§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Captain Snow.]
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ Captain Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on the statement he made yesterday. I very much hope that the Committee will proceed to its work with the greatest possible despatch, and that it will particularly report upon the whole relationship between science and the proposed National Investment Board. I desire to deal with this subject in as broad a manner as possible, and try to relate it first of all to fundamental principles. The Lord President of the Council, speaking at Blackpool, said:Social security, social reform, a permanent advance in the economic standard and 1837 life of our people, can only proceed side by side with greater efficiency in industry, greater production, and a great national drive in industry to meet national economic needs.We must obtain just the same interest in the broad plan to win the peace as we have obtained in the plan to win the war. That statement should be related to a statement of the President of the Board of Trade, also made at Blackpool:We have got to engender in the people the same spirit of determination to see the programme through that they have displayed in winning the victory in the war.As I understand it, the programme of the Government is a programme of a planned economy designed to combine economic democracy with political democracy. In order to do that, you have to succeed in obtaining two broad advantages, which are, as I understand it, the advantages of the proposed policy of the Government. First, the objective advantage, that because you have planned the whole of the industrial and natural resources of the country—and been able to co-ordinate them—you are bound to produce a better-balanced economy than you would have done under laisser faire. Second, the subjective advantage, that because you associate the workers with the process of production and eliminate some of their grievances, you create a greater spirit of enthusiasm in them and they work harder as a result; One is quite sure that when the full proposals of the Government as regards science, government and industry are realised by us, those proposals will amount to a broad national plan—what the Chancellor called at Blackpool a "national plan of industrial development." It is of the greatest importance that the Government should associate scientists directly with this broad national plan. Just as the war could not have been won but for the closest integration of the scientists, not only in the war effort, but in the highest direction of the war, so the peace cannot be won unless scientists are associated in the highest direction of the peace-time plans on which the Government are now engaged.
With a view to producing a practical proposal in this connection, I would like to offer to the Lord President three or four broad lines of approach. The first is that it is essential for the Government to set up a central scientific planning body to direct and co-ordinate scientific man- 1838 power and resources on a national basis. I suggest that it might be called the Central Research and Development Council, that it should be responsible to the Lord President of the Council, but that, just as the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) appointed during the war a scientist, Lord Cherwell, to a position of high importance in the Cabinet as scientific adviser, so a similar course might be adopted by the Government on this occasion. It is perhaps a little unfortunate that we have something like 80 lawyers in the House, and I do not think we have a single scientist.
§ Captain Blackburn
I am aware that the hon. Member is primarily a barrister, but I am glad to receive the assurance that he is a scientist as well.
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
There are certainly two engineers in the House who are, at least, applied scientists.
§ Captain Blackburn
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I do not want in any way to say that there are not in the House Members with considerable scientific and technical knowledge, but as far as I know, there is not one Member who is primarily a scientist.
§ Mr. Binns (Gillingham)
In these matters the hon. and gallant Member might have consulted an appropriate union or organisation, and then he would have found that there are, among Members of the House, ten members of the Association of Scientific Workers, persons who have come to the House directly from scientific occupations.
§ Captain Blackburn
I am a little embarrassed by those interruptions, because I have taken the greatest possible pains to consult the Association of Scientific Workers, and many other bodies as well, and I stick to what I originally said, and I am somewhat surprised that I should be interrupted by my hon. Friends. I said that there is not, as far as I know, one Member of Parliament who is still primarily a scientist; by that I mean a scientist, an hon. Gentleman who makes his living out of scientific processes and scientific inventions. And now perhaps hon. Members will give me leave to proceed.
1839 I desire to submit specific proposals as to the functions of the Central Research and Development Council. The first proposal would be that its functions should be to promote and co-ordinate fundamental research. It is of the greatest importance that we should realise that there is no industrial concern in this country capable of undertaking fundamental research on very large matters. I hope that the House will excuse me referring, on this one occasion, to the subject of atomic energy, because it is relevant. There is no industrial concern in this country which has resources sufficient to engage in large scale production of plutonium or uranium 235. Therefore, it is essential to have somebody capable of engaging in research of that kind. The situation is different in the United States of America and in the Soviet Union. In the United States of America there are enormous corporations which tie themselves to one another and subscribe large sums of money. In the Soviet Union there is an entirely different system. Its interest—and I am thinking of fundamental research—in nucleus research today is ahead of that in the United States of America or in Great Britain. There was published in 1945, in the Journal of Physics, edited by Kapitza, volume IX, No. 3, on behalf of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., "A New Method of Acceleration of Relativistic Particles." This paper explains that a limitation supposed to exist on the strength with which particles can bombard the atom can be circumvented, and the practical consequences of this paper are of the greatest possible importance. I develop that for the purpose of pointing out that fundamental research is a subject on which applied research in ten years' time largely depends and it is essential that we have somebody charged with that duty, so that we shall not fall behind other countries, whether the United States of America or the Soviet Union.
Secondly, its functions should be to promote and co-ordinate applied research. In normal peacetime conditions there was a relative failure on the part of industry to pool scientific and technical information, much of which was deliberately withheld by large undertakings from their competitors. Thirdly, to advise the National Investment Board on the effect of the latest scientific advance 1840 and possibilities of its industrial policy both in the short and the long term; for instance, a correct scientific appreciation of the industrial prospects and significance either of atomic energy or of the underground gasification of coal will be, at all times, essential to any broad national plan for determining social properties and for determining the better timing in public as well as private investment. The proposed Council attached to the Investment Board must command huge sums of money to discharge that function. It must have a development fund running into many millions of pounds a year in order to enable it to go ahead with fundamental research, and for it to apply itself. I will have a word to say later with regard to its relationships to research associations.
