Nick Herbert supports Autism Bill in Commons

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has added his voice to a campaign to improve local services for people with autism.

Mr Herbert intervened in a Commons debate on Friday morning (27 February) in support of the Autism Bill which aims to improve services for children and adults with autism by placing a legal duty on local authorities and NHS services to look after them.

Conservative MPs forced and won a vote to prevent the Government from ‘talking out' the Bill, which will now go forward to the Committee Stage where it will be considered by MPs in more detail.

During a four-hour debate, Mr Herbert lent his support to Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan who is co-sponsoring the private member's bill, saying: "I am so pleased that my honourable Friend will not give in and that she is determined to press this matter." 

Mr Herbert continued: "May I tell her about one of my constituents, whose son's story is a testament to why this measure is needed?  I refer to Mrs Christine Gilliam's son, Luke, who was not diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome until he was 10 - a late diagnosis. 

"Mrs Gilliam had to fight for her son's statement of special educational needs, as so many parents have to do.  He had to be accommodated in a mainstream school and was constantly bullied.  There was a lack of support for his transition to adulthood and he ended up in Feltham young offender institute. 

"Mrs Gilliam wrote to me saying: ‘There is a huge need for support for these young adults.  With the right help and environment they are lovely people.  Without help or people on their side, their future is bleak.'  Is that not why the Bill is so necessary?"

After the debate, Nick Herbert commented: "I was glad to have the opportunity to vote for this important measure and to intervene briefly in the debate.  I've received many letters and e-mails from constituents who tell me that people with autism are simply not receiving the help they need.

"Many children with autism don't get the early diagnosis and intervention that will give them the best chance of growing up to lead a relatively normal life.  Too often they are placed in mainstream schools when they need specialist education.  When parents ask for help, they are sent from pillar to post and the consequences for the child can be devastating.  And when autistic children make the transition to adulthood, they can find that help is scarce and inappropriate.

"It's so important to ensure that young people with autism, and their families, get proper support in the future.  That's why I'm delighted that, in spite of the Government's opposition, we managed to ensure that the Autism Bill will now proceed to the next stage of debate."



Notes for Editors

1. The Autism Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday. For a transcript of the debate, visit

2. The Bill proposes to tackle the following deficiencies in local provision:

a) The lack of local information about children and young people with autism, and the failure of local agencies to include their needs in the planning of services, particularly around transition to adult services, and

b) The lack of local information about adults with autism and the lack of support for them.

3. Last year, Conservative MP Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) helped to introduce a Private Member's Bill that aimed to ‘recognise the numbers of people with autism, to provide effective transition from child to adult services, and to ensure appropriate support and services thereafter'. The Autism Bill has now been taken forward by Conservative MP Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) with the backing of the National Autistic Society and 13 other autism charities.

4. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. The main areas of difficulty for people with autism relate to verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and ‘social imagination' (understanding and predicting other people's behaviour, making sense of abstract ideas and imagining situations outside the immediate daily routine). Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. For further information, visit the National Autistic Society's website at

5. It has been estimated that over half a million people in the UK have autism. 40 per cent of children with autism wait more than three years for a clear diagnosis. Around two-thirds of local authorities in England do not know how many children with autism there are in their area and just two are aware of the number of adults with the condition.

6. For local information and support, visit the Sussex Autistic Society's website at

Christopher N Howarth