This petition is supported by more than 5,000 signatories and a substantial number of letters of support and e-mails. It was organised by Autism in Mind as an activity for autism awareness year 2002, and it was largely collected by Mr. Terry Rutherford, who carried out a nationwide tour of the United Kingdom during November last year, ultimately presenting the petition at Westminster to me and to my hon. Friends the Members for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington) and for Ilford, North (Linda Perham).
The petition reads:
To the House of Commons.
The petition of citizens of the United Kingdom.
Declares that autistic spectrum disorders now affect 96 in 10,000 people, that autism is a complex disorder and people with autism have specific and complex needs and, to that end, Mr. Richard Exley who has Asperger's syndrome, has drawn up a "call for action" to improve services for autistic people.
The Petitioners, therefore, request that your honourable House will require Her Majesty's Government to address the "call for action" and ensure that a diagnosis of autism should be made by a practitioner with an understanding of autism, that such a diagnosis should be the key to unlocking the range of public services that an autistic person requires, that such services should be tailored to an individual's needs and be available throughout life and that substantial investment will be made in improving the range and quality of such services and ensuring their availability throughout the United Kingdom.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
To lie upon the Table.