Next it is to advise His Majesty's Government on the various methods by which an adequate supply of skilled scientific staff can be assured for the next 10 years. That is the primary function of the Committee which the Lord President has just set up. I hope the Committee will also consider proposals for a revision of educational curricula, so that they can give a greater interest to the desire for scientific knowledge and stimulate interest in scientific knowledge as it is stimulated in the Soviet Union. The result would be to create that interest and concern for scientific matters which is so urgently needed.
Fifthly, it is to ensure the better co-ordination of all existing scientific governmental bodies—the Department of Scientific and Industrial research, the Medical and Agricultural Research Council and other bodies. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, speaking only two years ago, said that it was easy to criticise the existing structure "as lacking method and orderliness." It would be the intention of the Central Research and Development Council to co-ordinate all the essential governmental bodies dealing with scientific research. Sixthly, the international relationship of scientists would be promoted, first, for the interchange of international scientific information, and secondly, for a scientific mission to be attached to the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations Organisation.
I am now turning to a different subject, namely, the importance of increasing the scale of research in our universities by at 1841 least ten times over the pre-war standard. That has been recommended by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, to whose work I would like to pay a tribute. They put forward many valuable proposals, and if they had been accepted with more alacrity earlier, we might have been in a better positon than we now are. In 1938–39 our total research expenditure was just over £7,000,000, but the total research expenditure in the United States of America was just on £70,000,000, in the universities and university colleges.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Is that in relation to universities alone?
§ Captain Blackburn
No, Sir. I am giving the figures for total research expenditure, either Government or universities, in the country.
§ Captain Blackburn
I believe that the actual total is £7,000,000; I believe that figure to be right. If the university expenditure which is so important in this connection was at all material, it amounts to less than one-tenth of the equivalent expenditure in the United States of America. I believe that the same would apply to the Soviet Union. One cannot, therefore, assess too highly the importance of the need to multiply university research forthwith. Science can only play a major role in an expansionist economy. At the end of our five year period of Government we hope it will be, but the great bulk of British industry will still remain as private enterprise. It is essential that we should accept the implications of the fact that private enterprise, operating under a Socialist Government, is bound to operate a little more restrictively, if only for psychological reasons, than it would operate under a Government of hon. Members opposite.
Therefore, as private enterprise is bound to be restricted in the interests of the nation as a whole, we must compensate for that restriction by public enterprise and by mixed enterprise of various kinds, and the obvious method of stimulating public enterprise and mixed enterprise, on the lines on which the Government's housing policy has been framed, would be through the medium of a national investment or development board.
1842 I would like, in that connection, to deal with the Research Associations of particular industries. The position at the moment is that most industries, in fact, almost all, have their own research associations, the money for which is provided partly by the industry concerned and partly by the Government. It is unfortunate that most of the research associations spend most of their time merely on trying to solve the problems of particular firms and are, therefore, unable to meet the requirements of the industry as a whole. Rather more serious than that is the scale of expenditure on research. The total expenditure of the research associations in 1935 was £305,000; in 1942, it had gone up to £493,000. The Parliamentary Scientific Committee recommended that this expenditure should be at least £10,000,000 a year on co-operative research for the whole of British industry, and a suggestion was put forward in another place by Lord Barnby yesterday with which I am in agreement that, for the transitional period, each industry should accept a levy scheme by means of which each industry could have its research association kept up to date—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member is quoting the report of a Debate in another place, and that he is not entitled to do, under the Rules of this House.
§ Captain Blackburn
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker; the proposal for a levy on industry to develop the research associations is one which I think strongly deserves the attention of the Government, particularly because I understand it would not be opposed on the other side of the House. There is the need for scientific management and for a census of distribution, so that we would be able to find out what were the principal needs of the community on certain subjects. My right hon. Friend knows the subject to which I am referring, and I am sure it has the urgent attention of the Government.
Then there is the question of patents, on which a Commission has been sitting for some time. It is very important that the Government should take action on this matter at the earliest possible moment. M. Prudhon said, "all property is theft." That is a very exaggerated statement, but it would have some relevance to our patent law. Patents have withheld benefits from the whole of the community, 1843 as they constitute the monopoly for a period of 16 years, of a particular invention. I am aware that patents are often easily circumvented but scientists resent the fact that a large proportion of their time is taken up not in finding out the scientific truth, but in evading somebody else's patent.
