Cheryl Gillan MP – says her new Autism Bill shows how politicians across party can work together

June 29th 2009


Cheryl Gillan MP – says her new Autism Bill shows how politicians across party can work together to change society and help those with special needs

The Conservative MP, Cheryl Gillan, is successfully pushing through a Private Member’s Bill on Autism in The House. It will ensure local authorities and NHS service providers give adequate support for adults with this learning difficulty. It will champion new pathways for diagnosis, assessment and support for those with Autism.

The MP for Chesham and Amersham says she was fortunate, after many years, to come top of the Private Member’s Bill ballot. reporter Linda Fairbrother got Cheryl to tell the story of her new Bill from her name first being drawn out of the Ballot to the Bill passing its third reading in the Commons.

Cheryl explained: “I have entered this Lottery ever since I was elected and never won, and when I was told I had won, it was an amasing thing to win a political lottery .

I think Private Member’s Bills Legislation should be used to cover an area that would not normally get attention from the government, and I also personally felt a Private Member’s Bill should not be used for political devices. “

She said she talked to colleagues and charities before deciding that the gap in existing provision for Autism sufferers needed addressing:

Of all the huge submissions I had from outside bodies I narrowed it down to about 6 or 7 and I sat down with a small panel of people in my office to look at the merits of the individual propositions.

I think of all the people that came to see me it was the National Autistic Society that struck all the cords, both in terms of what the cost to the public purse would be, what the need was, and how I could approach it on a cross party basis. I also had some experience of people with autism in my constituency and also particularly through my colleague Angela Browning MP who has been championing this cause.

I thought that I would put forward a small piece of legislation which would help both with the identification of the prevalence of autism throughout the UK but also look at the transition which seemed to be the sticking point, for people with autism and the provision of adult services.”

As a result of attracting cross-party support for her pioneering Bill, it has successfully passed its third reading in the House and has now gone to the Lords:

It has been an interesting passage because it started off with the government opposing it and the government told me that they couldn’t support it because they were doing it all anyway. I kept saying you were doing the Prevalence Study twelve months ago, and this isn’t going to wash – so after a lot of cajoling, and several meetings and some interesting exchanges, suddenly the Minister dealing with this saw the light.”

Cheryl Gillan MP continued: “What has always struck me about this area was the great concern of parents about their children, whilst they are there they are able to care for their children, but into adult life, there is always this terrible fear for parents when they are no longer there who is going to look after their child?

I feel particularly strongly about this area because historically there has been so much difficulty for these individuals and yet many many of them are capable of making great contributions to society and having very fulfilling lives with just a small amount of intervention.

I think what was very interesting was the National Audit Office report which found that people with Autism really do use a wide range of public services, but that there is a differential effectiveness of the service provision as a whole and of the outcomes for people with autism . Many parents even have trouble obtaining the diagnosis. “

This is England’s first ever piece of Autism legislation, and Cheryl says she thinks it shows how politicians across party work to bring about change in society and that in the wake of the  MPs’ expenses scandal, it highlights, the good work that politicians do in Parliament.

Cheryl Gillan MP added: “I think what has happened over the past few months with the problems with Parliament and the revelation about expenses and allowances is that it has become clearer that people do not actually fully understand what an MP does and what their role is. I think that is partly our fault and partly the education system too.

I find a lot of young people don’t even fully appreciate the role of an MP and of course, it’s part social worker, it’s part legislature, and it’s part Lord of the Manor if you like, and when it comes to events and functions, it’s advocate, and chief cook and bottle washer. It’s a very demanding job to be truthful if it is done to the full, but people seem to think we only work the hours that Parliament is sitting and because there is nobody in the Chamber we couldn’t possibly be working. They should come and see the emails that come into me every day and the letters and the amount of work that is put in in this office. I think people don’t understand it.”

Commenting on the reporting of Parliament she said: “It is extraordinary that when you have a piece of legislation that is going to affect at least half a million people and their families, that is a large proportion of people in the UK, there is hardly any interest at all. I think that can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the press and for them it is not a sensational story, but actually I think it should be a sensational story because I think the way in which many of these individuals and their families are treated is a disgrace.”

She said she felt proud of the work she and others had done on the Bill:

This is really one of the reasons you come in here to try and help other people. It sounds crass in this climate but I can assure you that is what the majority of my colleagues and myself gave up other jobs and came into the House or offered themselves for election for. It is a reflection of what is good in this place when people are only looking at what is bad in this place which I absolutely detest and loath.”

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John Bercow MP and equality in the House


June 16th 2009

John Bercow MP – contender for the role of Speaker in the House of Commons.

The Conservative MP for Buckingham John Bercow, is standing for the position of Speaker in the House of Commons. He is well liked and respected in Labour circles, even though he is a Conservative, and he is said to have the backing of more than 100 Labour MPs.

Members of his own Party aren’t so sure though, as some believe he leans too much to the left. For the past 17 years the Speaker’s Chair has been sat in by Labour members. Some think a left leaning Conservative who is relatively young and forward looking would help to modernise the House in the wake of the MPs’ expenses row. Mr Bercow is 46 years old, one of the youngest contenders for the job.

John, a member of the Advisory Board, told our reporter Georgie Hemmingway, how he would help further equality in the House, and clamp down on sexist exchanges in the Chamber. Mr Bercow said he would “take a robust line” against such behaviour and that “everybody should be treated equally”.

