Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus

– in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 1st April 2008.

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Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale 11:00 am, 1st April 2008

I would like to put on record my thanks to Mr. Speaker for granting this important debate on the future of science in the north-west. Daresbury laboratory—now the Daresbury science and innovation campus—in my constituency has been delivering world-class science for 40 years and has contributed to Britain being at the international forefront of accelerator science research.

In 2000-01, Daresbury faced a problem. The Government made the stupid decision to locate Diamond, the successor to the synchrotron radiation source that had been developed at Daresbury, at Rutherford Appleton. Daresbury therefore faced the challenge of finding a new project to ensure that it remained at the forefront of international science. The purpose of this debate is not to look back over the decision that has already been made—although I will refer to some of the consequences of it later—but to consider what can be done to secure the future for Daresbury laboratory in the post-synchrotron radiation source era.

In 2001, the Government set up the north-western Daresbury science group, which considered what could be done to design a new project for Daresbury laboratory in the future. It came up with a concept called the fourth generation light source, which involved fantastic world-leading scientific research that was internationally recognised. We were hopeful that that would take the future of the laboratory forward. In 2006, we were very pleased when the Government published the document, "Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014", in which they stated in support of the objectives that

"the Government has decided that the Harwell site, which includes RAL, and the Daresbury site should become the Harwell and Daresbury Science and Innovation Campuses respectively. The Government will look to develop these campuses so as to ensure that the facilities located here are internationally competitive, support world-class science, and maximise opportunities for knowledge transfer. Work is being commissioned to explore how they should be delivered in practice".

That was a vote of confidence in the future of Daresbury laboratory and is an important document. I hope that the Minister will repeat what his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said and reaffirm that that is still the Government's position. That announcement was recognised by Daresbury laboratory as a very positive statement about its future.

We also welcome the Government's announcements in December last year and January this year that Daresbury science and innovation campus will continue its high-performance computing accelerator and detector research at the Cockcroft Institute and the Harwell centre. The Cockcroft Institute is a joint international venture on accelerator science and technology, and is a commitment to the future of Daresbury laboratory. The project is led brilliantly by its director, Swapan Chattopadhyay, who is an internationally renowned scientist who came from Berkeley in America to Daresbury because of the work that was promised. That was a coup as it meant that there was a brain drain in reverse: a world-class scientist came to Britain to do their work. It was another signpost that Daresbury laboratory had a real future.

We are pleased about the work on international computational science that will take place at Daresbury. That is another vote of confidence. We welcome the McKillop review, which will explore the current and potential contribution of the Daresbury campus to science and innovation in the city region. The review will also consider how the campus can be retained as one of national and international significance, which is very important.

I do not want to pre-empt what the Minister might say today or in the near future, but we also look forward to Government announcements on investments in Daresbury from the large facilities capital fund. We have two excellent innovation buildings at Daresbury, both of which are full. We need to build a third one and perhaps even a fourth one after that so that innovation at Daresbury goes from strength to strength. If Daresbury is to succeed as the Government's document suggests, and if the Government's stated aim that it will be a world-leading scientific research facility and innovation campus is to be achieved, we need a research facility of international repute at Daresbury that will underpin the science and make sure that the whole laboratory has a future.

I have referred to 4GLS—the fourth generation light source. Late last year, the scientific community received a bombshell when the new Science and Technology Facilities Council decided to abandon 4GLS and set up a new light source review. The new light source review's four X-ray and laser scientists have said that 4GLS should involve lasers. There is no surprise in that, but there is a concern that the four scientists were not capable of scientific impartiality in determining what the future next generation light source should consist of, because they did not have any expertise in light source research. The final report of the international advisory committee on 4GLS stated that it strongly supported the delivery of the science originally deployed by 4GLS. It gave it a vote of confidence, and in relation to accelerator science stated:

"We strongly believe capabilities similar to those originally designed into the 4GLS system are the minimum necessary to propel the UK community into a leadership role in Europe and beyond".

It was unequivocal that 4GLS is the way forward and the way in which we will stay at the forefront of international research in accelerator science. That is the research that will need to be done if Britain intends to stay at the forefront of that field, and I hope that the Minister will be able to reaffirm that message.

The new light source project that will be announced on 11 April will be led by two internationally renowned scientists: one from Imperial college London and one from Oxford. If the Minister wants to send a positive message to Daresbury about its future, that project would also include a scientist from the north-west who has expertise in light source science and research. That would say to the community that when the Government decide what they will do in relation to the next generation light source, they will take all aspects of that field of research into account. That would send a message to the north-west that the Government recognise the region's expertise in that field and believe that it has the quality, the staff and the ability to provide somebody who can head up the new project. That would send a positive message to Daresbury laboratory, to the scientists and academics in the north-west and to those who are concerned about the economy in the region.

During the past six years, when the decision was made to go ahead with 4GLS at Daresbury, a prototype has been developed called the Linac project. The name has now changed to ALICE—accelerators and lasers in combined experiments. The problem is that although the Science and Technology Facilities Council is committed to ensuring that ALICE can be developed to demonstrate energy recovery, it has decided not to fund it beyond energy recovery being proven. That does not exploit the potential of ALICE or contribute towards Britain being able to lead the world in accelerator science. Nor does it fulfil what scientists expect of the Science and Technology Facilities Council in that area.

We need a commitment from the STFC not only in relation to proving the energy recovery of ALICE, but in relation to fully exploiting the prototype. That means investing more money into the project and working with the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which has committed £30 million to the project already. That is essential because it will give us the possibility of a new light source, and whatever the new light source is called it will be based on 4GLS. It has been developed at Daresbury and the staff are at Daresbury. If it is exploited to the full, it will retain scientific staff at Daresbury and will provide the piece of the jigsaw that ensures that we still have science and innovation on the campus. It is essential that that project is exploited to the full and that Daresbury is used to make that exploitation possible, because that will retain the scientific staff at the laboratory who will underpin the concept set out in the investment programme for 2004-14. That will send a clear message that the Government believe that regions such as the north-west are entitled to have world-leading science and that they are behind that concept.

Daresbury laboratory has another problem. If ALICE is fully funded and the commitment to the staff to retain pure research science at Daresbury is delivered on, that will no doubt secure the laboratory's future, but the staff have taken a hard knock since the decisions on redundancies were announced last December. There is a feeling at the laboratory, which I share, that they do not have a powerful voice on the STFC advocating on their behalf. There are many scientists from Oxford, with powerful voices, advocating for the Oxford golden circle or golden triangle—call it what one likes—but Daresbury does not have an equivalent voice.

