§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. J. R. Bevins)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill has already passed through all its stages in another place, and it now falls to me to bring it before this House for Second Reading. I gather, from a recent skirmish in which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—who I am glad to see in his place —was engaged, that he may be a little sensitive about a junior Minister speaking upon scientific matters in the House on behalf of a senior Minister. When I first came to the House, in 1950,Icongratulated the hon. Member upon one of his Admiralty speeches, which he delivered from this Box. It was a very good speech, and the fact that he was a junior Minister, speaking for his noble Friend who was in another place, impaired neither his performance nor my appreciation of his speech.
It may suit the convenience of the House if I begin by giving a little of the background to this quite uncomplicated Bill. I hope that the House will not take this as a signal that it is about to hear a long-winded dissertation on the past. Many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate and I wish to be as succinct as I can.
The idea of establishing the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was first conceived as long ago as 1915. In that year an Order in Council was made, setting up a Privy Council committee, under the chairmanship of the Lord President of the Council, with power to spend moneys voted by Parliament upon the organisation and development of scientific and industrial research. By the same Order an Advisory Council was to be established. The role of that Council was advisory, and has remained so throughout the last 41 years. In particular, that Council was to advise the Privy Council committee upon proposals, first, for starting particular researches; 1514 second, for starting or developing special institutions for the scientific study of problems affecting particular industries, and, third, upon proposals for the establishment and award of research studentships and fellowships.
In the last four decades the sweep of the Department's activities has widened enormously. Starting from scratch in the First World War, its gross expenditure rose to more than £6½ million in 1954-55, and its net expenditure to nearly £6 million. For the present financial year the corresponding figures will be a good deal higher—over £8 million and £7 million respectively. The margin between the gross and the net figure in every case is largely accounted for by payments to the Department either by Government Departments and by industry for services rendered, and the receipt of American financial aid for the promotion of productivity, the study of human relations in industry, etc.
Today we have 14 principal research stations and laboratories, which are concerned with applied scientific research. These stations are under the direct control of the Department, and the largest is the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, which costs approximately £1 million a year.
The Annual Reports of the Department, which, as the House knows, are published, give an interesting, although necessarily sketchy, picture of the work which is going on inside the Department. They describe hundreds of researches—some of which I can understand and some of which, I confess, I do not—ranging from the discovery, through boring by the Geological Survey, of quite substantial deposits of coal near Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, to the design of more efficient domestic heating appliances, and also from the discovery that egg breakages of the accidental kind may be due to a low magnesium content in the shell, to work on electronic computors and the study of automation.
In addition to these directly controlled research stations there are about 40 research associations which are allied to certain industries. Their task is the encouragement of research and its application to their respective industries. These are not Government organisations; they are autonomous bodies, controlled and 1515 mainly financed by the industries themselves, although the Department makes quite substantial contributions towards their work. The work of these research associations ranges from fundamental science to the most practical of applied technology.
Perhaps I may give the House one or two examples of the sort of work which they are doing at the present time. A new burner for open-hearth steel furnaces has been devised, which effects substantial economies in steel production; gas turbines are being worked out for use in merchant ships; and work is being done to lessen the noise caused by internal combustion engines. The sooner that work reaches fruition the better. In the iron and steel, pottery, cotton and similar industries, dust can, as we know, be such a menace to the health of workers. One of the research associations has been successful in devising an efficient dust extraction plant which should be beneficial to the health of the workers in those industries.
Finally, within the Department, we have the encouragement of fundamental research, chiefly at universities, and the maintenance of an adequate supply of trained research workers. This involves the paying of grants to post-graduate students for training in research, and grants for research work and equipment, at universities and elsewhere.
That, very broadly and very rapidly, sums up the present position in the barest of outlines. It may seem curious that, in spite of the growth of the Department during the last 41 years, and in spite of the immense diversification of its activities which has taken place during that time, there has been no formal change in the pattern of its organisation. Accordingly my noble Friend decided, about a year ago, that the time had come to look at the situation afresh. He therefore appointed a Committee of Inquiry with Sir Harry Jephcott, the Chairman of Glaxo Laboratories, as its Chairman; Sir Hugh Beaver, the then Chairman of the Advisory Council; Sir Alexander Todd, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and also two senior officials from the Treasury and the Board of Trade.
All politicians know that some committees are good and others are not so good. But one is bound to admit that 1516 that was a strong Committee which, as I hope will emerge during this debate, has done valuable work. I should like at this stage to pay my tribute to Sir Harry Jephcott and his colleagues for the most valuable work which they have done.
Hon. and right hon. Members will have had an opportunity to read the first Report of the Jephcott Committee. That Report has been accepted by the Government. Its principal recommendation, now embodied in the Bill before the House, was that this Department, like the Medical Research Council and Agricultural Research Council, should be in the charge of a research council, which should be executive in function and not advisory. The Committee considered that the present organisations puts too great a burden on the Secretary of the Department; and that such a new council would achieve better direction of all research activities and be in a much better position to make sure that the right research was being undertaken.
