British Science

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education 7:30 pm, 29th February 1988

I beg to move, That this House, noting with great anxiety the serious crisis which now affects this country's scientific base, and further noting the profound disappointment of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils that public expenditure plans for the science budget are insufficient to avert a reduction in the volume of scientific activity, or to allow for the strategic reshaping of the scientific base, condemns the complacent and regressive attitude of Her Majesty's Government; and calls for a real commitment to proper Government support for scientific, medical and technological research and development in higher education, research institutions and industry, so that this country's intellectual, industrial and social future tray be secured. The Government's furtiveness about their science record is well illustrated by the fact that they have refused many demands for a debate on science by both sides of the House. Therefore, the Opposition have had to devote one of their precious half-day Supply debates to that important issue. The last Government debate on science, according to the best researches of the Library, was on 14 June 1985, two and three quarter years ago.

Britain now faces a crisis in science more serious than at any time since the war. There is virtually no one in the universities, the research councils or industry who disagrees with that diagnosis, except the Government. Their mood is one of complacent self-congratulation, with back-slapping for an acclaimed 15 per cent. real terms increase in the science budget since 1979, but that claim is confounded both by former Ministers and by the Government's own hand-picked Advisory Board for the Research Councils. That board consists of the country's leading academic scientists, senior science advisers to the Government and captains of industry such as Sir Francis Tombs, the chairman of Rolls-Royce, and Dr. Roberts, the joint managing director of GEC. In a letter to the Secretary of State that was published recently, the board, giving its advice on the science budget allocation for 1988–91, welcomed the increases in the science budget that the Secretary of State announced on 3 November, but was profoundly disappointed that these are insufficient either to avert a reduction in the volume of scientific activity or to allow for the necessary strategic reshaping of the science base. Anybody who has read through that document will be clear that it is a damning indictment of the Government's record. The board says that even Without any allowance for further cost increases above average inflation, the amount of research which the Science Budget buys will … be between 2 per cent. and 3 per cent. lower in 1990–91 than was planned for this year. The board continues: That reduction compares starkly with the cumulative 8 per cent. growth in the UK's national wealth … which the Government is forecasting over the same period. The board describes the science budget as a dismal background against which it had to make its decisions. It concludes: In our expenditure advice to the Secretary of State in June, we stated that the UK science base was at a watershed. The Government's revised expenditure plans for the Science Budget do not provide the means to move our nation's scientific capability towards the twenty-first century. We remain precariously poised at the great divide and are beginning to slip in the wrong direction. A great opportunity has, sadly, been missed. Recognising the force of that criticism, the Government seek, as they do in their amendment, to evade responsibility for what is happening to science, in two ways. First, they tell us to look at the total Government spend on research and development and to compare it as a share of gross domestic product with that of other countries. But our share of expenditure compared with that of other countries is respectable only when full account is taken of our expenditure on defence-related research and development. The former Minister for Information Technology, who resigned partly because of his argument with the Government over the lack of expenditure for civil research on space, said in The Times on 16 December: There is a bit of sophistry in what the Government's saying about this because everybody knows that half of the Government R&D is defence and this is still a problem really. That was underlined by a fascinating study of research policy in the British Medical Journal on 6 February 1988 by Richard Smith, who says that if we leave out defence, Britain does poorly, and that As a percentage of gross domestic product it already spends less on civil research than all the other countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development … —and is spending less as the other countries spend more. The figures given in that study not only spell that out, but spell out the fact that most other major industrialised countries and some that are not, including Spain and Iceland, have increased their GDP expenditure on research since 1978 far faster than this country.

Secondly, the Government claim that there has been a 15 per cent. increase in real terms in the science budget since 1979. However, that is a reference only to the amount that is spent on research councils and other minor expenditures. That is almost entirely offset by the decay of the dual support system by which research is funded by University Grants Committee block grant, a matter to which I shall return, and is also offset by higher than general inflation, which has been accepted as affecting the Health Service, but not, as far as I can judge, research.

The cries of anguish about the state of science are widespread. Everybody is aware of the cry that came from Dr. Max Perutz, the former director of the laboratory of molecular biology at Cambridge, who said: The brilliance of British science is one of the country's greatest cultural achievements, if not the greatest, but it is a fragile flower as I know from Austria, my country of birth. Once destroyed by bad politics it cannot be restored. The Secretary of State may wish to dismiss Dr. Perutz as a self-serving academic—

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I am glad to hear that.

The Daily Telegraph, of all papers, and during the election campaign, published a searing indictment of the Government's commitment to research. It quoted Sir David Phillips FRS, the chairman of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, as saying: A British scientist can hardly travel anywhere without being subjected to pity by others". Sir George Porter, president of the Royal Society, was quoted as saying: The morale of the scientific community has fallen to its lowest point this century". That understanding is also shared by those in industry, as anyone who talks to those who are involved in scientific-based industries knows only too well. That was underlined by the article in the Financial Times last Monday, which quoted Dr. Alan White, research director at the United Kingdom subsidiary of Ciba-Geigy, as saying that he was concerned about the pressures on universities to put more effort on short-term contract research rather than basic medical studies. Dr. John Griffin, director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, is reported as saying that the problems in academic research mean fewer young people want to pursue a career in the scientific aspects of medicine. Dr. Griffin says: I am worried about the effects this will have on the pharmaceutical industry in the 1990s. There are many other symptoms of the crisis. There is the reduction in the success rate of applications to the research councils, which have fallen to a point where, according to the head of one major research institute, application is discouraged and too large a proportion of creative time is spent on grant proposals. Alpha-rated applications are those which are judged as being of outstanding merit by the relevant research council committee. For the Medical Research Council, the proportion of alpha-rated applications that were accepted for funding was down to 63 per cent. last year compared with 83 per cent. two years before. For the Science and Engineering Research Council, it is now down to 50 per cent. One illustration of the distortions that are now arising in the science budget because of the squeeze is the fact that today we are spending as much money on high energy particle physics as on the whole of the rest of physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics research combined. That balance cannot be right.

A key factor is the expenditure on CERN. I hope that the Secretary of State will say something about the Government's approach to the continued funding of CERN, given its international importance— indeed, its symbolism—in terms of European collaboration. There is a clear case for continuing funding, but, as the ABRC said in paragraph 11 of its latest advice, there is also a strong case for treating it separately. Indeed, some people have urged that it should be treated partly as a charge against the FCO budget, but I shall not pursue that line. What I want to know from the Secretary of State is whether he is willing to accept the ABRC's advice that CERN cannot continue to eat into research funds for other aspects of the pure sciences.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Will the hon. Gentleman make his point a little clearer? I have received representations from people in this country who are working on high energy particle physics, particularly from Oxford university. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that we should reduce our contribution to that to help the other sciences? What exactly is he asking the Government to do?

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I am not saying that, but I am happy to make my point again. I am saying that the Government ought to earmark funding for CERN, so as not to undermine research in biology, chemistry, maths and physics, whose funding is now only equal to that on CERN.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Does my hon. Friend agree that not only CERN but every one of the research councils must pay a very large amount to join the international organisations? In fact, the amount is so large that it plays quite a role in the amount available. Should not the Government consider the matter seriously, with a view to helping the research councils to pay for their affiliation to international organisations?

Mr. Shaw:

My hon. Friend is right. There is the general problem of a squeeze, which is accentuated by the continuing commitments to international organisations and institutions such as CERN—which it is right that we should continue to have.

Above all, as I said earlier, there has been the erosion of the system of dual support, by which research at universities has been supported partly by research council grants direct, and partly indirectly by the University Grants Committee block grant, over which the universities have had much more discretion and latitude. That erosion is compounded by the Government's refusal, when contracting for research, to bear the overhead costs of much research, and by an undermining of the infrastructure. Alongside that, the squeeze has led to an unbalanced aid structure in our universities, offset only inadequately by new blood money.

Judging by his amendment, the Secretary of State may well talk about the additional funding that is going to universities following his great success with the Chief Secretary. But, for example, £156 million of that is being held back over the next three years simply to pay for the costs of redundancy and restructuring, and will not be used to fund research or teaching.

If our first charge against the Government is that of inadequate funding, the second is of the creation of a major skill shortage. The facts are startling. The numbers of students registering for A-level courses in physics, biology and chemistry dropped by nearly 10 per cent. in the two years between 1985 and 1987, compared with a decrease in the age group of only 3·8 per cent. Universities and polytechnics face increasing difficulty in recruiting suitable entrants for most science and technology courses, and in keeping the best people doing doctoral or postdoctoral research. A 1984 survey by the Department of Education and Science showed that about half of physics and maths teachers did not follow the subject that they were teaching as one of the main subjects in their own degree level courses.

Despite the Government's bursary scheme, the latest figures show an 11 per cent. drop in the number of people going forward for additional teacher training in maths, and a 14 per cent. drop in those going forward for initial teacher training in physics. There are serious deficiencies in the provision of laboratories' equipment and books, which have been highlighted by Her Majesty's inspectors' reports year by year, and today by the survey by the National Union of Teachers. The Government could find £80 million to pay for a few city technology colleges, but they cannot find the money to establish and improve a science base in our schools.

Besides that, there is the simple fact of the brain drain. Science is international, and we accept that there should be a great interchange of people and ideas. However, there is now serious anxiety about the quality of people who leave this country. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals made the point when commenting on the Royal Society's report, which was published at the end of June. Sir Mark Richmond, the chairman of the committee, said: Counting heads to prove that roughly the same number of scientists come to Britain as leave is meaningless when those who go are among our brightest young people, leaving to take up permanent posts; while those who come here do so only for a short time, to broaden their experience … the report demonstrates that salary is not the main reason why our people go. There is an urgent need for security in academic appointments, for better facilities in universities ard for the research councils to be funded at a level where they can support a much higher proportion of the best research proposals they receive.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

Is my hon. Friend aware that the cutbacks have affected bodies outside the universities as well? Cutbacks in employment in the Natural Environment Research Council have led to many scientists — geologists, geophysicists, geomorphologists and so on — having to take jobs abroad. That has caused a rundown in the balance of natural scientists working in the council, which is so essential for the preservation of sites of special scientific interest, for example.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I accept that. No research council, even the Medical Research Council, is in more serious difficulty than the Natural Environment Research Council, which today announced an absolute drop in its funding.

Our third charge against the Government is the most fundamental: that their attitude to science is too short-term and too short-sighted. In their concern to achieve better value for money and more support from industry — both laudable aims in themselves — they fail to appreciate the critical importance of pure research; or, if they do appreciate it, they fail to provide an environment in which it can flourish. As we know, the Government are obsessed with markets as the cure-all for everything. But every advanced industrialised society that aspires to a decent scientific base understands that industry — the market — cannot provide funds or support for all research.

Yes, British industry should do more. Its record of support for research and development is one of the most appalling in the western world. British industry is itself constrained by a financial system in the City which has appallingly limited horizons, and does not accept the importance of long-term investment in research and development, as do other nations.

By definition, a major part of any research undertaken by industry is bound to be goal-driven. A firm says to its researchers, "Find a drug to do this," or "Find the electronic technology to do that." The Government fail to understand that none of that goal-driven research would be possible without the base of research initiated by curiosity or speculation, in which bright, inquisitive people are given the environment, security and resources to follow their instincts to an end—or., often, to no end at all.

The goal-driven research project at present is that on AIDS. There is a clear goal: to find a cure. The project is making considerable progress, but the Government must understand that there would be no goal-driven research in AIDS if 30 years ago a few mavericks driven by curiosity —Crick and Watson, and others at Cambridge — had not been messing about, wasting time and money. They were criticised for it, but after a while they discovered DNA and the double helix, and initiated the work of a series of other people, who also messed about for many years in laboratories trying to understand genetic structures.