The Minister could send another positive message today by saying that a person will be appointed to the STFC specifically to advocate for Daresbury. That would send the staff a positive message that somebody at the highest level is speaking out on their behalf. They could then have confidence in decisions made in the future about the new light source and the future of the science and technology campus.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

My hon. Friend is making strong and pertinent remarks and I support him wholeheartedly on this issue. Does he agree that the STFC has been extremely poor at consulting and communicating with Daresbury?

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale

I agree entirely. I want to mention a specific problem about consultation of Daresbury, because it all seems to be done outside. The worst thing about all this is the rumour mill, and I have a good example. When the STFC said that it had an £80 million shortfall in its £1.9 billion budget over three years, and that it would call for 25 per cent. staff cuts and 25 per cent. cuts in project grants to fill what is a very small funding gap, if one exists at all, it was feared at Daresbury laboratory that 350 jobs would go. Compulsory redundancies have been called for at Daresbury laboratory but not at the two other sites covered by the STFC. Those compulsory redundancies relate to the running of the synchrotron radiation source, which we accept will finish at the end of this year; the run-down will start in September. Only 110 people are working on the synchrotron radiation source, but we are now told that 180 jobs must go.

My profound wish and hope is that there will be no compulsory redundancies at Daresbury laboratory and that, as a result of decisions that the Government and the STFC can take, more jobs will be secured at Daresbury to underpin the critical mass of scientists needed to ensure that we deliver the science at the laboratory.

Photo of Adam Afriyie Adam Afriyie Shadow Minister (Science and Innovation)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether there will be no jobs lost, no compulsory redundancies or no redundancies at Daresbury? Which of the three, or which combination of the three, is it?

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale

The hon. Gentleman would do better to direct that question to the Minister. In case this was not clear, I point out that the STFC is calling for 180 job losses at Daresbury relating directly to the running of the synchrotron radiation source, which will end in September to December of this year. When the synchrotron radiation source goes, those jobs will be surplus to requirements. I am pressing the Minister to try to ensure that there are no compulsory redundancies and that we retain as many scientists as possible at Daresbury, so that there is a critical mass of scientists able to deliver the new light source when decisions on that are made and when the decision for it to be at Daresbury is made. That is the point.

I am asking for three things. We need a fourth generation light source scientist heading the new light source review with the two scientists from Oxford and Imperial college. We need a commitment that ALICE—that wonderful facility—will be fully funded and fully exploited. It is a unique research facility and it would be a travesty if British science was not allowed to exploit it to the full. We also need a commitment about retaining staff at Daresbury laboratory and a voice on the STFC advocating for Daresbury.

For the record, the Minister has been generous in the time that he has given to colleagues from the north-west. Those Members are represented here today: my hon. Friends the Members for Warrington, South (Helen Southworth), for Warrington, North (Helen Jones), for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) and for Eccles (Ian Stewart). My hon. Friend Andrew Miller has also been involved in lobbying the Minister and the Secretary of State. We have also lobbied the Prime Minister. We have been fully supported by my close and hon. Friend Derek Twigg. We are committed to ensuring that Daresbury laboratory or Daresbury science and innovation campus has a future, both as a pure research facility and as an innovation campus. Today, we seek a positive message from the Government that they share that vision and will protect the laboratory and ensure that it delivers another 40 years of world-leading scientific research.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport 11:15 am, 1st April 2008

A Northwest Regional Development Agency press release that I chanced across the other day, dated 2003, states:

"The scientific future of Daresbury has been given a major boost, thanks to two significant announcements from the Northwest Development Agency...and the Department of Trade and Industry...The NWDA are pleased to announce funding of £25.7 million in order to develop Daresbury's Science Park, securing its future as a centre of excellence for scientific research and development. The DTI have also given the go-ahead for the research, development and design phases of the world-class...Fourth Generation Light Source...These developments will make a major contribution to the economic development of the region, providing opportunities to secure inward investment and spin-outs of companies to link with Daresbury. Following on from recent decisions to embed Europe's most powerful academic research computer and the world's most powerful microscope at the Laboratory, Daresbury's future could not be brighter."

In the same press release, Lord Sainsbury says:

"This is an important step towards placing Daresbury at the cutting edge of accelerator science. The 4th generation light source would provide scientists with a first-class facility to conduct vital experiments in many disciplines. Its potential capability is unique in the world, and its capacity to combine a wide range of experiments would establish the UK as a major international player in this technology."

I would like to give a few key facts that put that in context. Daresbury should be in a very enviable position now, because it should have got the Diamond synchrotron, the particle accelerator, which would have been a £382 million investment in Daresbury. It did get the £21.3 million investment in Linac and the promise of the fourth generation light source. Why did it not get the synchrotron? A National Audit Office report on big science projects makes it crystal clear that the economic benefits relating to the particle accelerator were far greater in the north-west than anywhere else, and than where it actually went in the Oxford area. The reasons why it went there are predominantly cultural. Scientists at Oxford or certain key academics would not forsake the leafy environment of Oxford for the rougher area of Cheshire. There was also direct pressure from the Wellcome Trust, which clearly also felt that it would be a little bit hazardous to go up north. There was no doubt, at the time the proposal was considered, that the physics base in the north-west—in Manchester, Liverpool and further afield—was very strong and capable of supporting such a venture.

However, if we look at the fourth generation light source as a consolation prize, it has to be said that it was, on the face of it, a good one. The NAO said of the project that the level and form of engagement with industry—

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale

The fourth generation light source was not a consolation prize for Daresbury laboratory. It will now be the leading project in terms of linear accelerator science. It is not a second prize at all; it is a real prize for the laboratory.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport

It would be amazing if it turned out as we hoped; and it would be a major plus for the north-west. However, it is apparent to me that things will not turn out as expected.

The NAO praised the project and used positive terms, which the hon. Gentleman will welcome, and said that the project provides a

"Level and form of engagement with industry".

That is crucial for the north-west because we need industry and jobs. It is ironic, in retrospect, that the NAO said that the project has

"Flexibility and adaptability to cost pressures".

Because of that, one felt that the project would go ahead no matter what the economic climate. The Northwest Regional Development Agency, to its credit, has persistently emphasised that the key need in the north-west is high-quality jobs—a better quality of job than is widely available in many parts of the north-west—and not simply jobs. Key science fixtures obviously help in that regard. It now seems that there is a doubt about the consolation prize.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman with interest, but does he recognise that the international advisory committee, which reviewed the 4GLS project and reported in February of this year, described it as world-class science?

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport

Yes, and we would be glad to see world-class funding associated with it.

