House of Commons
Wednesday 25 October 2017
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Most jobcentres are staying put. We are merging some into neighbouring offices to create bigger, multi-skilled teams, moving them into better buildings, or placing them into shared local authority space, all of which can lead to better customer service.
In Glasgow, unemployment has consistently been higher than the national average, child poverty is rising, and the use of food banks has increased by 20% in the past two years. How can Ministers justify closing so many jobcentres, which provide vital support for people struggling to access the labour market?
I can confirm that Glasgow will continue to have a considerably higher concentration of jobcentres not only than the large cities in England but compared with most other large cities in Scotland. We have redesigned the estate to make sure that we can provide well for our client base, but from bigger jobcentres. There are a number of things we can do from larger jobcentres to help unemployed people that it is not so straightforward to do from smaller ones.
Bridgeton jobcentre in my constituency will close and people will have to take two buses to get to Shettleston. Will the Minister give a commitment that not a single one of my constituents will be sanctioned for being late because they could not get there on time because of his cuts?
We expect people who are not in work to have the working week effectively available for their job-search activities, including visiting the jobcentre and, of course, applying for jobs. As I think the hon. Lady already knows, the rate of sanctions is down significantly. The vast majority of people do not get sanctioned every month, and we run a policy of having a reasonable approach. If people have a good reason for not being at an appointment, they will not be sanctioned.
The Department for Work and Pensions claims that the need for jobcentres is declining with the growth of online services, but in the constituency of Glasgow East, which has one of the highest claimant rates in Scotland, at around 35%, many do not have access to the internet and 51% are not IT literate; yet the Government are still closing three jobcentres, one of which serves three homeless shelters. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of closures on service users, many of whom rely on face-to-face interaction with jobcentre staff?
We did of course make an assessment of the effect of the changes. Where the changes would involve people having to travel more than 3 miles or 20 minutes by public transport, we had a public consultation. [Interruption.] In one case, we changed the plan in the light of the consultation, as the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) well knows. We think it is right to move to larger jobcentres in which we can do more. They are better equipped and have computers to ensure that that facility is there, and there are specialists in the jobcentre who can help people with the computers and get through the problems of digital exclusion that the hon. Lady mentions.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but I am afraid it is not very convincing or particularly reassuring. He knows full well that equality impact assessments have been conducted, as the Secretary of State for Scotland told me in response to my letter. The Secretary of State also said in his letter that if I wanted to access that equality information, I would have to make individual freedom of information requests for every single jobcentre. It is outrageous that the Government are covering up this vital information. They claim to value openness and transparency, but they refuse to publish information that should be freely available, no matter how much it shames them. I have in my hand an FOI request—
Order. I am sorry, but I need a single sentence and a question mark at the end of it. There is a lot of pressure on time. I apologise to the hon. Lady, but she is taking far too long. She must be very quick.
The Minister has one more chance to publish the information. Otherwise, here is my FOI request.
The key point is that an equality impact assessment is not just a document; it is an entire way of thinking and working and it runs throughout these processes. I can confirm that we have been absolutely compliant with our duties under the Equality Act 2010, as we should be.
Brexit: Further Devolution
We are in agreement with the devolved Administrations that common frameworks will be necessary in some areas but, as I have made it clear, we expect that there will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved Administration.
We hear about this powers bonanza all the time, but the Prime Minister was unable to give us details on Monday, and it seems that the Secretary of State was unable to do so yesterday at the Scottish Affairs Committee. Let us give him another opportunity: can he name one power that will definitely come to the Scottish Parliament as a result of Brexit?
We hear repeatedly from the Scottish National Benches about engagement with the Scottish Government, and this engagement will be with the Scottish Government. That is where the discussions are going on in relation to the transfer of powers. I am absolutely certain that, at the end of this process, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers and responsibilities than it does right now.
Among all the fluff of that answer, there was absolutely no substance. For a second time, may I ask the Secretary of State what new powers will be coming to Holyrood as a result of Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman will have seen a list of 111 powers and responsibilities—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Linden, you are a most over-excitable individual. Calm yourself. I understand your interest, but the question has been put—[Interruption.] Order. There is no need for excessive gesticulation. Whether or not you like the answer, Mr Linden, you must pay the Secretary of State the respect of hearing it, preferably with courtesy.
This is all about grandstanding; it is not about the substantive issue of ensuring a transfer of very significant powers from the 111 powers that were listed to the Scottish Parliament. I believe in devolution. I am committed to devolution and I want to see the maximum number of powers transferred. The Scottish National party does not believe in devolution.
Can I, for the third time, ask the Secretary of State to name one power that is coming? If he is struggling for powers, may I suggest that he considers immigration, so that we can tackle things such as the skills immigration charge, which will be causing a skills shortage and damaging the economy in my constituency?
I can give the hon. Gentleman a definitive answer on the last part of his question. Immigration is not being devolved to Scotland. The Smith commission process identified those areas of responsibility to be devolved, and immigration was not one of them. The Scottish National party accepted that report and, on the basis of that, we implemented it in the Scotland Act 2016.
I am disappointed that, after three questions, we still have not had an answer. On immigration, I am disappointed that the Secretary of State was disinclined to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day). Perhaps he will listen to Nobel laureate Joe Stiglizt who, over the weekend, said that Scotland should have the powers to go its own way in migration policy. He knows a bit more about this than we do, so is he right?
I seem to remember that Professor Joe Stiglizt supported independence for Scotland, but the people of Scotland knew a bit more than the professor and decided to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend has been crystal clear that Brexit offers opportunities and powers. The SNP talks down Scotland, and specifically Aberdeenshire, the city that has managed to recover from the oil downturn. Why cannot it recognise that the new powers and EU withdrawal offers opportunities to Scotland, specifically to Aberdeenshire?
I am disappointed that the SNP is here in Westminster adopting this sort of pantomime approach to the very important issue of powers rather than engaging in a constructive way. Fortunately, it appears that the Scottish Government are adopting a more responsible approach, which is why there are substantial discussions between the UK and Scottish Governments.
I very much welcome the contribution to the debate of my hon. Friend’s Committee. Of course, it is very important that there is engagement across Parliaments, and I will be appearing before both the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee and the Finance and Constitution Committee of the Scottish Parliament in the next couple of weeks.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that Scotland’s trade with the UK is worth four times as much as its trade with the EU. Does he find it confusing, as my constituents and I do, that the SNP is quite happy for us to stay in one single market, but advocate Scotland leaving the greatest single market right here on its doorstep—the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is important that some of the powers and responsibilities that come back from Brussels are subject to UK-wide frameworks so that we can continue to benefit from our internal market in the United Kingdom.
Leaving the EU will inherently make the Scottish Parliament more powerful as we take back control from Brussels. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the SNP Government’s confused EU policy would simply see the new powers gained handed straight back to Brussels?
It is very important that the 500,000 yes supporters who voted to leave the European Union are absolutely clear that the SNP’s position is to take Scotland right back into the EU.
We all know that the Tories have a dubious record on devolution. After all, they opposed the creation of the Scottish Parliament in the first place. In stark contrast, the Labour party laid the foundations for the Scottish Parliament and will always act in its best interests. The Secretary of State says that the Scottish Parliament will get new powers eventually. Well, new powers require additional resources to deliver, so will he tell us how much more money the Scottish Parliament will obtain to fund these new powers? Will he also guarantee, unequivocally, that Brexit will not result in the Scottish Parliament’s budget being cut?
I take issue with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis of devolution. I have been in this Parliament to see through both the Scotland Act 2012 and the Scotland Act 2016, which have seen a significant transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament. I am determined that Brexit will see a further transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Scottish Parliament. Of course, it will need to be done in an orderly way, which will be the purpose of clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We will work closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure that that transfer of powers is orderly.
We need to speed up a little bit: a very pithy question, I am sure, from Mr Stephen Kerr.
Does the Secretary of State agree that Scotland’s two Governments—the UK Government and the Scottish Government—should work together in co-operation to get the best Brexit deal for the people of Scotland?
The London School of Economics has said that a hard Tory Brexit will cost Scotland £30 billion, the Fraser of Allander Institute has said that 80,000 jobs could go and a former Department for Exiting the European Union official has said that Scotland will be get the hardest impact. The Secretary of State said at the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs yesterday that economic impact assessments are available for Scotland. Will he release them to the Scottish people so that they can examine them and know the full scale of this disastrous Tory Brexit?
It would not be Scotland questions if we did not hear from the doom-monger-in-chief. Let me be quite clear, as I was in my appearance before his Committee. Both Governments have carried out important analysis, which they will share and discuss, but this Government—as Parliament has approved—will not be publishing anything that would be detrimental to our negotiating position.
In evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, the Secretary of State suggested that a common framework should not be imposed on the devolved Administrations by the UK Government but should instead be the output of a collaborative process. Will he confirm that that is indeed the Government’s position?
I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s important question, which gets to the heart of the issue—in marked contrast to the pantomime stuff we had earlier. I can absolutely confirm that. A UK framework does not mean the UK imposes a framework; it means agreement is reached between the UK Government and the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
Four times the Secretary of State has been asked to name a single power that will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and four times he has declined to answer. I see little point in asking him a fifth time, but let me ask him this: when will the Government publish a schedule setting out which powers will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and which will not? [Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) really should not walk across the line of sight.
Sorry, Mr Speaker.
I am grateful for the apology. It was unfair to the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard).
If the hon. Gentleman had not prefaced his question with those initial remarks, he would have asked a sensible question. I have set out that there is a dialogue ongoing with the Scottish Government in relation to the 111 powers. I set that out in much more detail at the Committee for which he was present yesterday, so I will not repeat what I said, but I am hopeful that, in early course, we will be able to publish exactly that sort of list.
The right hon. Gentleman’s refusal to name a single power, or even to set a timetable for saying when he will do so, can lead us to only one conclusion: that there are forces in his Government that do not want to see any powers devolved at all. How does that sit with his Department’s responsibility to protect the devolution settlement?
I have rarely heard such complete and utter nonsense. I will be judged by the Scotland Office’s record on devolution, and that means implementing the Calman commission in full, implementing the Scotland Act 2016 in full and taking forward the return of powers from Brussels, with a presumption of devolution. We will deliver, and the people of Scotland will see that we have.
Oil and Gas Industry
I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues and Scottish Government Ministers on a wide range of issues, including fiscal policy across the UK, fisheries, and the oil and gas industry.
My right hon. Friend will know as well as I do the importance of the oil and gas industry in north-east Scotland. Considering the recent decision by the First Minister in Scotland to abolish the Energy Jobs Taskforce, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the UK Government remain fully committed to our North sea industries and will work with colleagues from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure the brightest future for the oil and gas industries in the north-east of Scotland?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I share his disappointment. Through challenging times, the broad shoulders of the UK Government have supported the oil and gas industry to the tune of £2.3 billion. We have invested in surveying the seabed, established a new independent regulator and invested in developing world-leading infrastructure, research and technology through the Aberdeen city deal. [Interruption.]
These are very important matters affecting the people of Scotland, and I think we ought to respect them by having some attention to our proceedings.
I welcome the announcement last month of the Scottish Business Taskforce. Would my right hon. Friend like to expand on what its role will be with the oil, gas and sub-sea industries, which are predominately based around my constituency?
I recognise that my hon. Friend, although a new Member, has become a champion of the oil, gas and sub-sea industries. I can confirm today that the Scottish Business Taskforce, which was announced last month, will meet for the first time on Friday. The taskforce will provide expert advice and guidance on how best to support our most important sectors—not least oil, gas and sub-sea—and strengthen Scotland’s economy. I will be announcing its membership later today.
It is difficult to see how we can support the oil and gas industry in Scotland when the Secretary of State refuses to release the assessment of the impact of Brexit on the Scottish economy. Will he tell the House whether the Secretary of State for Brexit was correct today at the Exiting the European Union Committee that that assessment has been shared with the Scottish Government? When will it be shared with the Scottish people?
I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not follow the Scottish Affairs Committee’s deliberations; he used to be a very prominent member of it. I made it very clear yesterday that there was a sharing of analysis, as is appropriate between Governments, but we will not be publishing anything that will be detrimental to our negotiations, and that is what the people of Scotland would want.
Given that, as we have heard, information has been shared with the Scottish Government, would it not be appropriate to make it public and perhaps to impress on the Scottish Government that they should also do that? The people of Scotland should see what the impact of Brexit is going to be in order to make a proper assessment of it.
We are regularly called on to respect the Scottish Government. I respect the Scottish Government and this Government respect the Scottish Government—that is why we are working with them on Brexit. But it would not be in the interests of Scotland or the United Kingdom to publish any information that would be detrimental to our negotiating position.
I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues and Scottish Government Ministers on a wide range of issues, including fiscal policy across the UK.
Will the Secretary of State have a word with his very good friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about VAT in Scotland to try to help clear up the mess created by the Scottish Government when they centralised police and fire services in Scotland, making them liable for VAT?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s contribution.
Borderlands Growth Deal
Only last week I hosted a meeting with local MPs to review progress. I am pleased to report that we are driving forward the innovative, cross-border borderlands deal and hope to agree a deal next year that will see investment to transform the local economies within the borderlands area. [Interruption.]
I want to hear the question and I want the people of Dumfries and Galloway to have the chance of hearing it.
Hear, hear to that. Will my right hon. Friend commit to ensuring that local communities have the opportunity to feed their thoughts into what the final deal will look like?
I am sure that the people of Dumfries and Galloway will be absolutely delighted to hear what my hon. Friend says. I was very pleased to receive a submission from all five local authorities involved in the borderlands growth deal. I hope that we can now move forward with local communities being able to include their ideas and contributions in this process.
I think the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is quite nearby.
There is a risk that the Secretary of State is prioritising the borderland deal over the Ayrshire growth deal. In a simple written question, I asked how many meetings he has had on the borderland initiative, with who, and on what dates. His answer was that he has had numerous meetings. Will he answer the question directly, or otherwise I will report him to the Procedure Committee again?
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman displays an unpleasant SNP trait of seeking to create division within Scotland. I want to see all areas of Scotland benefit from growth. At least the people of Ayrshire know that in their new Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant), they have a real champion of Ayrshire.
Brexit: Joint Ministerial Committee
The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations provides a valuable forum for the UK Government and devolved Administrations to discuss exit issues. We held a very constructive meeting on 16 October and I hope to convene another meeting shortly.
It was agreed at the last JMCEU that common frameworks would be needed in certain areas. What update can the Secretary of State give the House on talks with Scottish Government Ministers on the establishment of common frameworks for progressing, and is he able to identify areas where the need for common frameworks is anticipated?
I gave very extensive evidence on this matter to the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, and the hon. Gentleman will be able to access the transcript.
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton), he would know that the position is that although there is a UK framework, the framework is agreed between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
Universal Credit Roll-out
Families are benefiting from real, positive employment outcomes as people move into work faster and progress in work. Of course, and rightly, extra support is there for those who need it.
Almost 2,000 universal credit claimants in my constituency, along with thousands more across Scotland, are stuck in limbo after seeing the vote in this place to pause the roll-out but no action from the Government. What is the Secretary of State doing to reassure and represent those people?
We will continue with the roll-out in a very careful and staged way. It is happening over nine years, and we continue in very active dialogue with Members across the House and people outside it.
We must hear the voice of Torbay.
Welfare Powers Devolution
We have made significant progress on the Scotland Act 2016 welfare powers. All DWP sections of the Act have been commenced, and we are working with the Scottish Government to support them in taking on these responsibilities, to ensure that the transition is safe and secure.
