The central purpose of the White Paper that I published last month, "Realising Our Potential—A Strategy for Science, Engineering and Technology", was to bring our many excellent scientists and engineers into an even closer working relationship with the users of their research. This will enable them to contribute more effectively to wealth creation and to improvements in the quality of life in general.
I am delighted to say that there has been a widespread welcome. I shall quote just two. The noble Lord Flowers, the Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, wrote:
I welcome your White Paper and congratulate you warmly on its content and tone.
The four engineering institutions—chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical—said in a joint statement that they welcomed the White Paper on science and technology
because it identifies correctly the importance of engineering and technological innovation in the process of wealth creation.
In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman says, the White Paper has its critics. Can the Chancellor of the Duchy explain why another attitude seems to have been taken by the Department of Trade and Industry? For example. the ceramic, scientific and resèarch establishment in Stoke-on-Trent is waiting for the Department of Trade and Industry to provide £190,000 that is desperately needed. How does that square with the contents of the White Paper?
I will, of course, pursue with my colleague the specific matter that the hon. Gentleman raises and write to him. The Department of Trade and Industry has been reviewing its grant schemes and has refocused them, particularly on small and medium-sized firms, which is right. Perhaps that review has delayed matters in this case. I will find out for the hon. Gentleman.
My right hon. Friend's important White Paper is based on a careful balance between considerations of utility in science and considerations of scientific excellence. Will he assure us that, in implementing the White Paper's provisions, he will pay proper regard to considerations of scientific excellence, especially in relation to the research councils?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the major part that he played in writing the White Paper. His has been a clear voice for science in his constituency and in his work in my Department. I thank him for that. I can give the House the assurance that he seeks. Nothing in the White paper detracts from the importance of the best basic research. We need to do such research, but it must be done against the background of closer interaction between the science base and industry.