§ Order for Second Reading read.2.20 pm
§ Mr. Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North-West)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
As time is limited, I want to be sure that I give the Minister time to respond. The Bill is supported by the Carers National Association and by many prominent charities and voluntary organisations. I believe that it has and deserves the support of the House.
The aims of the Bill are, first, to give carers—many caring around the clock for people with Alzheimer's disease and other serious conditions—the right to have their own needs assessed by local authorities. Secondly, it will enable those local authorities to have the power to provide support and services. I am sure that all hon. Members who have met carers know that many of them are in desperate need of that support.
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Health for the way in which we have been able to engage in positive discussions with both him and with civil servants. None of us wishes to play politics with carers; this is an opportunity for the House as a whole to show its support, regard and recognition for carers.
Politicians often call for greater responsibility among families and citizens. I believe that the carers of Britain, who number 6.8 million, are among the most responsible citizens in this country. If politicians condemn irresponsibility from time to time, they must also recognise responsibility. I have been to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England—including Croydon—and I have met many carers. I have a high regard for them. I am struck by the modesty of their demands, given the immense burden of care that they shoulder on behalf of all of us. They are responsible citizens, who have conducted a highly responsible campaign about their needs.
We need one more act of responsibility, and that is for a united House of Commons to make a responsible decision to support the Bill.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Wicks) on his good fortune in securing a place in the ballot. That has enabled him to introduce this measure. I thank him for his kind comments in opening the debate. I thank everyone who sped through the Division Lobby to enable us to have time for at least a few words on the Bill.
This occasion takes me back to a date in 1990, when, as a Back Bencher, I first had the opportunity of moving a Private Member's motion after success in the ballot. On that occasion, I chose to raise the issue of disability. Central to my speech on 29 June, which I have re-read, was the issue of carers and their needs, so I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has chosen that subject.
I think back to a date in February 1991, when I introduced my own private Member's Bill, supported by a researcher by the name of Pitkeathley, who is not unrelated to Jill Pitkeathley, whose organisation, the 1370 Carers National Association, received a tribute from the hon. Gentleman. I share in the tribute to that organisation and to Jill Pitkeathley. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has worked at the measure.
I believe that the Carers National Association has done well by the carers of this country. I am pleased and proud that the Government have been able to support it and other caring organisations. They provide advice and support for carers. In considering this issue, we should first pay tribute, as the hon. Gentleman did, to the carers. There are an estimated 7 million informal carers, as he describes them. Without their support for people in need and who are vulnerable, frail and disabled, this country would not be such a good place in which to live.
Those people in need would have a life that was not as full or rich as that provided for them. Of course, carers take on burdens willingly. Society should support them so that they can do what they want to do: to go on caring. When I meet carers around the country, time and again they say, as I am sure they have said to the hon. Gentleman in recent weeks, "Don't take away this responsibility for caring. I don't want to lose it. I just want a bit of help to make it possible. In particular, I want a break."
That is why I am pleased to welcome the principles behind the Bill. They seek to put into statute what the Department for Health has been trying, through guidance, to bring about as best practice. I welcome that.
Textually, the Bill needs amendments—I know that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that.
§ Mr. Bowis
I am pleased to have his acknowledgment now. The Bill needs textual amendments to achieve what he is seeking and what the Government support. For example, the issue of young carers is important. I have personally taken up that issue. I have seen young carers struggling to go on caring, and to have a full and fair education and other opportunities as children. We must, however, consider the way in which the Children Act 1989 can support them, as well as the way in which the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Act 1992 can support their parents.
The definitions of a spouse and of an informal carer perhaps need to be widened. I pay tribute to the people we are seeking to support, who give their love, time and care to someone they love. They do not always receive thanks in return. Sometimes they suffer irritation. Sometimes it is worse—they can come to the end of their tether and end up in tears in the middle of the night.
A carer may be looking after someone after a long and happy marriage, which is ending with the husband or wife no longer recognising the carer because of mental frailty. It is the "give me a break" message that we are trying to respond to today. That is why the Government introduced the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Act, with its special place for carers' needs. That is why we support voluntary organisations that give support and advice to carers, why we have announced a further £30 million for 1371 respite care in the coming year and why I am pleased to support the principle of the Bill. I look forward to discussing it with the hon. Gentleman in Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could advise me how to get a Home Office Minister to explain to the House the treatment of an asylum seeker—Sita Kamara—whose case has already been raised this week.
Why was it necessary to send such large numbers of police into Campsfield house last night to take an 18-year-old who has been on hunger strike to Heathrow airport to try to deport her against the strong advice that has been received? I believe that her welfare and safety must be considered, and the Home Office should be made to explain to the House why it is treating her in this way.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman knows what tactics to use. He has used one, but it is not one on which the Chair can rule.