CARDIFF, Wales: Hugh Morgan, chief executive of Wales' national autism charity, Autism Cymru, has expressed his disappointment at the departure of Jane Hutt from the post of Minister for Health and Social Services in this week’s Welsh Assembly Government reshuffle.
"It is something of a disappointment to lose the leadership of Jane Hutt from the forthcoming All-WalesStrategy for Autistic Spectrum Disorders, especially as it was she who announced the development of the ASD Strategy back in December 2002,” said Morgan. “Jane Hutt, like Jane Davidson, was clearly personally committed to the ASD strategy in Wales and it is a great pity that, in a few months’ time, she could not be there to launch the Strategy, alongside her counterpart, Jane Davidson, Minister for Education and Life-Long Learning.”
Morgan added: “We must remain vigilant that the Welsh Assembly Government implements its stated commitment to autistic spectrum disorders as embodied in the ASD Strategy. Within the ASD community in Wales, we all have an important role to play in ensuring that the Strategy is consulted on effectively and that it will make a real and measurable impact upon the quality of lives for people with ASD and their families.”
He expressed the hope that the new Minister for Health and Social Services, Dr Brian Gibbons, “will show the same high level of commitment to autistic spectrum disorders that his predecessor, Jane Hutt, did.”
Jane Hutt has been asked to take on the Cabinet role of business manager.
Wales’ First Minister , Rhodri Morgan, said: "I am confident that Brian Gibbons has a unique combination of experience and talent to build on the platform created by Jane Hutt for the health and social services of Wales since May 1999. Now I have asked Jane to take on another key Cabinet position where she can help to lead the Welsh Assembly Government's agenda and ensure that it is translated into practical action.”
The First Minister added: "All of the stakeholders in health and social services - and that is virtually of us in Wales - will recognise Jane Hutt's huge contribution to the development of health and social services in a devolved Wales. As well as all the pioneering work in Health Challenge Wales and across the board in the public health agenda, the corner has clearly now been turned on long waiting times and after five-and-a-half years in one of the most demanding portfolios in government, now is the time to hand on those responsibilities from a position of investment, improvement and strength."
Jane Hutt’s successor, Irish-born, Dr Gibbons, is currently Deputy Economic Development and Transport Minister. He has previously served as Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services. His political interests include the National Health Service, education, industrial development, Europe and Third World Debt.
(Sources: Awares, Autism Cymru, Welsh Assembly Government, January 11, 2005)