Keir Starmer has called Boris Johnson’s social care plan a “working-class dementia tax”, accusing the prime minister of breaking the Conservatives’ manifesto promise that no one would have to sell their home to pay care costs.
Challenged by the Labour leader about whether anyone would have to sell their home to pay for social care, Johnson gave a carefully worded answer.
“We are saying to the people of this country that we will disregard your home as part of your assets if you and your spouse are living in it; and No 2, you can have a deferred payment agreement if you move out of it, and you are living in residential care,” he said.
The prime minister added that the £86,000 lifetime cap on social care costs would mean “we are allowing the people of this country to insure themselves against the otherwise catastrophic costs of Alzheimer’s and dementia”.
Starmer accused the prime minister of describing the existing broken system: the value of a patient’s home is already disregarded, if they or their partner are living in it, and deferred payment schemes already exist in many areas.
Starmer repeatedly pointed out that under the plans, which were narrowly passed by MPs on Tuesday, individuals with assets worth just over £100,000 would ultimately lose much of the value of their property, whereas those with more valuable homes would be able to hand over a larger proportion to their families.
“He’s picked the pockets of working people to protect the estates of the wealthiest,” Starmer said, calling the scheme a “working-class dementia tax”.
Johnson was cheered by his own MPs at the start of his appearance, after a turbulent three-week period that included several backbench rebellions and some senior Tories expressing concern about his grip on government.
Starmer ribbed him about the disquiet of Tory MPs, asking: “Who knows if he’ll make it to the next election?” At another point, he quipped: “I think he’s lost his place in his notes again,” referring to Johnson’s rambling CBI speech on Monday.
“Is everything OK, prime minister?” the Labour leader added, prompting the prime minister to reply: “I tell you what is not working, is that line of attack,” to noisy cheers from his backbenchers.
Before responding to Starmer, the prime minister told the Labour MP Chris Bryant that the government would shortly announce a new cross-departmental strategy on acquired brain injuries – something Bryant has been campaigning for.
The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, intervened to urge MPs to behave calmly, warning that “shouting each other down doesn’t do you, or your constituents, any good”. He urged them to show the qualities of “kindness” and “decency” that he said were on display on Tuesday at the memorial service for the MP David Amess, who was killed last month.