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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, as the noble Baroness said, we are seeking to draw a balance between preventing the formalisation of informal care and not prohibiting sensible and appropriate arrangements. We want to avoid direct payments being used to pay people who might otherwise provide care on an informal basis, for all the reasons I have explained in previous debates. But in doing so we do not wish unnecessarily to restrict the choice of providers available to people who receive direct payments.

The restrictions on employing relatives and friends which we propose to make in regulations and guidance are included in the consultation paper, and we will need to consider the responses to the consultation exercise before reaching final decisions on those issues. On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, suggested a

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change of emphasis to give local authorities more discretion in deciding whom to allow to be employed. We find that a most interesting suggestion and one which we are considering very carefully. I am sure the noble Baroness will not, however, expect the Government to commit themselves before we have heard the views of those responding to the consultation paper.

The amendment goes somewhat further and proposes that local authorities should be able to make exceptions to the content of our proposed regulations. The Government are very carefully considering their proposals. We are consulting on the content of our regulations and guidance and will make our decision in the light of the responses to that consultation and the debates in this House. We shall then decide what we consider appropriate to include in regulations and what in guidance. But having made that decision we do not think it appropriate for local authorities to be able to make exceptions to the regulations, as proposed in the amendment. The areas where we think it is appropriate for local authorities to use their discretion will be covered in guidance.

We feel that the noble Baroness made a persuasive case on her original suggestion on Report. As I said, we are thinking about it carefully. I hope that with that assurance she will not press the amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I thought that this amendment might be preferable to the previous one, but the Minister tells me that that amendment is better than this one, even though it was not acceptable at the time. I am well content.

In so far as the Minister is saying that the Government will consider this matter seriously, I cannot obviously hope for anything more at this stage. Obviously the Government are right to say that they must wait for responses to the consultation paper and that the Opposition cannot reasonably expect the Government to decide before they have received those responses. That is right, but it would have been even better if the Government had not introduced the Bill until after the consultation paper responses had been seen, so that we all shared that body of information and opinion.

I am sure that it is not the Minister's fault, but it is regrettable when the Minister gives as a reason for not accepting the amendment that her consultation paper was not out in good time for us to get back the information upon the basis of which we could build our amendments. It is extraordinarily unreasonable for the Government to blame us, because we do not have the advantage of a consultation paper which has gone out too late for us to have the responses in time to debate the Bill.

One talks about fingering the Opposition, but that seems unusually perverse. Nonetheless, as a result, and in the expectation that the consultation paper will confirm what we had been hoping--that there is a need to extend the group so that disabled people can employ relatives, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

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7.30 p.m.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. This is an important piece of legislation. People throughout the United Kingdom who receive direct payments will have more independence, choice and control over the way they live their lives. Disabled people have been asking for this legislation and in preparing the Bill we have found their views essential. We look forward to considering their responses to the consultation exercise.

The noble Baroness suggested that we were blaming the Opposition. There is no question of blame but I believe that she realises that we need to hear the views.

I would like to thank all your Lordships for the underlying support given to this Bill, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, for testing our proposals so thoroughly. At the Report stage the noble Lord, Lord Rix, referred to the "reason tinged by passion", which he felt was evident in many of your Lordships' debates. That is a good description of the debates that have taken place on this Bill, not least those initiated by the noble Lord.

I would also like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baronesses, Lady Darcy (de Knayth) and Lady Hamwee, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who is sorry that she cannot be here today, the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, and to my noble friends Lord Campbell of Croy, Lord Hayhoe, Lord Jenkin, Lady Seccombe, Lady Faithfull and Lord Swinfen. We are at one in wanting direct payments to succeed.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull was anxious that we should have some regulation over care providers. We understand her anxieties but we believe that probably this is not the right Bill to bring forward her proposals.

We have given several commitments in response to the points raised by your Lordships. The Government have amended the Bill as recommended by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. We are committed to giving Parliament a report on the workings of the Act within three years of commencement. As regards the financial contribution that people may be required to make, we are committed to issuing Section 7 guidance to stress that local authorities must treat people fairly, and should treat those receiving direct payments in a manner equivalent to those receiving services.

