Science-industry Links

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st November 1994.

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Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury 12:00 am, 21st November 1994

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on measures to encourage closer links between science and industry.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

A number of initiatives are set out in our White Paper "Realising our Potential" which we are now implementing.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the University of Kent at Canterbury and Pfizer on the remarkable programme that they are carrying out together in protein engineering? Does he agree that it would be wrong if, as some Opposition Back Benchers suggested two weeks ago, we spread research money around universities evenly, as a teaching aid, instead of focusing it in those places where it obtains the best results for the nation?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

Yes. I pay tribute to the University of Kent and the initiative that it has taken with Pfizer. I was in Scotland at the weekend seeing some initiatives at the University of Edinburgh and I have recently been to Cambridge university. There is no doubt that we have a number of centres of excellence. It is important that we sustain them in the best possible way.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien , North Warwickshire

Would not a good way of encouraging links between industry and science be to give an example in the public sector, for example, with the Post Office? Has not the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his letter to the Prime Minister of 2 November scotched any possibility that the Government could encourage such links by showing that he is prepared to abandon the commercial future of the Post Office and is not prepared to give it the commercial freedom in the public sector that Labour demands?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

Of course, I do not comment on leaked or stolen documents, but the plans announced in the Green Paper to develop new opportunities and investment in automation for Post Office Counters will go ahead. The Green Paper sets out the limits of what is possible for Royal Mail in the public sector and the reasons for these limits. We will be looking at them again, but they cannot be simply wished away.

Hon. Members on both sides must appreciate that there are no easy options. Public sector bodies fall within the public sector borrowing requirement— that is a fact. Commercial freedom in the public sector means that more activity is underwritten by the taxpayer and Conservative Members take a responsible attitude to what happens to taxpayers' money.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins , Blackpool South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the best links between science and industry have been encouraged by university departments in the north of England? Will he join me in congratulating three universities—the university of Lancaster, the university of Central Lancashire and Bradford university—which have had particularly good records in forging links between university science departments and industry?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

Yes, I will. I very much welcome the approach that I am finding in universities throughout the nation in forging even closer links with the private sector. We are seeing some very innovative approaches which, along with my hon. Friend, I commend warmly.