I am less than impressed at what the Minister has had to say on the matter. He stated:

"The Council has confirmed that key staff at Daresbury will be involved in developing a proposal for a next generation light source, and it is developing plans for further developments of joint ventures and further public investment on the campus".

In the same letter, which was sent to all north-west Members, he states:

"You will see in particular that the STFC is committed to retaining key scientific and technology expertise on the campus, and wishes to expand that expertise".

I read that carefully for hard financial commitments. On 13 March, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills stated:

"Because the 4GLS project had been part of the future...at Daresbury"—

I emphasise "had been"—

"I have asked Sir Tom McKillop to review how best to take forward the science and innovation campus but there should be no doubt about our commitment to future success and our desire to see further investment in Daresbury as a Science and Innovation Campus".

That sounds to me like jam tomorrow but never today; there is lots of commitment, but the letter is rather thin on money details.

What do we know? There is an £80 million shortfall in the Science and Technologies Facilities Council and there are cuts in physics provision in the north-west. European Union countries have a target of 3 per cent. of gross domestic product to be spent on research and development, but spending on that fell between 2000 and 2005 in the UK. Overall research and development spending fell by 14 per cent. last year. Things are not going well. It would be helpful if the Minister would assure us that things are going better than I think they are. I understand that my remarks are not comfortable for Labour Members, because they would genuinely like the Government to do better for Daresbury, to be more positive and firm in their commitments, and to couple that with resources.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones PPS (Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State), Department of Health

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman but, for the record, will he tell us what discussions he has had on the fourth generation light source with scientists at Daresbury? Would they describe it as a "consolation prize"? In calling it that, the hon. Gentleman is downgrading its importance to Daresbury's future.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport

If the only attack that Labour Members can make on my thesis is on that phrase, I shall use another. I was trying to say that, initially, we were unquestionably supposed to have the particle accelerator. It would have been nice to get both that and 4GLS—there is a case for that—but nobody can dispute that we lost out on the synchrotron. The only positive fact—the only firm, clear-cut financial commitment that I understand—in the Minister's letter of 6 February is in the third paragraph, which states:

"The Synchrotron Radiation Source...will close as planned in 2008, once the existing programme of experiments is complete. This will inevitably involve 180 redundancies over the next two years".

If people think that that is good news, so be it. It is a hard fact, but in the rest of the letter, a lot of the discussion is kicked into the future.

I should like to turn briefly, if I may, to astronomy, which we have not touched on but it generally affects the issue. We have a similar scenario with the EMERLIN project. As far as north-west science is concerned, a negative case is being made. The STFC says all sorts of good things about it. It says that it is the only world-class astronomical facility based entirely in the UK, and that it makes a significant contribution to radio astronomy and to our understanding of cosmology, galaxy formation and planetary evolution. That is all good stuff.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

Order. You are moving away from the subject of the debate, Dr. Pugh.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Liberal Democrat, Southport

I was hoping that you would allow me a bit of latitude on that point, Mr. Martlew.

In the north-west—this is to do with Daresbury—physics funding has been cut and blue-chip research, which is commercially useful to the north-west for jobs and economic welfare, has been pulled. The Northwest Regional Development Agency and the universities in the area are being depressed. They are not toasting the Minister and saying, "Isn't he doing a good job on this!" They are in fact expressing regrets to hon. Members, which is why so many have turned up to the debate. Regional differences are being accentuated by a lack of investment in key scientific facilities in the north-west, the prime cause of which is the £80 million shortfall in funding. That is not a huge sum in Government terms. I accept the points that have been made about the autocratic and, at times, eccentric decision making of the STFC, but what matters to me is that it is a betrayal of my region and its future.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

Order. Four Back-Bench Members wish to speak and I should like the wind-up speeches to begin at about 12 o'clock.

Photo of Helen Southworth Helen Southworth Labour, Warrington South 11:26 am, 1st April 2008

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Hall on securing the debate, which is on an important issue for the region, the UK and our constituents. He has been a redoubtable champion of Daresbury laboratory over many years.

Others on this side of the House have been champions of the laboratory for many years, because we see what it achieves. The science campus at the laboratory is a world-renowned large-scale science facility. It has an amazing history: synchrotron technology in the UK developed at Daresbury and it really is whizzy science. Light is spun around at such speed that things can be seen in incredible detail. One can see a cancer cell at the size of a full stop and identify it. For people, that means that we are going to be able to stop cancer, because we will be able to find it at the earliest stages.

The facility is not only about that; it looks at how to make aeroplane wings function more effectively. It is about major industry and manufacturing. It is revolutionising how we deliver industry in the north-west, which is keeping us competitive. My major dispute with Dr. Pugh is that Daresbury laboratory is not going cap-in-hand to ask the Minister for things; rather, it is world-leading and it is positioning our science and industry—our jobs—at the forefront of world science.

Daresbury is not only home to world-leading accelerator science. It is also home to advanced instrumentation and engineering, high-performance computing, nuclear physics, modelling and simulation. Our scientists are spectacular and the facilities and resources on our site must meet their abilities to ensure that they can deliver, because they are central to the decades of success that we have had on the site. The scientists and technicians are internationally acclaimed and I am honoured that a large number of them are my constituents. I have learned so much about our opportunities through what I have been told by those constituents about what they are delivering for the UK and around the globe. More than 5,000 scientists from more than 30 countries use Daresbury's facilities every year. They do not pop over here thinking that we are second best; they come to Daresbury because it is a world leader. They want to use our facilities, and we want to ensure that Daresbury will be able to continue delivering.

My hon. Friend drew attention to the fact that eight years ago the Diamond project to replace the out-of-date synchrotron on the site was awarded to the Rutherford Appleton laboratory, even though the project had been developed by Daresbury scientists with international peer backing. My hon. Friends will remember being inundated by representations from scientists from all over the globe, including Nobel prize winners, calling for the recognition of and investment in the world-leading facilities at Daresbury.

As a result of strong representations from world scientists, from Members of Parliament, from business and industry and from local and regional government, the Government set up the north-west science and Daresbury task group, of which I was a member. That task group recommended a series of actions to support regional and UK science, including the establishment of the Northwest Science Council. One significant result was major Government investment in the science and innovation campus at Daresbury.

The campus concept is a great idea, under which the public and private sectors can co-operate with regional and national Government to generate real growth from new scientific discoveries. The first major success of the campus was the innovation centre. It was opened two years ago and it now houses more than 60 high-tech companies in fields such as information and communications technology and medical device design and manufacture.