Another example is Alexander Fleming and the development of penicillin. Penicillin was developed in the war in goal-driven research because of the concern to find a cure for infections. But that achievement would never have been possible had not Fleming been messing about 15 years before discovering, before putting the research aside for a time, that some moulds could kill other bacteria.

There are plenty of contemporary examples. There is one from my local university of Leeds, where the biodegradable glass pellet was developed to solve mineral and vitamin deficiencies in sheep and cows. It arose as a result of conversations between scientists in the department of animal physiology and in the department of ceramics who were funded out of block grant money and who could not get money from the research council for initial development. They have produced a world beater, and Pilkingtons are selling it across the world.

We have the example of much more applied technology in the shape of the Loughborough lockstitch pile fabric machine about which I know a little because it is made by a firm in my constituency. Professor Wry and Mr. Ward, who designed it on the back of a British Railways menu on the train to Loughborough from London, were funded out of block grant. Initially, they received no funding from the SRC.

There are scores more examples. The simple truth is that if curiosity-driven research dries up, there can be no applied research to follow. The shift of Government policy is away from curiosity-initiated or pure research to specific, targeted research. They seem to expect that the result, as well as the goal, of the research should be within the horizon before it is funded.

I should like to consider funding and concentration and specialisation — the so-called XRT proposals of the advisory board. The Opposition do not believe for one second that the present distribution of scientific endeavour, which has happened in a random way, is perfect. We certainly accept that changes in scientific discovery and initiative require institutional changes to reflect them. There always has been discrimination, but discrimination in terms of funding must be exercised project by project, department by department and subject by subject—not institution by institution. There are many great universities which have poor departments and there are many not so good universities which have great departments. It would be terribly short-sighted to write off whole institutions.

Universities must not be given gradings which are set in concrete for all time. Reputations change. Some R-rated departments may need to drop out and some T-rated departments may need to come into research. Any concentration needs new funding—much more than has been achieved. Everyone in private industry understands that if enormous changes such as these are to be initiated, they must be funded, but evidently the Government do not.

The parallel between the Government's attitude to the National Health Service and the science base is striking. We are now a land of great plenty. We have a Government who tell us that they are awash with money. The moral and political question is not whether the cash is available but how to spend it. We must decide on whether to spend it on tax cuts for the better off or to invest it in the future. Today's balance of payments figures, which show a current account deficit of £905 million, show that if we spend it on consumption — tax cuts — that will be an investment in our competitors rather than in ourselves. If we spend it on science, it will be an investment in our future.

There is an overwhelming case for the Government to agree to the additional £100 million which the ABRC recommended. I hope to hear the Secretary of State saying that he has bullied or cajoled the philistines in the Treasury to achieve that end. The Government preach the philosophy of entrepreneurship and risk, but in science policy their cautious and centralist approach demands certainty where none is possible.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Britain led the world in exploration of outer space — the new world — and accepted that for every expedition that succeeded, scores would fail. How ironic it is that in today's challenge of outer space beyond the universes and the inner space of human cells, the Government have abandoned entrepreneurship, risk-taking and imagination. By doing so, they will fail our nation in the next century.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I must tell the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley 7:54 pm, 29th February 1988

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof, 'notes the essential and increasingly important contribution made by the science base in higher education and the research councils to the nation's economic and social development; applauds the achievements of Britain's scientists which are second only to those of the United States of America with its vastly greater resources; welcomes the 15 per cent. real terms increase in the science budget since 1979, the progress made by the University Grants Committee and research councils in promoting better value for money and responsiveness, and the new central machinery announced in Cm. 185 for considering science and technology priorities; and commends the Government's intention to take further steps to enhance the strength and quality of the science base and to ensure that research outcomes are better exploited to the United Kingdom's benefit.'. I welcome this debate. It provides us with a valuable opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of British scientists and to discuss the difficult issues which lie ahead concerning the future of the British science base, which have been well laid before us by the Advisory Board for the Research Councils. I also welcome it as an opportunity to dispel the myth which Opposition Members have propagated about the Government's parsimony and cuts in publicly funded academic research.

I should like to deal first with what the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said about spending. Public spending on the science base—the dual funding system involving universities and research councils, to which the hon. Gentleman referred— will be about £1·4 billion in the coming financial year. This represents a real terms increase relative to general inflation of about 6 per cent. compared with the curret year, and of about 11 per cent. since 1979.

Internationally, our public spending on civil research and development does not compare unfavourably. The hon. Gentleman was not quite accurate in what he said in this regard. Government spending on non-defence research and development as a proportion of gross domestic product is above that of the United States and Japan, although a little below that of France and West Germany. I accept that there are arguments in favour of our aiming higher, but hon. Members are woefully misinformed when they claim that we trail significantly behind all other industrial countries.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell South

What about industry's investment in research and development?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I shall come to that soon, and join in the hon. Member's condemnation.

Within our public spending on science, the science budget for the research councils has fared well. In 1988–89 it will total £699 million, which is over 15 per cent. more in real terms than when we came into office in 1979. That reflects the £160 million extra for the science budget over the next three years that I announced in November, following last year's public expenditure survey.

I am well aware that the ABRC put forward a reasoned case for an even larger increase, but there are many demands on the public purse and it was not possible to meet that bid in full. Nevertheless, we provided substantial additional resources which will ensure that scientific expenditure at least is held at the present level, and is at slightly more than that in the next two years. In the past two rounds I have been able to secure quite significant increases.

The £155 million for university restructuring includes new appointments. That is not entirely appreciated. When a department is restructured, it is not simply a matter of easing people out. One has to make sure that new blood comes in.

I must emphasise that our decisions on funding for science were taken in the knowledge that we shall respond later this year to the ABRC's discussion document, "A Strategy for the Science Base".

The hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) mentioned industry's spending on research and development. I am afraid that that is a far less satisfactory feature of the present scene. United Kingdom industry spends far less than our competitors on research and development as a proporton of gross domestic product. The latest figures available from the OECD are for 1985, and show that industry's funding of research and development as a proportion of GDP totalled 1 per cent. in the United Kingdom, 1·3 per cent. in the United States, 1·8 per cent. in Japan and 1·6 per cent. in West Germany. To be fair, we seem to be in about the same position as France and Italy, but I am afraid that I am not satisfied with that. I do not think that any hon. Member is. The Government believe that there is a prime need for industry to increase the amount of research and development that it funds. The hon. Member for Blackburn made broadly the same point.

Our policies have transformed the British economy since 1979. It was one of the slowest growing in the 1960s and the 1970s, but it has been one of the fastest growing in the 1980s. Most companies are now much better placed to increase their investment in research and development than they have been for many years. During the past five years we have reduced corporation tax significantly—to 35 per cent. I hope that that will make companies keen to invest more in research and development, especially as they are nearly all showing increased profits. There has been a slight improvement. Figures published earlier this month showed that, after falling between 1981 and 1983, spending within industry as R and D rose by 12 per cent. in real terms between 1983 and 1985, and by a further 7 per cent. between 1985 and 1986. However, one cannot afford to be complacent about such figures.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I appreciate that the Secretary of State will have to await the report of the ABRC, but in the meantime is there any comfort that he can give to good researches in good departments of small universities, who are wondering whether they have a future? Heriot Watt, for example, has a distinguished physics department. What is its future, and can any comfort be given to it in the interim?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

In my previous incarnation I happened to visit that physics department. It is an extremely good department and it has done some outstanding work on laser technology. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), in common with his hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, raises questions about the RTX proposals, and it is important to discuss this matter. The question that arises is one of selectivity in research. That question must be faced head on, not only by us, but by other countries. No country can possibly maintain the full stretch of research in every possible discipline at full speed.

Last summer, in its advice on strategy, the ABRC judged that present policy would not maintain the international competitiveness of United Kingdom university research. The board put great weight on the need for faster progress and suggested that there should be a differentiation of research roles between higher education institutions. That was contained in the so-called RTX proposal. Therefore, some universities would do research, some would offer a combination, with the balance towards teaching.

Our consultations on that strategy advice have generated a considerable number of detailed and interesting responses. I have been impressed by the constructive way in which the scientific community has moved the debate forward — [Interruption.]—that is what my brief says. As hon. Members know, not many voices have been raised in support of the RTX proposal. Indeed, there has been a clamour of opposition to it. However, beneath that clamour there is a substantial ground swell in favour of greater concentrations of research provision, but focused on subjects rather than on institutions. That was the point raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn.

The ABRC has said that the science base is at a watershed. Britain's economic and social prosperity in the 21st century will depend significantly on whether our decisions about the organisation and funding of research are right. I assure hon. Members that I intend to make a considered statement later this year on the Government's policy objectives for the science base and the steps that we will be taking to achieve it. The hon. Member for Blackburn will learn from that statement that we will be considering especially the concentration on subjects.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

I want to ask about the regional aspect of specialisation in science research. At the University of Wales, where research is subject to peer review, the university gets its fair share of funding. However, the system falls down when we consider the dual funding system of the research councils. No research council has ever willingly established itself within Wales. Clearly, there is a £20 million sum to be made up to ensure that Wales gets its fair share of the science budget. Will the Secretary of State address that problem in Wales, Scotland and some of the English regions?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

Some good research is being done at the Welsh and Scottish universities. The distinction of certain departments of universities in both countries has been recognised by the UGC. We have had interesting debates in Committee about research council funding and the power that I have. It is an arm's length relationship, and I do not influence—nor did any of my predecessors— the exact amount paid in research council grants. I would not seek to do so. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the chairman of the ABRC.

We must also consider the importance of collaborative research between universities, polytechnics and research councils and industry. I believe that everyone agrees that there must be closer links. I should like to commend two particular schemes that are extremely effective. The first is the teaching company scheme, which I first came across when I was at the DTI. It was then in embryo form. The scheme creates a link between a particular university or institution and a company. The graduates from the university, often research assistants of one sort or another, work with the company on its particular processes. That is excellent. At the same time, the company is encouraged to recruit outstanding graduates. The scheme works well and we are currently spending about £10 million a year on it in support of 270 programmes. Of that sum £7 million is provided from public funds, half by the Science and Engineering Research Council and half by the DTI. The SERC will increase its contribution over the next three years, with a matching increase from the DTI. We want to see that scheme expanded by about one third in the future.

The second scheme is the Link initiative. About a month ago I attended a press conference with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on this matter. It is an important programme that links institutions with particular companies in a consortium. At the press conference we announced five programmes concerning molecular electronics, advanced semi-conductor materials, industrial measurement systems, eukaryotics — essentially non-bacterial genetics — and nanotechnology. These programmes cover many areas of research. The total expenditure on them will be £83 million, of which half will come from public funds. I hope that more such programmes will be announced in the coming months, because they are extremely important.

A further example of collaborative endeavour, which is regional—it is not in Scotland or Wales, but it is in the north of England—is the new centre for exploitation of science and technology, which has been set up by industry and the City. We are providing £1 million over five years towards the cost of the centre and another £5 million is being contributed from industry. The centre will be located at the Manchester science park. I remember opening that park about five years ago when it was just a heap of rubble. The appointment of the chief executive of the centre has just been announced. He is Dr. Bob Whelan, formerly of PA Technology. The steering committee is composed of people with strong interests in industry and is chaired by Sir Robin Nicholson. I am especially glad that that centre is situated in Manchester, because it can draw upon the considerable strength and technological excellence that is found in the Manchester conurbation, not only at the University of Manchester, the University of Manchester institute of science and technology, Manchester polytechnic and Salford university, but in other parts of the north-west.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The Secretary of State is right in saying that few would disagree about the importance of collaborative research. It is something that should be welcomed. Is he suggesting that, in some way, additional spending on collaborative research should be offset by reductions in expenditure on what we have described as "curiosity-initiated research" through the dual support system? There is grave anxiety among the universities that the Government are putting too much emphasis on collaborative, attractive research, and not providing the environment in which curiosity-initiated research can flourish.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I do not agree. It is extremely important to back research projects for which one can see no particular end—curiosity-orientated research. The hon. Gentleman quoted some examples, and there is a great deal of such research taking place in British universities. It is funded principally through UGC grants.

