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My final point is about the alternative to opt-ins. The EU has legal personality in the JHA field, so, to answer the point made by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), if we were to refrain from opting back into any of these measures we could negotiate with one party and not 27. So that we understand that it is a practical right and not a theoretical one, let me explain that the EU has already done that with 24 other non-EU countries in JHA, so there is no reason in principle or practice why Britain cannot do the same. I ask Ministers whether that question has been raised in Brussels and what precisely the objections were. If the Government do not feel that that is feasible, has a marker at least been laid down in Brussels about future British renegotiation, making it clear that we will want to return to the whole area of JHA in the round, given what has been said?

I suggest that at the very least the Government, or perhaps even the Prime Minister, should make the context behind the decisions clear by letter to the new Presidents of the Commission and of the Council. If not, I fear that this, our best opportunity to demonstrate that we can deliver renegotiation in Europe, runs the risk of being perceived both at home and across the EU as a signal that when push comes to shove our deeds do not match our words.

4.36 pm

Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): This has been a good debate. By the time we finish, it will have lasted for more than four hours. We have had some excellent speeches, and even some from hon. Members who are not lawyers or Chairs of Select Committees. All 12 speeches have done the important job of holding the Executive to account. They have all been passionate, demonstrating huge expertise on and experience of the issue.

Let me begin, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) did, by saying that I support most of what the Home Secretary said. Both she and my right hon. Friend made the point that it is no longer the case, if it ever truly was, that tackling crime and keeping the public safe can be achieved solely within our own borders. Crime and the criminals who perpetrate it do not abide by the borders of nation states. Both Front-Bench speakers gave examples of organised crime, terrorism, cybercrime, big drugs cases and serious sexual offences that crossed borders. The world is increasingly interconnected by the movements of people and the movement of trade, and that is all made even more complex as technology moves ahead at a fast pace. We need to ensure that the systems we have in place to prevent crime from taking place and catching those who commit it keep up with that fast pace.

Sir William Cash rose

Sadiq Khan: I have only a short time in which to speak, but I will give way later if I can.

We owe it to the victims of crime to do what we can to prevent further victims and to bring to justice those who have inflicted harm and misery on others. Part of that involves working closely with our European partners across the European Union to establish working relationships that allow each member state to tackle crime and the community as a whole to cut crime.

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As I said, we have heard 12 speeches. The Chairs of the three Select Committees—the European Scrutiny Committee, the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Select Committee on Justice—all reported extensively on the Government’s proposals and their concerns about the process, as well as some of their concerns about the substance of the measures. There has been criticism of the fact that the past two debates have been general debates without a vote. In particular, we have discussed whether Parliament will be given a vote on the Government’s decisions, how many votes there will be, when they will take place and the format in which they will take place, as well as whether each of the measures will be debated and voted on.

Let me be clear that the Opposition will consider all the measures on the basis of what helps the fight against crime. We will not allow anti-European Union feelings to cloud our view of what works. What is needed is a considered response on the issues raised by Back Benchers on the important role that European institutions can and do play in fighting crime.

The first speech was from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who reminded us of his “mild interest” in matters European over the past three decades. Towards the end of his speech, he read out a list of questions that he asked the Justice Secretary to answer. We also look forward to hearing the answers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) admitted to being a usual suspect. He asked—I am looking forward to the answer—whether there will be a separate vote on the European arrest warrant, about which his Select Committee has raised serious concerns. The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) explained that this process has taught him how difficult it is to get blood out of a stone. He said that notwithstanding his concerns about the process, he supports the measures that assist in fighting crime.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) reminded us that the European arrest warrant is not perfect and gave an example of one of his constituents who is suffering as a consequence. He explained how it had helped to bring back to this country one of those alleged to have been involved in the 21 July bombings who was subsequently charged and convicted and is currently behind bars.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd) reminded us of his experience of seven Parliaments and expressed concern about the European arrest warrant. The right hon. Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry) told us how thrilled he was to be sharing his birthday with his brother knights and the rest of us; the sad thing is that he was not joking. He also told us about the evidence from ACPO and its concerns about the European arrest warrant.

