§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I beg to move,That in the opinion of this House, there should be the fullest development and utilisation of Britain's exceptional scientific resources and manpower, with a view to ensuring effective progress in the development of our industry, agriculture and Colonies, and a material Improvement of our economic position in the world.I believe I am the first hon. Member for 12 years who has drawn a Private Member's Motion. I feel it is a very great honour that the luck of the Ballot has decided I should be in this privileged position. I move this Motion because I think the time is ripe for this House to inquire how far science in all its aspects is being utilised for the service of this country.
An eminent philosopher, Professor de Burgh, once defined science as "The conscious unification of diverse elements." It is this application of human reason and intellect to the various manifestations of nature that has made possible the great material advance and progress of mankind in the last two or three hundred years. But there are dangers ahead. First, there is the misuse of science for the creation of lethal weapons of war. With that, of course, this Motion is not concerned. I am concerned with the second danger, which is the possibility of the inadequate use of science for purposes of peace which may result in social and economic disequilibrium throughout the world.
I was greatly impressed, when attending a conference on world resources at Lake Success last autumn, by hearing scientists and eminent experts from all over the world speak of the problems which faced mankind as a whole. It appears that it is probable that in the year 2,000 A.D. the population of the world will reach a figure of 3,000 million, if it goes on increasing at the present rate. It seems, also, that the food resources of the world, unless something is done in the meantime, will be totally insufficient for that size of population. Therefore, the great scientific problem is the raising of food productivity in the various countries of the world and the finding of new areas where the food resources of the world can be developed. It appears that there are only two areas 2061 where that is possible, the Amazon Valley of the South American Continent and Central Africa.
There is also the very important problem of trying to see what can be done to reduce the rate of increase of the population of the world. That is possible. It has been observed by scientists that the population of the world tends to go down as education increases and, as people have the desire to give their children the higher forms of education, they tend to have smaller families. Therefore, the solution of this problem is the spread of education, whioh is somewhat outside of the terms of my Motion, although, in a sense, it does impinge upon a part of it. All this, of course, means that there must be a greater application of science to human needs, but we have a special problem in the United Kingdom—that of feeding our population by foreign trade at a time when we are no longer the sole workshop of the world. For this, too, science and technique at its highest level are primarily necessary to the solution of our problem.
The object of this Motion, then, is to ask the Government to tell us what they have done in the way of directing scientific discoveries for the best use of our people in this country. For some time, I have been the chairman of an all-party committee of both Houses of Parliament which, with scientific and learned societies outside, has been engaged in trying to make contact between the world of science and the world of politics. Hence this Motion, in the ideas behind which we are all very interested.
I am, of course, aware, that all Governments, to whatever party they belong, tend today to take much more interest in science than in the past. The evidence of this is the increasing work of the University Grants Committee, and, generally, the Government grants given to the universities for pure scientific research, the setting up of Government research stations both for civil and defence purposes, and, finally, the creation of such bodies as the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Agricultural Research Council, and the assistance given to these two bodies by the Government and to other bodies such as the British Medical Association.
2062 Further, there is the setting up with the aid of private industry of research stations which are financially assisted by the Government.
More specifically, I want to ask my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, whose Department is concerned with the work of financing the societies and institutions to which I have referred, if he can tell us something about the results of these efforts by the Government. As I see it, the solution of our specific problem in the United Kingdom is the maintenance of our standard of living and our economic activity and trade throughout the world, and I suggest that there are three ways in which we could do that. One is by the production of the highest quality of goods for export. The second is the lowering of the cost of production wherever it is possible by the latest and most scientific methods and technical improvements. Thirdly, in order to close the dollar gap and make our position financially stronger, there is the development of home-grown food resources and food and raw material production, and general development throughout the Colonies, Dominions and the sterling area.
May I take the first case, that of high quality goods for export? A very good example of the kind of work which I mean is that carried out by the Shirley Institute, on behalf of the textile industry. I have visited it, I know the kind of work which it is doing, and I have been very much impressed by it. but I would like to know how much of its work is, in fact, being applied to the textile industry today. How is its work being utilised, first of all, by the textile industry, and how are its inventions being received by the textile workers unions? The value of high quality textile goods is extremely important for our economy, because it enables us to earn dollars and other foreign exchange throughout the world. We can no longer rely on the ordinary kind of textile goods; they must be of the highest quality which we can produce, and, in some cases, which we alone can produce.
But we are known to be behind other countries in certain processes of textile goods production. I would like to know how far the textile industry is taking seriously the work of the Shirley Institute, how far the textile workers' unions are co-operating, and whether they are 2063 not afraid of a repetition of what happened after the First World War—a slump, causing great depression—and are, therefore not too keen about these new processes. I would like to know, further, whether we cannot do something to reassure them on this matter, whether we can satisfy them that the present period is not like the period after the last war, but that full employment has come to stay and that they need have no fears along those lines.
In addition to the Shirley Institute, there are 39 other research institutions dealing with various aspects of the application of science to industry, financed partly by the Institute itself and partly by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. These include research in rubber, leather, chemicals, ceramics, engineering and a host of others. Are the scientific workers in these institutions sufficiently aware of the problem of applying the results which they have obtained to industry on the factory floor? I know that there is sometimes a feeling that what is worked out in the laboratory is not being applied to the factory as it might be.
During the war, I was a member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and I remember that Committee inquiring into the war production of certain armament materials. The problem came up that what the designer was producing on his drawing board was often not quickly enough applied on the factory floor, because there was not that liaison between the two that there should have been. I know that that was the case during the war, and I suspect that it is the case now, and I would like an assurance that the Government are doing all they can to see that there is good liaison between the research laboratories at the one end and the factories at the other.
In connection with the research institutions, I would like to ask whether private industry is making full use of this work done in the research stations or whether it is sometimes using it to improve its financial position, without passing on the benefits to the consumers. That is a point that must be inquired into. One fears, also, that a number of small firms, on whom we rely very much for exports—firms producing very skilled articles—are not making use of the they might do.
2064 I remember talking to the late Member for Brighouse—a friend of mine, and of many of us, I am sure, in this House and one whose death we much lament—about this very subject. No man knew more than he about it, and no man would have taken more interest in this Debate than he had he been with us today. Alas, he is gone. He knew this subject very well indeed, and he was always saying that small manufacturers do not make use of what is there for them to use. I know that in the United States of America, where I was last year, there is always a ruthless search for new methods. No obstruction is tolerated by public opinion there. We ought to take a leaf out of their book.
I now come to my second point—lower costs of production as an aid to export trade and to the general economy of the country. In this respect, I think the nationalised industries ought to be particularly interested, and that we ought to inquire how far they have made use of what has been done. For instance, the National Coal Board has a research laboratory and funds provided for it by the country. I would like my right hon. Friend the Lord President to tell us, if he can, something of what the National Coal Board has done in this respect. We know that in this country we are compelled to work relatively thin seams of coal, in some areas increasingly so. The fact is also known that with the increase of machinery and new processes, the difficulty of working small seams is that we get a very large percentage of slack and bad coal. Therefore, the problem is to see what can be done to clean our coal while, at the same time, working these more difficult seams. That is the kind of problem to which I should like to hear if the Coal Board is giving its attention.
I come to another question. We have, apparently, three research stations connected with fuel—the Fuel Research Station, the Coal Utilisation Research Board, and the new laboratories opened by the National Coal Board, in addition to one or two opened by private concerns, like Powell Duffryn. Is there real cooperation between these research stations? Is there not too much overlapping and waste?
Then I come to my third point, the saving of dollars by increasing our output of food in this country and of food and raw materials in the Dominions, the Colonies and the sterling area. The Com- 2065 mittee on Industrial Productivity, presided over by that eminent scientist, Sir Henry Tizard, in its first interim report, stated that in its opinion new methods of grass cult' ation in this country would raise the nutrient value of grass by 20 per cent. in four years, which would make it possible for us to keep a very much greater head of livestock than we have now. Of couse, our head of livestock has gone up a good deal in recent years, but it could go up still further if certain things were done.
In this connection, I wish to ask what is being done to put that idea across to the farming community. I know that the idea is to do it through the Agricultural Advisory Service, but I would ask this further question: Is the Agricultural Advisory Service really doing its job? Is the service sufficiently attractive? Is it retaining the best men, or are they drifting away elsewhere? What is the quantity and quality of recruitment into the Agricultural Advisory Service? I hear that the situation is not too satisfactory. This, it seems to me, is the key point in trying to carry out the recommendation of Sir Henry Tizard's Committee. It is a very important recommendation.
Then there are the Colonial areas, and development in the sterling areas. At Lake Success last year I heard very interesting reports from scientists from all over the world, pointing out how much could be done. They mentioned Central Africa, where there is tremendous possibility of developments of all kinds. But one has the impression that the developments planned are somewhat of a piecemeal nature. Various Government Departments each have their own pet schemes. For instance, the Ministry of Food have their groundnuts scheme. I will not say anything about that, but will pass on to other Departments. The Colonial Office have various schemes of irrigation and soil erosion in Central Africa which they are pushing. The Australian Government have plans for increasing stock raising in Queensland. The New Zealand Government have plans for raising still further the output of the great grasslands of central New Zealand, which are wonderful grasslands, but are capable of producing still more livestock and livestock products. Our own Ministry of Agriculture have, of course, their marginal land scheme.
2066 As I say, each Department tends to paddle its own canoe. There is not sufficient liaison between them. Our Colonial Office, particularly, is inclined to put a ring fence round itself and to ignore other Departments; to consult no outside scientists except a few which they have for themselves. That, I think, is altogether a wrong approach. What we need is some independent scientific investigation to see where in Central Africa the best results can be obtained for the various development schemes, and to fix priorities. We should not let each Department tinker away at something or other. We shall not get the best results that way. We want the best independent scientists called in to give advice on this, and that remark applies particularly to our Colonial Office.
Again, I should like to know what is being done in connection with the Geological Survey of Africa, which was mentioned at the World Resources Conference at Lake Success. We know very little even now—we have just scratched the surface—and without a geological and mining survey of Central Africa we cannot make much rapid progress. In this connection, it is possible to find out by the use of the magnetometer what mineral is in the land underneath an aeroplane. A little work has been done in this direction, but we require that to he one of the first priorities.
I hear that we are very short of trained geologists and are even having to ask the help of the United States in this connection. I know that at the Science School of Geology of my old university at Cambridge last year, graduates of Part 1 of the Tripos were immediately snapped up for research work in industry even before they had time to decide whether they would go on to work for Part 2 of the Tripos. That shows how tremendous is the demand for geologists. The universities are not now turning them out in sufficient quantities, and I also believe that the same thing is true in biology. I know that the output of crops and livestock in Central Africa could be very greatly increased if a few more first-class biologists were sent out to work in Africa. The shortage of trained scientists is not only overseas but also at home.
This brings me to another point, the whole question of the adequacy of our scientific manpower and its training. In this country we have the best scientists 2067 in the world for fundamental research. There is no question about that, and the Americans say so. But we are behind other countries, and especially behind the United States, in the application of science in industry. It seems that in this country the technologist has a lower status than the university science graduate and the fundamental, pure science, research worker. It is quite right that a high degree should go to the fundamental science worker but it is important to remember that the pure scientist, the technologist and the technician are three cogs in the same wheel and that we cannot neglect any one of these three.
We must, therefore, pay much more attention in future to our technical schools and technological colleges. We have nothing like the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which I had the privilege of visiting last autumn when I was in the United States, and the Charlottenburg Technische Hochschule and a similar institution in Switzerland. We have, of course, the South Kensington Imperial College of Science, the Manchester College of Technology and the Royal Technical College, Glasgow. The question has been discussed in the last few months whether these three should be expanded to university level. I suggest that if this were done, it would mean awarding university degrees to graduates who have not the fundamental training of graduates of our universities.
§ Mr. Albu (Edmonton)
The Imperial College is a college of the University of London, and does award degrees.
§ Mr. Philips Price
Yes, I know. My hon. Friend may be right in that case, but I do not think that is right in the case of the other two.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Is my hon. Friend including in the other two the Royal Technical College in Glasgow which, by arrangement with the University of Glasgow does award science degrees?
§ Mr. Philips Price
I know, but I do not think it is on a very large scale. The point is that there ought to be a special technical science degree separate from the degrees of the universities, because the assumption is that one has more fundamental science in it than the other. Those who pass through technical colleges cannot have the same background 2068 of fundamental research as those who pass through a university.
§ Mr. Rankin
If my hon. Friend is going to do that, would he then separate the department of engineering, where it does exist in a university, and transfer it to the appropriate technical college?
§ Mr. Philips Price
Not at all, because the engineering course at the university must be more theoretical.
§ Mr. Philips Price
It is a very dangerous thing to put technological colleges on the same footing as universities. They ought to be separate, because the type of training must be separate as one has more pure science than the other. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) agree to that?
§ Mr. Rankin
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way on this point. It is rather an important point, because if he does achieve that separation, then he will be reversing the process that is now taking place to elevate the status of our technical colleges to the status of our universities. If he is going to reverse that process he will do something which will be fatal to the status of the technical colleges and, therefore, to the development of the very research he wants to see progressing.
§ Mr. Philips Price
My hon. Friend and I do not see quite alike. No doubt he will have a chance to express his view later. I stand by my point and he stands by his. There might be more agreement between me and my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) than between me and my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin).
My view is supported in a statement made by "The Times" in a leader the other day, when it said:The danger of our present policies is that the universities may lose their own characteristic qualities and become poor technological institutes.If my hon. Friends do not agree perhaps they will realise that I am supported by 2069 "The Times" leader in this respect. I will also cull from the "Economist," which said recently:The need will remain for a decision about the lines on which the higher education of technologists is to develop.That, again, states the problem, and I do not think it will be solved in the way my hon. Friends think possible.
It should be possible to give a special degree of bachelor or doctor of technology separate from those of the older universities. I admit I am not an expert, but I feel we ought to build according to our tradition in this country on what we have already produced. A hundred years ago the Prince Consort had the idea of developing technical education. The result of his work was the Great Exhibition of 100 years ago and the great industrial advance this nation experienced through the latter part of the last century. Now, with the coming of the Festival of Britain next year, I suggest is a good time to brace ourselves to a further effort along these same lines.
I have brought in this question of technical education because it connects with that part of my Motion which demands the best possible use of our scientific manpower. That is the weak spot we are facing. Although we arc first-class in fundamental science and we have the best education in that field, we are deficient in technical and technological education. We have a chance in these post-war years to benefit this country and the world at large by applying organised science to the benefit of mankind. I would like to see us take a lead in Europe. I know that Europe will look to this country. If we can only fill the bill, Europe will come to this country for advice and help on scientific matters and problems. We can, indeed, stand on the threshold of a fruitful age if we wish.
Science, however, is of no benefit to mankind unless it is used for a moral purpose. Between 1939 and 1945 man used science to destroy himself, and nearly succeeded, but, fortunately, did not discover enough in time to do so. Perhaps now we will learn to control ourselves and escape the results of our own follies. For folly always has its punishment in the end. One's mind goes back to classical Greece and to the great tragic dramatist of that ancient world, Aeschylus. He created the character Prometheus to show the dilemma which faced mankind 2,400 2070 years ago—the dilemma of learning too much from science and being punished for doing so. It will be remembered that Prometheus was punished for discovering fire and giving it to Man, by being bound on a rock in the Caucasus, which is now part of Asiatic Russia. Apparently, there was an iron curtain even in those days! History seems to be repeating itself. We have the same thing today; we have this increased knowledge which, if it is improperly used, will bring great suffering rather than happiness to man. That thought is well expressed in a passage of Herodotus in which Croesus, after his defeat at the hands of the Persian King, says:
which means:Suffering by its very bitterness teaches us to be aware of danger.We all see the danger of scientific discoveries today which are not used for the benefit of man, but if they are used for the benefit of man they may solve the riddle which I propounded in my opening remarks. The danger which faces man in the year 2,000 is that we may have a bigger population than can be supported by world food supplies. It is a problem which faces not only this country, but the whole world. We must face it by using science in the proper way.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
I beg to second the Motion.
I should like to emphasise that host. Members on all sides of the House are united in support of this Motion, which aims at the further utilisation of our scientific resources. Indeed, along with foreign affairs and Imperial affairs, scientific matters in this House have largely been of a non-party and noncontroversial nature. The principal committee in the House for the study of scientific affairs, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, is of an all-party character and is equally supported by both sides of the House. I therefore regret—and I will do no more than mention it in passing—the production of a pamphlet by the Labour Party entitled "New Deal for Science," because I feel that that pamphlet departed from the admirable principles of achieving non-controversy in this field, which we have 2071 established in this House. I hope that we shall have no more of this sort of thing in which the Labour Party all but claim the credit for the laws of gravity themselves.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that he himself might follow the excellent example set by the proposer of the Motion and avoid any party controversy?