Many of those companies are new start-ups and innovators, and some of them have been drawn to the UK because of the sort of science on offer at Daresbury. Scientists are attracted by the on-site facilities, particularly the research laboratories that are open to companies. They are also attracted by collaboration with the 500 scientists and other staff of the laboratories, who offer world-class capabilities in physics, chemistry, engineering, computing science, biology and other fields. Those industries are benefiting from that close proximity.

The universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster are key partners in the campus. The campus represents a unique mixture of publicly funded research, private sector companies and investment, and world-class universities—all working together to create innovation and economic growth. It is an incredible success story, and we must ensure that it continues. It is crucial for our economy, and for improving the quality of life for UK citizens, not only for jobs and manufacturing but for health and well-being. We must ensure that research funded by the public sector is made available for exploitation, and the world-class scientists at Daresbury laboratory are critical to that success. Last year, the Government announced that the Daresbury science and innovation campus would be one of only two major science sites in the UK, the other being at Harwell in Oxford. As a result, Government-supported large science projects will go only to those sites.

In the House last week, the Prime Minister said:

"We are committed to additional investment in science and technology in my hon. Friend's region, and to all the jobs that flow from that, making it possible for the north-west to continue to increase employment during a difficult period for the world economy."—[Hansard, 26 March 2008; Vol. 474, c. 188.]

I hope that the Minister will give more detail, particularly in relation to the new generation light source, evolved from the 4GLS project developed by scientists at Daresbury over the last six years. Will he confirm not only that Daresbury scientists will be fully involved in and lead the project team, but that, if it is to be built, the new generation light source will be built at Daresbury? I support the call ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale for Daresbury to have a voice on the Science and Technology Facilities Council, so that decisions can be made with real knowledge rather than assumptions.

The Government have also funded the Cockroft Institute on the Daresbury site; as my hon. Friend said, it has already attracted leading world scientists. It secured more than £20 million of funding in just one year to develop the site. As well as demonstrating its success in research, the Cockroft Institute will play a key role in training physics graduates in the north-west, to ensure that local young scientists have the best opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills. One of Daresbury's incredible successes has been to inspire young people in the north-west to succeed in physics and engineering.

Will the Minister expand on the statement from the STFC that

"it will seek the further development of partnership ventures such as the Cockroft centre, an international centre for accelerator science and technology".

That statement recognises the outstanding success of the Cockroft, but what does it mean in terms of further investment in the Cockroft and associated activity at Daresbury? We need further details.

The key to the considerable success of the science and innovation campus at Daresbury, in all its parts, is the outstanding quality of the scientists and the high level of the engineers and technicians on the site. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale's concern about the announcement of redundancies associated with the closure of the old SRS. To develop next-generation facilities, the laboratories must retain key scientific and technological expertise on the site.

At the end of last summer, the STFC caused serious concern about the future of science at Daresbury. It is irresponsible in the extreme for a Government-funded body to take so little care with the success, and indeed the viability, of so important a body as the laboratory and the science and innovation campus. Will the Minister confirm that the STFC will be held to its commitment, made in the past few weeks, to retaining key scientific and technology expertise at Daresbury in high-performance computing, accelerator and detector research, and development of next-generation facilities and the underpinning technologies? Will he also give us details of what was meant by the STFC's statement at the end of January that it was looking to expand skills on the site as its plans develop? Will he assure us that ALICE will receive the investment that it needs, so that it can continue to succeed?

Overall, will the Minister give us the Department's assurance that the STFC will minimise job losses from the SRS closure, and deliver on its commitment to develop the light source expertise at Daresbury so that it can continue to play a key role in developing the next generation light source? Will he also confirm that the new light source will be built at Daresbury as part of the critical scientific research anchor to the other facilities on the site? A quarter of the north-west's economy— £26 billion—is dependent on science. Daresbury science and innovation campus and its university partners at Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster are at the interface between science and industry. They are opening up huge advances in health diagnosis and treatment. Will the Minister assure us that the STFC will invest at Daresbury in order to build on its world-class success?

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones PPS (Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State), Department of Health 11:37 am, 1st April 2008

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Hall on securing this debate. He has done an enormous amount of work to secure the future of Daresbury, and all MPs in the region are grateful to him for the lead that he has shown.

I do not intend to repeat points that have been made, although I agree with them. However, I stress the importance of science on the Daresbury site to the future of the region. Since 1962, it has been a vital scientific site. It developed the world's first synchrotron light source, and it was instrumental in helping a UK researcher win a share in the 1997 Nobel prize for chemistry. We all believe that the decision to send the next-generation light source project Diamond to the Rutherford Appleton laboratory was entirely wrong. However, we are where we are, and our concern is now to secure the future of the site because of the importance of the world-leading science that goes on there to the economy of the north-west.

In the early years, research at Daresbury was almost entirely physics based, but the dominant research disciplines are now biology and medicine; pure physics account for only 15 per cent. of research. The importance of the site can be seen from the fact that although 500 staff work there, the facilities are used by more than 5,000 scientists and engineers each year. The key to Daresbury's future is the development of the science and innovation campus and the underpinning of that development by investment in world-leading science. One cannot exist without the other. Indeed, a master plan for the development of the campus is being put together, and there are plans to see new buildings grow from the innovation centre.

The vision for Daresbury over the next 25 years involves extending the scale and number of interactions between science, industry and employment on the campus. The link between universities, science and the development of new jobs is exactly what the Government tell us that they want to achieve. Although this country has been a world leader in science, we have never been as good at developing our scientific discoveries for the benefit of jobs and industry as a whole, but that is exactly what the campus at Daresbury seeks to achieve.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In Manchester, we have the biggest single-site state university, and we have great universities at Liverpool and Lancaster. Through the Government's university challenge, we have the chance to expand higher education in many of our community's deprived areas. In my constituency, we will also see the development of the new Omega site for science and high-tech industries. However, such things must be underpinned by investment at Daresbury—they are all linked.

The economy of the north-west is heavily dependent on our science base. Major investment in sectors such as materials, aerospace, nuclear and biotech underpin regional development. The Northwest Regional Development Agency will invest more than £50 million in the Daresbury science and innovation campus over the next 10 years. That will give us a unique mixture of fundamental research facilities—the north-west universities will be involved—and commercially driven research and business growth. That is why the Sainsbury review highlighted Daresbury as an example of science and innovation driving collaboration and of investment that would drive regional economic growth.

As the Minister will be aware, the campus is home to more than 60 science and technology companies and more than 220 high-tech jobs. More than 95 per cent. of those companies are small and medium sized, and 40 per cent. are start-ups involving very young businesses. Our region's future depends on using science to drive employment and growth so that we can provide well-paid, high-tech jobs to replace much of the low-paid employment that has been traditional in our region.