The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) is also Chair of a Select Committee. I am sorry that I missed his performance in the choir last night with German colleagues. He reminded us—this is a really important point—that, unlike Lisbon, the opt-ins are permanent and therefore a transfer of power. He reminded us of what the Justice Secretary, when shadow Home Secretary, told us about his views on the European arrest warrant, and of what the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary said about it, and asked whether they would now be eating their words.

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The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) reminded us, and his party, of what political message it would send if we opted into all 35 measures. The hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) expressed his concern about the European single market morphing into a European superstate. He was particularly concerned, like many other colleagues, about the European arrest warrant, and reminded us, as have many others, of what the Prime Minister said about it previously.

I must confess—I hope my Whips are not listening—that I always enjoy the speeches by the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). His 13 minutes were magnificent. I admit that I did not agree with most of what he said, but his speech was a tour de force in terms of quality. He was confident, as only he could be, that the trappings of office would not mean that the Justice Secretary no longer espoused all the views he held on the European arrest warrant only five years ago. We will wait to see what he says in five or six minutes’ time.

The hon. Gentleman reminded us that we are opting into not 35 measures, but 49, and referred to the other 14. He also wondered whether people who are considering voting Conservative would have confidence in a Prime Minister and a party who went into the election promising to repatriate rights from 2015 onwards if they were giving up rights in the preceding 10 months. His message to the Prime Minister, if I understood him correctly, is that there is a danger of having a backbone in opposition but being a jellyfish in government.

The hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) expressed concern, as have many others, about judicial activism and too much intervention. He also pointed out that the fundamentals of British courts and justice are not necessarily threatened by the ECJ having jurisprudence.

The last speech was made by the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who has huge expertise in this area. He made four key points. He warned about a single European justice system and said that sooner or later we may end up with that destination if concerns are not expressed now. Again, he highlighted concerns about the European arrest warrant, and referred to individual cases.

Six of the 35 measures relate to justice, my area of responsibility, and the Chair of the Justice Committee touched on most of them: the data protection secretariat, the data protection framework decision, the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties, prisoner transfers, the European supervision order, and trials in absentia.

For the sake of brevity, I will touch on only one of those issues, namely prisoner transfers. From his time as a Minister in the previous Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn knows full well the importance of transferring foreign prisoners to their home countries to serve out their custodial sentences. He negotiated many of the agreements that are still in place. However, since 2010, only four further agreements have been negotiated by the current Government, compared with the 50 negotiated by my right hon. Friend and other colleagues in the previous Government. One in eight of those behind bars in England and Wales is a foreign national, and the Chair of the Home Affairs

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Committee reminded us that the cost to the British taxpayer is £300 million a year. That is why it is so important that we get this right.

The Home Secretary was right to refer to the case of the Latvian prisoner who was sent back to Latvia last month, but the numbers transferred are still pitifully low. When the Justice Secretary responds, will he tell us what progress he has made in persuading other countries to take their own prisoners back from the UK? I appreciate that Poland has a derogation, but the other countries do not.

I will not refer to the measures we are not going to opt into, except to ask whether the Government are considering having impact assessments on them. That question has been asked by Members of the other place. I appreciate that we now have impact assessments on those measures that we are going to opt into, but will there be impact assessments on those that we are not going to opt into?

Lots of colleagues have made interventions and 12 Members from both sides of the House have made speeches. They have asked many questions and I, like them, am looking forward to hearing some answers from the Justice Secretary.

4.46 pm

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): This has been an important debate and I have listened very carefully to the strong opinions expressed. We have heard some passionate speeches and views. My hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills (Sir Richard Shepherd), for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) and for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) set out very strongly the views they hold and their concerns about these matters. We heard some contradictory views from my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry)—I wish him a happy birthday—and my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), who made an important point about unlimited jurisprudence and the way in which international treaties can take us into new areas beyond the intention of those who created them. That point was also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) on that very important issue.

