Putting aside party politics

PUBLISHED: 09:58 04 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 11 May 2010

IT S not often that you see members of Parliament set aside their political differences for the greater good. So I have to applaud the MPs who banded together to see a new Bill to help people with autism get through its second reading in the House of Comm

IT'S not often that you see members of Parliament set aside their political differences for the greater good.

So I have to applaud the MPs who banded together to see a new Bill to help people with autism get through its second reading in the House of Commons last week, in the face of opposition from the Government.

The Bill, proposed by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan, would see local authorities given a legal obligation to provide care and support for autism sufferers and their families and carers.

Currently, people with autism are subjected to your classic post code lottery, whereby care varies widely from county to county.

Mrs Lesley Payne, whose son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2005, said: "Families in Hertfordshire have had to fight for many years to have their sons' and daughters' needs recognised.

"The postcode lottery has become a cliché, but in Liverpool they have been supporting adults with Asperger's for many years, while in Hertfordshire debates rage as to whether it is a learning disability or a mental health condition."

Mrs Payne's comments make a mockery of the Government's main argument against the Bill, namely that the same effects can be achieved without the need for legislation.

Clearly the current system needs changing, and to be fair, this has been recognised at Whitehall, with a new strategy on autism currently in the pipeline.

However, this has already been delayed, thus highlighting the problem with not enshrining this kind of thing in statute.

Bringing about changes in the way authorities operate always takes time, be it at a local or national level, and if they are not bound by law, then will local councils be busting a gut to give people with autism a fair deal?

Especially if it involves extra expenditure?

It seems to me that not wanting to put a law in place is just a cop out on the part of the Government, so that it can change its mind a few years down the line when it doesn't suit it.

There is still a long way to go before this Bill becomes law, but as Royston MP Oliver Heald said: "This is a victory for all those campaigning for a better deal for people with autism."

We can only hope that it doesn't get blocked at a later stage, and that proper care and support for those who have to cope with the condition will soon become a reality.

I CAN see that it makes sense to sell off Melbourn police station to a housing association.

The costs involved with owning and running a building which is only open a couple of days a week are probably prohibitive to it being viable for Cambridgeshire police to keep it going.

However, I can only echo the comments of Melbourn Parish Council, which would like to see some kind of community facilities on the site, along with the housing which is likely to appear at some point.

While there is always a need for more housing, villages like Melbourn need new facilities too, otherwise they risk becoming mere commuter dormitories.

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