I am surprised to hear that only a small portion of the powers that have been devolved to the Scottish Government are being used, given the complaints that we hear from some Members in this House. Does my hon. Friend agree that this is yet another example of the Scottish National party griping rather than governing?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I am sure that the people of Scotland agree that it is of concern that we have no clear plan from the Scottish Government for how they will use many of the powers. This Government are focused on delivering for the people of Scotland. It is time for the SNP to stop ducking its responsibilities and use its considerable powers to do so as well.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure that all Members from across the House will want to join me in wishing all the home nations teams the very best of luck in the rugby league world cup, which starts this week.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and, in addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
Social care services in England are in crisis. Since 2010, the local council in Manchester has had its annual social care budget cut by £32 million. By March, the Government will have taken £6.3 billion out of social care. Why will the Prime Minister not match Labour’s commitment and invest £8 billion in social care in next month’s Budget?
As I have said in this House before, we recognise the pressure on social care as our population ages. I have said before that there are short-term, medium-term and long-term answers to this. In the short term, we have made extra funding available to local authorities. The announcement made in the last Budget by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was for an extra £2 billion for local authorities. In the medium term, we need to make sure that best practice is observed across all local authorities and NHS trusts. Delayed discharges are higher in some cases than they are in others, and we need to make sure that best practice is followed. In the long term, we need a sustainable footing for our social care system. That is why we will, in due course, be publishing a full and open consultation on ideas and proposals to ensure that we can have a sustainable social care system in the future.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and this is something that we have been looking at very closely over the past year since my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) commissioned work on it in September last year, when he was Work and Pensions Secretary. I can confirm that we will be publishing our response to that consultation on Tuesday 31 October, and it will look at a wide range of issues. We need to ensure that the funding model is right so that all providers of supported housing can access funding effectively. We need to look at issues such as the recent significant increases in service charges, making sure that we are looking at cost control in the sector.
I can also say today that as part of our response to the review, we will not be applying the local housing allowance cap to supported housing; indeed, we will not be implementing it in the wider social rented sector. The full details will be made available when we publish our response to the consultation.
I join the Prime Minister in wishing the rugby league team all the very best in the competition. I hope they win it.
Last week, the House voted 299 to zero to pause the roll-out of universal credit. Will the Prime Minister respect the will of the House?
As I have said before, we acknowledge the fact that people have raised concerns with universal credit. That is why, as we have been rolling it out, we have been listening to those and changes have been made. Perhaps I could just update the House on where we are on the roll-out of universal credit. Currently, of people claiming benefits, 8% are on universal credit. By January of next year, that will rise to 10%. The roll-out is being conducted in three phases, and the intention is that it will be completed by 2022, so it is being done in a measured way, and I am pleased to say that four out of five people are satisfied or very satisfied with the service that they are receiving. Universal credit helps people into the workplace and it makes sure that work pays, and that is what the welfare system should do.
I would have thought that if only 8% of the roll-out has taken place and 20% of the people in receipt of it are dissatisfied with it, that is a cause for thought and maybe a pause in the whole process. Last week, only one Conservative MP had the courage of their convictions to vote with us on suspending the universal credit roll-out. Then a Conservative Member of the Welsh Assembly, Angela Burns, said:
“For the life of me I cannot understand why a 6 or 4 week gap is deemed acceptable.”
She called universal credit
“callous at best and downright cruel at worst”,
and concluded by saying she is “ashamed” of her Government. Can the Prime Minister ease her colleague’s shame by pausing and fixing universal credit?
As I have said to the right hon. Gentleman, we have been making changes to the implementation of UC as it has gone through the roll-out, but let us be very clear about why we introduced universal credit. It is because it is a system—[Interruption.]
Order. Members are getting rather over-excited. The question has been put, and the answer will be heard.
We introduced universal credit as a simpler, more straightforward system that ensures that work pays and helps people into the workplace. Let us look at what happened in the benefits system under Labour. Under Labour, the low-paid paid tax and then had it paid back to them in benefits. Under Labour, people were trapped in a life on benefits for years. Under Labour, the number of workless households doubled, and Labour’s benefit system cost households an extra £3,000 a year. What the Conservatives have done is given the low-paid a pay rise, given the workers a tax cut and ensured we have a benefit system that helps people into work.
Under Labour, 1 million children were lifted out of poverty. Under Labour, we introduced the principle of the national minimum wage—opposed by all Tories over there.
If the Prime Minister is not prepared to listen to Angela Burns, perhaps she could listen to the architect of universal credit, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), who said:
“One of the reasons I resigned from Government was I didn’t actually agree with the additional waiting days. This is something the government needs to look at”.
Does the Prime Minister agree with him?
This is the answer that I have given not just three or four times in this PMQs but in previous PMQs: as we look at universal credit roll-out, we look at how we are introducing it. The right hon. Gentleman talks about what happened under Labour, and I am happy to talk about what happened under Labour—[Interruption.]
Order. There is far too much noise and finger pointing on both sides of the Chamber. The responses from the Prime Minister will be heard, as will the questions from the Leader of the Opposition and every other Member without fear or favour.
The right hon. Gentleman is talking about rolling out new benefit systems, but let us think about what happened when Labour rushed to introduce tax credits. I was not the only Member of Parliament who had people in my constituency surgery who had filled the forms in properly and given information to the authorities only for the Government to come back years later and land them with bills for thousands of pounds. That is what happens when you rush into a system rather than introducing it properly, as we are.
I thought that we had passed a threshold last week and that the Prime Minister was going to answer questions, but we obviously have not achieved that yet. Labour introduced working tax credits to help people on low pay out of poverty and it made a very big difference. The sad truth is that universal credit is in such a mess that councils are forced to pick up the Bill. Let me give an example. Croydon Council, which piloted the scheme, is now spending £3 million of its own budget to prevent tenants from being evicted due to rent arrears caused by universal credit. Does the Prime Minister think that it is right or fair that hard-pressed local authorities, having their budget cut by central Government, should have to dip into what little money they have left to prevent people from being evicted when they know full well that it is this Government and their system of universal credit that are causing the problem?
Labour introduced working tax credits and then clawed thousands of pounds back from people who were working hard. The right hon. Gentleman raises the issue of rent arrears and I know that Members have concerns about people who are managing their budgets to pay their rent. For the vast majority of people on universal credit, managing their budgets is not an issue. After four months, the number of people on universal credit who are in arrears has fallen by a third, but we recognise the issue so we are working with landlords. We have built flexibility into the system so that landlords can be paid directly, and I want to be clear that nobody can be legally evicted from social housing because of short-term rent arrears. That is an important point for us to get across to people, but I come back to the essential point about universal credit: this is about a welfare system that helps people into work, makes work pay and does not trap people in a life on benefits for years.
I note that the Prime Minister could not say anything about people being evicted from the private rented sector because of universal credit problems. The costs in the benefit system are being driven by low pay and high rents. In 2015, the then Chancellor, her former friend, promised a £9 an hour living wage. However, in the March Budget it was sneaked out that the Government’s minimum wage would reach only £8.75. The welfare state was not created to subsidise low paying employers and overcharging landlords, so will the Budget in November put the onus back—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Hoare, I expect better of you. You were much better behaved when you were at Oxford University—what has happened to you, man? Calm yourself.
My question is this: will the Budget in November put the onus back on to employers to pay a decent wage so that workers can make ends meet?
Of course we want to ensure that there are higher-paid jobs in this country. That is precisely why we are investing in the economy for the future. It is precisely why we are investing in our infrastructure and investing in skills for young people, and it is why we are introducing a modern industrial strategy. The right hon. Gentleman says the welfare system was not created to subsidise employers who are paying low wages. That is exactly what Labour’s working tax credits system did.
The Government’s own Social Mobility Commission reported that low pay was endemic in the United Kingdom. One in four workers are permanently stuck in low-paid jobs. That is why Labour backed a real living wage of £10 per hour to make work pay. The Government do not really know whether they are coming or going. The Conservative party and the Government say they have full confidence in universal credit, but will not vote for it. They say they will end the NHS pay cap, but will not allocate any money to pay for it. The Communities Secretary backs £50 billion of borrowing for housing, but the Chancellor says it is not policy. The Brexit Secretary says they are planning for a no-deal Brexit. The Chancellor says they are not. Is it not the case that the Government are weak, incompetent, divided and unable to take a decision—[Interruption.]
Order. I said that the responses from the Prime Minister would be heard and the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman will be heard. You can try to shout him down and other Members can try to shout the Prime Minister down. It will not work. End of.
Isn’t it the case that this Government are weak, incompetent and divided, and unable to take the essential decisions necessary for the good of the people of this country?
Of course we want to see people earning higher wages. Of course we want, as we are doing, to be able to ensure we can invest in our public services. But the way to do that—the way to have a higher standard of living, to have higher wages, to invest in our public services, to have a better future for people in this country—is to build and continue to build that stronger economy. You do not build a stronger economy by losing control of public finances. You do not build a stronger economy by uncontrolled borrowing. You do not build a stronger economy by hitting people with the highest taxes in our peacetime history. You do not build a stronger economy by voting against progress in our Brexit negotiations. You do not build a stronger economy by planning for capital flight and a run on the pound. That is what Labour would do and we will never let it happen.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. As she has just said, I know this is an area where she tragically has personal experience. I would like to commend her for the work she has done in this important area and for championing these causes. She is right: launching a lifeboat whenever a fishing vessel is overdue may be the wrong decision. It could, as she says, be dangerous for the crew involved. That is why the coastguard takes the time to gather valuable information before deciding how best to respond. On the issue she raises, a number of grants are available from various safety schemes. I encourage all those involved in fishing to make the most of the grants that are available.
Does the Prime Minister agree that migration is key to delivering sustainable economic growth?
What is absolutely key is ensuring we have controlled migration in this country. That is what the people of this country want and what the Government are delivering.
An American couple, the Felbers, moved to Scotland and invested £400,000 to run an award-winning guesthouse in Inverness. They contribute to their community and the local economy, yet they will be deported because of a retrospective change to Home Office rules. Will the Prime Minister meet me and their MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), to discuss this case and the systemic problems with UK migration?
There are no systemic problems with UK migration. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss the case he has raised, but it is absolutely right that the Home Office work to ensure that the immigration rules are properly applied and that action is taken according to those rules.
Now it is time to hear Mr Simon Hoare.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Our job is to get the best Brexit deal for Britain. I believe we can get it and that it will benefit all parts of the UK, including his constituents, and that we will maximise the benefits of leaving the UK while maintaining the greatest possible access to EU markets. That is what we are continuing to work on and the vision I set out in my Florence speech, and as we know, the EU is now preparing its response.
Apprenticeships are important. Under the Government from 2010 to 2015, we saw 2 million more apprenticeships created, and we are committed to a further 1.9 million being created. This is important. The important point about apprenticeships is that they are an opportunity for young people not to feel encouraged down an academic route when that does not work for them. When I meet apprentices, many say that it is the best thing they have done, and we want to make sure they are available for all those who could benefit from it.
First, may I congratulate my hon. Friend and say how pleased I am that Cherwell District Council is doing what we want to do and what we recognise we need to do to tackle our dysfunctional housing market, which is to build more homes? She is right, however, that infrastructure is also an important part of that, which is why we have committed £15 billion for our road investment strategy, why over half a trillion pounds will be spent on the NHS during this Parliament, and why a record £41 billion will be spent on core funding for schools this year. That, I am pleased to say, is the record of Conservatives in government.
Of course we are always willing to back bids from any city in the United Kingdom to become the European city of culture. I welcome the fact that Dundee has put forward a bid and is part of the process, but, as I have said, we want to support all cities in the United Kingdom that are submitting bids.
It is a criminal offence for those, such as teachers, who are in a position of trust to have sexual relationships with young people under 18. However, a constituent came to me recently distressed about exactly such a relationship between his 17-year-old daughter and a middle-aged driving instructor. While—if consensual—that is not illegal, I am concerned about the possibility that young drivers might be at risk of being groomed by predatory instructors. Does the Prime Minister agree that driving instructors are, by the nature of their work, in a position of trust, and should be covered by the same rules as teachers? If so, will she ask the relevant Minister to work with me on the issue?
I am concerned to hear about the constituency case that my hon. Friend has raised. I recognise the position, and the role that driving instructors play. I will ask the appropriate Department to look into the matter, and to get in touch with my hon. Friend to obtain further details of that case.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are in negotiations with the European Union. The timetable under the Lisbon treaty allows the negotiations to take place until March 2019, but, because it is in the interests of both sides, and it is not just this Parliament that wants to have a vote on the deal—there will be ratification by other Parliaments—I am confident that we will be able to achieve that agreement and that negotiation in time for Parliament to have the vote to which we committed ourselves.
We enter a week of commemorations of the centenary of the Balfour declaration. Will my right hon. Friend re-dedicate us to the pursuit of peace and justice for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, but will she also celebrate with pride our small national contribution to the creation of a democracy in the middle east, a sanctuary for those who have suffered from anti-Semitism and fear its rise again, and, in the state of Israel, a true friend of the United Kingdom?
We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the state of Israel, and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride. I am pleased about the good trade and other relationships that we have with Israel, which we are building on and enhancing. However, we must also be conscious of the sensitivities that some people have about the Balfour declaration.
We recognise that there is more work to be done. We remain committed to the two-state solution in relation to Israel and the Palestinians, which is an important aim. I think it important for us all to recommit ourselves to ensuring that we can provide security, stability and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians through such a lasting peace.
As the hon. Lady well knows, that raises a number of complex issues. We were grateful to Charles Hendry for his review. The relevant Department —the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—is still considering his report, and we will respond in due course.
Does the Prime Minister agree that as we leave the EU and take control of our land management policy, our manifesto commitment to plant 11 million trees is a critical part of the holistic countryside management framework that we can now build to ensure long-term home-grown wood for our housing industry, as well as increasing our natural carbon capture potential and reducing flood risks?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we did commit in our manifesto to plant 11 million trees. We are putting that at the heart of our work to protect the environment for future generations. I am pleased to say that since April 2015 we have planted just over 2 million trees, but we do have much more to do, and we will be continuing to work with landowners and stakeholders on this issue. My hon. Friend is also right that it is not just about the look of the countryside; it is also about the role that trees play in reducing flood risks and helping to hold carbon dioxide.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are taking a number of courses of action in relation to mental health, but he raises the specific issue of the autism diagnosis, and the length of time that takes in his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Health Secretary has promised to look into this and will be doing so, because we are very clear that we want to ensure that adults and children should not have to face too long a wait for an autism diagnosis. The Department of Health is working with partners to help local areas address these issues where there are long waiting times for an autism diagnosis, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published clinical guidance which sets out that assessments should begin within three months of referral. Obviously it is for the Department of Health to be working with those local areas to make sure it is possible to achieve that.
Tomorrow at Cornwall Newquay airport the Bloodhound will carry out its first live test run in the next step on its quest to achieve the land speed record. Will the Prime Minister join me in wishing the whole Bloodhound team, especially driver Andy Green, a successful test run, and does she agree that such projects show that the UK continues to lead the world in innovation in science and engineering?
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in wishing the Bloodhound team well; indeed, I have met some of the members of the team in the past. I also agree with my hon. Friend’s other point: this continues to show what a world leader in science and innovation the United Kingdom is. We have some of the world’s best universities, with four of them in the world’s top 10, and we have more Nobel prize winners than any country other than the United States. This is a record of which our country can be proud, and I am sure we will all be proud of the Bloodhound team and its achievements.
The principle that we want to base all these decisions on is that service changes should be based on clear evidence and led by local clinicians who best understand the local healthcare needs. I understand that Calderdale and Kirklees Councils have referred the proposed changes to my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary, and I know he will be considering the issues very carefully, and will be coming to a decision in due course.
Next year is the centenary of the first woman Member of Parliament. Will my right hon. Friend tell us what leadership and encouragement to the women and girls in his constituency to take part in public life the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Jared O'Mara) has shown in his remarks?