It is always important to remember how we reached the position we are in. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) reminded us that, prior to the Lisbon treaty, these matters were all outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. They used to be intergovernmental matters. Of course, it was the previous Labour Government who took the decision to put us in the position we are in now. They sold us down this river in a way that should never have happened and left us in the legal position we are in today. It is really important that we as Conservatives always remember the previous Labour Government’s contribution. They accepted a treaty that was supposed to be subject to a referendum, but it never took place, and we in this House were asked to accept a package that I do not believe the British people wanted, although they were not given the opportunity to decide whether to accept it or not.

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That treaty allowed the UK to decide whether to opt out of all the pre-Lisbon justice and home affairs measures, and then to seek to rejoin any that it believed were in the national interest. That process, which we went through last year, had to be carried out en bloc, which meant that it was clunky and could not involve negotiating and debating on a measure-by-measure basis, as with new measures. But that is what the treaty provides for.

Last year, after extensive discussions within the Government, we agreed that we would exercise that opt-out and seek to rejoin a list of 35 measures. We also agreed that as a Government we wanted to participate in measures that contributed to the fight against international crime, but did not wish to be part of those that sought to create a European justice system. As the House knows, I strongly disagree with the previous Commissioner and others in Brussels who want the creation of such a system.

It is particularly important for us in this country to maintain the distinctiveness of our justice system, not just because of the core role it has played in our society for 800 years but, to be frank, because of the important competitive advantage it gives our legal services sector around the world. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton. We are not going to be, and we should not seek to become, part of a Europeanised justice system. I do not believe in such a development, and I certainly do not want this country to be part of it.

The 35 measures we are discussing are mostly to do with international policing and the fight against international organised crime. As the Chair of the Justice Committee, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), pointed out, the changes made to the list have not altered the balance we discussed earlier this year. The measures are on the list because the Home Office, with its officials and those who work with them, has clearly advised the Government that they are essential to our work in fighting international crime in particular and are therefore in the national interest. That advice has formed a fundamental part of the Government’s strategy.

Sir William Cash: I understand very well where my right hon. Friend is coming from and I think I know where he would like to go, but may I put it to him that when he speaks about not wanting to Europeanise our justice system the truth is that by acquiescing in rejoining the measures—the 35 up to 49 measures—we are submitting ourselves to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, which means doing exactly that? It will Europeanise our position irrevocably, unless in due course we repeal the legislation in this House unilaterally.

Chris Grayling: The Prime Minister set out some of the areas for renegotiation in his article earlier this spring. I hope and believe that a majority Conservative Government will be able to take forward such a renegotiation after the next general election, and the whole area of justice and home affairs needs to be part of that renegotiation process.

After we secured Commons approval for the opt-out—I was very pleased that the opt-out was exercised last year—we left time for the Select Committees to consider the proposed list before we embarked on negotiations

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with the Commission and other member states. I am acutely aware that the Select Committees said that Parliament was not involved early enough in the process, and we are now seeking to rectify that. The negotiations with the Commission reached a conclusion last month, though some matters are still outstanding in the Council and we are still to get final confirmation about the overall package. Once we reach that point, we can address the question about the process to be followed this autumn.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone asked whether there will be another debate. Yes, of course there will. It would be inconceivable to have a vote without a debate. It is worth saying that the Home Secretary and I brought forward publication of the Command Paper because we both believed that it was necessary to give Parliament a further opportunity to engage with the issue. I regret the fact that some information appeared before we could bring it to Parliament. However, that it makes it all the more necessary to ensure that Parliament has access to such information now, and that is why the Command Paper was produced and this debate is taking place. We want to give hon. Members and the Select Committees sufficient time to consider that work before we get to the last lap of this process.

At this point, it is appropriate for the House to recognise the very hard work done on this issue by the Home Secretary. These were difficult negotiations, and success was by no means guaranteed. Her efforts in particular have been vital in getting us to where we are, and I am sure the House is grateful to her.