The research councils have some contracts for such work, and industry occasionally funds such work. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we do not want to throw all the emphasis on the application end of research. That would be a narrow view, but we wish to make sure that some of the great inventiveness of British universities—there is still such inventiveness in many of our universities, as well as great talent and creativity—comes out to the market place. If that happens, it adds to the prosperity of the British economy and British companies.

Over the centuries we have been rather good at that. Indeed, it was a Scot who invented the first television and demonstrated it in a room in Soho, which I believe is now an Italian restaurant. However, it is palpably true that other countries have developed the television industry much more effectively than we have. There are many examples of that sort, and we must ensure that more of our inventiveness comes on to the market.

I praise the research councils for their work. British science has a worldwide reputation for excellence and has achieved large numbers of major scientific successes, some of which the hon. Member for Blackburn mentioned. They include penicillin, monoclonal antibodies, which have important implications for medical research, synthetic pyrethroid insecticides, which are non-toxic to mammals, and the development of new types of radio telescopes. Since 1970, 15 United Kingdom scientists have received Nobel prizes, while the United Kingdom share of world science citations and publications exceeds that of France and Germany. The research councils also produce practical benefits for United Kingdom industry. For example, the Medical Research Council obtained 37 patents in 1986–87. The Agricultural and Food Research Council received six Queen's awards for industry between 1976 and 1984. I am sure that all hon. Members will welcome such achievements.

As the House will know, following the excellent report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, we announced the strengthening of the Government's central machinery for considering science. The first component is collective consideration under the Prime Minister's leadership of science and technology priorities across all Government Departments — some-thing that has hitherto been lacking. This is linked with the annual public expenditure survey and will influence the expenditure plans that my colleagues and I will announce in the autumn for 1989–90 and for later years.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall get on.

Secondly, we have established the Advisory Council on Science and TechnologyACOST—with terms of reference that embrace all science and technology and with a membership drawn broadly from industry and the universities. This body is expected to provide the Government with influential advice on priorities for science.

Those developments have been welcomed and should contribute considerably to the value of the scientific debate in the coming years. I must stress, however, that, contrary to the belief of some commentators, the new arrangements do not imply a diminished role for the ABRC. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the advisory board and particularly to its chairman, Sir David Phillips.

Let me deal with selectivity and concentration. As I said, it is very important that we should move towards more selective discrimination in deciding which aspects of science to fund. This is a difficult decision for any politician. Some progress has been made. The research councils have made good progress. For example, the SERC has doubled its spending on engineering research over the past decade—as a specific aspect of determined policy—largely at the expense of astronomy and nuclear physics. However, Britain has kept a world-class presence in both disciplines because research has been focused on institutes of established excellence.

Similarly, the priority that the MRC has given to molecular biology in particular centres has paid handsome dividends. The hon. Member for Blackburn mentioned AIDS research. In money terms our AIDS research programme seems modest, but it is beginning to work very well and the scientists are optimistic, although any sort of cure or vaccine is many years off. We could not have mounted that programme without our outstanding virology and molecular biology departments, which, as the hon. Member for Blackburn said, are Government funded.

The swiftness of the response impressed me enormously. When the proposals from the MRC first reached the Committee under the chairmanship of my noble Friend Lord Whitelaw, I thought that the process would take a long time to get under way. I am impressed by the speed with which we have responded, and I hope that our scientists will be able to contribute to doing something about this appalling disease.

The UGC has grasped the nettle of selectivity in its famous list, produced last year, grading the research activities of various departments. Since then, grants to universities have explicitly reflected judgments about the quality of their research.

One of the main proposals in the ABRC's strategy advice—the hon. Member for Blackburn said that I had never listened to Sir David Phillips; I talk to him often and value his counsel and in this matter I have accepted his advice lock, stock and barrel—was for the establishment of university research centres focusing on new developments of potential interest to industry. That is very important. The university research centres will concentrate research effort. They will ensure more inter-disciplinary working, for example, of chemists with physicists, and biologists with engineers. They will forge strong links between higher education research and industry, and they will provide better co-ordination.

The SERC has already announced the establishment of the first four centres. These will be for research on higher temperature super-conductors at Cambridge, research on engineering design by a consortium based at Glasgow university, research in surface sciences based at Liverpool, and research on molecular sciences at Oxford. Each involves an investment by the SERC of between £6 million and £10 million, and each will also be backed by significant UGC and industrial funds. They are intended as powerhouses in their fields and are being funded as such. Some of the funding has been provided by redeployment from other parts of the SERC's budget, but more than half is new money, drawn from the additional resources that I announced last November.

I look forward to the establishment of other research centres. They are an important way of bringing together expertise in the established disciplines without constructing pillared buildings to house the project. It is difficult to bring together the different disciplines, but it is well worthwhile.

The hon. Member for Blackburn asked about the strength of science in general terms. Tomorrow the report of an international study on science achievement in 17 countries will appear. It measures how well our children do in science. The report holds no comfort for us at all. It shows that although we do very well at the top end of the system, at 17-plus — this is because we are highly selective at that stage—the scientific performance of our pupils at 11-plus and 14-plus lags behind that of our competitors. The main reason for that is that many of our schools have low scores. This creates a long tail of low achievement which drastically lowers our average scores in science. We cannot be satisfied with that. The report shows the wide variation in our schools, but it is a clear signal for us to pull up our scientific socks in schools.

In 1978 the inspectors issued a report on primary science which found that science was the least developed subject in the primary curriculum, We have done much since then, and if one wanted to single out a discipline in the primary curriculum that is doing well one might now single out primary science. We published our policy statement, "Science 5 to 16" in 1985 and set out the important objectives, that all pupils should be introduced to science in primary school, and that all class teachers should include some science in their teaching. Since 1985 we have followed up the policy statement by supporting expenditure of more than £16 million on the development of primary science and technology through education support grants, and we expect to support expenditure of a further £9 million next year.

We have a long way still to go and I do not wish to appear complacent. Hon. Members who have visited primary classes in their constituencies will know that in the better schools interesting work is being done by six, seven and eight-year-olds.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Is my right hon. Friend addressing this point to the teachers' training colleges, which I am sure is one way to improve matters?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

My hon. Friend, who brings to education matters considerable personal experience, is absolutely right. We shall not get science right in our universities and research councils unless we start in the schools. We must be concerned about the beginning of the flow through.

Our success depends also on the availability of science teachers, which is a matter of some concern. We published a consultative document on the matter in 1986 and started to implement a comprehensive action plan. Within two years we secured a 100 per cent. increase in the recruitment of trainee physics teachers. Many are joining the profession from other careers, attracted to teaching by the challenges and rewards that it offers. In 1987 we came within 1·3 per cent. of recruiting up to our target number of physics places in teacher training institutions and had, as part of our shortages action plan, increased the number of such places by nearly 6 per cent.

We are giving local education authorities £3·85 million in grants this year, and £4·4 million next year, to retrain and upgrade teachers of science who do not have adequate qualifications. There is no shortage of biology teachers, nor, as yet, of chemistry teachers. However, we are watching carefully a shortfall in recruitment to chemistry courses. Secondary pupil numbers will continue to fall until 1991.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

I am responsible for the English education system. I have a high regard for Scottish education. It does very well. However, I am talking specifically about teacher training in England and Wales.

I do not want the House to feel any sense of complacency in this matter. There is a great deal to be done. However, we do not want to sell British science short. We should be proud of what our scientists do. They work well in our universities, research councils and, in growing numbers, in our polytechnics. As I have said already, the quality of Britain's academic research is recognised across the world. The country is rightly proud of the outstanding record of its scientists. They have won honours out of all proportion to Britain's size and wealth. Britain has a reputation and strength in science which we must do everything possible to maintain and enhance. The quality of scientific research in our universities and research councils constitutes a major national asset. I welcome this opportunity to applaud the work of the men and women whose talent and dedication keep us at the frontiers of knowledge.

Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins , Newcastle upon Tyne Central 8:21 pm, 29th February 1988

The speech of the Secretary of State comes at the end of three years of almost continuous protest from industry and the academic world about the Government's policies towards science. The right hon. Gentleman's speech showed some evidence of a small but late rethink. However, the Advisory Board for the Research Councils has taken that into account and its advice note published in December said that the Government's revised expenditure plans for the science budget, those on which the Secretary of State has taken his stand tonight, do not provide the means to move our nation's scientific capability towards the 21st century. We remain precariously poised at the divide and are beginning to slip in the wrong direction. A great opportunity has been missed. The five research centres under the Link programme, to which the Secretary of State referred, the long overdue and still awaited search for a direction for the science base and the one and only collaborative research centre—at Manchester—between the academic world and industry serve only to emphasise the fact that the necessary structural and individual career links between basic, strategic and applied science do not exist and that the links between the science world of the university and the science world of industry are perilously weak.

The changes announced by the Secretary of State are small and have, as he admitted, been financed by cuts elsewhere in the science budget. It is worth bearing in mind that in the next financial year, the first in which the measures will have any effect, the total sums of money involved amount to scarcely more than that provided for two research ships—one replacement and one new—in Antarctica, which were also provided for in the increase in the expenditure programme.

Import penetration in our high technology industries is rising steadily and has risen throughout the life of the present Government. There is a £2 billion trade deficit from 1987 in a narrow group of important high technology industries concerned with electronics. The technology requirements board, set up by the Department of Trade and Industry, published its first report in the middle of last year. Its first statement was on the lack of industrial civil research and development. The Government's contribution to industrial civil research and development has fallen steadily throughout their life and the measures announced tonight by the Secretary of State go only a small way towards correcting that long-term decline. Two thirds of our industrial civil research and development is confined to a narrow range of industries. In fact, overseas funding of industrial research and development is now almost as great as the Government's contribution towards the science budget.

Even in regions such as mine, where we have one or two high technology industries, the links between multinational companies and the academic world are often tenuous. Many of the industrial plants are branch plants where research and development does not take place. Our research and development facilities are often unconnected to the products produced in the plants in the region. The friction costs of creating and sustaining a proper basis of skills for science in the future are high, given that pattern of industrial disconnection, for which the Government are not providing a proper element of leadership. They have not provided proper leadership throughout their time in office. The Secretary of State has said that companies will be in a position to finance their research and development from their own resources. That is a policy of laissez-faire which will simply add to the problems that are accumulating in British science.

The Government's tax take from industry is rising constantly and has risen steadily over the past three years. We are the only industrial country in which the tax take from industry has risen during that period. Every other major industrial country has been attempting to reduce the tax take from industry in the context of a planned advance of research and development. This Government are unique in not supporting those policies.

The Secretary of State does not pay sufficient attention to the regional effects of some of the Government's industrial policies. In order to create the links between basic, strategic and applied research and the world of production it is necessary to create sustained networks of interconnection between the academic world and industry. Too many of the industrial closures and mergers in the regions of Britain have broken the reality of those connections. My region has seen the virtual disappearance of Plessey as a major employer and the recent amalgamation of a major industrial ceramics producer, Thermal Syndicate, with a French company, which is clearly stripping its research and development capability. The Secretary of State has ignored that important aspect of the connection between science policy and industrial policy. The measures he has advanced for science policy leave the connections between science and industry to the work of the market. In his own comments on industry's performance in civil research and development he has made statements which suggest that we do not have an adequate policy.

In the academic world we are still seeing measures by which Peter is being robbed to pay Paul. Universities are responding to the need for industrial sponsorship for their research programmes. However, many of the employment places created are of a short-term contract nature which cannot provide the career structure on which science needs to develop. The Government's policies towards universities mean that they must increasingly seek to place a considerable burden of their overheads on to the research funds that they are attempting to generate from industry. A collision between the universities' need for sponsorship and their need to provide for their own basic overheads will produce a crisis of sponsorship funding in the near future.

