Storm as min­is­ter says: Don’t see home as an as­set to leave your kids

No 10 forced to re­as­sure mid­dle class pen­sion­ers

Daily Mail - - News - By Daniel Mar­tin Pol­icy Ed­i­tor

DOWN­ING Street yes­ter­day slapped down a min­is­ter who said pen­sion­ers should not think of their homes as an as­set to pass on to their chil­dren.

Care Min­is­ter Jackie Doyle-Price was recorded on film say­ing tax­pay­ers should not be ‘prop­ping up’ the el­derly so they can keep their homes de­spite build­ing up ‘mas­sive’ care costs.

She told a fringe event at the Tory con­fer­ence that when it comes to their homes, peo­ple see them­selves as ‘the cus­to­dian of an as­set to give to their off­spring’, adding: ‘They shouldn’t be seen as that.’

The Prime Min­is­ter’s spokesman re­jected the com­ments, say­ing fam­i­lies who have worked hard should be able to pass their homes on.

Labour seized on Miss Doyle-Price’s in­ter­ven­tion, say­ing it proved the Con­ser­va­tives were re­viv­ing the so- called ‘de­men­tia tax’, which dam­aged Mrs May’s chances dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion. It came just days after it was re­vealed that the Gov­ern­ment is drop­ping its pledge to bring in a cap of around £75,000 on so­cial care costs by 2020.

The de­lay means thou­sands will con­tinue to be de­nied much of their in­her­i­tance if their par­ents have care needs.

Miss Doyle-Price’s in­ter­ven­tion comes after an­other min­is­ter, Dr Phillip Lee, sug­gested Bri­tons have be­come too ‘self­ish’ and were ‘out­sourc­ing’ the care of their loved ones.

Un­der Eng­land’s bro­ken care sys­tem, those who go into a res­i­den­tial home have to use their own as­sets to pay the full costs of their care un­til they are re­duced to their last £23,500.

The Tory elec­tion man­i­festo said these rules should be extended to those homes. re­ceiv­ingThe plan care wasin their quick­ly­own dubbed the ‘de­men­tia tax’.

In the new footage, which was re­leased by Labour, Miss Doyle-Price said: ‘The re­al­ity is that the tax­payer shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be prop­ping up peo­ple to keep their prop­erty and hand it on to their chil­dren when they’re gen­er­at­ing mas­sive care needs. ‘We’ve got to a stage where peo­ple feel that they are the cus­to­dian of an as­set to give to their off­spring but ac­tu­ally we need to get back to a stage where ac­tu­ally homes are for liv­ing in.’ She added: ‘Peo­ple are now well into their pen­sion ages sit­ting in homes that really are too big for their needs and we really do need to start hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions about what’s ap­pro­pri­ate ear­lier.’ Asked whether Mrs May agrees with Miss Doyle-Price, the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fi­cial spokesman said: ‘We have said that where there are care bills, it is right that where peo­ple can con­trib­ute, they do so.

‘But the Prime Min­is­ter has also said that where peo­ple have worked hard all their lives to build up these as­sets, they should be able to pass that on to their chil­dren. This is a com­plex is­sue with an age­ing pop­u­la­tion. The Gov­ern­ment has said that it will be bring­ing for­ward pro­pos­als in due course. In the mean­time we’ve put an ex­tra £2bil­lion into so­cial care to deal with some of these is­sues.’

Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn said: ‘The idea of a “de­men­tia tax” was rightly re­jected by the public dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion. It is ap­palling that the Tories still want to force older peo­ple to pay for care with their homes. Labour will pro­vide hope for older peo­ple and treat them with the re­spect they de­serve by in­vest­ing an ex­tra £8bil­lion in so­cial care and es­tab­lish­ing a na­tional care ser­vice to re­verse years of Tory de­cline.’

Econ­o­mist Sir An­drew Dil­not, the ar­chi­tect of the Tories’ pledge to cap sky-high care bills, yes­ter­day re­peated his call for such a sys­tem to be in­tro­duced.