There is often a high level of interaction on the campus. There are already four joint developments and eight collaborative arrangements. However, I say to my hon. Friend the Minister—we are telling him what he already knows—that those arrangements must be underpinned by investment in world-leading science. The Cockcroft institute is a marvellous centre for accelerator science, which is jointly funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and our local universities. That is the kind of the collaboration that we want to encourage, but it can proceed only if we have the investment that we have asked for and if the Minister ensures that ALICE goes ahead and that any fourth-generation light source that is built is built at Daresbury.

This is a test of the Government's commitment to the regions; it is a test of whether they want to end the disparities between the kinds of employment in the various regions. The north-west does extremely well in terms of investment from the private sector and universities, but it receives only about 3 per cent. of publicly funded research investment. That situation must end. We cannot have a situation in which much of our high-tech, leading science investment goes to the south of England, while the north and the north-west do not get their fair share. We have the world-leading scientists and we have the will to develop these projects. Today, we ask the Government to support us and to ensure that we get the investment that will keep us at the cutting edge of science so that we can develop our industries and so that our scientists and, most importantly, our young people have appropriate opportunities.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour, Liverpool, Riverside 11:45 am, 1st April 2008

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Hall on securing the debate, and he is right to be so determined about pursuing the issue.

The key issue that we are debating is the future of the Daresbury science and innovation campus as a key centre of excellence for cutting-edge scientific research, and it is important to remember that that is the core point of our concern. Many of the highly successful activities on the Daresbury site are not in jeopardy, but our efforts must focus on ensuring that the centre remains one of international excellence for cutting-edge research. That is important if we are to ensure that we see developments nationally and internationally. The Daresbury laboratory has made magnificent contributions in that respect and is poised to do even more. It is also important to the north-west and to ensuring that we retain a high level of skills there, because those skills contribute to the north-west economy.

The debate takes place against the background of increasing regional disparities in investment in science and research. If we look at the figures for spending on science and technology in 2006-07, we see that the north-west received £26 per head, the south-east received £38 per head and London received £51 per head. The latest available figures for Government expenditure on research and development, for 2003, show that the north-west received £57 million, London received £258 million and the south-east received £635 million. That is not acceptable. What we are talking about today is providing much-needed support for a centre of scientific excellence, whose worth has been proved.

When Lord Sainsbury opened the Daresbury science and innovation campus, he clearly said that he saw it, together with Harwell, as a centre of major excellence. He described Daresbury as one of two key centres of excellence, and that description has been repeated by Ministers since then. The key question is how their commitment will be shown in practice, given the current circumstances and uncertainty.

I take particular pleasure from the close links between Daresbury and Liverpool university. The laboratory's first three directors came from the university's physics department. Hon. Members have mentioned key internationally renowned personnel from Liverpool working at Daresbury, and I should add to the list the name of Professor Peter Weightman, from the university's physics department, who is the chair of the scientific steering committee for the 4GLS project. I should also mention Professor John Dainton, the Chadwick professor of physics at the university, the founding director and chief scientist of the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology. Indeed, it is the close collaboration between scientists, universities and business that makes what is happening at Daresbury so unique.

There has been great concern about the way, in the beginning, scientists at Daresbury, and, indeed, other scientists who it was thought had the relevant expertise, were kept away from the assessments of 4GLS. It is important to recognise what the international advisory committee on 4GLS and the new generation light sources and the ALICE project reported in February. That international, important and highly talented scientific group, of international repute, reported:

"The IAC wishes to re-iterate its strong support of the science drivers originally developed by the 4GLS team. We believe the key research goals cited in the science case remain vital and exciting".

It said:

"The 4GLS design was and is an exciting world class approach to achieve capabilities not possible with any of the other sources".

Then, in considering the ALICE project, it discussed the importance of keeping the core skills developed at Daresbury. In its conclusion it stated, significantly:

"We recognise that accelerator light sources and capital intensive devices can strain development budgets of science agencies. Nevertheless, the reason such sources are so successful worldwide is that, ultimately, the value of scientific understanding and the economy it drives fully justify the investment. This conclusion is shared by all the major scientific funding agencies around the world".

That conclusion is particularly important, and underlines why it is so critical that 4GLS or a successor project of comparable worth should go ahead at Daresbury.

We are now at a critical point, when decisions are to be made. The record of the Science and Technology Facilities Council on this matter has not been a happy one, but I hope that it is now better informed by the debates and new research. Would it be possible for the 4GLS project team at Daresbury to become members of the project board for the new light source? It is extremely important to re-emphasise that we are talking about excellence—excellent science and the excellent record of achievements that the Daresbury laboratory and campus already have. We seek assurances from the Minister that Daresbury will be able to continue at the cutting edge of international scientific research, and that 4GLS or a similar project will be able to go ahead at Daresbury.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley 11:52 am, 1st April 2008

I add my congratulations to those that have been given to my hon. Friend Mr. Hall, both for his steadfast support for the project and for bringing the debate to the House. As a member of the hideously named DIUS Select Committee I attended the Daresbury site earlier in the year. We found a demoralised scientific work force who were in despair as to whether the fourth generation light source would arrive. They believed that the world class library on which the fundamental research depended was going to close. They were in doubt about the future of ALICE and suffered further doubt on the basis that if ALICE goes EMMA goes. EMMA is the electron model for many applications for which ALICE is the particle source. That, in essence, is the bulk of the fundamental research that goes on at the site.

My hon. Friend Mrs. Ellman mentioned the fact that only 3 per cent. of fundamental research goes on outside universities and outside the south-east; obviously, quite a lot goes on in universities. Most of that research is on the Daresbury site. The site will continue, and excellent science and technology will continue there, because of its applications and because computer modelling will go on. It is a great site. The real question for the Minister is whether fundamental science will go on, and whether Daresbury will be the one site outside the golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge and London that will continue. If that is to happen, all the projects that I mentioned—ALICE, the library and the fourth generation light source—must continue there. From the information that I have had, I have doubts about whether that will happen.

Do the Government have a regional policy for science? Are they concerned about the dreadful figures? If they do have such a regional policy, what mechanisms will they use to ensure that the scientific community and the Science and Technology Facilities Council invest in the north of England? If the Government do not use their muscle and say, "We must have science at this site," what Dr. Pugh generously called the culture that pushes fundamental research into the golden triangle will continue. I do not think that it is culture. I think it is southern bigotry, and it should be taken on. What is the role of a Labour Government if it is not to say something when huge resources are being allocated throughout the country, with implications, as my hon. Friends have said, not only for how the relevant research is conducted, but for its relationship with the growth of the economy and education in the region?