As I have said, we still have to complete some areas of discussion in the Council, so I cannot say that we have finally resolved all the issues in Brussels. However, this is still the opportune and appropriate moment for Parliament to look at where we have got to. We listened very carefully to the concerns expressed earlier this year by the three Select Committee Chairs, and I hope that they feel we have done the right thing by starting the dialogue with Parliament now, even though we have yet to complete the process fully.

As the House will know, the list of measures relating to my Department forms only a small part of what we are debating, but I want to touch on one measure that does not appear in the list. The House will recall that I have previously set out why we chose not to rejoin the probation measure. I explained that, to our knowledge, the measure has not yet been used, and that there are serious questions about how it might work. I do not believe that it is in our national interest to join the measure at this time and leave the European Court of Justice as the potential arbiter of such questions.

The Commission and other member states, by contrast, were keen for us to rejoin the measure because they see it as part of a package that accompanies the prisoner transfer agreement. Despite that, we have said that we will not join at this time.

Our concerns centre on the implications of the measure for our courts, prisons and probation system. What would happen, for example, if someone who had already been transferred breached their licence conditions? Unlike many other member states, the UK does not specify penalties for breaches of community orders or probation. The measure would allow member states to return to us the person we had extradited, but we could not do the same to them. That would place significant potential burdens on our courts and probation system.

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Of course, all of us are very happy to see foreign national offenders returned to their home countries. I have no principled objection to sending prisoners back to serve their probation or community sentence in their home country. However, the measure appears to have potential problems that may materialise once it is in operation.

We have indicated to the Commission, as I said in our last debate on this matter, that we will take another look at the measure when there is enough evidence of it working and of its impacts to see whether there would be benefits to the UK in taking part. To support that decision, we will publish for Parliament an assessment of the potential impacts. Clearly, we will not agree to join this or any further JHA measure unless it is in our national interest to do so.

It is important to stress again that this debate has been designed to give the House an update on where we have got to and an opportunity to launch more detailed scrutiny of the process that we have gone through. It has been designed to address the concerns that were raised the last time we debated these issues in the House, which was back in April. We still have work to do in the European Council, in Brussels and in both Houses of Parliament. We will come back to this House when that work is complete. Of course, the two Departments will work closely with the relevant Select Committees to answer questions and discuss the issues in the weeks ahead.

I hope and believe that the House will accept that we have done the right thing in starting this conversation today, in setting out where we have got to in the negotiations and in setting out a process that will allow the kind of scrutiny that we were challenged over earlier in the year. I hope that the three Select Committees feel that we are taking things in the right direction. We have a bit of work left to do. This has been a valuable debate. These are serious issues and the House will have to reach a conclusion about our direction on them before too long. I hope that this debate will be the start of a valuable dialogue that helps Members on both sides of the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the UK’s Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Pensions Act 2011 (Consequential and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

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Residential Home Closures

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

4.58 pm

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Social care is changing. All parties in this House are rightly committed to giving disabled people more choice and control over where and how they live.

If I were to acquire a serious disability, I would hope to spend as long as possible in my own home. I hope that the care system would provide me with high quality care that allowed me to enjoy a good quality of life close to my friends and family. That is an increasingly normal model, but it has not always been that way.

For decades, it was conventional for most severely disabled people to move into a residential home. Today, some disabled people prefer to live in a residential home where they can be part of a community of staff, relatives and other residents. There will always be some people whose condition is severe enough to rule out other options of care.

Residential home closures, whatever the motivation behind them, pull apart existing communities. They are people’s homes. It may be that many disabled people wish to move from their existing setting, but others do not.

Robert Holmes is 39. I met his mother, Grace, two months ago when out knocking on doors in my constituency. She told me about the excellent quality of care that Robert, who has cerebral palsy, receives at Scope’s residential home, Hampton House in Northampton.

5 pm

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

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

Gavin Shuker: Grace also told me of Scope’s proposals to close Hampton House and relocate the residents apart from one another. She said:

“All of the residents there are like brothers and sisters to Robert—and some have been there for 39 years. The staff are brilliant. Even when residents go to hospital they have a staff member with them 24-7…I felt happy knowing that if anything happened to me Robert was in a place where he was loved and cared for, but now I worry constantly about it.”