I hope the House will not think I have put forward any doctrinaire ideas, because such ideas are not to be associated with science, and I am not in any way suggesting that the proposals I put forward are necessarily right. What I am saying is that the Government need to get on with a sense of immediate urgency, with tackling the relations between science, Government and industry, both at the higher and lower levels. I conclude with a quotation of 1857 from H. T. Buckle's "History of Civilisation in England." It is the sort of quotation, expressing the spirit of science, which, I suggest, should guide us in our practical approach to the future in relation to this problem. This is the quotation:On this account it is that, although the acquisition of fresh knowledge is the necessary precursor of every step in social progress, such acquisition must itself be preceded by a love of enquiry, and therefore by a spirit of doubt; because without doubt there will be no enquiry, and without enquiry there will be no knowledge. For knowledge is not an inert and passive principle which comes to us whether we will or no but it must be sought before it can be won; it is the product of great labour and therefore of great sacrifice.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
The House is greatly indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton (Captain Blackburn) for raising this subject of science, research and industry and their relationship to the Government. I, too, would like to pay my tribute to the Lord President of the Council and to the Government for the valuable statement upon policy made yesterday concerning the setting up of the committee which was then announced. Quite clearly, before any national progress of a substantial character can be made, there must be an adequate survey of the needs, and it seems to me that this committee is filling that requirement. I would, if I may, also pay tribute to two former hon. Members of this House—Sir George Schuster and Sir Edward Salt. Both these former hon. Members spent a great deal of time, energy and effort in preparing reports and study- 1844 ing this position, and, with other hon. Members of all parties in this House, tendering advice to the Government. I think then that we may feel satisfaction that the Government have accepted many of the recommendations made, and we are hopeful that others of their recommendations which they made for further action will, in due course, be implemented by the Government.
It seems to me that there are certain immediate needs which ought to be tackled at once by the Government. The first is that of manpower. The Lord President of the Council in his statement yesterday said that manpower was the most urgent problem, and I hope the Government will turn its attention to it. Priority releases of scientists and of students and help of all kinds is required to get scientific development and investigation under way. The maximum amount of help is needed for the universities and scientific and educational establishments so that these developments can at once be speeded up. In connection with this question of manpower, the Government paid a well deserved tribute in the White Paper to the contribution made by science towards the winning of the war, and I should like to quote from a letter from a distinguished scientist which I received the other day. I commend its contents to the Government, and I hope they will see fit to carry out the suggestions contained in the letter. This is what the letter says:
It should be the object of the Government to attract into the scientific branches of the Civil Service men and women not only of high, but of the highest, calibre, and, in order to do that, we must not think only in terms of remuneration, important as that may be, but must also keep in mind those important subtle, psychological factors—status, prestige and esteem. The Government, in the White Paper, while prepared to express appreciation of the work of scientists, leaves it clearly to be inferred that in the Civil Service, at least, the scientists are inferior in status to those in the administrative class. How can one expect men of the highest scientific and mental calibre to be attracted to a branch of the Civil Service in which they are definitely marked as being inferior in status and held in less esteem than their colleagues with whom they are in daily collaboration?Whatever the details of grouping and remuneration may be, I hope the Lord President of the Council, in his reply, will frankly and explicitly state that the Government hold that the scientific members of the Civil Service are in no way 1845 inferior in functions or achievements to members in the administrative class, and that he will make it clear that the status and the prestige of the scientists are as high as in the case of those who administrate.
Such recognition by the Government of the status and prestige of the scientific branch of the Civil Service would, I feel confident, not only remove that inhibiting sense of inferiority against which protests have been made, as I think with some justice, but it would also have a powerful effect in attracting men and women of the highest qualifications into the scientific branch of the Civil Service. It would, furthermore, I believe, have a powerful effect in bringing about an increase of the esteem in which, as I think we should all agree, men of science ought to be held by the community at large. If our scientists are to make their full contribution towards a prosperous industry, towards better standards for our people and a higher standard of living, as envisaged by the White Paper, the Government should help in the way I have suggested.
Apart from manpower there is the material side. Recently the research side of the leather industry wanted a licence to rebuild their laboratory, which had been bomb-damaged, but no licence was forthcoming. I submit that the Government should regard the rehabilitation of laboratories as having an equal priority with that of houses. The amount of labour and materials required would not be great, and I hope the Government will look into this question of those who need licences to bring up-to-date, re-equip or modernise their laboratories. About 80 industries were recently circularised to ask if they would like to have powers to make a levy on their members, provided that a majority of any particular industry desired this. Some 12 or 13 industries said they would like such powers, none objected, and one wanted them urgently. I believe the Government say that time cannot be found to pass the necessary legislation but I hope they will reconsider that decision and that time will be given for a short enabling Bill to be brought in.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is talking about matters which would require legislation, and that is out of Order on the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
May I say, then, that I hope the Government will give con- 1846 sideration to doing whatever may be possible to enable these industrial organisations to further their work as quickly as possible.
Having dealt with the short-term requirements, I want to say a few words about the long-term policy. The hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton advocated the setting up of a National Research Council and made some valuable suggestions. There is not time for me to put forward as many reasons as I should have liked in support of introducing some such research body, but I hope one will be set up on a much bigger scale than the present Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and that Department ought to be included in it and given wider powers for extending its activities. If such a National Research Council could be set up, comprising representatives of the Royal Society, the research associations, the Federation of British Industries, Chambers of Commerce, and the appropriate Government Departments and Government research establishments, also including some members nominated by the Lord President of the Council, it would be of inestimable advantage to the country. Such a council should, of course, have a permanent secretariat.