It is important that we mark this centenary next year, and recognise the role that women have played in this House and in public life. I want young women and women to be able to see this House as a place they actively want to come to—that they want to contribute to their society and respond to the needs of constituents and make a real difference to people’s lives. That is what I am in it for, that is why I have encouraged more women to come into this House, and I am pleased to say that we have more women on our Benches than ever before.
Finally, all of us in this House should have due care and attention to the way in which we refer to other people and should show women in public life the respect they deserve.
This is an issue on which the hon. Gentleman and I are simply going to disagree. I think that shale gas has the potential to power economic growth in this country and to support thousands of jobs in the oil and gas industries and in other sectors. It will provide a new domestic energy source. We have more than 50 years’ drilling experience in the UK, and one of the best records in the world for economic development while protecting our environment. The shale wealth fund is going to provide up to £1 billion of additional resources to local communities, and local councils are going to be able to retain 100% of the business rates they collect from shale gas developments. We will be bringing forward further proposals in relation to this during this Parliament. This is an important potential new source of energy, and it is right that we should use it and take the benefits from it for our economy, for jobs and for people’s futures.
I am sure that the Prime Minister is aware of the terrifying incident on Sunday in which a gunman held hostages at a bowling alley in my neighbouring constituency of Nuneaton, a facility that is enjoyed by my own constituents of North Warwickshire and Bedworth. Will she join me and my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) in praising the excellent work of Warwickshire police and the West Midlands ambulance service in ensuring that the situation was brought to a swift conclusion without any casualties?
Of course we were all concerned to hear about that incident as it was taking place, and I am happy to join my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton in commending the professionalism and bravery of the Warwickshire police in bringing it to a swift conclusion and of the ambulance service in ensuring that there were no injuries. Our emergency services do an amazing job in protecting us; they do not know, when they put on their uniforms in the morning, whether they are going to be called out to exactly this sort of incident. I was pleased to welcome a number of our emergency services personnel to a reception in Downing Street on Monday. What they always say is that they are just doing their job, but my goodness me, what a job they do for us!
The Government have not forgotten about this issue. I understand from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that we are waiting for the local council to produce proposals and a business case for those proposals, and we will of course look at those proposals seriously.
In acknowledging the hard work that the men and women of RAF Benson in my constituency did in the Caribbean, will the Prime Minister also acknowledge that the Puma Mk 2 helicopter was ready and available for work in the Caribbean within a couple of hours of having arrived there?
I am very happy to commend the work of all those at RAF Benson and indeed all those in our military and the volunteers who were able to provide support after the devastating hurricanes that took place in the Caribbean. I am also happy to agree with my hon. Friend that, contrary to some of the stories that were being put about, we were there, we were there on time and we were able to act very quickly to give people that support.
This is an issue that we take seriously. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that it was a Conservative Government that actually changed the rules on asylum seeking to introduce the category of those who could face persecution in their country of origin because of their sexuality. I am pleased that that was able to be done, and I am sure that the Home Office treats all these cases—I want to them to treat all these cases—with the sensitivity that is appropriate.
As of 2016, 17% of premises in Scotland were without superfast broadband, compared with just 11% for the UK as a whole. Will my right hon. Friend join me in calling on the Scottish Government to do more and to engage constructively with Departments here in Westminster to deliver this crucial service to communities in Scotland?
Can I say to—[Interruption.]
Order. All sorts of very curious hand and finger gestures are being deployed, each trying to outdo the other in terms of eccentricity and, possibly, of prowess, but I am interested in hearing the Prime Minister’s reply.
I say to my hon. Friend that we all recognise the importance of broadband and of fast broadband being available to people in our constituencies. He is absolutely right—the Members of the Scottish National party come down here and spend a lot of time talking about powers for the Scottish Government, but actually it is time that the Scottish Government got on with using their powers for the benefit of the people in Scotland.
I recognise that this is a worrying time for the workers involved. We will obviously ensure through the Department for Work and Pensions that they have the support they need to look for new jobs, and that does include the rapid response service, which gives particular support to people in these areas. However, in relation to the decision by BAE Systems, for example, I can assure the House that we will continue to promote our world-leading defence industry, and I hope that all Labour Members will continue to promote our world-leading defence industry. I am very pleased that just last month my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence signed a statement of intent with Qatar, committing it to the purchase of 24 Typhoons and six Hawks from BAE. Last year, the Ministry of Defence spent £3.7 billion with BAE and is working with it to maximise export opportunities for Typhoons and Hawks in the future to ensure that we can retain jobs here in the United Kingdom.
When it comes to tackling homelessness, prevention is better than cure, so I am delighted that the Government backed my Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. However, one of the obstacles for people who choose to rent is putting together the deposit and getting help with the rent. Will my right hon. Friend look at a scheme that would provide 32,000 people a year with the opportunity to rent for an investment of £3.1 million a year? Not only would it do that, but it would save the public purse up to £1.8 billion over a three-year period.
I thank my hon. Friend. He has long campaigned on homelessness and its prevention, and I am pleased that we were able to support his Homelessness Reduction Act, which will be an important contribution in this particular area. On his specific issue, he has made a pre-Budget representation to the Chancellor, who I am sure will be looking at it very carefully. On the more general issue of helping people to buy and helping them with deposits, I am of course pleased that we have been able to announce an extra £10 billion for our Help to Buy scheme, which does make a real difference to people and enables them to get into homes.
The workforce, the unions and the management at Bombardier in Belfast deserve enormous credit for the way in which they have responded to the threats to their jobs and livelihoods coming from the United States, and from Boeing in particular. Can the Prime Minister assure us that she will continue building on the good work that has already happened through herself, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and that she will continue to work with us, the unions and management to ensure that the threat of tariffs is removed, that the C series is a success story and that thousands of jobs in Belfast and across the United Kingdom are protected?
I am very happy to give that commitment. A lot of work has been done in relation to this issue by me, the Business Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers with our opposite numbers in America and Canada. We will certainly continue that work. Obviously, the most recent announcement in relation to Airbus and the C series is important. We want to ensure that those jobs stay in Northern Ireland, because we recognise the importance of those jobs to the economy of Northern Ireland and, obviously, also to the people and their families.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer you to the Committee of the whole House on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill on 7 February 2017.
It was a Tuesday.
Yes, it was a Tuesday. Very well remembered.
The then Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones), gave a commitment in this House that this House of Commons would have a vote on the arrangements for our withdrawal from the European Union before our exit. He said,
“we intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore, I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 264.]
He went on to say:
“It will be a meaningful vote. As I have said, it will be the choice between leaving the European Union with a negotiated deal or not.”—[Official Report, 7 February 2017; Vol. 621, c. 273.]
This morning the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union told the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union that the vote, which the then Minister committed to happening before we leave, could actually happen after we leave the European Union. As such, that is in clear breach of the commitment given by his own Minister that
“it will be the choice between leaving the European Union with a negotiated deal or not.”
Obviously we will not have that choice if we have already left the European Union by the time of a vote. It seems to me that this House, on behalf of the people we represent, cannot take back control unless we have that vote.
Mr Speaker, can you advise on what we, as a House of Commons, can do about the, at best, contradiction or, at worst, false impression given to the House during the debate on 7 February?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.
Oh, very well.
We were there.
They were there, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) chunters from a half-sedentary position. We will come to him in a moment. I am saving him up; it would be a pity to waste him too early in our proceedings.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I was indeed present at the Committee this morning, and I heard exactly what the Secretary of State said and the questions that were put to him. I am sorry to have to say that the hon. Member for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) has misunderstood the situation. The question the Secretary of State had was whether or not he thought there would be an agreement before midnight on 29 March 2019 and he indicated that he thought it might be reached a nanosecond before midnight on that day. He was then asked whether that meant this House would not be able to vote on such an agreement until after 29 March, and he said that obviously it will not be able to vote on an agreement until after 29 March if there has not been an agreement until 29 March. That was the point he was making, and it was a perfectly sensible one.
I am always grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing a bit of extra information to me, which, in one form or another, he has been doing for over 30 years. I am greatly obliged to him.
I do not think that at this point we need the intervention of the hon. Member for Wellingborough, and I will come to the former Europe Minister, but what I would say to the hon. Member for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) is that, put very simply, what he is seeking is an assurance that there will be a vote on a final deal before Brexit happens—if I understand him correctly, that is what he is asking. What I would say to him is that these are matters of political debate. He quoted a very clear commitment from several months ago. Different interpretations have been placed upon proceedings in a Committee this morning, but the hon. Gentleman, beyond advertising—I do not mean that in a pejorative sense—his considerable irritation with what he heard this morning, is presumably keen to ensure that he gets what he thinks he was promised. He is also, presumably, keen to get my advice on how to go about it, and the answer to that is: there will be a great many debates on European matters in this Chamber, not only in respect of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, but on many other occasions. I absolutely anticipate that the hon. Gentleman and others will be making the same points repeatedly. That also is not pejorative. As I often say, repetition is not an unknown or rare phenomenon in the House of Commons; people have a point and they tend to return to it again and again and again, almost, if you will, in the spirit of campaigning, and that is perfectly proper. So there will be lots of opportunities for the hon. Gentleman, here in Parliament and doubtless outside as well, to press his case with the intellect and eloquence he has brought to bear on our proceedings over the past seven years. I keenly anticipate his contributions from one side of the argument and those of the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and for Wellingborough, to name but two, on the other.
I would feel the sequence was incomplete unless we heard from the former Europe Minister.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not actually the former Europe Minister, but I am grateful to you for calling me. I was at the evidence session this morning and I listened carefully to what the Secretary of State said. He said that Parliament would not be likely to get a vote on the future arrangements with the European Union until after March 2019. That makes a material and significant difference to this House’s ability to have a meaningful input and a meaningful say on the content of those negotiations. So at the risk of repetition, following on from what my hon. Friends the Members for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) and for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) have said, I ask your advice on what this House can do to make sure it has a meaningful say and input on these most important of negotiations, rather than being used as an after-the-fact rubber stamp.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As somebody who was also in attendance at the Select Committee meeting—indeed, I was the person who asked the question of the Secretary of State—my understanding is that which has been reflected by my Labour colleagues. If the Government had changed their position on something of such constitutional significance, would it not be in order that that change should be brought before this House in a ministerial statement?
Is the hon. Gentleman’s point of order on some other matter?
On this matter—
Very well. We must hear the voice of Mr Sammy Wilson.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems that different members of the Committee heard different things from the Secretary of State this morning, so would it not be better to wait until the record of the meeting has been published, as then it will be clear what the Secretary of State did say? I did not hear what these Members have alleged they have heard.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I know he always likes to be helpful to the Chair and to the House. He anticipates me, but he is right in doing so. There will be a transcript of the proceedings, and I rather imagine that, in conformity with the usual practice of the House and of our distinguished Committees, it will be published sooner rather than later. I know it will then be subject to the beady eyes of colleagues on both sides of the Chamber and on both sides, if I may put it that way, of the Brexit argument. They will read into it what they wish and pursue their cause as they choose.
What I would say to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) is that if there is a material change in Government policy or intended practice on a very significant matter, it is customary that there should be a statement to the House. It would not always be an oral statement, but it might very well be an oral statement. The House knows very well that there are means by which to secure the attendance in the Chamber of a Minister if such a statement is not proffered. The position of the Chair is that the Chair does not seek to take sides on this matter. The Chair simply seeks to facilitate the expression of opinion. I would add that in addition to all the other debates we might have on these matters, there will in due course be legislation returning to the House, and it is a matter of public record that very large numbers of amendments have been tabled to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. At the Committee stage, the Chairman of Ways and Means will make a proper and judicious selection, based upon advice but deploying his own judgment, and at Report stage that responsibility will fall to me. I think Members know that I always will the fullest possible debate on the widest range of issues pertinent to a Bill, and so both sides of the argument can always feel that they have a friend in the Chair.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you recall what you were doing six years ago today. I suggest you were recovering from a mammoth session in the Chair, following a Backbench Business Committee debate, in prime time, when 81 Conservative Members declined to accept the advice of their Whips and voted for a referendum on the European Union. How could we mark that event, sir? Does it not show that Backbench Business motions do have an effect on Government policy?
Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman is right on a matter of parliamentary history and precedent. I well recall that debate. It was a very significant debate, and I am going to vouchsafe to the hon. Gentleman something he probably did not know—he might not even want to know, but he is going to know. I regularly refer to that debate, together with the debate on Hillsborough and a number of others, as an example of a very significant debate under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee—it was significant not just because of the quality of the debate, but because it had an impact on public policy. These references are in speeches that I make at universities and in front of other forums around the country, most recently at the invitation of the Hansard Society. I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman is such a sad anorak that he wishes to attend to all of my speeches on these occasions, but I am giving him the highlight.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise another issue of public policy: the contaminated blood scandal. What with “Sky News” today running a story about what appears to be a 1987 Cabinet cover-up related to the contaminated blood scandal, and with the consultation for the public inquiry having ended last week, have you, Sir, had any indication of when the Government are going to come to the House to make a statement about when that public inquiry will be set up? They promised that it would be done in a speedy manner.
I have received no such indication, but if memory serves me correctly, the hon. Lady has raised this matter in the House many times, including on an urgent basis. I seem to recall that she did so at the tail end of the 2010-15 Parliament and has done so on several other occasions since. Like the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), the hon. Lady is a most versatile, experienced and dextrous parliamentarian, and she knows the opportunities that are open to her. I have a hunch that she is going to try to take advantage of them.
If there are no further points of order, perhaps we can come to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) has been so patiently waiting.
Live Animal Exports (Prohibition)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the export of live farmed animals for slaughter or fattening; and for connected purposes.
The export of live farm animals can cause immense and unnecessary suffering to many of the animals involved. There is evidence that public concern on this issue dates back as far as the 1950s, and even further in the case of the export of horses. I am sure that many Members present will remember the mass protests that featured on our TV screens during the 1990s.
The objection to the live export of animals for slaughter is essentially twofold. First, some countries in Europe have far weaker animal welfare rules than we have. Secondly, there is a real risk that the rules on the transport and slaughter of animals that are supposed to apply throughout the European Union will not be enforced effectively once the animals leave our shores.
Figures from the Animal and Plant Health Agency show that every year around 40,000 sheep are exported from Britain for slaughter on the continent. The long journeys are stressful for the animals, and in some cases they result in suffering caused by overcrowding, high summer temperatures and animals sustaining injuries en route.
Many of those 40,000 sheep are sent to France. Regular film reports by the organisation L214 have revealed inhumane and illegal slaughter practices in French slaughterhouses. In one shocking case, a slaughterman is seen stabbing a knife into the eye of a conscious sheep. A 2016 report by a French Assemblée Nationale committee of inquiry confirmed that there are serious welfare problems in French abattoirs. In my view, and in the view of many of my constituents, it is not acceptable for the UK to send animals to die in such horrendous conditions.
Around 20,000 calves were exported from Northern Ireland to Spain in 2016, and 3,000 were exported from Scotland to Spain. On the Scotland exports, the animals are first shipped to Northern Ireland and then taken by road to the Republic of Ireland, from where they are sent on a 20-hour sea journey to northern France. Finally, they are driven all the way through France to Spain.
Scientific research indicates that young calves are not well adapted to cope with such lengthy journeys. Their immune systems are not fully developed and their bodies’ capacity to control their internal temperature is limited, making them particularly susceptible to both heat and cold stress. Morbidity and mortality following transport can therefore be high. Once they are in Spain, it is entirely permissible for calves to be reared in barren conditions without bedding. Keeping animals in such conditions would be illegal in the United Kingdom, where we apply tougher rules than the EU minimum.
