Cheryl Gillan, who is Shadow Welsh Secretary and MP for Chesham and Amersham, introduced the second reading of the Autism Bill on Friday. Mrs Gillan had come top of the Private Members' ballot, and received over a hundred requests for causes to promote.
The Autism Bill aims to improve information on the number of people with autism (who number some 500,000), ensure effective transition to adult from child services, and access to support and services for people with autism. Local authorities would be held legally accountable if they fall short. The Bill has cross-party support, although ministers voted against the Second Reading.
It had been suggested that Mrs Gillan withdraw the Bill, as the Government were committed to taking action. But she commented:
"I am delighted by what the Government have put on the table—I make no bones about that. It is a tribute to the negotiating skills of the National Autistic Society. However, if the Government are to deliver their commitment, they have nothing to fear from examining the Bill clause by clause. The subject has been deserted for a long time and it is about time that the voices of those affected and their families were heard loud and clear. If the promises are as good as the paper on which they are written, there is nothing to fear from having a Committee stage, during which we can examine the Bill in detail.
There is no malign intention in pressing the Bill. After it was suggested to me that the Government’s commitments were good enough for the Bill to be withdrawn, I looked up precedents. A Labour Member withdrew a Bill recently after it had gone into Committee and another Member withdrew a measure on a much smaller matter, so there is little precedent for such behaviour. I believe that I would let people down by not trying to get the detailed discussion that having the No. 1 private Member’s Bill affords."
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