I wish to emphasise that the proposal to make this somewhat radical change in no sense implies that there is anything seriously wrong with the Department, but rather that the time has now come to make its organisation more suited to its vastly increased responsibilities.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the new organisation will have any responsibility for atomic research in any of its phases?
§ Mr. Bevins
No, it will have nothing whatever to do with atomic research, which is a matter for the Atomic Energy Authority.
It may be helpful if at this point, I tried to give to hon. and right hon. Members some idea of how the new organisation will approach its task. Subject to over-riding Ministerial control, the Research Council will determine policy. It will decide the broad order of priorities in research and what resources they merit. That applies not only to the starting of new research, but also to the stopping of research which can no longer justify itself. All researches are important but some are more important than others. If a research becomes urgent and vitally important to industry then it should be developed and stepped up, even if in the process some other work has to suffer.
1517 The Council will see that programmes are not too thinly spread and not so diffuse as to be ineffective. It may consider where to draw the line afresh between the work of the stations and the research associations; and whether perhaps certain industries ought not to shoulder more responsibility than at present.
As the Jephcott Committee envisaged it, this Council will have to act largely through committees, which will examine the various programmes of the stations with the directors of the stations, but, as now, the directors will enjoy freedom in the execution of their programmes. I can give the House a categorical assurance that there need be no fears on that score. The directors will not be cramped in their independence in carrying out the programmes at their respective stations. What we desire, and what my noble Friend believes we shall achieve as a result of this Measure and what will stem from it, is the right strategic planning at headquarters, allied to tactical latitude in the field.
My noble Friend has received a further Report from the Jephcott Committee which it is not proposed to publish. The House respects candour, and I wish to be frank about this. I have examined this matter carefully, in consultation with my noble Friend, and I hope hon. Members will agree that in the circumstances the decision not to publish is a right one. It is as well that we should understand that the Bill now before the House already gives effect to the one proposal of the Committee which requires legislation, that is the setting up of the Research Council. Moreover—and this is important—the final Report was drafted in the full knowledge that the Government were in agreement with the recommendation for a Research Council. Knowing that, the Committee liberally threw up ideas and suggestions in the express belief—I have confirmed this—that they would be treated as suggestions for the consideration of the new council, and not as hard and fast recommendations for action by the Lord President or the Department at this moment. I think it follows that it would be wrong to make these ideas public before the new council has had a chance to consider them, as indeed the Jephcott Committee intended.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Would the hon. Gentleman say why this Report cannot be published? Are not Members of Parliament just as much interested in knowing about these ideas and suggestions as is the new Council? I take it that there is no question of secrecy about the contents of the Report. Is the Minister prepared to put a copy in the Library so that hon. Members who are interested can see what are these ideas? It is obvious, from what the Minister has said, that these suggestions are a matter of great public importance.
§ Mr. Bevins
That may be so, but the fact is that the only recommendation made by the Jephcott Committee which requires any sort of positive action by this House is the suggestion about the Research Council, and that is embodied in this Bill. I ask hon. Members to believe me when I say that the second Report of the Committee deals exclusively with domestic Departmental matters.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The annual reports of D.S.I.R. deal with Departmental domestic matters, and do not necessarily require legislation to be passed in this House. What is the difference?
§ Mr. Bevins
There is a difference, in that the annual reports of D.S.I.R. are published each twelve months and deal with the work and achievements of the Department during the previous year. This is a different proposition.
This is a Report which deals with the domestic internal workings of the Department, and what is most important is that in drafting this second Report the Jephcott Committee made it explicitly clear that it regarded its suggestions and ideas, not as something to be bandied about and discussed publicly at the moment, but for the consideration of the Research Council after it is set up.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South) rose—
§ Mr. Bevins
May I add this? I think that the House will see that if the second Report, with the innumerable ideas it contains, were published now, there would be a great deal of comment and criticism about the various ideas of the Committee. To that extent it would be rather unfair to the new Research Council—
§ Mr. Morrison
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the observations contained in the second Report are material to the consideration of the Bill which raises the question of the organisation of D.S.I.R.? The hon. Gentleman appears to be laying down a doctrine—which strikes me as extraordinary—that if legislation is not required, this House need know nothing about the matter. Does not he realise that this House has functions far beyond the passing of legislation; and that it is rather rude to tell the House of Commons that where it is possible to act administratively and legislation is not needed, the House of Commons need not be told about it? That is not treating the House with respect.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
Further to that question, am I not right in thinking that in compiling its second Report the Jephcott Committee did so on the basis that it was not to be published, and that if the Committee had realised that it was going to be published it would not have put it into the form of a report at all? For that reason it was essential that the Report should be compiled on the basis that there would be no publication.
§ Mr. Bevins
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead). I had so many reasons to advance to the House, but they were all interrupted, one by one, by hon. Members opposite. What my hon. Friend has said is perfectly true. No discourtesy to the House was intended, but the simple fact was that the Jephcott Committee prepared the second Report with a view to it being considered by the Research Council when it is set up. It is as simple as that.
If I may now turn to the provisions of the Bill itself, Clause I provides that the Department is to be in charge of a Research Council whose members will be appointed by my noble Friend after consultation with the President of the Royal Society. It provides for a reserve power of Ministerial control over the Research Council by my noble Friend and the 1520 Privy Council Committee. It also leaves the appointment of the secretary of the Department in the hands of my noble Friend after consultation with the Research Council. I am informed by my noble Friend that he will also consult the Royal Society in making any such appointment.