The policies of the Health Service are also serving to undermine research in universities. Newcastle university has cut 38 posts in the medical faculty, many of them research posts. The National Health Service in the city cannot possibly take up the slack of funding that that represents.

The Secretary of State should have sent out the message that he was committed to building proper, continuing links of research and science between the academic world and the world of industry. That clarion call has not come. In my region, there are a number of locally based initiatives which the Secretary of State could have used as a model and which, significantly, are often funded by the local branch of the Department of Trade and Industry. It is a worrying aspect of the Government's policies towards science that the spending programmes of the Departments which have a share in research spending are not well coordinated, so that the best use is not being made of the money available.

Finally, I hope that there will be measures in the Budget through which the Government will seriously seek to link their belated efforts in funding for a science policy with a genuine restructuring and reconstruction of the base of civil research and development in industry through tax and other measures. Shortly, we are to have the promise of a new Companies Act. I hope that the Government will take advantage of that Act to respond to many of the requests from industry, to ask companies to identify their research and development spending and to provide for the links that they ought to be making in terms of the skill and science base of their own activities. We must await those conclusions.

It is clear that the Secretary of State has stuck narrowly to his departmental brief. We need a new approach in which the problems of science policy will be combined with a consideration of industrial policy and industrial planning. From the limited measures announced tonight, it is all too clear that that is not what we shall have.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Kincardine and Deeside 8:32 pm, 29th February 1988

I welcome the subject of the debate which the Opposition have chosen because it is vital to the future of the country, the economy and our reputation around the world. I was impressed by many of the statistics that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave earlier, but I hope that he will remember that it is not just a matter of statistics and money.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) underlined the fact that our role in universities and research institutes is based upon human beings. Our biggest resource in science and research is the human resource. That resource requires to be motivated if we are to continue to produce the results and to maintain the reputation that we have in the past. From my contacts in universities and institutions, it is obvious that there is a sense of disillusionment and bewilderment and a need for direction. In that sense, the debate is particularly topical this evening.

I understand the general thrust of policy. For example, the Government amendment referred to better value for money and better responsiveness. I understand the need for better co-ordination with industry. I have just spent four years at the Department of Energy where I endeavoured to mobilise the oil industry to put more into research and, at the same time, to obtain the co-operation of research establishments, universities and institutes. I was consulted when the Link programme was drawn up because, in many cases, the Offshore Energy Technology Board was already fulfilling many of the objectives of the Link programme.

I support the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for better co-ordination and links between research, science and industry. However, I have a number of major concerns to which I hope the Government will pay attention and on which they will take action.

First, despite the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State— I believe that he does not want to be complacent — there is a danger of complacency because we are becoming almost over-obsessed with the need for this greater link between industry, science and research. Development and technology are important in themselves, but we must remember that research is equally important, particularly fundamental research. This country has long had a reputation for fundamental research. The funding of that research is a public responsibility. It is the kind of research which only in a limited way can we be sure of getting simply through links between industry and research institutions and universities. We must remember that fundamental research has always been, and is likely to remain to a great extent, a public responsibility.

Secondly, there is an urgent need for better understanding of the background against which our policies are applied. The Government amendment refers to the progress made by the University Grants Committee. I make no apology for referring to that and to universities. In the light of the discussions that I have had with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently, I am sure that he will not be surprised at that. My right hon. Friend fairly said that he is at arm's length from the UGC. But the UGC puts into effect the Government's policies. It is a Government agency and, although it carries out those policies at arm's length, the general policy in relation to universities and research is the ultimate responsibility of the Government.

Some of those policies do not fully take account of the traditions and histories of some of those institutions. Again, I make no apology for referring to my university, Aberdeen, which is an ancient university. In Scotland, we had four universities at a time when England had only two. That fact and the fact that we have a higher proportion of ancient universities means that, within our universities, there is a far wider range of disciplines than in many modern universities. At the same time, particularly in the case of Aberdeen, it has traditionally been the academic centre for a far wider geographic area of population than many of our modern institutions.

Because Aberdeen is a university with a wide range of disciplines, departments and also an important medical school with a good scientific record, it tends to be a relatively higher cost university. Even though the medical school at Aberdeen is well recognised under the new kind of UGC rating system, within such a small university, the effect of this high-cost department has gone unrecognised. Aberdeen has probably been the worst hit in that respect. Because the background of this university has not been taken properly into account by the UGC or by Government policy, it has been fairly hard hit and there have been bad consequences for this university. Failure to apply appropriate policies will simply lead to political alienation. We hope to avoid that.

Thirdly, the Government must be much more aware of the consequences of the policies which they are pursuing. Between 1980 and 1986 Aberdeen university suffered a 24·4 per cent. funding cut. I do not say that all was well in the university. There was room for improvement in particular departments but, because of the objectives of the UGC's plan, it now has had to shed 245 academic and non-academic posts. The Government have said, properly, that transitional and additional funds will be available—£155 million over three years for purposes that include transition where that is difficult—but the UGC has not made a commitment as to how it will achieve those objectives. One cannot run a business in that way, far less an academic or research institute. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should not be surprised at the growing disillusionment. There is compliance with difficult policies and remedies are being applied, but the means must be given—whether by the Government or through the UGC—to ensure that objectives are achieved in an orderly and sensible way. If that is not done, there will be disillusionment among all the human resources to which I have referred,

Fourthly, there must be more consistency in Government policies. I make no apology for speaking from first-hand experience. The universities have been told to get money from industry for research, to relate their activities to industry and to train their graduates better for posts in industry. I have already acknowledged how right that is.

The geology department at the university of Aberdeen is to be decimated, in accordance with the advice of the Oxburgh committee looking into earth sciences, yet it has one of the best records for placing graduates, especially in petroleum geology, in industry. The department is on the doorstep of North sea oil. Where could one find a better place to expand? It is the only department in Scotland that teaches petroleum geology at BSc and MSc level.

Scotland does not have polytechnics but petroleum geology, for example, is taught in polytechnics in England. If the Committee's proposals were followed through, the number of geology departments in Scotland would fall from six to three, whereas in the rest of the United Kingdom there would be 57 departments, including 21 polytechnics, to which students could turn for training.

There is no logic in these kinds of recommendations. This shows the inconsistent approach. I use the opportunity of this debate on an important aspect of science to demonstrate in practical terms what is happening. Fortunately, the news today is rather better. Apparently there have been second thoughts and there may be modifications in the proposals. I hope that there are modifications, but they will be judged when we see and hear them and I have not yet had an opportunity to do so. Even if the proposals are modified, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should not be surprised that there is disillusionment among people involved in research and among those who teach science in universities when proposals demonstrating such inconsistency come forward.

I support much of what is being done in our science and university policies, but there is also much that is not well. I have pointed to four aspects where things are not going well. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will pay attention to those points, otherwise many of us will find it difficult to support these policies.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal-SDP Alliance Spokesperson (Energy) 8:43 pm, 29th February 1988

I welcome the speech of the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), who echoed the worries of many hon. Members. They many not be expressed by some hon. Members, but they do exist. Those worries have led to the motion. I welcome the fact that the Opposition have devoted time to this subject, especially as I made my second speech, after coming here as a Member almost exactly a year ago, on this subject and research council funding.

We cannot ignore the fact that internationally—not just in this country—there is a shortage of scientists and technicians. If we are not able to offer the rewards, guarantees, excellence and facilities that other countries can offer, the prizes that go with individuals will be given not to this country but to others.

Unarguably, Britain has spent less on civil research and development than France and Germany. It is even more important to consider our priorities. Some 50 per cent. of research spending in Britain is on defence, compared with one third in France, less than 10 per cent. in West Germany and just 2·5 per cent. in Japan. That difference in emphasis is far more telling than a juggling of figures, comparing expenditure under various Governments. The record not only of this Government but of successive Governments has fallen short. More than half of Britain's £4·5 billion science budget goes on defence, compared with a NATO average of one quarter. A great deal of our military expenditure is not on research but on the development of military items. According to reports from the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, the science budget of the University Grants Committee has been cut by 11 per cent. since 1981. That difference in emphasis is the key to many of our problems.

The ABRC document "A Strategy for the Science Base" echoes the criticism of the Government's spending over many years. The report says: Unavoidable increases in costs — under-indexation in respect of pay and international subscriptions, rising superannuation outlays and essential restructuring —constitute a major offset against the apparent real increase in the Science Budget in recent years. Together with the rising real cost of scientific equipment, these factors have almost certainly led to a reduction in the amount of scientific activity which the Councils have been able to fund. The Government's present expenditure plans offer no prospect of an end to this continuing contraction. The report continues: Government expenditure on the science base has been significantly less in the UK as a proportion of GDP than in several European countries, and in contrast with other countries has been falling. The brain drain from the UK is symptomatic of the failure of our investment to keep up with that of our competitors. The report goes on: The Government has a responsibility to create confidence in its plans for enhancing the strength and quality of the science base, in partnership with industry and the research community …Further consideration should be given to the introduction of a link between part or all of the Science Budget and growth of GDP. It is clear that the Government have continued to fail on each score. Despite the welcome news in November, they have not tackled the essential difficulties that are highlighted in the report. We await the Government's full response, which I hope we can debate in the House.

The Government's response to these problems has been to increase the emphasis on private research. Although our companies have increased spending on research and development by one fifth over the past decade, the Secretary of State has been right to highlight his worries. In America, France and Germany expenditure has doubled and in Japan it has trebled. It is not enough for the Secretary of State to say that he has worries and that he agrees with the Opposition that there are problems. He must go one step further and tackle them. In particular, he must tackle the difference in spending by our European partners on research in industry and technology compared with Britain. That point has been emphasised already by Members on both sides of the House. According to The Guardian today, Britain's universities are less dependent on Government grants than at any time in the past 20 years. Block grants accounted for only 55 per cent. of university income last year compared with 70 per cent. in 1974. It is a pity that it is not simply because private money has been flooding in; unfortunately, it is because Government money too often has been flooding out. It also adds to the real worries of which we have heard already about the emphases and the area on which the money is going and the kind of research that is taking place.

Professor Robin Weiss, director of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: we were able to respond to the AIDS challenge only because of the excellent groundwork laid in the UK. But the erosion of our science base is so bad that the next virus along will beat us. Mary Warnock states in her article in New Society:The universities do not exist solely to train managers or employees. They are not in business merely to provide statistical … backing for Government policies. There is a general concern, both in regard to broader university education and, particularly, to the Universities Funding Council. It will be chaired by an industrialist and the academics who become members are unlikely to he a majority. To put it again, not in my words but in those of Mary Warnock, there is, therefore, real danger that the long-term academic duties of universities may come to seem less important than the delivery of short-term and wealth-producing results. We have had a whole variety of examples of where research which is not directed to any particular goal, not directed, in particular, to industrial goals, has paid off. To take an example that has not yet been mentioned, in the early years of the century Einstein was studying the movement of the planets, which resulted within 40 years, through the development of relativistic equivalence of mass and energy, in nuclear power, a jump that no one could have predicted at the turn of the century. Who knows what kind of jumps may yet be to come?

That is the sort of thing that has led to the criticisms of the Government in their cutting-off of funding for space research and leaving it all to industry, which will look to short-term ends. It is the kind of criticism that we have about the devotion of Government research and development funds in energy policy almost exclusively to nuclear research, with very little left to other areas that are discounted as less likely to show a return.

The result of all that has been a migration of scientists from this country—probably the most worrying statistic of them all. Incomes Data Services recently reported figures from American and British institutes of physics which reveal that technologists with 10 to 14 years' experience can expect to earn the equivalent of £36,000 in America in comparison with a little over £13.000 in Britain. Figures from the United States immigration services, analysed by the United States National Science Foundation, show that the United Kingdom contributed 9,500 foreign-born scientists who took up permanent residence in the United States in 1984.

