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The Prime Minister: Violence in Basra has gone down by 90 per cent. over the past few months. Our troops there are doing a great job in training the Iraqi
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army’s security forces and the Iraqi police. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to diminish the effect of building economic prosperity in the Basra area. As for invading Iraq in the first place, Saddam Hussein had offended UN resolutions and the international community for more than a decade.

Q13. [179219] Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East) (Lab): Although I do not foresee any great demand for my kidneys or liver, may I welcome the Prime Minister’s proposals on human transplants? On a much more serious note, will he act on the matter urgently, as people are dying every day for lack of donors?

The Prime Minister: As my hon. Friend knows, a report on organ donations is to be published today. It will recommend ways to increase the number of people prepared, under the present system, to give their organs when they die to save other people’s lives. More than 1,000 people lose their lives each year because no organs are available for transplant. Another report on this matter will be prepared later this year, and one proposal that may be worth discussing then is that, while people may opt out of organ donation, there could be a family veto on whether organ donation can go ahead. I believe that that would satisfy many religious objections, while at the same time ensuring that thousands of people are saved as a result of organ donations being available. I hope that there will be all-party support for taking action.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): Following the Government’s recent naval base review, there was widespread concern at Plymouth’s Devonport naval base that ships currently based there could be moved to Portsmouth in the next few years. Will the Prime Minister reassure the base’s work force that their reward for generations of dedicated service to this nation’s security will not be simply death by a thousand cuts?

The Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman knows, Plymouth will refit the Trident submarine, and it has a huge amount of work in the years ahead. A massive amount of investment has gone into Plymouth, and I can assure him of our commitment to the dock yard there. At the same time, he will acknowledge that that commitment is possible only because we are spending more on defence every year. We will continue to do so, and that depends on there being a healthy economy.

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Point of Order

12.32 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you use this opportunity to reiterate your ruling on the reading of questions by hon. Members on the Back Benches, whereas you allow questions to be read at the Dispatch Box?

Mr. Speaker: I object to notes when an hon. Member reads from the top of the page to the bottom, and in effect reads the notes into the record. Hon. Members on the Back Benches can glance at a note if they are dealing with figures or any other matters that must be precise. As for the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister, I let them have their way for half an hour. That is the best thing that I can say.

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Education (Children with Autism)

12.32 pm

Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): I beg to move,

I recognise and welcome the fact that more money is being spent on special educational needs provision in our schools. Even so, local education authorities are compelled to make tough decisions about what they will prioritise and where they will spend the money. We can all appreciate the very great pressures on school budgets, but money allocated for SEN in our country must not be used for other purposes. We will not be able to deliver on our educational promises to such children and their families if we allow that misdirection of money to continue. The funding must be ring-fenced, and that is one element of the Bill. We also need to ensure that it is being spent as efficiently as it should be.

The early diagnosis of children with autistic spectrum disorders is absolutely vital. It is difficult, if not impossible, to plan an effective educational strategy for a pupil with ASD until there has been a full assessment of the child’s condition. We in this country are frequently slow in making that assessment, and local councils and health authorities must both be encouraged to speed up the process. Internationally, there are a number of countries where the process takes place far earlier and far more effectively than it does here in the UK. We should examine and adopt best practice from overseas, and that means looking at what goes on in countries such as Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Israel. Early diagnosis of an ASD not only helps children and their families but saves money over years of schooling.

There is a real, pressing need for improved teacher training on ASDs. A survey by the National Union of Teachers found that 44 per cent. of teachers are not confident about teaching children with an autistic spectrum disorder, 39 per cent. are not confident about identifying children with an ASD and 76 per cent. said that a lack of professional development on the subject was a barrier to teaching children with an ASD. We must ensure that all teachers can do so. As about one in 100 children have some form of ASD, every teacher in every school can expect to teach children who are autistic.

Recent developments with regard to teacher training have been welcome. There are now pilot projects in which special educational needs are made part of initial teacher training; however, it is essential that the issue should become part of all teacher training at all levels. We must also ensure that teachers have access to high quality in-service training. Such measures would go a long way to increase teachers’ confidence when working with pupils with an ASD. We also need to ensure that all special educational needs co-ordinators have in-depth training on autism. We must recognise that with the right teaching regime, many children with an ASD are capable of moving on to further and higher education, which means that our colleges and universities must take on board lessons about how to teach young adults with Asperger’s or autism.

