Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful to the Minister for being so generous in giving way. As he is laying out the sort of information that will be available, could he let every member of the Committee have a detailed letter specifically on the meetings that he held with his colleague that sets out exactly what those discussions and proposals were in time for next Wednesdays sitting? I am sure that that would be a great help and assist our understanding.
Phil Hope: Yes, I hope to provide the Committee with the relevant information as and when we reach those points in the Bill. Officials from the Department have been in regular contact with the promoter of the Billthe hon. Member for Chesham and Amershamand her advisers to discuss how best we can take forward their concerns in ways that give the degree of certainty that action will happen in responding to the needs of children, young adults and adults across the country, while retaining the flexibility that we need to ensure that local needs and circumstances are taken fully into account. I hope that we can have meaningful discussions to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome.
My starting point for the sittings will be to try to convince the Committee, as I said on Second Reading, that there is no need for the legislation that we are going to consider. Like the hon. Lady, I am in an unusual position on a private Members Bill. It is unique for me and I dare say for many other Members, because this is not a Government Bill. It is not a Bill that we feel able to support in its current form.
On a point that was raised about the money resolution, we expected that the promoter of the Bill would undertake the assessment of costs associated with her proposals that we need to inform decisions on the scope of the money resolution. However, we have not had that information, although I wrote to the hon. Lady and my officials met her team only last week. Inevitably, that has meant a delay in tabling the money resolution. I hope that we can resolve those issues.
Mrs. Gillan: Indication was given to my team of advisers, who met the ministerial team of advisers last Tuesday, that a money resolution would be tabled in time for todays sitting. I cannot table that, as the Minister knows. Also, when it comes to an assessment, I am but an hon. Member promoting a private Members Bill that was suggested by outside charitable organisations. I do not have the resources available to him or to his ministerial colleague nor, individually, the expertise or skill to provide the Minister with those assessments. However, the Minister does, and if the Bill is delivering everything that he says of it, he must per se have already carried out those calculations. I hope that now he is well aware that I do not have the resources to provide the financial information that he is asking forsomething he could so easily do, if he wished to encourage the Bill forward.
FinallyI apologise for the length of my interventionI am sad to hear that the Minister is still seeking to persuade us that the Bill is not necessary. When the Bill came to me, it had already been the subject of discussions between officials in his Department and outside
Phil Hope: On the hon. Ladys point about the money resolution, that is why I said that we are in this rather unique situationthis is not a Government Billhence the issues about money resolutions and so on. We shall do what is needed to get to the debate on the clauses that have financial implications. We have tabled the money resolution, but there are the procedures of the House to get through. None the less, because the Bill may have financial implications and as yet the hon. Lady does notis unable to, as she rightly saidhave the resources to spell them out, the Government would have difficulty in agreeing to clauses for which we do not know the cost. When we get to individual clauses, we shall have to explore the issues and what it all might mean. I tried to signal earlier that we have been in regular contact with the hon. Lady and have asked questions. I hope that we can work collaboratively to find our way through the difficult issues, because that would be in everyones interest.
I repeat what we said about the Bill on Second Reading. We know that legislation can be a blunt and crude instrument for driving change, especially when the end that we seek is better awareness and better use of the expertise and resources already in the system. We must preserve for councils the freedom and flexibility necessary to meet the complex web of local needs, giving them the scope and skills that they need to zero in on the specific needs of people with autism. Hence, for which I make no apology, I expect to return again and again in our sittings to the fact that rigid legislation ties the hands of those making such efforts and will do more harm than good.
I hope that we can all recognise that the Governments work on autismwhether with children, young people in transition to adulthood or adultsis significant, far-reaching and the first to have ever occurred. We shall discuss whether the clauses are flawed, unnecessary or have financial costs, and if there is a way forward and the disadvantages can be resolved, I hope that we can find mutually satisfactory solutions. However, that is not the case with the Bill, as I said on Second Reading and repeat now, so that the Committee is fully aware of the issues.
The Chairman: Order. Yes, the Minister did and he has. We are in some danger of having another Second Reading debate, which I am not prepared to permit.
Angela Browning: When the Minister wrote to all Members just before Second Reading, he outlined in some detail, on a point-by-point basis, the Governments alternative strategy, indicating how they felt that they were meeting the Bills general requirements. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham, will the Minister assist the Committee by making available the costings associated with that letter and the point-by-point list of the proposals that the Government have introduced? He has appreciated what my hon. Friend said about producing the exact costs for
Phil Hope: My dilemma is that this is not my Bill, and it has costings attached to it that its movers have not been able to provide. We have tabled the money resolution, and it will be passed, so that we can move into clause-by-clause examination. We need information about the Bills costings, not about my proposals and what the Government are doingthat will come up as we debate the clauses. The issue is what the clauses might cost the taxpayer and to what extent they are the right way forward in delivering better outcomes for young people, children and adults with autism. It is the Bill that we are debating, and it might have financial implications. Although this is an opportunity to interrogate the GovernmentI think that hon. Members said as much on Second Readingand I would happily find time to respond to questions from Members, we are actually debating a Bill.