The science and engineering policy studies unit of the Royal Society demonstrated that the number of its British fellows living abroad had risen from 4 per cent. in 1960 to 13 per cent. in 1984. According to that report, fewer new doctors of philosophy who emigrate return than did 25 years ago, yet it is on them that our scientific future depends.

At the moment we train good scientists and then we export them. Unfortunately, we do not get the foreign scientists who train here to stay. The Government should ask themselves why that is so. Only 20 per cent. of foreign scientists and engineers work in Britain for longer than three years. Four times as many British scientists and engineers who left Britain took up long-term jobs abroad.

It is only by tackling this kind of problem that we will find a solution to the crisis that we see in British science. It is no wonder that such emigration exists, particularly among the youngest talent, because, predominantly, younger people are put on short-term contracts, with a hit-and-miss system of going on to further work. It may well appear to many of them that by the time they have won one contract and ensured that that is going ahead, they barely have a moment's pause before going on to make sure that they have another contract to follow that.

Paul Hare and Geoffrey Wyatt, in an article shortly to be published in Research Policy, say: The application of financial pressure, in the absence of powers to hire and fire, is simply counterproductive, as many universities discovered to their cost after the 1981 cuts in British university funding: often the best people turned out to be the most mobile and promptly left the system. In the report published by the Royal Society, the reasons given for the exodus of top university talent were mainly better opportunity—20 per cent. —facilities—13 per cent. and financial rewards—14 per cent. Those are matters that the Government can be more positive about immediately. They need to address those issues if the problems are not to continue.

Just a few positive notes before I finish. I pick on one because it is of particular interest to parts of the country such as my own. The Government have taken some welcome initiatives in getting new research establishments going, bringing together research talent and setting off new ideas in new directions, but one characteristic of these initiatives is that they have gone where such talent already exists, where there is already a resource base of these individuals, where people can already go if they want to get benefits in the United Kingdom.

The Government have ignored the potential in spending such sums and bringing forward such developments for getting things going in areas that do not offer such resources and infrastructure to the local community—areas such as Cornwall where we lose far too high a proportion of our brightest youngsters. There is nothing in Cornwall or anywhere near it that they can go to. Exeter, for example, is two hours' drive from my constituency, and not an easy drive at that.

That is the kind of problem that we face. It would be good if the Government would use the opportunity to take resources to the areas that can best utilise and benefit from them. We could create science parks around St. Austell and Camborne, based on the skills that already exist in mining and clay and the rest, and bring in new talent and resources which will allow such development to grow. There is no better way of bringing in new technology or taking advantage of the facilities that new technology creates — the opportunities created by there no longer being a need to have individuals based where other research and development is going on. Computer information technology has got rid of that need and we should seize with some imagination the opportunities that it provides.

In addition, there is a desperate need for an immediate restoration of morale. The only way to do that will be to provide long-term commitments and the ability to plan ahead for at least five years with a rolling programme of commissioning, development and funding. We must expand education to reach the level of France, the United States, Germany and Japan. According to the Save British Science group, we need an expansion of at least 50 per cent. by the end of the century. We must tackle the problem of the shortage of qualified physics, mathematics and science teachers in our schools—something which the Minister has talked about but which he has so far railed to deal with. We must find quality research and stimulate industrial research and development, perhaps in the way that I have suggested. But, above all, the Government need to raise their eyes to the next century, to the horizon and not keep looking at and stumbling over their own feet, and over the faults that admittedly exist in the system — faults which will be tackled only by a more far-sighted approach to the questions that British science raises.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant 8:58 pm, 29th February 1988

I am sure that the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) will forgive me if I do not follow his interesting speech too closely, but time is short.

As some of my right hon. Friends are aware, I have been pressing for this debate for some time. Therefore, I am obliged to the Opposition for securing it by using one of their Supply days, although I regret that the debate is only for half a day. It is symptomatic of the attention paid to science that we should have waited until 29 February for the debate. I wish only that it was a leap year for British science. However, we now have the time and whatever our views the debate is long overdue. If the Government wish us to accept, as some of us would wish to, that they pay more than lip service to the importance of science and Government decisions relating to science, we should have an annual occasion on which these matters can be discussed. It should not depend on the Opposition giving up one of their Supply days or on an Adjournment debate at 3 am. This is a prime subject of great national importance and it deserves prime time.

The Government's policy and performance in this sphere is something of a curate's egg. There have been some excellent initiatives; some of them have been obscured by what might be described as the dance of the acronyms. Science policy has shifted from ACCORD, ACARD and others to ACOST, ABRC, STAO and CEST. It is not easy to keep up with the changes of policy that are associated with the changes of the acronym, and that is to say nothing of the changes in the EEC acronyms such as ESPRIT, BRITE, JET, FRAMEWORK and others.

Nevertheless, there have been some excellent developments. I do not share the range of criticisms that have been levelled by the Opposition. The Link scheme has much to commend it. The CEST proposal will achieve important results, if only because Sir Francis Tombs is at the helm and it has adequate resources. Many of the initiatives described by the chief scientific adviser to the Cabinet office, Mr. John Fairclough, in his Midland bank lecture at Brunel, are important, significant and deserve support. Very few of the matters involved have been discussed here. I refer to the multidisciplinary research centres, on which the Secretary of State laid much welcome emphasis, the teaching company schemes and the development of science parks by English Estates, which has been a most successful venture.

I share many but not all of Mr. Fairclough's conclusions and judgments. In particular, I am skeptical —this scepticism has already surfaced in the debate— about his conclusion that the effective exploitation of science should always be our goal. It is a major goal, but something vital in the brilliance and uniqueness of British science may be lost or prejudiced if we allow too great an intrusion of market judgments. It is the market which must assess science, not science which must assess the market.

Much of the debate is bound to concentrate on the question of resources for science. Much of the disagreement on the matter is sterile, particularly if it rests on different interpretations of GDP percentages, defence research and development percentages and arcane mysteries such as the transatlantic flow of PhDs, fellows of the Royal Society and Nobel prize winners.

I attach little significance to publication tallies in learned journals. One paper by Crick and Watson, Rutherford, Chadwick or Fleming is worth 1,000 that vanish without trace after publication. Quality in science is all important and it is quality that we must sustain, encourage and support.

There are some sets of figures, however, that cause me, and no doubt others, great concern. The first is that the United States, which spends half the world's research and development budget, is immensely concerned about its scientific performance and its consequent loss of industrial leadership, particularly with regard to Japan. The scale is most significant. The United States spent $125 billion on research in 1987, $60 billion of which came from federal resources, and of that $11 billion was spent on basic research. Since 1980, as a percentage of GDP, that expenditure has increased from 2·3 to 2·8 per cent. In non-defence spending it has increased from 1·8 to 1·9 per cent. Between 1987 and 1994 its basic research expenditure will approach 16 per cent. of the total federal budget. Despite those trends, the United States, which is still possibly the worlds' most significant research and development base and leader in the higher technology sector, now imports 75 per cent. of its requirements for integrated circuits from Japan. In the most critical sub-sector, which is known as DRAMS, its share of world production is down to 5 per cent.

Europe, despite substantial if not comparable research and development, is in a similar if not worse plight in this sector. We are almost out of it altogether. The report, "Silicon 200", said: Mainstream memories … it argued … represent the very highest volume products typified by DRAMS … It is an area requiring the highest investment and a long term strategy. It is an area in which politics and economic considerations existing in the U.K. preclude U.K. Company involvement. The U.K. has withdrawn any pretence of involvement. The report calls for an investment of £255 million and warns that it will be largely wasted if it is not complemented by a substantial commitment to build a more credible and viable semi-conductor industry within the United Kingdom". I would argue that the context should not be the United Kingdom but Europe, the finance should be European and the market worldwide if we are to succeed. The main conclusion is that, despite repeated warnings and millions of pounds spent in support of limited and ineffective policies, the United Kingdom and Europe have lost out to Japan.

Money alone, even on the United States and European scale, is not the answer. So what is the answer? Perhaps one answer is that Japanese integrated circuit companies are investing 35 per cent., not of their profits but of their revenue in research and have done so since 1979. Their revenues are vast.

This is not a debate about space, but the scale, vision and determination of the Japanese space programme leap out of reports and suggest a most intriguing relationship between priorities and results. If I may detain the House for a moment, the latest Japanese project is to construct the largest international joint space centre in the world. They propose to form an international science and technology community for space and to create a parent body to provide international co-operation in space and to develop its utilisation. This is taking place at two places in Japan — at Tashei and Oybayashi. It is also developing the H2 rocket, which will have a launch capability of two tonnes. That really puts Japan ahead in space.

Therefore, I accept and I ask the House to accept Professor Dennis Noble's conclusion in his Lloyd-Roberts lecture, where he summarises the reality when he argues that: It is a gross oversimplification to suppose that the relation between science and wealth-creation is direct. It requires the integrity of many essential links, the blue skies research itself, the consolidation of fundamental discoveries into exploitable fields, the inventiveness to see how they might be exploited, the entrepreneurship required to risk capital development and the determination to market the product … fail at any of those stages and you will have failed to convert science into wealth creation". He made out a most powerful case when he argued in conclusion that the political argument about the future of science in the United Kingdom is not a funny aberration that will simply go away … once we have solved the next round of funding crises. We have a long trek ahead … if we are to avoid a major cultural and economic catastrophy for our nation. I share that judgment. The nature of the catastrophe has never been better summarised than by Correlli Barnett's powerful book on Britain, "The Audit of War". It is precisely because we have done and are doing so well in other directions that this area of concern has been kept out of sight or swept under the carpet. We are indebted not to the House but to another place, as my right hon. Friend conceded, for bringing it back into the limelight where it deserves to remain.

However much the Government may wish to disagree with some of the report's most powerful conclusions, they cannot disagree with the evidence, and the evidence discloses the mounting dismay and concern of some of the most informed and responsible people in science in Britain. The most recent report of the ABRC itself has already been quoted; I shall not quote it further. It is in the context of those and many other comments that I have found some of the comments of my right hon. and hon. Friends disturbing.

Lord Joseph is on record as saying: It is not the role of Government to have a policy for science". My noble Friend is no longer responsible for science, but I fear that in certain areas that philosophy remains, and in this day and age it is utterly indefensible. The ABRC concluded that the Government's revised expenditure plans do not provide the means to move our nation's scientific capability towards the 21st century,to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy replied with the pious hope thatit will be possible to give greater priority to science in this year's public expenditure survey discussions. I have looked at the public expenditure survey volumes with some care. Science creeps in here and there. Coverage is diffuse and scattered. Research and development is treated at length on only 12 out of about 515 pages. Some major Departments do not mention it at all. Astonishingly, the Ministry of Defence, which spends just under half of the annual total, gives research one line. The review volume includes an analysis of just over one page —that is it; one page. From all that, it is just possible to discover that there is a science policy in the United Kingdom. In responsible Departments, the policy is obscure, benign and peripheral. In Departments that have no responsibility—if I may put it bluntly—science sinks without a trace and there is an almost audible sigh of relief.

Nevertheless, it is possible to discern some threads in the Government's science policy that have to be put together rather like a jigsaw. The words that appear most frequently these days are those such as "targeting", "direction", "selectivity", and "orchestration". The philosophy is based on the premise that, as we can hope to do only 5 per cent. of the world's research and development, central direction is necessary and unavoidable. "We cannot do everything" is the refrain. My right hon. Friend repeated it tonight. It is a plausible argument, but it begs many questions. The most important question is, "Who are 'we'?"

The need for choice is understandable, but can or should the Government attempt to make it? Does the need to improve our application of science sustain the cohesion of the argument right through to the choice of strategic direction in basic science, which is what we do best, and which will always be the most crucial? I think not.