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For the parents of an autistic child, exclusion from school is a very real concern. Some 27 per cent. of children with autism have been excluded, and 23 per cent. have been excluded more than once. We must acknowledge the special nature of such cases and place a requirement on schools under which, if any child with special educational needs is at risk of being excluded, there must be a review of provision before exclusion takes place.

A range of special educational needs provision is needed, as one size simply does not fit all. Research by the National Autistic Society found that more than half of such children attend a type of school that their parents believe does not provide the best support for them. Parents of autistic children need to be given a choice in education provision and assistance in making that choice an informed one. The National Autistic Society and local organisations such as Supporting Together those with Autism and Asperger’s in Redbridge, or STAAR, do a first-class job advising parents, but more support is needed from within the education system. Parents have every right to expect that the school will keep them informed regularly about how the school is supporting the child’s special needs, as well as about the child’s educational progress.

The Warnock report of 1978 made the case for including children with special needs in mainstream schools, a view that has influenced education policy ever since. However, more recently, Baroness Warnock urged the Government to review that policy. Including pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools is understandable, but not always desirable for such children or for the children with whom they are taught. For some children, a more specialised environment is required if their schooling is to progress. In my constituency, two schools—Little Heath school and Hatton school—provide first-class educational facilities for children with special educational needs. For that, I congratulate the London borough of Redbridge, which should be commended.

We must put in place sensible measures that encourage and reward local authorities that work together to provide a wide range of high quality special educational needs provision. In areas where such provision is not available, parents and children may be forced to make unacceptably long journeys to get to a suitable school. I have heard reports of children travelling for up to two hours to get to a school that provides the education that they need. That is not acceptable.

The Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 and the special educational needs code of practice already require that young people with a statement should have an assessment of their needs as a disabled adult when they leave school. However, that is not always enough to ensure a smooth transition from school to adulthood. A recent National Autistic Society report noted that only half of those with statements were issued with transition plans, and
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that 45 per cent. of them were dissatisfied with the process. In this day and age, that is not good enough.

There is a real need to make available high quality training for young adults with ASD so that they can be assisted into work. Many, with the right support and the right environment, can successfully make the transition into employment. Some companies and organisations are providing suitable and rewarding employment for those with ASD, but not enough to meet the demand. We must do more to encourage employers to consider making more posts available for adults with ASD, and we must give them more support in providing long-term employment. I have had personal experience of a young adult who was taken on board by one of our blue chip companies and is now not only holding down a responsible job, but living alone and leading a productive life. We must make sure that that happens more frequently.

It must be a concern for us all that individuals pass through both the education and the health systems with autistic spectrum disorders that go unrecognised. As adults, some of those are misdiagnosed as having a mental health problem, such as schizophrenia. I know of many cases where such people have languished in prison for several years, and some are still languishing in prison. They can find themselves being prescribed drugs that are completely inappropriate for their true condition.

Existing legislation, guidance and codes of conduct are far from silent on what services and assistance should be made available to autistic children and their families. There is no lack of good will, but often we fail to follow through existing laws and good intentions, and in these circumstances many children are being left behind. It is the concerns of the parents of autistic children that form the basis of this Bill. Naturally, they want the best for their children, as any of us would, and they have identified a number of ways in which that can be achieved.

I thank parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the House who have been most generous with their support and their advice. This is not a party political matter and we can achieve real progress if we work together. I also thank Lord Adonis for meeting me last week and discussing the various issues that I raised. My Bill is a simple measure addressing a narrow range of matters, but it would move things in the right direction. For that reason, I urge the House to support it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Lee Scott, John Bercow, Stephen Hammond, Bob Russell, Mr. Charles Walker, Mr. John Leech, Mr. Brian Binley, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Harry Cohen, Mr. Peter Bone, Mike Gapes and Philip Davies.

