Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:00 pm on 1st April 2008.

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

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.