Thursday, 9 September 2021

The Return of Parliament

This week Parliament has returned with some key arguments on the ongoing difficulties in Afghanistan and a big debate about how we fund adult social care.  It is the return of Parliament in more than one sense because it is also the first time in over a year that Parliament has been sitting properly without social distancing. 

During the lockdown, like every other working environment, there were restrictions with strict limits on how many MPs could be in the chamber at any one time, electronic voting and social distancing measures.  The return of voting in the old fashioned way with MPs passing through voting lobbies to be counted as a reminder of what we lost during the lockdowns.  The ability to bump into people and have open, chance conversations about issues or problems other MPs want to raise; the ability to attend events and proper meetings of the Cabinet around a table rather than on a zoom call.  Our democracy relies on those personal interactions and while we have all made things work as best we can over the last eighteen months, there is no substitute for meeting people in person.

The issue that has dominated debate this week has been the new proposals on how to fund social care in old age.  This has been a growing problem over many years.  Under the current rules, those who end up in residential care homes at the end of their life have to pay the full cost of their care until they are down to their last £23,000.  Many have to sell their home or use all their life savings and it has been seen as unfair for years.  Under the new proposals, any contribution will be capped at £86,000 and there will be a taper so that those with assets worth less than £100,000 will get help with the costs.  To fund the cost of care in old age, there will be a new levy attached to National Insurance Contributions that will be ring-fenced for the NHS.  New taxes or contributions will always cause some controversy but people also recognise that, if we want to tackle difficult issues like social care costs, we need to be realistic about how to fund them.
The return of parliament meetings properly has also created the possibility for events and engagement with external organisations again.  This week I spoke at an event organised by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England on the theme of hedgerows in the farmed landscape and how we can create new ones and better manage the ones we have.  When hedges were torn down in the post-war years, we lost a lot of nature along the way. Hedges are probably the single most important ecological building blocks in our farmed landscape today and if we manage them sensitively and create new ones, the impact on nature could be significant which is why financial support aimed at hedges will be a key feature of our new agriculture policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.