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

I apologise for being late, Mr. Martlew; I was at a meeting of the Select Committee of which I am Chairman. Perhaps I may add one more question for my hon. Friend to put to the Minister, given his experience some years ago, albeit in the chemical sector, in the north-west. What would be the impact of any reduction in the scientific centre in Daresbury on the science-based industry in the region? The use that companies such as Unilever make of Daresbury is incredibly important. It is part of the fabric of the region and is one reason why industry invests in the north-west.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

My hon. Friend makes a significant point. The scientific community is more than the sum of its parts, and it changes from time to time, because of the brilliance of parts of the community, when innovations and new discoveries are made. The larger and more solid that base is, the more significant the changes are likely to be. When something goes, the loss is bigger than it appears.

To return to the point that I was making about whether the Government have a regional policy, what levers will they use? We get a fog when answers are given. They say "Yes, we support it," but will they tell the Science and Technology Facilities Council that it must invest at Daresbury, or will the excuse of the Haldane principle be used: that they cannot tell scientists what science to engage in? I agree with that, if it is a question of telling scientists what kind of microscope, telescope or computers to use, or even when it is a question of the choice between the two projects in question; but the Government can say—and they have said—that they will concentrate on a certain area of research because it is more important. The comprehensive spending review was clear about the fact that more money would go into medical research than into other areas.

If that can happen, the Government can also say, where there are bases of excellence as at Daresbury, that science must take place there. They can say that they will not permit the same thing that happened in 2000, when the Wellcome Trust, which clearly did not want to come to the north of England—the decision was based not on objective evidence but on bigotry—made a raid on the investment and effectively told Lord Sainsbury that there would be a competition, although no one had mentioned one before, enabling it to take resources and slap them into Oxford. I should like an answer to my questions, because they are fundamental to what is happening in the world of science, physics and astronomy, as well as particle accelerators.

I shall leave my hon. Friend the Minister with this thought. A huge investment has been made in the National Institute for Medical Research just up the road in Camden. The way that that project has been carried on is an absolute dog's dinner. It is a £500 million project putting dangerous chemicals in sites where they probably will not fit, in a densely populated area, but no other part of the country was considered for the site of that facility. We have questioned the people involved. They said, "Oh, it's half a billion, we're near King's and UCL"—or whatever university it may be—"and we are in the south-east, so of course it's going to go there." The Government need to tackle that attitude and spread out fundamental research throughout universities as well as sites that are not in universities, to ensure that there is a real regional policy and that the regions benefit from investment in fundamental research.

[Mr. David Wilshire in the Chair]

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Shadow Secretary of State (Innovation, Universities and Skills) 12:00 pm, 1st April 2008

I join my colleagues in congratulating Mr. Hall on securing this debate, and I congratulate all hon. Members from the north-west of England who have spoken on their clear knowledge of Daresbury and their commitment to their region. I have learned a lot by listening, including about ALICE and EMMA.

There has been much comment in the press recently about the Science and Technology Facilities Council; indeed, it must have felt like an organisation under media siege after various comments on the budgetary pressures that it faces. I am grateful to have had a meeting with Professor Mason, the chief executive of the STFC, who gave me his perspective on the situation. I understand that the Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills is looking at the issue as well, and I am sure that its report, which will be published shortly, will lead to future debates and deliberations.

As my hon. Friend Dr. Pugh mentioned, much of the press's attention has focused on astrophysics, particularly Jodrell Bank, but today we are concerned solely with Daresbury, home of the Cockcroft institute, the Daresbury science and innovation campus and the Daresbury innovation centre. Those institutions all have a close and critical relationship with the universities in Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster.

Much of the uncertainty surrounding the budgetary pressures on the STFC arises, perhaps, from the peculiar budgetary pressures unique to it. I am sure that one of the first points that the Minister will make when he responds is that the pressures are occurring against a background of real-terms growth in the science budget, but the STFC commits a third of its budget to international subscriptions to CERN and various astronomy projects. Those are long-term commitments that are hard to restructure and whose budgets are hard to trim. Many of the STFC's UK projects are also long-term. If there are budgetary pressures—£80 million has been mentioned—they will have an impact on short-term funding. That causes concern in the scientific community and in many universities, including Bristol university in my constituency, about the number of postdoctoral research assistant posts that may be cut in that area of scientific research.

The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills made a statement about the science budget and its growth during the comprehensive spending review on 11 December last year. It has become clear from my rereading of that statement that the major winners were medicine and the Medical Research Council; Graham Stringer referred to a new facility that will be funded, at least in part, by the MRC. It appears that that will lead to budgetary pressure on the other research councils, particularly because part of the growth that they will receive is designed to accommodate the full economic costing of research projects in future.

The Secretary of State's statement also referred to reviews that he intends to carry out on the health of research disciplines in this country. The very first review, chaired by Professor Bill Wakeham, the vice-chancellor of Southampton university, will examine physics, with which this debate is primarily concerned. It is vital, Mr. Martlew, that decisions—[Interruption.] I beg your pardon, Mr. Wilshire; I had not looked up to see that the Chair had changed while I was speaking.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

It is all right; you were in full flow.

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Shadow Secretary of State (Innovation, Universities and Skills)

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Wilshire, for the conclusion of our proceedings. It is vital that the reviews should be able to come to conclusions, and that the Wakeham review should be able to take place, without decisions being taken that will have far-reaching implications. The Secretary of State also referred to a second highly pertinent review, Sir Tom McKillop's review of the Manchester city region economy, which will specifically include the Daresbury campus. Again, it is critical that no decisions detrimental to the future of Daresbury should be taken before that review comes to a conclusion and its findings are published.

Universities UK has called for what it terms a sensible period of adjustment before any decisions are taken and—more crucially, perhaps—for year-end flexibility in the budgets of the STFC and other research councils. I am guessing that that is an allusion to the disgraceful raid on research councils' budgets that took place before the restructuring of Departments last July, while the councils were still within the remit of the Department of Trade and Industry. I hope that one positive result of the creation of the new Departments will be that such short-sighted raids will not happen again.

The STFC says that it is committed to the future of the Daresbury site and that it is working in partnership with higher education institutions in the north-west, the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the private sector to develop an innovation campus. It has stated to me that there is potential for the creation of 10,000 new jobs, although that is obviously an aspiration for the future.

