Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:29 pm on 19th December 1990.

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Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire 7:29 pm, 19th December 1990

In fact, four hon. Members are hoping to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall therefore be brief.

The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) amazes me. He has suddenly discovered that the current local government grant system is based on stupid formulae, that the standard spending assessments are idiotic and biased against a host of authorities, and that the revenue support grant—which we were told at one time would provide 50 per cent. of local government expenditure—does nothing of the sort: it varies from 3 per cent. in one district to 98 per cent. in another, and my own authority receives only 11 per cent. Those figures were provided in the answer to a parliamentary question that I tabled, but the details were placed in the Library, so they would not be as readily available to hon. Members as they would have been if they had been published in Hansard.

Let me turn to the subject of my own speech. Two of my constituents, Ruth and Bev Smith, have adopted a mentally handicapped child from Romania. They are the only couple to have adopted a mentally handicapped child, which must hold some lessons for us. Why have not more mentally handicapped Romanian children been adopted in this country, given the amount of publicity?

The couple's position is exceptional. They already have experience of dealing with mentally handicapped children: they have a mentally handicapped child of their own, and have adopted two others. Because of that, the social services were able to deliver a first-class report. They have also been able to take advantage of a first-class special school, which is run by Derbyshire county council at Inkersall Green—and will continue to be run in the same way if the available resources are not utterly destroyed by the present Government.

The couple have been incredibly determined. They first found out about the problems in Romania in February. Bev Smith visited Romania four times, and eventually contacted me about the problems that he was experiencing with the Home Office and the Foreign Office. Those problems were then resolved, and, once the two Departments understood the nature of the problems, they provided assistance. The couple also obtained the assistance of Mencap in Chesterfield: that assistance was vastly important, because it enabled Emese—the adopted child—not to be deemed a burden on the taxpayer. The Smiths' finances were limited, and the backing of Chesterfield Mencap was therefore essential.

Given the huge amount of publicity and public concern, why is Emese the only mentally handicapped Romanian child who will spend Christmas in this country? Perhaps we should question the extent to which mentally handicapped children can be found in Romanian institutions. Emese is only five, and has made considerable progress since her arrival with the Smiths. In a letter to me, Bev Smith writes: I must confess when I was at the Castle at Brincovevenesti it was the hardest decision that I have ever had to make. The fact that Emese grabbed me was the best thing that could have happened for her". Masses of other children there needed help, but it was Emese who wanted to join that fine family.

The Government should consider the current arrangements in detail.