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Mrs. Gillan: Will the Minister therefore confirm that what he has started to set out at the Dispatch Box, and what he has already circulated widely to Members, will
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still be implemented no matter what happens to this Bill? In other words, will he confirm that he is giving his personal undertaking as a Minister of the Crown that he has already set out what he will deliver, notwithstanding anything we do with this Bill and whether or not it goes into Committee? Will he give me his personal ministerial guarantee that he will still go ahead with all those provisions, and that nothing from the procedures in respect of this Bill will prejudice anything contained in the memos and letters that he has already sent out?

Phil Hope: If this Bill proceeds to Committee, I cannot say what effect that will have because we do not know what the outcome of the debate there will be, but what I can say is that all those measures that I have written to every Member about, and that I wish to repeat here at the Dispatch Box, are cross-Government policy—they are what we wish to implement as a Government. I also have to say how inordinately proud I am to be the Minister of State for care services announcing these measures—building on the success of the past, which I wish to refer to later—and putting forward what I think will make 2009 a year of profound, massive and substantial advances in meeting, and developing services to meet, the needs of adults and children with autism, their families and their carers.

As a starting point, I want to describe an experience that made a great impression on me, and I hope it will have a similar effect on other Members. Several Members have spoken very eloquently about why the matters under discussion are important. Earlier this week, I visited an arts exhibition that showcased the winners of the National Autistic Society “I Exist” creativity competition—various Members have referred to this excellent campaign. All the winners have work shown at the exhibition and they all deserve tremendous credit, but I was particularly struck by one image. It was a photograph by a gentleman called Danny, whom I was lucky enough to meet on the day. He is 48 and has Asperger’s syndrome, and he is clearly a hugely talented photographer. His winning picture is truly exceptional. In the foreground, there are four children, all silhouetted, and partially shrouded by a thick mist so that it is not quite clear what is going on in the picture: are these children sheltering from something, or queuing, or playing? If we look closely, however, we can just make out other people in the background—a group of adults, some of them so faint they look like ghosts in the swirls of the mist. The impression of this photograph is enigmatic, haunting, exotic and thoroughly mesmerising—it is a brilliant piece of photography, and a deserving winner.

However, what really hit home—what knocked me for six, in fact—was Danny’s reply when I asked him what inspired him to take that shot. He said that the image summed up his life with autism. The photograph, by the way, is called “Children in the mist”, and that, for me, sums up why we need more action on autism. That is the human cry that I believe we must answer. We must bring people such as Danny out of the mist. We must provide new clarity, confidence and certainty to their lives. We must help them to escape the feelings of isolation and fear and the dislocation that that picture embodies. I am sure that no one in this House would disagree with that aim. It is what the hon. Lady’s Bill seeks to achieve and that is entirely commendable, but the question is: what is the right way forward?

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I want to describe a fuller picture of what we are doing, but today’s debate has focused on the measures we have recently announced—we have just been having an exchange about those—to drive forward our plans for improving the lives of children and adults with autism and their families. The hon. Lady said that she was delighted and thrilled by those measures, and I am glad that she said that. I will go into them in more detail later, but let me give a summary of the measures as they stand.

First, as I have said, new statutory guidance is promised for children and young people’s plans that will specifically refer to children on the autistic spectrum, and which will flow from the enactment of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. We want to create robust systems to ensure that data collected on children with autism are then shared with adult social services to bridge that transition gap. There will be extra resources—an issue on which the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) pressed me. There will be £200,000 to research the challenges faced by young people with autism in their transition to adulthood, and yes, we will of course make sure that those resources are spent on that task.

John Bercow: I am grateful to the Minister for what he has said. My very simple question is: when?

Phil Hope: We will be spending that money this year. The hon. Gentleman can get further details on exactly when and how from my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North, who is responsible for that issue in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. That is an important area of expenditure for researching the challenges faced by young people with autism in their transition to adulthood.

