§ 1 Before Clause 40, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Funding of community care
§ —(1) The Secretary of State shall, with the approval of the Treasury, make grants out of money provided by Parliament towards the expenses of local authorities incurred in connection with the exercise of their community care functions.
§ (2) Grants made in accordance with subsection (1) above shall be used by local authorities solely for the provision of community care for purposes described in plans drawn up in accordance with section 44 below.
§ (3) The Secretary of State shall not later than 30th November in the year preceding any financial year lay before Parliament his estimate of the total amount of grant likely to be disbursed under this section in respect of that financial year, together with a statement of the sums requested by local authorities and the formula for distribution between such authorities, and shall at that time publish forecasts for the following two financial years.").
§ The Commons disagreed to the above amendment but proposed the following amendments in lieu thereof—
§ 2 Page 53, line 18, after ("incurred") insert ("(a)")
§ 3 Page 53, line 20, at end insert ("or
§ (b) in making payments, in accordance with directions given by the Secretary of State to voluntary organisations which provide care and services for persons who are, have been, or are likely to become dependent upon alcohol or drugs.")
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 but propose in lieu thereof Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
I am sure that your Lordships will warmly welcome Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 which address the issues so eloquently expressed during our debates. The amendments enable local authorities to assist preventive work being undertaken by voluntary organisations and the services they provide for those dependent upon drugs or alcohol. Taken with the Government's undertaking to direct local authorities to cover drug and alcohol misuse in their community care plans, and with the specific references in draft guidance, I hope your Lordships will agree that any doubt about the importance we attach to these client groups is removed. The amendments certainly offer a mechanism for continued funding for those organisations which can best and most effectively provide the services judged necessary. I acknowledge the contribution of those noble Lords who have argued the case for such an approach. Perhaps I might be permitted to mention the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and my noble friend Lord Mancroft.
1731 Amendment No. 1—the so-called ring fencing amendment—would empower the Secretary of State to make grants to local authorities in connection with the exercise of their community care functions. I explained in our earlier debates that the Government do not believe that total ring fencing of funds is the right way forward in our community care policies. That remains the Government's view and it was endorsed last night by another place. What we must do in giving a role to local government is allow it the freedom and flexibility to meet local needs and provide local accountability. Ring fencing of funds does not permit this; it may have positively the reverse effect.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has repeatedly made clear that resources for community care will be adequate for the enhanced responsibilities of local authorities. It is strange to hear that local authorities, which have argued for years against large specific grants, should now suddenly find that they are unable to make sensible decisions on priorities and resources. It is even stranger to hear that they want central government to make local decisions for them.
It seems to me that the Government and another place have respected the role of this House in prompting second thoughts and that the new proposal for a specific grant for drug and alcohol misuse services is a helpful and welcome one. I beg to move.
Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 in lieu thereof.—(Baroness Hooper.]
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, as the mover of the original Amendment No. 1 I should make a few comments on the decision to reject that amendment while extending the provision in the Bill earmarking money for the mentally ill to cover those with drug and alcohol problems. It would be churlish to refuse this small extension of the original provision in the Bill, especially following the strenuous efforts made by the Front Bench here throughout all stages of the Bill to avoid arousing any expectation of such a concession. I would have found the concession even more attractive if it had extended to the mentally handicapped. I was sorry to find, reading that part of yesterday's Commons proceedings that has appeared in Hansard, that the Secretary of State did not answer a question specifically put to him about the mentally handicapped. However, I shall not pursue the point.
However, I shall pursue the fact that this concession goes nowhere towards meeting the original concept behind the amendment here which, as the noble Baroness has explained, would have applied to all the grant paid for community care. It is as though we had hoped for a whole loaf but have been offered instead one small slice of bread, however acceptable that may be to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland.
I wish to say quite simply that I regret the decision to reject our amendment. I am being careful to speak 1732 in moderate terms. I shall not even comment in detail on the extraordinary timetable whereby a Bill leaves this place on Tuesday morning and is back again on Thursday afternoon along with the decisions of another place. The opportunity for mature deliberation of these important issues by Members of both Houses might conceivably have been longer. It is not as though we are just at the end of a Session or approaching a recess.