‘Propped up by the tax­payer’

HOW right the Amer­i­can poet was when he wrote that of all the sad words of tongue and pen, the sad­dest were these: ‘It might have been!’ If only, if only, my ven­er­a­ble late par­ents had kept the house in which I was born, I wouldn’t be sit­ting in this of­fice to­day, a wage-slave strug­gling to piece to­gether an­other col­umn.

Don’t tell Mrs U, but I’d be lux­u­ri­at­ing on a swanky yacht, per­haps some­where in the Adri­atic, en­joy­ing a pint and a fag.

As it was, some time in the late Fifties my par­ents sold that mod­est, but pretty semi, on the bor­der of Jeremy Cor­byn’s Is­ling­ton con­stituency, in whose front bed­room I gave vent to my first wail.

If I re­mem­ber rightly — an in­creas­ingly big if these days — my fa­ther got £4,000 for it (roughly £88,000 in to­day’s money). He thought he’d made a killing, hav­ing bought it for half that sum a few years ear­lier. When I looked it up on the Zoopla prop­erty-price web­site yes­ter­day, I saw that the identical other half of the semi went on the mar­ket ear­lier this year at a guide price of £4,500,000. Hell’s teeth!

Wealth

Apart from a brief pe­riod of home­own­er­ship in the Six­ties, when the fam­ily moved to Kint­bury in Berk­shire, my par­ents then rented for the rest of their lives.

The up­shot was that on my fa­ther’s death in 1988, the sum to­tal of my in­her­i­tance from this great Tory thinker — one of Lady Thatcher’s favourite gu­rus, who be­lieved strongly that wealth should be handed down from one gen­er­a­tion to the next — was a sin­gle, soup-stained tie. The fam­ily felt that I should have it, since it bore the crest of the Cam­bridge col­lege he and I both at­tended.

Oh, well, it’s no use cry­ing over spilt soup, and I cer­tainly don’t ex­pect any­one to weep for me. In fact, my in­her­i­tance from my par­ents — a happy child­hood, a good ed­u­ca­tion and a keen sense of the dif­fer­ence be­tween right and wrong (though I don’t al­ways choose the for­mer) — was a trea­sure far more valu­able than the mil­lions I might have shared with my sib­lings if things had been dif­fer­ent. I know that I’ve been blessed. But that’s enough piety.

It is per­haps be­cause of what might have been — and wasn’t — that I have mixed feel­ings about the so­cial care min­is­ter’s as­ser­tion, re­vealed this week, that pen­sion­ers should not re­gard their homes as ‘an as­set to give to their off­spring’.

Says Jackie Doyle- Price ( no, me nei­ther), it is un­fair to ex­pect younger tax­pay­ers to ‘prop up peo­ple to keep their prop­erty’ when it could be sold to help pay for their care needs.

Thus, this ob­scure min­is­ter has reignited the pre- elec­tion row over Theresa May’s plan for fund­ing res­i­den­tial care — dev­as­tat­ingly dubbed a ‘de­men­tia tax’ by Labour — which more than any other sin­gle fac­tor cost the Tories their over­all ma­jor­ity.

A part of me sides pas­sion­ately with my fa­ther’s be­lief that pri­vate prop­erty is the bedrock of free­dom, and wealth should be al­lowed to cas­cade through the gen­er­a­tions. After all, there is no more pow­er­ful hu­man in­stinct — Har­vey We­in­stein’s urges aside — than the de­sire to look after our young. That goes equally for the inheritors of multi-mil­lion-pound houses and those who get noth­ing more than soup-stained ties.

In­deed, it has of­ten struck me that Marx’s Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo — bi­ble of the creepy Shadow Chan­cel­lor, John McDon­nell — goes wrong from its very first sen­tence when it glibly as­serts: ‘The his­tory of all hitherto ex­ist­ing so­ci­ety is the his­tory of class strug­gles.’

No, it isn’t. The his­tory of most hitherto ex­ist­ing so­ci­ety is surely the his­tory of fam­ily life.

By this I mean that from time im­memo­rial, un­told mil­lions in every in­come group or line of work have cared far more about putting food on their fam­ily ta­ble, and want­ing the best for their young, than about the great events and clashes of in­ter­est that pre­oc­cupy his­to­ri­ans.