§ Mr. Erroll
I intend to avoid it. That is why I said that I would do no more than refer to that pamphlet, highly provoked though I was when I first read it.
I intend, therefore, to pass on to the small contribution I hope to make by stressing that there must be differences in emphasis in regard to the proper utilisation of scientific resources. We must be careful not to lose our sense of perspective. We must appreciate and fully understand the tremendous utilisation of our scientific resources by private enterprise throughout the last 25 years. I want to be quite specific and refer to some examples, but not thereby to exclude other examples which doubtless my hon. Friends will refer to later.
Let me take, for example, the whole history of the British electrical manufacturing industry, an industry which has won a foremost place in the markets of the world by the excellence of its scientific utilisation in the production of modern equipment. Heavy equipment, generating equipment and distribution equipment have benefited enormously from the industrial utilisation of science; and in the lighter end, in the development of new forms of lighting such as fluorescent lighting, private industry has made full use of the scientific resources of this country. Hon. Members opposite may query that, but before the war there was more outdoor fluorescent lighting on our roads than in the rest of the world put together—a very fine example of the effective utilisation of science by the industry of this country.
Turning now to the chemical industry, which has recently issued a most valuable and useful report, we see that tremendous sums are spent annually by private industry on research and development. I understand that in this current year no less than £8½million will be spent on research, and up to £11½million when 2072 the, present programmes of development are completed. We have seen the growth of the plastics industry in the inter-war years, and also the tremendous development of medicinal chemicals culminating in the remarkable production of penicillin, a fine example of industry's utilisation of scientific discovery.
§ Mr. Blackburn
As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned penicillin, may I ask him whether he is aware that we paid a lump sum royalty to America for the use of the processes for the production of penicillin which we ourselves invented?
§ Mr. Erroll
I appreciate that there are difficulties of war-time payments and counter-payments when we pool with the United States of America all our resources, scientific and otherwise. I particularly wish to mention penicillin because I understand that very shortly a much greater discovery than penicillin will be announced, a discovery evolved and developed by private enterprise firms. We shall see, in regard to the cure of hard pen, or para-distemper, the first positive virus-therapy evolved by private firms in this country.
Turning from chemicals to the petroleum industry, we see once again how an increasingly wide range of products is being made available from refineries owned by British companies in this country and abroad as a result of the application of scientific methods to refinery technique. We see, too, the establishment, almost by stealth, in this country of ours of a great new industry, an industry concerned with the production of chemicals from petroleum—a very striking example of the utilisation of science by private industry.
In the steel industry we see the same use of scientific knowledge and of scientifically trained men. We have developed in this country a series of alloy steels, both high alloy and low alloy steels, which can be of great value in the erection of structures such as bridges and towers and for the manufacture of high pressure vessels. The difficulty is to persuade the steel-using industries to take full advantage of the alloy steels which a progressive steel-producing industry has been making available. If one went to the patent library at the Patent Office one would find it packed with applications 2073 and with records of the inventiveness of private enterprise.
I suggest that in this country we are not so short of scientific knowledge, but of the capital resources with which to develop it. We must apply our minds to the creation of the right conditions for the full utilisation of our scientific resources. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) referred, in particular, to the attitude in the United States of America towards the utilisation of scientific knowledge. We would do well to consider the conditions under whioh inventiveness flourished during the war; the nearby enemy compelled inventiveness. But, let us be frank. In peace it is surely the hope of reward which brings about the full flowering of inventiveness. It must be admitted that in this country today the conditions for many inventors are far from right.
I know that inventive work is encouraged by well-established firms who have considerable resources behind them and who are able to take the long view, but there is no getting away from the fact that the small inventor is seriously handicapped from the start. He is excessively taxed while developing his inventions, and he gets very small reward even when he succeeds. To allay the misgivings of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) let me say at once that that is a process which started before the war but which has become intensified since the war. We must recognise the right to exploit one's own ideas and we must recognise that there should be a proper reward for success. Without those conditions inventiveness cannot flourish and, as the proposer of the Motion indicated, it is significant that inventiveness appears to flourish more readily in the United States of America.
§ Mr. Philips Price
What I said was that in the United States they are better at applying science to industry than we are, but that we are better in the pure and fundamental science.
§ Mr. Erroll
That is precisely the point I was trying to make—that inventiveness 2074 is the process of applying scientific knowledge and that they are better at it than we are, because the conditions are more favourable. We must be quite frank in recognising that the rightness of the conditions is an essential part in securing the full measure of inventiveness in this country.
As I was saying, research associations are excellent in their own way, but they cannot be any substitute for the driving force of a person seized with an idea and determined to force it through. Research associations are good for producing standardised tests, for carrying out what I would call the odd job research which the whole industry requires, but, by their very nature, they cannot make a very constructive contribution to inventiveness, as, indeed, their whole history shows. One might almost put it that what is free for all, is of value to none. Inventiveness must bring a reward for the inventor as well as being of great benefit to the community as a whole.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
May I ask the hon. Member whether his remarks apply, for example, to the Shirley Institute?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am speaking in general terms; no doubt the hon. Lady will be able to develop her remarks about the Shirley Institute if she speaks in the Debate.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, referred to the shortage of scientists in industry, and that is something which we all deplore. We can all do something to put it right. There is no doubt that in the past many have preferred, or have seemed to prefer, an academic life or a life devoted to pure research. That is surely a matter in which we can all help by persuading the young scientist that there is every bit as worth while a career in industry in helping forward the surge of inventiveness as there is in the university or in the pure research laboratory.
I suggest that there is a big field in which the Government might look to what it is doing. There are many agencies now controlled by the Government, including the nationalised industries, which much more could be done. I should like to start by referring to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, where the Government have 2075 installed a new head from whom we all expect much.
There is no doubt that Government research of this character must inevitably be to a considerable extent compartmentalised and somewhat rigid in application. I hope, in particular, that-this Department will not hesitate to collaborate fully with existing research organisations under private and independent control. A good deal is being made today of the new hydraulics and tidal flow laboratory which the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is setting up, and this is being proclaimed as though no such work had been done in this country before. I think it would be a great pity indeed if this laboratory were to go ahead without any consultation with the existing hydraulics laboratories in this country. There is a great body of research in that field; much useful research is already going on without much advertisement, but of great value, and it would be most unfortunate if that work were to be ignored and thereby duplicated.
Next, there is the Research Department of the Post Office. Do we really get very much good research out of the Post Office? It seems to be much more of a " trouble shooting " Department. One way of finding out how much they are doing would be to ascertain the amount of the dollar royalties which have to be spent on securing licences from America to manufacture telephone equipment in this country—equipment which might have been invented and devised by the Post Office Research Department if it had had a mind to do so.
Next, in the Ministry of Transport, there is an excellent though small organisation—the road research laboratory, with a road safety division which, in particular, has done some valuable work. But does the Ministry of Transport fully apply the results of that work? They are willing and able to carry out operational research on the study of traffic flow and to carry out investigations into the time-waste at such homely spots of traffic congestion as Hyde Park Corner and the Albert Gate out of Hyde Park, where many thousands of man hours are lost every year, but they are not called upon to do that work. They have also done good work on the study of road intersections and junctions.
2076 Does the Ministry of Transport insist on the excellent results being implemented on the roads of this country? We could have an experimental fly-over crossing on one of the main roads of this country, so that the road research laboratory could carry out practical tests and investigations on the value of this type of fly-over crossing and so that, when we start on a big road programme, the necessary preliminary research will have been carried out.
I am, of course, aware of the idea that the nationalised industries should be as independent as possible in organising their own affairs, and I fully support that, but it is disappointing to see, after so much initial trumpeting, how little research the National Coal Board is doing. The British Coal Utilisation Research Association now receives less money from the Coal Board than it received in the old days from the private owners. Private owners contributed £200,000 in 1945 to the B.C.U.R.A., but in 1949 the National Coal Board subscribed only £160,000.
I understand, too, that the National Coal Board is setting up testing laboratories for analysing its fuel, but that it is still very questionable whether it will allow the results of those analyses to be available to coal consumers and to private industry generally. I suggest that it is most valuable and most important that the Coal Board should set a good example in this regard, and not lag behind the best efforts of private enterprise.
The National Research and Development Council, another Government agency, has been set up almost two years now. Of course, I appreciate that preparatory work necessarily takes a long time and is not so spectacular, but I suggest that it is time that we learned a little of what is going on; perhaps the Lord President, when he replies to the Debate, may be able to give us an indication of what this new agency is doing and of how far it is succeeding in overcoming the shortcomings to which I have made reference. I believe that we can achieve a great deal more, both in private industry and by Government agency, than has been possible in the past.
If I have appeared to be a little controversial, it is only because I have wished to underline and emphasise certain aspects of the problem. I submit that there are two 2077 tasks for the Government: to look with a searching eye—with as searching an eye as they regard private enterprise—at their Departments and the nationalised industries which they control; second, to create, as far as possible, the conditions in which British inventiveness can truly flourish in this country.
§ 12.2 p.m.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I am sure that this Debate is warmly welcomed by everyone in this House who has at heart the great importance of applying scientific advance to the furtherance of human well being. I am only sorry that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) took a rather gloomy view of the present situation. As a layman in scientific matters, my interest is in the time-lag between the attainment of the scientific result and its application in day-to-day industrial processes. If we could cut that time-lag substantially, we could immensely improve our national wealth and our prospects of economic independence.
Shortly before the Easter Recess, we had a very interesting Debate in this House on joint consultation in industry, and I should like to suggest that the principle of joint consultation should be extended, as far as it is possible in respect of lay people, in this field of research. I think that it is only right that if trade unionists and workers have to adjust their working lives as a result of scientific advance—and make very considerable adjustments sometimes—they should be enabled to do so with as full an understanding as possible of the reasons which make that adjustment necessary, and I am sure that the recent advance in this matter in the trade union world is one which we should all welcome.
The trade unions have done, I think, a great service to their workers and to the industries with which they are associated by showing their willingness to take some responsibility for research in their respective industries. It is a fairly new idea that a trade union, an organisation of workpeople, should consider that it has some responsibility for matters such as fundamental research in an industry, but it is very much in keeping with our Socialist principle that the workers in an industry have at least as much at stake in its ultimate prosperity as anybody else. am very glad to know that, among the 2078 40 research associations existing and officially recognised in this country up to the present time, there are 10 in which the trade unions concerned actively participate. I think that we in this House can congratulate both the trade unions and the research associations which have been able to co-operate in this way in their activities.
I understand, however, that some, at any rate, of the remaining associations, and some of the trade unions concerned, and which do not already engage in this activity, have some constitutional difficulties in the matter, in that their articles of association, or their trade union rules, make it difficult for the two sides to come together. I hope that where such difficulties exist they will be regarded by both sides as relatively minor obstacles, and that steps will be taken to see that such alterations as are required to enable the two sides to come together are made, because I think that the trade unions that have already taken the first steps on this road—I do not pretend that they are more than first steps—are convinced that they are doing something which is of great value to themselves and to their workers, and to industry at large.
I have certain expressions of opinion here. For example, one of the representatives of one of the textile unions, in referring to the Shirley Institute, says:Shirley Institute is ceasing to be the employers' prerogative. All our trade unions must avail themselves of every possible chance of associating themselves with such industrial research institutions.I think that it is not easy, perhaps, for trade unionists to follow some of the scientific arguments which take place at research association meetings, but nevertheless it is very important that intelligent lay people should take an interest in these matters, and I hope very much that the trade unions that are associated with research work will try to make it possible for their representatives to be members or officers who have sufficient time to give to this work, and that they will not send representatives simply for what one may call prestige reasons, and who may really be too busy with administrative and organising work to be able to follow adequately the proceedings of the research associations.
That is all, I think, I can say at this moment on that point, but, having drawn attention to what I may call the human 2079 end of the application of science to industry, I should like, very briefly, to say a word about what I may call the human end of scientific research in general, because those of us who are concerned with the social sciences in this country are a little disturbed at the position of the social sciences in the general scheme of research, particularly the Government's schemes of research.
As hon. Members, no doubt, know, we have in this country the D.S.I.R., the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council, and the Committee on Industrial Productivity, which has as one of its four panels one on human relations, the Schuster Panel. However, we understand that there are rumours—and if there are the Lord President will, no doubt, be able to comment on them—that the work of this panel may, perhaps, be coming to an end. In any case, at the present time the grants for work on social science are made through the Medical Research Council. In other words, there is no social science research council dealing with major matters of social science research.
As hon. Members who are interested in this matter will be aware, the Clapham Committee, 1946, reported against setting up at the present time a social research council. The main reason they gave was that the social sciences are too immature. In their words, they were afraid that the setting up of such a research council would lead to the "premature crystallisation of spurious orthodoxy." I may say that the Clapham Committee was rather heavily weighted with economists, and I am afraid economists take a poor view of some of their younger brethren in the social sciences; they regard economics as an exact science, although some of us think that economics is not quite as exact as some economists imagine. In any case, I am quite sure that on reflection we would all agree that, immature indeed as some of the social sciences may yet be, imperfect as their techniques may yet be, they are of fundamental importance.
As the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) said, surely the danger is that the physical sciences, the natural sciences, get ahead and yet we are still too ignorant of human nature 2080 and human behaviour to know how to control ourselves and our fellow human beings. It is of the utmost importance both here in our own country, in industry and Government, and elsewhere. For example, in carrying out work in Africa, what is the use of having discoveries in natural science if we are so much behind-hand in sociology or anthropology that we cannot really apply that scientific research effectively?
I feel that the time has come when the Government should look once more at the position of the social sciences, because the experience in the last four years, since the Clapham Committee sat, has not been entirely encouraging. Some of us are rather uneasy at both the rate of progress and the sense of purpose in the social science world. The institutions outside the universities—and I would like to stress that the Clapham Committee concentrated very much on university work—the field institutions we might call them, analogous to the research stations of the D.S.I.R., or the Medical Research Council, are left in a state of uncertainty about their future, and cannot plan ahead adequately or train their staff adequately.
They are receiving grants at the present time through the Schuster Panel, but beyond that, and beyond the private benefactions they receive from certain trusts, their position is very uncertain, and promising young social scientists, or potential social scientists, knowing this uncertainty, may hesitate to undertake to train in field work, which is the real basis in the social sciences as in the natural sciences for the fundamental work of the more mature scientists. I know that the Lord President has given very careful consideration to this, but I do beg him to think of it once again and to give some further encouragement perhaps to the workers in the social science field.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I am glad to have the opportunity to intervene in this Debate, but I should like to apologise in advance if I commit the seeming discourtesy of leaving the House almost immediately after I have resumed my seat. His Majesty the King has graciously consented to open a research institute in my constituency this afternoon, and I am sure the House will hear with me if I leave in order to attend, in view of my special interest
2081 The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) has raised two valuable points. My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) has a very personal knowledge of the relationships existing in the Shirley Institute, and if he is fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye I hope he will answer on that point. On the second question, which I think was very well aired, that of the social sciences, I felt myself, and I know many hon. Members on this side of the House felt, that there was a future for the Peckham Health Centre in its field research—if I may use the hon. Lady's term—and I hope that it will be possible to continue that health centre in operation.
I want to draw attention to two points in this Debate. First, I think we are all agreed that the future prosperity of our country depends upon the quality of the products we produce, and we are all anxious—or we would not be having this Debate in a reasonably friendly atmosphere—to see the optimum use made of our scientists. But whatever we say here, we cannot change the fundamental fact that we are woefully short of trained and experienced men at this time. I believe that we might well decentralise science as we have decentralised other things and bring the Empire into closer consultation, and perhaps farm out, after a suitable conference, some of our research problems.
It may well be that Canada is well situated to look into one side of scientific research while Australia is well positioned to look into another. I think that there we have a conception which might well be followed up, of an Empire scientific conference in which we could say " We just have not got the trained men in this country, and therefore we ask you, Canada, to do this longterm research, and perhaps you, Australia, could take on this other longterm research." If that scheme came into being, I believe that in 50 years we would have our post-graduate students going not to Zurich, Berlin or Paris, but perhaps to the Empire universities, and we would derive very great benefit to our industrial efficiency from that form of organisation.
Secondly, I want to turn to a more serious aspect, but before doing so, I should like to consider the way in which our scientists are at present distributed 2082 throughout this country. Sir Ben Lockspeiser recently gave some extremely interesting figures. He said that there were some 60,000 science graduates distributed around the United Kingdom. I think it is fair to say that there has probably been a wastage, and probably only 50,000 of these 60,000 are employed directly on scientific subjects. Of these about 25,000, about half, are employed in teaching in our universities, technical institutes, grammar schools and secondary schools, and even in our primary schools.