The STFC also says that the fourth generation light source, which has been much mentioned in this debate, will not come on stream until 2012, so it is critical that decisions are not taken in the interim, during the next four years, that will undermine the current science base at Daresbury. We need a critical mass of scientists in place in north-west England to deliver future projects. STFC says that it manages Harwell and Daresbury as a single unit for the benefit of the whole United Kingdom, and that they should not be seen as competing with each other, but I gather that that feeling is not shared by hon. Members from north-west England.

I shall conclude with some comments on the principles of funding research. It is right that private companies or charitable funds such as the Wellcome Trust or Cancer Research UK fund good science wherever they find it and wherever it matches their own remit, but this debate primarily concerns public money for all research councils. There must surely be a regional dimension to the funding of UK science. Several hon. Members have mentioned that we do not want to perpetuate the perception, much less the reality on the ground, of a golden triangle of London and Oxbridge.

Photo of Mike Hall Mike Hall Labour, Weaver Vale

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support for Daresbury laboratory and his remarks. They have been far more constructive than those of Dr. Pugh. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his colleague, Dr. Harris, about the future of Daresbury laboratory? I understand that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon has called for it to be closed.

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Shadow Secretary of State (Innovation, Universities and Skills)

My hon. Friend could not be here this morning, as the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee is on a visit to the Royal Society. I am not aware that he has made any such statement about the future of Daresbury. Clearly, he has his own constituency interests at heart, but he does speak for my party on a range of UK science issues, and I would be surprised if he did not feel that science funding should be spread throughout the United Kingdom.

I was about to make an observation about my own region. Bristol university, the university of Bath and the university of the West of England are collaborating on a new science and innovation campus, which we hope will open in the next few years at Emersons Green. This debate has focused on the north-west of England, which certainly needs a viable and vibrant research base to underpin the regional economy. I listened with interest, as I always do, to the hon. Members for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) and for Manchester, Blackley. The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley said that the matter was a key test whether the Government shared that aspiration and were willing to commit the resources to deliver it.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones PPS (Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State), Department of Health

Further to the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks, if it is the case that Dr. Harris called for Daresbury to be closed—we believe that it is—does the hon. Gentleman agree?

Photo of Stephen Williams Stephen Williams Shadow Secretary of State (Innovation, Universities and Skills)

I will obviously have to clarify that with my hon. Friend, because, in my experience, people can interpret Members' remarks incorrectly.

Photo of Adam Afriyie Adam Afriyie Shadow Minister (Science and Innovation) 12:10 pm, 1st April 2008

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Wilshire, which you slipped into so eloquently that it would have been easy to miss, but I have a keen eye for these things.

Photo of Adam Afriyie Adam Afriyie Shadow Minister (Science and Innovation)

I thank Mr. Hall for calling this debate, which I am delighted to speak to, not only as the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, but because of my keen interest—I served on the Science and Technology Committee—in the STFC, its formation and the consequences of some of the decisions made through it. I am conscious of time and I want to give the Minister as much time as possible to answer some of the questions and queries raised, so I shall canter through my remarks as briskly as I can.

The science and innovation campus at Daresbury is doing excellent work involving a heady mix of businesses, scientists and organisations able to facilitate innovation. There is no doubt that innovation, and specifically scientific innovation, holds the key to our place in the world over the coming decades. However, we cannot consider Daresbury in isolation from the Government's overall policies and expenditure priorities laid down by Ministers. Without the base level of scientists, Daresbury could not perform its work as it needs to. However, over the past several months, Whitehall has delivered what I would call a Whitehall headbutt to scientists over science funding. There is no question but that the £80 million shortfall in the STFC's budget will impact on the work done through it throughout the country. Did the Minister provide that flat-cash settlement knowing that it would have the knock-on effects demonstrated in the paperwork released under freedom of information legislation? Did he know that his funding decision would have the impact that it did? I guess that the alternative is that neither he nor his Department were aware of it, which would be far worse.

I would like to press the Minister to tidy up the point about the redundancies at Daresbury. We understand that there are plans to close one of the light sources, which will result in 180 redundancies, but how many will there be overall and from which sources will they come? Will they be compulsory, voluntary or lost through natural wastage? What sort of numbers are we talking about? I appreciate that it might be slightly premature on one or two points, but it would be useful if he could tidy that up for us.

Ministers from the Department often seem to boast about the level of science expenditure, but the reality is rather different. While they talk about rising budgets, the P45s appear to be rolling out in several places around the country. About 25 per cent. of research grants will have to be cut over the next few years, until the next spending review. Will the Minister comment? Does he agree with the figure of 25 per cent. or does he have another one for the amount of research that is being cut back on or that will be unable to be delivered?

It is important that the Minister faces up to the fact that his and his Department's decisions have caused the pressures at Daresbury. There is no doubt that Daresbury does superb work in its various areas, from synchrotron and the core sciences to, more importantly, the innovation through its connection with the 60 or so businesses in the area. As a Labour Member observed here, innovation is the challenge for our nation today. We do reasonably well in research citations, but that needs to be converted into products, services and jobs that boost the economy. Daresbury is in a good position to help with that overall ambition.

I shall focus on three points before allowing the Minister to answer in detail. The first point is about the critical mass of scientists in and around Daresbury and whether that will impact on future projects. I quote from a sobering letter from 63 early career scientists:

"The major cuts in the STFC delivery plan will stifle the development of the future physics talent in this country by irrevocably damaging a large number of university physics departments...Consequently, both the inspiration that our ...outreach activities have on the younger generation...will be lost."

If the number of scientists employed or deployed at Daresbury falls below a certain level, all of the benefits from a science and innovation campus will fall away fairly briskly. Everyone knows about Oxford, Cambridge and the triangle, but without enough scientists at Daresbury, it is unlikely that businesses will be attracted to the region or that the vision of expanding innovation in the area will continue. Is the Minister aware of staff concerns, and other concerns raised in the House, that Daresbury might not survive without a critical mass of scientists? How would he address those concerns?

My second point is about comments made by Professor Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, who made clear two related problems with Daresbury and the STFC. He said that

"the STFC has been constrained in its priority-setting by the Ministry, and...there was inadequate consultation with the relevant communities."

Ministers cannot undercut the STFC's budget and then scratch their heads and wonder why things are changing on the ground.

