HC Deb 21 November 1950 vol 481 cc194-5
45. Mr. M. Philips Price

asked the Lord President of the Council if he is now in a position to make any further statement on the prospects of establishing a National Science Centre in London.

47. Sir Wavell Wakefield

asked the Lord President of the Council if he is aware of the handicaps imposed on science by the lack of suitable accommodation for the leading national scientific organisations in London; and whether, in view of the importance of scientific contributions, the Government will help to improve the situation.

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

I am glad to say that since this matter was raised on 5th May last by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells), it has been possible to overcome the remaining obstacles for the adoption of the long-term proposals originated by the Royal Society for a British Science Centre in London. To prevent any misunderstanding I must emphasise that it will be some years yet before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works can build such a centre, but a start will be made on it as soon as resources can be found, having regard to other urgent claims. Provision will be made for accommodating within the area the Patent Office and its Library, which will be modernised and extended as a first-rate central reference library on science and technology.

Suitable new quarters will be built for the Royal Society and for other leading scientific societies with their important special libraries, most of which are now severely cramped in the rooms provided for them by the Government not far short of 100 years ago in Burlington House, or in other inadequate accommodation. New offices for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and other Government scientific organisations will also be provided. By this means buildings elsewhere will be released for other uses, and some economies in building requirements will be achieved.

The Centre will be designed to improve facilities and contacts between scientists and users of science, both nationally and internationally. Much detailed planning remains to be done, but it may be convenient for the many interests affected to have this preliminary advance statement. I hope to announce the selection of a site as early as possible in the New Year, but it will be some time yet before a final scheme can be developed.

Mr. Philips Price

May I assure my right hon. Friend that his answer will give great satisfaction to scientific societies throughout the country, and the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee?

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend.