Scientific Research

Oral Answers to Questions — Trade and Industry – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 22nd January 1997.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 1:47 pm, 22nd January 1997

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the implications of the Budget for Government-funded scientific research. [10600]

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

The Government's commitment to research and the science and engineering base remains as strong as ever, with total Government funding of science and technology being sustained in 1997–98.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget statement, our universities and colleges make an important contribution to the economy … We want to ensure that the British science research base remains the best in the world, which it certainly is at the moment."—[Official Report, 26 November 1996; Vol. 286, c. 159.]

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

May I welcome the Minister's earlier expression of support for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Central Science Laboratory in York? Does he join me in recognising the importance to the economy of such public sector science and the additional 750 private sector bioscience jobs in the York area? Will he explain why the Government present an improvement in the science budget when the figures published after this year's Budget, compared with those published after last year's Budget, show that the Government will invest £25 million less in science over four years than they were planning previously?

Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor , Esher

I am happy to endorse the hon. Gentleman's comments about the Central Science Laboratory and about the work that it undertakes. There was never any question about the excellence of that work. The prior options review was designed to ascertain how best to maintain that excellence in terms of basic research, and how the laboratory could connect with the private community that the hon. Gentleman mentioned in the biotechnology industries. That case-by-case analysis has been the hallmark of our prior options survey.

There is a cash increase in the science budget as a whole, year on year, compared with the lower inflation figures that were originally taken into account. The overall settlement of the public expenditure survey round shows the importance that science has within the total package of Government expenditure.

I draw attention to the extra £100 million that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has found, including an extra £20 million for equipment. Again, it is important to strike a balance, and the settlement meets some of the comments made by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.

Science in this country is doing extremely well. Researchers are doing a brilliant job in so many of the areas identified in the foresight programme. The year of engineering success was officially launched today; we should all take pride in talking up the work of the science community.