The crucial Commons vote on my amendment was taken at midnight—only a few hours ago. We do not have the Commons Hansard for discussions after 10.30 p.m. and no particulars of the vote. Be that as it may, it is a source of some satisfaction that the amendment, when it was moved here, received support from a majority of those voting and from all sides of the House. There is evidently support for it in quite a substantial section of the Conservative Party in another place. It reflected the views of Sir Roy Griffiths on whose report much of this part of the Bill is based. There is also considerable support for it in local government and not just among directors of social services. I cannot forget those thousands of infirm, disabled and elderly who will not be covered by the Government's amendments and who have so small a voice in our acquisitive society.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 underline the fact that the Government have not the slightest objection in principle to ring fencing and telling local authorities how to spend their money. Nevertheless they seem to be basing much of their case, according to what the Secretary of State said yesterday evening and what the noble Baroness has said briefly today, on the doctrine of public accountability and the argument that local authorities should be left to allocate their resources and discharge their responsibilities in the way that seems to them best. I am not a politician but I find it just a bit rich for that line to be taken by a government who dictate from the centre, through capping, what a local authority can raise through its poll tax whatever the local electorate may think.
Without our Amendment No. 1 not only is there less likelihood of enough money being clearly allocated to community care but, perhaps even more important, there will be no guarantee that what is allocated for community care will in the event be devoted to that purpose. I hope that I am proved to be wrong, but there is certainly now nothing in the legislation which would prevent the most vulnerable members of the community being the first victims of the new system of local finance.
I do not underrate the value of the concession which is on offer, but it leaves out so much and so many people that I wonder whether it really can be reconciled with the great humanitarian and compassionate traditions of the party to which noble Lords opposite belong. I think that they will come to regret their decisions. We shall certainly watch with concern how it all turns out.
All the same, I do not believe that we can stand in the way of the decision of the elected Chamber. I for one shall feel obliged to accept, albeit with sadness, the recommendation made to us by the Minister.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, is a master of understatement and also of profound judgment.
I want to express very deep dissatisfaction with the way in which the Government have handled Lords amendments to the Bill. It is a Bill of profound significance to the people of this country. Good health is our greatest possession and ill health is our greatest burden. The National Health Service is part of our social scene and one of the greatest pieces of social engineering since the Second World War. This Bill is not only about the future of the National Health Service but also about its local partner, community care. It has profound implications for every man, woman and child in the country, even those who use private services because in times of crisis it is the NHS to which they turn.
Parliament has worked long and hard to compensate for the failure of government to consult before publishing the Bill. In another place 109 hours were devoted to the Bill in Committee, followed by some 30 hours at Report stage. In your Lordships' House over 100 hours were spent on the Bill in Committee, at Report stage and at Third Reading. Some concessions were made in debate and we are grateful for small mercies.
My main protest concerns what has happened this week. Through the usual channels my noble friend Lord Graham protested to the government business managers about the way in which the Bill was being handled. The Bill was passed to another place in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen, said. It was debated in another place yesterday and during the early hours of this morning, on a timetable Motion. As a consequence, four out of five of the amendments passed by your Lordships' House were not even considered. The arguments were not put for the amendments; the arguments were not put against. There were simply five votes—at 00.01 hours, 00.17, 00.30, 00.42 and 00.54. Not a moment of consideration was given to the long debates that we had here on an all-party Motion, when we passed this amendment.
I was able to obtain the resolutions at 11 o'clock this morning, coming from a hospital appointment. However, none of us has any idea of what was said in another place after 10.30 p.m. That is not meant as a criticism of Hansard. Why was it necessary for the Bill to come before us today when it was only considered today in another place? I believe that that is a monstrous and unacceptable way to treat your Lordships and the detailed consideration which we gave to the Bill. This treatment of your Lordships' House by the Government is outrageous. The decision of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Cabinet to impose a timetable Motion on consideration of amendments considered and passed is a calculated insult. My charge is not against Ministers who dealt with the Bill from the Front Bench in this House but against the Government.
I say directly to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that we are entitled to an explanation as to why it was decided that your Lordships' business 1734 should be conducted in this way. He is a Member of the Cabinet. He represents us in the Cabinet. I want to know whether he is satisfied that the Government have behaved properly towards this revising Chamber. Will he take the opportunity to tell us why there was this unseemly rush? Why did it have to be today, and not Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday? There must be some reason why the Bill must be pushed through without consideration. We are a revising Chamber and we have a great wealth of expertise on all sides of the House which has been used unstintingly during the course of the debate. It includes doctors and nurses, leaders of the universities and of our great voluntary organisations. I believe that this House is entitled to some explanation.
In the time available I have read in the press part of the debate during the early part of the deliberations in another place. I believe that the Secretary of State behaved like a bully-boy in his handling of the arguments which we put forward with great seriousness in your Lordships' House without allowing an opportunity for deliberation and consideration of what we said. The business managers must explain why that was done.
