Boris Johnson risks further anger amid accusations he has ‘watered down’ social care pledge after backtracking on ‘guarantee’ to protect homes
Boris Johnson risked further fuelling Tory anger over social care yesterday as he appeared to water down his pledge that no one will have to sell their home to pay for care.
The Prime Minister’s landmark plans have been at the centre of a row since last week when it emerged they would not be as generous to the less well-off as previously thought.
The proposals only narrowly cleared an early Commons hurdle on Monday, and are now facing the threat of being frustrated by the House of Lords.
But in a move that could provoke a further backlash, Mr Johnson yesterday seemed to downgrade a commitment on protecting people’s homes.
The Prime Minister risked further fuelling Tory anger over social care yesterday. The Prime Minister’s landmark plans have been at the centre of a row since last week when it emerged they would not be as generous to the less well-off as previously thought
He told ministers at a Cabinet meeting that no one would be ‘forced to sell a home they or their spouse is living in as it will not be counted as an asset’. This was less categorical than his manifesto pledge at the time of the last election, when he offered a ‘guarantee’ that no one needing care would have to ‘sell their home to pay for it’.
In fact, the newly-worded pledge is similar to the current system of means testing where people’s homes are not counted as assets provided they or their partner live in it.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman last night insisted the Government was taking the ‘correct approach’ when asked if the remarks to Cabinet were an admission some people may still have to sell their homes to pay for care.
Mr Johnson already faces a battle to get his social care reforms through Parliament after he pushed through changes that will mean far more people than expected will have to pay up to the full £86,000 cap on costs. It had been thought care costs paid by councils to poorer people would count towards the limit, but now they will not.
The Government’s majority was slashed to 26 on Monday evening as Tory MPs staged a revolt over the change.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, last night urged peers to overturn the change. She said: ‘No one disputes the amendment significantly waters down the plan for a cap on catastrophic care costs, and does so in a way that protects only the better off.
‘This means the people most in need of protection against the risk of their care bills wiping out all their assets are least likely to receive it.’
Nikki da Costa, who was Mr Johnson’s director of legislative affairs in No10 until only a few months ago, warned that the back-and-forth between the Commons and Lords could drag on and will make for ‘tense handling’.
Boris Johnson ‘watered down’ a pledge no one will have to sell their home to pay for care
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff said the House of Lords will scrutinise the Government’s social care reform ‘very, very carefully’. The professor of palliative medicine, a crossbencher, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We will do what the Lords does well, which is go over every line and discuss everything. We will want to see the assessment, too, of the overall funding.
‘I don’t think there will be any quick response one way or another… we will spend quite a bit of time scrutinising.’
She said the Lords could ask the Commons to ‘think again’, or ‘may come up with constructive amendments to improve what is on the table at the moment because, clearly, there’s a lot of disquiet’.
Mr Johnson suffered another sizeable Tory rebellion last night as a former health secretary pushed for more medics to be trained. A total of 18 Conservative MPs backed a Health and Care Bill amendment which sought to introduce better workforce planning for care in England.
The division list showed Jeremy Hunt, the architect of the amendment, was supported in the division lobbies by 17 colleagues, including former cabinet ministers Greg Clark, Esther McVey and Chris Grayling. But his proposal was ultimately rejected by 280 votes to 219 – a majority of 61.