Ann and Richard Fensome are also my constituents in Luton South. Their daughter, Joanne, is also 39. Ann and Richard report that Joanne, who has cerebral palsy and is severely disabled, does not wish to move from Wakes Hall in Essex—another Scope home earmarked for closure. They are not alone, and I thank the families who have taken time to contact my office to share their personal and emotional experiences of support for their loved ones at this time.

Scope has proposed to close eight residential homes and modify another three in the coming years, but it is not alone in pursuing such proposals. We are seeing the same thing happen with the Guinness Partnership, Home Farm Trust and other smaller charities who feel that residential homes are no longer in step with the Government’s decision and direction on care provision. This debate is important because we must ask: what

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about the voice of those disabled people who wish to live in such facilities, but who lose that right because of home closures? What happens when these homes no longer provide the same kind of care they would once have done? Who ultimately steps in?

I do not have one of the proposed home closures in my constituency, but I easily found families who will be profoundly affected by Scope’s decision, and in that sense I suspect that every Member in this place will be affected in some way. The two families I spoke of earlier came to Parliament last month to lobby MPs along with Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Northampton North and former Member of this House, Sally Keeble. She has been tireless in her work on this issue, but she has not been alone. Indeed, I have spoken to a number of Members from across the House who have raised their concerns directly with me.

The hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), who is in his place, has challenged the decision to consult on shutting Hampton House in his constituency. The hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) has shared her concerns with me about the decision to consult on the closure of Wakes Hall in the nearby constituency of the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), and I know that she spoke at a lobby on that issue last month. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) and former Deputy Speaker spoke with me about his concerns for the residents affected. In my constituency office in Luton, Grace Holmes and the Fensomes highly praised Scope’s approach to care. They spoke of the quality of support that their children receive, and the relationships that they have built with the staff over the years. As an example of their gratitude for the charity’s work, they shared how they have actively supported Scope for a number of years. Perhaps that is why they are so disappointed by Scope’s proposals. They raised concerns with me about the consultation process, the upset it was causing residents, and a number of process issues. At the core of their argument, however, was the issue of choice.

Peter Walker, Scope’s regional director, recently told a local newspaper that the charity was looking to close care homes such as these,

“because we don’t think this kind of old-fashioned care home offers disabled people the kind of say that everyone else has over where they live, who they live with and how their money is spent”.

Scope states that the closures are necessary in order to comply with the direction of Government policy, which is to encourage those with physical and learning difficulties to enjoy independent living and choice about the care they receive. I have no reason to doubt that assertion, and that Scope’s desire is to give future service users an experience that reflects their expectations. I am fully supportive of the move towards more independent living for those who believe that they will be able to lead better lives in that way. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), the shadow Minister for care and older people, has similarly expressed her support for those laudable aims in correspondence with Scope’s chief executive, but for Joanne and Robert, who do not wish to move, their choice is not being enhanced; it is being taken away. I understand that they are among the most vulnerable of Scope’s clients. They are the people that the charity was set up to care for. For them, round-the-clock care does not come towards the end of their lives, and they will continue to need such care for decades to come.

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The Department of Health website looks towards a new system under the Care Act 2014 that will be

“built around each person—what they need, how they can best be cared for, and what they want.”

The tone is very purposely set to encourage patients to have more confidence in the choices available to them, yet the most important expression of choice is that of my constituents—their choice is to stay in the home that they know and love, and they want their families to be assured that their loved ones continue to receive good quality care by those whom they trust.

Scope has made efforts to bring residents on board with its new strategy. Hampton House residents have had the opportunity to visit the type of independent housing that Scope envisages—small clusters of individual properties. Although that will appeal to some, the overwhelming feedback was concern. They fear that the move will result in the residents becoming more isolated, and in a loss of the easy mobility and companionship that they currently enjoy. The move will appeal to some, but we should take note of that overwhelming feedback.

