Labour peer David Lipsey once had a bet with a friend that he would become prime minister. With the passing of the years he has given up on his dream – coming closest when he was an adviser to James Callaghan in the late 1970s.
Lipsey, who had already worked as a special adviser for former foreign secretary Tony Crosland in opposition, says: “It was tremendously exciting for a young man in his twenties to be working for the prime minister. Callaghan is widely under-rated now but he was a very substantial figure at a very difficult time and although it was tough I learned a lot.”
Lipsey worked at the heart of politics during the tumultuous “winter of discontent” in 1978, when Britain was hit by strikes and forced to take out an International Monetary Fund loan.
He has been politically active his entire life and says he was “born Labour”, joining the party because of injustices and inequality he observed in Britain and further afield.
When Labour were swept out of office by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in 1979, Lipsey was left without a job. He became a journalist and enjoyed a long and distinguished career, first as economics editor at the Sunday Times, then deputy editor of The Times and editor of The Economist.
Lipsey has naturally taken an interest in regulation of the press in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. He believes there could be a role for statutory regulation unless newspapers agree to some form of tough self-regulation.
After his writing career, Lipsey was made a peer by the Labour Government and took his seat in 1999. He has worked on three key government commissions: the Jenkins commission on electoral reform, the Davies commission on the BBC and the royal commission on long-term care of the elderly.
Lipsey has a strong grounding in financial services, having served as a director of the FSA’s predecessor, the Personal Investment Authority, and chaired the Financial Services Consumer Panel. In addition, he is a board member of ITV, has served on the board of the Advertising Standards Authority and is a consultant to the British Greyhound Racing board after being its chairman from 2004 to 2008.
Though 64, he says he will not slow down and will keep up with his dizzying range of interests.
In light of his experience with the FSA and the commission on long-term care, Lipsey was also asked to be president of the Society of Later Life Advisers.
This led to his current focus on the Care and Support Bill, introduced in the House of Lords and now in its committee stage. The bill aims to implement the principle outlined by economist Sir Andrew Dilnot’s proposals in 2011 and to cap care costs for the elderly at £72,000 from April 2016.
Lipsey supports the principles of the bill but says it needs work and is prepared to do battle with the Government over some aspects. He says: “I am a supporter of Dilnot but there are concerns about too much of the money going to better-off people and not enough to providing better services to worse-off people.
“There are many strong features to the bill, particularly eliminating the injustice of long-term care wiping out your wealth, whereas someone who doesn’t need care can leave the whole lot to their children. I especially support it with a much higher cap of £72,000 rather than Dilnot’s £35,000 recommendation.”
As Solla’s president, Lipsey has taken a keen interest in financial information and advice given to long-term care funders.The bill would compel local authorities to refer funders to independent financial advice but not necessarily regulated advisers. Other forms of advice could be found at Citizens Advice or Age UK.
“Long-term care funding requires the advice of a regulated financial adviser, preferably one with a Solla certificate so they are experts in long-term care,” says Lipsey. “Your general purpose financial adviser may struggle with some of the detail, such as the means test, which you need to understand to give advice. Advice costs something but not taking advice can be even more expensive because if you make a mistake in your old age you’re not in a position to correct it.”
Lipsey is confident he can win a parlia-mentary vote to force referrals to a regul-ated adviser if there are no changes. He believes the Lords is the place to strike as financial advice is perceived as a technical issue which may not interest MPs as much.
While Lipsey supports the principles of the reforms, he does not believe the bill will solve the growing crisis in care for the elderly. He does not believe pensions should be used to pay for long-term care, as many are already under-funded.
He says: “The bill is a good starter but not enough money is going into care, certainly not from local authorities. The Government is going to face a choice to allocate more money to care or they will face people living in squalor during the last years of their life. It’s up to them which of those two options they choose.”
Lives: Wales and south London
Career: 2009-present: president, Society of Later Life Advisers; 2009-present: visiting professor, Univerity of Salford; 2000-2010: chairman, Social Market Foundation; 2008: chairman, Financial Services Consumer Panel; 2004-06: non executive director, LWT; 2001-03: chairman, Impower; 1999: entered the House of Lords; 1999-2005: council member, Advertising Standards Authority;1998-1999: Royal Commission on long-term care for the elderly; 1994-2000: non-executive director, Personal Investment Authority; 1994-98: political editor, The economist; 1990-92: associate editor, The Times; 1988-90: founder and joint deputy editor, Sunday Correspondent; 1986-88: editor, New Society; 1982-86: economic editor, The Sunday Time; 1979-80: journalist, New Society; 1977-79: Prime Minister’s staff, 10 Downing Street; 1972-77: special adviser to Anthony Crosland MP, 1970-72: research assistant, GMWU
Likes: All types of racing, golf and classical music. I play the piano.
Dislikes: Most newspapers except the Racing Post
Drives: Renault Clios
Favourite Book:1984 by George Orwell
Favourite Film: The African Queen
Musician: Imogen Cooper, the pianist
If I was doing this I would be…. retiring but my wife says I would hate it