I turn now to what happened in another place. Like the noble Lord, Lord Allen, I profoundly regret that the amendment was not passed as we had carried it. It had been welcomed throughout the country, by directors of social services, elected councillors, voluntary organisations and all those involved in the caring services. It is in line with Sir Roy Griffith's recommendations. As Sir George Young said yesterday, without this amendment grants made by the Government for community care for the elderly and disabled can now be spent for quite different purposes. The Conservative Member for Lancashire, West said that certain councils would use the money to repair holes in the road. The Conservative MP for Macclesfield said that vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the handicapped could not speak up for themselves and could be gravely disadvantaged as the money might be allocated to more desirable and romantic sectors of local government expenditure.
I welcome the ring fencing of payments to voluntary organisations. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who did so much to further this cause, and I are involved in organisations providing care and services for persons who are or are likely to become dependent upon alcohol and drugs. When the Minister spoke a few moments ago she referred only to preventative measures. I presume that that is not really the case, but the amendment is intended, as it states, to,provide care and services for persons who are, have been, or are likely to become dependent upon alcohol or drugs".That is very good news. It will receive a warm welcome from voluntary organisations which have given evidence of the number of services likely to suffer or to end without such protection. The voluntary organisations will be delighted with that good news, which has been achieved by pressure here. As late as Monday this week Ministers on the Front Bench opposite were setting out reasons why it could not and should not be done. I am glad that 1735 they have been converted. However, I must say that I have my suspicions.
Why was it done? I believe that it was done by the business managers in another place to prevent a much larger revolt. It was an attempt to buy off those who otherwise had warned that they would vote for the Lords' amendment. I hope that someone will explain why resources to support drug addicts and alcholics should be protected but that there should be no protection for very elderly people, including those suffering from the consequences of senile dementia. As a patron of the Alzheimer's Disease Society I have a right to know. Why is there to be no protection for funds made available or denied to bodies such as MENCAP and the Spastics Society? As the president of the East Anglian region of MENCAP I have a right to know.
I am always suspicious of last minute partial conversions. I guess that the Whips in another place, as I said, acted very quickly and managed to turn away a big protest. I believe that the Government's handling of the whole Bill, not just these amendments and the efforts of this House, is despicable. As I said when we first debated the White Paper on which the Bill is based, I believe that their handling of health and community care will be the issue which more than any other will bring them down.
In my view it would quite wrong for us now to go through the Division Lobbies to vote for or against this amendment. Apart from the question of the propriety of this unelected Chamber voting a second time against the views of an elected Chamber, the Government have made a farce of this debate and this amendment as well as all the others concerned. I want to express my deepest anger at the way in which your Lordships have been treated in the handling of these amendments.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, from these Benches I want to say how greatly we disapprove of the way in which your Lordships' House has been treated in this matter. Either there is a second Chamber which can do a proper revising job or there is not. For my part I would rather not have a second Chamber than one which is treated with the contempt that we have been treated with throughout this debate and in the way that we are now treated by the Commons.
It is not my amendment so I cannot say from these Benches that we should return it to the Commons. As the House is constituted I should not be afraid, as apparently the Labour Party is afraid, to use our constitutional rights to do so. But the noble Lord, Lord Allen, has decided not to proceed in that way. It is not for us to alter that. However, for my part I think that that is what we should have done. Either it is reasonable to ask noble Lords to sit in the Chamber night after night amending the totally inadequate, ill prepared and ill thought-out legislation that the Government bring before us or it is not. Either we have the right to work on and amend such legislation and insist that it is properly considered or we do not.
But there is a second reason why I believe that this is the most abominable way to treat the Lords' 1736 amendments. The Government's whole approach to community care is beneath contempt. I tried to believe them when they said that they cared about community care. But the way in which they treated the Griffiths Report indicated that they did not care. They kept us waiting two years for a response to the Griffiths Report.
Now they have refused to ring-fence money for the most needy people in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, spoke about the organisations which he represents. I speak for, among other organisations, the Carer's National Association. There is now no protection whatsoever in this Bill for carers and indeed very little for the people for whom they care. This is a totally uncaring government, as they have now proved. We shall remind them on every possible occasion between now and the general election and beyond of what they have done to the most needy members of our community.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, it will not surprise noble Lords to know that I take a somewhat different view from that in the speeches that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I think that this debate raises two matters of principle. The first is the issue of ring-fencing. I listened to the arguments that were put when this issue was debated earlier and again this afternoon to the effect that it is in the interests of those who, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen, said, are the most vulnerable members of society that the money that the Government will give for community care should be ring-fenced so that it will find its way to the authorities responsible for caring for those members of society. I can understand the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Allen, put very clearly, if I may say so.