I would appreciate the following response from the Minister. First, I should like him to review that broad issue and report to the House. The review should set out what work the Government have done on the changing culture—the shift from residential care home settings for disabled people while at the same time preserving the rights and choices of people such as Joanne and Robert to stay in residential home settings.

If the care home residents were tenants in the housing market, they would have tenure rights, exercisable through the courts. As customers of a business or clients of a charity, they can lose their homes on the whim of a change in strategy by the organisation. That could happen even in the case of Hampton House, where one resident has lived for some 39 years.

The review should examine the issue of choice. Questions have been raised about the working of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and about the exercising of choice by people who have profound learning difficulties. Who is best able to interpret and assist in their choices: the charity that provides their accommodation or their family members?

The review should examine the accountability of charities and the private sector. If those homes were run in the public sector, there would be a statutory requirement for public consultation. The issues and information would be public, and the results would be open to legal challenge. In the case of Hampton House, Scope has said there will be a consultation, but it has told family members verbally that that is unlikely to change the decision to close the home. The decision is not open to scrutiny or challenge in the same way.

The review should also examine a national framework of safeguards. People with very complex needs require security in their housing and care arrangements throughout their lifetime, which may extend well beyond the lives of their parents or other close relatives. We know that age is a key factor in the argument. Some charities say that younger disabled people want to live independently and, anecdotally, I have been told that more independent living is a trend that is better reflected among some younger disabled people. However, that leaves us with a challenge, particularly for some older disabled people, such as those in their 40s or 50s. In some cases, the intentional communities in which they live have been

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their homes for all their adult lives. The Government should examine whether their sectoral needs are being well met, and what safeguards should be appropriately awarded to them.

Will the Minister review Scope’s proposed consultation and examine whether more can be done to protect the rights of disabled people who wish to live in these residential settings right now? Indeed, a number of families, accepting Scope’s position that it does not wish to continue actively supporting these institutions, ask whether facilities could be transferred to another charity to run. That would provide continuity of service. I understand that Scope’s position is that it is not an economic concern that has led it to take this route of consultation and closing homes, so it is credible to believe that another organisation could absorb them.

I do not doubt the Minister’s sincerity in seeking to move to a care system where disabled people have greater choice, voice and control over their own lives. It would, however, be the greatest of ironies if, in undertaking such a shift, we were to leave a generation or a group of severely disabled people behind.

5.11 pm

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) on securing this debate. I am grateful to him, and to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for permitting me to contribute to this important Adjournment debate, as the regular proceedings do not normally allow for that. The hon. Gentleman spoke very well and advocated his position very effectively. I agree with much of what he said.

I admire Scope, as I am sure the hon. Member for Luton South does. It is an excellent charity and its staff do wonderful work. They clearly care about the people in their charge, for whom they are duty bound to care. Hampton House, in my constituency, should not close. It should not close for the very reason that it is not an institution, but a home for more than a dozen people. We are told that this is not about economics, Government policy or local authority decisions; it is a policy shift. There has been a decision to move away from a residential setting to more of a care home setting. This may well work in many cases—the hon. Gentleman alluded to them—especially for those who are disabled who are entering this kind of care arrangement, but it does not work, and is not working, for those who have lived in Hampton House in my constituency for literally decades, and in one case nearly four decades.

In the very short time allowed to me in this instance, I want to put on record my suggestion that we work with Scope to find an alternative to its proposal to close Hampton House, and ask it please to look again and please think again. Those who have lived there for decades are firmly wedded to its atmosphere, staff and ambience—to everything about a home—as you or I, Madam Deputy Speaker, would be. There must be alternatives.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): The point is that the sense of community is being destroyed. Whatever arrangement we come to with Scope, we have to find a way of keeping that sense of community for the people who want to keep it.

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Michael Ellis: I agree: it is a sense of community and a sense of belonging. It is very easy for those outside that community to think that this is an institution that needs change—that we need to modernise and move forward. There may be—indeed, there is—room for such modernisation and moving forward in many cases, but not in every case and not by taking a broad-brush approach. There must be alternatives. I would respectfully ask Scope to work with us across the political divide and with the residents. Let us find an alternative.