The Bill is drafted to cover all parts of the UK. Animal welfare is devolved, but exports are a trade issue and therefore a reserved matter. Although the Bill would cover and ban exports for either slaughter or fattening, it would not prohibit the export of animals for breeding. Because of their higher value, breeding animals are generally transported in better conditions, so their transport does not give rise to the same animal welfare concerns.
Because the Bill deals only with exports, it would not prevent the transport of animals from the Scottish islands to the mainland. It also includes an exception to allow the cross-border export of live animals from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland to continue. That is essentially a local trade and I have seen no evidence to indicate that journeys are excessively long. Nevertheless, the exception is framed to try to ensure that the Republic of Ireland could not be used as a back-door route for continued live exports from the UK to mainland Europe.
The fear has been expressed that were a ban to be introduced, there would be a risk of challenge under the rules of the World Trade Organisation, but WTO rules provide for certain clear exceptions to their general prohibition on trade restrictions, one of which covers public morals. The WTO appellate body has ruled that it is possible for animal welfare matters to fall within the public morals exception. For example, the United States ban on the import of cat and dog fur and the EU ban on seal fur remain in place, despite both being members of the WTO.
There are therefore good grounds to believe that the UK would be able to defend a WTO challenge, were one to be made, by showing that the export ban proposed in the Bill would be a proportionate response to the deeply held concerns of many members of the UK public, with strong opposition to live exports dating back around half a century. Indeed, only recently the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals delivered to the European Commission a petition with more than 1 million signatures, expressing grave concern about the suffering caused by the poor enforcement of rules on the long-distance transport of animals. Signatures came from many countries throughout Europe.
Over the years, there have been repeated calls for this harsh trade to be brought to an end—I first got involved in the issue some 18 years ago, when I was a Member of the European Parliament—but, so far, all attempts to ban it have failed. They have failed because a ban would contravene EU law. In 1992, the Conservative Government then in power sought to restrict live exports and refused licences to export sheep to Spain. Their decision was overturned by the European Court of Justice on the grounds that it would breach EU rules on the free movement of goods.
Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, we have the opportunity to make the decision here, in this House, on whether to allow or prohibit the export of live animals. But that will be the case only if we leave the customs union and the single market. If we do not, we will remain subject to the restrictions that make a ban impossible today. That provides a further important reason to respect the result of the referendum and create a new partnership with our European neighbours, outside the customs union and the single market.
The case for a ban has been made clearly by a wide-ranging coalition of animal welfare organisations, including Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and World Horse Welfare. The Conservative manifesto states:
“As we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter.”
The Bill provides the Government with an opportunity to do exactly that.
We need to deal with not only the slaughter trade but the export of calves for fattening, which can also lead to serious and unnecessary suffering. Nor should we just “control” the trade; we should end it. Nor should we wait until the UK leaves the EU to take action; we should put a prohibition on live export on the statute book now, to come into effect on exit day, as soon as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The time has come to end this inhumane, cruel and unnecessary trade, which has no legitimate part to play in modern farming. Exports should take place on the hook, not the hoof. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Theresa Villiers, Zac Goldsmith, Craig Mackinlay, Richard Graham, Henry Smith, Caroline Lucas, Angela Smith, Kelvin Hopkins, Sir Roger Gale and Kate Hoey present the Bill.
Theresa Villiers accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 2 February 2018, and to be printed (Bill 117).
[3rd Allotted Day]
[Relevant documents: Eighth Report of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Session 2016-17, Adult social care: a pre-Budget report, HC 47, Ninth Report of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Session 2016-17, Adult social care, HC 1103.]
I beg to move,
That this House notes the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to a funding proposal for social care which would have no cap on care costs and would include the value of homes in the means test for care at home; further notes that this proposal would leave people with a maximum of only £100,000 of assets; calls on the Government to confirm its intention not to proceed with this commitment; and further calls on the Government to remove the threat to withdraw social care funding from, and stop fines on, local authorities for Delayed Transfers of Care and to commit to the extra funding needed to close the social care funding gap for 2017 and the remaining years of the 2017 Parliament.
After the debacle of the dementia tax, there has been continuing concern that the current and future issues about the funding of social care are not being addressed. The worries stirred up by the Conservative party during the general election will not be resolved without a better idea about what the future now holds for social care.
One place where people were expecting to hear some discussion on this was at the party conferences in September, but if we thought that we would hear about it in the conference speeches of the Secretaries of State responsible for social care, we were sadly let down.
At the Labour party conference, I talked about the crisis in social care and how it was failing those who need care and their families, failing unpaid family carers and failing hundreds of thousands of care workers. People needing care and their carers face the greatest impact. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, there are 400,000 fewer people receiving publicly funded care and, sadly, more than 1.2 million people now living with unmet care needs, many of whom are isolated and lonely.
My hon. Friend is raising a very important issue, which is leading to a lot of suffering among elderly people in particular. Will she make reference to the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for the Elderly, which, almost two decades ago, recommended free long-term care for all? That is where we should be.
I will talk about how the Labour party will take forward proposals on the future of social care. We wait to hear what the Government choose to do. My hon. Friend is right that there is a driving need now.
The number of people—1.2 million—living with unmet care needs will inevitably rise without an injection of new funding. A lack of publicly funded care means that the task of meeting care needs falls more heavily on unpaid family carers. Many carers have to give up work because of the demands of caring, with a real impact on their finances and future career prospects. The case for listening to carers and giving them more support is overwhelming. We were expecting a new carers’ strategy this spring, or, at the latest, in the summer. Some 6,500 carers had taken the time over and above their caring responsibilities to respond to the Government’s consultation. However, the Care Minister told me that the responses will merely be taken forward into a new consultation on social care.
Katy Styles, a carer and a campaigner for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, contributed to that consultation and hoped that her voice would be heard, alongside 6,500 other carers. She told me:
“Not publishing the National Carers Strategy has made me extremely angry. It sends a message that carers’ lives are unimportant. It sends a message that Government thinks we can carry on as we are. It sends a message that my own time is of little worth.”
That is a shabby way to treat carers—the people who provide more than 50% of the care in this country.
The hon. Lady refers to unpaid carers. Labour’s motion references the Communities and Local Government Committee report on adult social care, which looked at the German system of social insurance. Under that system, payments are made to family members to remunerate them for that care. Has she read that report, and is it something that she is willing to look at in further detail on a cross-party basis?
I will come on later to discuss how we should proceed and whether we should proceed on a cross-party basis. The hon. Gentleman’s point about carers and family carers is important. The plain fact of the matter is that there was nothing for carers in his party’s manifesto. We had announced that we were going to lift carers’ allowance at least to the level of jobseeker’s allowance. That is the only improvement that was discussed during the general election. He should turn to his own Minister and his own party and ask them what they will do for carers.
I welcome the hon. Lady’s tone in this debate. It is very valuable. I know that she has taken an enormous interest in this subject, even when it has not fallen within her Front-Bench responsibilities. These debates are very helpful in educating people about difficult issues. I am happy to accept that we did not handle this issue well in the general election. The mistake that we made was not being clear about the current system, which is why her reference in the motion to our proposal without setting out the current system in which people can potentially lose all but £23,000 of their assets is disappointing. Such information would have helped to contribute to the public debate.
We will come on to that. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to get into the mess that his party made, the truth is that we legislated a number of years ago to lift the asset floor to £118,000. What his party did during the election is drop that to £100,000. At the weekend, we learned that there was an intention to make it only £50,000. He should be clear about what his Front-Bench colleagues were trying to do. Since then, all we have heard is a deafening silence.
We need to focus on the crisis in social care now. We on the Labour Benches have raised many times just how fragile the care sector is after years of swingeing budget cuts by the Government. A survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services reported that more than two thirds of councils had reported closures of care providers in the first five months of the financial year. Nearly half those councils had had homecare providers handing back contracts.
My hon. Friend refers again to local authority care homes. In my constituency, three superb local authority care homes were forcibly closed effectively by Government policy. They were loved by the residents. They had full-time, permanently employed trade union staff and were supported and applauded by the local healthcare professionals. They were all closed. Now we have only the private sector, which is in crisis.
It is very important that we bear in mind that the 1.45 million workforce in care will have been local government employees and will have enjoyed local government terms and conditions. We have talked many times about the fact that they are not now paid the minimum wage or travel time. They are very badly paid, with no pensions in prospect.
As my hon. Friend knows, in my constituency, which neighbours hers, we have a real problem in recruiting and retaining care workers, many of whom tell me that they can get better paid work in the local Asda than in doing the job that they love. Does she not agree that that is in part due to the fact that private providers, who would like to pay their staff more, cannot do so because of the insufficiency of the value of the contracts that they receive from the local authority?
That is absolutely the case. In fact, in a recent meeting with Unison, I was told that, in our area in Greater Manchester, one person could be paid more for putting toppings on to pizzas at Morrisons than for providing care—often to people with dementia or to those who really need that help.
The hon. Lady talks about a squeeze in funding. On that basis, does she agree that it would be right to ask those who do have the means to contribute more towards their social care in the home?
No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is one of the reasons why his party’s dementia tax policy failed so badly. Suddenly to bring hundreds of thousands of people into means-testing using their homes was one of the biggest flaws in the policy that the Conservative party floated.
I will now make a little bit of progress on the state of care, because the fragility of the care sector is a key issue. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) about closures in his area, but councils cannot even influence these closures much anymore because home care providers are handing back contracts. Indeed, one in five councils in the ADASS survey reported closures in all three services: home care, residential care and nursing home services. There are also serious issues of care quality in many areas of the country.
The survey reported that 70% of the councils surveyed had experienced quality issues across all three types of care services. ADASS estimates that 28,000 people have been affected by care-quality issues or by a change of service due to contracts being handed back. We know that it is a big issue for a person with dementia to have a continual change in the care staff visiting them. Those arguing in favour of cuts need to think about those 28,000 lives affected negatively by cuts to local authority budgets. Worryingly, the Care Quality Commission now reports that almost a quarter of care services are not meeting standards on safety, and nearly a fifth of services require improvement overall.
I said earlier that budget cuts mean that more than 400,000 fewer people are now getting publicly funded care. Of course, councillors, council leaders and social workers have had to make difficult decisions about cutting budgets and cutting support to local people. It is of great credit to councils and council leaders that so many still continue to prioritise adult social care in their budget setting, but the overall position is one of cuts. There will be a real-terms loss of £6.3 billion to adult social care by the end of this financial year, and we heard earlier from my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) about the level of cuts in the city of Manchester. The cuts have an impact on staff working in social care.
At last, the Government and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have acknowledged that care workers who sleep in, giving loving care to those badly in need of care, are entitled to the national minimum wage. But, as a consequence, a crisis confronts the sector. Mencap says that it is the
“final nail in the coffin for many providers”,
with jobs lost and the risk of bankruptcy for a number of people with personal care packages. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government who created this problem should solve this problem and not expect local authorities to pick up the bill?
I absolutely agree, and it was helpful of my hon. Friend to make that point. The sleep-ins issue has been a real cause of worry for many organisations over many months. It just goes to the heart of our assertion that people who work in care should be paid the minimum wage, including when they are working at night, which is what they are doing on sleep-ins. I have a constituent who looks after two households of people in adjoining properties, and she does not get normal sleep during the night as alarms can go off in any part of the properties. It is not right at all that those people were paid just fixed amounts, not the minimum wage. The Government must find the funding for that decision.
I do apologise for intervening so often. Does my hon. Friend agree, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) has hinted, that the whole care sector ought to be in the public sector in the longer term at least, provided on the same basis—free at the point of need—as the national health service?
As I said earlier, I will come to our proposals; I do not want to jump around in my speech too much more.
Going back to staff working in social care, it is important to remember and think about social workers, not just care staff. A recent study found that less than half the social workers surveyed felt that decisions about a person’s care and support were being left to their professional judgment; it is now all about budgets. More than a third said that they had felt unable to get people the care they need. Less than half felt supported to have necessary difficult conversations about changes to care with people needing care and their families.
The social care crisis is a direct result of the cuts that this Government have chosen to make. The King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust estimated that there would be a funding gap in social care budgets of £1.9 billion for this year, but the extra funding in the Budget was only £1 billion, so there is still a funding gap of £900 million this year. Labour pledged an extra £1 billion for social care this year to start to deal with that funding crisis. However, the Government have chosen instead to put the pressure on local authorities and hard-pressed local council taxpayers to deal with that social crisis, which was made in Downing Street.
Delayed transfers of care due to social care cuts increased by more than a quarter in the 12 months to August this year, putting extra pressure on local councils. Now, sadly, Ministers are threatening councils with fines and further funding cuts to social care if targets for cutting delayed transfers of care cannot be met. Indeed, ADASS reported that half the social services directors it surveyed believe that their targets for delayed transfers were unrealistic. It is barely believable that the Government’s response to the social care crisis is to threaten to make the situation worse by cutting funding for social care even further. Some councils experiencing problems meeting targets were even summoned by NHS leaders last week to a meeting to review their performance challenges.
Many people have said that the approach of blaming and penalising local councils is not sustainable. The Conservative chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, said of the warning letters sent from Ministers to councils:
“No council wants to see anyone stay in hospital for a day longer than necessary. These letters are hugely unhelpful at a time when local government and the NHS need to work together to tackle the health and social care crisis.”
The president of the ADASS, Margaret Willcox, has described the Government’s actions in threatening councils with further sanctions as, “frankly bizarre”. David Oliver, who is clinical vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and a geriatric consultant, said about delayed transfers of care:
“Some of these delays are due to systematic cuts to social care budgets and provision. Others are due to a serious lack of capacity in community healthcare services…attempts to solve the problem through initiatives like the Better Care Fund or pressure from NHS England have failed”.
Interestingly, Andrea Sutcliffe, the chief inspector of social care at the Care Quality Commission, said:
“I worry that if people focus just on moving people through the system quickly then does that mean that they will force the discharge of somebody that is old and frail into a service which we have rated ‘inadequate’”.
We now have a Government who are driving the NHS to be obsessed with dealing with delayed transfers of care, seemingly above all else. This obsession causes further problems if patients are discharged without planning what they need outside hospital.
Age UK give an example that was brought to them:
“Terry’s father Richard, 85, is in hospital following a stroke. He is ready for discharge and has been assessed as needing rehabilitative care through two home visits a day. However he was then told that there are no reablement services available in his area. Terry has been told to ‘get his father out of hospital’ and to look for and fund the care himself.”
My own local hospital, Salford Royal, sadly seems to have similar issues. Last week, I spoke to a constituent who described her own discharge by saying, “I was thrown out of hospital.” Having had surgery for an infected bite that caused sepsis and a hand that she could not use, my constituent was given no discharge summary, no advice on how to manage her wound and no advice about her recovery. When she struggled to get dressed, she was told that she had to get out quickly, otherwise, “This will count as a failed discharge.” This a theme we may remember from last winter.
I remind the Minister that the British Red Cross talked then of a humanitarian crisis whereby people were sent home without clothes or into chaotic situations. Those chaotic situations involved them falling and not being found for hours, or not being washed because there were no care staff to help them. Ordering patients out of hospital when there is no reablement service for them, without advice about wounds or recovery, or to a care facility rated as inadequate just to meet unrealistic targets on delayed discharge is a recipe for an even worse crisis this winter.
The social care and hospital budgets have been merged in East Sussex, where my constituency is. As a result, the A&E is now the fastest-improved A&E department in the whole of England. That change is working. Would the hon. Lady’s local authority consider the same model?
My local authority has the most advanced example of an integrated care organisation in the country—we have already transferred all our social care staff to work for Salford Royal. I have just quoted a situation that shows how the pressure being put on hospitals because of delayed transfers of care is causing them to treat people such as my constituent in the way I described. Conservative Members ought to listen to that, because it is their Government and their Ministers who are causing this pressure to be put on hospitals.