Clause 2 sets out the provisions governing the Research Council itself, and requires the council to submit an annual report to my noble Friend for presentation to Parliament.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Could the hon. Gentleman deal with one point as a matter of information? The Jephcott Committee suggests that the Research Council should consist of a number of distinguished scientists and industrialists. Is that the view of the Government, or do the Government envisage a Research Council appointed on wider grounds than those?
§ Mr. Bevins
No, the Government are in agreement with the recommendation of the Jephcott Committee on that point, notably that the Council should consist of a number—probably 11 or 12—of eminent scientists and industrialists.
Clause 3 deals with the second main purpose of the Bill, which is substantially provision for the expenditure of the Department to be met out of moneys provided by Parliament. So far our authority for expenditure is derived from the original Order in Council, and statutory authority for the provision of public funds has rested on the Appropriation Acts. However impeccable that may be in the constitutional sense, the Public Accounts Committee has nevertheless taken the view that where continuing functions are to be exercised by a Government Department it is proper that the powers and duties should be defined by specific statutes, particularly where the functions carry financial responsibilities which go beyond a given financial year.
Clauses 4 and 5 do not, I think, call for any comment at this stage.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but Clauses 2 and 3 deal with the remuneration of the council. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary is going to tell us if these gentlemen are to be full-time or part-time members, and what their scale 1521 of remuneration is to be? I think that that is essential information in relation to those Clauses.
§ Mr. Bevins
I think I can give the right hon. Member a broad answer to that question. The chairman and members of the Research Council will work in a part-time capacity, but obviously in the early stages of reorganisation certainly the chairman and probably a number of members of the council will devote a great deal of time to the work. As to remuneration, the intention, I understand, is that payment should be on the basis of very modest fees.
§ Mr. Bevins
It is a very small point. I think it is a Committee point rather than a question for Second Reading.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
This is not a small point but something which will affect the willingness of scientists and industrialists to serve in this way. If the Minister is telling the House that the remuneration will be just a matter of small fees, that would seem to have a great bearing on the willingness of people to serve on this Council. Can he not tell us a little more frankly what the Government have in mind?
§ Mr. Bevins
I thought I had been frank with the House.
I think hon. Members understand perfectly well that the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has never had any difficulty in recruiting people to serve on its Advisory Council in the past, even though the remuneration has been on the most modest scale. The House can understand that my noble Friend has a sufficient understanding of the ways of the scientific world to do the right thing in a matter of this sort.
Although the Department is responsible for only one sector of our civil research, that sector, nevertheless, is very important. So long as our resources, both in finance and scientific manpower, are limited we are under a special responsibility to use them wisely so that their work makes the very maximum impact on British industry. In the second half of this century our greatest source of wealth lies in the skills of our scientists, our technicians, and our workpeople. To 1522 develop those skills and strengthen the alliance between science and industry are matters of the highest urgency at the present time. If, as I believe, and Her Majesty's Government believes, this Bill and what flows from it, in the way of reorganisation, will contribute to that end, it will have been a worthwhile Measure.
I know that the House would wish me to pay tribute to the recently retired Secretary of the Department, Sir Ben Lockspeiser, who has done so much for the Department over the years, and also to the very loyal and zealous staff at headquarters and the various stations in the country. We hope that their opportunities to contribute more and more to our national well-being will be enhanced by the reorganisation which this Bill seeks to promote.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
This Bill embodies some unusual and novel features. We are to have a Research Council which is to be a part-time executive body made up of non-civil servants. It is to be drawn from distinguished men in industry and science, we understand. It will have the duty of supervising civil servants. That, I say straight away, is a constitutional curiosity. It may not be any the worse for that, but it certainly needs a little more explanation than the gloss which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works gave the Bill.
I understand from a reading of the Bill that, broadly, this part-time executive Research Council is to work under the directions of the Lord President of the Council. Presumably, therefore, it will have some general directive from the Lord President as to the terms on which it is to work. We did not hear from the Parliamentary Secretary what that directive was, and before we conclude this debate we on this side of the House certainly wish to have a better explanation from the Government of the terms of the directive under which non-civil servants are to work when controlling, at another stage lower down, civil servants who are paid out of the public purse.
We do not know whether the transformation of a part-time advisory research body into a part-time executive Research Council will make a tremen- 1523 dous difference, partly because we are being asked to take on trust a Report that we have not been allowed to see. I am bound to say that the very reason which was given by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) when he sprang to the defence of the Parliamentary Secretary, who, he thought, was getting into difficult waters—that this Report was drawn with a view to its non-publication—is a very strong reason why Parliament should see it.
If, in this Report, there are matters which are supposed to be hidden away behind the Departmental silken curtains, I must say that I very much suspect what is expurgated and brought to the House of Commons for us to judge upon. I repeat the suggestion that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). If there is an objection to publication, what is the objection to putting this in the Library of the House, so that hon. Members may see what is in it? I understand there is nothing secret about it.
