HC Deb 03 November 1947 vol 443 cc1331-3
45. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the financial and establishment ceilings recently imposed by the Treasury on the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

No financial ceiling has been imposed on the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. A staff ceiling has been prescribed which permits of an increase of the non-industrial staff of the Department by approximately 25 per cent. above the total of such staff employed on 1st January, 1947. In fixing this ceiling as a limit within which the Department should be authorised to work until further notice, His Majesty's Government gave full weight to the importance of the development of scientific research for the benefit of industry and the community in general and for assisting in the moulding of administrative policy, bearing in mind also the acute shortage of scientific manpower and the necessity for avoidance of measures which might result in disproportionate use of such manpower in industry, Government and the Universities.

Mr. Mikardo

While I thank my right hon. Friend for that detailed reply, may I ask him whether he is satisfied that there are no scentific projects which the Department would like to undertake at present, and which would be immediately useful in the present economic situation, which are not being frustrated through this manpower ceiling?

Mr. Morrison

I think not. It is a matter of the relativity of scientific manpower, as my hon. Friend will appreciate. I assure him, however, that if that situation should arise, I should not hesitate to take the matter up again with the Treasury.

Mr. Benn Levy

Is it true that no less than 65 per cent. of the scientific talent employed by the Government is engaged upon research for the Defence Services, and, if this is true, will my right hon. Friend take steps to readjust such a wildly disproportionate allocation?

Mr. Morrison

I am not responsible for defence scientific arrangements.

46. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Lord President of the Council what new steps are being taken in respect of scientific research on matters arising from the present economic situation.

Mr. H. Morrison

Last July my Advisory Council on Scientific Policy appointed a special committee to consider as a matter of urgency the directions in which scientific research was most likely to promote an increase in the national productivity. The committee have been actively reviewing the numerous factors believed to affect industrial productivity and have already drawn attention to directions in which further research appears likely to contribute to increased productivity. Within the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the various experimental stations have been instructed to give priority to problems of immediate importance and to intelligence and liaison services with industry in order to ensure that existing scientific knowledge is applied with maximum effect.

Mr. Mikardo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are a few specific matters such as fuel utilisation, grass conservation and herring conversion upon which short term action would be possible by small working teams of scientists, upon which, so far as my information goes, no work whatever is being done at present?

Mr. Morrison

I am pretty clear that work is already being done on the first two subjects which my hon. Friend has mentioned. I cannot speak about the third from memory, but if my hon. Friend would care to let me have further particulars of his points, I should be glad to have them looked into.