We know that demand on social care is increasing as more people live longer with more complex conditions. The number of people aged 75 and over is projected nearly to double by 2039. That ought to be something to celebrate, but instead the Government have created fear and uncertainty for older people by failing to address the health and care challenges raised by those demographic changes. Indeed, the Conservative party is spending less money on social care now than Labour was when it left office in 2010. The Government seem to have no plan to develop a sustainable solution to the funding of social care in the longer term; they have talked only of a consultation followed by a Green Paper.
Furthermore—and this is raising real fears—the focus has been entirely on the needs of older people, without consideration being given to the needs of the 280,000 working-age people with disabilities or learning disabilities in the social care system. That is profoundly short-sighted, because the financial pressures on local authorities due to the increasing care needs of younger adults with disabilities or mental health problems are now greater than those due to the need to support older people.
I am glad my hon. Friend has mentioned younger adults. Does she agree that investing in the care they need will facilitate the Government’s achievement of their ambition to have more disabled people who can work in paid employment? Relatively low levels of expenditure on care for those people would pay great dividends for the Government and the country.
Very much so. I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. It is concerning that planned consultations or discussions about future policy should focus so much on older people, when the needs of people with disabilities and learning disabilities are so important. We talked about learning disabilities in a debate last week.
Labour will fill the policy vacuum that exists around social care under this Government. Over the coming months, we will consult experts on how we can move from the current broken system of care to a sustainable service for the long term. We will look at funding options for social care in the long term, such as wealth taxes, an employer care contribution or a new social care levy. Those experts will help clarify the options for funding our planned national care service. Our approach will be underpinned by the principle of pooled risk, so that no one faces catastrophic care costs as they do now or as they would under the Conservative party’s dementia tax.
Our plans are for a national care service. They are based on a consultation—the “Big Care Debate”—that involved 68,000 people. People in that consultation told us that they needed a system that will support them and their families to live the lives they want, that will treat everyone with dignity and respect and that will give them choice and control over their care. I believe those needs remain the same, and they will be at the heart of our ambition for social care.
I urge hon. Members from all parties to vote with the Opposition today so that we can set the foundations for a safer, more sustainable and higher quality care system for the future and reassure those who have become worried about the Conservative party’s dementia tax mess.
I am always very impressed by the hon. Lady’s knowledge in this area, but just to clarify, did I hear her say that she was considering wealth taxes as a means to pay for these proposals? She talked about a policy vacuum, but I would be interested to hear where the money vacuum is going to come from. I am also somewhat concerned—I hope she will explain this—that a national care system rather puts families aside.
I am obviously coming to the end of my speech, but I recommend that the hon. Gentleman, if he is interested, read a number of documents. The Labour Government produced a White Paper for a national care service; it is still available, and I advise him to look at it. Given everything I have said about carers in this speech, there is no way that we would not include them as an important part of our proposals, but the burden should not just be dumped on them. Carers should be partners in care, and they should be supported so that they have a life of their own. It is said that the only numbers put on the Conservative party’s proposals for a dementia tax in its manifesto were the page numbers. The Labour party has produced the document I have here—“Funding Britain’s Future”—and a fully costed manifesto. If the hon. Gentleman has a bit more time for reading, I advise him to go to our manifesto and to look at how we laid out the options. We laid them out; we did not get into a mess, as the Conservative party did, and try to change things after four days. We will take this issue forward; we will not kick it into the long grass, as the Conservative party is trying to do.
Will the hon. Lady give way?
No, I am just going to finish.
Our motion asks for action to make sure the care sector gets the urgent funding it needs to prevent collapse. It would also ensure that hard-pressed councils are not penalised for failing to meet unrealistic targets for delayed transfers of care.
I am grateful for the opportunity to respond in this debate. It gives the Government an opportunity to set out exactly where we are in this space—and the position is not as characterised by the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley). The hon. Lady was characteristically challenging, and I hope to answer some of the questions she raised. I have some sympathy with some of her messages, and I hope through my remarks to reassure her on some points.
No speech on this issue should start without paying tribute to everyone who works in social care—from the care assistants, managers of care businesses, occupational therapists, social workers, nurses and trusted assessors to the many officials in local authorities who organise care packages and adaptations for people’s homes. [Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) has just said, the number of people is increasing.
They all have the best of motivations in providing care, and we should celebrate the work they do to support those who find themselves in vulnerable situations across our society. I would like all of us to recognise the excellent work they do.
The quality and provision of care has been hitting the headlines even more than ever recently. It is therefore reassuring and humbling to see the care and support sector respond with such resilience, commitment and compassion. I was delighted to see that the Care Quality Commission has rated 80% of social care settings as good or outstanding.
I thank the Minister for raising that issue, because we should not be so negative about this area. The latest report from the Care Quality Commission said that four out of five institutions offer good or outstanding service. In my constituency, I recently visited Abbeyfield to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Its staff are well paid and they love their jobs, and the people there were very happy. Somerset Care has some excellent institutions, and Cream Care was recently rated outstanding for its services. I took the Secretary of State for Health to visit it relatively recently. Our old people in Somerset need to know that that is the kind of care they can have, and this Government are facilitating it.
My hon. Friend highlights just some of the many examples up and down the country, but we should not be complacent about the 20% of settings that require improvement, and there will be lots of work we can do to raise the standard in them. That includes, not least, the work we are doing in collaboration with the voluntary sector and the Local Government Association to spread examples of good practice and quality. We will obviously continue to do that.
We should also celebrate the other good work going on around the country. In just one year in Sutton, for example, even though the number of beds for care homes supported by GPs in the clinical commissioning group increased by 14%, there was an overall reduction in care home residents attending. That is because the CCG has stepped up to the challenge and has better co-ordination of care, enhanced training of care staff and better health care support for older people in care homes. That shows that, with collaboration, we can get better care standards. Social care therefore continues to be a key priority for the Government.
The Minister is right to say that there are none so noble as those who care. However, may I press her on a specific issue? The care sector is facing a disaster as a consequence of having to pick up a £400 million bill because of the confusion in the ranks of Government, and likewise in HMRC, with regard to the entitlement to the minimum wage of those who sleep in. Can she say today that that burden, which was not the creation of the care sector, will not fall on local government and that instead the necessary funds will be met by central Government?
The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point that I am actively thinking about. He is absolutely right in the sense that providers have been following guidance that has changed. It is clear from our perspective that employers are obliged to meet their obligations under minimum wage legislation, but I am very clear on the challenge that that is giving to the sector, and we will work with it to develop a solution.
Turning to the substance of the motion, we announced in the Queen’s Speech that we will work to address the challenges of social care for our ageing population and bring forward proposals for consultation to build widespread support for future provision.
At least 60% of those receiving social care in the home and 70% of those in care homes are people living with dementia. The underfunding of social care has meant that the burden falls disproportionately on those people. Does the Minister agree that whatever the system of social care provided, it is unacceptable that those living with dementia, and their families, should be disproportionately affected?
I invite the House to reflect on what the hon. Lady has said, because that is exactly the issue that we really need to tackle. One in 10 people face very significant costs that they have to meet from their own resources, with only 14,000 ultimately protected. She is right to point out that the vast majority of those people are suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s. We have now reached a time when it is critical that we have a consensus on the future funding of social care so that we can address the injustice that she has very ably highlighted.
Am I right in thinking that under current statute law, a cap of £72,500 will apply from the financial year 2021-22, and that if that settlement is to be altered, it will require primary legislation in this Parliament?
My right hon. Friend is indeed correct.[Official Report, 3 November 2017, Vol. 630, c. 3MC.]
The ageing population presents one of our nation’s most profound challenges. It raises critical questions as to how, as a society, we enable all adults to live well into later life, and how we deliver sustainable public services that support them to do so.
In a spirit of cross-party consensus, may I add my support to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) by urging that when we bring forward our consultation we cover the nearly 50% of social care spending that is spent on adults with disabilities? I share the view that we must make sure that they are properly supported and able to live full lives, including, where they are able, moving into work. That sometimes gets lost in the debate when we completely focus on people towards the ends of their lives. We must deal with everybody. The hon. Lady made a really important point.
I could not agree more. I share my right hon. Friend’s support for the hon. Lady’s comments. There are still many opportunities to get working-age adults with disabilities into work. We have set ourselves a target of getting 1 million more people with disabilities into work, and we are very committed to doing that.
In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South in her opening remarks, yes, much of the debate has focused on how we care for the elderly, but, as she and the whole House will be aware, support for working-age adults is becoming an increasingly big proportion of local authority spending in this area, and it is very important that we focus on it. Alongside the preparations we are making for consultation in the new year, we have a parallel work stream looking specifically at working-age adults, because some of the solutions will be similar and some will be different.
It is very important that we have got to this point today, because very many organisations and individuals have been worried for months about that. In the Queen’s Speech and in letters the Minister has sent to me, the talk has been of a consultation on social care for older people. The wording needs to change if that is to encompass, as it should, working-age people with disabilities or learning disabilities. Let us stop focusing just on older people. If she would stop doing that in letters and we could have clarity on this, it would be helpful. I also wonder why there has to be separate work stream.
There needs to be a separate work stream because it is connected to the desire to get more people into work, but the two programmes are working in parallel. As I said, today is a great opportunity to get that on the record. Certainly, it has been very much a focus of my conversations with voluntary groups in the sector.
Picking up the point about the work being separate but parallel, in thinking about how we are going to fund the care, it is really important to make sure that we do not inadvertently put in place any barriers to work, whereby somebody would find that moving into work would increase the cost of their care to the extent that working was of no consequence. That would not be an issue of funding care for older people, where there are some different challenges. A separate but parallel structure may well be the right one to go for.
Again, I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend says.
To reassure the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South, we will have plenty of opportunity to discuss all these issues in the new year. We want to progress this by building a real consensus, because it is a strategic challenge facing us all. Not only are we all living longer, but working-age adults with disabilities are living longer. That is a matter for celebration, and we must do everything we can to make sure that we can meet all our obligations to them.
I am glad that we are spending time on this subject. The Minister will recognise, I am sure, that for working-age adults, relatively modest amounts of care may enable them to participate more fully in the workplace and in wider civil society. Will the separate but parallel work stream acknowledge that? I fear that there will be pressure just to look at the most severe and critical-level need, meaning that many people who could work with a small amount of help will be shut out of doing so.
I could not put it better myself. Necessarily, the system will always focus more on those with the most need, but, as the hon. Lady says, we can get a lot more return from putting in good value for money measures that will support people to live independently and to be able to work. I am very keen to explore those areas.
I will take one more intervention, but I really do need to make progress.
I thank the Minister for giving way. Can she give me some advice for my constituent—a mother with a daughter who is quite disabled with epilepsy? When the mother was retiring, she realised that she would lose her carer’s allowance as she went on to the state pension. When she rang HMRC and the Department to inquire, they said, “By your age, they are normally shoved into a home.” Can the Minister give me some advice on how I could support my constituent?
I am not very impressed by the tale that the hon. Lady describes, but I would like to look into it more directly and get back to her.
The Government have already invested an additional £2 billion to put social care on a more stable footing and alleviate short-term pressures across the health and care system. However, further long-term reform is required to ensure that we have a sustainable system for the future—one equipped to meet the challenges of the increasing numbers of people with care needs. To address these questions, the Government will work with partners—including those who use services, those who work to provide care, and all other agencies—to bring forward proposals for public consultation. The consultation will cover a wide range of options to encourage a very wide debate. It will set out options to improve the social care system and put it on a more secure financial footing, supporting people, families and communities to prepare for old age, and it will address issues related to the quality of care and variation in practice. It will include proposals on options for caps on overall care costs and means-tested floors. It is, however, a consultation, and the Government wish to approach the future of social care in the spirit of consensus. Our consultation is designed to encourage a grown-up conversation in order that society can rise to this challenge.
The Minister refers to a number of options that the Government will consider. Will they also consider the suggestion contained in that Select Committee report of a system of social insurance, which would be sustainable and simple and would deal with some of the points raised about adults of working age with learning disabilities? The scheme would cover all those things and provide protection for people who are on low incomes. It seems to work very effectively in Germany, where it garnered cross-party support when it was introduced.
I agree that we want to learn from examples in other countries. As I have said, the spirit of the consultation will be to allow a well-informed debate, as a result of which consensus can be established. In view of that, we will consider a wide variety of options, covering not just funding but lifestyle solutions and other issues.
Will the Minister give way?
I must make some progress, because I have taken many interventions. I do apologise.
Adult social care funding is made up of Government grant, council tax and business rates. The better care fund, which was announced in 2013, has further helped to join up health and care services so that people can manage their own health and wellbeing and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. The 2015 spending review introduced an adult social care precept that enabled councils to raise council tax specifically to support social care services. By 2019-20, that could raise up to £1.8 billion extra for councils each year. As a further boost to social care, the Chancellor announced in the Budget earlier this year that local authorities in England will receive an additional £2 billion for social care over the next three years. This year, £1 billion has been provided to ensure that councils can fund more care packages immediately. The additional money means that local authorities in England will receive an estimated increase of £9.25 billion in the dedicated money available for social care over the next three years. Statistics produced today show that spending on adult social care increased in real terms last year by 1.5% thanks, in part, to the precept.
This is an important point. Our motion mentions the need to close the funding gap, which is not £1 billion but £1.9 billion. So £900 million is still not covered, and that is what councils are struggling with. The Minister makes the point about extra funding being raised from local taxation. Does she accept that there is still a funding gap, which means that people cannot be paid the national living wage? We are going to struggle all the way through winter unless the Government accept the existence of that gap and work to close it.
I do not accept that. Let us recognise that this has been hard in the past. We have made money available in recent years, but we know that local authorities have faced challenges. As one local authority put it to me, however, austerity has been the mother of invention, and I congratulate local authorities on the efforts that they have made. [Interruption.] That came from a local authority leader, and I agree that local authorities have shown considerable initiative by implementing savings. As for the national minimum wage, it is enforceable, so I do not accept the hon. Lady’s point at all.
Does the Minister accept that the Government are providing less funding for social care than they were in 2010? She can check that with NHS Digital. The funding is less in real terms. It does not matter that it has increased this year because of the social care levy; it is less. Given the complexity of the issue and the growing demographic challenge, it is clear why we have this gap.
I think it matters a great deal that we have made £9.25 billion available.
Will the Minister give way on the funding issue?
I need to make progress. I apologise to my right hon. Friend.
On delayed transfers of care, the Government are clear that no one should stay in a hospital bed for longer than is necessary. Doing so removes people’s dignity and reduces their quality of life. It leads to poorer health and care outcomes, and it is more expensive for the taxpayer. I will set out in more detail the work we are doing to reduce delayed transfers of care. That is critical, because a well-functioning social care system enables the NHS to provide the best possible service.
We are clear that we must make much faster and more significant progress well in advance of winter to help to free up hospital beds for the sickest patients and reduce pressures on overcrowded A&E departments. Last year, there were 2.25 million delayed discharges, up 24.5% from the 1.81 million in the previous year. Just over a third of those delays were attributable to social care. The proportion of delays attributable to social care increased over the last year by four percentage points to 37% in August 2017.
We have put in place an agile and supportive improvement infrastructure, and I have been very clear about priorities. First, in this year’s mandate to NHS England we set out a clear expectation that delayed transfers of care should equate to no more than 3.5% of all hospital beds by September. Those in the system have worked extremely hard to agree spending plans and put in place actions to make use of the additional funding, and they deserve real congratulation for their efforts. Since February, there have been significant improvements in the health and care system where local government and the NHS have worked together to tackle the challenge of delayed transfers of care, with a record decrease in month-on-month delayed discharges in April 2017.