Of course, it may be inconvenient to the Government to have it examined, but I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not assume that we are here to help him in his inconvenience. Our objective is to examine what is the right organisation of a Department that is now spending about £6 million; and frankly, I do not care twopence, and no Opposition worth its salt would care twopence, about the inconvenience of publishing a Report of this sort, especially when the House is being asked to give its blessing to an arrangement which is at best a constitutional curiosity and at worst a monstrosity. We do not know; we are not in a position to judge.
Therefore, I repeat the request that has been made during the course of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech that before we give a Second Reading to the Bill we should hear from the Government whether they are prepared in some form or other to place at the disposal of hon. Members this Report, upon which they are basing so much of the future work of D.S.I.R.
I understand that the Chairman of the Committee which drew up the Report is to be the new Chairman of the Advisory Research Council. That may be very desirable. Certainly, he is a most distinguished 1524 industrialist who has done a great deal of valuable service. Is it going to embarrass him if the recommendations which he has made in his capacity as an inquirer after the truth are published? When he has to translate them into executive action, what is the reason for suggesting that it might be embarrassing to him that when he becomes executively responsible he will not carry out what he recommended when he was merely inquiring into it? These matters of convenience and administrative difficulty will not convince the House, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that they will not convince the public outside when a matter of such moment as the future organisation of our scientific effort in this country is being considered.
I am very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary did not conclude without paying a tribute to the work of Sir Ben Lockspeiser. Many of us in this House were enthralled when he came here about two years ago and talked about our scientific future. He opened new vistas and horizons to us and I think that the D.S.I.R., in the present state which it has reached, owes a great deal to his wisdom and foresight. I am very glad to associate myself and my hon. Friends with the tribute that the Parliamentary Secretary paid to him.
It is odd, however, on the one hand, to pay tribute to him and, on the other hand, to use as the principal reason for carrying out a reorganisation the suggestion, in the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, that the Department cannot any longer carry the range of its activities. Therefore, I think it is important to emphasise that, so far as those of us who are outside can judge, Sir Ben Lockspeiser's work in that Department has increased its range and has certainly widened its authority and responsibility.
We are asked to take a lot of this Bill on trust and I tell the hon. Gentleman that there are many doubts in our minds. In their Lordships' House, of course, I have no doubt they take a good many things on trust. The Lord President of the Council, who is responsible, got away with it there by saying, in a Ministerial statement:It is easy to criticise any new scheme, but this one, I submit, has been produced by a Committee with practically unrivalled qualifications for the job."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 10th April, 1956; Vol. 196, c. 936.]1525 That may well be true, but I am not prepared to give up the opportunity and the right to judge that statement for myself. Therefore, we ask that before this debate concludes there should be a statement from the Government on the policy and the character of D.S.I.R. under the new regime.
What are the Government's intentions about the research establishments to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred? We have these different main groups of activities—the research establishments which are financed directly and wholly from the Department's own votes; and, secondly, the research associations which are financed, as the Parliamentary Secretary explained, partly by a block grant, partly by industry itself and partly from grants for students. The policy on these matters, in the view of the Opposition, should not initially be left to this new Council. The policy and the broad directive on these matters should be laid down for the Council by the Government.
The new chairman is a businessman. He is a man of great integrity, but once we give executive control to a body which is made up, not of Ministers and civil servants but of businessmen, scientists and trade unionists—and, of course, we have not heard who is to be on this Research Council—then the character of the organisation becomes changed.
What I should like to know is what happens if there is a conflict between private and public interest in this field. It can happen. Has the Parliamentary Secretary read the recent Report of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research? In page 15 there is a cryptic paragraph dealing with the chemical research laboratory's work on what are called semi-permeable membranes, which, I understand, is something to do with polymers—at any rate, man-made fibres which we hear so much about and which we are told by the scientists will create a revolution in our life in the next few years. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to read this paragraph, because it is very significant indeed.
As I understand the paragraph—and this is the Report made by the Research Council—what is happening is this. At present, D.S.I.R. is investigating the question of polymers. So, of course, is industry. It is investigating this question in 1526 a big way. The frontiers of knowledge are being pushed back, I understand. What the Advisory Council says is that the chemical research laboratory is working in the same field as private industry, that the effort which it is making is small, and would it not be right to stop this effort and leave it to private industry?
We all know that there is fierce competition in the chemical industry. I understand that firms are fiercely competitive and that they have security arrangements which leave the security arrangements of the Government almost standing. I understand that if one tries to get into some of these firms today one meets with very short shrift indeed, and it extends almost to the point where a man who seeks a job at a sufficiently high level has his background investigated to ascertain whether he is a dismissed employee from some other organisation who might be a spy. Such is the fierceness of the competitive set-up in the chemical industry.
The Parliamentary Secretary has said that where research is vital to industry, it must be stepped up. But in this case there was a possibility that it might have been cut out altogether. There really is a possibility here that public knowledge and private interest can conflict in the field of research. I say, therefore, that before we give a blessing-to the Bill, we should like to hear much more about what are the Government's broad directives which they are laying down for a Council which will not be made up of persons who are directly responsible, in the sense that Ministers are responsible to this House, but who are non-civil servants.
