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Scientific Manpower

Oral Answers to Questions — Welsh Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Malcolm Macpherson Mr Malcolm Macpherson , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs 12:00 am, 19th November 1957

asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for one Government Department to be responsible for maintaining records of the numbers, qualifications, and types of appointment held by engineers and technologists of professional standard.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the difficulties experienced by the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy in obtaining accurate details regarding the loss of highly qualified research scientists, engineers, postgraduate physicists, and chemists by reason of emigration to countries abroad, he will arrange for one Government Department to be responsible for maintaining records of all such emigration.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is already responsible for collecting information about the employment of persons in Great Britain, including engineers and technologists. Records as full as those suggested could be kept only with a degree of expense which would appear disproportionate to their value.

As regards migration, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) on 14th November.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Macpherson Mr Malcolm Macpherson , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the question is not entirely one of fullness of the records, although fullness is needed, but of the accuracy of the figures which are kept? Is he aware, for instance, that at the Ministry of Education it is difficult to disentangle the records relating to the qualifications of engineers from those relating to people qualified in other subjects, because they are all kept together? A similar difficulty arises over emigrants, of whom records are kept by the Commonwealth Relations Office. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in recent months there have been statements by scientists well placed to know to the effect that we shall not achieve the modest target of the number of scientists and technologists we have set ourselves? Is it not clear, therefore, that we should make a special effort, even at some expense, to find out where we are using those we have?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

There are two quite separate questions here. One is the encouragement of technological training and scientific teaching by every possible means. Those the Government are pursuing with great effort. The second is the question of the keeping of the records in the most suitable way. I quite agree, and I will certainly look into the point the hon. Gentleman has raised. I would, however, remind him that I do not think it would be in conformity with the general view of the moment that we should revert to the period of war time when, of course, there was compulsory registration of all scientists, engineers and so forth by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. Those powers have now expired, and I should not think it would be agreeable to the House if I were to ask to revive them.

Photo of Mr James McInnes Mr James McInnes , Glasgow Central

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy itself is conscious of the widespread belief that the emigration of scientists, technologists, chemists and others has increased considerably during the past few years? Further is he aware that hon. Members have put Questions to Ministers responsible for a variety of Departments and can get no accurate information at all? Is it not worth while, therefore, expending some money in order to have records on this very important subject?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

It is not only a question of money. It is a question, as I have tried to explain to the House, of taking back powers of compulsory registration of all people which the Ministry of Labour and National Service had in the war. That I am not prepared to do. Short of that, I am quite ready to find all possible information that can be got without reversion to those powers.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

My hon. Friend was, I think, concerned with the question of the emigration of scientists, and I would ask the Prime Minister if he does not feel that it is desirable to clear up the good deal of confusion which appears to exist on this subject by providing figures of exactly how many scientists of various kinds have emigrated.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

Yes, but that is just the point—how to obtain those figures in the most effective way without the use of compulsory powers.