On the other hand, the counter argument, which is one worth considering, is that if duties and responsibilities are given to local government (as Parliament has done) and the Government give money for the carrying out of those duties and responsibilities, it must surely be right that those who are responsible should carry the responsibility. Although I accept that, as quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, a large number of Members of Parliament have obviously been very critical of their local authorities and said, "They will not spend this money on the old but spend it on repairing a road", at the end of the day if one gives responsibility to people one has to accept what they do with that responsibility.
Once one goes down the path of giving specific grants one opens up the whole question of, for example, giving a specific grant for education, for which one could similarly make out very good arguments, or indeed for any other major service of local government. I am even less clear as to why local councillors should be in favour of the specific grant. It is their responsibility in social service committees to ensure that the money which the Government have given is spent on those specific purposes. They must argue their case because they are responsible for the community care itself.
Therefore, in principle the line that the Government have taken on this matter has, I believe, 1737 been the right one. What is important is that extra money should go to local government. I hope that those who are responsible for using it will listen.
Secondly, there is every case for saying that once that responsibility is given, local authorities and in particular the social services departments may end up by getting more money because they will be focusing public attention on their new duties and responsiblities, whereas if the funding is ring-fenced a good many people will say, "That's it. You have got your money and the rest is going on something else". So, far from having more, social services departments could well end up with less. It is very much a double edged weapon. What is important is that the extra money should be there.
With regard to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, which I am glad that she did not press, that she herself would have been willing to send the amendment back to another place, I think that we should be in difficulty in doing that. This matter directly concerns the spending of public money. The other place could have dismissed it out of hand had they chosen to do so. What they have done is to bring back an amendment, which I accept does not go so far as those who would have liked ring-fencing would wish but which is, it seems to me, quite specifically designed to meet the concerns expressed in your Lordships' House and in another place. Therefore we have not received back the original amendment as it stood. We have it with an amendment which I should have thought takes account of some of the concerns that have been expressed.
Therefore the amendment should be seen positively in that light as a way of indicating once again that the concerns of your Lordships' House have been taken on board by another place, have been considered and at any rate in this amendment have been positively and partially met.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down would she confirm that she agreed with ring-fencing alcohol and drug projects? If I understood her aright, does that not undermine the whole of her argument against ring-fencing?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I do not think that it undermines the whole of my argument although we could debate that issue at length. The point which I was making was that the other place, having looked at the decision taken in this House and considered the views expressed in another place, has come back with another amendment to meet those views. I should have thought that that shows the value of your Lordships' House.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, perhaps I may speak briefly and reluctantly. I warmly welcome the concessions which provide some protection for certain vulnerable members of our community and for the Voluntary organisations which provide such immensely valuable services. However, like other Members of your Lordships' House who have already spoken, I am deeply disappointed that other groups—who are equally if not even more 1738 vulnerable—are not to be given comparably protected funding. I refer to the mentally handicapped, the disabled and the elderly in particular. We know that in the coming years not only will the numbers of the elderly increase but they will increase in terms of both physical infirmity and/or mental confusion. For example, the numbers expected to suffer from Alzheimer's disease over the next decade will increase dramatically and disturbingly.
Those people are least able to assert their rights or to articulate their needs. Very often such people are being cared for by friends and relatives who are themselves elderly and often in need of support. That point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The carers of these people as well as those directly in need, will often suffer as a result of this failure to achieve protected funding. I therefore believe that adequate resources need to be assured for those vulnerable groups and their carers, especially given the unfortunate record of some local authorities which in the past have not spent money in ways for which funding had been specifically intended.
I believe in the principle of accountability and the importance of flexibility. But I do not believe that it is right to adopt policies that are likely in some cases to jeopardise the welfare of those most in need of help and support. I therefore deeply regret that I cannot support the Government's policy on this issue. Had the matter gone to a vote I should have had to abstain.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, the noble Baroness was kind enough to mention me by name together with other noble Lords who spoke during the course of the Bill on amendments relating to alcohol and drugs. Without wishing to detract in any way from the sentiments that have been expressed by my noble friend Lady Seear and other noble Lords, I wish to confine my remarks to the concession that the Government have made. It is extremely welcome.
I receive many hundreds of letters from voluntary organisations on the difficulties faced because of the prospect of a hiatus of funding if not a complete lack of it. Although I understand exactly the view of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, I like to think that the Government took on board the representations that we made. I know that the noble Baroness received personal representations with great courtesy and sympathy; and we appreciate that enormously.
The voluntary agencies have heaved a sigh of relief and are most grateful for this concession. I hope that useful work will continue to be done in this appalling and, I am afraid, growing problem of drug and alcohol abuse.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I am also sad that the other place has not agreed to the Lords amendment on ring fencing. However, perhaps I may concentrate on some practical issues. I do so for the sake of social services departments throughout the country so that they clearly understand the position.