We should like to have much more information about the composition of the Council. The Parliamentary Secretary told us he was being frank when he said we could be quite sure that the Lord President of the Council had sufficient knowledge of the ways of the scientific world to fix a proper remuneration. When I reflect on how mean is the Government's behaviour about the salaries of Members of Parliament, how can I be sure that the Government's behaviour will not be equally mean, and display just as little sense of responsibility, in the remuneration of persons who are being invited to serve on this Council?
1527 This is still the House of Commons. We are entitled to know what is proposed in the way of remuneration to these gentlemen who are to serve on this Council. The salaries of Members of Parliament are known; the salaries of Ministers, and of civil servants, from top to bottom, are known. There is no reason at all why these gentlemen, who are to place their services on a part-time basis at the disposal of the nation, should not have their salaries also made public.
Let us, therefore, be given an answer to three questions. First, what is the Government's policy directive to the Council? Secondly, what is the composition of the Council to be? Thirdly, what is the remuneration to be paid to its members? When we have that information, we shall be in some better position to judge whether it is a useful minor reform or whether it is something which could develop along lines which might be harmful in the long run to the public interest.
I do not deny that there is plenty of work for the new research executive body to do. From what I understand, the work of the research establishments is very uneven. There is the case of one famous name, which has had in the past a very high reputation for its work, about whose present work doubts are becoming very widespread. I shall not give the name, because it would not be fair at this stage; I have no means of judging. I merely say that there is a big research establishment in the D.S.I.R. of which it is said that the quality of its work has become stagnant and there is much which ought to be put right. By contrast, I could name another of the research establishments where, I am told—one can only judge these things from what one is told and from a consensus of opinion which one derives from talking to responsible people who know about these matters—the work is going ahead really well and a first-class job is being done.
Subject to those statements being made by the Government, we would not challenge the decision to reorganise the Department along these lines. Indeed, we would wish the enterprise well. But we do not feel at present that we have had sufficient information to enable us to judge what type of reform is envisaged 1528 by the Government. We certainly do not consider that the Parliamentary Secretary's brief gave us the information we ask for on that.
Turning to the broader issue, our major complaint is that the Government are playing this scientific symphony in a minor key. What is needed is a tremendous extension of our scientific effort. On this question, we shall link up today's debate with tomorrow's, without transgressing the bounds of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, since they do tie in one with the other, as all will see. I would say that we feel, both on the subject now under discussion and on the matters we shall consider tomorrow, that the Government's intentions, however good they may be, are simply not good enough to deal with the situation which the nation faces.
To justify what I am saying, I will quote from page 13 of the same D.S.I.R. Report, where it is said:During the year there have been brought to our notice from almost every corner of the Department pleas that the resources available for particular purposes are in fact inadequate or likely soon to be inadequate. Our Committees—the Industrial Grants Committee, the Scientific Grants Committee, and the Nuclear Physics Committee—have all pleaded for more money for the particular object on which they advise and for priority of claim on Departmental reserves, and most of the Research Boards have in their reports or in meetings with us made similar representations.There is the situation in which we are today. It really does not encourage me to know that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is to wind up the debate, because, traditionally, it is the task of the Financial Secretary to cut down and not to grant more money. How well it will succeed in doing so, of course, is a matter for debate, but, at the moment, it is his Department which is seeking to make economies. We should certainly want an assurance from him—it is one which he can give because it falls within his responsibility—that there will not be any economy here. Indeed, our complaint is the reverse—that there is not enough effort being put into this work.
The inadequate resources, to which the D.S.I.R. refers, are being eroded by inflation. In page 25 of the Report we are told that between 1950 and 1954 there has been a decline of about 10 per cent. in the real value of the Government grants to the research associations. Once again, the 1529 failure of the Government's policy to keep the cost of living down and to maintain a stable level of prices is reflected in the fact that D.S.I.R., and the general scientific effort of the country, is suffering because the real resources devoted to it are lessened.
I aver, without fear of contradiction, that Britain is lagging behind other advanced industrial nations, both in the application of our scientific knowledge to industry and in the training of persons to enter this field and increase the effort. We shall deal with the second point tomorrow. This evening, we must have some words to say about the first.
It is quite clear, I think, from what is said by persons who have investigated the situation in the U.S.S.R., in the United States, and in Western Germany today, that the scientific application of those countries is outrunning ours. It is, apparently, a well-known criticism that although our fundamental research produces a number of first-class materials and products, it is left to the Americans to market them. Dacron and penicillin are just two examples. As the sixth Report of the Government's Advisory Council on Scientific Policy made clear, industry in the United States today is employing more scientists and technologists per head than British industry.
This is not a situation which the Government can view with complacency. But we have heard nothing at all about this from the Government over the last few months, and attempts by some of us to prise open the oyster by a few Questions have received very little success.
The D.S.I.R. is spending about £6 million a year on research, while the United States' effort is growing at least twice as quickly as Britain's. The other day, some of us met Mr. Clyde Williams, of Battelles, which is a well-known research organisation in the United States. I do not think that I should be betraying any secrets by saying that there were also Ministers present at this tiny gathering. Mr. Williams told us—I have not heard the statement challenged—that in the United States research, in real terms, is doubling every four years.
