Skip to main content

This week in Westminster - Tuesday 23 November

Kerri Prince, BASW UK Public and Political Affairs Lead, provides an update from Westminster

It is often said that a week is a long time in politics, but this past week feels exceptionally long.

Important policy announcements overshadowed by allegations of sleaze

It was only last week that MPs were (once again) debating and voting on MPs standards, due to the Owen Paterson case. The former MP resigned in recent weeks because of a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that found he had broken paid advocacy rules. 

While the behaviour and conduct of Members of Parliament is a fundamental aspect of our democracy, this meant that headlines were dominated by sleaze and corruption allegations, rather than important policy announcements such as those related to the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament.

Health and Care Bill

Last week it was announced that the Government would put an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which would put in law that only contributions made by the individual, and not the local authority, would count towards the cost of care cap. 

While most of Westminster still had their attention on MP misbehaviour, the sector was quickly turning their heads towards this announcement to establish to what extent this would help people with social care costs. The analysis of the announcement means that some of the least well off people will still have to sell their home to pay for care costs, despite promises from the Prime Minister that nobody would have to. 

Someone who owned a £1m house would be able to protect more than 90% of their asset, yet someone with a home valued at £70,000 in a less wealthy part of the country where house prices are cheaper, would lose almost everything.

This move triggered a Conservative backbench MP rebellion, with some voting against and many abstaining. Despite the hit to the Conservative majority in the House of Commons, the amendment passed last night (Monday 22 November) and it now stands as part of the Health and Care Bill. 

Tonight, Parliament will vote on the Third Reading of the Bill which will pass, and the Bill will then head to the House of Lords for more scrutiny.

A new PM?

While it is important to not pay too much attention to political gossip as it is often exaggerated, there appears to be an unusual amount of speculation that Conservative MPs are very unhappy with the Prime Minister. 

Why does this affect social work? Because unhappy Conservative MPs can replace their Leader – which means a change of Prime Minister as the Conservatives are in Government. A new Prime Minister means a change in policy.

Nationality and Borders Bill: BASW UK gives evidence to Joint Committee on Human Rights

Elsewhere, BASW UK was invited to appear in front of the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights to give oral evidence about the Nationality and Borders Bill that is also going through Parliament. BASW’s Head of Policy and Research, Luke Geoghegan, represented BASW at this committee and gave evidence to MPs and Peers including Harriet Harman, David Simmonds, and Lord Alf Dubs.

The Nationality and Borders Bill is yet to be scheduled for a date for its Report Stage and Third Reading, but BASW will be seeking to influence the contents of this Bill as it goes through the parliamentary processes.

'Bad news' before Christmas? 

Christmas is just around the corner, and Parliament will close for a few weeks from 16 December. This means that Government will be rushing through any changes – and using the festivity and cheer as a distraction to release ‘bad news’. It is a common parliamentary tool – announcing ‘bad news’ on the last day parliament sits so that people are distracted.

Mandatory vaccinations in health and care settings

One issue that is expected to come to Parliament before Christmas is the statutory instrument on mandatory vaccination for people who work in all health and care settings in England, which is due to come into effect from April. No date has been scheduled for this debate, but it’ll be one of several issues that the Government plans to deal with before their Christmas break.