What, then, can and should the Government do? They must clearly provide vital resources in major aspects of fundamental research. Industry cannot and will not do so. The Government must ensure that the education system rewards brilliance, especially eccentric brilliance in science. If that means differential rewards for scarce scientific skills, so be it. They must also provide moral support for that long overdue change in our national culture. Congressman Don Fuqua reported to the United States Congress on the subject. He summed up the situation in one sentence. He said: Scientific illiteracy is a threat to the representative democratic system and ultimately to science itself. Government can and should do more to reinforce their own successes by ensuring that excellent systems such as the overseas technology information service are made more widely known and more generally used by industry. What they should not do is pursue the objective set out by Mr. Fairclough and others. Mr. Fairclough asked that scientists be kept in touch with the market and commercial opportunities. In my judgment, our most valuable and original scientists should be preoccupied not with the market but with their subjects. Scientists should complete their research and publish it. It is up to industry and commerce to keep in touch with scientific endeavour and to equip itself to interpret and apply the results. The philosophy has never been better expressed than it was by the great French scientist, Pasteur. He said: No. A thousand times no. There does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There … are sciences and the application of sciences, bound together as the fruit of the tree which bears it. That statement is as true today as it was in the century when Pasteur uttered it.

Where is the missing link? Will historians of the future, researching for the "Audit of Peace", the natural successor to Correlli Barnett's book, looking into the Olduvai gorge of British scientific history, search in vain for a strong and powerful lead from Parliament? Here is, or should be, the major instrument of national policy criticism and formulation, yet, with the conspicuous exception of the Lords' Select Committee, we have no instruments of and little opportunity for policy discussion and formulation. No time is found for the discussion of major policy documents on science. We are too busy legislating, often to repair or remedy the consequences of major policy deficiencies in science and technology 10, 20 or even 50 years ago. As has been said recently in relation to some aspects of United States science policy, we have confused "who should mind the future and who should mind the factory."

The key statistic is the 5 per cent. of world science that is done in Britain. That means that 95 per cent. is done elsewhere. What proportion of that is accessible? It could be 30 per cent. What proportion is in fact accessed by Government or industry or both? It could be 10 per cent. What proportion of that which is accessed is applicable? I believe that it could be half, which brings us down to 5 per cent. Finally, what proportion is applied? I suspect that that figure is about 1 per cent.

If the Government have a positive role, it is to stimulate an upward movement in those percentages. That is the way to ensure that if the rest of the world takes advantage—as it will — of British science, we take a reciprocal advantage of science abroad. Here is a lake of the purest water surrounded by a vast herd of animals whose sensory perception is so poor that they appear to have no wish even to drink. We shall determine our future industrial rank not by using the national science output but by using the output of science as a whole, wherever it is done—and done well. That is the lesson that the Japanese have taught the world, and we must learn it.

What can Parliament do? First, it can pay much more attention to the subject. Secondly, it can take steps to ensure that it is much better informed on such matters and on the scientific aspects of legislation. Thirdly, it can persuade the Government that an informed Parliament has a role to play and that it is worth substantial expenditure to ensure that Parliament is informed. That is the prime purpose of the Office of Technology Assessment in Washington, and of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Information Foundation that we have established at Westminster. But let us contrast the scale of the resources. The OTA has a budget of $15 million per annum, while our humble, but I hope successful, foundation has £50,000.

One of my right hon. Friends with whom the project was discussed once remarked that Parliament has always been an ignorant place and that he hoped it would remain so. That is the most desperately sad and cynical comment on democracy that I have heard in a decade. If the nation is to have an informed and relevant science policy, we need an informed and relevant Parliament. At present, we have neither.

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith , Oxford East 9:17 pm, 29th February 1988

I join the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) in urging the House to find time to discuss this important subject annually. On this occasion, the Opposition have taken the initiative and introduced this debate.

There is considerable significance in the agreement among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the crisis in British science, and a symptom of the severity of the crisis is that since I told some colleagues in Oxford that I wished to take part in the debate I have hardly been able to get off the telephone because of the number of anxious and angry scientists who wished to give me information to draw to the attention of the House. Had they been here to listen to the Secretary of State, notwithstanding the few new points that he made, and although they would have noted his words of caution against complacency, they would have found his contribution complacent and a classic case of too little, too late.

Is that any wonder when, by any fair standards of international comparison, British science is so chronically under-funded? The Sussex university science policy research unit has shown that Britain ranked bottom, or next to bottom, compared with the United States, France, West Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Reports for the Advisory Board for the Research Councils by the Royal Society reveal that Britain shows the most marked decline in its share of scientific output of any major OECD country. What is worse, notwithstanding the small increase in funds that the Secretary of State says will be available in the next two years, the amount of scientific work that those who should know expect that that will fund will fall by 2 per cent. Meanwhile, the cream Of our scientists are going abroad, with 1,000 of our best scientists going to the United States alone. As the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said, the consequence is grave disillusion and a devastating effect on key areas of basic research work.

Let me give a couple of examples. The total United Kingdom research budget for materials science is about £5 million. That is research into new materials with important implications for work in super-conductivity, new materials for construction and aviation, and so on. That £5 million is peanuts compared with the sums that other countries put into that area.

My informant on the matter recently visited the United States, where he found that one department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was spending more on materials science than the total United Kingdom budget. He went to Japan, where he found one project that was bigger than the total amount being spent in this country.

One of my informant's best-ever students has just completed his doctorate in material sciences. He failed to obtain any money for continuing his research, so he has now joined an accountancy firm in the City of London. That case and many others like it are a tragedy for this country.

Similarly, another colleague in Oxford reported that a specialist in the central nervous system, doing incredibly important work on multiple sclerosis and so on, recently tried 500 United Kingdom companies and funding agencies in an attempt to obtain the resources that he needed to undertake an important new research project. No help was forthcoming. That support is now coming from a United States drugs company. It will have the options on any results of the research.

The consequences for our universities and our students' future are catastrophic. The figures from Oxford university bear out other statistics that were given earlier in the debate. In 1985–86, compared with 1983–84, 10 per cent. fewer students went from Oxford university into industry. Over the same period, the proportion of students going to commerce was up by 11 per cent. Despite, or perhaps because of, the 20 per cent. Government cut in funding, studentships in Oxford have been left unfilled —the first time in memory that that has happened.

Universities are having to advertise to our students to apply for post-doctoral places. The best are simply either going into the City or on to scientific work in the United States. I dare say that in reply the Minister will claim that the brain drain figures can be interpreted this way or that way, and that the numbers coming in or going out are roughly equal. As other hon. Members have said, quality is crucial. Those who are coming here are coming to do short-term post-doctoral work for specific projects, whereas those who are leaving are the best people — senior academics, members of the Royal Society, prize winners and students who will be the leading scientists of the future.

We must heed the words of Professor Sir George Porter, president of the Royal Society, who said: You cannot have a successful manufacturing industry unless you have something good to sell. You cannot have a good product without continuing applied research and development.You cannot maintain good applied research and development without a good domestic science base. As well as recognising the importance of scientific research in its own right, we must, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) said, recognise the connection between the strategy that needs to be followed in science and education and that which needs to be followed in industry.

In the limited time available I wish to say a few words about the importance of research assistance for small companies, which is now generally recognised to be a critically important factor in exploiting the valuable links between university and polytechnic research departments and the work of entrepreneurs.

A certain sleight of hand has been involved in the labelling of schemes. We cannot escape the conclusion that, if the energy that was put into relabelling and repackaging schemes had instead gone into obtaining additional funds for research, and if the DTI had taken the time that it took in making television commercials to expedite decisions, small high-tech companies and the innovation that they undertake would have been a great deal better off.

For example, the support for innovation scheme operated by the DTI, providing funding of 33 or 35 per cent., had some defects, arid the system was relatively indiscriminate. Nevertheless, it was a route by which small companies could secure funding for research and development. When that scheme was superseded by the Eureka and Link schemes, the experience of firms on the ground has been that no new money has been made available. Funds that had been available in any case are simply being recycled under a new name.

While the funding for the development phases of Eureka was heralded at 50 per cent., the fact that no new money was available meant that fewer projects or work were to be assisted. While Link is proclaimed to be assisting small companies, it does so only when they are in collaboration. At least two companies or a Government laboratory must be taking part. Those are silly conditions. If they are intended to establish the credibility of the project, they are a pretty sloppy substitute for the real work of evaluation that ought to be done.

More seriously — this is the real danger that small companies fear—if they have a brilliant idea that they are compelled to share at the so-called pre-competitive research stage, they risk losing the particular commercial benefit of the idea. They are put in an impossible dilemma. Either they must risk missing much-needed funds, or they must risk losing the financial benefits of the research to a larger competitor. Either way, operated in such a fashion, the scheme cannot but discriminate in the interests of larger firms, at the expense of small ones.

Even more frustrating and self-defeating than the packaging of the assistance schemes and the terms under which they operate are the delays in decision-making, which can paralyse a small company. I wrote to the DTI only today about a firm in my constituency. It is a small firm, with a spectacular record of innovation, development and manufacture in electro-optics. It is poised on the threshold of an exciting research project to develop key filtration units for the new generation of industrial lasers.

That work would keep Britain at the cutting edge of innovation in a vitally important sphere. The firm applied for assistance under the Eureka programme, and the final application went in on 25 September last year. While the DTI officials with whom it has dealt have been sympathetic, today the company is still waiting for a decision on whether the project can go ahead. That means that it has lost five months at a crucial stage.

But it is worse than that. Under the terms of the assistance, the company cannot spend any of its own money on the work without prejudicing the funds that may be forthcoming from the Government in the future. In the meantime, its financial and staff budgeting and its work schedule are thrown into uncertainty, which, were it not for the enterprise and flexibility of both management and work force, would be crippling. In contrast, the company's competitors in the United States, under the small business innovation research programme there, can take in an application in the morning and come out with a cheque in the afternoon.

Faced with such shortcomings in Government support, it is a tribute to the scientists and scientific entrepreneurs in this country that there are any subjects left in which we are world leaders. What is needed is clear: more funding, more straightforward and simple criteria so that firms can develop their own ideas, and, above all, quicker decision-making so that high-tech firms can compete on an equal basis with those abroad. There lies the way to success for innovation and for high-tech industry, and for a more prosperous future for the country as a whole.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell South 9:29 pm, 29th February 1988

Of all of those who have spoken, the Secretary of State has shown least understanding of the intense frustration articulated by the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, which he appointed to advise him. That frustration is shared by the whole scientific community.

This is a time of unprecedented fertility and opportunity in basic science and its applications. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins) spoke of the lack of strategy and leadership which the Government have brought to bear in response. The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) spoke about disillusionment in research and teaching. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) spoke about frustration throughout the scientific community. The hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) spoke of the brilliance of individual scientists, which has been the glory of the scientific tradition, facing the catastrophe which he feels the Government are bringing about. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) spoke about the flood of representations that he has received in just the day or two in which it has been known that we were to have this debate.

The Government's expenditure plans have the science budget reaching what appears to be a plateau or perhaps continuing on a plain. We are spending only 15 per cent. more than in 1979. We are failing to keep up with the 2 per cent. per annum sophistication factor, or the 17 per cent. growth of national income. That means, for those who understand the definitions of national income, no increase in scientists and no increase in science bought. To be fair, that represents a consistent pattern, with the science budget having dropped from 0·2 per cent. to 0·16 per cent. of GDP in the early 1970s with the onset of disillusionment about science at that time. Spending has remained at that level ever since. What has changed is the pace of development in science and the pace of its application in the rest of the world.

After allowing for the welcome 7 per cent. increase in industrial research and development between 1985 and 1986, total research and development in the United Kingdom still fell from 2·39 per cent. to 2·36 per cent. of GDP last year because of Government cuts. After taking out defence research and development, the new OECD figures which are out this month show that spending on civil research and development in the United Kingdom has been static at 1·8 per cent. of national income since 1979 while that in all of our industrial competitors has risen steadily. I doubt whether the Secretary of State has even looked at the graphs.

