John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): What legal costs his Department has incurred in legal proceedings involving disabled people relating to the under-occupancy penalty and the closure of the independent living fund. 
The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): The Government have robustly defended their policies in relation to the closure of the independent living fund and the removal of the spare room subsidy. The total known legal costs to date, in respect of both policies where disability formed part of the grounds of the claim, are £415,000: £236,000 for the ILF and £178,000 for the removal of the spare room subsidy.
John Healey: That is a part answer to a very direct question about the cost to the taxpayers of Government lawyers defending the indefensible—axing the ILF and introducing the hated bedroom tax. Will the Minister not recognise that many severely disabled people flourish with the fund but are now frightened of losing their independence when he shuts it down next year? He might have won the legal case this year, but he has lost the moral and policy arguments, so even at this 11th hour will he rethink the protection available to ILF users?
Mr Harper: No, I will not. I have talked to disability organisations about this matter, and they agree with the Government. More than 1 million people get social care through the mainstream social care system. The Government are not making any savings by moving the ILF to local authorities and devolved Administrations, and we are working closely with each local authority to ensure that the amount of money being transferred at the point of closure next year will be exactly what is needed and what is being spent by the ILF, meaning that disabled people will be protected.
Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Some £4.3 billion has been taken out of adult social care budgets over the past four years because of the Government’s cuts. If that funding transfers across, as is planned, it will plug only a very small part of the gap. If they will not rethink this policy, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) just suggested, will Ministers require that the funding be ring-fenced to ensure that 70 people in Salford and 18,000 people across the country with disabilities can look forward to keeping their independence and to this continuing support?
Mr Harper: Of course local government has had to play its part in the savings, but local authorities can make choices. My local authority in Gloucestershire has protected the value of social care because it thinks that protecting older people—[Interruption.] No, my local authority has faced cuts, like all local authorities, but it has chosen to—[Interruption.] If Opposition Members want me to answer their hon. Friend’s question, they should stop yelling. My local authority has prioritised funding for older people and people of working age. Clearly, the hon. Lady’s local authority has made different decisions. If those on her local authority want to ring-fence the money transferred from the ILF, they are absolutely free to do so, so I suggest she take that up with them.
8 Dec 2014 : Column 632
We want to thank John Healey MP for raising these questions
But other questions arise: which disability organisations did Harper speak to and why did they agree with the Government that closing ILF was a good thing for disabled people with high support needs and their employees? Did Harper speak to ILF users?
Watch this space……