Minister fears row over help for elderly

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Indy Politics
Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health, is urging Cabinet colleagues to postpone a White Paper giving hope to the elderly facing high costs for long-term care because he fears it will be seen as a bribe in next week's local elections.

Mr Dorrell fears that the consultation paper will become embroiled in a full-scale political row if it is published as planned two days before the local elections, in which the Tories are braced for heavy losses.

Postponing it could be embarrassing for the Prime Minister, who made a promise in his keynote speech to the Tory party conference in Harrogate that the paper would be published before the end of the month.

The insurance industry, which is likely to gain more business from the plans, is geared up for an announcement next Tuesday. The insurance company PPP, which advised the Government on the scheme, is one of the firms expecting it to be announced next week.

But the Independent has learnt that Mr Dorrell has urged Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for coordinating government announcements, to allow him to postpone the unveiling of the document until after the elections on 2 May.

The scheme will try to answer growing protests from "middle England" - the centre ground hotly contested by Labour - that elderly people are being forced to sell their homes to qualify for state-funded long- term care.

Mr Major told Tory supporters in March: "Next month, we'll set out our proposals to deal with this challenge to help protect the family home and lifetime's savings."

Under the scheme, people would be allowed to disregard the value of the insurance they take out against their assets, and they would qualify for state-aided long-term care; insurance valued at pounds 60,000 would allow up to pounds 60,000 in assets to be kept, before a person would lose state aid for long-term care.