The rise in other countries has accommodated the growth in opportunities for science and its application. R and D continues to rise as a proportion of GDP—in Germany from 2·3 to 2·8 per cent., in Japan from 1·8 to 2·7 per cent. and, with a far larger volume of research, in the United States from 1·6 to 2 per cent. The freeze in Britain shows in the failure to fund alpha-graded research projects, in the paucity and obsolesence of equipment, in the diminished international standing of our higher education, in the lack of career opportunities for research scientists, in the poor status of engineers in industry, in the shortage of teachers of science and mathematics, in the cantankerous and obstructive role of the Government in international scientific co-operation, in the low level of research and development in industry, in the loss of so many of our best scientists abroad, in the continuing loss of technological competitiveness, and in the deteriorating balance of payments.

So why bother with all this research and development business? Why not leave others to make the advances and pick up the science and technology from abroad? Why not have done with it all? What is wrong with the argument is that, first, in basic science, in as large an economy as ours, unless we work at the frontiers in high temperature superconductivity and developmental biology, molecular sciences, surface science and the rest, we will have no body of people who can develop, understand, produce or use the products and processes of tomorrow.

We have already had warnings from ICI, Glaxo, Wellcome, Smith, Kline and French, BP and the pharmaceutical industry that Britain is losing its viability as a base for applied research. That research depends on a ready supply of people and ideas from basic science. The new inter-disciplinary research centres are fine and necessary. However, with continued level funding and if each centre continues to be financed by sacrificing 30 or 40 of the project grants that get young scientists going and provide many of the new ideas and discoveries of which the hon. Member for Havant spoke, the IRCs will become small islands of excellence sustained by and communicating with the international scientific community but without any means of communicating with British industry, application, education and training in research, thus entirely defeating their purpose.

No one knows better than the Treasury—on no day better than today—the debilitating effect, as the oil revenues pass their peak, of the grinding 2 per cent. per annum loss of non-price competitiveness, which needs to be appreciated to make sense of our deteriorating trade figures. January was a bad month, but the trend is inescapable.

Industry needs to double its research and development if we are to match the present research intensity of German and Japanese industry. That funding is essential if we are to compete technologically. It means a £3 billion increase per annum in research and development funding, compared with the modest £100 million for the science base that was sought by ABRC and denied by the Secretary of State.

There is no meaningful contribution that can be made to remedy the huge deficiencies in industrial research by denying or redirecting the far more modest needs of the science base. There is no hope of achieving the increases needed in industrial research from spontaneous allocations of increased profits such as the Secretary of State spoke of. Such profits have already occurred. Between 1981 and 1986, industrial profits increased by 70 per cent. in real terms, but industry's funding of research and development increased by only 20 per cent. The magnitude of the increase in industrial research and development that is required is too large to be brought about by discretionary grants. We need to bring about a step change in British industrial practice while we still have a science base to support it.

Industry should be given a powerful fiscal incentive to increase its funding of its research and development. Britain is alone among the industrial countries in having had no such fiscal incentive scheme. The Inland Revenue survey of fiscal incentives for R and D spending did an honest job of reporting overseas practice and experience, but it stopped short of Mansfield's key paper in the 1986 "American Economic Review" that suggested how the American system could be improved. If we adapt Mansfield's suggestions, what we need, for a few years, is a high percentage grant for increments of R and D expenditure over a fixed base year, phasing into a grant to maintain the doubled level of expenditure for a further few years until firms have learnt the benefits of a higher level of R and D, which they will then sustain without the need for a continuing incentive. It is that step change that we must aim to bring about.

In addition to the fiscal incentive that will change the climate, specific programmes will be needed in such areas as space and telecommunications where considerable co-ordination is required. Such necessary and practicable advances in industrial R and D make heavy demands on the people and the ideas produced by Britain's science base.

The increase in the science budget of £100 million recommended by the ABRC and rejected by the Government is needed in full and is needed this year. The ABRC is not "just another lobby", as the Under-Secretary described it. That is not something which a sensible Minister says to any lobby. It is certainly not something which one says to one's lawyer, doctor, fire brigade or plumber — to someone whom one has summoned to one's help, as the Government summoned the ABRC. Least of all should Ministers say that to the ABRC when, like the true mother, it has offered to centralise management—in a way quite alien to science but dear to the dictatorial heart of this Government—as the price for the funding urgently needed to save British science. But Solomon the Government are not. By refusing the funding the Secretary of State butchered the baby. He cannot reply to the ABRC report "A Strategy for the Science Base" because he has no strategy. A charade presided over by the Prime Minister is still a charade, albeit a prime ministerial charade.

Science has always been in politics. Now the Government have pushed politics into science just as they have pushed politics into the universities, the Church, the courts, and the BBC because they can brook no challenge to their autocratic rule. The consequence is that the Government have demonstrated their total incompetence.

Gone are the days when as the Minister responsible for information technology the Secretary of State boasted: In this area we have a clear strategy". —[Official Report, 27 Nov. 1981; Vol. 12, c. 1150.] He said that information technology was, the area of fastest growth in public expenditure … something that I proudly point out to the Prime Minister on every possible occasion." —[Official Report, 17 February 1984; Vol. 54, c. 521.] Does the Secretary of State remember that? Gone is Information Technology year. Gone is the support for innovation programme. Gone is the Alvey programme, and its successor is never to come. "Automate or liquidate," cried the Secretary of State, whereupon Sinclair and Acorn computers, of which the Secretary of State justly boasted, did both.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Baker Mr Kenneth Baker , Mole Valley

Today I had a meeting with Olivetti-Acorn at which the company announced that it had sold more than 1 million Acorn computers to British schools and launched a new product—Archimedes. The hon. Gentleman really must get up to date.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell South

Did the Secretary of State ask Olivetti how much it had paid for Acorn—[Interruption.] They went bankrupt. The Secretary of State bought one Acorn computer and I bought two. The Archimedes machine is a splendid machine but it was an example of an industrial initiative denied backing by the Government in terms of the comprehensive increases in educational activity and in application needed to sustain that initiative.

The Secretary of State was first recruited to the Government partly because on the Treasury and Civil Service Committee he was being too helpful to my colleagues and me in showing how the Government had, in two brief years, destroyed more British industry than Hitler managed to do in the war and partly to bring some lighthearted showbiz to that ravaged industrial scene. Industry, the Health Service, even the education system can be rebuilt in a decade as the Germans and Japanese have shown. A peerless scientific tradition that has taken centuries to build will be destroyed and dissolved in 10 brief years if the Government are allowed to proceed any further on their present course. That crime would be remembered long after many other wounds, at the time apparently more grievous, have healed and been forgotten.

I urge the House to reject the Government's amendment and support our motion.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage 9:43 pm, 29th February 1988

This has been a reflective debate in which we have heard some considered and thoughtful speeches addressing complex issues. Thankfully, in the process, we have sometimes eluded the customary acrimonies of party debates, although the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) did his best towards the end of his speech with some judicious misquotations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) has an article in today's edition of The Independent in which he casts strictures on ministerial speeches, particularly the wind-up speeches made by luckless junior Ministers who he says gabble through their briefs scratching — I will not say what he says they scratch. I cannot promise high-flown rhetoric such as my hon. Friend would like, or indeed flights of fancy, and I do not think that they are particularly appropriate to this subject.

I shall try to rise to the high level of the debate and the best way to do that is to set the debate in a wider international context, which is sometimes not sufficiently appreciated. However, I noticed that in his excellent speech my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) emphasised the importance of that context, particularly in Europe. He stressed the need to develop strategies for Britain to exploit research and development at home and abroad.

I should like to look first at the similarities in the position of science in Britain and that of other countries and then to look at the differences. Unfortunately, it is necessary to use some figures and statistics when making those comparisons and I apologise for that. However, in matters of science it is necessary that we strive for a degree of objectivity and logic and figures are helpful to that.

I shall deal first with the share of the gross domestic product devoted to science. When looking at those figures, the hon. Member for Motherwell, South will see that he has gone over the top in some of his language. The figures show that Britain is in the middle of the league in terms of the share of the GDP devoted to science. The figure for Britain is 2·33 per cent., for France it is 2·31 per cent., in the Federal Republic of Germany it is 2·66 per cent. and in Italy, our nearest comparator in terms of the size of GDP, it is only 1·33 per cent.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

I shall deal with defence in a moment.

The next set of similar figures is the Government's research and development spend as a proportion of GDP. That is the proportion spent by Government, leaving aside industry. It shows that Britain is near the top of the league. In spite of that, I will not follow the hon. Member for Motherwell, South in his argument that we should somehow fix an arbitrary percentage of GDP to be devoted to research and development. In 1985, 1·3 per cent. of GDP was spent on Government research and development. That compares with 1·13 per cent. in the Federal Republic of Germany and 0·95 per cent. in Italy.

Another similarity—this is important because it has come up in various ways during the debate — is the percentage of GDP devoted by the Government to the advancement of knowledge. Some strictures were cast by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and it was referred to by the hon. Members for Truro (Mr. Taylor) and for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). When one looks at the figures for the commitment to basic science they do not bear out the strictures. They show that Britain is in the middle of the league and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we achieve good results. In Britain the figure is 0·28 per cent. as compared with 0·05 per cent. in the United States of America, which has a huge GDP, 0·27 per cent. in Japan, 0·23 per cent. in Italy and 0·39 per cent. in France. That shows that Britain is in the middle of the league table. It is certainly not at the bottom.

We agree with the analysis made by my hon. Friend the Member for Havant on the importance of basic science. However, when deciding in which of the fundamental projects to invest, decisions have to be made. It must be right for the Government and the scientific community to keep an eye on the potential exploitability of science as well as its purely intellectual attractions, which are also important. It is relevant to ask questions about exploitability. That is what is now happening and we should welcome it.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

If all is as well as the Minister says and we are in the middle of the league table, how does he explain the case to which my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) referred whereby there are cries de coeur from many of our most senior science professors about their most brilliant students at post-doctoral level seeking posts abroad?

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

I shall deal with that because the subject has been raised many times during the debate and it must be answered. I shall do my best to answer it. The brain drain study, which was quoted particularly by the hon. Member for Truro, does not bear out the construction placed upon it by the hon. Members for Truro or for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). In 1962, which is when the last major brain-drain study was made, 30 per cent. of postdoctoral students emigrated, whereas in 1982, the year to which the present study relates, only 9 per cent. emigrated. There is a migration and immigration of talent in this area.

I was going through a list of the similarities between the position of British science and that of science in other countries. I wish to deal with one similarity, which is crucial. In all countries, there is a tendency for the rate of spend on research and development to slow down. In Britain, as the hon. Member for Motherwell, South said, Government expenditure has increased by 15 per cent. in real terms since 1979. That growth is continuing. However, if we consider changes in Government expenditure on research and development between 1981 and 1985 as a percentage of GDP, we see that the figure is minus 0·1 per cent. In the Federal Republic of Germany the figure is precisely zero. In the United States, the figure is plus 0·1 per cent. and in Japan it is zero. France is the only country where there has been an upward lift of 0·2 per cent.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

I shall give way in a moment.

We must recognise that, throughout the world, there is a shift away from the exponential rates of growth in investment. The golden age years of investment in science were the 1950s and the 1960s. Between 1959 and 1963, there was a 30 per cent. annual growth in science spending in Britain. That is not happening in any country nowadays. We have moved into a situation of steady state in most science. That is perhaps happening first in Britain, but it will happen in many other countries.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell South

With all respect, the Under-Secretary of State is behind the times. He is not taking account of the current mood. He should consider those graphs which show clear, continuing increases in all industrial competitors, while Britain has remained stagnant.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

There has been a substantial slow—down in investment in science in all countries, compared with previous levels. In Britain, it has gone further than in many countries, but the situation is the same in all countries.