In considering this matter I suggest that the Government should, if they have not already done so, turn their eyes to what has happened in America. Recently, a most interesting report was made to the President of the United States by Dr. Bush, who is the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in the United States. In that report he advocated the initiation of long range military research, aid to universities and other private research centres, the granting of scholarships on a wide scale, and the improvement of the whole national scale of scientific research, and it was pro-proposed that the Government should expend on that work the equivalent of approximately £30 million. That report might well be studied by Members of this House. It advocates the setting up of a single agency to do all these things. In a message to Congress on 6th September, 1945, President Truman asked Congress to make the necessary arrangements for developing this method of furthering research in the United States of America. I have not time to give the details now, but I recommend those hon. Members who are interested to read President 1847 Truman's message to Congress. I hope our Government will study it, and will take similar action in order that our. scientific efforts may be further co-ordinated and advanced to the benefit of our country and our people.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Dr. Stephen Taylor (Barnet)
I wish to speak on the way in which science is being applied already by the Government to the study of human beings. In the past the advance of science has been very unequal in different fields, and the advances in the field of natural science have been much more rapid because it has been possible to control the material in the laboratory whereas human beings are continually changing and it is much harder, therefore, to control experimental work. During the war a great deal of experimental and research work has been done in connection with the application of science to human beings by Government Departments. This is really the beginning of the science of applied sociology, which is the study of groups of human beings, their inter-reactions and their relationship to their own environment. Particular work has been done by the Army Directorate of Psychiatry, who have developed very largely the technique of personnel selection both with regard to testing the mechanical aptitudes of workers for Service purposes, and also in the selection of what may be termed managerial personnel or officers. This work has an immediate and direct application to industry, and already some British industries are beginning to use personnel selection. I believe that Unilever has taken over one of the Army psychiatrists as their chief medical officer, and I have no doubt they will be using personnel selection methods. The Civil Service Commission is employing psychiatrists to test out candidates, and I understand that the Foreign Office is considering doing the same thing.
There are two snags in this kind of work. The first is that it is useless to employ a psychiatrist without first allowing him to do a job analysis of the particular task for which the people are required. Unless he knows what features to look for, it is valueless for him to apply any tests. The second thing is that if personnel selection develops extensively, it is important that it should not be com- 1848 pulsory, because one does not want to have any kind of scientific dictatorship arising in connection with industrial direction. Boys and girls should be given advice in connection with their aptitudes, but must not be forced into categories if we are to avoid developing a kind of ant-like state. I feel that it would be a great shame if this admirable work done by the Army Directorate of Psychiatry were lost, and I hope that the Government will consider setting up a department of social psychiatry to provide a common service for Departments of Government which may need psychiatric advice, may need job analyses made, and which may also do original research work, because social psychiatry is only in its beginnings at the moment.
The second field of social research about which I wish to say a few words is one with which I must admit I have been intimately connected, and in which I have a certain vested interest, because I was in charge of the Social Research Unit at the M.O.I. during the war. The use of social surveys to collect data about social phenomena is something fairly new in British life. It began, of course, with Mayhew in the last century, then Booth and the Webbs, and later Professor Bowley; then came the University Surveys, and then commercial market research organisations developed the technique considerably. We built up our machinery originally to check the effectiveness of current advertising, and it was examined by a Select Committee of this House and favourably regarded by them. Since then, it has been very considerably extended and has done work in many fields on what may be described as pure administrative problems. It provided the Board of Trade, for example, with indices of shortages among the public during the war. It studied the transport difficulties which were arising and enabled the Ministry of War Transport to see how far transport difficulties varied in different parts of the country and how far remedial action affected the public. A third example of its work is the monthly health index which is now prepared for the Ministry of Health and published in the Ministry of Health's monthly bulletin; this gives an index of the total amount of ill-health in the community month by month. It is the first time any country has had a picture of the total amount of ill-health which has taken place.
1849 These are some examples of the work which has been published. An enormous amount of work has been done. About one hundred or more surveys have been undertaken during the war, and I think they have been of some value. One is very keen that this work should be continued and utilised to the full, and one believes that it will be especially important in the development of a planned economy and a planned social environment. In a free, competitive capitalist society, the sales of goods to some extent provide an automatic index of their success. If a housewife buys a bad product and uses it quickly, she will then know she has been "had," and will buy a better one next time. Thus, in theory, the manufacturers of good products are encouraged by a free competitive market. In practice it does not work out quite like that, because advertising upsets the free competitive mechanism as a form of natural selection and, furthermore, where durable capital goods are concerned—for example, furniture, houses, refrigerators and so on—once purchased, the housewife or family is saddled with a bad item for the rest of the duration of that product, so the natural selective mechanism does not operate there.
The only way in which a planner—whether it be an industrial planner or a social planner—can know how the service he is providing is really affecting the people for whom it is intended, is by his seeing those people, examining their reactions to the service—that is, by means of social surveys—and that is generally recognised by the more progressive industrialists who, of course, use market research for this purpose. It will be, as far as I can see, the only way by which we can check the effectiveness of the work of a social security system as regards its administration, as it affects the ordinary man, how one can check up on a national health service, and how one can check up on utility products where the range of choice is limited.
Finally, I believe that this form of investigation has particular application in studying new houses as they are built. It can be used to find out how far the provisions inside the house really meet the needs of the housewife. For example, to discover if cupboards are in the right place, if kitchens have too many doors, if there are excessive draughts, and so on, 1850 and improvements in design can be made as a result of functional studies. I hope very much that the Government will feel that this kind of social research is worth developing and worth pushing ahead with in future scientific development.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Cobb (Elland)
Scientific development is the motive power for bringing our established industries up to date and creating new industries, and these two things are of prime importance to this country today. I would like to make a few points on that aspect of the subject. First, as to technical education, I have seen recently figures which show that against 50,000 undergraduates in this country today many of whom are undergoing scientific training, there are 800,000 in America, and it is time we saw to it that this difference was put right. Secondly, there are not enough teachers to do this job and they are badly in need of buildings and equipment. I want in this connection to touch on a point raised by the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) and that is bombed laboratories. I understand that some of them have not even had the debris cleared away yet, in addition to which some of those which have been repaired, have not been properly re-equipped and their equipment is not so up-to-date nor was it before the war as that of our competitors, particularly in America. Further, we have to see to it that the teachers and professors who train these men no longer work inside walls which keep them away from the industries for which they are training these technicians and scientists. I would like to see some way of getting professors and scientific teachers associated with the industries for which they are training these people.