If there is not to be ring fencing, and if the local authorities' social services departments have to carry 1739 out their present statutory duties, I am not sure of the financial position. My noble friend Lady Hooper said that resources will be enhanced. I believe that my noble friend Lady Young also said that there would be money available. How will this money come to the social services departments? How are the resources to be enhanced? Local authorities must know that.
Perhaps I may say as one who has administered community care that it is an expensive alternative if it is to be done well. However, the most expensive area is that rehabilitating mental patients from mental hospitals. If there is not to be ring fencing for community care, can we have an assurance from the Minister that the mental hospitals now open will not close until the money is available? It is very important that that should be known to social services departments because there is already difficulty with regard to mental patients in the community. If we close more mental hospitals without further money for community care there will be even more trouble.
The present statutory duties of the social services departments are very heavy. There are not adequate resources to carry out their present statutory duties. A number of children on protection registers, for instance, are not being visited because there are not the social workers to do so. Without extra resources, how will the community care bill be administered?
The Children Act 1989 recently passed through this House. Perhaps I may compliment Her Majesty's Government. The way that Act was handled was quite outstanding. There was great consultation for two or three years before the Bill was debated. It was handled in this House very well and slowly by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. If well carried out, the provisions of the Act will be expensive. Unless there are the resources, how will that be done? In fairness to my colleagues in the social work field, it is right that we should know these factors. It is widely acknowledged throughout the country that extra money has been given for the training of social workers; but it is not enough. The training of social workers is inadequate at the moment. Where will that money come from? It has to come from the local authorities.
The Cleveland inquiry report recommended that representatives of social workers, health visitors, education and the law should meet together at conferences. I have been to several conferences lately. The one sector of people missing was the social workers because their local authorities could not afford to send them. Therefore they are not mixing as has been recommended in the Cleveland inquiry report.
I am sad at the decision of another place. We are a revising Chamber. By and large we tend to take a professional view of legislation. The other place tends to take a political view, with a few exceptions. But the other place is the elected Chamber. At this stage of the Bill I would not vote against this matter but abstain.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I am sure that the criterion for the decision of all noble Lords 1740 on the issue of ring fencing was to ask which was the most sensitive, attractive and cost-effective way of supporting vulnerable people in the community. Since I came to your Lordships' House I have never heard the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, speak so emotionally, and I am sure sincerely, as she has done now. She cares very much about this issue. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, too cares very much. He has played a great part. He felt that ring fencing was the best way to get resources to vulnerable people.
My view is already on record. I shall not reiterate it. I believe that the only person who has spoken in the debate so far who has experience of being an elected member in local authority is my noble friend Lady Young. My experience in a local authority is that there is no problem about getting the funds to vulnerable people. Occasionally there may be a problem about the funding of voluntary organisations because of a certain amount of jealousy within a local authority about their functions. Sometimes there is an argument for earmarking funding for voluntary organisations, as has now happened. Ring fencing has been deleted from the Bill and as it now stands it will enable councillors to carry out the job of helping vulnerable people.
It ill behoves your Lordships' House to underestimate local government as it has on this issue. Many of those people who support local government in other ways were the keenest to take away its decision-making. At the end of the day the right things happen in most councils; and the right things will happen in respect of vulnerable people. It is difficult to argue for roads as against social services when one is allocating budgets in council. There are far more votes for people than there are for roads and I believe that noble Lords who have been involved in local government will agree.
The community care function of local government will represent a large proportion of its duties and responsibilities. It is important that the central government funding of local government should allow for what it must do. It has been given a huge responsibility and the amount allocated to it will be difficult to fix at first. However, it would have been even more difficult to fix a ring-fenced budget. If the community care budget had been ring-fenced the discussion about the activities of local government would merely have been to the effect that it had not been given enough money. Now the discussion will be about the way in which local government is allocating its resources and taking on its new duties.
I hope that as a result of our discussion those who are worried about vulnerable people will not be blinded by the political nature of the discussion. I hope that they will appreciate that local councillors will now have a chance to do their job properly. Although they did not wish to be given a free rein they are having their duties imposed upon them. I believe that that can do nothing but good for the vulnerable people of this country.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, the noble Baroness has put her philosophy most clearly. However, can she reconcile it with the decision to ring-fence provisions for those who suffer from mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse?
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, mental illness is one of the difficult areas in local government—
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
There is an argument for ring-fencing. I would not have ring-fenced anything, but I take the point that when their budgets are stretched it is difficult for councils to decide adequately to fund voluntary organisations. Therefore, I can see the point of doing so. I am bound to admit that I would have given the job to local councillors, who I believe would have done it properly.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, at every stage of the Bill's passage through your Lordships' House I spoke on a subject about which I know a little—the treatment of drug and alcohol sufferers. I decided, therefore, to risk boring your Lordships by saying a few words this afternoon. I am not in the slightest bit interested in any of the party political debates, important though they may be. Neither am I interested in any disagreements that there may be between your Lordships' House and another place, interesting though they may be. I am interested in people who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction.