What is flowing from that is something that we again find happening around the world—a focus on the need to manage science more effectively. In Britain, the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany, there is an emphasis on the exploitability of science and a move away from near-market science. We see the same emphasis on selectivity and concentration being brought forward with concepts such as university research centres.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

I shall not give way. I must get on.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not persist in trying to intervene.

Photo of Robert Jackson Robert Jackson , Wantage

There is also a tendency throughout the world towards rationalisation of access to costly scientific equipment. The answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is that we are negotiating to stay in CERN, by seeking a reduction in the cost to Britain of our participation, in line with the Kendrew committee recommendations.

So far, I have been talking about similarities between British science and science in other countries. I now wish to say a few words about the differences. First, there is the relatively low industrial investment in research and development, where we are substantially lower, in terms of the proportion of GDP, than either the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States or Japan, although we share the problem with France and Italy who invest even lower proportions of their GDP in industrial R and D than we do.

Another difference is the relatively high commitment to defence in Britain. That is reflected in the share of GDP devoted to civil R and D. In Britain, this figure is 0.6 per cent. In France the figure is 1 per cent. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the figure is 1 per cent., but, on the other hand, in the United States and Japan, it is lower than in Britain. That reflects a long-standing pattern with deep historical roots. The hon. Member for Truro was right when he said that the responsibility, or blame, for that falls equally on both Conservative and Labour Governments. The Government have reflected on this issue each year, in their decision on the balance between civil and military R and D, as the public expenditure process continues.

There is another difference between science in Britain and science in other countries—the exceptional quality and range of British science. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the recent citation study. It showed that in 1982 Britain had 8·9 per cent. of world citations compared with 4·3 per cent. for France, 6·2 per cent. for Germany and 6·3 per cent. for Japan. My impression is that Britain fields teams of high quality in a wide range of activities.

There is another difference between Britain and other countries. We have a relatively weak system of central management of science and an unusual degree of academic self-government. The contrast, especially between Britain and the continent, is important. In academic science in Britain, half the funding of science goes through the universities, where it is administered on the basis of academic self-government. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside failed to recognise the full extent of the UGC's autonomy in allocating resources between institutions. The other half of the Government's scientific expenditure goes to the research councils. There are separate research councils, run by peers who jealously guard their academic independence. As for departmental expenditure, there are separate Government Departments with a separation of responsibilities, with consequences that were criticised by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cousins).

Britain's model of diffused management, with a high degree of academic self-government, can be compared with the system in other countries — for example, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, where there are central science Ministries, single research councils and considerable scope for political override of scientific decisions. That is why there has been a recent move in this country—an overdue one—which was described by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, towards a strengthening of the capacity to take horizontal as well as vertical decisions about the management of science. Changes are being made within the Government following the House of Lords report. Changes are being made within the research councils, and changes have been recommended by the Advisory Board for the Research Councils within the universities to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred.

The conclusions to be drawn from this picture of the similarities with and differences between British science and science in other countries is that, first, the intellectual output of British science continues to be excellent and, secondly, our financial inputs as a proportion of GDP are broadly in line with those of our competitors. No one can say that those are out of line or that we are markedly under-performing in one of those indicators. Nevertheless, there is undoubtedly within the scientific community a sense of unease, which has been reflected in every speech made in the debate, and we must recognise that. We must ask ourselves about the causes of that phenomenon. They are rooted in the analysis which I have made of similarities and differences in the position of British science.

Despite the fact that our GDP has been growing relatively fast in recent years, its size is relatively small. The total volume of British GDP is 75 per cent, of that in France and well below that in the Federal Republic of Germany. Consequently, the same proportion of GDP spent on research produces rather less money in Britain. We spend a great deal more than Italy, which is our nearest GDP comparator. We must set that fact against our scientists' high ambitions and high abilities based on their historic successes and the vitality of our scientific community.

The Government's view is that it is not possible to bridge the gap between the reach of our scientists and their grasp by increasing public expenditure on the scale recommended by the Opposition. What Britain must do is what all countries must do, and what they are increasingly having to do — manage science more effectively without damaging scientific creativity. I am conscious that this is a very great challenge to the scientific and academic community because, in the British system, they carry a great burden of responsibility for rational, cost-effective and purposive direction of science. I stress the word "purposive", a word used by the Advisory Board for the Research Councils.

The Government have a part to play in all this but the decisive factor will in the end be the energy, creativity and flexibility of our scientific community.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 202, Noes 249.

Division No. 198][9.59 pm
AYES
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Cummings, John
Allen, GrahamCunningham, Dr John
Anderson, DonaldDalyell, Tam
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDarling, Alistair
Armstrong, HilaryDavies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Barron, KevinDewar, Donald
Battle, JohnDixon, Don
Beckett, MargaretDobson, Frank
Beith, A. J.Doran, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDouglas, Dick
Bermingham, GeraldDuffy, A. E. P.
Bidwell, SydneyDunnachie, Jimmy
Blair, TonyDunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Blunkett, DavidEadie, Alexander
Boateng, PaulEastham, Ken
Boyes, RolandEvans, John (St Helens N)
Bradley, KeithEwing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Bray, Dr JeremyEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Fatchett, Derek
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Fearn, Ronald
Buchan, NormanField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Buckley, George J.Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Caborn, RichardFisher, Mark
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Flannery, Martin
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Flynn, Paul
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Cartwright, JohnFoster, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Foulkes, George
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Fyfe, Maria
Clay, BobGalbraith, Sam
Clelland, DavidGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGarrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Cohen, HarryGodman, Dr Norman A.
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Graham, Thomas
Corbett, RobinGrant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Corbyn, JeremyGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cousins, JimGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cryer, BobGrocott, Bruce
Hardy, PeterMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Harman, Ms HarrietMowlam, Marjorie
Haynes, FrankMullin, Chris
Healey, Rt Hon DenisMurphy, Paul
Heffer, Eric S.Nellist, Dave
Henderson, DougO'Brien, William
Hinchliffe, DavidO'Neill, Martin
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Home Robertson, JohnPatchett, Terry
Hood, JimmyPike, Peter L.
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howells, GeraintPrescott, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Illsley, EricReid, Dr John
Ingram, AdamRichardson, Jo
Janner, GrevilleRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
John, BrynmorRobertson, George
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Robinson, Geoffrey
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)Rogers, Allan
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Rooker, Jeff
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kirkwood, ArchyRowlands, Ted
Lambie, DavidRuddock, Joan
Lamond, JamesSedgemore, Brian
Leadbitter, TedSheerman, Barry
Leighton, RonSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Litherland, RobertShort, Clare
Livingstone, KenSkinner, Dennis
Livsey, RichardSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Lofthouse, GeoffreySoley, Clive
McAllion, JohnSpearing, Nigel
McAvoy, ThomasSteel, Rt Hon David
McCartney, IanSteinberg, Gerry
Macdonald, Calum A.Stott, Roger
McFall, JohnStrang, Gavin
McKelvey, WilliamStraw, Jack
McLeish, HenryTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Maclennan, RobertTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
McNamara, KevinThomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
McWilliam, JohnThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Madden, MaxTurner, Dennis
Mahon, Mrs AliceWall, Pat
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Wallace, James
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Walley, Joan
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Martlew, EricWareing, Robert N.
Maxton, JohnWigley, Dafydd
Meacher, MichaelWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Meale, AlanWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Michael, AlunWilson, Brian
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Winnick, David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Wise, Mrs Audrey
Millan, Rt Hon BruceWorthington, Tony
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, RhodriTellers for the Ayes:
Morley, ElliottMrs. Llin Golding and
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Mr. Allen McKay.
NOES
Adley, RobertBaldry, Tony
Alexander, RichardBanks, Robert (Harrogate)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Allason, RupertBellingham, Henry
Amess, DavidBendall, Vivian
Amos, AlanBennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Arbuthnot, JamesBenyon, W.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Blackburn, Dr John G.
Ashby, DavidBonsor, Sir Nicholas
Aspinwall, JackBoscawen, Hon Robert
Atkins, RobertBoswell, Tim
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Bowis, JohnGrylls, Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesHamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHanley, Jeremy
Brazier, JulianHannam, John
Bright, GrahamHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Harris, David
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHaselhurst, Alan
Buck, Sir AntonyHawkins, Christopher
Budgen, NicholasHayes, Jerry
Burns, SimonHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Burt, AlistairHayward, Robert
Butcher, JohnHeathcoat-Amory, David
Butler, ChrisHeddle, John
Butterfill, JohnHicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carttiss, MichaelHill, James
Cash, WilliamHind, Kenneth
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs LyndaHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHolt, Richard
Chapman, SydneyHordern, Sir Peter
Chope, ChristopherHoward, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Colvin, MichaelHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Conway, DerekHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Cope, JohnHunt, David (Wirral W)
Couchman, JamesHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Critchley, JulianHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs EdwinaIrvine, Michael
Curry, DavidIrving, Charles
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Jack, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jackson, Robert
Day, StephenJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Devlin, TimJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dickens, GeoffreyJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Dorrell, StephenJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dover, DenKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dunn, BobKey, Robert
Dykes, HughKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Evennett, DavidKirkhope, Timothy
Fairbairn, NicholasKnapman, Roger
Fallon, MichaelKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Farr, Sir JohnKnowles, Michael
Favell, TonyKnox, David
Fenner, Dame PeggyLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Lang, Ian
Fookes, Miss JanetLatham, Michael
Forman, NigelLawrence, Ivan
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forth, EricLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fox, Sir MarcusLightbown, David
Franks, CecilLilley, Peter
Freeman, RogerLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
French, DouglasLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Gale, RogerLord, Michael
Gardiner, GeorgeLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Garel-Jones, TristanLyell, Sir Nicholas
Gill, ChristopherMcCrindle, Robert
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Gow, IanMcLoughlin, Patrick
Gower, Sir RaymondMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Madel, David
Gregory, ConalMalins, Humfrey
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Mans, Keith
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Maples, John
Grist, IanMarland, Paul
Ground, PatrickMarlow, Tony
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Summerson, Hugo
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maude, Hon FrancisTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Meyer, Sir AnthonyTemple-Morris, Peter
Miller, HalThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mills, IainThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Miscampbell, NormanThorne, Neil
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moate, RogerTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Monro, Sir HectorTredinnick, David
Montgomery, Sir FergusTrippier, David
Morris, M (N'hampton S)Trotter, Neville
Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesTwinn, Dr Ian
Moss, MalcolmVaughan, Sir Gerard
Moynihan, Hon ColinWaddington, Rt Hon David
Neubert, MichaelWalden, George
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWaller, Gary
Paice, JamesWard, John
Patnick, IrvineWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ryder, RichardWatts, John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Wheeler, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Whitney, Ray
Shersby, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wiggin, Jerry
Squire, RobinWilkinson, John
Stanbrook, IvorWilshire, David
Steen, AnthonyWinterton, Mrs Ann
Stern, MichaelWinterton, Nicholas
Stevens, LewisWood, Timothy
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Woodcock, Mike
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Yeo, Tim
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Stokes, JohnTellers for the Noes:
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnMr. Tony Durant and
Sumberg, DavidMr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments) and agreed to.

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

forthwith declared the Main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,That this House notes the essential and increasingly important contribution made by the science base in higher education and the research councils to the nation's economic and social development; applauds the achievements of Britain's scientists which are second only to those of the United States of America with its vastly greater resources; welcomes the 15 per cent, in real terms increase in the science budget since 1979, the progress made by the University Grants Committee and research councils in promoting better value for money and responsiveness, and the new central machinery announced in Cm. 185 for considering science and technology priorities; and commends the Government's intention to take further steps to enhance the strength and quality of the science base and to ensure that research outcomes are better exploited to the United Kingdom's benefit.