Pure research is not enough. I feel that we probably get a greater output per £1 spent on pure research, inadequate though it is. But where we fall down is in applied research. We lack all development. Take the cinema, aniline dyes, penicillin and radio as examples. We did the original research and our competitors abroad cashed in, because they got on with the applied research, more quickly and more progressively than we did. If we are to get output as a result of research, and reach rapidly the mass production stage, we must bear in mind the quantities to be made, the size of the plant and above 1851 all the important point of standardisation. Standardisation has never been given the consideration in this country which it ought to have been given. There should be developed a new British technique. There is far too much of the idea that we make 200,000 units a year, and America 2,000,000, and slavishly to copy American methods.
That is wrong. Where 200,000 units are being made in a factory, I want to see British engineers and craftsmen studying production from the point of view that it is going to be made in a factory laid out to make 200,000 units a year. I want to see the factory studied, the building studied and the lay-out of the plant studied, so that we can work up peculiar British methods, and make our products as cheaply and as of good a quality as they can be made by our competitors abroad.
I want to see research into methods of production, and production in this country become a profession; and thorough production methods—not the happy-go-lucky methods all too prevalent in some of our factories. I want to see research into new plant. Some of our British machine tools are out of date. In some of our machine tool factories we have not had any new designs for 20 years. Many of these new designs are coming from America and a few from this country. I want to see new British machines for British conditions. I also want to see research into the distribution field. Many an article is sold for twice, three or four times its factory cost. A mere stroke of the pen could save in selling price far more than six months or twelve months research in the factory. This is a vital avenue of approach and one neglected for decades in this country. America has done 30 years' work on it, and we have not even started on that study. It is time that we made this up. I want to see co-ordination of all forms of research, so that workers in one field have, at least, a photograph and a broad picture of what the people are doing in the other fields.
I would, however, issue a warning, and I hope that the Lord President of the Council will make a particular note of it. There have been, over the last 25 years, far too many British industries coming under foreign control. From a capitalist point of view, it is perfectly sound and 1852 efficient, but when that happens, research is closed down in this country and goes abroad. That has been happening to too great an extent in the past and if an analysis were made of the extent to which it has gone, I feel that the Lord President of the Council and the Cabinet would be very alarmed. It is bad nationally, and if we do not put a stop to it, this nation will rapidly be bereft of the little research which it has today and will suffer in consequence.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
I am not very easily excited, but I was rather startled when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for King's Norton (Captain Blackburn) appeared to indicate that there was not perhaps sufficient scientific interest in the House. I am sure that from the way the Debate has gone today he will see he was wrong in his judgment.
§ Captain Blackburn
I did not say there was inadequate scientific knowledge in this House, I said there was no one individual who is primarily a scientist.
§ Mr. Palmer
I was misled perhaps, but the hon. and gallant Member did talk about there being few scientists. British industry has always been somewhat distrustful of the "semi-pure" scientist, and I think we must bear this in mind when we are comparing American with British statistics because Americans call research and add to their research charges things which we call development. That is an extremely important point. If you add to the salaries of your research departments the boys and girls who are opening and shutting doors and doing the cleaning, you are going to pile up the cost of research, and we must be extremely careful when comparing statistics of that kind.
Practical men in industry—and I speak with some knowledge of industry, as an engineer—are shrewd enough to know that scientific knowledge, above everything else, must be related to the everyday things of human beings. The working technician, the man with a job to do, the engineer, is inclined to smile—and I can see now how my former colleagues are smiling—when he is told that research is the needed solution for all this difficulty. To him, the everyday world in which he works and lives is one big laboratory. I wish to put this point to 1853 the Lord President of the Council, that active research in industry is a developing process in which the laboratory, the drawing board, the factory and the customer play a part. I have had to deal with certain classes of electrical machinery, which had been handed over to us as a result of a long period of work in the laboratory, and in five or six months we have found them quite useless and they have gone back once again, with many improvements suggested by us. No individual firm in this country at the present time can afford to neglect continuous investigation into new industrial processes and methods. It is really, of the very marrow of our national existence and, although I have said some very hard things about the Federation of British Industries in the past, and may probably have to say them again, I welcome the step they have taken in setting up a Standing Industrial Research Council, and I trust the Government welcome that step also.
Here, again, I wish to underline what the hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton has said already that, any Government, particularly a Government believing, as this one does, in a planned economy, cannot afford to neglect industrial research. I support, also, the case which has been made out by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for a national Research Council and that should of course link private industrial research—and some private industrial research is not quite as bad as some of us perhaps are led to suppose at times—it should link private industrial research, Government research and the fighting Services with the universities. I believe such a national Research Council must be very flexible in its organisation, and it certainly must be self-governing. An extremely important point, when we are considering relations between private industrial research and Government research, is to try to break down, if we can, the "monastery wall" which has existed between the two. I do not know why, but when an engineer, or a technical man, leaves technical service and goes into the Civil Service, it is a bit like a nun taking the veil. He becomes, to change my word picture, a different creature altogether. I do not believe that in this modern society, if we are to help planned economy alongside enterprising private industry, we need to have these sharp divisions. Of course, if the Govern- 1854 ment decide as a part of their policy that they want to encourage research, they must take practical steps if necessary to help it—I do not mean by placing additional burdens on taxpayers, but to see that a proper levy is placed on the whole of industry to provide the necessary funds for research.
