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Furious Tories Threaten A "Sizeable" Rebellion Over "Less Fair" Social Care Reforms

4 min read

Furious Tory MPs are threatening to disobey the Prime Minister when the House of Commons votes on social care finance plans which are set to hit poorer northern pensioners the hardest.

One senior Conservative said the government is in "potential defeat territory" over the proposals which stipulate that local government grants will not count towards the £86k care costs cap, as was previously promised. 

This change would see less well off pensioners paying a greater proportion of their overall assets on their care compared than wealthier people. Those with £106k in assets would be most affected, and would particularly impact people in the north where house prices are lower.

After a difficult few weeks in Westminster, where the government has faced severe criticism over sleaze allegations and downgraded northern rail plans, many Tories are once again feeling the bite of an unpopular policy and are believed to be plotting to abstain or vote against the government in large numbers. 

Former chief whip Mark Harper is among the first to say publicly that he will vote against the policy.

He Tweeted: "[Department for Health and Social Care] Ministers haven’t properly worked with the sector or MPs to explain their thinking or decisions.

"DHSC Ministers should withdraw the amendment tonight and include their proposal in the White Paper on social care due before the year end."

Another senior Tory believed it was important for MPs to demonstrate that the government could not keep pushing through changes they would find increasingly difficult to justify to constituents. 

"The colleagues I've spoken to feel that the government is doing so badly, it needs to lose," they told PoliticsHome. 

"They need their nose bloodied on this issue."

The senior MP believed they were being whipped to vote for a "less fair" deal on social care, which could prove too much of a "hard sell" for many. 

"You only need 40 Tories to rebel for the government to lose, and there will be abstentions, and I understand the SNP is going to vote against, which puts the government potentially in defeat territory," they added.

It is understood that Conservative MPs in northen seats, where people will be hit the hardest by the change, and the One Nation group, chaired by former Cabinet minister and first secretary of state Damian Green, are united in their dissatisfaction on the issue. 

WhatsApp groups made up of a sizable number of Conservatives are believed to have been dominated by serious concern over the policy change all weekend. 

"I actually think the rebellion is going to be quite big," the senior Tory MP added. 

Conservative MPs have been issued with a three-line whip to vote on the amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill put down by Health Secretary Sajid Javid in the Commons today, which details the specifics of how the care cap of £86k will work.

There is hope among some that the government will offer a last minute concession on their proposal, or even that they could pull the amendment after hearing the barrage of concerns from unhappy colleagues in today's debate, and allow for more discussions to go ahead tomorrow. 

But not everyone is opposed to the social care amendment, with some telling PoliticsHome they plan to vote with the government without hesitation.

One Tory MP, elected in 2019, believed colleagues were "not overly animated" on the issue.

Another did not think the amendment was ideal, but said it still represented an improvement, and planned to vote for it. 

"You can't let perfect be the enemy of the good, given how bad the current system is," they said. 

One MP was sceptical there would ultimately be enough rebels for the government to face defeat, but admitted that "many colleagues are uncomfortable" with supporting the amendment. 

"Northern colleagues certainly feeling the pinch more,” they added. 

Tories with southern seats, where average house prices exceed £100k, and are therefore less likely to be affected by the change, are said to be less concerned. 

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said this morning that No.10 continued to listen to concerns raised around the policy. 

“But we continue to believe that this is a system that is necessary, fair and responsible. The system benefits those who are the worst off," they added. 

“Currently, anyone with assets over £23,350 pays for their care costs. Under the new system anyone with assets under £20,000 will not have to pay anything at all for their care assets, ensuring those with the least are protected.”

They suggested that ministers were not looking to amend the wording of the Bill ahead of the vote later, adding that the government felt the current proposals “strike the necessary balance”.

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