I do not know a great deal about local government finance. I do not know whether budgets should be ring-fenced or earmarked or whether money for them should be dropped like confetti from Heaven. I listened carefully to the debates in your Lordships' House as they moved from one side to the other, from those who were for ring-fencing to those who were against it. I am in favour of money reaching the right place, and for drug and alcohol sufferers that is the voluntary organisations.
Noble Lords opposite, the noble Lord, Lord Allen, in particular, have been worried about the fact that the Government do not appear to be keen on ring-fencing but are prepared to ring-fence budgets for drug and alcohol sufferers. We all know that there ate exceptions to every rule in the world and possibly this is the exception to that rule. I believe that the reason is simple. Every area of community care is most important and could use more money and resources. We all know and accept that.
I do not not know a great deal about the area of mental health but as regards drug and alcohol sufferers I know that hardly any money has ever reached them. That was not because the money was not available but because local authorities did not have the necessary expertise or knowledge and were unwilling to send the money. Let us admit that one possible reason is that drug and alcohol sufferers are tiresome clients.
I do not mind whether the money is ring-fenced or dropped like confetti. However, I mind about what we asked the Government to do in a variety of ways at the beginning of our debates. We asked them to provide for drug and alcohol sufferers somewhere on the face of the Bill. We said, "Hey, local authorities, here is a special group. At the moment it is not a large group but it is growing and we don't 1742 want that. We want you to concentrate on them". Those are my words, which could not be put on the face of the Bill, but that was what we asked of the Government. I do not mind in whichever way and in whichever clause the provision is included. Obviously your Lordships mind, but what is important is that the provision has been included.
I do not see that as being a complete U-turn. Noble Lords will remember that early in the proceedings my noble friend Lady Hooper brought forward an amendment in respect of an emergency assessment for that group. The Government thought about the matter after noble Lords on all sides of the House forcefully made their opinions known. They listened but possibly not at the beginning as hard as we should have liked. However, during the course of the Bill's progress through this House they listened a little harder.
By the end of the Report stage the only amendment which received all-party support and which was forcefully put and debated for the longest time related to drug and alcohol sufferers. It appeared to me to be obvious, therefore, that a caring, interested, listening government would go away and make changes to that part of the Bill. The Government did so. I can report to the House even more positively than the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. Late last night and early this morning I received several phone calls indicating that those in the voluntary organisations are dancing and leaping in the streets because they are delighted with the provision. It is what they want and need and it is what they have got. For that I thank my noble friend.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I arrived at the House this afternoon after 2 p.m. and read these amendments. I also read that the other place had accepted no fewer than 177 amendments to the Bill. Now we are debating a fairly narrow point. Having preceded the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, first as chairman and then as president of MENCAP, naturally I took on board what he said about the omission of provisions for the mentally handicapped in the Commons amendments to our amendments. I remind your Lordships that mentally handicapped people are now much better cared for. With the help of government funding in some cases, the voluntary organisations are providing a great deal of community care. MENCAP has a record of which it can be proud.
Bearing in mind the vast amount of legislation and the help that has already been given by central government, local authorities and voluntary organisations to the mentally handicapped, the question is: should we now have a conflict with the House of Commons on the issue raised by the noble Lord? He was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, with all his eloquence, who brought in the fact that this matter has been handled—and I agree with him—in rather a rush.
From my point of view the main question is that in trying to help the mentally handicapped is it vital that we should raise a conflict with the House of Commons on this narrow funding point, or should we say, "Thank goodness the Government have 1743 already done so much to help in this Bill and in other ways"? Speaking for myself, I am not prepared to vote against the Government on this.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, as my name was attached to the original amendment and, indeed, I spoke to it when it was agreed by your Lordships' Committee, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words. The concession on grants to voluntary organisations dealing with drugs and alcohol is very welcome as far as it goes. But we have already heard from those active in the field that it does not go very far.
I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, about the way in which the Government have been convinced by your Lordships. He overlooks the fact that at about midnight on Monday evening the Government voted down an amendment to give grants to voluntary organisations dealing with drugs and alcohol. Their conversion since Monday evening makes St. Paul on the road to Damascus look like a beginner.