Let us look at the position in Great Britain as revealed here and as revealed in the analysis made of the situation in the Government's Advisory Council's Report. I refer, first, to Appendix II of 1530 the seventh Annual Report of the Advisory Council. If we take the four years from 1950–51 to 1954–55, we find that there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the monetary resources devoted by Her Majesty's Government to scientific research. I do not know what that means in terms of real resources, but let us put it at one-third. On that basis, we shall double research in this country every 12 years, whereas we are assured by someone who is a great authority in research that the United States is doubling its research effort in real terms every four years. Can we accept such a situation with complacency?
A very distinguished scientist—one who is not unknown to members of the Government—said the other day that if the present effort of this nation in research continues at its present rate, within a generation this country will be reduced to the level of Portugal. It is to that situation that the Opposition ask the Government to address their minds. That is why, frankly, we think that if this tiny Bill, plus what they say tomorrow, is the measure of the Government's effort in this field, it is not good enough; they will be letting Britain down unless this effort is increased.
We know comparatively little of the facts. During the last day or two I have had an interesting exercise listing all the Questions I have asked and seeing the lack of success which I have had in my attempts to get information. We do not yet know where the graduates in science and technology go when they leave the universities and colleges. We do not know how much British industry is spending on scientific research. We do not know how many graduates in technology and science are working in British industry at all.
I could make a list of half-a-dozen other Questions which have been asked in the House over the last two or three months, about which the Government's information is negligible. In some cases they do not look as if they want to get any information, or are trying to get any although I must add that in others they have recently reformed and are endeavouring to get information. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has asked for the co-operation of industrialists in an effort to find out how much money is spent on research by British industry, but, as I pointed out to him 1531 earlier, he is now starting on this task, whereas not long ago the Stationery Office published an account of science and technology in industry in Western Germany and was able to give us an estimate that Western German industry was spending £50 million a year on it. Apparently we know what Western Germany is doing but we do not yet know what we are doing. I hope that that defect will soon be remedied.
I want to suggest one or two things which the Government ought to do. First, they should make a survey of the research projects which people wish to undertake, which ought to be undertaken but which are not being undertaken either by the universities or by other institutions because of lack of money, materials, equipment or men. I understand from those with whom I have talked in the last few months that such a survey would reveal a surprising lack of knowledge on our part of techniques about which we and industry ought to know.
I therefore ask the Financial Secretary to tell us what the Government will do in this connection because, as one of the Reports of the Scientific Advisory Council said two or three years ago, the trouble with parts of British industry—not all—is not merely that they are complacent, but that they do not know what they ought to be looking for; they do not know the problems which exist and which ought to be solved. In my view, a survey of this sort would reveal information which would be of very great value to the nation in assessing how far the Government's present scientific effort is matching the needs of the situation.
Next, I ask the Government to undertake a review of the organisation of our scientific effort and its application to industry. At present, it is piecemeal; it has grown up by accident. My right hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), who was Chairman of a Sub-Committee of the Estimates Committee, some three or four years ago, made an investigation into the Agricultural Research Council's working, and his Committee was able to produce to the House a Report upon which the Government acted two or three years later and in which it was shown that the historical growth of that Department was of such a character that it ought to be overhauled; like Topsy, it had "just growed," 1532 and it needed very much to be pulled together.
Let us look at the present situation. On all hands we hear stories of duplication in research in this country. It would not be surprising if they were true. Think how many institutions are at the moment undertaking fundamental research—and I am not saying that they should not undertake it: the D.S.I.R. itself, the Agricultural Research Council, the Medical Research Committee, universities and industry itself undertaking some parts of fundamental research. If we turn to applied research the situation is even worse, for we must add the Ministry of Supply and the Admiralty.
There are a number of spheres—and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary knows about them—in which duplication is alleged. There are very strong grounds for saying that in this period in which we live, with the great tightness and shortage of scientific manpower, coordination might remove some duplication of effort which is taking place.
Let us see how we try to prevent duplication at the moment The Lord President of the Council does not co-ordinate all the efforts about which I have been talking I am delighted to see my right hon Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr H. Morrison) here; he is a former Lord President of the Council and one who, during the later years of the war and the early years after 1945, did a very great deal to stimulate that Department. Everyone knows the great work which he did, and I should like to hear his views. I should like him to say whether he thinks the Lord President of the Council in this Government is capable of coordinating the whole of the activities of the Departments which are now engaged in fundamental and applied research.
The Scientific Advisory Committee is supposed to advise the Lord President. For all the attention which is paid to the Reports of these gentlemen, they might as well go away and, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), play tiddly-winks. If I were in a menacing mood—which I am not, because I do not feel that the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible for this and I hit only at the man who is responsible—I should list and confront the Lord President of the Council, if he 1533 sat in this House, with all the recommendations of this Committee which have not only been ignored or rejected but have not even been answered. Why these gentlemen continue to go on making these Reports which are ignored by the Government I do not know; but I would say to them, "Please go on doing it, because you are exposing a situation for the benefit of the nation as a whole".
