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Volume 406: debated on Friday 23 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many new cases of autism were reported in each year from 1990 to 2002; and if he will make a statement. [115191]

Details of the number of children diagnosed with autism since 1990 are not available. In December 2001 the Medical Research Council (MRC) published a comprehensive review of autism research, which provides an authoritative overview of the current state of knowledge on the prevalence, incidence and causes of autism. The report was commissioned by the Department of Health and produced with the help of a wide range of experts and a "lay" group including parents and representatives of autism charities. It is available on the MRC website at report says that according to recent reviews, there appears fairly good agreement that autism spectrum disorders affect approximately 60, and more narrowly defined autism 10–30, per 10,000 children under eight.In February 2002 we allocated a further £2.5 million to the MRC to help them to take forward their programme of work on autism. The MRC is currently holding a series of scientific workshops on autism with a view to stimulating additional high quality research proposals. One of these, held on 30 April this year, was on autism in populations.