Will the Minister give way?
I must make progress. Secondly, we put in place a comprehensive sector-led support offer. In early July, NHS England, NHS Improvement, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services published a definitive national offer to support the NHS and local government to reduce delays. This package supports all organisations to make improvements and includes the integration of better care fund planning requirements to clarify how this and other aspects of the better care fund planning process will operate.
Will the Minister give way?
I have limited time, and I really must get this improvement on the record.
The package also includes joint NHS England, NHS Improvement, LGA and ADASS guidance on implementing trusted assessors; the introduction of greater transparency through the publication of a dashboard showing how local areas in England are performing against metrics; and plans for local government to deliver an equal share to the NHS of the expectation to free up 2,500 hospital beds. The package sets out clear expectations for each local area, reflecting the fact that reducing such delays in transfers of care must be a shared endeavour across the NHS and social care. Those expectations are stretching, but they are vital for people’s welfare, particularly over the winter period.
Thirdly, we have asked the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission to undertake 20 reviews of the most challenged areas to consider how well they are working at the health and social care boundary. Twelve of the reviews are under way and a further eight will be announced in November, based on the performance dashboard and informed by returns from July. Those reviews commenced in the summer, and the majority of them are due to be completed by the end of November. They are identifying issues and driving rapid improvement.
Fourthly, we have provided guidance on best practice, including how to put in place “trusted assessor” arrangements, which can allow more efficient discharge from hospital by avoiding duplicative patient assessments by different organisations. All areas have now submitted their better care fund plans, which include their trajectories for reducing delays.
Finally, in October we asked NHS England to extend the GP and pharmacy influenza vaccination service to include all paid careworkers in the nursing and residential care sector. They will be able to access the service via local GPs and pharmacies free of charge.
I know that the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South is concerned about the provisions for those that fail to improve, and I want to tackle head-on the suggestion that there will be fines. We are not talking about fines at all. The money that has been earmarked will continue to be retained by local authorities.
Leicestershire County Council fears that it could have £22 million removed from its budget because of fines for delayed discharges, when the Government have cut its funds. The Conservative deputy leader, Byron Rhodes, says:
“I can’t think of anything more stupid.”
The Conservative leader, Nick Rushton, says:
“How long can we put up with the Secretary of State?”
That is the reality of the policy. What is the Minister going to do about it?
I reject the suggestion that there will be any kind of fine. The £22 million that the hon. Lady talks about will be retained for spending within Leicestershire. That funding has been allocated for a specific purpose, and where local authorities are not showing the improvement that we expect, we will work collaboratively with them and advise them how best to use that money.
Let me put on record exactly what we are going to do. There is significant variation in performance across local areas. We know that 41 health and wellbeing boards are collectively responsible for 56.4% of adult social care delayed transfers of care. That cannot be right, when other local authority areas have none. In particular, Newcastle has no adult social care delayed transfers of care, and if it can do that, other areas can as well, provided we have good partnerships and good leadership. I trust that I have demonstrated the extent to which the Government are supportive of the best performing systems where local government and the NHS are working together to tackle this challenge. However, we are clear that we must make much faster and more significant progress in advance of winter to help to free up hospital beds for the sickest patients and to reduce pressures on our A&E departments.
It is right that there should be consequences for those who fail to improve. Earlier this month, we wrote to all local authority areas informing them that if their performance did not improve, the Government may direct the spending of the poorest performers—it is not a fine—and we reserve the right to review allocations. It is important to note that the allocations will remain with local government to be spent on adult social care. It is not a fine; this is about making sure that public money delivers the intended outcomes.
Is the Minister saying that revising an allocation is not a fine? When an allocation is revised—presumably downwards, not upwards—that is a fine.
I am sorry, but that is not the case. The money will be retained by local government, but we will direct the spending to achieve the outcome the money is intended to deliver. That is exactly what we should do as a Government, and it is how we ensure value for money.
The health and care system has committed staff and managers up and down the country who are working every single day to deliver the best outcomes for people.
Will the Minister give way?
I have already taken too much time.
The measures I have set out have given our hard-working workforce and their leaders clarity about how the Government expect the NHS and local government to work together to achieve the joint ambition of reducing delayed transfers of care, which will be instrumental in delivering high-quality care.
To summarise, we accept that there are significant challenges in the health and care systems, which is why we are increasing funding in real terms over the lifetime of this Parliament, but this is not just about money. It is about sharing innovation and best practice; it is about integration and defining new models of care; it involves thinking about a long-term sustainable solution to the care system; and, most importantly of all, it is about supporting the 1.5 million people who work in the care system, as well as the millions of people who selflessly look after families and friends with little or no reward. We are committed to all of these.
Order. Before I call the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who is speaking for the SNP, let me say that we have a lot of speakers this afternoon, so after her speech I will bring in a time limit. The time limit will be five minutes to start with, but it may have to be reduced later.
We have all seen the figures about everyone getting older. If we look over the lifetime of the NHS from 1948 to the predictions for 2030, we see that the number of people over 65 will double and the number of people over 85 will increase by 10 times, yet the number of funded places for care has gone down by a quarter. Those two things simply do not match up. As the Minister mentioned, those under 65 with disabilities or learning disabilities are also, thankfully, living longer. The problem is to provide them with care. As a doctor, I obviously tried to do my little bit for people living longer. We should not look at this as a catastrophe; we must celebrate it. We are all heading there, so it is in our own vested interest to ensure that the services will be there for us.
We know that a lot of people’s state of health in older age is laid down in the early years. In Scotland, we are focusing on the early years collaborative—from the baby box for every newborn child, the 30 hours’ early learning entitlement, doubling active transport and rolling out through schools what is called the daily mile. However, we will not get a financial return on that for 50 or 60 years, so we must also invest in our older citizens. In Scotland, we are trying to expand elective services to meet the demand for operations on hips, knees and eyes, but the King’s Fund reports that hip and knee joint replacements are being rationed, and we know that three quarters of trusts have set such strict limits on accessing cataract surgery that people are, in essence, losing their sight, and certainly losing the ability to drive, with half of the trusts fixing only one eye.
Doing such things means driving people into their own homes and into isolation, as well as increasing their need for care and increasing the speed, or lowering the age, at which they need care. It really does not make sense. Age UK points out that 1.2 million people are not getting the care they need, and that matches almost exactly the 1 million family carers who are actually providing the bulk of the care required. In Scotland, we have already committed to raising carer’s allowance from £60 to match jobseeker’s allowance, but that is pretty paltry for someone working, in essence, seven days a week, while 40% of them are reported not to have had any respite or break in a year.
Such a situation arises because the statutory system is not supporting carers, and we need to look at this. Care homes are closing because of the extra costs brought in by the national living wage, and part of that is simply because the price paid is being driven down. As has been mentioned, over half of local authorities are seeing either home care providers or nursing and care home providers closing. The thing is that we need to pay people a decent wage—not the national living wage, but the real living wage. This needs to become a profession that attracts and retains people. Who would we like to look after us or our mother or father—someone who is doing it only for six months until they can get something better, or someone who actually believes in looking after our older population with the greatest possible love, care and dignity?
We need to put in the funding. The Minister talked about the better care fund, which has indeed put in extra money, but that is at the cost of the new homes bonus in England, while local authorities are also being told to build more houses. What are they meant to do? We need to put this on a sustainable footing. We also need to address the issue of those under 65. In Scotland, our programme for government includes a commitment to the under-65s with what is called Frank’s law, in honour of a football player from Dundee who developed early dementia. We have people aged under 65 with the same needs—those with early dementia, multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease. Why should their birth date dictate whether or not they get help?
The hon. Lady is painting quite a rosy picture of the social care system in Scotland, but does she not accept that it has serious problems as well? In my constituency, I know of a gentleman who was in hospital 150 nights after he could have been transferred because no care package was in place. Freedom of information inquiries have shown that people have spent 400 nights in care when they could have been transferred. Does she accept that the picture in Scotland is not entirely rosy?
I totally accept that the position is not entirely rosy. I said many times in the Chamber before the hon. Lady entered the House that we face the same challenges. Those challenges are increased demand, workforce needs—they will be made significantly worse by Brexit—and the fact that money is tight. We face exactly the same challenges. Some of the patients she refers to will have had particularly complex needs that it was a struggle to meet. We are talking about the fact that we are funding free personal care—it is not based on means-testing—and we are working towards providing it for under-65s.
Everything happening in England at the moment will seemingly be solved by the sustainability and transformation plans, yet they have been set backside forwards, with designers having to work backwards from the budget line, which is made the predominant thing. That will not produce the desired result, and it must be recognised that supporting people at home and in the community is desirable in its own right. None of us wants to be stuck in a hospital or in a care home if we could be looked after in our own home; that is the choice we would all make. That will not necessarily cut the money required by a hospital. The nurses will still be there, the lights will still be on. What it might mean is that that bed can be more effectively used and waiting times for surgery or other treatments can be achieved, and they are not at the moment.
On the news yesterday, there was talk about the inefficiency of operating lists, and the former president of the Royal College of Surgeons clearly said that this comes down to beds. The number of beds in England has been cut in half over recent decades, and the problem is that if a patient cannot be put in a bed before or after the operation, the operation cannot be done. That is often discovered only the day before, and we cannot just drum up another bed.
All sorts of things, not just delayed discharges, are driving inefficiencies within the system. The thing generating the biggest pressure on the NHS has been the cuts in funding to social care that mean that by 2020 in England a funding gap of more than £2 billion will have to be met. We all want to look forward to a dignified older age. We hope that we will be independent and healthy. We need to invest in that, yet public health spending has gone down 5%. Should we need care, we will also want care that is dignified and decent. That has to be funded.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and I particularly commend her comments on the importance of prevention, which we must not forget. I join the Minister in paying tribute to the wider care and health workforce, and of course the many unpaid family carers for all that they do. I would like to touch on the forthcoming consultation and some of the current and future challenges. If hon. Members will forgive me, I will take very few interventions because I know that many are waiting to speak.
On the consultation, the Health Committee yesterday had the pleasure of hearing from members of the House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS on the subject of the long-term sustainability of the NHS and social care. They started out with the remit of talking about the NHS, but rapidly realised that the two systems are completely inseparable and that we have to stop considering health and social care in separate silos. The Minister will hear overwhelmingly from the people who contribute to the consultation that we cannot keep thinking of these systems in isolation, so right from the outset will she make it a consultation on the sustainable future funding of both health and social care?
One thing that we heard loud and clear from members of the Lords Committee yesterday was that we need to do more about future planning and that the system for this has been dismal for decades. Their recommendation was that we should set up an office for health and care sustainability that gives us all good-quality, reliable data about not only the demographic challenges but the future needs of both systems so that we can plan ahead for the costs we face in a realistic manner.
Too often in this House we have very divisive debates on this issue, and the challenges in funding future health and care costs are so enormous that I fear the only way we will meet them is by those on both Front Benches and all Members across the House agreeing that we need to work jointly to reach solutions, because no political party has a monopoly on good ideas. Particularly in a hung Parliament, where it is very difficult for us to pass primary legislation, the only way we will move forward on behalf of the people we all represent—we all want the best for them—is if the solutions are worked towards jointly across the House. I hope all Members will move forward in this debate in a spirit of co-operation, because we have to fund this properly. I am afraid that there is a funding gap, although I absolutely welcome the £2 billion that has been pledged. There is consensus that by the time we reach 2019-20, we will face an estimated funding gap, despite the uplift, of more than £2 billion. That will have a real impact on all those we represent.
We must fund this properly not just now, in the short term, but in the long term, and we must come forward with solutions, but it is not just about funding. It is about staffing, and planning properly for a wider workforce across health and social care, so I very much hope that that will also be included in the consultation. Unless we plan ahead for our future workforce, we will always be playing catch-up, as we do at the moment. Of course, we have seen many important changes. In the future, for example, healthcare assistants will be able to train to move forward through the apprenticeship route to become nursing associates and on into degree nursing. We know from Camilla Cavendish’s review that it is not just about pay in the sector but the lack of continuing professional development and training opportunities and, in particular, the inability to rotate through the NHS and social care community settings. That gives an example of how the Government are making some positive moves, which I welcome.
I hope that from the start the consultation will cover both health and social care and that the Minister will go further in covering not just the sleep-in crisis but some of the many other issues that affect my constituents. For example, some are having their assessments re-examined, and disabled young adults facing a change in the support that will be available to them. I hope that the Minister will meet me to discuss some of the issues raised by my constituents in Kingsbridge who face significant changes to their care.
It is a privilege to follow the Chair of the Health Committee, and I shall pick up on some of the themes she raised.
During the election, Conservative Members were no doubt dismayed that their manifesto proposals were dubbed a “dementia tax”, conveniently forgetting their “death tax” assault on Labour in 2010. While some of us could be forgiven for experiencing more than a little schadenfreude, the truth is we face a fundamental problem. Our population is ageing, more people need help and support and our care services desperately need more money to cope, yet any party that comes up with a significant proposal for funding social care risks their political opponents destroying them.
We could carry on like this for yet another Parliament, and yet another election, or we could face up to reality: we will only get lasting change if we secure a cross-party approach. That is why I have joined the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) and other Select Committee Chairs in calling on the Prime Minister to establish a cross-party commission on the future funding of health and social care. We cannot allow this issue to be kicked into the long grass any longer. More than a million people are not getting the help and care they need. Many end up in hospital, and are getting stuck in hospital for longer. That is not good for them, and it costs the taxpayer far more.
It is not just the people who need care who face a daily struggle. Six and a half million people in this country now care for an older or disabled relative; 40% of them have not had a break for a year, and a quarter have not had a single day away from caring in five years. What is the result? A third of unpaid carers have to give up work or reduce their hours, so their incomes are reduced, the cost of benefits increases and the economy is denied their talents and skills. The failure to deal with the funding problem has not just created a care crisis—it has created a crisis for families and our economy.
Alongside a significant and immediate injection of cash, which we must see in next month’s Budget, three long-term questions must now be addressed. First, what is the right balance between the contribution made by individuals and the state? Do we leave all the extra costs of care to individuals who are unlucky enough to need it, and who might end up seeing all their savings wiped out as a result, or do we pool our resources, share the costs and risks and create a fairer system for all?
Secondly, what is the right balance of funding across the generations? The Conservative manifesto proposals were deeply flawed, but with the longest period of wage stagnation for 150 years and rising personal debt, I do not believe the working-age population can pay for all the additional costs of caring for our ageing population. Wealthier older people will need to make a contribution, too.
Thirdly, how do we get rid of the inequities between the NHS and social care, and make the fundamental reforms we need to provide a single joined-up service and shift the focus of care and support towards prevention? The Barker review for the King’s Fund rightly calls for a single budget for the NHS and social care, and a single body to commission services locally. It also says that we must face up to the deep unfairness that while cancer care is provided free at the point of need on the NHS, if you suffer from dementia, you may have to pay for all your care yourself.
These are inevitably difficult and controversial questions, but the Prime Minister’s experience during the general election campaign and Labour’s experience in 2010 simply reinforces the argument that we need a cross-party approach. The Government must now act.
It is a pleasure to follow my fellow east midlands MP, the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall).
Like many Members from across the House, I was compelled to speak in today’s debate because of my personal experience with the social care system, and because of my deep respect for all who work in it and contribute to it. For five years, my father has been in the care of a nursing home in Keighley. At age 94, my dad is still in good spirits, but he has significant care needs as a result of a massive stroke in 2012. It is a testament to the fantastic work of our NHS that we now find ourselves in a position where every care home in the country has residents who 10, 20 or 30 years ago would not have survived serious health issues such as a stroke, a heart attack or cancer. For the Government, however, this success in the NHS can be seen as a double-edged sword, with successive Administrations failing to prepare our social care system adequately for an ageing population living with co-morbidities.
