Tory social care rebellion grows as ex-chief whip calls on Boris Johnson to withdraw controversial plans

PM’s scheme would hit poorer pensioners and people with chronic conditions, says Mark Harper

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 22 November 2021 17:03
Former Immigration Minister Mark Harper
Former Immigration Minister Mark Harper

The Tory revolt over social care has escalated ahead of a crunch Commons vote this evening, with a former party chief whip calling on Boris Johnson to withdraw controversial plans for a cap on lifetime costs.

Mark Harper said the scheme, slipped out without fanfare last week, risks disadvantaging poorer pensioners as well as people with chronic health conditions.

He said that ministers from the Department of Health and Social Care had failed to explain the thinking behind the decision to change the way the threshold for payments is calculated in a way which protects the wealthy but means the less well-off are more likely to lose their homes.

His intervention, just hours before MPs vote on the scheme, will increase pressure on Mr Johnson to amend his proposals.

Mr Harper - who stood against Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019 - is reported to have railed against the plans in an emergency call with care minister Gillian Keegan on Friday afternoon.

A number of MPs, including several from the North of England where voters would be particularly disadvantaged by the change to the scheme, are said to have told Ms Keegan that the plan was poorly thought-out and unfair.

Now Mr Harper has gone public with his concerns in a series of tweets, in which he said he would vote against the government on Monday evening.

“The government amendment on social care…  makes a significant change to how the cost cap works,” said Mr Harper.

“It potentially disadvantages the less well-off and those of working age with life-long conditions. I will be voting against “DHSC ministers haven’t properly worked with the sector or MPs to explain their thinking or decisions.

“As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Learning Disability, I want to make sure we focus on working-age adults, not just older people, unlike these proposals.”

He added: “DHSC ministers should withdraw the amendment tonight and include their proposal in the White Paper on social care due before the year end.

We can then discuss and consider it properly with all the facts at our disposal.

“I want our social care reforms to work.”

Mr Harper was backed by Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris, who said: “There’s no reason why this change needs to be rushed through now.

“Makes far more sense to wait and have a proper debate once everybody has had a chance to see what is in the White Paper.”

The government announced in September plans for an £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs to be put in place from October 2023.

The scheme, finally fulfilling the promise of care system reform proposals which Mr Johnson made on his first day as prime minister, also envisaged that people with assets of up to £20,000 would not have to contribute anything to their care, while those with assets of up to £100,000 would be eligible to receive some local authority support.

But the policy paper released last Wednesday - just five days before this evening’s vote - revealed that any state contribution towards the cost of care will not count towards an individual’s £86,000 cap.

The effect of the change is that people with assets totalling less than £106,000 could see as little as 20 per cent of the value of their home protected, while those with £500,000 will be able to keep 80 per cent or more.

Government minister Paul Scully admitted today that some people could be forced to sell their homes to pay for care under the new system.

“There will be fewer people selling their houses and hopefully none,” business minister Mr Scully told Sky News when asked about the change.

Pushed on whether anyone would have to sell their homes to pay for care Mr Scully replied: “I can’t tell you what individuals are going to do.

“What I’m saying is the social care solution is all about getting a cap above which you do not need to pay - that gives people certainty.”

Former Tory cabinet minister Robert Buckland suggested he would vote against the changes, and urged the government to “look again”.

“We’re in danger of putting the cart before the horse,” he warned. “There’s a lot of concern out there about this issue and I know the government is listening to those concerns.”

Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, questioned the impact of the proposals on poorer communities, particularly in the north, telling The Independent: “I’m very concerned about what I’ve seen of the changes so far.

“The whole purpose of this should be to protect the assets of those who have the least.

“We can’t end up in a situation where those with the least – who’ve worked just as hard as other people – who happen to live in areas with lower house-price growth are thereby paying the same as people who’ve benefitted from house prices just because of where they live.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in