That leaves about 25,000. The technical and scientific Civil Service employs some 5,000; there are 800 in public bodies like the Coal Board and other research institutions; 1,000 in the research associations which have been mentioned today; and 8,000 on scientific research in industrial firms. That leaves 10,000 of our total—not a large number—who are distributed over the whole plane of development and production in industry. Now, of these categories, every one that I have mentioned is woefully short of its establishment; and one of them comes off extremely badly, namely, the schools.
May I illustrate with a series of points what is, in fact, happening? Industry can look after itself, and it does. Salaries have risen, and I think all the scientists here, on both sides of the House, are very glad to see that a trained engineer is now receiving ample reward, and is very quickly employed after he becomes trained. Before I was elected to this House, I was a governor of the Northampton Polytechnic, and therefore I bes leave to quote one or two personal examples which I think, if the House bear with me, will well illustrate what is happening.
Before the war, shortly before the final examinations were taken, two or three firms used to come down to the college on " talent-spotting " expeditions. They would see who was good; they would interview them and say, " Provided you do well in your finals in June, we shall be glad to have you, and these are the conditions." But today the state of affairs is very different. Seventeen sets of interviews have already taken place with regard to the students who do not come out until June. Ten of these interviews were in February. Long before the examination was due to take place, many of the students had secured contracts, irrespective of the results, to 2083 go straight into employment. Industry is in a position to raise the wages, and to pay people as much as £550 a year shortly after they have graduated.
I will give the House an example. One of these graduates, who was not able to get an honours degree, gained a pass degree last June. He must have been a nice fellow, because he went back to his college in August to thank them for the good they had done him. The principal said to him, " We are very pleased to see you. How are you getting on? " He replied, " I do not think I have done too badly. You know I have only a pass degree, but I have secured a position in an industrial firm, and I am receiving £550 in my first year." The principal was aghast. Three months previously this man had been instructed by large numbers of instructors in that college who were being paid considerably less—even less than £400 a year.
We cannot go on with that state of affairs. We are running down our scientific capital at a fast rate. A graduate under the Burnham scale, after three years in a university, will receive in the London area £396 a year; that will rise by £15 a year, and it will take 10 solid years of teaching to reach the figure which that inexperienced graduate with only a pass degree received straight away.
The report of the Oxford University Appointments Committee for 1949 will further illustrate the serious state of affairs that exists. They analyse what has happened to their science and mathematics graduates over the years 1945 to 1949. They found that of 197 men who had graduated, not 450, which is the 50 per cent. I quoted earlier, but 42 remained in the teaching profession. Originally, 49 had gone into it, but seven left in the last two years. I cannot say that that is surprising. It is the logical outcome of supply and demand, and if we are able to offer a graduate only £300 to £400 a year, rising to £500, it is bound to happen.
§ Mr. Rankin
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that his argument could be put in other words, that this is the direct outcome of a policy of full employment?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
No, I could not put it in any other words. It is because of the expanding demand for scientific 2084 manpower. I am going to show—I will answer the hon. Gentleman's point in the course of my speech—that there are many others in the market besides industry. For example, there is the scientific side of the Civil Service, and I quoted the figure of 5,000 who are employed at the moment. They are still seeking for scientists for their new establishment. They circularise technical colleges and offer jobs starting at £400 a year. The positions offer promotion up to P.S.O.'s who may earn as much as £1,250 a year, which is double the ceiling for the instructor in technical institutions.
Schools and technical colleges are desperately short of teachers. I could go on quoting cases of schools which have advertised again and again for instructors in physics and chemistry. They get the most paltry answers to their advertisements. I know of one school which advertised three times over a year. They got one or o applications to every advertisement, and those applications were of such a quality that they could not consider the applicants as instructors. I do not think that is surprising.
This is happening not only in our technical schools, but in our grammar schools. A recent examination showed that of 790 grammar schools which had answered a circular, 49 had found it absolutely impossible to secure an instructor for physics and chemistry, and had dropped the subject of science altogether from their curriculum. This is very serious.
I am not suggesting that the grammar schools are going to be the principal training grounds for technicians, but I am suggesting that even the art students in grammar schools should have some basic knowledge and sympathy for science, because they are going into industry and if they are not going to deal with science directly, they are going to talk to engineers and discuss scientific problems. Therefore, they should have some sympathy for the scientific point of view. It is nothing short of disastrous that in our grammar schools, to which we look for leadership in education, we have cut out from the curriculum the teaching of scientific subjects right from the start.
I was rather alarmed, as well as amused to read in the " Cambridge Survey " of 1945 of the qualifications for 2085 graduates entering industry. It says that industry requires graduates to have character, susceptibility to new ideas, wide outlook, ability to mix well, clarity and independence of thought, initiative, tact and ability to work in a team, ability to write clear and concise reports and I would add, ability to argue and persuade others of the rightness of one's technical viewpoint.
All these are necessary if we are to get the scientific viewpoint accepted in industry and also in Government establishments. If these qualities are demanded in the science graduate in industry, then, they are also demanded of our teachers in addition to other attributes. We have heard from both sides of the House that unless we make the optimum use of our scientific manpower, the quality of our products, now faced with competition from outside, will slowly deteriorate in comparison. Quality may stay the same, but the other countries will improve where we remain static.
A view I should like to put to the Government Front Bench, is whether in the Burnham Committee there has been too great a tendency to level down the scales. Surely if we are to treat science as a matter of vital importance to the future of this country, we must all try for a higher education, whether technical or in the arts. I suggest that we allow the people in the better schools to earn rather more than those who are instructing in the nursery schools. It is a fact today that whether in the nursery schools, where bricks and plasticine are used to instruct children, or in the technical colleges, the teacher starts with exactly the same salary. I cannot believe that this is the way to get a higher and better performance from our scientific education.
We have got to attract scientists, and the only way we can do it is to raise the standard of salaries. I know that this is a point which is not in accord with the view of the National Union of Teachers, who are represented on the teachers' panel by some 16 out of 26 people. I want, in looking at that representation, to ask whether the technical colleges, who only have four representatives on the teachers' panel, are not grossly overweighted by the other members of that panel. They cannot put their case for better conditions and 2086 salaries if they are always to be voted down by the very much higher representation of the National Union of Teachers. The whole of our scientific structure rests on a foundation which is the instruction which we can give in our schools, technical colleges and universities. If we do not pay first attention to that foundation, we are forfeiting its future, and also the future of our country.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) by saying how much I agree with many of the statements he made. I, too, have had the experience of trying not so much to examine candidates for appointment to technical colleges as to decide whether the single candidate presenting himself was really of sufficient quality to do the work required. Sometimes I have come to the conclusion that it is better to leave the thing alone altogether than to do it badly.
I believe that we have gone too far in abolishing the differentiation of salaries between those who are engaged in work of university quality and those engaged on what is really the work of primary teaching. Nobody should under-rate the work of the primary teachers, who are the foundation of the whole system but, human nature being what it is, we must give rewards to those who have higher skill. Very often teachers make many sacrifices to go on and obtain university degrees and the qualifications required for more advanced work. I submit that this is a matter of vital importance and that our attitude towards the raising of salaries for work of this kind is something quite apart from the normal view one should take of salary questions at this time of economic crisis.
That aspect of the problem is only one of many facets of the shortage of technological manpower. I was minded to welcome the pleasantly controversial note introduced into the Debate by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll), but I find some trepidation in speaking when graduates of the Imperial College of Science are in front of me. There can be no doubt—I speak with some administrative experience of technical education, and this opinion has been endorsed not only by industrialists and educationists who have 2087 conducted a long correspondence in " The Times " and elsewhere on the subject, but in the Seventh Report of the Committee on National Expenditure of this House, where attention was drawn first to a shortage of technological manpower—that in making use of our science, this country lagged behind other countries of the world in certain respects. This is not a suitable occasion for me to try to box the compass and to explore, as the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale was inclined to do, all the differences that exist between the economic systems of the United States and of this country. Nor is today a suitable occasion for ventilating the question of the Profits Tax, which I thought he was getting very near to doing at times.
There is one aspect of this matter on which there is great controversy in the education world. It is one for the Lord President of the Council and the Government as a whole rather than for the Ministry of Education. It is the question whether there should be something in the nature of a technological university in this country, or not. In my ignorance, which is still no doubt abysmal, I approached the matter in the first instance by saying that this was not the time to embark upon ventures of that kind and that there were many technical institutions in this country doing admirable work, but requiring greater encouragement, recognition and co-ordination of their activities. Before we embarked upon new projects of so ambitious a character, I felt we should satisfy ourselves that the possibilities of prc—eeding in those ways were exhausted.
That was my frame of mind. Indeed, as one brought up in a somewhat conservative academic background—I use that adjective in no pejorative sense and with a small " c "—I was a little suspicious of the idea of putting together a great many technologists broadly following the same kind of career and study, and calling them a university. I was inclined to argue: " That is not really a university at all. A university is a place where we find mixed together students of the classics, history, theology, engineering, chemistry and other branches of learning."
One has to ask what validity that argument has in relation to our problem. It has some validity. The question is: In a technological university, is there any 2088 need for the argument to arise at all? Cannot one introduce a sufficient diversity into the curriculum to ensure that that condition of university life is satisfied? I believe that in many of the great technological universities abroad that condition is satisfied. In the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, one can and to some extent must study such subjects as history and languages. We come back to the fundamental question: What place would a technological university fill in our educational system that is not filled today?
From such inquiries as I have been able to make the answer to that question is this. It is true that in our ordinary universities we can have both pure and applied science and that in our technical institutions we can carry applied science to a very considerable pitch, but the difficulty is that unless we bring a large number of technologies under the same roof, we cannot get a sufficient diversity of specialisation to produce the results that we require.
One example which I was given a few evenings ago was that in this country it is impossible to select a trained chemical engineer for any appointment. We have to have a chemist and teach him something about engineering or an engineer and teach him something about chemistry, whereas I was told that in the great technological universities abroad, not only in Massachussetts but also in Delft, Charlottenburg, Zurich and elsewhere, we would find a number of professors of this subject, not simply professors of chemical engineering, a subject which did not exist as an academic study in this country at all, but as professors of special branches of chemical engineering.
One must, of course, recognise that there is a certain danger educationally in over-specialisation, but in my belief that danger does not exist very much provided that the general basis of the education of the specialist is sound and sufficiently wide. I believe that, given proper safeguards, those conditions can be satisfied, and if we are falling behind in one particular respect in this country, if among all our competitors we find that there are these technological universities and that we have not got them, it seems at least a formidable case for inquiry to decide whether that is a eat) which ought to he filled and filled forthwith. I know 2089 well that inquiries are proceeding on these lines, and I hope very much that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council will be able to give the House some indication in his concluding remarks of the way in which his mind and the mind of the Government are working and are being applied to this very substantial and important problem.
I have been asked to raise a point which is not very closely allied. It is the question of whether the Government are prepared favourably to consider taking what action is in their power at this time to promote the formation in London of a science centre. I have a letter before me from Professor Sir Robert Robinson in which he describes the function that such a centre would fill as:A nerve-centre facilitating all kinds of liaison, dissemination of information and national and international co-operation.He suggests that such a building should accommodate the D.S.I.R., the Royal Society and the Central Scientific Library. Such a proposal would to some extent fit in with the remarks that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) made about the importance of co-ordinating our scientific problems, of not working in watertight compartments but of creating a centre where a view can be formed of the general direction in which we are proceeding in these very important matters.
I want to join with other hon. Members who have welcomed the opportunity to have this Debate today. I can only add my shrill treble of support to the more learned and weighty words supporting this Motion which have come from all those who have already addressed the House.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Carr (Mitcham)
In welcoming this Debate I should like to say a few words from the day-to-day and, perhaps, mundane point of view of one who is a director of research in industry in a medium-sized manufacturing company and who has the problem of trying to apply science and scientific methods in industry. I want to devote most of my remarks to the problem of the application of scientific results, because it is a matter of general agreement that that is where we lag behind compared, certainly, with the United States and Canada, and, I think, with some continental countries as well. I shall, therefore, devote most 2090 of my remarks to that rather than to methods of research, but I want to say one or two things about methods of research before turning to my main theme.
When we consider that question the first thing we have to face is the very large number of small or medium-sized firms in this country. Twenty-five per cent. of our production, or thereabouts, comes from firms employing fewer than 100 people. That fact will obviously have a strong determining effect on how we can carry out scientific work in industry. I am convinced that it is quite useless—if not useless, at least it is not the most effective way—to encourage small and even medium-sized firms to continue taking into their organisations more and more scientists and starting up new laboratories and so forth. I do so because I believe it will be a waste of scientific manpower if such firms set up laboratories and just lock their scientists away in them hoping that results will automatically follow.
By far the best method for the large number of small and medium-sized firms in this country is to join in co-operative research. I believe that the idea of the Co-operative Research Association was at one time unique to this country, and that it has made a valuable contribution. It is one that should be continued. In passing, I want to commend the very enlightened attitude of the Government on this matter—it is pleasant to be able to say that on occasions from this side of the House—in giving help to these Associations and leaving them free to get on with the job without Government control and supervision at every stage. That is very enlightened, and I hope that it will always continue.
There is another thing I should like to say about the methods of obtaining scientific results. It seems to me that sometimes we give our trained scientific manpower, short as it is, much too much of its own bottle-washing to do. We know that we cannot make proper use of highly automatic machines unless they are backed up by engineers, maintenance men, and so on. I spent some time on a course at one of the Government research stations and was impressed by the fact that trained scientific people were doing too much of the donkey work. They were doing a lot of their own clerical work and 2091 washing up of beakers, and so on, instead of getting on with the jobs which they were trained to do and leaving the others to clerical or laboratory assistants. Can the Lord President of the Council give us any figures on the ratio of trained scientists to what I call labour overheads in the scientific laboratories? How many trained scientists are there to assistants? I cannot help wondering whether the ratio of assistants should not be increased.
Now I turn to what I believe is most important in industry: how we are to apply our existing scientific knowledge. The essence of the solution of this problem is to find some means of tying together scientists and industrial managers. We can do a lot in this way by propaganda and exhortation; we can do a lot by getting more scientists into research associations and into industry we can do something, perhaps, by giving scientists who are in industry better chances of promotion to the top jobs. We can do something in all those ways, yet I am convinced that that alone is not enough. You can shut a Frenchman and an Englishman in the same room and exhort them to co-operate, but unless you also teach each of them something about the language of the other, with the best good will in the world they will get nowhere.
So, one of the most important ways in which to apply our scientific knowledge in industry is to teach management some of the language of scientists, and scientists some of the knowledge of industrial management and production problems on the floor of the factory. We want directors on the boards of companies, and executives beneath them, with some general scientific training so that they are receptive to scientific ideas, so that they apply scientific methods in the day-to-day control of their job and, when they meet a scientist in a research association are not afraid of him because they do not know what he is talking about. They must be able to see whether there is anything in what he says and, when they have a problem, have enough scientific knowledge to have a conception of where they can go to get the answer. On the other hand, we need scientists who have been given some knowledge of manage- 2092 ment and factory production and of coin, mercial problems generally.
How are we to achieve this? Here, I find myself sharing to a large extent the aims of the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) and I agree with him that it is a matter for inquiry. I am not sure whether the best way of achieving our end is to create something on the lines of the Massachusetts Institute, or whether we might not reach our ends more quickly by building on the existing institutions. But however we do it, there is one great need in training our scientific manpower, and that is less specialisation in the later years at school and in the first two years in the university.
I envisage the following set-up. A lesser amount of specialisation in the later years at school and in the first two years at the university; then I see the people who have been brought to that stage, mainly educated in science but with a wider knowledge because there is less specialisation, splitting into three channels. In the first channel I see those who give up science and study economics, political science, administration methods, business economics, and so forth. They are the people who will provide our executives in industry and directors on the boards of industry—people who have scientific training behind them and are receptive, and who know where to go to get scientific knowledge.
In the second channel will be those who study applied science. Here, we decide whether we need an institute of technology or not. These are people who have been given a wider insight into the sciences, but not such a deep one as we get at our universities today; people who are concerned more with the application of science than with the deep knowledge of the pure scientists, and who, again, know where to go when they want information on a certain point. In the third channel I see the people who have gone on, at the end of their second year at the university, to study pure science on the present lines.
As I look at the people available to industry, I realise that the first type are almost non-existent; that is to say, those who have had some scientific training and then have gone on to general economics and the subjects needed in executive capacities. My own company 2093 is looking for such people at the moment, and we cannot find even one. I am sure there is a big need there. In the second category, there are some applied scientists in this country, but not nearly enough. On the other hand, have too many of the third category, the pure scientists. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] Perhaps I should not have said, " Too many." I meant too many relative to the total number of scientists we have; not too many in absolute terms. They are of a high standard, but they are not backed up by the other categories I have mentioned, without whom their skill and knowledge cannot be properly applied.
