Foresight Process

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st May 1995.

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Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan , Chesham and Amersham 12:00 am, 1st May 1995

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many representations he has received from industry scientists and other interested parties during the foresight process. [20151]

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

A great many. The technology foresight programme has been based on very extensive consultation, reaching out to more than 10,000 people through the work of panels, conferences, seminars, surveys and workshops.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan , Chesham and Amersham

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what must be the most thorough and comprehensive consultation process that has ever taken place on science research and development in this country, which will result in the identification of opportunities in markets for our businesses in the next 10 or 20 years. When will the process be completed, and when will the entire foresight programme be drawn together by the steering group? When we can expect some action plans?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

We expect to publish the final report in the second half of this month, and we are responding to many of the reports with new research programmes. For example, the programme on applied biocatalysis, which I announced at the relaunch of the LINK programme on 14 March, focuses on a generic theme spotlighted by three of the foresight panels. The Government will contribute £4 million to the programme, with matching funds coming from industry. I agree with my hon. Friend that the 15 reports on technology foresight in "Progress Through Partnership" are examples of a programme that is beating the rest of the world. We intend to follow up that programme with clear initiatives that respond to the imaginative ideas that have been put forward.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Motherwell South

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy aware that many of the recommendations of the foresight panels go far beyond the laissez faire policies of the Government? Does the right hon. Gentleman have the support of his colleagues in pursuing the recommendations?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

It would have assisted me had the hon. Gentleman told me to which of the 15 reports he was referring. The President of the Board of Trade and I have announced an extension to the LINK programme, which is determined to follow up many of the initiatives proposed in the panel reports. The whole technology foresight programme has been a remarkable success, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join with many others throughout the country in welcoming the reports. We must ensure that the Government and all the relevant parties—in particular, industry—respond in the best way possible.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

I welcome technology foresight in principle, but what is the point of the exercise when the recommendations in the various reports are undermined by the current actions of other Departments? The Department of Transport is privatising the Transport Research Laboratory, which undermines proposals in the transport report. The Department of Trade and Industry is pushing on with the privatisation of AEA Technology, despite the recommendations of the energy foresight report to extend and use our nuclear clean-up expertise. How can the Chancellor and his Department credibly claim to be co-ordinating the Government's science policy when other Ministers are undermining their work day by day? Where is the joined-up thinking?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral West

The hon. Gentleman has got the facts wrong again. I have read through the 15 reports. The transport report to which he refers contains some imaginative thinking, to which the Government will respond after very careful thought. As for all Government Departments, we will consider with colleagues how best to respond to the reports. The hon. Gentleman failed to refer to the fact that the science budget, which underpins all this work, reached a record level in the last financial year. In this financial year, the record cash figure of £1,281,675,000 will be spent. That is more than enough to ensure that we follow up many of the recommendations, in partnership with other Departments.