5.15 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): I thank the hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) for securing this debate and for speaking in a reasonable tone about issues of enormous concern to some of his constituents. I very much noted the fact that they have told him that they have experienced good care. They regard the care home as their home. In a way, that demonstrates the conflict that sometimes arises, in that there is a general trend towards more people wanting to live in their own communities with support, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said. He described his sense that he would want to remain in his own home were he to be disabled, but at the same time there are those who regard a care home as their home and they have no desire to change that. It is right to recognise that that conflict exists, and it creates a dilemma.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that, in a way, Scope was closing the home because of Government policy. Government policy, as enshrined in the Care Act 2014, is to put people in charge—to focus on well-being, which is the central theme of the Care Act. As far as possible, it should be the individual who determines where they want to be. I have spoken to Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope. Scope is very clear that this is its decision: it wants to do it and is doing so for what it regards as a good purpose. However, the Government’s focus is simply on the individual—on ensuring that, as far as possible, we enable people to make the decision that is right for them, recognising, however, the conflict that can arise.

Care homes often look after some very frail people, but also individuals with quite complex needs. It is understandable and reasonable that, should there be a possibility of a care home closing, residents and their families will be extremely concerned about the future, particularly with the upheaval of having to move. It will inevitably be an unsettling and potentially stressful time. The decision to close a care home voluntarily is taken by the owner or operator—either the local council, where that remains the case, or, if it is an independent home, the proprietor, whether the home is in the private or the voluntary sector. Of the approximately 17,000 care and nursing homes in England these days, over 90% are in the independent sector—that has been the case for many years—and are owned and operated by private companies or charitable and voluntary sector organisations such as Scope.

Homes may close for a variety of reasons, including lack of financial viability and/or insufficient demand for places, retirement of the owners, the sale of premises for alternative use and even the de-registration of unsuitable or unsafe services as a result of the Care Quality Commission’s intervention. In the case of Scope, the organisation is looking to redesign the services it provides

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to support people. It is important that people who need care and support are accommodated in appropriate settings that are based, critically, on their choice as far as possible. It is clearly not desirable if someone has to move from a care home where they are settled and happy and where their needs are being met.

Local authorities have a responsibility, through good commissioning strategies, to ensure a healthy local care home sector. Through the Care Act 2014, which will come into force next April, we are giving local authorities a core duty to promote their local care market, with a particular focus on ensuring diversity, quality and sustainability. Importantly, they should ensure that sufficient high-quality services are available to meet the needs of individuals in their local area. However, although local authorities should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that good care homes remain viable and stay open, there will be situations where homes have to close or where the proprietors choose to close them. We have to face this. What is most important is that any decision to close a home should be handled sensitively and appropriately. It is essential that person-centred care planning identifies the best possible alternative for each individual. Adequate time should be allowed for the process, so that residents and their relatives can be properly involved and be given plenty of time to make decisions and arrangements in a way that minimises stress.

I must emphasise that, should a home have to close, local authorities have a statutory duty to arrange suitable alternative accommodation for those residents who are assessed as being in need of residential care, so it should never be the case that someone who needs residential care will not be provided with it. I fully appreciate, however, that that does not reassure someone who regards a particular building and set of care workers as their home and their home environment.

I am aware that some providers of residential care for disabled people—including the charity for disabled people, Scope—are reviewing their residential services and are consulting users of services and their families. I appreciate, as I have said, that this can be an extraordinarily worrying time and a stressful situation both for the people in those homes and for their families. Parents of adult disabled people are often themselves quite elderly, which can cause additional stress. The hon. Gentleman touched on that when he talked about his constituent. I would encourage the residents and their families fully to engage with the consultation process and ensure that their views are taken into account.

Scope has given an assurance to the Department of Health that it is committed to ensuring that all users of its services who may be affected are properly consulted and supported. It has promised to provide any individual who needs it with advocacy so that every resident of its homes can understand what the proposals mean for them and can make it clear what they want for the future. Richard Hawkes told me that Scope has even provided care workers to come down to Parliament to support people who were lobbying their MPs against the closures. It says that it has tried to be as reasonable as possible. This process will not, Scope says, be rushed or hurried. It has informed the Department that the consultation will take place over a period of three years.