Let me be clear, when I talk about adequate preparation, it is not just about additional funding. As we have heard, the Chancellor has already announced an additional £2 billion of funding for local authorities to fund social care over the next three years and has also introduced a precept. That must be welcomed, as it rightly acknowledges the significant extra pressure that our social care system, and consequently our NHS, is now under.
Opposition Members seem to want to blame the Government, whereas successive Governments, going back to when they were in government, failed to act. They failed to act on the royal commission they set up, and they failed to act on the Wanless report and their own Green Paper. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) indicated, we now have the opportunity to effect radical change to the current system, as the Government embark on their comprehensive consultation on adult social care. Others have alluded to the fact that Britain needs a sustainable programme of social care for the long term. We need to stop thinking short term. To achieve that, I would like to explore the idea of removing the social care remit from local authority responsibility and instead placing it under the wider umbrella of the Department of Health, which would become the Department of Health and Care. This stems from the fact that health and social care have now become intrinsically linked, but are currently administered in vastly different ways. If the two are unified, it would allow for closer integration of services and a greater understanding of what demand there will be for future needs from both the social care and health perspective.
It would also protect the social care system from political manipulation, which has happened in Derbyshire at county council level, where the new Conservative administration found itself facing a social care bombshell left by Labour. Over the previous four years, and despite holding around £233 million of Derbyshire taxpayers’ money in its reserves, Labour failed to maintain care homes such as Hazelwood in Cotmanhay in my constituency, in order to trot out the same old line about Tory Government cuts. As a result of this shameful political practice, the county council must now consider closing the care home altogether, because of the significant repairs required to make it safe and warm for residents. I urge the Minister today to do all he can, from the local government point of view, to help Derbyshire County Council to keep this much-loved care home open. There is no doubt that Derbyshire County Council and others face more tough decisions over the next five years. As the MP, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that Erewash residents remain well provided for, for both their health and social care needs.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak in this important debate.
As I am Member of Parliament for the borough with the largest ageing population in Greater Manchester, social care provision is an extremely serious matter for my constituents. Consequently, social care funding accounts for almost a third of the total spend by Wigan Council. However, hit by local authority budget cuts, there will be an overall reduction in social care funding of £26 million over the next three years. When factoring in the increased demand on social care, the local authority’s black hole rises to £40 million. These funding cuts have been met by the local authority largely through efficiency and transformational programmes to reduce costs while maintaining and, in some cases, improving standards. However, the Government’s proposed supported housing cap, the universal credit roll-out and the living wage obligation all limit severely the services that local authorities can provide.
What we have seen from this Government is an attack from all angles on local authorities, leaving them simply unable to meet their care obligations. The future for local authority funding looks even bleaker. The Government have so far failed to set out a long-term social care strategy, or explain how they intend to fund local authority provision after 2020. This leaves constituents deeply concerned about the care they will receive, and local authorities unable to find any further savings to protect their core service provision. As the ageing population begins to require care services just as budgets are so ruthlessly slashed, the opportunity to realise further reductions in costs diminishes.
Local authorities are rightly very concerned that even the threat of restricted care funding will deter third sector organisations from investing in services. When factoring in the Government’s flawed introduction of their living wage, it is unsurprising that in my constituency planned projects have been cancelled and care provision reduced, resulting in dangerous levels of excess demand in the local care sector. Where does that leave people and who can they turn to? It will force them to either rely on their remaining savings and their family to meet their care needs, or put the burden on the NHS, with patients who require social care provision sitting in hospital wards instead. Not only are patients not receiving the correct care they require, but this is an enormous drain on already stretched NHS resources.
That brings me to my final point on this vicious circle: the delayed transfer of care. Is it any wonder, when local authorities face budget cuts, that third sector organisations are pulling out of the care sector, the demand for care services is greater than ever, and delayed transfer of care is rising at a rate of 25% per year, costing the NHS £173 million in the last year alone? The social care crisis will continue to grow until the Government propose a fair, comprehensive and long-term funding strategy. This strategy cannot include cuts to local authority budgets or any additional pressures on the NHS, and, most importantly, it cannot risk draining social care patients of their life savings, as the Prime Minister proposed during the general election campaign. I hope that after this debate the Government will realise the extent of the pressure their policies are putting on local authorities, care providers and the NHS, and introduce a national and fully integrated care service that puts social care patients first, and fairly funds the care sector for the future.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leigh (Jo Platt).
I think that there is a consensus in the House that social care is one of the biggest policy challenges we face and that we need to get it right not just for current elderly people, but, as pointed out by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for working-age adults with disabilities. In that respect, it is important to see social care in relation to the mental health of people with learning disabilities. Funding is clearly crucial in this discussion, too, as the Government recognised in this year’s Budget, which increased funding for social care and gave local authorities freedom over the council tax precept. I have seen in the Borough of Dudley, part of which I represent, how that has had a positive impact on the frontline of adult social care.
I want to make two points about the future strategy for adult social care. The first is about structures, and the second about people. Despite positive efforts made—let us not forget it was this Government and the previous coalition Government who introduced the better care fund to begin the process of health and social care integration—the picture is still a fragmented one. People have talked about delayed transfers of care. In reality, there is huge variation across the country in relation to delayed transfers of care, as a result, broadly, of the fact that the process of integration between health and social care has only just begun. We need to move further and faster. I agree with the Chair of the Health Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), that we need to see this system as one system—a health and social care system. We will make progress only if we see it in that light.
It is also important to think about the devolved nature of adult social care. In Greater Manchester, funding for social care and health is devolved. It is probably too early to say whether this has been a success, but there are strong arguments to say that if we are properly to reform the system of health and social care, we should not be trying to do it nationally, as the Opposition are arguing; we should chunk it into smaller bits at a regional level and perhaps give responsibility for adult social care to bodies such as the West Midlands Combined Authority and devolved Mayors. We need a fully integrated system of sufficient scale, however, and I think the regions are the best place to locate that.
The second point I want to make is about people. Others have mentioned the crucial role of people working in the care sector and of informal carers. People are clearly a massive constraint on adult social care, so we need to think carefully about how we develop the carers workforce as we move forward. Others have said that it needs high levels of professional recognition and better career structures and incentives. The objective should be to have people working in the care sector who feel on an equal standing to those in nursing and other professions. Currently, we see the health and social care workforces in two separate places, but we should be perceiving them as a single seamless workforce who need to be developed, with the right incentives, to cater for the needs of our health and social care system. We also need to consider the arguments about statutory rights for informal carers, who do not have any rights at the moment, and we need to think about incentives, because clearly informal carers benefit the economy and reduce costs to the Exchequer.
We need to think about the future of an integrated social and healthcare system. It will require extra funding, but funding will be effective only if we achieve that fundamental reform of a seamless health and social care system capable of responding to the needs of people in the health system and social care. We will achieve that only if we take a radically different view of what we mean by a carer workforce, how we treat that workforce and how we treat informal care. If we get that right, we will make a lot of progress.
I begin with these words:
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the disabled.”
Those words, spoken by Vice-President of the United States Hubert Humphrey, still ring true today. Social care should be not just a process of government but a moral duty of care for each and every one of us. We should make sure that every person being looked after in social care systems, whether run by a local authority or a private company, can expect the level of care that any of us would expect for our families and ourselves one day.
Whether someone is rich or poor, has a debilitating illness or is elderly, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Money should not be a factor in the level of care that someone receives. The Conservative manifesto proposed a tax on people affected by dementia. Why do the Government consider people affected by dementia any less worthy than those with, let us say, cancer or diabetes, or those who have had a stroke? Let me repeat myself, Mr Speaker: whether someone is rich or poor, has a debilitating illness or is elderly, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Dementia costs the UK economy about £26 billion a year. That is enough money to pay for every household’s energy bill for a year. It is estimated that 1,330 people in my constituency have dementia and that every three minutes someone in the UK will be diagnosed with the condition. Every one of us in this place has had, or will most likely have, some experience of supporting someone with dementia, whether a family member or friend, or a constituent whose family has contacted us for support or a neighbour.
Let us not ignore the elephant in the room. Local authorities have faced crippling cuts to budgets owing to the Government’s austerity-driven agenda. My local council, Kirklees, is currently spending £101.8 million per year on adult social care, which is 35% of its total budget. Kirklees has had its direct funding from the Government cut already by £129 million, and a further £65 million will be cut in the next few years. In addition, it is predicted that the number of people in Kirklees over the age of 65 will increase by 29% in the next 13 years. With cuts to their budgets and growing demand, our local councils are struggling to make sure the most vulnerable in society are protected and looked after. Government Members can try to blame the social care crisis on local councils, but we all know that their hard-line austerity agenda is the reason.
I return to the first part of my speech. What Vice-President Humphrey said needs to resonate with every single one of us in this House. This is a moral issue. I feel that we also need to recognise the work that unpaid carers do. In Kirklees, there are 45,400 unpaid carers. These family members, friends and neighbours are often a lifeline to those with long-term illnesses, and I hope the Government will do more to support them.
I concur with pretty much everything said this afternoon. As an MP who recently fought a marginal seat, I fully felt the pain and discomfort over how we handled the proposals for social care. Since then, however, several constituents have come to me having lost family homes because they needed to pay for a family member in care. As we know, the money people have can dwindle down to £23,000 before the local authority steps in.
Our manifesto plan to protect people with up to £100,00 and to ensure that their properties were sold only after they had passed away has been welcomed by those who have come to see me. People often do not realise—I am surprised that the Labour party has not picked this up—that that policy supports our poorest families rather than those who may have greater assets.
I am a Cornish Member of Parliament. Two weeks ago, the Care Quality Commission put our urgent care hospitals into special measures. The CQC’s report, which also looked at social care and the role of the local authority in Cornwall, states that 82 people in the county are in beds in those urgent care hospitals owing to delayed transfers of care, as against 42 in comparable local authority areas. The report makes it clear that Cornwall Council, which has been run by the Liberal Democrats since 2013, has chosen to give half as much funding to social care as comparable authorities do. That has put enormous pressure on Cornwall’s NHS budget, which is currently funding those gaps in social care support. In April, the Government gave a further £12 million to Cornwall council to address the delayed transfers of care, and a further £12 million is promised for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Our health system is under enormous pressure, largely owing to delayed transfers of care, but we know that our care and support workers need and deserve proper pay that reflects the work that they do and is similar to that of NHS assistants. They deserve that extra money, and they deserve the training that would help them to do their job more easily and safely. My plea to the Government is to do what they can to help Cornwall Council to prioritise social care and help it to address the challenges that it faces in deciding how to allocate funds and how to reward those who provide social care services on the frontline.
It is very easy for people always to blame the Government, and that has been a habit of our local authority—every time a decision is made, it says that it is because of Government cuts—but sometimes the responsibility must be shared by local managers. I welcome the Government’s intention to review social care, but I agree with other Members that their review must look at how we can integrate health and social care, because a weakness in one currently has dramatic impacts on the other.
People in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles deserve the very best care, and there are those on the ground who want to provide it, but all sorts of barriers hinder them from doing so. I ask the Government to work urgently to help our local authorities to address that crisis.
Nearly every day, my office is introduced to a new case in which a constituent and his or her family are facing the harsh and difficult realities of a social care system in crisis, but this is not a crisis born out of necessity. Unfortunately, it is the cruel consequence of an ideologically driven cost-cutting agenda in action. It is a crisis that has been created at the heart of No 10.
The Tories have presided over an unprecedented attack on social care budgets. Some £4.6 billion has been taken from adult social care budgets since 2010, at a time when demand is growing. Reports by the King’s Fund make it clear that the adult social care system as it stands is
“failing older people, their families and carers”,
and that it will have a funding hole of £2.1 billion by 2019-20 which, if left unresolved, will continue to fuel the crisis. The same pattern is found in my home town, Sheffield, where there is a growing population of over-65s, all with a longer life expectancy than ever before. Sheffield City Council’s budget has been cut to the tune of £352 million since 2010, and further cuts are on their way.
As a result of the cuts, councils have had to make difficult decisions. Across England, 400,000 fewer people are able to access publicly funded social care, and one in eight older people is living with unmet care needs. The impact on people and their families in our communities has been harrowing. What is more, the deep cuts inflicted by No. 10 are not only cruel, but nonsensical and ineffective. For example, councils are having to limit the hourly care fees paid to providers.
A recent case in my constituency has highlighted the doubly negative effect of limited administration and care payment resources. My constituent has significant daily care needs, and she and the council have struggled to keep up with resourcing those complex needs. Care providers have withdrawn at short notice, leaving the council and the patient’s family frantically trying to find a new provider. The under-resourcing of social care creates the dual problem of a higher than acceptable turnover of providers, and councils without the resources to step in effectively. That causes much upset and pain to the most vulnerable in our society.
Another consequence of the deep cuts is the level of the duty of care that is being placed on unpaid carers, and, as we know, women are largely bearing the brunt of that work. In one case, a granddaughter cared for her grandmother for 100 hours per week, and when she applied for a care package in the hope of receiving some financial support, it took six months to come through. The long-winded process often leaves carers with no support at all. That is not an isolated case; in fact, there are 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK.
I am proud that in Labour’s election manifesto we pledged to increase carers allowance for unpaid full-time carers to align the benefit with jobseeker’s allowance rates. That is a practical and sensible solution, which also seeks to highlight the valuable work that nurses, social care workers and carers do for our communities. Too often, they are sidelined and their efforts shunned. They need a Government for the many, not just the privileged few, to stand up for them.
Crucially, the knock-on effects of a social care crisis are felt acutely by the NHS. Indeed, this year’s general election was the ultimate litmus test for the social care policies presented by the Tories and the Labour party. Labour not only pledged to invest £8 billion to alleviate some of the immediate problems facing social care, but promised to build a new national care service bringing together health and social care, which we would implement following a cross-party consensus. In a civilised society, it is vital for us to pool the risk, and not allow the most vulnerable to fend for themselves in old age.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister launched a nasty campaign against older people the likes of which we have not seen in decades. Following their U-turn on the dementia tax, the Tories have now turned their attention to blaming and threatening councils with fines and sanctions—
As part of my self-imposed induction into membership of the Health Committee, I undertook a tour of various institutions in my constituency in order to understand health and social care better, and learnt about the new concept of independent living schemes. Earlier this year the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh opened Priory View, which operates an independent living scheme in Dunstable. It presents a model of the way forward for social care. Older people are not isolated or lonely: there are exercise classes and loads of other activities. We need to get accommodation for such people right for the future, as Central Bedfordshire council has done.
I also visited Orchard Lodge care home in Tilsworth, and was struck by the very high standard of care. It has been rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission, and I was incredibly impressed by the dedication of all its staff. Another home, Rosewood Court in Dunstable, a beautiful building with wonderful facilities, closed this year because the owners could not find managers and staff to run it. That obviously caused a huge amount of stress and upset to residents and to their families, who had to move them at very short notice.
I also met some care providers in my constituency. I remember most clearly a conversation with a lady who ran one of the providers. She ran it very well, and is a former nurse who is working in care for all the right reasons. She said, “I would be too ashamed to go into a school to try to attract young people to come into my profession.” That is not right; we must not have such a situation. I asked, “What would it take for you to attract them?” She said, “A salary would be nice.” I asked, “How much?” She said, “£16,000 to £18,000 a year.” That is not much to ask for people looking after us in our old age.
On travel costs, I have said before and will say again that it should shame every one of us in this House that MPs get 45p a mile when we travel on parliamentary business, yet carers are often lucky to get 30p. What is good enough for an MP is good enough for a careworker. We need to sort that out.
