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Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to implement the National Autism Plan for Children; and if he will make a statement. [112244]

We welcome this plan and its recommendations for good practice in providing for the increasing numbers of children being identified with autistic spectrum disorders. The plan will inform the care pathway for autism that is being developed for the forthcoming children's national service framework.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to ensure that the rights of autistic people are protected under the Mental Health Acts. [112678]

It is Government policy to ensure that the rights of all patients treated under mental health legislation are protected, particularly those of vulnerable groups such as people with autism.The Mental Health Act 1983 sets out the circumstances in which someone with a mental disorder may be treated without their consent, provides rights of access to review by an independent tribunal and other safeguards for the patient. The proposals set out in the draft Mental Health Bill, as published in June 2002, would improve the protection of patients' rights by, for example, requiring all compulsory treatment beyond 28 days to be independently authorised by the new Mental Health Tribunal and by providing specialist advocacy.