All of them should, as part of the requirements for the degree they will eventually achieve, spend so many hours doing practical jobs in industry. That is essential to give them that down to earth knowledge of what is happening on the factory floor. That is a requirement of an applied science degree in Toronto University, and it should be a requirement here for a degree for all those three types, because they can only benefit from knowledge of how work goes on at the lower levels.
It has always seemed to me that a man who goes into industry without much training behind him climbs up the hard way, up the staircase. On the other hand, a man who has some scientific or general education gets in the lift; the lift takes him up, if he is lucky, to somewhere near the top floor. There is, however, a danger of being taken up to the top floor, in that he does not know what goes on on the floors beneath him. My idea of making technical people go into industry for a certain number of hours during their degree course is like stepping off the lift at various floors, so that when eventually they reach the top, they know what goes on below.
With regard to the lower grades in management in industry, I was recently in the United States for a short time and what impressed me as much as anything else in their methods was the high calibre of their foremen and charge hands. There is a higher calibre and also more of the younger men there than we have in the same level of jobs here, and there is a much greater technical knowledge behind them. There is a great need for technicians in our industry and that is where 2094 our technical colleges must come in. There is a danger that they are tending to become miniature universities, although not so good. That is quite wrong, because it is a mixing up of their functions. Our technical colleges should devote themselves to greater specialisation in certain trades with the object, not of turning out sub-standard graduates—and I do not mean this offensively to those who come out of those colleges—but high-skilled technicians who will be complementary to the university graduates.
Lastly on this point, I want to say something about the training which technicians and graduates should receive when they come into industry. The old method used to be that when a company knew it was likely to have a vacancy in a certain department, new people would be brought in and put there. Anything they learned about the rest of the company was often what they picked up by chance and it was not complete. That is what I believe the Americans call " department-wise training. I believe in what the Americans also call " company-wise " training. I was reading an interesting article the other day on what the Bakelite Corporation of America do in this way. They bring people in and give them a general training first. They go through the works and the emphasis is not on the academic side, but on the " down to the job " side. They only come to the specialised training in the department in which it is decided that they shall finally settle, at the end of this wider general training throughout the whole activities of the company. That takes time and, at first sight, it might be thought uneconomic, but I am sure that in the long run it pays rich rewards.
The basic need of training these people is to develop the ability to think. I am sure that is more important than the knowledge they have, because the knowledge cannot be used unless they are trained to think. The training should aim at putting character and personality foremost, because a highly qualified man, full of knowledge, is like a lump of unleavened dough unless he has been trained to apply that knowledge and given training to develop his personality and the spark of leadership.
I wish finally to touch on the financial aspect of applying scientific resources.
2095 As a director in industry, I am quite certain this is a matter which has to be seriously discussed. It is a matter which tends to divide the two sides of the House and I do not want to go into it deeply. but I am quite certain that if we are to get increased development of new ideas greater incentive must be given to " risk-capital."
At the moment, if one invests money in a new idea, one risks all the penalties of failure that obtained in the past, with not nearly the same chance of rewards for success. In an established industry there is the question of depreciation allowance. We shall not get our industry re-equipped at the speed at which it ought to be re-equipped unless great improvements are made in these allowances. Therefore, the findings of the committee which is sitting on that problem at the moment will be most important and fundamental, and I hope the Government will be able to put them into operation.
To sum up, I see the need for developing the application of our resources in industry along those two lines—first the intermingling of management and scientists, a real intermingling on the lines I have suggested and, secondly, greater financial incentive to re-equipment and development of entirely new ideas and ventures. I think those are the lines on which we must go ahead. Do not let us be under any illusion about how important it is that we should go ahead. We have built up our increased social services, full employment and the rest, but in the last issue, we cannot maintain, let alone improve them, unless we can produce competitively in price and quality with every country in the world In our position we have to be at the top; it is not even good enough to be near the top, and we shall only do that, is we succeed in applying scientific knowledge and methods to industry to a much greater extent than has been possible of achieved in the last 20 or 30 years.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock (Derby, North)
I am sure that all of us are grateful to the proposer of this Motion, because it is a subject which is fairly nevi to the House and of great importance. I will not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) other than to say that I, and I think 2096 most hon. Members here, fully agree with practically everything he said. We agree with the sentiments he has expressed, in our anxiety about the future of scientific workers.
I wish to touch on one particular aspect of science and scientific research, namely, the medical aspect, and principally the Medical Research Council. Apparatus is important, methods are important in industry, tools and machinery also, but the most important thing of all is the operator. The man or woman in industry is, or should be, and must be, our first consideration. In the Medical Research Council there is direct and definite work done in relation to industry. I suppose that all work in medical research has a relation to industry. It has a relation to the people of the country, so it must relate to industry, but there is specific work done in the Medical Research Council in which the House may be interested in connection with this Debate on science.
Hon. Members will remember that there was a Medical Research Committee about 25 years ago and after the First World War it became the Medical Research Council. This House has certain responsibilities in this matter. It votes money each year to the Medical Research Council, and the Medical Research Council is a particularly successful example of administration and organisation. It comes directly under the Lord President of the Council. I am not quite sure whether that has been so during all the last 25 years; I imagine it has, and I imagine that all Lord Presidents would deal with this matter of medical research on a purely non-party basis and give it encouragement and assistance. I have no knowledge of that, but in the last five years, being a Council member, I can assure the House that the present Lord President has given every assistance possible and we on the Council are all most grateful to him. As a result, it has been a most successful period and I think it would be only right to mention that the Council has been in the hands of Sir Edward Mellanby, that very famous scientist, who has now been succeeded as Secretary by an equally brilliant man, Dr. Himsworth.
We have certain specific units which deal with problems in industry. There is, for instance, the Social Medicine Research Unit. That studies the relation of various 2097 diseases to standards of living and to economic levels and so forth. There is a department for research into industrial medicine and, right hon. and hon. Members will know, that covers obnoxious gases and fumes in industry, and things like that, which are outside the vital work also done in connection with mining. There is the Applied Psychological Research Unit at Cambridge under that genius Sir Frederick Bartlett. That is doing most interesting work in personnel research, in fitting the job to the man from the point of view of the ease of operation of the job and lessening fatigue. Then there is the Environment of Hygiene Unit of the London School of Hygiene, which deals with heat and ventilation of buildings of offices and works. There is a group of research workers in operational optics studying lighting of factories and the use of certain glasses to relieve strain, and so on.
I think hon. Members would like to know that there is a scheme of research in four different centres—London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester—to study the problem of the resettlement of the disabled in industry. At Oxford, we have a group studying the problem of climate and working efficiency in extremes of temperature. There are many more such examples, but I would mention only the Radio Biological Research Unit at Harwell, which studies ways and means of protecting the workers against the radio-active substances now being handled by workers, and particularly in the atomic field.
These things are being done in the interests of industry, and I hope workers and management in industry will realise that this work is being done under Government auspices and with public money, and is receiving the attention which is its due. My hon. Friend who opened this Debate spoke about the Prince Consort. If he looks back a little further, he will find out that, in the year 1200 or so, King Frederick II later Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, initiated scientific research. He had two knights given a very good meal, and then he had one sent away riding a horse for two hours, while the other was sent to bed. At the end of the two hours, he had both of them killed, and he found that digestion was very much further advanced in the one who had been asleep, than in the one 2098 who had been riding. Medical research started on those lines, and has proceeded. though not quite so drastically, but just as thoroughly, through the Medical Research Council.
There is, however, one matter of great disturbance and concern to all of us interested in research, and that is the shortage of trained scientists. Medical and scientific research workers, and indeed research workers of every type, do not take up this work for material reward. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that a man is likely to do better research work if he knows that the next meal is fairly safe, that the rent will be paid and the family looked after. Although it may be said that there are examples of scientific workers in difficult and poor circumstances who have produced the most brilliant work, nevertheless I do not think that is a valid argument today.
I support what has been said on both sides of the House on this question of the remuneration of scientific workers of all grades. These people have to undergo a very expensive and lengthy training, and the remuneration is poor. As a result, there is a very great shortage of personnel, which is affecting research not only in industry, but in every laboratory and every hospital throughout the country. It is a subject to which we ought to give special attention in this House and which we ought to deal with as a special problem. The question of remuneration can, of course, be dealt with by the Government, in conjunction with hospital and university authorities, by the raising of salaries, but that in itself is not all. There still must be better amenities and facilities for all research workers in this country.
I have wished to dwell only on the work of the Medical Research Council. Its methods might well be copied in other countries and in our Dominions. The Medical Research Council grant money to research workers to carry on in their own way, and that is possibly the most successful way of obtaining results. Today is a red-letter day for medical research in that Their Majesties, at Mill Hill this afternoon, are opening the National Institute for Medical Research, and I think that all research workers, indeed all scientific workers, can take that as a direct compliment to their work.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Fort (Clitheroe)
Today we are discussing a subject on which not only do both sides of the House substantially agree, but which does not immediately demand for its solution the expenditure of further enormous sums of money. All of us, indeed, not only agree with the terms of the Motion, but find very wide agreement with it outside this Chamber. It is rather like one of those admirable exhortations to uphold the Ten Commandments or eschew sin, on which everyone is agreed.
The whole danger is that the subject of the Motion is so self-evident that people are complacent and do not take enough thought about how to carry out in detail the general terms and good intentions. As I read them, I was put in mind of an occasion when I was visiting some clients at a place which I visited fairly often. On my first visit there I saw a painted notice which read " Chemical Laboratory Upstairs." The directors of this concern must have read the terms of a resolution similar to the Motion before us today because, the next time I went, there was a large brass panel and inscribed on it " Research Department, First Floor." That is the danger that one finds in this matter. Lip-service is given, but there is no reality, and that is why I want to ask the House to look at the fundamentals of what we are discussing.
It seems to me that through all the chain of research from the fundamental to the applied and development stages, and finally to full production, we must have provocation. We must, at every stage, have people asking themselves the eternal questions " Why? When? How? " Those are the questions really requiring answers which provoke our minds.
Taking the first stage, as I know from personal experience, asking the questions which fundamental research can alone answer seems to depend almost on divine instinct. The spirit moveth where it listeth, and sometimes we do have in scientific laboratories one person who possesses that divine inspiration, and who, in considering the fundamental problems of nature, does ask these questions, one who not only knows how to approach them in general theory, but is also able to find the different sections in a field of fundamental research on which his pupils 2100 and co-workers can successfully work. I was fortunate enough to do my research work at Oxford for a year with such a man.
It is when one turns from fundamental to applied research, and to subsequent stages, that the difficulties begin to arise. One is sometimes fortunate in finding an outstanding man in asking these questions at these stages, but all too seldom. One cannot expect to find in one generation more than two or three such men, Doctor Ludwig Mond was such a man in this country in the last century.
I think that what is needed to maintain this spirit of provocation is close collaboration between those working on applied or even fundamental research and those working on the development problems and on the full-scale production problems. It should be an almost physical contact. Where I worked, after leaving the university, those in the research laboratory used to meet, not only on formal occasions, but at lunch or in the evenings in the bar, and so on. There was a constant discussion of our mutual problems and a constant pool, as it were, of unsolved problems from which people could draw and to which they could turn their attention or, perhaps, turn aside from as uninteresting or unprofitable. But there was that constant exchange of provoking ideas going on all the time.
It is not too difficult to achieve that in a large organisation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) says, the difficulty really begins to arise when we turn to the smaller firms on whom we are so dependent for a large proportion of our industrial production. Obviously, they have not the funds with which to build large research departments. It is true that some, perhaps, put up the brass plate with " Research Department " engraved on it, and then do nothing more, but the wiser of them are increasingly conscious that they need to draw on applied and fundamental research, though they are not always sure how to set about it. I propose to discuss one of the obvious ways—the research associations—in a minute.
There is a development which I begin to see happening in my own constituency, and in other parts of Lancashire, which I thick holds a very considerable hope for the future. Some of 2101 our most go-ahead firms are going to the universities and engaging people of the very highest standard—readers in physics or chemistry, or fellows of two or three years' standing. They are not just shutting them up in a laboratory, which may not, perhaps, be very well equipped, or in an office; they are telling them to go out and attend conferences, visit the universities in which they have worked and keep up their academic contacts. At the same time these men are learning enough of the jargon of the particular industry in which to express the ideas gained from their visits, in terms which are understood by the directors or the managers whom they meet on their daily round in the factories.
I take this opportunity to put forward in this House and perhaps beyond it an idea about what might be a very worthwhile way of bringing scientific information to the smaller and progressive firms. An extension of that has been suggested in the North of England, but is at the moment in abeyance. It is that institutions, such as, for example, chambers of commerce, should give fellowships of quite substantial amounts—£500 or £800 a year —in certain firms on condition that such firms employ people of the sort I have mentioned. The grants would help the firm to pay the salary of the scientist employed. The fellowship might be for two three, or five years, and, at the end of that time, the criterion as to whether the fellowship had been successful or not would be if the firm came along to the institution and said, " We do not want your fellowship any longer. We have employed Dr. Hargreaves "—or whoever it may be" we find him the most valuable man we have ever taken on, and, instead of taking your money, we will now give you some financial support for similar fellowships so that other firms may do what we have done."
I now turn to what has been mentioned by so many hon. Members—research associations. I am bound to say that I am going to qualify what I thought was perhaps a too generalised condemnation of those associations by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). Do not let us " kid " ourselves, because there is some truth in what he said. Some research associations have not fulfilled the promise which many thought they had when they were 2102 first set up 10 or 15 years ago. Some of them have been notably successful, for instances, the Non-Ferrous Metals Association, the Iron and Steel Research Association, and the British Cotton Industry Research Association, which is far better known as the Shirley Institute.
The importance of the Shirley Institute in the cotton trade is very considerable indeed. The good work it has done, and the difficulties it has encountered over the 30 years of its life are very good signposts of what such associations can do, and what they will always find it is difficult to do. What the Shirley Institute has done with extraordinary success is to apply scientific methods to those processes which are common throughout the whole industry. They have developed methods for measuring the fibre length in the raw cotton and the distribution of the different fibre lengths in any given type of cotton. They worked out—what has been a great blessing to cotton growers all over the world—speeded-up methods for testing raw cotton.
They are now working upon a very grievous problem in the spinning industry —a health hazard—to which the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) referred yesterday; it goes by the curious name of " Byssynosis." They have developed what is now a commonplace instrument, and a great help throughout the weaving industry, an hygrometer, for testing the moisture in the cloth at an important stage of the operation and also methods for measuring the tendering of cloth during bleaching. All these examples are things common to any firm working in the spinning, weaving, bleaching, or finishing end of the industry.
But difficulties have arisen where the Shirley Institute has developed things which are specific to one or two firms, and where those firms are in competition with others in the industry. There is a very notable example of that difficulty with regard to " Ventile " fabrics. These fabrics, which are very closely woven from fine yarns and specially treated so as to be water repellent, were developed in conjunction with the Shirley Institute for protective clothing during the war. There has been a good deal of difficulty in bringing about that commercial development since the war, 2103 though a very admirable organisation has been set up to do so.
There has been difficulty because the firms who might be producing this type of fabric are all in competition with one another and every one of them finds it difficult to contribute all it knows into the common pool because of the competitive position, the little tricks of " know-how " and so forth which make the difference between success and failure in any commercial endeavour. It is important to face this resolutely and to recognise that, owing to the competitive difficulties, research institutes which have not been so long established and happily established as the Shirley Institute, may never quite fulfil the promise of bringing new methods into the smaller firms.
In this connection, we must take notice of what is sometimes pointed out in this country, namely, how successful cooperative endeavours such as the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are alleged to be in the United States. It is true that excellent work has been done there. The striking thing is that the people who use the Mellon Institute are not the small firms but some of the biggest firms of all, who, for various reasons, wish to farm out some of their own research problems. The reason may be that there is at the Mellon Institute someone who has specialised in that field, or the Institute may have special equipment. It is the big firms which, on the whole, have used these co-operative research endeavours in the United States rather than the small ones. I do not think we must draw any too unhappy a comparison against our country in contrast with the United States, on account of the success of research institutes there and, perhaps, their backwardness, with a few exceptions, in this country.
I want to touch now on a matter which is slightly more controversial, though I will try to keep it as non-controversial as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham stated some of the difficulties with which firms are confronted in carrying into their daily production costs the saving resulting from scientific research. He referred to high taxation, the shortage of capital and the difficulty of securing a proper return on it.
2104 These commercial and economic matters are undoubtedly having a restraining effect at present upon carrying any result of research into the daily round of industry. The danger of that is not only the obvious one that costs will be kept up. There is also the danger of frustration among people working on research problems when they gradually see fewer and fewer of their researches being put into fulfilment with, we hope, sometimes financial profit to themselves and certainly psychological satisfaction, as will be borne out by anyone who has worked in that field.