Your Lordships should be aware of the crucial point of the ring-fencing or earmarking argument. If the ring-fencing amendment agreed by this House had been accepted by the Government, it would not have resulted in one extra pound of government expenditure over and above what they would have allocated without the amendment. We all know that the Government have to make calculations for the standard spending assessment of the amount which each local authority will need for community care and other statutory obligations contained in, for example, the Children Act and the Education Reform Act.
With the exception of the specific earmarked grants about which we have heard, the amount so calculated is the basis of the global revenue support grant. We have been told endlessly in the course of debates in this House and another place—and indeed we have heard it this afternoon from the Minister—that the Government will ensure that adequate resources will be available for community care. They will know if those resources are adequate only if they have done their sums correctly and they know the amount.
The amendment agreed by this House merely asked the Government to state specifically the amount which they had calculated would be required to implement community care. The local authorities would still be free to spend more than that sum if they wished but obviously not less. In rejecting the amendment, the Government's argument is that local authorities must be free to decide how much they spend on community care; in other words, they can spend more or less than the Government have allowed for in the revenue support grant. As has been expressed most graphically, that money could be spent on repairing holes in the road.
However, if the authorities wish to spend more, where is the money to come from? It can only come from raiding the budgets for other local authority services or by an increase in the poll tax. However, the Government have taken powers, and look like increasing them, to charge cap those authorities 1744 which in their view have a poll tax which is too high. As has been pointed out on a number of occasions in the course of the debates on the community care aspects of the Bill, the chances of a generous revenue support grant this year to meet the costs of community care are virtually nil. Any generosity in the support grant will be devoted to keeping down the level of the poll tax next year.
As a result of the Government rejecting the original amendment on ring-fencing, local authorities will now have an impossible equation to solve if they are to meet the present substantial level of unmet need for community care, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and all the new responsibilities which they must face next year. The reason for that is quite clear and we all know what that is. The Government are fully aware of the situation which I have described and are absolutely determined that all the failings in community care next year that will undoubtedly occur will be blamed on the local authorities and not on the Government whose responsibility it will most surely be.
§ Lord Swinfen
My Lords, we have been speaking for some time on this so I shall be as brief as possible. The various groups of disabled people who are not included in the other place's ring-fenced amendment are in many ways those who are least able to make their voices heard locally because of their disabilities. It will be said that their carers will do that for them, but that is quite wrong. For the most part the carers will be far too exhausted to try to do anything. They will be suffering under their burden.
I believe that with the Government's wish to bring care into the community, the care for those people is a national and not just a local responsibility, even if it is carried out by the local authorities as agents or trustees for the central authority. What worries me is that the quality of care, possibly even its quantity, will be extremely variable from one part of the country to another. Are we to have disabled people being moved by their friends and relatives from A to B in order to get the kind of care which they need and thus swamping that authority? I am very worried.
I could continue for a long time but I shall not do that because others have spoken far more eloquently than I can. However, I make one point. The amendments which have been returned to us from the other place are, very interestingly, all on the community care part of the Bill. We know that various timetable Motions were carried in the other place. When replying, can my noble friend on the Front Bench tell the House how many of the community care amendments were discussed at any stage in the other place because due to the timetable Motions I believe that certain parts of this Bill were not discussed at all? Therefore, it is very important that we who do not have timetable Motions should go through every Bill with a fine-tooth comb in order to give the other place the opportunity to discuss our amendments.
I gather—although I have not yet had time to study the Commons Hansard—that there were timetable Motions on the amendments we sent to them. I 1745 wonder how many of the community care amendments which we sent to them were discussed. I believe that this amendment was discussed because I think that I heard something about it on the radio. However, I should be interested to know what proportion of our amendments on community care were discussed and what proportion of the Bill as a whole was properly discussed in another place.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, before the noble Baroness speaks, perhaps I may be allowed to return briefly to the first part of the powerful opening speech of my noble friend Lord Ennals. He justifiably criticised the Government for insisting that this business should be tabled today before noble Lords are in possession of the debates in another place on the Commons amendments. That is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, made in his speech just now and he was quite right to do so.
It is quite wrong that noble Lords on all sides should be expected to conduct a debate on what is probably the most important Bill of the Session without having adequate time to read the debates in another place. I must make my protest once again.
Noble Lords opposite and the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is always helpful and courteous in these matters, was aware at the beginning of the week that we were very anxious about this matter. Representations were made through the usual channels that time should be allowed between the debates in another place and this debate. Those representations were rejected by the Government. That is not the way to treat this House; nor is it the proper way to conduct business here. I shall not go into the substance of the debate. I have been impressed by the speeches I have heard. But I must ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House whether he proposes to respond to the case made so well by my noble friend.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, are concerned about the timetabling of the business for today. At this stage of the Session in order to obtain agreement it is by no means unusual for the two Houses to take the final stages of a Bill on successive days. Notice of this was given a week ago through the usual channels. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that the Opposition were not happy about that.
