Conservative Diary

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Conservatives highlight the Labour threat to benefits for the disabled as the Government's Care Bill is savaged by its own peers

Picture 23 The first principal Conservative line of attack on yesterday's Queen's Speech was about what was not in it rather than what was - in reference to the omission of the legislation as recommended by Sir Chistopher Kelly in his recent report on MPs' pay, allowances and expenses.

Today, the party is turning its attention to the Care Bill, which has been savaged by senior Labour peers in the Times splash this morning.

Lord Lipsey, a former member of the Royal Commission on Long-Term Care, gives this verdict:

“I’m not looking forward to the night of the next general election but, if the result goes as I expect, one of the consolations will be that one of the most irresponsible acts to be put forward by a prime minister in the recent history of this country will be swept away with his government."

Meanwhile, former health minister Lord Warner opines that “there has been no proper impact assessment, and no data to show how this would work”.

This morning, Andrew Lansley and Theresa May, shadow the Health and Work and Pensions briefs respectively, are to launch a campaign highlighting the threat to benefits for some of the most vulnerable in society posed by Labours plans, as the Daily Mail explains:

"The Conservatives will today pledge to maintain attendance allowance and disability living allowance for the over-65s - two payments said to be earmarked for the chop by Labour. The benefits, which are not means tested, are claimed by almost 2.5million people to help them lead independent lives.

"Labour says it needs to consider absorbing the payments into general social care funding schemes under its new so-called National Care Service. This will include an insurance scheme designed to prevent elderly people from having to sell their homes to pay for residential care. They say the axed benefits will be replaced by 'equivalent' benefits, but ministers have given no details or any guarantee the replacements will not be means tested.

"Some 1.6 million people claim attendance allowance, a weekly payment of £47.10 or £70.35 given to pensioners with disabilities to spend on whatever personal care they need. Another 800,000 over-65s are on disability living allowance. The average income of a pensioner is around £250 a week - meaning some may lose around a quarter of their income if the benefits are scrapped, according to the Tories. On average, they would lose £3,400 a year."

On this issue, David Cameron told Labour MPs in the the Commons yesterday that "if they thought that the abolition of the 10p tax was bad, they just need to wait for the small print of the Government’s new care service" and pledged to fight the scrapping of the benefits as outlined above "every step of the way".

Jonathan Isaby


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