§ Mr. Bevins
With great respect, I suppose the hon. Gentleman realises that the argument which he has been advancing is an argument for the new organisation contained in the Bill and for an Executive Council.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope I have said nothing which led the hon. Gentleman to think that I was opposed to the Bill. Indeed, I said the contrary; I said that we would give it a doubting blessing, because we have not enough facts upon which to base our judgment. We certainly wish it well. But surely the hon. Member does not think that what is happening in D.S.I.R., even under this proposal for a part-time Executive Council, will achieve the co-ordination of scientific effort which I am suggesting. If he does, then, with great respect, he does not begin to understand the problem.
§ Mr. Bevins
The hon. Member must not misrepresent what has been said. This Research Council will be concerned with D.S.I.R. and not with the whole of the country's scientific effort.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I understand that and I am not misrepresenting what the hon. Gentleman said. In so far as we can make some effort at co-ordination and at cutting out duplication inside D.S.I.R.—if it exists; I do not know—I am in favour of it. I am making the point that if we are being asked to reorganise this Department this evening, then this is a tupenny-ha'penny proposal by comparison with what is needed in the Governmental co-ordination of our scientific effort.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the absence of a Minister does not matter; he demanded the right to speak here. Certainly, I am on the side of Parliamentary Secretaries, since I have never been more than one myself and I am a member of the Parliamentary Secretaries' trade union. It is no use his 1534 comparing his position in this debate with the position he said I occupied when I used to speak here on behalf of the Admiralty. I was a member of the Board of Admiralty. Every Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty is. At the Admiralty we sat around the table solemnly every Thursday, and everybody had his say. We all made our contributions, and there were decisions reached in common.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works meet the Lord President regularly every week to discuss matters concerning D.S.I.R. and to thresh them out on terms of equality? No. The positions do not begin to be comparable. I could speak for the Admiralty with conviction because I was taking part in the shaping of the decisions which were reached. With no disrespect to the hon. Gentleman, we say we want to see at that Box a Minister who can do that. The hon. Gentleman certainly cannot. His responsibility is for the Ministry of Works, not the D.S.I.R. or any part of the Government's scientific effort.
I am aware that I am taking up rather a long time, and I promise my hon. Friends who, I know, want to speak in the debate that I shall take only three or four minutes longer, but I must raise the question of defence expenditure. An Answer which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave me recently showed that of the total Governmental expenditure of £235 million for Government scientific research and development £204 million is going on military and defence expenditure, £31 million on civil research; seven-eighths of the total Governmental expenditure is today being devoted to our defence research and development.
This will not do. There is duplication in the Service Departments today. I notice that there is no one here from the Service Departments, and it is a pity. They ought to be represented here, and the Minister of Supply ought to be here, and we ought to have here, also, the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. Everyone knows of the Departmental battles which go on over the allotment of money between one Department and another. I fear that there are no battles between the civilian side and the military side. The defence side wins hands down. It is time we 1535 shifted our weight from one foot to the other and increased the amount of civilian expenditure on research and development and decreased the expenditure on defence.
I can say with a fair degree of confidence that there are fewer than 10,000 scientists in the Government's employment altogether, and that about 7,500 of them are engaged on defence research and development. The proportion engaged on the defence scientific effort, is against civil scientific research is three to one at least, I should say. I shall not try to estimate it any nearer than that. I wonder whether this is not a Korean War hangover. It is high time we adjusted the balance, because the effort on the civilian side is vital for Britain during the next decade.
To sum up, we ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for a statement of Government policy. We ask what is to be the directive to be given to these part-time gentlemen who are to serve on the Council, and who they are to be, what sort of persons are to be appointed, and what their remuneration is to be. We ask that the total effort devoted to scientific research and development should be increased. We ask that as part of that programme, or in addition to it, there should be a change in the balance of our military effort and our civilian effort.
We ask that the organisation and coordination of scientific effort in this country should be reviewed by the Government. We ask that there should be a survey made of research projects, so that the nation can see what needs to be done. We ask that there should be a Minister in this House responsible for this business, and able to answer Questions upon it because he helps to make the decisions, and not because he is the mouthpiece of others, however eloquent and however agreeable he may be.
We feel that what is at stake here is the future of Britain. I have no hesitation at all in saying that the Governmental effort during the next decade in this matter will determine the future of our nation, and that unless there is a vast increase in that effort, over what is being proposed by the Government at the present, the future of Britain as a first-class industrial nation is very grim. 1536 Contrariwise, although we are short of raw materials, we have a highly skilled population. Our best raw material today is brains. I believe that the discoveries in science over the last decade offer this country a second chance. With due deference to the Financial Secretary, I would say that in the long run the solution of our balance of payments problem does not lie with him or with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that it lies in the application of our scientists' discoveries, in our industrial research. By that means I believe that we can escape from our balance of payments crises, and that they can, in the long run, become things of the past.