Scope runs many other care homes that will remain open. There is a particular focus on the larger care homes, but there are also many smaller care homes that

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it intends to keep open—eight of them, as I think the hon. Gentleman mentioned. Scope appreciates that many residents are happy in its homes, but has to face the fact that there is a lessening demand for large, traditional residential care services.

Richard Hawkes, as chief executive, made the point to me that more people are taking on personal budgets—a concept substantially and rightly developed under the previous Government and one that is continued by this Government and now legislated for in the Care Act 2014. The concept was designed to put the individual in charge, so that they can determine how the money available for their care is spent to meet their particular priorities. As people take on personal budgets, according to Richard Hawkes, they are increasingly voting with their feet and choosing not to go into larger care homes, which often have long corridors, shared bathrooms and so forth. They are increasingly choosing to remain in supported living if possible with a package of care built around their individual needs. Scope is reviewing its services now, so that decisions can be made and, if need be, homes closed in a controlled, planned manner before vacancy levels make them unviable.

Richard Hawkes also told me about an experience that Scope has been through in Southampton. It proposed to close a care home, leading to the same totally legitimate anxieties and concerns. It went through the process and all the individuals in the home have been relocated in circumstances that suit those individuals, with their having a central say in where they are going to go. He tells me—I base my comments just on what he says—that all now appear to be happier with their new circumstances and are finding a new sense of freedom that they did not experience in the past. Although these changes to circumstances can be traumatic and difficult, the end-result, as demonstrated in the experience of Southampton, can sometimes be a good one for the individuals involved. I realise, though, that elderly parents in particular will sometimes find that quite hard to recognise.

It is worth taking a moment to look at the history of this issue. Many traditional, large residential care homes are quite old now. A number of Scope’s homes date back to the 1970s. They were developed in—and designed to suit the needs and demands of—a different era. By modern standards, they lack privacy, and they do not allow residents the degree of freedom, choice and control that we rightly expect and demand nowadays. As a result, many Scope homes are under-occupied. The increasing availability of new models and types of care, support and accommodation means that traditional large care homes are no longer the default or only option when it comes to providing care and support for people with disabilities.

Innovations and developments in supported living, and the various types of housing with care that are available these days, offer disabled people far more choice than they ever had in the past, and control over their lives. I am sure that, ultimately, we should all welcome that. Scope has informed us that, owing to the newer options that have become available, local authorities do not automatically make routine new placements in residential care, and it expects the number of empty places in its older homes to continue to rise. In the long term, it can only be a good thing that people have so many more choices when it comes to the care that is

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available to them, but, as I have said, I entirely appreciate that, as with any change, the process is not without its short-term challenges.

The Government want to give people more control over their health and social care services, and, therefore, over their lives. That is the central ambition of the Care Act. Personalisation means building support around individuals and providing more choice, control and flexibility in the way in which they receive care and support, regardless of the setting in which they receive it. There is no central policy, incidentally, that says care homes are bad: absolutely not. It is a question of what is right for the individual involved.

The Care Act provides a new legislative focus on personalisation, increasing opportunities for greater choice, control and independence, so that people can choose the services that are best suited to meet their care and support needs. The Act provides that adults who are eligible for care and support must receive services that

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meet their individual needs. It also requires that they must be involved in care planning. Some, of course, will need and benefit from residential care. There will always be an important job for care homes to do. However, for others a different model of care may now be more appropriate to their needs, and, most importantly, to their aspirations and desire to lead the sort of independent life that all the rest of us take for granted.

We are committed to ensuring that people who wish and are able to live in their communities are given the support that they need in order to do so. Everyone, especially younger adults—including those with a learning disability—should have the opportunity to make informed choices about where and with whom they live, and to have greater choice and control over their lives and support to help them to lead a fulfilling life of their own.

Question put and agreed to.

5.28 pm

House adjourned.