Education (Children with Autism)

Mr. Lee Scott accordingly presented a Bill to make provision about the education and training of children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 May, and to be printed [Bill 56].

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Opposition Day

[6th allotted day]

National Insurance Numbers and Illegal Immigrants

Mr. Speaker: We now come to the first debate on the Opposition motions. I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

12.43 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): I beg to move,

Britain today has nearly 5 million people claiming out-of-work benefits. Despite £3 billion spent on the Government’s new deal, we have higher youth unemployment than 10 years ago. We have half a million people under the age of 35 claiming incapacity benefit. According to Ministers, a million IB claimants in all want to work. We have parts of Britain where as few as one in four adults of working age are working. We have a greater proportion of children being brought up in workless households than any other country in Europe.

What are the Government doing? They are handing national insurance numbers to tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants. Some people might call that incompetence. Just when the Secretary of State thought that things could not get any worse, the chaos spreads to another part of his job. What we know for certain is that 6,000 illegal immigrants have been issued with national insurance numbers by his Department, giving them an official stamp of approval to go and get a job. We have figures that strongly suggest that the real number is much higher. That is Britain today under this Government. All that happened while the Secretary of State was too busy getting on with his two jobs in government to sort out the confusion with his campaign finances. What utter chaos.

To be frank, in the past few months we have seen a whole series of calamities for the Secretary of State on this important issue. We first had a sense that something was wrong last September, during the fiasco over the statistics on migrant workers; you will remember that, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State told us then that only 700,000 of the jobs created in Britain since 1997 had gone to migrant workers. We disputed his figure and suggested that the number was much higher. “No,” said the Secretary of State, “It’s 700,000.” A month later he said, “We’ve got the figure wrong—it’s not 700,000, but 1.1 million.” We know that the Secretary of State is not much good at adding up, but losing 400,000 people is almost as improbable as losing £100,000 of campaign contributions. Even the 1.1 million figure may not be right; the Office for National Statistics has since told us that it thinks that as many as 80 per cent. of the new jobs created since 1997 may have gone to people moving to the UK from
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overseas. No wonder the Secretary of State wanted to keep things private. Can he really tell the House today exactly how many people from overseas have come to Britain to work in the past 10 years?

Keeping things private is becoming a bit of a habit with the Secretary of State. We have been trying to get answers about national insurance numbers and this issue ever since it became clear, two months ago, that thousands of illegal workers were being cleared to work in the security industry. The written questions remain unanswered to this day. On 13 November last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) asked the Home Secretary about the issue during questions on the Security Industry Authority. She waffled and said almost nothing, telling us that sharing intelligence would be important in the future. It seems that the Secretary of State is not alone in wanting to keep us guessing about what is really going on.

I believe that yesterday’s admission represents the tip of the iceberg of what is really going on with the Department for Work and Pensions’ management of the system for migrant workers coming to Britain. We now know with cast-iron certainty that at least 6,000 people, illegally in the UK, have been given national insurance numbers by the Government. Yet nearly two years ago, the Government promised us that in future no national insurance numbers would be issued to anyone who did not have a right to work in the United Kingdom.

If the Government had done their job, those latest revelations should not have been possible. On 5 June 2006, Ministers told both Houses of Parliament:

that is, a national insurance number—

They passed regulations that were supposed to enforce that. The guidance notes state clearly that an individual applying for a national insurance number because they are in employment or self-employment must provide a specific document proving that they have the right to work in the United Kingdom. That was nearly two years ago, but we now know that every single one of the illegal immigrants in the security industry who caused such controversy before Christmas had been issued with national insurance numbers. Even when the regulations were passed, the Government strongly implied that the problem was small in scale. They had managed to find only about 3,000 cases in which something was amiss. It is now clear that that was a hopeless underestimate; the figure is much higher.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Peter Hain): The hon. Gentleman asked about an outstanding answer to a written question. May I give him the information? The answer has remained outstanding because it has taken time to understand the extent of the national insurance number-related element captured as part of the Security Industry Authority review. As the review is nearing its completion, we now have a better understanding of the issue and we will be making the necessary checks against the SIA data. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question; we wanted to give an accurate one.

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