§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask th,2 Secretary of State for Health what research into autism has been supported financially by his Department in the last 18 months; and how much money was allocated in each case. 
§ Dr. Ladyman
[holding answer 20 October 2003]: In February 2001, the Department commissioned the Medical Research Council (MRC) to undertake a detailed review of the epidemiology and causes of autism. The MRCs report, published on 13 December 2001, outlines what scientific research has revealed about the occurrence and causes of autistic spectrum disorders, identifies gaps in knowledge and makes recommendations for the future research strategy on autism for the United Kingdom.
The MRC spent £1.25 million on autism research in 2001–02 and £1.3 million in 2002–03. In February 2002, the Department allocated £2.5 million to the MRC to help it to take forward the recommendations in the report. These funds will complement and add to the MRCs current support for research in this field. Between December 2002 and July 2003, the MRC held a series of seminars and, jointly with the National Autistic Society, the first annual autism research forum, to stimulate further high-quality research proposals from the research community.
This money will he used to further research into autism through the M RC's normal mechanism of a peer reviewed grants system. The MRC is aware that there are a number of research proposals currently being developed in this area, but it takes time to develop high quality research proposals in any area of research.