That brings me to my last and key point, which I shall put as a question: to what degree do Ministers have control over decisions made by the STFC? It seems that quite often Ministers boast about wonderful new projects and say, "We are responsible for the funding of this project, isn't it wonderful, give us a big clap", but that when something goes wrong and there are redundancies, they say, "Oh, this is a decision for the STFC or another body and it is nothing to with me, governor." For clarity, can the Minister make the decision on the fourth generation light source and where it is to be placed, or is that a decision for the STFC? Finally, does he have a regional science funding policy, and, if so, is he satisfied with the distribution, given that Labour Members have criticised the low level of distribution in the north-west?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills 12:19 pm, 1st April 2008

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Hall on securing this debate and pay tribute to him for his work in championing Daresbury over the years. I also acknowledge the support of his colleagues in the north-west and their championing of Daresbury as a major science and innovation campus. I want to reassure them that the Government remain absolutely committed to developing Daresbury as a world-class campus for science and innovation. We all appreciate the current situation, which has resulted from decisions about the Diamond synchrotron—I shall not go into them today given the time, but they have been put on the record previously. I understand the feeling in the north-west that that decision was wrong. However, it is a decision that has been taken and certain consequences flow from it. Therefore, the redundancy situation with the synchrotron radiation source, or SRS, in Daresbury, has been known for a period of time. None the less, it obviously creates a climate of uncertainty for people who work there.

In the remaining time that I have available, I hope that I can provide some reassurances and also set out some of the next steps in terms of what I think the vision for Daresbury will be.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

First, I offer my thanks to my hon. Friend Mr. Hall and I pay tribute to him; he is not only looking after the interests of his own constituents but those of my constituents too.

I was pleased to hear the Minister's opening statement and I believe him to be sincere when he speaks about seeking to retain a world-class service at Daresbury. However, what my Eccles constituents want to know, especially those who either work at Daresbury or who are otherwise concerned for its future, is this: what would the purpose of Daresbury be if no large science project is placed there? Secondly, if, as we all hope, large science projects are placed there in the future, how will the Government guarantee the retention of the world-class skills that would be necessary to run such projects?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I will answer some of the questions put by my hon. Friend, but first, let me put on record the broader picture, in response to Adam Afriyie. It is a matter of fact that there has been a real-terms increase in the overall science budget. The Labour Government have more than doubled the science budget over the last 10 years; by 2010-11, the budget will have tripled since we came into power. However, science does not stand still and decisions will be taken on the basis of scientific priorities. Whatever budget is given to a research council, there will always be more projects that they want to support than they are able to fund. Therefore, decisions have to be taken, but they must be taken on the basis of the best available science.

It is for the Government to set the overall budgetary figures and to approve delivery plans for the research councils, and I think that that is what we do. As part of that process, we will scrutinise those delivery plans in some detail to ensure that they are in accordance with Government policy.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I am coming on directly to the point made by my hon. Friend. It is clearly Government policy to develop Daresbury and Harwell as science and innovation campuses. I would not have recommended approving a delivery plan for the Science and Technology Facilities Council if that plan did not include proposals to develop Daresbury as a science and innovation campus.

We do not have a regional policy, as such. As I have explained to my hon. Friend, research council decisions are made on the basis of a peer review of science. However, individual delivery plans must be in accordance with the strategic priorities of the Government, which includes a clear regional element, because we want to see Daresbury developed as a world-class centre for science and innovation. As part of that aim, I say to hon. Members that we accept the argument that there needs to be a critical mass of world-class scientists undertaking research at Daresbury. Over the coming months, I hope that hon. Members will be able to see clear demonstrations of the Government's commitment to retaining that critical of scientists.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Manchester, Blackley

As ever, my hon. Friend makes fair points about the overall allocation of funding. However, it was a Government commitment that the STFC would be left with no legacy issues and yet, because of the overrun of the costs of Diamond by £75 million, the STFC has been left with a deficit. We are seeing part of the problems of dealing with that deficit in Daresbury, are we not?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

No, we are not; that is not my understanding of the facts of the case at all. I have been informed that Diamond was built on time and on budget, and that its running costs position has been known for a number of years. I also must disagree with my hon. Friend when he calls the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation "a dog's dinner" as a proposal. I do not believe that it is "a dog's dinner" at all; it will be a centre for world-class research in the UK and it should be recognised as such.

As is the case with all these things, these proposals will have their scientific case evaluated and their business case scrutinised. If those cases do not stand up to examination, these projects will not go ahead. Also, as a result of what is called the lion's case, they will have to consider whether relocation outside of London would be appropriate.

Let me move on directly to the situation at Daresbury. First, I would like to address the situation regarding redundancies. Hon. Members will know that, as a result of decisions taken some time ago with regard to the SRS, there has been a redundancy situation. There has also been a redundancy situation with regards to voluntary redundancy across the STFC's sites, as it looks to reprioritise the work that it does.

Yesterday the STFC issued nine notices of compulsory redundancy in relation to the planned closure of SRS and five more cases are being considered. The STFC will do everything that it can to minimise any further need for compulsory redundancies on SRS, but, as I said before, the situation has been known for some time.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I am afraid that I will not give way, because I need to respond to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley.

I want to make it clear that the STFC will develop the Daresbury science and innovation campus as a joint venture with the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the private sector, universities and Halton borough council. Furthermore, Daresbury will continue to be a major plank in the Government's national science and innovation agenda.

The medium-term strategy is clearly to continue to develop the campus, both on the science side, where we need to have world-class expertise, and on the innovation side. The STFC will complete the current investment in the energy recovery Linac prototype project as a technology demonstrator.

I heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale said about the ALICE project; I hope to see it tomorrow when I visit Daresbury. The situation, as he will be aware, is that the STFC has conducted a number of programmatic reviews; it has consulted on them, but it has not taken any decisions on them. So I cannot confirm that ALICE will go ahead as a project, because those decisions have not yet been taken by the STFC, so we will be in a difficult limbo situation for some time to come. However, I hope that he will be able to receive good news on ALICE in the future.

The Government have already made it clear but I stress again that 19 out of the 25 people assigned to work on the new light source project are located at Daresbury. The project will be managed by Dr. Frances Quinn from Daresbury. As my hon. Friend knows, Professor Jon Marangos from Imperial college is the project leader and there is a NLS project board, chaired by Professor Tim Wess from Cardiff university, to ensure objectivity and independence.

I heard what my hon. Friend said about having a voice on the STFC, which I think relates to the general point that has been made that the north-west region feels its voice is not sufficiently heard. It is an issue that he will obviously want to take up with the STFC and I am sure it will be interested in his comments.

Tomorrow, I will be visiting Daresbury to make an important public announcement on a further phase of investment in the Daresbury science and innovation campus. I want to stress to everybody here today that I expect that to be the first of a series of announcements that we will make in the forthcoming months, which will further demonstrate the Government's resolve to make a world-leading success of the Daresbury campus. We also want to see the Hartree Centre developed as a centre for detector systems and continued expansion of the Cockcroft institute. They will be essential planks of our policy as we move forward.