HC Deb 07 March 2002 vol 381 c543W
Mr. Luff

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his Department's most recent assessment of the causes of autism. [38419]

Jacqui Smith

The Medical Research Council (MRC) published the report of its detailed review of the epidemiology and causes of autism on 13 December 2001. The report, commissioned by the Department in March 2001, provides a clear, authoritative picture of what scientific research has revealed about the occurrence and causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The report accepts that autism is not as rare as previously thought but notes that the apparent increase in prevalence of ASDs is likely to have resulted from better diagnosis and clearer definition as well as increased awareness and makes recommendations on the future research strategy for the United Kingdom.

The MRC report identifies a strong genetic component in the causation of autism, while acknowledging that most researchers believe autism has a variety of causes, including possible interactions with environmental factors.

We announced on 14 February that the Government have allocated a further £2.5 million for research into autism. The funds are being given to the MRC to help them to take forward recommendations on research contained in their report on the epidemiology and causes of autism referred to above.