As regards Section 7 guidance, we will also make clear that payments should be sufficient to allow people to buy services of adequate quality, taking account of any legal liabilities involved in doing so. We will issue practice guidance to encourage local authorities to give support to people who receive direct payments. We intend to tell local authorities that before people consent to receive direct payments they should ensure that they are made aware that they may have responsibilities as employers.

We are thinking of producing a guide for people who receive direct payments. If we did so it would certainly cover the issue of employing staff. We will produce some training materials for local authorities in order to help them to train their staff and we will continue to involve disabled people and local authorities in the

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development of this policy. We have also asked the Technical Advisory Group to assist us in looking at what should be in our guidance, considering whether we should produce a guide for people who receive payments and, if so, what it should contain, and thinking about what kind of training materials we should produce for local authorities. We have also given a commitment that we will consult widely on our guidance in draft.

We have discussed at length many of the issues covered in the consultation document and in particular eligibility. We understand the frustration which many of your Lordships have felt over the fact that the consultation has not yet been completed. But we must allow time for people to consider and to respond to the document. We intend to keep the issue of eligibility under review once direct payments are available.

Our shared aim is to create the best possible framework for this exciting new venture. The Government believe that the framework set out by the Bill is right. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Baroness Cumberlege.)

7.34 p.m.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we are delighted that the Bill is in place. Many of us in the Chamber have campaigned for it for several years while the disability organisations, such as DIG and BCDOP, and local authorities, such as Kingston, have campaigned for it for many more years. They and we are delighted to see the Bill going through Parliament.

The Bill provides that the care system must fit the needs and the wishes of disabled people rather than disabled people fitting the management structures, rotas and rigidities of a formal care system. The Bill restores the right for disabled people to choose and the right to have spontaneity in their lives. Many people who have received direct payments from the independent living fund have found that it has turned their lives around. People who would otherwise be in institutional residential care have come out to live in the community, have married, have had children, have held down a job and have contributed to society all that they and we would wish. That is what the principle of the Bill is about and it is absolutely right.

As always, the Minister has been informed and courteous. By now we expect nothing less. I am sure that I speak for many noble Lords in welcoming and congratulating a former Conservative Back-Bencher who a couple of years ago introduced a Private Member's Bill, the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who too must be gratified at seeing the Bill going through in its present state.

It is a particular pleasure to thank my noble friend Lord Carter who knows far more about disability issues than I will ever learn and whose wise advice is always available to help people such as myself. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, on the Liberal Democrat Benches as well as those on the Cross-Benches for their informed

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contributions. I include the mobility brigade who have been inhibited in attending tonight only by the snow and not by the issues.

We have always learnt from contributions made by Members on the Conservative Benches. They include the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Campbell of Croy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. They have real expertise on the subject from which the House has consistently benefited.

I have one regret. The Bill is not faintly party political and no issues of money or ideology or points of principle have been involved. Nonetheless, time and again the Government have simply resisted or been obdurate where I believe they should have accepted amendments. Instead, we have had insights, such as unripe time and running before walking, rather than a real recognition of the arguments. I regret that, particularly as regards eligibility. I hope that the issues that we have failed to clarify in this House will be clarified in another place.

It is a good Bill but it could have been even better. Even so, we are not greatly distressed because the powers of regulation, including the powers to make Section 7 guidance, which carries heavy weight, will permit the next Minister for disabled people to deliver within a few months every amendment that this Government have resisted but which disabled people, disability organisations and local authorities wish him to. This is a good Bill and an even better Bill may emerge from the Commons. If not, an even better Bill is around the corner. In the meantime, we wish this Bill happily on its way.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Addington: My Lords, we on these Benches support the Bill. It is not exactly the Bill we wanted. It is not sufficiently wide in scope and it has certain limitations, but it is a start. It is true that regulation may well include other people at a later date. I am a little more sceptical about regulation; I would rather see the provision in front of me. However, take what is given and be thankful.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, who between them have shaken the issues extremely firmly and have saved me from having to give too many examples, which I do not like to do. I also thank my noble friends on these and other Benches who have given the Bill such a good airing from so many points of view. It is a pity that so many people who have helped the process of the Bill cannot be here tonight.

Perhaps I may mention in particular my noble friend Lady Seear who has missed the latter stages of the Bill because she is recuperating from an operation. Although she was briefly out of hospital today she has had to return. I hope that my noble friend will soon be back with us and will encourage the Bill in the future.

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