Health written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much financial support he has given for research into autism in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The Medical Research Council (MRC), a non-departmental public body which receives its grant-in-aid from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology, is the main public sector body which funds research into autism. The MRC spend on autism since 1998 is shown in the table.

£ millions
Spend on autism
1998–99 1.04
1999–2000 1.11
2000–01 1.18
2001–02 1.26
2002–03 1.30

The MRC always welcomes high quality applications for support into any aspect of human health and these are judged in open competition with other demands on funding. Awards are made according to their scientific quality and importance to human health.

In February 2002, we allocated a further £2.5 million to the MRC to help it to take forward its programme of work on autism. Between December 2002 and July 2003, the MRC held a series of four seminars to encourage the development of good quality applications for autism research funding. Topics covered in the seminars were gut and the developing child; brain and mind (neuropsychology and neuroimaging); autism in populations and outcome measures for interventions in children and adults. On 11 July 2003 the MRC held the first of their annual forums for autism research, "Breaking barriers, building bridges", in conjunction with the National Autistic Society, to bring together ideas stimulated by the previous four seminars.

The MRC will be taking decisions on the allocation of research project funding for further autism studies in early 2004.

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