There is also the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who raised the question of the time-lag, which is alleged to be much longer in this country than in the United States, between the conception and beginning of work on an idea and its final appearance in the market. I think sometimes that that lag is exaggerated. Certainly every major invention seems to have a different period of gestation, just as different mammals have different periods of gestation before they bring forth their young.
I know from personal experience with nylon, that there was a 10-year lag from the moment Carrothers started in 1928 or 1929 to work in this field—his patents came out in 1931–32—and the first semi-commercial production was not achieved until 1940. There is also in America the fact that people, in making very large profits, can write off their failures when they make them quicker than we can. The market conditions are also very different. A failure to produce a satisfactory product there does not necessarily brand a firm as long and as harshly as it does in the more conservative market here.
We have heard a number of extremely interesting speeches about the shortage of technologists and technicians, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. 1. Orr-Ewing) raised the question of the shortage of teaching staffs needed for their training. What is undoubtedly holding up a certain amount of research at this time, and in particular fundamental research at the universities, is the shortage of technicians—glass blowers, electronic engineers who set up modern automatically controlled equipment, and very highly skilled instrument 2105 makers. There is a great shortage of people trained in these fields. What we want to see are more of these people really well-trained so that they can justifiably earn really good wages and salaries and at the same time have pride in, as well as knowledge of, their particular craft. One hon. Member mentioned the particular point about technical college degrees or qualifications not being looked upon as university degrees or their equivalent.
I shall look forward to hearing what the Lord President has to say about Government proposals and help which may have to be given to technical colleges if we are to have a greater number of these exceedingly important workers in the laboratories.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Major Vernon (Dulwich)
I find myself in such close agreement with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) that there are not many of them on which I can comment. Some of them opened provinces new to me, and I thank him for the information he has given.
I should like to say something about his reference to the frustration of commercial enterprise and about the fact that information which is becoming available among smaller firms, more or less on the same level, tends to be kept secret and so retards industry and, ultimately, the progress of the nation as a whole. These are simply signs of private enterprise in old age. In the last century, when markets expanded rapidly, this sort of thing did not arise at all. It is just a sign that private enterprise and individual efforts on a small scale in a world which is so much fuller, are failing to satisfy the needs of industry and the nation and the world.
§ Mr. Fort
I mentioned the disadvantages of competition, but I have absolutely no doubt at all about its numerous advantages. If the hon. and gallant Member does not believe they exist in this country, for one reason or another, he only has to look across to the United States to see what a tremendous surge forward has been brought about by competition there.
§ Major Vernon
If I were to follow the hon. Member I should be taking the con- 2106 troversy rather beyond the scope of the Motion. Perhaps we may have an opportunity of going into it more fully later.
Although I agree rather closely with the speech of the hon. Member for Clitheroe, I felt that the remarks of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) were not in accordance with what I was hoping for in this Debate. I thought that we should be able to lay aside the controversy between public service and private enterprise which occupies so much of our attention during the week. I should like to comment on one or two of the hon. Gentleman's remarks—and I am only sorry that he is not here at the moment. He said that inventors are actuated by motives of gain. I think that shows that he is not very familiar with inventors.
Before I came to this House I was concerned with science—not pure science, I am sorry to say, but the development of inventions—and this brought me into close contact with many people of very high standing in the world of science and invention. I have heard them say that heaven on earth is to have the job you like best and to be well paid for it. A few of them have achieved that heaven on earth; but as to the others who have not, if they have the job they like best, they are content to be underpaid for it. There is something about discovery and research and science which has an intense satisfaction of itself, and it helps to remove those people from the influence of incentives of gain which are necessarily so prevalent elsewhere.
The hon. Member also seemed to be trying to steal the credit for scientific advance and invention for private enterprise and use it to bolster up that institution. The inventor has not always had the best of it. It has often been private enterprise and the financier who have reaped the gain. In my young days I had a friend who had a passion for invention. We used to talk things over, and he said that he was going to get a bit of a lead on how to proceed by reading the lives of famous inventors. Some time later I met him and he said, "I have been reading those lives, but it is most discouraging. I find that most of the inventors died in the workhouse." I said to myself " William, if you are going to get on at all in the world you must give up inventing."
2107 The story of inventors who have been poorly rewarded for their magnificent discoveries is well known. It is only when the inventor has had a touch of financial genius himself that he has met success. If the inventor is devoid of that quality, time and again some other person smarter than he has reaped the advantage, fame and glory of the invention and has given the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale the chance of attributing the credit where it is not deserved, to the people who simply had the skill to detect something in another person's achievements which was likely to lead to commercial success.
That is all I wish to say of a controversial nature. I do not intend to ask the Lord President any more questions. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) has given him a good long list to answer. I should like to make a few suggestions as to what we might do in the future. These proposals can be in two classes. There are the proposals which will cost nothing at all or very little, and yet are worth doing; and there are the proposals which will cost the country a certain amount but which will still be worth doing for the sake of the ultimate gain. Of the things which cost nothing at all, liaison and management indicate what I mean. The good work is done mostly by individuals or very small teams. Often too many cooks may spoil the broth; too large committees may get in each other's way. Even in a small committee, if its members have entirely different temperaments, although they have the same object in view, their natures may lead them to progress on different paths and they will get against each other and check the development of their projects.
One very able man with whom I had to deal, used to say that if you can state a problem clearly you are half way towards solving it. That is right. It is not enough for the person at the head of a concern to know what he is after. If the team are to succeed, the whole team must know precisely what they are after and what their province in the whole scheme should be. That, in a general kind of way, as I know from my own experience, is lacking in our organisation of science in this country. It is necessary to spread throughout the whole team the precise knowledge of the part 2108 which each one will play in the enterprise.
These generalisations are not a great deal of use, so I will give two examples from my own experience which illustrate my idea. In the First World War I was concerned, as technical assistant to Commander Porte, in the development of flying boats. We were a small team by the side of the sea at Felixstowe. Our experimental, drawing office and mathematical work went on and made rapid progress. But at the same time the old Admiralty Air Department in London assembled a team to develop flying boats. They had naval architects, yacht designers, aeronautical, mathematical, hydraulic and other experts. They were the official and we were the unofficial enterprises. In two years we succeeded in building five flying boats one after the other, each embodying some of the experience of the previous type. The official concern developed one flying boat over that period, and although it was very good in itself, it was too small to be operationally useful.
My other example is one about which I do not know so much, but I can remember hearing, in 1945, that experimental work was far advanced in relation to the heating of dwelling houses. We know that the amount of coal consumed in heating domestic buildings is something like 50 million tons a year. The scientists tell us that with their knowledge of insulation of buildings and the efficient use of fuel in suitable stoves and fire places, a 50 per cent. saving could be made. It is possible that with our existing knowledge, if we could redesign our houses and change the types of dwelling which we already have, we could save 25 million tons of coal a year. It is proposed to make a step forward on these lines by having a number of houses built and testing them with people inside them so that not only the heat properties of the houses and the fuel units consumed but the convenience of the occupiers themselves can be studied.
This is a new type of experiment and is very necessary. I am told that the scheme was approved in 1946 and then discussions went on in some of the committees, larger or smaller. I do not know the details of this procedure, but I did notice in the newspapers this week that at Bristol some houses are being equipped 2109 with a variety of fuel-consuming devices and that the tenants have agreed to keep records over a period so that the linkup betwen the device itself and the human beings may be achieved. There, we have one example of quick work and another example of slow work, and arising out of that kind of example, I think something can be done in the near future which would pay us very well.
So far as the devices which mean spending some money are concerned, the first is better pay for the intermediate layers of scientific work. It would not involve a great deal of money because the number of people affected is not very great. I should like again to refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, because it is largely due to the incredible meanness of private enterprisers that the pay of the intermediate scientists working in private industry has been so poor. The Association of Scientific Workers struggles its hardest to obtain salary scale improvements in private industry, but in most cases there is no scale and no regular series of increases to which a man can look forward. In this connection private enterprise lags far behind the scientific Civil Service.
§ Major Vernon
If the hon. Member is interested in that point I will provide him with the figures and, in confidence, will show him the firms which are good, those which are not so good and those which are thoroughly bad; and I hope something good may come out of that. This suggestion means spending a certain amount of money on paying better rates to the intermediate workers. The reason why this is important is not because these people are especially deserving and because it is not simply a matter of justice, but because it is rather part of the nature of human beings. If a person has to do good brain work he must be comfortable in his mind. If he is harassed by his home affairs he cannot give the thought to his work which will produce the most fruitful results.
The manual worker works on his job while he is at the bench and when he 2110 has completed his hours he can go home to rest, but the scientist has problems on his mind which are with him almost in his sleeping hours and certainly in his leisure, so that if he is to produce of his best, it is necessary, from the country's point of view, that his conditions should be fairly comfortable. I would not suggest that they should be made too comfortable, for I have known cases where a person has succeeded to high rates of pay which have led his energies into frivolous, lines or into distractions of one kind or another, but it is certain that a fair increase in the rates of pay of the people about whom I speak, would pay the country over and over again.
The next item which would cost money has been mentioned by many hon. Members this afternoon—increasing the number of scientists. In their 1947–48. Report, the Directorate of Scientific and Industrial Research estimated that it wanted 5,000 on its staff to man the projects which it could see ahead and which would produce useful results if they could be continued efficiently. At that time the staff was about 3,000 and at present is up to 3,500. An increase of expenditure in that direction would pay us very well.
So much for the general case. I want now to throw a searchlight on one or two particular items, some of which have been mentioned by previous speakers. The first is geological research. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) said it would be a fine thing if we could have a proper geological survey of Africa. That is an enormous undertaking. Geology was invented in Britain and the elementary geologists, who were the pioneers in this science, were to a large extent Englishmen or Scotsmen. This island has been more thoroughly surveyed than any other part of the world, and there is still a good deal to be discovered in Britain about the materials from which this country is made. The use which has accrued from this detailed survey of Britain has been enormous.
I will give just one example. When the Americans came into the war we were asked where camps for American troops could be placed in Britain in order to ensure that by boring into the ground an efficient water supply would be obtained. It took the Geological Survey at South Kensington 48 hours to produce a map 2111 of Britain, with patches marked on it showing where good water could be found in sufficient quantities for the establishment of these camps. Because the survey had been carried out so thoroughly that unexpected call for information was met at once. In Africa there are certainly great things to be discovered, and it has been pointed out that we have had to borrow geologists from America for work in Africa. That is a pity and it is due to lack of foresight in the past. If we had looked ahead 10 to 15 years ago, we should have produced the few dozen people required to make all the difference in this kind of work.
I turn, next, to social science. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) referred to this and the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) spoke of the Peckham Health Centre. These studies are not so well established, not so much favoured, as the physical sciences which produce results which can be measured in hard cash, but this branch of science is becoming increasingly important. We have reached a point in the physical sciences where the powers of destruction under men's control are immense, but we do not know enough about human beings to know how the full use of the great destructive powers can be avoided. It is a fact that the ordinary processes of science and of thought which have produced such admirable results in the physical sciences, can also be applied with success to the intricate problems of human relations and human motivation.
The Peckham Health Centre, which was started as a private enterprise, without Government research or official recognition, ran for eight years as a kind of laboratory experiment in British urban civilisation. It marked out a field for itself and produced results of unique importance. Unfortunately, the funds which were necessary—not very great—have run out and it is to be closed. We have the problem before us of what is to be done about it. The reason there is no niche in the British scheme of research into which it can fit immediately is that the problem is so new.
The Medical Research Council has among its objectives and its constitution, the promotion of human efficiency. The Peckham Health Centre comes exactly 2112 into that category, because the studies there have been directed not to the belowthe-line study of health—that is to say, not to the curing of diseases which have already occurred, for those objectives have been left to the hospitals and the normal work of medical research—but to another objective. They have said that human efficiency depends on something added to a human being, free from particular disease or deficiency, and they set themselves to discover the environment, the kind of conditions which would provide an opportunity for the latent powers and abilities of human beings to develop to the utmost. They have only laid the foundations for that science, but a start has been made and the immediate task is to fit that enterprise into the general scheme of nation-supported research, because there is no other way of making available the funds with which to do the job.
I have run over the main items on which I wanted to speak, and I will add, in conclusion, that there is no excuse at all for not giving a good deal of attention to the advances in the application of science which cost us little or no money yet would produce results quickly. There are items which would cost us something in the early stages, but which would repay us well in the future. It does require a general survey of our national expenditure to see if there are any items of expenditure which can be reduced so that particularly productive items of expenditure may be undertaken and given a better chance.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Macdonald (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
I should like to speak on an aspect of the subject which has been touched upon slightly by some hon. Members on both sides of the House today. That is the question of research into management. I consider that the efficiency of British industry depends to an enormous extent upon efficient management. There is a certain number of associations already in this country dealing with scientific management, and the Government have subsidised an organisation known as the British Institute of Management, which I believe is doing valuable work.
Before the war I was joint chief executive of an association of this kind, which had, approximately, 130 companies as its 2113 members. They ranged from some of the largest firms in the country to some of the smallest, but they were all progressively minded, and they realised that, whether one was making pins or anchors, chocolates or rubber tyres, although the technical problems were different, the management problem was very much the same, irrespective of one's industry.
By getting together the best brains of those 130 progressive companies to solve their own problems, we were able to save one particular company thousands of pounds a year by its making use of that association. It was of particular value to the small and medium-sized companies that could not afford to have a large number of executives studying each difficult problem, because they were able to get in touch with an association of that kind and point out their difficulties and ask how other companies in other districts had settled them.
I believe that there is great scope in this country for a large number of these associations. They deal with all kinds of problems, such as the fatigue factor in factories, heat and lighting and ventilation, the height of desks for the operatives, the best stock-keeping methods, and a great many other problems with which management has to deal almost daily. They also study the most up-to-date methods of production control. On the office side they deal with the most efficient methods of office machinery and the use of better methods of running offices.
Three Government Departments were members of that association before the war—the War Office, the Post Office, and the Air Ministry—and I know that they derived considerable benefits from it, and that the member companies also derived considerable benefit by that co-operation with Government Departments. The personnel in associations of that kind have an unique opportunity of seeing the best elements of management at work in this country, and I believe that that provides a most wonderful training ground for the management personnel of the future.
I hope that the Government will see that assistance is given, where necessary, to the formation of more of these management research associations, both-in the interests of the Government Departments themselves and of the nationalised industries, and that they will see that more 2114 representatives of the various sections of the Government attend meetings of those associations, pay visits to works, and so on, and particularly that the nationalised industries also take part in their work.
I believe that it would be money well spent. There would not need to be very much money spent on it, but it would be money well spent if the Government were prepared from time to time to subsidise some of those associations so as to make sure that they grow both in numbers and in the amount of research they can do. Let me give an example. An association of the type I have mentioned represented 60 industries, and as a result of that there were very few companies in competition with one another in the same industry, and therefore they were quite free to exchange their experiences without feeling that they were necessarily benefiting competitors. In certain industries the extraordinary situation cropped up that companies found this type of research so valuable that they asked some of their competitors to come in as well, so that between them they could dissect even more accurately the valuable information they had secured.
The war taught us co-operation in industry, and a certain amount is essential to this country. It is essential in industry, perhaps, more than in most other spheres of the national life. Too much has been lost in industry in the past by suspicions. by the narrow outlook of many industrialists who felt that they were not efficient if they did not make a profit. A profit is not necessarily a sign of efficiency. Because of associations of the type I have mentioned, one is able not only to increase profits but to make industry far better and more efficient, as a result of the brains and research of other people in other types of industry.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will go farther than they have already gone with the British Institute of Management, by lending a kindly ear to our management associations, so that they can come forward and ask for help and prove that they are performing a valuable service. I consider that this is a wonderful recruiting ground for the scientific management of the future, which this country must have if it is to be able to maintain itself among the other countries of the world.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), who moved the Motion, has couched it in such wide terms that it has enabled us to cover a very interesting and stimulating width of territory. I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Macdonald) on the topic to which he has been addressing his mind, but I should like to turn to one or two topics connected with the wider field of science.
The old tradition—if one may use a phrase like that in connection with a subject like science—has been for the scientist, following a particular line of investigation, to come across a particular problem, to identify the problem, first, and then, second, to try to find a solution to it. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort), in his extremely interesting and informative speech, indicate that he had had experience of that particular method, too. It seems to me, however, that in recent years, and in the work of the D.S.I.R., we have had an approach towards a different basis on which to found our research. We are inclined to look, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, looked, over the whole field of our resources and consider which of these can be developed by the application of scientific methods. That, it seems to me, is the line of approach to the question which is nationally most useful at the present moment.
There are one or two points strikingly illustrative of the value we can get from that line of approach. For instance, at the moment the Government are sponsoring a certain amount of research into the use of peat—a most unpromising raw material one would have imagined—which is actually being found useful in the powering of turbines. In the same way, seaweed has so far only been used as an agricultural manure, but scientific investigation is beginning to show that it can be used as the raw material for particular kinds of useful fibres.
