Derby Telegraph Column

As published in the Derby Telegraph, 15th February 2013

Monday saw the long-awaited announcement by the Government of reforms to how care fees will be funded from 2017. Many of my constituents have long been concerned about the unfairness of having to sell their home to pay for care fees, and so seeing their assets’ which they worked hard to earn, dwindle away to £23,000. Successive governments have ducked this issue due to the significant cost of any reform. The changes proposed this week therefore represent a long overdue effort to produce a fairer position.

The proposals announced would see the means test level raised from £23,500 to £123,000 ie people with assets below £123,000 would get some help from the state towards their care fees. This will mean that many more people are helped than under the current system. There will also be a cap on the amount that people will have to pay for nursing care. This will be set at £75,000. While this is still a significant amount, for people who need substantial care for a long period, this will be a great help.

The policy is fully-costed and will be funded through the National Insurance changes announced in connection with the second state pension and by freezing the Inheritance Tax threshold for 3 years at £325,000. While many people will be concerned at the freeze in this threshold, I do consider the changes in funding for social care are so important that this represents real progress for the majority of people.

Parliament also considered this week the announcement on the 7 year budget for the European Union. The deal agreed by the Prime Minister, working with various allies including The Germans, Dutch and Swedish, includes the first ever reduction in the EU budget. As a result of the Prime Minister’s efforts, Britain will pay £500 million per year less than we would have under proposals for the budget proposed last year, when he abandoned negotiations because he couldn’t get assurances that the proposals were in the UK’s interest.

As one of the Conservative MPs who voted for a budget cut, rebelling against my own party whip, I wholeheartedly welcome the deal. Our contribution will increase due to disastrous decision by the previous Government to surrender some of our rebate, so there is still much to be done to make the overall position acceptable. The success of this negotiation does show that with effort we can reform EU matters to be closer to our national interest, even where there is some significant opposition.

There has also been much discussion this week over the scandal of horse meat being sold as beef in various products. It is clearly scandalous that this misselling has taken place and those who have perpetrated this should face the full force of the law. At this stage I can only hope that there are no health issues associated with this issue. The whole situation highlights the advantaged of buying quality, local Derbyshire produce. T try and support this, I and other local MPs are organising a food fair in Parliament next month to show off the great local food and drink produce that we have.