Just two final points: First, as regards technical education, I welcome, as I think other hon. Members who are interested in scientific matters must, the report of the Scientific Committee on Technical Education. It is an extremely important and interesting report and made valuable suggestions, and I hope the Government will consider acting upon them. One of the difficulties about technical education in this country is that it is too scrappy altogether. It has never made up its mind where it is going. You have the university level and the technical college level, and they overlap and these things want looking into, and looking into quickly. May I underline what other hon. Members have said already on this question of technical salaries? It is of the utmost importance to the country that we should continue to attract into scientific and technical occupations the best brains in the country. There was an employer under whom I worked on one occasion—I believe it is rumoured he was a Member of this House. He has left for another place altogether now. He used to say, "You can buy a B.Sc. for £3 10s. a week." That was his point of view. He said, "I am a financial man, but if I want technical men I can get them for £3 10s. a week." I am not suggesting that that is the point of view, at the moment, of the typical employer, but, none the less, there is a tendency to write down the importance and status of the engineer and the technical man in industry and I suggest that that is completely, and entirely, wrong in view of the present position of our country in regard to industrial technique.
Before I sit down I would like to quote a passage from a letter which was written in the "New York Times" by Dr. Conant, the Chairman of the American National Defence Research Council on Science and Industry. His words were so much to the point that I feel I ought to read them to the House. He said:There is only one proved method"—1855 and I would like the House to mark that word "proved"—"of assisting the advancement of science—that of picking men of genius, backing them heavily, and leaving them to direct themselves.He went on to say:There is only one proved method of getting results in applied science—picking men of genius, backing them heavily, and keeping their aim on the target chosen.I think they are excellent words. Whatever we do and plan, let us remember that it does depend upon men, and, as far as men are concerned in engineering and science, Britain has never been in the second place.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I am sure that the House generally, and certainly I, are indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton (Captain Blackburn)for introducing this subject today, and to the hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in what has been a short but nevertheless exceedingly valuable discussion. I wish there had been more time, and I hope one of these days when subjects for Supply Days are being considered, that possibly this subject can be considered, so that we can have a whole Supply Day later on for this purpose. It is well worth it. Anyway, we have not done badly.
My time is limited, because I do not wish to be in the way of my hon. Friend the Member for South-East St. Pancras (Dr. Jeger). Therefore, in the first place, perhaps I had better make some rather general observations as to the views of the Government, and subsequently, if time permits, deal with various specific points which have been raised. In a sense, yesterday in answer to the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), I anticipated today's discussion by announcing the appointment of the Committee which is going to deal with a pretty wide area of the discussion which we have had, namely, to consider the policies which should govern the use and development of our scientific manpower and resources in the next ten years. Those terms of reference are pretty wide. Although I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for King's Norton is perhaps stretching things a bit in trying to bring in the Investment Board, I can imagine 1856 there may be aspects in which the two matters will be connected. But I should not talk about that because there is pending a Bill which has not yet been published, and, tempting as it is to talk about it, I had better not, or I shall be accused of divulging Cabinet secrets. These terms of reference are quite wide, and will enable the Committee to go a good distance in covering the various points which have been raised in the Debate.
I understand that the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), if he had spoken, would have liked to ask me about the relationship of this committee to the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cabinet. There is no direct relationship. The work of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cabinet will go on. They have been exceedingly valuable in studying problems and giving advice to His Majesty's Government, but I thought that for this particular purpose I ought to go rather wider and have a mixture of scientists and outsiders, including a business man and an economist, whereas the Scientific Advisory Committee, under its present constitution, consists, if I am not mistaken, entirely of scientists. Therefore, there is no conflict between the two. This is rather a special piece of work which I want to be approached from rather a different angle, but it may be that we shall look into the present constitution of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cabinet. It may be capable of improvement and, while we have the highest opinion of the work done, and we are exceedingly grateful to Sir Henry Dale and his colleagues for their work, nevertheless, it may be that the constitution of the Scientific Advisory Committee should not be excluded from examination from time to time, in order to see whether it can be improved, not so much in its personnel and individual composition, but on the kind of layout which is appropriate and the elements of which it is composed.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not think it would be wise for me to say that. I do not think there is any question of superiority or of inferiority. I do not think that would be the right angle. Both of these matters and the things that come out of them are 1857 for the consideration of myself, in the first instance, and of His Majesty's Government generally. I would rather regard them as two bodies with a different angle and approach. I do not think that the appointment of the new Committee will in any way interfere with the continuance of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Government.
I have asked the Committee to submit an interim report on broad lines about manpower at an early date. The forward planning of science and scientific organisation is enormously dependent upon the actual manpower that is available and on the nature of that manpower. I have asked the Committee to make recommendations at a later date as to the establishment of permanent machinery for carrying out surveys as to the best use of our scientific resources in the national interest. Having appointed the Committee for this piece of work, we ought to make some provision for surveys and reviews from time to time, in order not to get into anything in the nature of a rut. The Government attach the very greatest importance to science. We recognise the contribution which science made to the prosecution of the war and the achievement of victory, and we are no less desirous that science shall play its part in the constructive tasks of peace and of economic advancement and progress.
