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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reneging on manifesto promises

Yesterday I got to try out the Presiding Officer's chair for a few minutes so as to give John Marek a break. This is a privilege made available to Committee Chairs, who are allowed to stand in for 15 minutes when neither the PO or the DPO are available. Up front everything is paperless, with lists of speakers and a script available electronically on the desk computer.

In a way I was glad that I was not asked to chair the statement on free personal care for the disabled as this got fairly lively and for good reason. A Government Minister came to the chamber to tell us that he was going to break a manifesto promise and he could barely bring himself to apologise.

The issue is that Labour stood in 2003 promising free home care for the disabled. But now they are tearing up their manifesto, pledge by pledge. Their failure to establish whether their promises could be delivered has effectively resulted in the betrayal of disabled people, their carers and their families.

The package of measures the minister announced will undoubtedly help many people but it falls a long way short of what we were expecting. It is a major blow to a group of people who were expecting to hear good news. This is in complete contrast with the Liberal Democrats who campaigned at the 2005 general election promising to provide free personal care, costed the proposal to make sure it could be afforded, and have delivered it in Scotland where we are in government.

Even within the health budget, we have seen a failure to prioritise. The view taken by Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Jenny Randerson yesterday was that this specific promise to give free personal care to disabled people should have been a greater priority for this Labour government than free prescriptions to all - even the wealthy and relatively healthy.

The question now is who will be able to trust Labour when it comes to their 2007 Manifesto pledges?
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