HC Deb 28 February 1928 vol 214 cc193-4

asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that the Department of Mines is to be continued, he will now arrange for the transfer of the Research Department from the Board of Education to that Department, so that, as far as possible, every phase of mining, and especially one of such importance as this, may be under one Minister who shall be responsible and answerable to this House for its conduct?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

The hon. Member is, I think, under some misapprehension with regard to the organisation of the Research Department. This is not under the Minister of Education, but under the Lord President of the Council. As he is a member of the. other House, some other Minister has to reply in the House of Commons; and under the original constitution of the Research Department this Minister was the head of the Board of Education. This Minister has no direct knowledge of the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and it is throwing an undue burden on him to expect him to deal with every question which affects a Department for whose administration he is not responsible. A change has therefore recently been made under which any questions relating to the Department asked in this House will be answered by the Minister most directly concerned. This re-arrangement of duties will, I hope, meet with the approval of the House.

As regards the proposal to set up a Special (Fuel) Research Department under the Mines Department, I cannot think that this would be an improvement on the existing system. It would only lead to overlapping and confusion. There is a full account of the research work carried on by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in its Annual Report; and I think if the hon. Member consults it he will agree that much valuable work has been done in matters which specially interest those for whom he speaks. Of course, he will understand that the responsibility for research work affecting particular industries primarily rests with the industries concerned; but the Research Departments of the Government are most anxious to do all they can to further fundamental investigations, especially those which are of primary importance to our general industrial system.


May we take it from that answer that it is possible that questions in regard to the carbonisation of coal, etc., will be answered by the Secretary for Mines?


I think that would seem to arise, but, of course, hon. Members must understand that the Department that is responsible and that has the expert knowledge of it is the Department of Scientific Research, which co-ordinates the whole research both into fuel and every other scientific question which it is investigating.


In view of the great importance of this Department, is it not possible to consider having a Minister to reply for it?