We believe that this can be done. The most urgent matter is manpower, and in this connection it is realised, too, that the Government, including the Service Departments, have made heavy drains upon science and scientific manpower during the war. One of the consequences has been that the universities are, I was going to say "literally starved," but at any rate are very badly hit for scientific teachers, scientific staff and scientific research workers. Some people, if they were short-sighted, might say, "The scientists have been taken out and are working in the field, formerly of war, but now of peace," but the point has to be faced that, unless the universities are properly staffed with scientific teachers and workers, and research workers, the very source of scientific manpower will gradually dry up as the years go on, and we shall find ourselves short of scientists in number, and, what is equally bad, short of scientists and scientific research workers in quality.
1858 In a sense, we have to deny ourselves, up to a point, of some of the activities of scientific research workers in industry and Government, in order that the universities, which are responsible for the reproduction, so to speak, of scientists and research workers, may be adequately equipped, and that the supply may go on. The university side is capital expenditure. We have to look after the capital expenditure; otherwise the revenue account will get out of balance. That is one of the problems and one of the awkward factors of the situation. In relation to manpower it is a considerable problem of great importance, but, obviously, I ought not to say much more lest I find myself trying to pre-judge the findings of the Committee, and that I would not wish to do.
During the war there was, I suppose, the greatest mobilisation of science and scientists that this country has ever achieved. I may be wrong, but I have a feeling that while there was a great amount of scientific work done under Government auspices between the wars, a considerable amount in the universities and some in industry, the degree of conscious organisation of scientific research work, organisation of science and scientists in the public service and shaping of problems for their consideration, was not great in those years before the war. I am not saying that there should be nothing but applied science and the ordering of scientists to study particular problems.
One of my hon. Friends said something about having a sense of balance about what is called pure science and pure research, as distinct from applied science and applied research. One's first instinct is to say, "Take them off this pure science and research. Let's give them something definite and concrete to do so that we don't waste effort." On the other hand, if you do that too much you are open to two difficulties and two possible disadvantages. One is that, in the realm of science and the realm of research, you want an adequate number of people on applied science and applied research; but, in this subtle and difficult field we must be careful. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Dr. S. Taylor) has been talking about psychiatry; the psychology of scientists and researchists would be a most interesting study. In a way, my experience is that they are like eggs. They should be handled with care— 1859 like politicians, but you can knock politicians about much more easily without interfering with the results. Scientists have to be handled with considerable care. I have just got this hunch, that if you say to all of them, "None of your theoretical stuff. You can't go wandering about thinking about nothing in particular and hoping that something will turn up and that you will find out something," and say it too rigidly and dogmatically, you may first of all impair the roaming freedom of the scientific mind, as a result of which we have achieved much advantage—that is, the complete liberty and freedom for intellectual adventure, that takes you somewhere sooner or later. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I am all for it. I am a great individualist. That is one of the reasons I am opposed to the Capitalist system of society. Therefore let us not go too far on the side of applied work. Let us have a sense of balance.
The other thing is that these men who go in for pure science may ultimately finish with the most startling results. I am reminded that it was Rutherford who started the splitting of the atom. That was pure science. He had no particular purpose, not even the idea of dropping anything on human beings and blowing them to pieces. The startling result from the adventures of Rutherford has been the atomic bomb. It just shows the results which can come in the field of pure science and pure research.
It is a matter of some people going in for pure science and pure research, some people going into the universities for training, some people being in the public service and some people being in private service for particular and concrete ends. Those who are in the Government service would be working in what we may call broadly the field of applied science and research; indeed, that would be true of those working in private industry as well. In this limited but important field we have to get a sense of socal urgency and of social priority in the use of these men.
It was the case in the war that, as our dangers evolved, and as the needs of the military effort developed, the Government, utilising the scientists with a pretty high degree of organisation, but not perfect even then, said to the scientists, "One, two, three, four—these are the urgent problems we want you to solve." 1860 As the Minister for Home Security of that Government, with the population being knocked about and the enemy getting up to tricks and interfering with our defences, I would kick up a row and say, "Someone has to find the answer and get the appropriate scientists to see that this work is done." The War Office came along with their problems, the Air Ministry and the Admiralty came along, too, and something was wanted for somebody else. Someone had to supply their needs, and someone had to decide which was to have priority, which was to be, one, two, three, or four.
