House of Commons
|Session 2008 - 09|
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General Committee Debates
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chris Stanton, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Wednesday 13 May 2009
[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair]
The Chairman: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We come first to the order of consideration motion in the name of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham.
That, the Bill be considered in the following order, namely, new Clauses, Clauses, new Schedules, remaining proceedings on the Bill.(Mrs. Gillan.)
New Clause 1
(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish a document setting out a strategy for meeting the needs of adults in England with autistic spectrum conditions by improving the provision of relevant services to such adults by local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS foundation trusts.
(2) That document is referred to in this Act as the autism strategy.
(3) The autism strategy must be published no later than 1 April 2010.
(4) The Secretary of State
(a) must keep the autism strategy under review, and
(b) may revise it.
(5) If the Secretary of State revises the autism strategy the Secretary of State must publish it as revised.
(6) The Secretary of State must consult and seek the participation of such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate
(a) in preparing the autism strategy, or
(b) in revising it in a way which would, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, result in a substantial change to the strategy.
(7) A document prepared and published by the Secretary of State before this section comes into force is as effective for the purposes of this section as a document prepared and published after that time.
(8) Consultation and steps to seek participation undertaken by the Secretary of State before this section comes into force are as effective for the purposes of this section as consultation and steps to seek participation undertaken after that time.. (Phil Hope.)
This New Clause would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to publish, by 1 April 2010, a strategy for meeting the needs of adults with autistic spectrum conditions. It would also require the Secretary of State to consult on that strategy and keep it under review.
Brought up, and read the First time.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 2Guidance by the Secretary of State
(1) For the purpose of securing the implementation of the autism strategy, the Secretary of State must issue guidance
(a) to local authorities about the exercise of their social services functions within the meaning of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (c. 42) (see section 1A of that Act), and
(b) to NHS bodies and NHS foundation trusts about the exercise of their functions concerned with the provision of relevant services.
(2) Guidance must be issued under this section no later than 31 December 2010.
(3) The Secretary of State
(a) must keep the guidance under review, and
(b) may revise it.
(4) In keeping the guidance under review the Secretary of State must in particular consider the extent to which the guidance has been effective in securing the implementation of the autism strategy.
(5) Guidance issued under this section must in particular include guidance about
(a) the provision of relevant services for the purpose of diagnosing autistic spectrum conditions in adults;
(b) the identification of adults with such conditions;
(c) the assessment of the needs of adults with such conditions for relevant services;
(d) planning in relation to the provision of relevant services to persons with autistic spectrum conditions as they move from being children to adults;
(e) other planning in relation to the provision of relevant services to adults with autistic spectrum conditions;
(f) the training of staff who provide relevant services to adults with such conditions;
(g) local arrangements for leadership in relation to the provision of relevant services to adults with such conditions.
(6) The Secretary of State must consult and seek the participation of local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS foundation trusts before
(a) issuing guidance under this section, or
(b) revising it in a way which would, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, result in a substantial change to the guidance.
(7) Consultation and steps to seek participation undertaken by the Secretary of State before this section comes into force are as effective for the purposes of this section as consultation and steps to seek participation undertaken after that time..
This New Clause would require the Secretary of State to issue guidance to local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS foundation trusts in order to secure the implementation of the autism strategy. It would also require the Secretary of State to consult on the guidance and keep it under review.
Government new clause 3Local authorities and NHS bodies: duty to act under guidance
(1) This section applies to guidance or revised guidance issued under section [Guidance by the Secretary of State] to a local authority or an NHS body.
(2) Guidance or revised guidance is to be treated as if it were general guidance of the Secretary of State under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (c. 42) (local authorities to exercise social services functions under guidance of Secretary of State).
(3) For the purposes of guidance or revised guidance
(a) an NHS body is to be treated as if it were a local authority within the meaning of the 1970 Act (see section 1 of that Act), and
(b) the functions of an NHS body mentioned in section [Guidance by the Secretary of State](1)(b) are to be treated as if they were its social services functions within the meaning of that Act (see section 1A of that Act)..
This new clause would impose a duty on local authorities and NHS bodies to act under guidance given by the Secretary of State under
Government new clause 4Interpretation
(1) In this Act
adult means a person who is aged 18 or over (and, accordingly, child means a person who is under the age of 18);
local authority means
(a) a county council in England;
(b) a metropolitan district council;
(c) a non-metropolitan district council for an area for which there is no county council;
(d) a London borough council;
(e) the Common Council of the City of London;
(f) the Council of the Isles of Scilly;
NHS body means
(g) a Strategic Health Authority;
(h) a Primary Care Trust;
(i) a National Health Service trust all or most of whose hospitals, establishments and facilities are in England;
(j) a Special Health Authority performing functions only or mainly in respect of England;
(k) in relation to an NHS body, means health services provided for the purposes of the health service continued under section 1(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006 (c. 41);
(l) in relation to a local authority, means services provided in the exercise of the authoritys social services functions within the meaning of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 (c. 42) (see section 1A of that Act).