There was also the work of the Minerals Development Committee, which published its report about a year ago, and which identified a considerable number of minerals which could, with great 2116 value, be developed—for instance, potash deposits in North Yorkshire. On the basis of that kind of survey and identification, which is not always made in the first instance by the scientist in his laboratory, but may be made by a body which is not completely scientific—perhaps a mixed committee, or even by a layman —we can, it seems to me, build up industries which are simply designed for the utilisation of these unused raw materials. I think we all agree that there is a wide range of materials which can still be brought into use.
A great many of the industrial and even domestic wastes which now find their way to the sea could, in all likelihood, be developed for some industrially useful purpose. In fact, I have been a little surprised that this Debate has gone on for so long without mention of the new field of scientific activity which I understand is called chemurgy, and which is concerned particularly with the putting to use of so far unused or under-used raw materials.
Another line of approach to the identification of the scientific problems that we can usefully solve is the approach from the human end, that of the person taking part in industry. It has been said with varying authority on frequent occasions that of all the machines used in industry ultimately the most expensive is the human body, and that the more ordinary human manual work can be replaced by machine work, the more, in the end, shall we build up an economic industrial system. For that reason, the findings of industrial psychology—the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk instanced the case of fatigue and the problems arising therefrom—are themselves today, or could be, the starting point for a good many lines of attack on the problem of how to improve the scientific element in various industries. I will not attempt to develop that argument by illustration, but it is worth while keeping in mind that we are now tackling the putting to more scientific use, or greater scientific benefit, of our resources, from this new approach taken by chemurgy, from the starting point of the individual.
One of the big problems—and it has already been touched on more than once today—in the application of the results of scientific research to industry, is the 2117 problem of bridging the gap between the scientific discovery and putting it into effect on the factory floor. One line of approach to the solution of that problem would be the creation of at least one experimental higher technological institute. I was glad to notice that, not merely have hon. Members endorsed that in this Debate, but that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) endorsed the idea in the Debate on education last night. I do not think that we need go fully into the argument for that just now, but it would provide for industry the kind of people who would combine an ability to take the very highest managerial 'positions, with an actual knowledge of the technical problems involved, and to that extent it would stimulate the putting into practice of the findings of scientists.
In that connection, I suggest that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) was a little irresponsible—if I may use such a phrase—when he suggested that the main reason why American experience in that field was more successful than ours was because of the incentives and rewards which are part of conditions in America. Here is what the Second Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy says about the matter:We have little doubt that the higher level of productivity in the United States is largely due to the greater importance which they attach to the employment in industry of men who have received an education of university standard in technology.That is a statement made with a high degree of responsibility, which I think refutes rather thoroughly the argument of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale.
Before concluding, I should like to made one specific suggestion on this field of the application of scientific research on the workshop floor. I was interested in the contributions of the hon. Members for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) and Clitheroe, who both spoke to some extent about this problem. They both referred to getting liaison between scientists and management, but it was notable that they omitted the craftsman at the bench.
Even when my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) mentioned the trade unions, it was in their capacity as contributing to the running of research associations. In a number of the social sciences we have in recent years had a 2118 certain amount of experience of research being undertaken in limited practical problems by the rank and file. For example, a number of Workers' Educational Association classes, composed of people who are in no way experts, have conducted very useful, if limited, research into matters, with the guidance of an enthusiastic tutor. I suggest that in the same way it is possible—and this might meet to some extent the problem of the small firm, which is one of the important problems in this connection, to which the hon. Member for Clitheroe referred —for groups of craftsmen to put their minds to finding a solution of how to put a scientific idea into practice in the factory.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying about groups conducting a simple form of research. Could he give us any examples? It would be very interesting to know what kind of thing they can do. Could he do that, if I am not embarrassing him at all?
§ Mr. MacPherson
I do not know that I can call to mind specific examples now, because they have all been comparatively small in range. The last one I read about was an inquiry, one of a large number of inquiries into the same kind of subject, on the leisure time activities of, in this case, either schoolchildren or adolescents. Various groups are doing that kind of thing and a number of them are producing very useful results. There have been a number of these, and if the right hon. Gentleman is interested he will find that during the last couple of years, several, perhaps half a dozen, reports have appeared in the magazine " Highway."
I was going to add that useful direction for such groups could be got not only from the managerial side of the works but from the staffs of the technical colleges, though to a certain extent between the staffs of the colleges and the managerial side there is an overlapping of personnel. I am speaking in this Debate entirely as a layman, and I do not know to what extent the idea can be put into practice, but it is worth while remembering that craftsmen can find a way of contributing towards these problems just as much as managers and scientists.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Grimston (St. Albans)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), because at this stage of the Debate I do not want to range over subjects which have been more adequately covered already. I should like, in a few words, to deal with two points raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), in his opening speech. Those two points were: Is there any overlapping between the various bodies engaged in research, and are the results of the research being supplied swiftly enough to industry? On the first point, about overlapping between the various methods of research, my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) was good enough to say that the non-ferrous metals industry had a very competent research association, and I should like to relate any remarks I make to that particular industry.
We very soon found, in that industry, when dealing with research, that it has to be sub-divided into various subjects. Actually, I think the word " research " is rather like the word " welfare "; it is being very much over-worked. The purely scientific side is carried on by bodies which are removed from the more work-a-day people who have to deal with the common problems of prices, deliveries, quality and so on. Consequently, in the metals industry there are the Institute of Metals and the various chairs of metallurgy, which are financed by the industry. Then there are the research associations which hold periodical conferences to try to make the result of their work more widely known. Then we also have the development associations, which are directing their efforts to finding new and increased uses for a particular metal. On top of all we have the private work which is carried out by a number of firms.
Very soon it is found that that is all right as a framework, but, as many Members have mentioned, it is a very difficult problem, to apply the knowledge to the levels where it could be most useful. Consequently, we find that there are many ways of dealing with the matter. We have the formal conferences at which papers are read and which may take a whole week to consider one particular matter. Such a subject would be the 2120 rolling of aluminium, and there would be numerous papers on that subject. There are also a number of travelling scholarships founded and paid for by the firms concerned, to enable young men in the industry to travel widely.
We seem, in the non-ferrous metal industry, to have gone a good deal further than many other industries in that we encourage to a greater extent than is normally the case inter-change of visits between competing firms. One firm will throw its doors open to all competitors, and, in turn, all the other works will invite the people in the industry to see what they are doing. Broadly, we do not hide any process from our competitors. That has been going on for a number of years, and largely accounts for the very friendly spirit of co-operation which exists within the industry.
Then there is the comparison of costs. There is obviously no point in sharing another process with somebody unless it can also be shown that it is cheaper than the one that other firm is working. Therefore, we reach a standard system of costing, and information on costing is as full as it can possibly be. In addition, for a number of years in one specialised branch of the industry, there was compulsory sharing of all inventions between the whole range of competing manufacturers. That is the framework of co-operation which has been established for a number of years in one particular industry.
This has done a great deal towards the essential work, which has been touched on today, of curing the overlapping between various research bodies, and also seeing that the work is applied as widely and as quickly as possible throughout the whole industry. If that is to be extended it can only be on the basis that the Government declare their attitude quite openly to the matter of price associations. Clearly, it would be too much to expect —and this has been mentioned by hon. Members in this Debate—a competitor to show another in great detail what he is doing if he thought his rival was going to take advantage of all the work he had put into it without having to expend any money, and then cut his price.
Surely it is much better to compare on quality when the advantage of new processes are shared throughout the industry. The price association principle is to try to avoid cheap-jack competition 2121 in price, and to establish what should be an economic price with the result that firms must then compete on the basis of quality. If the Government would declare their attitude to that kind of association and say that subject to this and that safeguard—I am quite certain that the industry would be ready to accept all reasonable safeguards—they would be prepared to approve a price association, it would help, because by so doing they would ensure that competition would be on quality, and that is very much harder to do than to compete on price.
Yes, I will be very glad to explain it to the hon. Member. The whole point is this: if a firm works to cheapen the cost of manufacture, or attempts to make something a bit better, by being in this kind of association the firm share the benefit of those improvements with all their competitors. The result is that the whole cost structure of the industry will come down and as selling prices are based on cost, down will come prices. I am suggesting that the Government should say what safeguards they want—and they could be perfectly reasonable ones—and then the selling price could be based on the costs of the three most efficient members of the industry. To this cost whatever was agreed as a fair rate of profit would be added and the selling price made up in that way.
Trade would go to the most efficient parts of the industry who were ahead of their competitors, who had fair prices and production of the best quality, which is the one thing at which we ought to aim in our export markets. So much for that point. That is the line which the Government might adopt, and which would cost them absolutely nothing. It would set at rest a great many doubts about their attitude to those who think that that is the proper policy for certain sections of British industry. I am not referring to the whole range of industry, but only to parts covered by standard specifications.
A further point has to be put before the House. Does it make sense to call up young scientists, of which there is admittedly a shortage and who will be reserved in the event of war, for whole-time National Service in the present emergency? If a man is to be reserved 2122 in time of war then it is a waste of time to call him up and give him a National Service training as well as preventing him from acquiring a full knowledge of his profession. It would not be impossible for the Government to draw up a list of trained scientists who would be reserved permanently in the event of war, and to say that those men are not to give whole-time National Service, but are to do some extra Territorial training or annual camps?
A research or development programme is a long-term thing. It is no good starting off this year, cutting down next year and trying to increase again the year afterwards. Many firms look forward to the time when subsidised German or Japanese competition may be with us, and they fear that if they start off on a certain level of research this year they will be unable to maintain it in the coming year. They would be able to do so if, in time of prosperity, they were allowed to put money aside into a special trust to be used for research, subject to all kinds of reasonable safeguards, and not to pay tax upon it. Then they could embark upon long-term projects and carry them through to the benefit of British industry and of their own particular branches of industry.
I have put forward several practical points to which the Government might give their attention and which would cost them practically nothing. I would couple these proposals with others which have already been made, such as consideration of the status of men trained in the technical schools in relation to the status of those trained in the universities. They should not be on one level, but both of them have to be higher than they are today. Further, the salaries of teachers in technical schools must be related to the rewards which the men themselves would get in private industry, which is tending to pay the technical man more and the purely commercial man less.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Cross (Ormskirk)
I am sure that all hon. Members are very grateful to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) for having moved this Motion, which has been productive of an extraordinarily high number of well-informed and constructive contributions to our Debate.
2123 I have heard almost all of them, but I regret having missed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) which was, I understand. outstanding.
This is a subject which, owing to the exigencies of Parliamentary time, is raised all too seldom. I am in a rather poor position to say so, because I must confess that there has been an interlude of something like nine years since I was as well placed as I am now to judge what has been discussed in this House. With the objectives of the Motion we are all in agreement, and they have never been more important to our country than in these post-war years. We are honoured by the presence of the Lord President of the Council who takes charge, I understand, of the Government's control of science, research, and so on. It must be almost unprecedented for us to have so exalted a Minister—indeed, I see two very exalted Ministers here—taking part in a Private Member's Debate. The right hon. Gentleman has had the good fortune to get something like half a Supply Day without having had to sacrifice any Government time. I think we are all very satisfied that it should be so.
As I was saying, research and technology have a great contribution to make to the national well-being and never a more important one than in these years. Government 'Economic Surveys, Ministerial statements, expert opinion and Debates in this House have put it beyond doubt or dispute that among the things we need most are higher outputs, and cheaper, better and new goods to sell upon the markets of the world. It is not irrelevant to add that taxation has reached its top limits, that we have no considerable margin with which to meet a serious emergency, that we are living very precariously in our island with some American help, and that we are still unable to support ourselves. The best application of science and technology in industry and agriculture could make a mighty contribution to restoring our strength.
It is as well to remember that in the long run a country cannot consume more than the equivalent of what it produces. That is a truism which is well worth repeating. Our need is not only to make new, better, and cheaper things, but to do so before other nations can. That 2124 means getting into the lead and staying in the lead of technical supremacy. That is a tall order; it is bound to take time, capital outlay and effort and it will require a widespread understanding of the immense contribution that applied research can make to the national wellbeing, or to put it in a more familiar form more readily understood by many people, the great contribution that it can make to a rising standard of living.
Time was in this country when we had technical supremacy. In Victorian times we could sell our manufactures anywhere in the world, because our industrial processes were superior to those of other people. For a given effort we could produce more than any of our competitors. However, that was not because industry was linked with science, although I believe it is true that even in those times British science was pre-eminent.
The time came when we were overhauled by Germany and America. I believe that there are lessons to be learnt from that. No doubt there are many reasons why it occurred. It seems to me that one of the most important must be that they succeeded in linking science with industry through their own very great output of technologists who were translating the fruits of existing knowledge or of research into the production of articles for common human purposes. At any rate, it seems to be true that, despite the rapid development of industrial research in the last 50 years, particularly in the years after the 1914–18 war, and despite the high level attained in research and despite Government assistance, there remains around for criticism to the effect that we lag behind a number of other nations, notably the United States, in the speed with which we are able to apply knowledge to production.
It is to that situation that I propose to address myself in the very few observations which I want to make. But I would say, first, that we should not overdo our self-criticism. Do not let us get into a mood of self-criticism in which we under-rate the very real achievements that there were between the wars when many firms expanded their research and development, and when there was a striking change of attitude on the part of industry towards research. The material progress that was made in those years was not only considerable but was 2125 founded upon a good number of substantial achievements by British industry which were coupled with a great many lesser, more gradual and less spectacular improvements which had the effect of improving quality or reducing costs. Then came the unprecedented fillip that was given to research by the war. It demonstrated that research and development could be very rapidly expanded. Indeed, I think it is true to say that research is now quite fashionable.
There has also been Government assistance. A former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir John Anderson, and later the present Minister of Town and Country Planning, were instrumental in giving great encouragement to research, but research is usually something which is very much cheaper than developmental work, and the high cost of development work in the majority of instances must fall upon individual industrial firms. We have here one of the greatest of our present difficulties in getting a rapid application of research work to production. It is unhappily true that in many cases high taxation is preventing firms from accumulating enough reserves even to cope satisfactorily with the replacing of obsolescent plant. Still less, therefore, can they contribute anything to development work. It is certainly also true that in many cases firms which are anxious to undertake developmental work find it impossible to accumulate enough reserves to do it.
Many a project, therefore, is not being undertaken because of lack of capital. There is reason to fear that if this continues some of the newer industries, at any rate, which are dependent upon continued research and its application may find themselves dwindling and falling behind in the industrial race. In the more traditional industries the effects will not be so acute or so immediate, but with the passing of time they are bound, unless they can apply the fruits of research better than is often being done today, to become less and less competitive with the countries which are lower taxed than we are, and consequently, in time, to lose markets. It is important to recall that a business which is standing still is in effect really going backwards.
I do not feel that I need apologise for mentioning these things. One of my hon. Friends rather suggested that this might 2126 have something in the nature of a party flavour. I am not putting it forward in that way at all. After all, whatever disputations we might have on other occasions on the question of taxation, we must all be agreed that at any rate the margin to play with is so small that it is not really going to affect this issue through modifications of the general level of taxation, at whatever level that might be. Whether taxation is somewhat higher or somewhat lower than today, this is an evil which is bound to persist unless special measures can be adopted to remedy it. And there is a lack of incentive for new development. Business concerns must come to the conclusion that they cannot risk what are to them important sums, even to get great results, if they feel that the rewards of success are not commensurate with the risks that have to be undertaken.
This is bound to mean that there will be a tendency to concentrate more and more upon the safer propositions which are likely to yield the lesser results, while the greater results which are often acquired at greater risk will not be attained in many an instance, and there will be a tendency to lose the advantage of some of the cream of the inventive genius of the country. I appreciate that there must be considerable difficulties—perhaps very great difficulties—about tax adjustments to meet the cost of developmental work. This is a problem which merits the most special consideration of the Government in order to see whether they can devise means that will meet the cost of developmental work. This is not just a general argument for the reduction of taxation; it is simply to enable us to overcome what I believe to be one of the greatest obstacles to the industrial progress which we so sorely need today.
There are, of course, other hindrances in the post-war world in bringing about development work, and I believe that most of them are unavoidable. One cannot complain of their existence, but it may be possible for the Government to bring about some alleviation of them. It is important that they should be discussed and debated in this House so that they may at any rate be recognised and agreed upon. One of them is the shortage of materials and equipment for development work. As we all know, in these days delivery times are often very long 2127 and prices may go up while delivery is being awaited. Also, in many cases material supplies are controlled—they must be controlled—and there are difficulties and hindrances about getting supplies for developmental work.
