The Councils of UKRI

Part of Higher Education and Research Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 18th October 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 11:00 am, 18th October 2016

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to elaborate on how I believe we are putting in place provisions to deal with his concerns. I welcome his support for UKRI and his recognition of the contribution it can make once it is up and running.

The powers reflect similar existing powers that have been used several times in the past to merge or create new discipline councils as priorities change and evolve, as happened with the creation of the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2005. I assure hon. Members that future changes of that sort would not be undertaken lightly. The Government would seek the views of the research community through proper consultation before putting forward any proposals. I am sure that hon. Members would not hesitate to challenge any change of that kind that did not have prior consultation, but it is not necessary to place a formal duty on the Secretary of State to do that. Under clause 107, a statutory instrument must be laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament via the affirmative procedure. That follows the current process to change the structure and remit of the research councils under the Science and Technology Act 1965.

In any future use of the powers I am sure that hon. Members would not hesitate to challenge changes on which there had not been proper consultation with the sector. I agree with hon. Members that consultation would be essential before the exercise of the powers in question, but it is not necessary to put that on the face of the Bill. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.