Science Policy (Prime Minister's Speech)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd May 1972.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian 12:00 am, 2nd May 1972

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech about science policy to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee on 17th April at the Dorchester Hotel.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I did so on 18th April, Sir.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

What did the right hon. Gentleman have in mind when he said that we should be careful not to have too many engineers and mathematicians?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Exactly that, Sir.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

How many does the right hon. Gentleman think there should be and how do the Government intend to achieve that number?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

This is not something for the Government to achieve. Most scientists agree that if the universities provide a number far in excess of those who can fill positions requiring their specialist capabilities, there will be frustration among scientists, which will dissuade the next generation from taking up a scientific career. This has for long been emphasised by leading scientific figures. Part of the solution lies in arranging, as we are doing in the Government service, for scientists to have far wider opportunities than scientific service alone offers, and this practice, I hope, industry will also adopt.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Does not the right Gentleman recall that at the university at which he recently became a doctor of technology—one of our primary engineering universities—he was given figures of the serious number of graduate redundancies and inability to get employment in a wide range of engineering, thus suffering the frustration to which he referred?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that frustration is due entirely to the Government's economic policy? Is it not a fact that most firms are recruiting fewer graduate scientists and engineers this year, so that it is becoming increasingly difficult for universities to place undergraduate students in factories as part of a sandwich course or any other form of course?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I cannot accept that that is the result of Government economic policy. Those who advise us in these matters point out that for some years industry has been carrying out a complete review of the extent to which specialist scientists can be used in industrial activities. This has led industry to reach very different conclusions from those reached earlier in the decade. That is why I emphasise the need for industry and the Government service—we are following the recommendations of the Fulton Committee—to give scientists opportunities in the wider administration of business, rather than to confine them to specialist activities.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Instead of generalising about the universities producing too many, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House the figures of those taken on by business firms in 1970, 1971 and 1972 and the reasons for changes in the figures?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, Sir. If the right hon. Gentleman will table a Question I will, in reply, give him the detailed figures, or I am quite prepared to send them to him and to make them public.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

As I am chairman of the committee which arranged the luncheon at which the Prime Minister made that speech, may I assure him that most of those who heard it thought that it was extremely well balanced and thoughtful? Is he aware that rather than picking one sentence out of context, it would be better if those who once favoured the white heat of technological revolution faced the fact that their revolution was a damp squib?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I am grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for those remarks and for pointing out that we achieved our purpose.