I should like to make one final point. Throughout the passage of the Bill the Government tried to accommodate your Lordships' House, especially the Opposition, on the timetabling of the business. I can only express regret that with regard to this last day that has not met the approval of noble Lords opposite.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he recall any previous occasion when your Lordships have debated the Commons' handling of debates in your Lordships' House when we have not been able to have the relevant Hansard before us at the time when the votes were taken?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, he has been a Member of this House for some time, but perhaps not quite long enough to know that this has happened on a number of occasions. It was a matter which was looked at quite specifically by the committee set up by my noble friend Lord Whitelaw when he was Leader of the House. That committee came to the conclusion that whenever possible notice should be given; meaning that there should be a longish period, but only whenever possible.
In this case notice was given, but the noble Lord is saying that not enough notice was given. We have tried to accommodate the Opposition over the timetabling of the Bill as it has gone through. I can only express regret that on this final occasion noble Lords do not approve.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, if I may say so, it is not simply a question of timetabling. The tools of the trade are not available to the Opposition. Parliament is being treated very badly. It is not merely the matter of timetabling which causes concern but the fact that the Bill was guillotined; admittedly there was some discussion on this specific amendment last night, but there were subsequent amendments, to which we shall come shortly, on which there was no discussion, as has been said. They have simply been flung back in the face of your Lordships' House. It is unfortunate that the noble Lord the Leader of the House is apparently unimpressed by this argument.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I can speak only as the Leader of the House, and I think that it should be for the last time. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that this is precisely the reason that Commons Reasons are given. At this stage of the Bill it is Commons Reasons which need to be studied in order to see what line noble Lords should take. On this occasion, although one might be forgiven for forgetting it, those show that two quite valuable concessions have been made.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House said that the committee which looked at these matters advised that notice should be given "whenever possible". Can he say why it was not possible on this occasion?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, as the Leader of the House I shall answer that question. Noble Lords will notice from the Marshalled List that one of the reasons for disagreement is that the Bill should not be unreasonably delayed. That is the view of another place. It is that view which the Government put to your Lordships today.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, as my noble friend the Leader of the House has dealt more than adequately with the procedural matters, I am left with just a few responses to make to issues raised in the course of the debate.
Like my noble friend Lord Renton, I cannot agree that the Government have spurned the amendments made in this House as 177 out of 182 amendments were accepted, many being as has been 1747 acknowledged, concessions made in this House. Of the rejected amendments, a change has been offered in lieu of one—the amendment before us now—and, as I hope I shall be able to explain later, substantial progress has been made on the issue of criminal records.
Regarding the question raised by my noble friend Lord Swinfen, the discussion yesterday in the other place was in the area of community care. At Committee stage in another place no guillotine was exercised and therefore there was full and adequate opportunity for as much discussion on the community care aspects of the Bill as there was on the health aspects.
I was slightly accused of having spoken rather briefly today on this matter. I and my noble friends on the Front Bench previously addressed the issues at considerable length. In response to the Question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 cover both services and preventive measures in the drug and alcohol abuse areas. I am sorry if anything I said led the noble Lord to think otherwise.
The reason for our proposals for specific grants being in the area of mental illness services and services for drug and alcohol dependants, is that local authority services for these groups need considerable development from a low starting point, unlike the services for the mentally handicapped and elderly people, which are an established and longstanding part of local authority provision. My noble friend Lord Renton also reminded us that local authority expenditure on residential care homes and adult training centres for mentally handicapped people in England in real terms increased by 69 per cent. between 1979–80 and 1987–88; in the latter year expenditure was £314 million.
We have had lengthy discussion on this issue and indeed on the Bill as a whole in the course of our deliberations in this House. Nobody can or should accuse the House of skimping. On the question of resources, which was raised, among others, by my noble friend Lady Faithfull, we have always said that the policy will be properly resourced and the details dealt with in the public expenditure survey in respect of revenue support grant in the usual way. That will include the consultation process with the local authority associations. It will then be for local authorities to decide how to allocate resources between departments.
As I said on previous occasions, all the evidence suggests that social services departments fight their corner in these battles and are usually strikingly successful. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, there is no evidence to support the holes in the road theory that he put forward on the basis of experience.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, on a point of information, it was a point made by a Conservative Member of the other place. I was merely repeating it.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, that should prove to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that he should choose the people he quotes with great care.
1748 I conclude by saying that safeguards are in place. Not only the electorate, but certainly the Department of Health and, as we have been assured this afternoon, your Lordships' House will be vigilantly watching the way in which local authorities use their new responsibilities and resources.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.