Some of the questions asked :
Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab):
I just want to pick up on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins). Can we be clear that the Secretary of State is not ruling out discussions on the type of model that has been proposed by my hon. Friend—a model that should be fully funded by tax or national insurance? Although that is not one of the options in the Green Paper, will the Secretary of State, as he said, be listening and not ruling it out? If he wants to rule it out, I will go home now and get the 2 o’clock train.
Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con):
In the context of the figures that the Secretary of State has just announced, when he considers the results of the consultation will he pay particular attention to the fact that as the population gets older, and given that older people have a higher level of dependency, so, within families, do their carers? Increasingly, pensioners are looking after even older pensioners who are their dependants. He cannot ignore that, because the strain on older people in a caring role is very great.
Earlier this year, the Government announced a very welcome injection of £150 million for carers over two years. In a debate that we had earlier this year about carers, I asked the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Corby (Phil Hope), how we could track that money. He quite rightly urged me to go back to my constituency and ask those questions. I did and I finally received a letter yesterday—three months later—to tell me how the money was being allocated. I was told that because the money was being allocated through general growth, specific plans had not been drawn up to spend it on caring activities. My concern is that the £100 million that comes next year will go the same way—it will just be rolled into general spending and will not particularly benefit carers. What can be done to ensure that it gets to carers?
John Mason (Glasgow, East) (SNP):
May I ask the Secretary of State what that equivalent level of support will be? Will people get care instead of money? If so, does that not go against what is happening in the Welfare Reform Bill, in which we are trying to give people more money so that they can spend it on the care that they want?
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con):
The Secretary of State rules out touching the disability living allowance of those under 65 and that is welcome, but he will know that nearly 1 million people over 65 get DLA. His announcement at the conference last week will not have put their minds at rest. Will he say more about whether DLA for those over 65 is covered in the Green Paper proposals?
The hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) made a significant point about DLA for over-65s, which is paid specifically for mobility needs. Some of those people have capital commitments with regard to those needs, for instance to Motability, which cause them many problems. I appreciate that this is a Green Paper, but we need to make the Secretary of State aware of the complexities that might arise
What is affordable and what is not affordable is a political choice. I have spoken to many people and explained that improvements might cost, say, 1p on the standard rate of income tax. Everybody has said, “Hooray, we would certainly pay that.” People want them to be paid for out of taxation, but my right hon. Friend has made the political choice that they will not be.
Is my hon. Friend as concerned as I am about another benefit—in addition to the ones that he has mentioned—on which I have received requests from constituents: quite an old benefit called the severe disablement allowance, which is still recognised? It is usually a lifelong benefit for people with lifelong learning disabilities. Is that, too, on the table?
O’Brien: The Green Paper makes little mention of carers’ needs