Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Paul Burstow MP Lib Dem, Sutton and Cheam

Why have you introduced your Private Member's Bill?

The Care of Older and Incapacitated People (Human Rights) Bill introduces a simple amendment to the Human Rights Act that will widen the definition of public authority to embrace all care providers covered by the Care Standards Act. The amendment is intended to address the legal protection gap that exists when you cross the threshold between public provider and private or voluntary sector providers.

What else does it do?

It establishes a tighter framework for nutritional standards in care homes. The third strand will implement the recommendations of the Law Commission's report from more than 10 years ago, which identifies weaknesses in the system for protecting vulnerable adults.

Will your Bill fare better than similar amendments to the Equality Bill?

My view is that it's a cumulative process of lobbying the Government to recognise this is a more urgent matter than it previously believed.

The joint human rights committee identified the gap more than two years ago and made recommendations about what could be done to close it. The Government said it would step into an appropriate case to try to widen the definition. None of that has happened.

Is the Government's commitment to closing the loophole via case law not enough?

Serendipity is required for it to be able to take the necessary action.

In the meantime, I believe this new legislation is not just about equipping people with a legal mechanism to start taking care homes to court. It's as much about helping to change the culture in some institutions.

Won't your amendment encourage other groups to try to do the same?

I understand that. In a way, the intention here is not really to amend the Act, but to ensure that the interpretation of the Act that Parliament and the Government had always intended is the same as the courts' interpretation.

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