(2) In this Act references to the provision of services include references to arranging for the provision of services (and references to services provided are to be construed accordingly)..
This New Clause is consequential on New Clauses 1, 2 and 3 and would provide definitions of terms used in those New Clauses.
Government new clause 5Extent, commencement and short title
(1) This Act extends to England and Wales only.
(2) This Act comes into force at the end of the period of 2 months beginning with the day on which it is passed.
(3) This Act may be cited as the Autism Act 2009..
This New Clause would make provision for the Bill to extend to England and Wales (although it would only have application in relation to England), to come into force 2 months after Royal Assent and for the resulting Act to be cited as the Autism Act 2009.
Clauses 4 to 9 stand part.
Government amendment 42, in title, line 1, leave out from make to and in line 3 and insert
provision about meeting the needs of adults with autistic spectrum conditions;.
This amendment would amend the long title in consequence of New Clauses 1, 2 and 3 and amendments 3, 10, 13, 15, 22 and 23 (taken together).
Phil Hope: I am delighted to be back here in Committee this afternoon and, indeed, proud to be speaking to Government new clauses 1 to 5.
Turning first to Government new clause 1, as the Committee knows, the Government are committed to taking action to improve services for people with autism.
Briefly, subsection (1) places a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a document setting out a strategy for meeting the needs of adults in England with autistic spectrum conditions by improving the provision of relevant services by local authorities and the national health service. With the strategys external reference group chaired by the chief executive of the National Autistic Society, we have identified the priority headings for an adult autism strategy. They are health; social inclusion, including employment; choice and control; and training.
Under the heading of health, we shall identify the barriers to accessing specialist health interventions and mainstream health care services and shall propose action and a strategy to address that. That will be informed by the report of the study currently being taken forward by the National Audit Office, which we expect to see shortly. Secondly, under the heading of social inclusion, the strategy will address issues of employment for people with autism.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Phil Hope: The strategy will address issues of employment for people with autism. That includes building on work to address the commitments in public service agreement 16 to support more of the most socially excluded groups of people into employment and the forthcoming learning disability employment strategy.
On choice and control, we are commissioning work from the Social Care Institute for Excellence to publish evidence-based good practice guidance in spring 2010. That will be informed by an analysis of existing research by early summer, and an in-depth knowledge review which will include field work exploring best practice. On training, we will work with professional bodies to take action to address training issues. Skills for Care has recently launched a national consultation to create new knowledge sets to support people who have an autistic spectrum condition, with the aim of publishing in June the basic knowledge needed to support people with autism.
Subsection (2) confirms that the document is to be known as the autism strategy throughout the Bill. Subsection (3) is significant, because it ties the Secretary of State into publishing the strategy no later than 1 April 2010. Not only are we committed to producing the strategy, we are setting ourselves a statutory deadline for doing so. That is a significant departure from normal legislative practice, but I believe it is entirely right to lock in the Governments commitment in this way. In fact, we have already made clear our intention to publish the final strategy by the end of 2009, and that remains
Subsection (4) imposes a duty on the Secretary of State, once the autism strategy has been published, to keep it under review, and gives him a permissive power to revise it if that is considered appropriate as a result of that review process. Subsection (5) is a logical follow-on from that permissive power, requiring that if the strategy is revised, it must be republished.
Subsection (6) is also significant in my view, because it guarantees proper consultation with stakeholders on the content of the strategy, both at the outset, and in the event that substantial revision is considered. However, the provision goes further, allowing some of those stakeholders to be actively involved in the development of the strategy, rather than just consulted. That reflects the close working relationship that we have with the National Autistic Society, which we want to ensure can continue. In addition, I recently met the Autism Trust, and attended an Autism Speaks reception only last week. I am looking forward to hearing their views and the views of many other organisations as the consultation process continues. Certainly, the strategy document has benefited from input from an external reference group comprising people with autism, families, carers, and health and social care professionals involved in the front-line delivery of services. I am extremely grateful to all members of that group, especially the chairs of the thematic groups, for all the work they have done to identify barriers to inclusion and options for interventions to transform lives. We will, of course, continue to work very closely with the group over the next few months to build on what it has already done, as we develop firm proposals for the final strategy.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet) (Lab): My hon. Friend has just talked about the provision that requires the Secretary of State to keep the strategy under review. There is no sunset clause in the Bill, so does that mean that the Bill effectively lasts forever, until it is repealed, and that the Secretary of State is required continually to keep the strategy under review? How frequently would we expect the Secretary of State and the Department to look at the strategy to ensure that it was current?
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