It is not illegitimate to do the same kind of thing in this present age, when we are moving from all the numerous economic and industrial complications of the war to the equally complicated and difficult task of the adapting our economy to the tasks of peace, and especially when we are superimposing upon that, rightly as we think, on this side, wrongly as hon. Members opposite may think, the increasing development of the responsibility of the State for production, for giving leadership to industry and for shaping it, as we think, to public and social needs, whether we do this by public ownership or not. We embark—there may be more than one way of doing it—on one of the greatest social and economic adventures in the history of the country in the transformation of our economy from the big purposes of war to the purposes of peace and human progress. In all this field, science must play its part, industrially, economically. I am not at all sure that the scientists have not a part to play too in the field of the proper organisation of public administration, strange as this may appear at first sight. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnet may find that discovering what people are thinking and how the human brain works may be part of the business, and it is something in which the Army has been very successful. I do not think that it is right to apply big words like "psychiatry" today because there is a good deal of common sense in watching the action of human beings.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am greatly comforted to know that that is so; at any rate, I agree with my hon. Friend. This is a wonderful country; it lets the Army go 1861 to the devil, and then, within two years, has produced a wonderful military instrument. The Army's use of psychological methods in selecting officers commanded great confidence, and on the whole was a great success, so successful in fact that I applied the principle to the National Fire Service. The firemen are many of them ex-naval men, and like good sea lawyers often thinking about their grievances, but they were happy about it, and I felt that if they were happy, there was not much wrong with the scheme on the ground of equity. One of the most difficult things is to be sure whether you are doing right in the way of promotions and selections for different tasks. Science has to be given a sense of social and economic purpose, and there has to be a proper sense of priority as to which comes first in the great field of scientific activity. That is the spirit in which I approach this matter, with a view to getting not merely a great combination of scientists and research effort in every field but the greatest increase in co-operation between the scientists in private industry, and so between the scientists of private industry and the scientists in the public service, such as the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. We should pull together for the sake of the common well-being of the country.
It must be remembered that. in the Government machine, we have, as my hon. Friend said, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council. In addition to that, in private industry we have a number of research associations, now, I think, about 28. My hon. Friend suggested that there should be a national development and scientific council. I am not sure that we have not covered that ground somewhat better, although I do not exclude consideration of the idea. We have got the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cabinet, the D.S.I.R., and the Medical and Agricultural Research Councils, and they are tied up with the Government. We have scientists in the Government Departments, and this is where I part company with my hon. and gallant Friend about a Minister of Science.
I would warn hon. Members, and especially new hon. Members, that, when they become enthusiastic about a subject, they will be greatly tempted to say, "Let 1862 me have a Minister for that subject." There is nothing new about it; it has been happening for years and years. There are people who want a Minister of Fine Arts —or Minister of Arts. There may be artful Ministers, but I do not know about that. There are people who want a Minister of Sport, and, if there was a Minister for all the other enthusiasms, this House would be over full of Ministers. There would be no back-benchers left to criticise and that would be a great pity. As for science, I don't believe we can centralise all Government science in one Department, and I do not believe we ought to try.
I happen to be responsible for three scientific bodies, and perhaps I am the Member of the Government most concerned with science. I know that is a bit fortuitous, but I think it may be the best arrangement, probably because I have no Departmental responsibilities. But there must be scientists in the individual Departments, and, after all, we have them in the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production and the Air Ministry, the War Office and the Admiralty. There were, I think, scientists in the Ministry of Production, and there probably ought to be in the economic Departments. The Ministry of Health has its own scientists, and you have them scattered throughout the Government machine. That must be so, because the various Departments should have a scientific staff adequate to their needs. The real problem is to get them linked up within the Government so that somebody is watching how matters as a whole are going.
§ Mr. Morrison
The less we say about Lord Cherwell the better. It is a highly controversial subject, especially among scientists. Believe me, there is more than one side to the picture of Lord Cherwell as Minister of Science, which he never was. He was first of all Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister, and then he became Paymaster-General and did anything that the Prime Minister wanted him to do. It was a very convenient arrangement for the Prime Minister, and it worked. I do not want to say too much about it, but do not let the House think that it was all milk and honey. It was not. There were some difficulties. Lord Cherwell did great work 1863 for this country and he has great mental powers, but there was more than one view in the scientific world about him and his activities in the scientific field. I do not want to say any more about him, and I do not want to say anything deprecatory about Lord Cherwell. I only say that that experiment does not justify the belief in the doctrine of a Minister of Science.
In the field of industry we have already gone a long way to meet some of the suggestions which have been made. I am not sure whether that is appreciated. Each of these 28 research associations— I think it is the case, it can be the case— and the number is increasing, is connected with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Indeed, there is Government money going into them—
§ It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. M. Stewart.]
§ Mr. Morrison
Secondly, there has been formed a conference of these research associations. Thus, we have the industrial research associations, though we need more of them, and they need more money. More money ought to be given to them by private enterprise, and if that is done Government money will follow. So we are not doing badly in that respect, and things are developing very well indeed. It seems, therefore, that the organisation is not bad. There are one or two vacancies in the Government machine which want filling up—I do not mean vacant positions, but vacancies in the organisation—and I have my mind on this point.
The other subject mentioned by my hon. Friend was patents. He was quite right. The whole law about patents is open to very great criticism. It is imperfect from the point of view of the inventor who gets stuck and does not know how to go about things; it is imperfect from the point of the firm who want to exploit the patent; and it is imperfect from the point of the community. We are giving this matter comprehensive and I hope courageous consideration, and it is my hope and belief that before we are many years older—to utter a Conservative prophecy—something will be done in this field, 1864 which has a relationship to the whole of this scientific question, and certainly ought to be given consideration.
I am exceedingly sorry not to be able to refer in greater detail to the observations which have been made, but I had to choose between trying to cover the ground broadly or going over each item, and in the latter case I could not have given the broad picture. I would say in conclusion that we are grateful for the discussion and for its helpful and constructive tone. I can assure hon. Members that all their points will be taken into account and kept in mind, and I finally further assure them that His Majesty's Government, and I as Lord President of the Council, are determined to do all we can, not in the spirit of charity to science, not in the spirit of having pity upon the poor scientists and taking an interest in them, but in the sense of helping, encouraging and, if necessary, inciting and driving science to play a great, constructive part in the adventurous days which lie ahead.