There will be extra funding next year for the Autism Education Trust—a total of £500,000 in 2009-10—to promote better commissioning skills among local authorities and primary care trusts, particularly in the field of education. There is also funding—£300,000—to research the prevalence of autism among adults. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson) and others, we will be researching that prevalence because unless we have that information, how can we plan the way forward? In April, we will publish new commissioning guidance for PCTs and local authorities on the strategic planning of health and social care services to meet the needs of adults with autism. I make that point because of the importance that others have placed on the need to join up health and social care, making sure that the organisations are working together.

In April, we will launch the consultation on a new national strategy for adults with autism. There will be four pillars of reform in that strategy. They have been developed not by the Government but by an expert external reference group to which other Members have referred, led by Mark Lever, the chief executive of the National Autistic Society. The four pillars of reform for adults with autism are, first, better specialist and mainstream health services, and secondly, tackling social exclusion, including employment. I will say more about how we go about that; some excellent examples were given earlier
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of activities to help adults with autism get into voluntary and paid work. The third pillar is improved choice and control for adults with autism, not least through the much better personalising of services—we discussed individual budgets and the value that they bring—and the fourth is improving the skills and knowledge of the staff who work with adults with autism.

Dr. Ladyman: Surprisingly, the four pillars do not include law and order and the criminal justice system. Will my hon. Friend get hold of a copy of the Maryland curriculum, which is the programme used in the state of Maryland to train its courts and police officers, and send it to the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor? Will he ask them to use their powers to issue the same sort of guidance as he is talking about for the health services and social care to the people responsible for dealing with autistic people when they enter the criminal justice system?

Phil Hope: My hon. Friend has raised an excellent point. That goes to show that we need to have a big debate this summer as we roll out the national strategy. I dare say that members of the external reference group, who will be watching this debate and reading Hansard afterwards, will take into account both the plea that he has made about a possible further pillar of reform and his suggestion of what that pillar might be. The national debate will be a vital vehicle for taking forward exactly these kinds of contributions so that we have a strategy for autism that meets the needs of adults who have those experiences. The national external adviser we have appointed to help us, Elaine Hill, who is a very experienced person, is particularly concerned about what happens to those people with autism who end up in our criminal justice system as offenders. Their needs are not understood and they are in completely the wrong place to deal with the issues that they have to deal with in their lives. My hon. Friend is knocking on an open door, and I will ensure that his comments are drawn to the attention of the appropriate people.

The strategy and the pillars of reform for adults with autism are underpinned, as I said earlier, by statutory guidance under section 7 of the 1970 Act subject to consultation and assessment of benefits as we take through the development of that national strategy. We might have disagreements in this Chamber about which statutory footing to use, but I am convinced that this is the right way forward and I want to say more about that in a second.

Strong leadership is needed to back all that up. It is vital that nationally, regionally and locally we drive forward the implementation of change. However, as has been asked, even with statutory guidance, is change actually delivered? It is vital that at every level we have people driving forward the action that we need to ensure that the good practice that we have heard about in the Chamber today is replicated around the country. I remind the House of our recent announcements about the delivery of plans and resources that will benefit children with autism through our new child health strategy, the review of our children and adolescent mental health services, our work on “Aiming High for Disabled Children” and better training and support for professionals in mainstream education.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said that she wanted to secure lasting change, and I want to echo those words. I listened with great interest to her
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speech and those of other Members, not least that of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), but I am still left with the impression that the proposals are not the best means of securing the outcome that I have been describing— [ Interruption. ] If hon. Members will allow me, I shall now say why I believe that.

We all know that legislation can be a very blunt and crude instrument for driving through change, especially when the end we seek is better awareness and better use of the expertise and resources that are already in the system. We need to preserve for councils the freedom and flexibility that they need to meet the complex web of local needs—not to avoid them, but to meet those needs in ways that are relevant to them in their area. We need an approach that ensures appropriate and relevant action on autism in every area and that complements the ambitious work that is already under way across mental health and social care. I want to say more about that in a moment. We need to give local authorities the scope and skills that they need to zero in on the specific needs of people with autism.

I shall make it clear later that we are not working from a standing start. Other Members have been kind enough to highlight examples of where the Government have made a difference.