Constituents have also raised the issue of the private subsidy of local authority places. It is not right that some people pay much more for the same place in order to subsidise local authorities. Constituents also tell me that they want even more rigour in the quality of care provided, so that we have real respect for those cared for and also real respect and proper career progression for carers.
We must also break down the division between nursing and social care. Simon Stevens has in the past described these as two great tribes of the healthcare system. There could, in a properly regulated way, often be more co-operation; they could do more together, which would be more efficient.
I have called for a number of steps that will cost money, and we need real honesty in this debate, because it will cost. I am very impressed by what I have read in both the Communities and Local Government Committee report on adult social care published in March this year and the House of Lords Select Committee report on the long-term sustainability of the NHS and adult social care. Both Committees of this Parliament have in reports published this year pointed us to what is happening in Germany and Japan. Those countries have mandatory social insurance mechanisms, which have been in place for a long time; the German system was put in place in 1994. It is not only Germany and Japan who have got their acts together on funding; so, too, have France and the Netherlands. This is not a recent problem; it did not arise in 2010 or 2015. It has been with us for a long time, and parties on both sides of the House have failed to grasp the nettle.
So I say to the two Ministers on the Front Bench, for whom I have the greatest respect—my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Nuneaton (Mr Jones)—that there must be urgency on this issue, and there is a willingness among our constituents for it to be grasped in a fair way. People are prepared to pay more; we know that there is public support for hypothecated taxes—people know that what they pay is going to look after them later in life.
Some of the social insurance systems—those in Germany and Japan in particular— can point the way forward. So I say to the Ministers, “Get on an aeroplane now, go to Japan, go to Germany, and do the preparatory work, so that when we have the Green Paper in January, we can have some really good ideas, and we can grasp the nettle, take this forward and give people the care they deserve.”
It is an honour to follow my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous).
Before my election in June I was the portfolio holder for adult services on Bedford Borough Council. I saw the strain that my team of officers was placed under every day, in trying to meet rapidly growing demand with rapidly diminishing resources. The “solution” to this crisis that the Government put forward during the election campaign was astonishing. The dementia tax is not a good idea that was unpopular; it is a terrible idea that did nothing to address the immediate problem of severe underfunding.
Despite already making cuts of £90 million since 2010, Bedford Borough Council needs to identify further cuts of £27.5 million by 2020. In 2015 the grant received from central Government was £30.1 million; that will fall to £5.8 million by 2019-20, and is falling by £6.8 million next year alone. The social care precept is not a proper solution at all, and it is not nearly enough to bridge the gap. It is an inadequate sticking plaster for an ongoing funding shortfall, and a token gesture that pushes the responsibility away from where it really lies, which is with central Government.
A report published last year by the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund on cuts to social care for over-65s found that access to care depends increasingly on what people can afford and where they live, rather than on what they need. The report found that underinvestment in primary and community NHS services is undermining the policy objective of keeping people independent and out of residential care. It also found that the Care Act 2014 has created new demands and expectations, with no extra funding to meet them.
The report also said that local authorities have little room to make further savings, and most will soon be unable to meet basic statutory duties. Bedford Borough Council is close to not being able to meet those duties. Fining local authorities for delayed transfers of care will do nothing to help address the problem, and will worsen the funding crisis. The Government’s response to the social care crisis that we know exists in every local authority area up and down the country is hopelessly inadequate to deal with the levels of demand.
The Government have no answers to the social care crisis they have created. The only change needed now is a change of Government.
Our ageing population is undoubtedly one of the challenges of our age, and I am proud of what we are doing locally in Somerset to be in the vanguard in this country on the integration of health and social care, which is an essential part of meeting the challenge. Some of our care providers have faced incredibly big challenges over recent years. The rise in the national living wage has put a lot of pressure on their budgets, as have rising pension costs and rising regulatory fees, the apprenticeship levy, and the normal inflation in rent and other costs. It is my understanding that our current council fee rates for care cover only 70% of the costs.
We also need to focus very carefully on the issue of sleep-in shifts and the national living wage being applied to that. I do not think it is sustainable for us to allow that, and we should try to legislate against it. Care providers in my area have informed me that it is not the same as waking duty hours.
Somerset Care is a well-run not-for-profit company that is performing very well and is a key part of the provision of care in Somerset. It is having to hand back some of its contracts from the local authority because they are underfunded, and we have seen 445 fewer beds in the south-west year on year in 2017.
Local authority funding is a factor. It has been drastically reduced, and I am keen to ensure that Somerset is, if at all possible, a pilot in the retention of business rates. I am a firm believer in giving local areas the revenue opportunities they need to be able to innovate and attract more business in various ways, to be able to fund some of these undoubted needs in future.
The sector must provide newer facilities. Some 85% of care home stock in the UK is now more than 50 years old. We need capital funding solutions to be able to lever in private capital. On current parameters, new care homes need at least 70% of self-funders to have the required return on investment. We also need a bigger workforce, and Members have talked about some of the issues in that regard. We need 53% more people in this sector by 2030.
In terms of solutions, several people have spoken about social insurance, and I think that that is probably the best way to try to pool risk. However, I do not think this is a risk that should be pooled across the whole of society; that would not be fair. We should also incentivise savings schemes better and give tax breaks, and perhaps VAT exemptions, to the providers of new-build care homes. I have mentioned integration before, and we have seen the vanguard in Yeovil: getting patients out of acute beds and into social care settings earlier can save up to £300 a day, which is very encouraging.
I have already mentioned sleep-in shifts and local dynamism, and I am mindful of the fact that others want to speak, but I want to conclude by saying that I welcome the Government’s paying attention to this issue. It is undoubtedly one we need to look at. This is a pressing matter, and I urge the Government to really motor along on this one. This is urgent for some of those providers who are facing serious situations. I do not believe that the answer is higher taxes, either at national or local level, and I do not believe in politicising the issue, as some Opposition Members have been tempted to do. Essentially, we need innovation. We need to create the conditions for the private sector to work with providers to give our older generations the support that they need.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this most important debate. I would like to thank my friends on the Opposition Front Benches for bringing the subject of social care to the House today. Social care must be treated as the national priority it rightfully is. It is a vital public service that allows people in every one of our constituencies to live their lives in the way they want. The system supports older people, those living with mental health issues and people with physical and learning disabilities. This should be the least that we owe people in our country, but instead there is simply not enough money in the system. The Local Government Association has said that social care services nationally are facing an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
Of course, some areas are affected more than others, and funding pressure is being felt keenly in my constituency of Batley and Spen and in our local authority of Kirklees. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Thelma Walker) has said, a third of the entire local authority budget is spent on adult social care. This is a local authority that has had to effectively cut half its budget since 2010 and is the second worst funded metropolitan council in the country. Senior councillors have openly warned that they might need to stop cutting the grass or collecting the bins in order to meet their social care requirements laid out in the Care Act 2014. Of course it is completely right that social care takes priority over other public services, but I am sure Members will agree that councils should in a position to provide more and better services to local people, rather than constantly cutting back.
Let us take the case of the father of a constituent of mine. He is currently in Dewsbury District Hospital, and he is ready to be discharged. He has had a stroke, and he also suffers from vascular dementia and a condition called sundowning, which means that his dementia symptoms become more severe in the evening. Because of a lack of funding, there is no specialist provision locally that can cope with his complex needs. This family are faced with the prospect of their relative having to go out of the area, even as far away as Sheffield, for care. We have to find a national solution to this national issue.
The Care Quality Commission’s report earlier this month laid out the reasons for action in black and white. Only 2% of social care services were rated as outstanding, with 41% requiring improvement. A quarter of services are failing on safety and there are nearly 4,000 fewer nursing home beds now than there were in March 2015. This is at a time when demand is rising. In England, 1.2 million people do not receive the social care they need, which is up 48% since 2010.
The search for the much needed solution has to begin with getting the funding right, because the system’s future depends on it. Clearly, one way of not getting the funding right was illustrated by what the governing party put forward at the general election. Its intention to implement a “dementia tax” without limits went down like a lead balloon in my constituency and plenty of others. We have to assume that that policy is off the table—I am sure that Ministers will be eager to confirm that today—but that does not mean that the Government can keep treading water. Social care is a vital public service, and having a hole of this magnitude at the heart of Government policy is irresponsible. We need action. Instead of writing to councils to threaten fines and the withdrawal of funding because of unmet targets on delayed transfers of care, let us have a plan to remedy the £6.3 billion-worth of cuts since 2010. The quality of care needs to be rising instead of falling. Social care is there for the elderly and the vulnerable, and the least we should expect is a decent system that works for everyone.
Order. I am afraid that I am going to have to cut the time limit on Back-Bench speeches to three minutes as a lot of speakers are still waiting to get in.
I am sure that all of us who have been out and about with care workers in our constituencies have found the experience not only informative but inspiring. I certainly had a brilliant experience when I went out and about with a care worker in my patch. I saw the enormous compassion in the care that she provided and how incredibly hard she worked. It was a tough job, but a rewarding one. As many Members have said, however, the work is not well enough paid, there is no career structure and there is not enough support for carers in their day-to-day work.
Everyone in the Chamber today recognises that the current system is not fair and not working. It is not fair that people can get care for free if they can stay living in their home, but if they have to go into a care home, they might be left with only £14,000 of savings. Most people would much rather be cared for at home, but that is not always possible. The present system therefore discriminates against those who cannot stay at home to be cared for, and that is simply not fair. We need to bear that in mind as we talk about potential solutions. Let us not pretend for a moment that the current system is fair.
The system is also not working. Around 30% of the people in hospital in my constituency do not need to be there. They would be better off out of hospital, but there is often no outside support available for them. Delayed transfers of care are an ongoing challenge. There are also people in care homes because of the shortage of domiciliary care. We have to address what is substantially a funding challenge: there is simply not enough money going into care.
The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), said that she was going to give us Labour’s solutions to the problem. I listened carefully to her speech, but I was disappointed that she spent only about one minute of her 24-minute speech talking about potential solutions. I am afraid that I did not really hear any solutions—
Will the hon. Lady give way?
I am really sorry, but I cannot take any interventions. I have been asked not to.
Most significantly, the hon. Lady does not have a plan for how to pay for all this. It all comes down to how we are going to pay for improving access to care, and the party opposite simply does not have a plan. As for cross-party working, that would be fantastic but judging by some of the language I have heard from Labour Members, I do not think that many of them are ready to work together on this. I encourage the Government to get on with the job of proposing a better, sustainably funded, care system so that our constituents can get the care that they need.
Under the Conservative Government, social care is in crisis. That is clear to almost everyone in this House, and to the 1.2 million people across the country whose complex needs are not being met. In fact, it would appear that the only people it is not clear to are those in the Conservative Government. Anyone following either of the Secretaries of State responsible for social care over the conference period would have struggled to find any reference to the crisis, or indeed to social care. I am therefore pleased that the Opposition have used this day to bring this incredibly important issue to the Floor of the House, because we are faced with a complete Government policy vacuum.
Social care provisions have been neglected and gutted by central Government. By March 2018, £6.3 billion will have been cut from the adult social care budget during eight years of Conservative-led Government. Over the same period, the number of people with some form of unmet need will have increased by 48%. That is no coincidence. The Conservative Government’s failure to tackle the social care crisis is having a hugely damaging impact on elderly and disabled people in our society, pushing them into increasingly vulnerable and precarious positions where they are not receiving adequate or appropriate care.
Government cuts to local authority budgets mean that councils are simply no longer able to provide the necessary level of care. In the first five months of the fiscal year, 48% of authorities have reported home care providers handing back contracts, and Warrington Borough Council is no exception. Indeed, two providers have already handed back significant contracts this year, so the council is short of approximately 500 hours of home care on any given day, resulting in delayed transfers of care. Members will be aware that the Government’s response to the delays has been to punish local authorities fiscally for not meeting unrealistic targets by withholding funding and threatening extortionate fines. If the Government are not prepared to invest in essential care for the health and wellbeing of the elderly and disabled in society, what are they prepared to invest in? During the 2017 general election campaign, the Prime Minister infamously U-turned on her flagship social care policy. Five months later, she has still to provide us with any alternative, while other members of her Cabinet have yet to rule out the discredited dementia tax policy.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate on a subject that is vital to many in our communities and one that is close to my heart. It should almost go without saying that those working in social care deserve huge respect and thanks for their outstanding work on a daily basis. My role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on social work presents a real opportunity to champion the sector and to work with colleagues to get the best deal for it.
No one doubts the importance of funding for important public care sectors, but the Opposition do not seem to realise that money alone does not solve everything. Addressing working conditions is hugely important for maintaining continuity and retaining workers. We should be looking at cutting the bureaucracy that increases the organisational work in these caring roles and at allowing them to do more of what they want and are trained to do. We should also consider how technology can help people in the sector. Medway Council has been looking at that in relation to caring for people in their homes, and some of our housing associations have worked with the council. These are ideas, and I am pleased to speak to colleagues from across the House instead of just throwing money at the problem, creating a financial black hole, and hoping that something comes out in the end.
If Opposition Members want to talk about money, they will surely recognise the additional £1 billion made available this year on top of the £2 billion offered to councils in the Budget. Since 2015, councils have had access to a total of over £9 billion of funding over a three-year period. We have also introduced the toughest standards regime in the world, and it is reassuring that the CQC rated 80% of social care settings as good or outstanding. Again, this is about ideas, not just funding, which is why an open consultation will be held on how to reform the system to drive sustainability and improve quality. In my area, Medway Maritime Hospital was struggling, but it is clear that change has been down to leadership, management and innovation in that setting.
In comparison, Labour’s record does not give Opposition Members a high horse from which to look down on us. In government, they failed to deliver effective policies over a long time. Their advisers even came out in public to admit that they failed to solve the problems of social care funding, saying that it was
“the largest piece of unfinished social reform”
during Labour’s time in government, which I remind the House was 13 years. Even during the most recent election, promises were made, but we heard no plans from the shadow Minister for what Labour would do, so I support my Government in holding the consultation and wish it good luck.
It is a pleasure to speak in this Opposition day debate, and I thank colleagues for bringing it to the House. I pay tribute to the work of Carers UK and the Bury Carers Centre in my constituency in advocating and providing a voice for Britain’s 6.8 million carers, almost 20,000 of whom work in Bury. In fact, it is a mark of the link between my office and the Bury Carers Centre that Ummrana Farooq came to help me with my constituency work and run my office—such is our commitment to the Bury Carers Centre.
The number of carers has grown by 1 million nationally over the past 15 years. Carers now provide care worth £132 billion every year, which is propping up a social care system in crisis. If we acknowledge the silent wards in bedrooms and front rooms and the people being looked after by loved ones, the crisis would be deeper still. Under the Tories, 400,000 fewer older people now have access to publicly funded social care and not because need has reduced; it has of course risen. Age UK says that 1.2 million older people in England now have unmet care needs. The Government’s welfare policies have had an extremely detrimental impact on carers. Some 2 million people have given up work to care for relatives. The low level of the carer’s allowance—£62 a week if caring for someone for more than 35 hours a week—and the freeze on many benefits combine into a toxic force against our carers and their communities.
I want to progress the debate. As a Greater Manchester MP—it is good to hear so many Greater Manchester MPs speak in this debate—I understand that there is a role for hospice care in the social care offer. We need a holistic approach, and we need practical arrangements, not just new money. We need three-year budgets up front. Hospices can play a vital role if the patient tariff can move from the ward to the hospice. They can offer vital respite care provision in towns such as Bury. Bury hospice has empty beds and rooms that would cost a lot less than a hospital bed for the night, so I urge the Government to look at the patient tariff. Have they considered the supporting role that hospices might play in the social care system? Come and look at Bury hospice and the work we intend to do with our Pennine colleagues.