Committee on Social Studies (Report)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd June 1965.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby 12:00 am, 2nd June 1965

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

The Report of the Committee on Social Studies is being published today.

The Government wish to express their gratitude to Lord Heyworth and the members of the Committee for the time and effort which they have devoted to a thorough survey of a wide field, and for the care and thought with which they have prepared their recommendations.

The social sciences have an important contribution to make to the development of a progressive society, and to the solution of the social problems of modern life.

The Government accept in principle the main recommendation of the Committee that there should be a Social Science Research Council, to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

They accept that there is considerable scope for stronger support and better co-ordination of research in the field of social studies, and they believe that the Committee is right in concluding that this could best be done with the help of a Social Science Research Council, while also maintaining support through the University Grants Committee and, where appropriate, Government Departments.

This proposal raises a number of detailed issues which will require further consideration, including the new Council's terms of reference, its scope and membership, and the arrangements for budgetary control. Moreover, the Government, while accepting that further provision should be made for research in the field of urban planning, do not believe that the Committee's proposal for a joint board of the various research councils would be satisfactory. They are considering what provision should be made for this purpose.

The Government accept that some increase in financial support for social science research is desirable. Before committing themselves to detailed plans, however, they propose to await the advice of the Council itself. The scale on which additional resources can be made available will have to take into account other claims on our resources.

The Government will not at this stage be expected to comment in detail on the various other recommendations of the Committee. But they recognise the important role which social scientists can play in the formulation and execution of policy, and they intend to ensure that Government Departments are so organised and staffed that information and advice from social scientists are available on an adequate scale.

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

While we on this side are very glad that the Government have accepted the recommendation to set up the Social Science Research Council, will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that his statement would have been considered by the party opposite both flat and disappointing if it had been made by this side of the House?

I have three questions to put to the right hon. Gentleman. First, can he say a little more about finance for this Council, considering that Lord Hayworth and his Committee have asked only for an extra £150,000 in the first year on top of a total social science research expenditure of £6½ million for our last year of office, 1964–65?

Secondly, will he state the Government's attitude to one important recommendation, No. 17, that there should be more social scientists in Government Departments where appropriate?

Thirdly, and very important, could the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will see that there is constant co-ordination between this Research Council and the University Grants Committee in view of the very large amount of relevant work which will increasingly be done in our expanding universities?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

I was slightly taken aback by the right hon. Gentleman's introductory remark. I have searched our election manifesto with great care and I find no reference to any policy on social science research councils, so I am not absolutely clear what he has in mind there.

First, finance. Clearly, it would be quite irresponsible, until the Report has been studied in great detail and until the Council has advised, to take any definite view as to the exact amount of money which ought to be granted to the Council.

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's second question, as I think my statement implied, is that we certainly wish to see more social scientists employed in Government Departments.

On the question of co-ordination with the U.G.C., again, as I think my statement implied, there must be the closest possible co-ordination.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Why has the concept of a joint board been rejected?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

Broadly on these grounds, that, if one takes the existing research councils, it is not absolutely clear that any of them have a considerable contribution to make as they are now organised to this particular field of urban planning. It did not seem to us that these four bodies alone, or even five if one takes into account the new Social Science Research Council, would be the bodies to do this particular type of research. There is not all that much in common between, say, the Agricultural Research Council and the problem of urban planning.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

I am interested in recommendations Nos. 18 to 23, concerning social scientists available to Government Departments. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that these recommendations go far enough? Surely, social scientists should now be available at the highest level in Government Departments, almost on the same scale as economists. I think that there are 22 economists in the Ministry of Overseas Development. How many social scientists are there?

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to see that other Ministries, such as the Scottish Office, which will be deeply concerned, have adequate representation of the social sciences, including practical social science, bringing in people such as the county development officers, many of whom are trained in social science?

Will he ensure that such people are available to the new development bodies such as the Highland Development Board and the other regional bodies? It is most important that their services should not be lost and that they should be treated as at least as important as economists.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

I agree in principle entirely with what the right hon. Gentle-man said. As to the exact number we shall need and in what places, we must simply look at this and study the question over the next few weeks.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

Will my right hon. Friend accept that, in view of the great need to associate the field of social research with the field of urban town planning and development, bearing in mind the gap which exists over wide fields at the moment in this aspect of the matter, it would be desirable to incorporate studies of urban planning and renewal in the work of the proposed Council?

Photo of Mr Anthony Crosland Mr Anthony Crosland , Grimsby

This is what is under consideration. I do not myself think, and neither does my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, that this is the best medium through which to study the problems of urban planning and development. I think that most hon. Members, when they have read the Report, will take the same view. We are now studying precisely what is the best means of doing it, and this is a matter on which, obviously, the views of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will weigh very strongly with us.

Photo of Sir Rolf Williams Sir Rolf Williams , Exeter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whether he intended to or not, he gave the impression to the House that he did not think that there was much chance of getting the £150,000 out of the Treasury? We on this side know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has his limitations, but will the right hon. Gentleman, when discussing with the Treasury the sum of money to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) referred, draw the Chancellor's attention to the point that this money will be far better paid out for the purposes which he has indicated than for subsidising a few football clubs?

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Order. There is nothing about football clubs in the Minister's statement.