It seems to me there is a danger that new development may tend to concentrate upon the use of materials the supply of which appears to be well assured in the future. That introduces an element of most undesirable inflexibility. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it might well be possible to be liberal with the materials and equipment that are to be used for developmental work. They can only be a minute proportion of the whole output of supplies, and if they can be made liberally available they may well be paving the way to a better future and prove to be a good investment.
Then there is the question of facilities for research work carried out by industry. I am told that although this does not cover such a large number of industries, there are many instances where this is being delayed indefinitely because of the difficulties of getting building licences for extending laboratories and workshops, for getting the requisite materials, equipment, and so on. These are difficulties with which we are all familiar and which I think the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman, might well be ready to regard with sympathy.
Next there is the shortage of trained staff, a subject on which a number of hon. Members have spoken today—a shortage which, both in numbers and in quality, is serious. We all know that the universities and technical colleges and also training schemes in industry, are making great efforts to remedy this deficiency and that we must not try to go too fast, because if we do we shall do more harm than good. The problem of training technicians is not too difficult, but when we come to technologists it is quite another matter. It has received much attention in recent years and it is a subject on which I have observed during this Debate that a number of hon. Members of this House seem to be pretty well informed.
The number of technological students has increased largely since before the war, being more than double, which is very much to the good. However, a certain 2128 number of voices are raised, some critical, to say that the standard is not as high as it is in Germany and in the United States, and that the reason for this is that the courses in this country are shorter than the courses in these other countries. It is said that the training is too narrow and too specialised, with the result that these men are not as well equipped as they might be to undertake administrative responsibilities, and that consequently their foreign rivals have some advantage over them in this respect.
This is a matter which no doubt occupies the attention of the Lord President. I myself am impressed with the fact that in the United States and in Germany technological institutes have existed for generations, whilst in this country we have not one single technological institute in the same full sense of the term in which it is employed in America, Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere.
I am also impressed by the fact that, as a result of the successful experience of technological institutes, the numbers have multiplied. It is about 85 years since the Massachusetts Institute first opened its doors, and now there are 27 such institutes in the United States of America. Many of them rank as equals with the best centres of education in the broadest sense and this is perhaps even truer of those in Europe. Clearly there must be a good deal for us to learn from this great body of experience and the success that has attended it. It is also significant that those countries which have turned out large bodies of technologists are both most advanced industrially and our most formidable trade rivals.
Why is it, for example, that in this country the initiative in seeking new designs of specialised machinery almost always comes from individual industrial firms, whereas we are told that in the United States of America the machinery manufacturers are continually offering new designs to industry? Part of that answer may well lie in the size of the market; another part may be in the incidence of taxation; but I suggest also that part of the answer must lie in the fact that they have had generations of technological education in their country. So I look with profound respect to those foreign institutions, without forgetting that we have one or two of our own in which we may take some pride.
2129 I am impressed with the fact that they are independent institutions and not simply additional facilities offered by universities. For example, the famous Institute of Zurich normally has something like 2,000 full-time students together with 700 part-time. There is a broad basis upon which to rear a considerable educational technological edifice. They have 90 professors, 85 assistant professors and 150 assistants. I work that out to mean one to every seven or eight students. Of those professors and their assistants a considerable number have spent some years in business, in which they have gained practical experience.
These are institutes primarily designed for the task of teaching that range of subjects which we sum up in the word " technology," but this is not a narrow form of education for, in addition, I understand that in all the best of these institutes the students are required to take also a number of subjects normally associated with arts courses. The institutes teach such things as economics, languages, philosophy, law and history—the broadest form of education. I am expressing only a personal opinion, of course, when I say that from what I know of the subject—and I do not pretend to be an expert—I would like to see a great technological institute set up in this country. By that I mean an institute whose educational standards would be fully the equal of the universities and which, therefore, would be worthy of conferring degrees.
I will not pursue that subject any further, but I want to say a word on the subject of the shortage of technical staff. In agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston), I think the shortage has been accentuated in recent times by conscription. Until 1948 there was a valuable concession whereby science graduates leaving the university for industry had their military service deferred. It seems to me that there is a good case for reviewing this matter for the purpose of giving such deferment to appropriate and selected classes of graduates. I have in mind only a handful of men who in the event of war would not be allowed to get into uniform but would be compelled to remain in science or industry because they would be regarded as indispensable.
2130 I am echoing the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West when I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us something about the progress made with research in the nationalised industries, with particular reference to the amount of staff put on to research work into production in coal mines. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman must already be armed with the answer.
My last point deals with the relationship of research work to capital outlay that may be required for production. The Government are large employers of research workers. I understand that over 20 per cent. of the graduates employed on that work are in Government employment and the Government, of course, have responsibility for the general direction of their activities. If I may put this matter in a general way, there must at one end of a wide range of projects be some projects which inevitably will involve heavy capital outlay in order to bring about production, while, at the other end of the range, there may well be a number of projects which will involve only small capital outlay but which should yield good results. It would seem that in the present situation of the country there could be no doubt at all that the general tendency should be to concentrate on the latter range of projects, which will involve only small capital outlay and not the heavy capital outlay which we can ill afford, which would not be permitted through private channels, and presumably would not be permitted through public channels.
I think the National Research Development Corporation are likely to have before them more projects than they have time and personnel to deal with. I hope that the practice there is to examine the economics of a project before it is embarked upon and, when that examination has been made and the project is being worked on, periodically to have such further revision of the economics of the project as may be convenient to the particular case, for as progress is made, it will be possible to arrive at a more accurate estimate of future costings. There should also be a readiness to discard any particular project if, as progress is being made upon it, it is found that it is going to work out to be more costly than was originally anticipated. I believe 2131 the right policy in these times is that research should aim at tackling those projects which hold promise of a small outlay and quick dividends.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I am sure that hon. Members who recall the previous participation of the right hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir R. Cross) in the work of the House will, politics apart, welcome his return and would like me to say that we have listened with great interest to the able speech he has delivered on this matter of importance. I must not say much more, otherwise I shall drift into congratulating him on a maiden speech, which would be quite wrong and altogether inappropriate. We are glad to see him back and I was very glad to hear the excellent speech he made this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right —it is a very long time since we had a Debate on the general position of science in the community. I confess to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) that I plotted for almost the entire life of the last Parliament to try to get a Debate on scientific matters in the hope that the Opposition would choose for that purpose one of the Supply Days to which I make so many references on Thursday afternoons, but it did not happen and we have had to wait for this Debate until my hon. Friend was fortunate in the Ballot and able to choose this subject for today.
May I say I am very sorry that the name of his constituency has changed. It was perfectly natural for the right hon. Member for Ormskirk to refer to the Forest of Dean, but my hon. Friend's constituency is now Gloucestershire, West. It is very sad. In the County of London, whenever the name of a street changes by order of the street naming department, there are letters in " The Times," but names of Parliamentary constituencies which were once beautiful change to names that are not so beautiful. That is not very good. I am sorry that the Forest of Dean is no longer represented here and that it is now Gloucestershire, West, although Gloucestershire is a fine name and a fine county.
2132 The right hon. Gentleman referred to the claims of science on our resources and to the restriction of the resources that could be made available to science. I think we have done all that we could in that direction, both in equipment and materials, and that science has had a chance to throw itself about in recent years, with some improvement to the situation. Of course, it is the case in the field of taxation, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that a number of concessions have been made, in respect of Income Tax and otherwise, in order to encourage industrial expenditure upon scientific research and development.
I think it was started, to some extent at any rate, by Sir John Anderson, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the war Coalition Government, and it has been further developed by right hon. Friends of mine who have been Chancellors of the Exchequer since. Therefore, the principle is established, so far as the Treasury is concerned, that expenditure upon scientific research and scientific work in relation to industry is the subject of specially favourable consideration, and I do not suppose that the last word has yet been said on the matter. Indeed, I rather think that there is something about it in the present Finance Bill which is shortly to be considered.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to tell us not to under-estimate our achievements, even though, in true British style, we are a self-critical nation. Both things are good. It is good that we should be self-critical, and, on the other hand, it is good that we should pat ourselves on the back and say, " Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Even if we only say it to ourselves, it cheers us up along the road.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the work of scientific research in the socialised or nationalised industries. I quite agree that it is most important that these undertakings should conduct adequate scientific research and experimentation. It is already developing under the National Coal Board. There is one member of the Board who is specially qualified in scientific methods, and he is building up an organisation there. It is also the case that in the Ministry of Fuel and Power, as I shall indicate, there is a separate scientific organisation, because, 2133 in relation to the fuel and power industries, it is important that there should be adequate co-operation and co-ordination between coal, electricity and gas; otherwise, they might fall over each other. I think that the developments taking place, both in the Ministry and under the National Coal Board, are not discouraging.
We have had a very good Debate, and I am exceedingly pleased that it has taken place. I shall hope to deal in due course with a number of points raised by my hon. Friend who opened the Debate, but I hope the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) will forgive me if I do not follow him very far. The hon. Gentleman started by saying how fine it was that we could have a non-party Debate, and I shared his aspirations; and he gloried in the non-party character of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee. I am afraid that, directly he said that, the rest of his speech was of a rather strained party political flavour and somewhat partisan. He referred to a pamphlet published by the Labour Party, and I will take note of what he said. Certainly, if it is to be published again, I will take care to see if the colour of the cover can be changed. I am bound to say that it could be greatly improved, and it might be made rather brighter. The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow the various points he made, because if I did, I should be landed in a party political argument, and, as the House knows, that is a very distasteful thing to me.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), made a useful speech and referred to the problem of the time-lag between the results of research and the application of those results. Indeed, the purpose of my hon. Friend's Motion is very largely to draw attention to that, and it is a most important matter. She referred to the growing interest of the trade unions in this question, which is perfectly true, and I find it very encouraging that that should be so. I should like it to be the case that the trade unions could be represented in some way on the research associations. It is largely up to the trade unions; I do not think there is great difficulty from the point of view of the associations. It is a question of the rules of the trade unions being adequate to enable them to contribute and to take part in the associations, but I think it is 2134 quite good that trade unions and employers should be represented on the research associations. I am glad to note that the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) agrees with that point of view.
My hon. Friend referred to social science and the desirability of its having a research council of its own under the Privy Council. I have received representations on the point, and I do not rule out that possibility, but up to now my difficulty has been to decide in my own mind where social science begins and where it ends. I am frankly not yet quite sure. On the other hand, there are some activities going on in this sphere—the Human Factors Panel is part of it—and there are various institutions in the country engaging in research in the field of what may broadly be called social science, which I wish to encourage and develop. But I do not think the time has yet come when we should be treading on sure ground by establishing a committee or a council of the Privy Council for social science.
I sympathise with the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing). He took part in the Debate, but apologised for having to leave this afternoon. Indeed, he has gone to a function at which I ought to have been present, where Their Majesties are actually opening a very important institution of the Medical Research Council, and I would love to have been there. Therefore, I quite understand why he should be absent. He referred to the Peckham Health Centre. That is a problem which is partly Ministry of Health—I think mostly Ministry of Health—and partly London County Council. It can be held to impinge on the functions of the Medical Research Council, but I am afraid I cannot say anything decisive about it today. Various representations are being made, and I have no doubt will be considered.
The hon. Member for Hendon, North made a thoughtful speech on a serious problem which we were glad to hear. The same was true of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) who spoke on technical education and the shortage of teachers. Indeed, this problem of technical education and of technological institutions has been a prominent feature of the Debate. Some day, I suppose, the status of these organisations in relation to our universities 2135 will be settled. In the meantime, it leads to somewhat complicated arguments, and, indeed, my hon. Friend nearly got into trouble with two other hon. Members on this side about it. Therefore, I am not going to walk into it because I am even —" even " is the wrong word; I beg his pardon—because I am less equipped than my hon. Friend to get into that field of technological argument. The hon. Member for Walsall referred to a science centre, and to that I will come later on.
The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), who is himself, in fact, in research association work in industry, made a useful and valuable speech which we were glad to hear, and which contributed materially to the Debate. He agreed that the Government were giving to the research associations a good deal of help and leaving them a substantial degree of freedom in their activities. The important thing in this field is that there should be good and cordial co-operation between research associations and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and, as he indicated, that is taking place. He said there was too much bottle-washing by trained scientists. That is possible and it is a point to look at. It would be a pity if the trained scientific mind were diverted to other purposes. It is possible, however, that the scientific mind might be enriched by a little touch of the common tasks of humanity just as, I think, it is good for Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and politicians now and again to cut the lawn and do a little washing-up on a Sunday afternoon. It brings us back to the common or garden life of the people.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby, North (Group-Captain Wilcock) referred to the work of the Medical Research Council, on which he gives me very great assistance from time to time. He spoke with great authority on that matter. The hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort), who is an experienced industrial chemist, made a useful contribution to the Debate. I have taken a note of the points which he raised. He also referred to the problem of the shortage of technicians. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) spoke of the prewar experience in this sphere. He referred also to the possibility of a great 2136 saving of coal by central heating. This, in fact, is taking place in the field of housing. Indeed, the Fuel Research Centre or station at Greenwich is already doing a great deal of work in the construction of fireplaces calculated to give more heat and to be more economical in fuel consumption, with less smoke. My hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the Peckham Health Centre.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Macdonald) referred to the value of management research associations as training grounds in various respects. There is a point in what he said under that head. I agree with him that there is vital need for co-operation. Sometimes things may be lost if we are not careful.
I agree with references made from various quarters to private enterprise and I shall have something to say about them. It is true that in a number of respects private enterprise may be open to criticism for not fully developing scientific research. On the other hand, it is entitled to a full measure of praise for the extent to which it has contributed to our scientific knowledge. Research associations, which are creatures of private enterprise, in co-operation with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, do show that private enterprise is increasingly taking an interest in the problems of science. We must give credit to the contribution that private enterprise is making in this field in many quarters, though in other quarters it may well be disappointing.
I noticed what the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) said about peat and the need for industrial development, and what the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston) said about quality being important as well as price. All these things have a proper degree of relativity.
This is the first day of Private Members' time which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, said, has not existed in the House of Commons for 10 years.
§ Mr. Morrison
Very well, 12. Time goes quickly. It did not seem that I had been resisting it all that time. Anyway, here we are; a Private Member's Motion has been moved, and this is the first 2137 subject. The Government are very glad that this subject should have been taken. I am also delighted that the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee should in some way, certainly through the fact that my hon. Friend is the chairman, have been associated with this Debate.
I will deal with some of the other points to which I have not so far referred in my observations or which require further attention. I should like to indicate to the House broadly the way in which the Government are concerning themselves with the development of the nation's scientific resources. The research associations have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, including the difficulty of ensuring that their discoveries and the knowledge they have available are fully applied in the industry.
I am not going to pretend that all is perfect in this respect, but I can assure the House that the Government, the D.S.I.R. and the research associations themselves are making the greatest efforts at improvement. The House will know that the research associations and their institutions are grant-aided by the Government through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. They are substantially independent, being run by various trade associations or cooperative bodies representing industry, but they take advice from the D.S.I.R., as they ought to do, and there is an increasing degree of co-operation between the Government, the D.S.I.R. and the research associations, which I think is all for the good.
If we take the case of the Shirley Institute, which has been mentioned, some of the important measures of redeployment in the cotton industry which have lately been carried into effect were based on work done at Shirley by the research association of the industry. I may say that the use made of the Institute is improving. There was undoubtedly in earlier years a little stand-offishness on the part of management and of the trade unions—both sides—and a little apprehension about this newly-developing Shirley Institute, but I think the degree of co-operation is steadily improving.
While it is not directly relevant to scientific research, it was encouraging to be able to note in the " Manchester Guardian " of last week that at the annual 2138 conference of the United Textile Factory Workers' Association at Morecambe, which took place on 29th April, there was a resolution calling for re-equipment and modernisation and the spending of profits thereon in preference to disbursing them in dividends. There is a little special touch there which I understand and indeed sympathise with. It called for re-equipment and modernisation, and although there was considerable discussion, the resolution was unanimously approved. There were apparently conflicting views among the representatives of the operatives as to the value of industrial consultants—I have heard that conflict of opinion elsewhere—but several of the delegates spoke strongly in favour of them, assuming they were good industrial consultants, and in fact some good work has been done in the textile industry in Lancashire already.
I do not wish to run that declaration further than I ought, but it is an indication of the increasingly progressive mind on the workers' side—there is a similar improvement on the employers' side, too —in the textile industry of Lancashire. Hon. Members will know that that is a very great industry, but you cannot push it around. You cannot hurry it more than it is willing to be hurried. I think that declaration is a very progressive and encouraging sign.
I visited the Shirley Institute a couple of years ago and went into various questions, including the degree of co-operation taking place, and I am quite confident that scientists working in these institutes are fully aware of the need fog putting discoveries to practical use in industry. I also know that many progressive industrialists are great supporters of the research associations and are making full use of their results, but obviously there are many industrialists who are not applying these discoveries as quickly as they could and as quickly as we should wish to see. Undoubtedly this is a case where a great deal of education and persuasion will be needed before the House can feel fully satisfied.
