflecting the mood of the House this evening.

The UK’s position is clear. We want a common fisheries policy that promotes the genuinely sustainable use of fish stocks, wherever they are. We are seeking to ensure that fisheries partnership agreements are based on robust science, allowing EU vessels to fish only for

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stocks where a genuine surplus exists and providing value for money to the EU taxpayer. I want fisheries partnership agreements to place a greater financial burden on the vessel operators who benefit from them, and I want to see the same standards of control and enforcement as are currently applied in EU waters. I also want a mechanism that separates the money paid for access to fishing grounds from development aid, and provides a real benefit to the indigenous populations and fishing communities of the countries with which we have such agreements. Critically, any agreement must be subject to a rigorous assessment, to ensure that its sustainability is assured before, during and after its life cycle.

I end by offering this assurance to my hon. Friend and the House. I will continue to argue strongly for improvements to both fisheries partnerships agreements under the current CFP and the future policy frameworks under a reformed CFP, for the benefit of taxpayers, developing countries and the fish stocks themselves. I would also say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton. He may not share the view that not all fisheries partnership agreements are wrong. However,

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if we can get this right and develop a sustainable fishery off a country’s coastline, so that the fish are caught sustainably and landed there, with value added to them by local fish processing businesses—perhaps with the support of aid from countries such as ours—and if those fish can then be sold on the world market, all that can benefit both the indigenous populations along those coastlines and the economic development of that country as a going concern, as well as helping with better governance and greater scientific understanding of what is happening in the seas around those coasts. That is what I am trying to achieve, by making a virtue out of what is, really, a black mark, in what has been the sorry history of the common fisheries policy, both at home and in its external dimension. I can assure the House that I am working hard with all those with an interest in the agreements, to ensure that we achieve real and meaningful improvements to the current framework of fisheries partnership agreements.

Question put and agreed to.

6.24 pm

House adjourned.