Scrimped

As for my­self, I ad­mit that I’ve writ­ten some pretty harsh things over the years about my long-suf­fer­ing sons. But they are the first peo­ple I’d try to res­cue from any fire. And even I, cal­lous fa­ther though I am, want them to have any­thing that’s left when my wife and I are dead.

Ideally, this would in­clude the sub­ur­ban semi we bought in 1987. To avoid rais­ing false hopes, how­ever, I should point out that: (a) it’s worth less than a fifth the value of the house in which I was born; and (b) since I also in­her­ited my fa­ther’s in­com­pe­tence with money, along with the tie, the house will have to serve as a pen­sion for my­self and my wife.

So even if the so­cial care min­is­ter is thwarted in her de­sire to seize it, it’s un­likely we’ll be able to avoid sell­ing up.

But apart from my nat­u­ral Tory in­stincts, there’s one other con­sid­er­a­tion that turns me against the bossy Ms Doyle- Price. Un­der her plan, wastrels who’ve squan­dered ev­ery­thing on loose liv­ing would be deemed en­ti­tled to free res­i­den­tial care.

Mean­while, those in the next room, who have scrimped and saved to buy homes, would be pe­nalised by be­ing forced to sell. This is not only man­i­festly un­fair, but a strong dis­in­cen­tive to pru­dence and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

No, there’s an ob­vi­ous and fair so­lu­tion to the care cri­sis. In­stead of re­buk­ing us older folk for liv­ing in houses she judges too big for us, Ms D-P should in­tro­duce a prop­erly funded, ring-fenced na­tional in­sur­ance scheme to look after those no longer able to fend for them­selves.

In­deed, this was the orig­i­nal in­ten­tion of NI con­tri­bu­tions, be­fore light-fin­gered min­is­ters be­gan plun­der­ing the fund to sup­ple­ment gen­eral tax­a­tion.

Life­long

But I said I had mixed feel­ings, and this is why. The fact is that, thanks to politi­cians’ dis­hon­esty, no such fund ex­ists. Which leaves us with a deeply un­com­fort­able choice: ei­ther those who have as­sets enough to af­ford it should be made to pay for their care — whether be­fore or after death — or else taxes must be in­creased (or spend­ing cut else­where) to cover the in­creas­ing costs of our age­ing pop­u­la­tion.

This is where, with a heavy heart, I feel the off-putting Ms D-P may have a point. Yes, in an ideal world, the State would pick up the tab for every life­long con­trib­u­tor to NI who is un­for­tu­nate enough to need so­cial care. But in this hor­ri­bly im­per­fect world, Tories who share my be­lief in self-re­liance must surely ask them­selves a tricky ques­tion.

Isn’t it much more by good luck than by home- own­ers’ good man­age­ment that houses, par­tic­u­larly in the South-East, have rock­eted in value over the past few decades (though few by as much as my Is­ling­ton birth­place)?

So why should strug­gling tax­pay­ers in gen­eral be landed with the bills for our bad luck in need­ing res­i­den­tial care, while we as in­di­vid­ual home-own­ers are left to reap all the ben­e­fits of our good luck in own­ing as­sets worth more than we paid for them?

But let me end with my three-point, fam­ily-friendly plan for solv­ing the so­cial care cri­sis and keep­ing the highly dan­ger­ous mem­ber for Is­ling­ton North out of of­fice (if you think he’ll re­spect your prop­erty rights, think again!).

Point one: re­store Na­tional In­sur­ance to its orig­i­nal pur­pose, with con­tri­bu­tions prop­erly cal­cu­lated to cover the fund’s li­a­bil­i­ties. Point two: build more houses — a great many more — to spread the joys and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of home­own­er­ship to the dis­af­fected young.

And point three? It’s an idea as old as the hu­man species it­self: if our sons and daugh­ters wish to in­herit our homes, how about en­cour­ag­ing them to look after us in our dotage, in­stead of throw­ing us on the mercy of a mer­ci­less state?

Fringe event: Jackie Doyle-Price

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