Mr. Bellingham: I have had lengthy discussions with my local education authority, primary care trust and other agencies. Specifically on providing local information and more effective support, which is outlined in the Minister’s document, they have told me that having that provision on a statutory footing would set an obligation on them that they would have to fulfil. At present, it is a voluntary matter.

Phil Hope: I agree—the hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. That is why we intend to issue statutory guidance for children and young people’s plans as part of the apprenticeships Bill—if I can use that shorthand. Statutory guidance will also flow from the national strategy for adults with autism, which we will launch in April.

Mr. Bellingham: It is refreshing and encouraging to hear that, but there is a huge amount of detail that needs to be discussed. Surely that would best be done during Committee stage.

Phil Hope: That is certainly one approach that we could take, but people are asking for two things: a strategy that has bite and a debate to take place so that we can deal with all the details. I assure the House that the adult autism strategy would not look out of place in a “Jaws” movie. It will have real bite—

Mrs. Gillan claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 25.
Division No. 42]
[1.51 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Austin, John
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Ms Katy
Cook, Frank
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Cruddas, Jon
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Durkan, Mark
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harris, Dr. Evan
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoey, Kate
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Glenda
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lidington, Mr. David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Main, Anne
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Pound, Stephen
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Prosser, Gwyn
Randall, Mr. John
Rosindell, Andrew
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Walker, Mr. Charles
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Rob Wilson and
Mr. Stephen Crabb

Beckett, rh Margaret
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Burnham, rh Andy
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Clwyd, rh Ann
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Eagle, Maria
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, rh Caroline
Hillier, Meg
Hope, Phil
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, rh Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony

Miller, Andrew
Ruddock, Joan
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tellers for the Noes:

Liz Blackman and
Helen Goodman
Question accordingly agreed to.
27 Feb 2009 : Column 546

27 Feb 2009 : Column 547

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

27 Feb 2009 : Column 548

Lending (Regulation) Bill

Second Reading

2.2 pm

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I thank the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), whose Bill preceded mine. I congratulate her most sincerely, and as a co-sponsor of her Bill, I wish her well as she goes into Committee with it.

I thank Which? for the support that it has given me with this Bill. Obviously, the Bill is dear to my heart, but it is also dear to the hearts of many in the House. I should like to apologise to Opposition Members; this Bill was put together very much at the last minute, and I did not have the opportunity to approach them for their support. However, having spoken to a number of them, I know that many support the concept of what I am trying to do with the Bill.

Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way at this early stage in his speech. I am a co-sponsor of this Bill—and indeed a co-sponsor of the Autism Bill. This Bill is dear to the hearts of not only my hon. Friend and many in the Chamber, but many of our constituents. I am thinking especially of the parents of the young people—18 and 19-year-olds—who have over the years regularly been sent unsolicited applications for credit cards and greater loans with absolutely no advice. Those young people have often got into debt that they should never have got into.

Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are here today to try to lessen what has been happening in the consumer marketplace.

Some would say that this small Bill is trying to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted, and yes, to a certain extent that could be claimed. However, that does not mean, given that many individuals, households and families find themselves in financial difficulty, that we should not make an attempt to stop, as soon as possible, some of the practices covered in the Bill.

I want to be brief, because the ultimate aim of this process is to get the Bill into Committee. Having discussed the matter with my hon. Friend the Minister, I know that it has a fair degree of support. As he knows, I am happy for amendments to be tabled in Committee to change or take out anything that people are not happy with.

Clause 1 deals with unsolicited offers of credit. Several credit card companies are still sending out unsolicited credit card cheques. I myself have been the recipient of several of those over the past five or six years—thankfully, I would add, never taking up the offer. A survey in October by Which? showed that 46 per cent. of respondents had been sent unsolicited credit card cheques in the past. These cheques tend to have higher APRs and handling fees and offer less favourable repayment conditions, and they are often targeted at the most vulnerable consumers.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Having read the hon. Gentleman’s Bill, I am bound to ask him a question in the light of the De Larosière report, which has just
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come out in the European Union and concerns the regulation of all financial services and all banking, with the proposal to shift the whole lot to a European level. The Bill refers to

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