In this connection I do not think it is helpful to distinguish, as the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale did, between the contribution made by industrial firms in their own works and the contribution they make through 2139 research associations which, after all, are run by the industries concerned in cooperation with the D.S.I.R. I fully agree that whatever enterprise and initiative can be shown by individuals or private enterprise is valuable and should have its full meed of praise, but I would add that even their enterprise can be assisted to become more effective by co-operation through collective institutions in which the Government take a hand, and these should have their proper meed of praise and recognition, too.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, referred to the possibility of overlapping in fuel research. As stated in the second annual report of my Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power is responsible for the co-ordination of fuel research and he is assisted in this by his own Scientific Advisory Council, which is now in its second year and is reinforced by a whole-time chief scientist of high status and by a strong scientific staff. The National Coal Board and the other nationalised industries in the field of fuel and power are represented on the Council, which also includes the Chairman of the Fuel Research Board of the D.S.I.R., so that there is a high degree of co-ordination. I should not think there is a great danger of overlapping, but if they fall over each other and find that they are overlapping no doubt they will put the matter right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, also referred to the improvement to grass-land, which undoubtedly is a matter of great importance. It is difficult to measure this from year to year, because of different weather and other factors which even this Government cannot fully regulate, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has, I think, reason to be gratified and to be reasonably satisfied with the rate of progress, although undoubtedly there are a number of outstanding problems which are in course of being tackled, such as the question of attracting more good men to the Agricultural Advisory Service—a point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, also drew attention.
Again, there is undoubtedly a real problem in securing full co-ordination in 2140 the use of science, all over the Commonwealth, between the many different authorities responsible, but there has been steady progress in this connection. I would especially draw attention to the very useful conference which was held in South Africa last autumn, with the participation of the United Kingdom Departments concerned, and which is now being actively followed up. This is an example of de-centralisation.
Several hon. Members referred to the very difficult and controversial question of establishing a technological university comparable with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. This question would require a Debate in itself, and it has, in fact, been fully debated lately in another place and also in the Press. I can assure the House that this matter is not being neglected, and that if further action does not follow as fast as some would wish it is due to the complexities and difficulties of shaping the right measures in the light of our special needs and our limited resources, and not to any failure by the Government to appreciate the importance and the urgency of the task.
My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East referred to the Schuster Panel on human factors in industry. The facts are that some £50,000 a year is being spent on those projects, none of which has yet come to the report stage, although we are hopeful that the reports will soon be ready and that they will be of value. The Government naturally will continue to foster scientific work of this kind wherever the results may justify it. In the meanwhile, Sir George Schuster has been very active in discussing these problems with industry, and interest in and appreciation of these matters in industry has grown strikingly, thanks largely to his efforts, to which I should like to pay a tribute here.
I hope the House will agree that in this way, and by developing the Social Survey of the Central Office of Information, the Government have taken practical steps towards expanding the social sciences and enlisting their help, quite apart from what has been done through the University Grants Committee on the recommendations of the Clapham Committee. We have also been reminded by the hon. Member for Hendon, North of the important new M.R.C. building 2141 which is being opened this afternoon. It all shows that even as this Debate continues, science is on the march in this way.
The point was also raised by an hon. Member of the progress of the National Research Development Corporation. On this, I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Corporation will shortly be reporting, and, therefore, we ought to have the information at an early date. I have not had time to deal with many interesting points made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but they will all be carefully considered, and if, as a result, a case is made out for further action the Government will not hesitate to take it.
Now, I think that on the general and broader issue, few things will prove more decisive for our future influence and prosperity in the world than the pace at which we develop science and apply its results. These two things—developing it and applying it—are equally essential. But whereas scientific knowledge can be enlarged by a comparatively few scientists with Government and other backing, the full application of science cannot be achieved unless everyone in the country, and particularly those with responsibility in industry and business—the labour side as well as the managerial side—are on their toes to make full use of everything that science can offer. I want the scientists to be offering ideas and propositions, but I want business and industry to be looking for them, wanting them, seeking them, rather than having to be persuaded to accept this great service that science, whether private enterprise, quasi-private enterprise, governmental or Government agency, can put forward.
This problem of the application of the results of scientific research, this problem of their practical implementation in the ordinary workaday world of industry and business, is, perhaps, our greatest problem. We are most fortunate in our country in the quality of our scientists, and we have been fortunate in that way for a long time. Indeed, I am probably safe in saying that they have no equal in the world. They are great men, these men of science of our country. Where we have lagged is in educating and organising ourselves to make use of science, and I have been impressed by the dancer of more and more scientific results, obtained with great brilliance and 2142 toil, and at considerable public and private expense, tending to pile up in pigeon-holes unused, or to be developed overseas by our business competitors who, in some industries—I know there are many exceptions—have seemed more alert to develop those processes and inventions than some of our own industries at home have been. It is most annoying, when we ourselves have done the job and produced the scientific results, to find them sometimes commercially exploited abroad instead of in our own country where the discovery, and even some of the development, took place.
Before concluding, I want to outline very broadly the lines of development on which we have been proceeding since the war. First, we have sought to translate into civilian terms the lessons learnt from war-time experience in the Fighting Services. This experience showed the breadth of work which scientists can undertake, for in addition to all their normal work in the laboratory and in the field it was found that scientists could contribute greatly, in conjunction with others, in two distinct spheres. One of them was in the higher conduct of the war, by bringing fresh but trained and disciplined minds to bear on the shaping of strategy and tactics, particularly in relation to weapons and the logistics of moving laree bodies of men and materials.
The other main contribution was through operational research, in which teams of natural scientists applied their knowledge and training, in conjunction with others, to such problems as reducing abnormal accident rates or predicting where and how enemy raiders could best be caught. I myself worked with many of these men and bumped into them, sometimes above ground and sometimes below, in the course of my own work as Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security in the Government of the present Leader of the Opposition.
Now this business of carrying over wartime experience into peace-time conditions is by no means as simple as some people think, but we have made solid progress in that direction. The structure of scientific advice to the Government on the civil side has been re-modelled in broad conformity with experience on the defence side. In particular, the Advisory 2143 Council of Scientific Policy, created just over three years ago, has the same Chairman, Sir Henry Tizard, and a joint secretariat with its opposite number, the Defence Research Policy Committee. This Council has proved a very live show, and the Government and the country are very much indebted to Sir Henry Tizard and the eminent scientists and engineers who have served on this body for all the good work they have done.
I have no time to mention other examples, but I would say that great progress has been made in strengthening the scientific advice made available to Departments, and in improving the status of the scientists and the range of subjects on which he is consulted as a matter of course. For short-term purposes, to avoid over-burdening the long-term machinery, and to speed up the adaptation of scientific methods and results, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I set up two years ago as a temporary body the Committee on Industrial Productivity under Sir Henry Tizard. This had technical panels on human factors in industry, imports substitution, technical information services, technology and operational research; and scientists, businessmen, industrialists and trade unions have co-operated with great advantage in the practical application of the scientific technique and mind to industrial productivity.
Scientists need laboratories as well as seats on committees. Through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the University Grants Committee, the Government have made available substantial resources since the end of the war from which to improve and extend the accommodation and equipment of science. Under the D.S.I.R., two research stations are being erected. One of them is the great Mechanical Engineering Research Station which, I am glad to say, is located in Scotland in the new town of East Kilbride, which we hope will become one of the centres of scientific effort and leadership for Great Britain as a whole. There is need also for the improvement of books and periodicals in the scientific field.
§ Mr. Rankin
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would give way for a 2144 moment? Could he say something more about the research station at East Kilbride? Is it the case that there are difficulties in its development, particularly of the buildings? Secondly, could he say how much money has been spent up to date on the work there? What is the estimate of expenditure for next year, and how does it compare with the total amount which was envisaged?
§ Mr. Morrison
My hon. Friend has remembered a fair series of questions rather better than I can remember the answers to them. I will take note of what he has said and I will communicate with him so that he will have the information. I think he can take it that the Mechanical Engineering Research Station at East Kilbride is progressing very well. It was a great decision to locate this great national enterprise in Scotland, and my impression is that it is going along very well indeed, in cooperation with the new town, which has as its chairman Sir Patrick Dollan. Anything connected with Sir Patrick Dollan one is not permitted to forget for very long. I will let my hon. Friend know. I was just referring to books and periodicals. I think there is room for improvement. We are doing what we can in that field, in which private enterprise can be of aid.
The House has heard mention of the important scheme sponsored by the Royal Society for new accommodation for the principal national scientific and learned societies, which are still huddled in the accommodation which the Government of the day gave them 100 years ago, when the scale of scientific effort and of our dependence upon it was only a fraction of what it now is. The Government have given assistance for a long time in this matter. I believe that if we can house in the same building the three great research bodies—the D.S.I.R., the Medical Research Council, and the Agricultural Research Council—the Royal Society and a number of other scientific and learned bodies and make a really great centre of science on a worthy site in London, it would be a great thing and well worth doing.
We all live with Finance Ministers, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has his troubles; but in principle the idea is 2145 accepted, both by the Royal Society and others, and by the Government, and we hope to proceed with it at not-too-distant a future. Indeed, the Government have already promised help in finding a site for this project. I am fully aware of the importance of surmounting the many difficulties which still stand in the way of realising this most important and valuable scheme. It is essential that we should be able to train enough scientists and give them a first-class start in the world, if we are to develop and strengthen our science to perform all that we and the world expect of it. In this connection, the Barlow Committee made various recommendations which are being followed up with the universities and in co-operation with the University Grants Committee. We do not want to lower the standards. On the other hand, we want an adequate output of scientists from the universities and all co-operation is proceeding to that end.
Having said that it is necessary to increase the number of competent scientists, I would say to the industrial world, whether publicly or privately owned, that it is important that management responsible for industrial organisations should be willing to use scientists and to place them in their proper field in staff co-operation and operations. Some industrials—and I am not referring either to any particular industrialists or to public or private industries—still seem to imagine that men of scientific training are needed only in research laboratories, whilst others, including many of our most successful firms, use scientists not only in the laboratory but in the factory, in the sales office, and even on the board of directors. I hope industry will realise the need for calling for more scientists, if the extra scientists are to be there when industry needs them, as it assuredly will in the future.
We can claim that the Government fully recognise the importance and the complexities of the problem of putting Britain scientifically in the lead as a producer, as a supplier, and as a user of scientific ideas and discoveries. While some sections may be lagging, let us pay tribute to those who are working fiat out to achieve the fullest and most rapid achievement of technological advance. Only a day or two ago I heard of a plant on Tees-side where, in order to get things 2146 going, the chemical engineers and others did not take their clothes off for 40 hours so that they could complete the job. That is the spirit. Men like that get their own satisfaction, and it is right that the nation should recognise the debt that we owe to them.
In this field of science and scientific endeavour, whilst it is perfectly true that some inventors and initiators are urged by the hope of material gain, it would not be fair to scientists to assume that that is always the case. A high proportion of scientists love scientific invention and research for its own sake. They are not thinking of material gain all the time, any more than those men did who did not take their clothes off for 40 hours. It is that spirit of public service, that service to science—if hon. Members like, fanaticism in the service of science—which carries men on. I hope this Debate today, which is a great event for the scientists, and which has been so good tempered and useful, will have a beneficial effect upon the whole scientific world, so that scientists will realise that the House of Commons is interested in their work and wishes them well.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The Lord President of the Council has said that the whole subject of technological education almost requires a Debate in itself. Would my right hon. Friend give us some hope that before any final decision is taken about the recommendations of the Percy Committee on Technological Education, we might have an opportunity of discussing that subject in the House.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not know. This relates to the Business of the House and somehow I find myself quite incapable, on a Friday afternoon, of dealing with these matters with the ability with which, I hope, I deal with them on a Thursday afternoon. However, I will take notice of what my hon. Friend says.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Albu (Edmonton)
In the few minutes left to me before Mr. Speaker puts the Motion, which appears to be unanimously supported, I should like to draw attention to one aspect of our discussion and, if possible, clear up my argument with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), who opened the Debate.
2147 I am particularly interested in the application of scientific principles and methods to our manufacturing processes, because I think that too much attention or a disproportionate amount of attention is given to the problem of design and of research into new products and new materials. Very little research is carried on into the manufacturing processes—very little in the universities, although there is some in the industrial research associations. For instance, the Shirley Institute, the British Iron and Steel Research Association and one or two others do work in this field. At the universities and at the technological colleges of university status practically no work has been done but thanks, no doubt, to the foresight of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett), there is now a faculty of production engineering at the University of Birmingham.
I should particularly like to draw attention to the establishment, three years ago, of the Production Engineering Research Association as one of the industrial research associations supported by the D.S.I.R. Since it was founded it has reached a membership of 250 firms and it believes that its total possible membership is 5,000. It has a staff which has grown from 11 to 100, and it aims at a staff of 1,000. Its charter covers research into practically all the methods of converting raw materials into finished products except perhaps in the chemical and textile industries.
An example of the work which has already been done are the revolutionary discoveries which have been made in respect of that common tool, the twist drill, which have already been acknowledged by manufacturers of twist drills who have been in the business for, I suppose, 100 years. The association hopes also to deal with the physiological and psychological problems of new processes and of new machine designs as well as the organisational problems of production. I suggest that this body, which is one of the first bodies concerned with manufacturing methods in general and with manufacturing problems, particularly in the engineering industry, is worthy of the very fullest support.
Equally as important as research into new technological processes is the expan- 2148 sion of research into the sociological problems of industry: organisation, management and human relations. In this connection I should like to draw attention to the extremely interesting preliminary report which has been produced by the British Institute of Management into the sociological situation in the docks, a report which I hope all interested, including those in the industry itself at all levels, will study without prejudice.
The two aspects of research cannot be separated. The problems must be looked at as a whole by the method referred to by my right hon. Friend as that of operational research; but if there is to be this extension of research into manufacturing problems, can we be satisfied—this has formed a large part of our discussion this afternoon—that there are enough people in industry capable of benefiting by the results? This is the basis of our argument about technological education on which discussion has been long drawn out and on which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education and I had almost a private Debate on the Adjournment on 15th July last year, when I asked when the report of the National Joint Advisory Council would be produced. It has not so far been produced, and after the Debate today we can all understand that the members of that Council must be having second thoughts about this problem.
The crux of the problem is teaching staffs. Surely it would be a great mistake to start to create a lot of new technological institutes or even one large technological institute without adequate teaching staffs or any basis of research on which to build? Already in this country there are at least three bodies which could form the basis of a full-scale technological university. I refer to the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, the Manchester College of Technology and the Royal Technical College, Glasgow. I believe that all these bodies are of university rank. At any rate the Imperial College of Science is a college of the University of London and grants university degrees. They could certainly be built up into technological universities.
A good deal of the difficulty that has arisen in the discussion is because of the 2149 lack of distinction between a technician and a technologist. The technical college is the place where the technician is trained. The technological institution—admittedly, some have grown from technical colleges into technological institutions—has university college rank. The Imperial College itself is composed of three colleges, one of which was originally a technical college. These are the places where the men who need the background of fundamental science are trained, and who then become capable of applying scientific principles to the development of new manufacturing processes in industry.
I have not the time to quote it, but I would refer hon. Members to the interesting article in " The Times " Educational Supplement of 3rd February by Mr. Patrick Jackson, Managing Director of Power Jets (Research and Development) Limited, in which he describes the difference in the Continental view of the technologist and the education of the technologist, and what has so far been the view in this country. If these existing bodies—perhaps with the addition of one or two technical colleges approaching university college rank—are to be enlarged and expanded into something like the M.I.T. or bodies of that sort, they must have included within them faculties in the social sciences.
It is one of the advantages of the new production engineering faculty at Birmingham that it is associated with an active social science faculty in the University, and I was interested to learn that the Imperial College of Science is in process of establishing a fairly close association with the London School of Economics. I am not at all sure that the combination of these two bodies might not well be the pattern of an independent technological university. This may sound a revolutionary idea but it might have appealed to the man who had most to do with the founding of both those bodies during the early part of the century, Sidney Webb.
I would like, in closing, to congratulate my hon. Friend on having taken the opportunity to introduce what has been, and is likely to be, the only noncontroversial Private Member's Motion in this Parliament. I would also like to congratulate the Government, in the person of my right hon. Friend the Lord President, on the work they have done 2150 to encourage in industry, as well as generally, the development of research and the application of scientific research in manufacturing.
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved:That in the opinion of this House, there should be the fullest development and utilisation of Britain's exceptional scientific resources and manpower, with a view to ensuring effective progress in the development of our industry, agriculture and Colonies, and a material improvement rf our economic position in the world.