Free personal care bill faces general election deadline

The government’s battle to pass legislation to introduce free personal care at home before the general election looks set to go right down to the wire.

The Personal Care at Home Bill‘s final House of Lords debate, the third reading, is now scheduled for 24 March – the Wednesday of what is expected to be the final week of parliamentary business before a 6 May election.

The issue has become more pressing for ministers as the bill’s report stage in the Lords, which was originally due to take place on Monday (8 March), is now scheduled for 17 March.

With the government commanding just 211 of the 706 seats in the Lords and facing opposition from the Liberal Democrats, crossbenchers and a number of Labour peers, it is expected that the Lords will push through a number of anti-government amendments at the report stage.

Should these be ratified in the third reading, the bill would then have to go back to the House of Commons in amended form and would only pass into law should both Houses agree before dissolution.

Though the Conservatives have not opposed the bill, they have been heavily critical of the costs of its central pledge of introducing free personal care at home for people with high needs. This creates doubts over whether a future Tory administration, committed to cutting the public sector deficit, would take up the legislation should it not pass into law before the election.

Polling day could be delayed until 3 June but is widely tipped to take place on 6 May, coinciding with local elections.

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