The Chairman: Order. Actually, we are not; we are debating an Adjournment motion, and I would like to come back to that.
Angela Browning: I appreciate what the Minister says about the Bills costingsI take that pointbut if I were to table parliamentary questions based on the list in his letter, asking what the costings were for each item, I would assume that his Department would most certainly answer. That is not an unreasonable request. In the spirit of co-operation, it would help if he made available those costings to the Committee. In his letter, his argument was basically that we do not need this or that in the Bill because the Government are already going to provide an adequate service through an alternative route. If we at least have those costings, that might help us to develop any potential additional costings incurred via my hon. Friends routethe Billrather than via the route proposed in the Ministers letter.
Phil Hope: I am trying to keep in order, Mr. Gale. You are giving us a great deal of latitude. When we arrive at discussions about the clauses that relate to the announcements that the Government have made, I will happily discuss those issues. However, it is the clauses that will be before us, and we will need to consider the extent to which the Bill has costs and whether those costs are reasonable when we get to that debate. The money resolution would enable us to do that. I have explained the cause of the delay: we would be tabling and supporting a money resolution without knowing what moneys were involved, as the Bills movers failed to provide information to the Government on the Bills costs. I hope that we can discuss all that when we get to those clauses. Although I will take interventions, Mr. Gale, I am trying to keep within the strictures that you have laid upon me.
Mrs. Gillan: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Perhaps we do need to adjourn until next week, because I tabled a question to the Minister simply about
Phil Hope: My birthday was two days before the hon. Ladys, which makes us the same star sign. I am not sure whether that is a good or bad thing.
Phil Hope: It would appear that I am on the right side of the cusp, but let us not go there, Mr. Gale.
It is for the movers of the Bill, not the Government, to provide the costings. Perhaps we will discuss that later when we get into the clauses.
Phil Hope: I think that I should make some progress or I shall get into difficulty with you, Mr. Gale.
Today, we have started an important conversation across the country on how to transform services and support for people with autism. I am sure that we will use the Committee to discuss the proposals in detail. I want to use these sittings to set out how the strategy will have real bite, be comprehensive and far-reaching and have a deep impact, as I try to persuade the Committee that ours is the right approach, as distinct from that in the Bill.
I will describe in more detail the five themes that we set out in the consultation: health, guaranteeing the highest standards of specialist and mainstream care for autistic patients across all settings; social exclusion, removing the everyday barriers that autistic people face; giving people with autism more choice and control over how and when they interact with services; better awareness-raising and training, ensuring that we have a highly skilled and knowledgeable work force; and, most importantly, supporting people with autism to take advantage of training and employment opportunities. As I learnt today, only 15 per cent. of adults with autism are in employment, yet we know how important a job is to people with any form of mental health issue or disability and to those on the autistic spectrum. I want to explain how the adult autism strategy and the measures covering children and young people will fully meet the Bills stated aims.
I want to address the question that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham raised about the prevalence study and the importance of better data. A great deal of work is already going on for both adults and children, but I know from the way that the hon. Lady raised the issue and from the debate on Second Reading that there was concern about the adult prevalence study. I will welcome the opportunity to reassure the Committee during its sittings that we are absolutely committed to delivering that study. Getting this right is crucial for local authorities and primary care trusts to have a robust picture of the number of people with autism in their areas to commission the right services to meet peoples needs. We have commissioned the NHS information centre to manage the study and are about to appoint a scientific adviser to write the research specification and ensure that we get the best study that we can.
I hope that I have demonstrated that we will have our work cut out in carrying out detailed scrutiny of the Bill. I am looking forward to devoting my Wednesday afternoons for the next few weeks to reassuring the Committee that the actions that the Government already have in hand will achieve everything that the Bill seeks to do and will do so more quickly and effectively. Moreover, by preserving freedom and flexibility at local level, they will give us a strong base to make further improvements for the care and support of people with autism in the future. I support the Adjournment motion moved by the hon. Lady.
Annette Brooke: On behalf of my colleague, the hon. Member for Romsey, who unfortunately cannot be here today, I would like to say that we both look forward to serving under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale. We are particularly interested in getting into detailed debate next week, because the issue is of such importance that members of the public will not want to see any game playing. I hope that we are doing the best for all our constituents; many parents of all ages are deeply concerned and are sometimes in dire circumstances because of the lack of support. I look forward to the detailed debate.
Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): I am pleased to speak briefly on the Adjournment motion. I should like to address the money resolution as I understand that we are adjourning because it is not in place.
I listened carefully to the Minister, who has had several opportunities to answer the question as to what the costs of the Governments proposals are likely to be. His reply on several occasions has been that this is a private Members Bill and it is for the private Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham, to provide those details and that she has not done so. Of course, it must be true that it is for my hon. Friend to provide costings for her Bill, but it is also the case that the Governments attitude to the Billthe Government have made it clear that they do not think the Bill should go aheadis intimately related to their own proposals, and their own proposals must have a cost.
The Minister said a minute ago that he thought his proposals were more effective and that they would be quicker. I think of the National Audit Offices mantra of economy, effectiveness and efficiency. The Minister
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