John tells Georgie: “The culture at PMQs tends to be boisterous and it can sometimes become brash, I don’t think it is representative of the House most of the week. “It’s very important we don’t get rid of passion in politics but that we do have good order and that people treat each other civilly and with respect. From time to time I know some female members have felt they are subject to particularly unfair and disproportionate heckling.

“It does sometimes happen, it is extremely unfortunate and when it does happen it is to be deprecated. There are members who feel it does happen too much and that a robust line against it does need to be taken. I make no comment about the present or past Speaker’s.”

He went on to say that “rudeness” in the Chamber should not be tolerated: “It is incredibly important that everybody should be equally treated and there should be no question of rudeness being tolerated and abusive words being made, and female members should have an equal opportunity to express their views in common with other members of the House. I think sometimes women have had a justified grievance that they have been cut off more quickly or been subject to unfair heckling and it is very important that should be avoided.”

Mr Bercow said he had a strong record of supporting equality in the House and that he didn’t feel there was a need for another “female speaker” in the House. He said he supported All- Women Short Lists and the Government’s new Equality Bill. He said that his own record on equality was a very good one, and that if he was elected he would take that record forward in supporting fairness and equality of treatment in the House.

Other contenders for the role include: Conservative’s: Sir George Young, Sir Alan Haselhurst, Sir Patrick Cormack, Richard Shepherd, Anne Widdecombe. Lib Dem Sir Alan Beith, Vince Cable, Ming Campbell. Labour’s Frank Field, Margaret Beckett, Sylvia Heal. Independent, Richard Taylor.

Susan Kramer Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park Women and Politics

Keeping a calm head in politics has never been more needed, as more and more of MPs so called “extravagant” expenses are paraded in the “Daily Telegraph” fairly or unfairly.

What’s more the “WAGs” group, Women Against Gordon Brown, appear to have been orchestrating moves to make the Labour Party confront the need for a leadership challenge sometime in the future – if not now!

Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park since 2005, has been tough enough to get out there and talk about the need to reform parliament, restore trust in politics and politicians, and to say she thinks the “Telegraph” is just doing its job.

Susan made her career in finance as a Vice-President of Citibank, a leading international bank and set up her own company before moving into politics.

So will women be put off going into politics and what advice would Susan give to aspiring women politicians? Surprisingly Susan tells aspiring women politicians that they need to develop “tough hides”.

She said:”I don’t want to hide that this is a tough world, it is, and you have to have the kind of hide with you that lets you cope in this World. I would hate people to think it is gentle, it isn’t, but I think collectively when women are in here there is more of an atmosphere to make change happen than there has been for a generation.”

Dolma Gyari and Ngawang Lhamo – Women in Tibet Tibetan Parliament.

The Tibetan Parliament-in-exile is located in the hill town of Dharamsala in northern India. Formed by the Dalai Lama less than a year after the uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule that led to his exile, the Parliament looks after the Tibetans across the world and provides a model for their homeland.

Dolma Gyari is the first woman to be elected as Deputy Speaker of the parliament-in-exile, and has since been re-elected three times. She has been a political activist for a number of years, and believes passionately about the power of women to make change.

Member of the Tibetan parliament Ngawang Lhamo was born in Tibet, escaping into India as a child. Originally a teacher, she became General Secretary for the Tibetan Women’s Association before founding a school for children with special needs. reporter Lucy Fairbrother spoke to the two women MPs about why their roles are so important to them as they visited the UK parliament.

Lesley Abdela MBE – Women in Nepal


Lesley Abdela, of Shevolution, has been working with other British based NGO groups to ensure that the UN Security Council Resolution 1235 is implemented, to help women’s rights to be put top of the international agenda in conflict zones like Afghanistan, Congo, Nepal, Northern Ireland, and Sri Lanka.

Lesley has helped write a report for the Associate Parliamentary Group on “Women, Peace and Security”, which draws up a global checklist for women in these conflict zones. Lesley has looked closely at what is happening in Nepal and thinks there are grounds for optimism.

Lesley commented: “In Nepal not just the British government but other government’s too and with the UN, there are lots of little bits going on all over the place to help women, but when it came to the actual peace talks the women were excluded from the top talks throughout. As in the other countries in this report the UN 1235 resolution is implemented at the grass roots levels, the middle levels, but not at the top levels.”

Janet Hanson CEO and founder of 85 Broads

The title might seem slightly disrespectful but Janet Hanson’s global network of women called “85 Broads” was named after the office address of Goldman Sachs where she worked in New York, not the other type of “Broads”!

As global CEO and founder of “85 Broads” Janet Hanson has built up a global network community of 20,000 trailblazing women who want to create greater success for themselves, each other and the communities in which they live to affect change for women globally.

“85 Broads” recently launched its Cambridge Chapter at Judge Business School at Cambridge University where Boni Sones, Executive Producer of met up with the ebullient, entertaining and wise Janet Hanson.

Janet said: ”I think at Goldman Sachs, it was luck that made me form 85 Broads. I felt so lucky to have an extraordinary career there that when I left, I thought to myself how do I make sure that other women who are coming up the ladder know how much fun it is?

“The purpose of 85 Broads was to feed all of that excitement and inspiration to them and to cheer from the sidelines, that was the real impetus behind it. There are lots of women out there who want you to succeed and help you build your career. I wanted them to know they were supported by us even after we had left.”

Thanks to Judge Business School for letting us broadcast this podcast. Do listen, you’ll learn alot.