It is because I feel strongly that the Government have not yet fully realised that, and are not facing it, that I warn them that we intend to press this subject upon them on as many occasions as we are able to do.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I should like to join in the compliment which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) paid at the beginning of his speech to Sir Ben Lockspeiser for his work in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for so many years. There is in the last Report of the D.S.I.R. a graph showing the great increase in the resources devoted to the Department's work by both the Government and industry, and that remarkable graph is a testimony to the work which Sir Ben Lockspeiser has done, because it shows in graphic form the immense increase in the activities of the Department during his secretaryship.
Before coming to the main part of my speech I want to make a brief comment upon the unpublished Report, about which, I have no doubt, we shall hear again tonight. I have not seen that Report. I suspect that if we did see it we should discover it to be only the proverbial mouse, although at the moment it may be feared by some to be a mountain.
The point of my intervention earlier was that if the doctrine is to be preached in the House that every report which a Departmental committee or a committee of inquiry sends to the Government is to be made available to the House—whether it is placed in the Library or published as a White Paper—I have little doubt that 1537 the Government will be depriving themselves of important or interesting information which from time to time they ought to have and which they certainly would not have if the authors of that information knew that it was automatically to be published.
It is a dangerous doctrine to lay down, because the result will simply be to discourage information coming to the Government which they might be very glad to have. I accept the view of the Lord President of the Council and of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works that the contents of the Report which has been mentioned are neither peculiarly important nor such as to be suitable for publication.
The main theme of my own contribution to the debate is that which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East introduced towards the end of his speech. It is a commonplace for us all nowadays to talk about the need for scientific development in this country, both research and production, but if it is a commonplace it does not make it any the less true or less necessary for us to urge that point of view whenever we have the opportunity.
I very much agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that the country as a whole still does not realise on what a slender thread our industrial leadership in the world and our ability to maintain our exports as against our imports at present hangs. We have little to live on in the future except our scientific wits. We can no longer do what we did in Victorian days. We have to export the men, the materials and the know-how which are in the very forefront of scientific development. If we do not, our standard of life win be most gravely affected.
The spearhead of all that is research, pure and applied. It is easy, when talking about research, to do so as though it were something which can be turned on at will, like water coming through a tap. But research is no longer carried out as it was in the first chapter of Genesis. We cannot say today, "Let there be light" and there is light at once. I thought that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East was grossly over-simplifying the problem when he gave the impression that more money and more men automatically mean that we shall turn out more worth-while knowledge. It is far more difficult to 1538 organise research than to organise production, because scientists with a bent for research do not grow on every tree, and the conditions in which they work are not conditions which can be readily determined on a sort of Civil Service basis.
Another problem with which the D.S.I.R. should be particularly concerned is the rate at which research is going on and at which research papers are being poured out all over the world. One of the major problems of Government in this country and of the D.S.I.R. must be to delve into this mass of original work that is being brought out in order to discover where our resources must be applied with the greatest likelihood of achieving something. We have only limited resources of capital and manpower in the country, and we have to apply those at the growing points of science and not by a general drive along the whole scientific front.
Another practical problem shows itself in Appendix VI of the latest Report of the D.S.I.R. Virtually it is no longer possible for major research to be undertaken without Government direction and support. When it is found, for example, that the University of Birmingham has to be given a grant of £230,000 for the building of a synchroton, Glasgow £354,000 and Liverpool £600,000, it will be realised that modern research is now getting to a stage where the Government, whether they like it or not, are bound to take a much closer interest in what is going on and to have an increasing say in the selection of the subjects, the places and the men who are to do the work.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East spoke about the variety of agencies through which research is being undertaken in this country, and dealt with the important point of the necessity for co-ordination. He mentioned some of these agencies, and I have some listed in my notes. In industry the General Electric Company spends £2 million a year on one research establishment, which gives an idea of the massive character of research nowadays. Then there are the research associations, the D.S.I.R. establishments, the Ministry of Supply, the Atomic Energy Authority, the nationalised industries, the universities and the technical colleges, the Admiralty, M.R.C., the Agricultural Research Committee—all these are under- 1539 taking various kinds of research more or less in co-ordination. And, of course, in turn, there are six or seven Ministers interested in this effort.
Here I tend to part company with the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. I am not certain that undue co-ordination of research activities under direct Government supervision is necessarily a good thing. In this type of work variety is desirable, and even if it leads to a minimal amount of overlapping, that should not be stopped entirely by the automatic operation of some Governmental machine.
§ Mr. Willey
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that that is just what research is subject to now? All Government research at present is subject to the ultimate control of the Treasury. The question is what kind of control there should be.
§ Sir H. Linstead
It is subject to the ultimate control of the Treasury to the extent that its total volume may be limited by the amount of money which can be devoted to it, but not in the sense that the actual pieces of research undertaken are Government-directed. Of course that is true in the case of the Government research establishments, but it is not true as regards the research associations, and it is not the case in private industry or in the universities. So that at the moment we have—I think the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East would say too little—at any rate we have a very limited Governmental control over what is being done.
§ Mr. Sparks
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree, too, that the serious shortage of scientific personnel has a marked influence on what we are now talking about?
§ Sir H. Linstead
Yes, I agree. In this House we tend to concentrate on the financial aspect, but it may well be that in the scientific and technological spheres the limiting factor may not be finance but may well be men. So I would not disagree with that intervention. That is linked with our debate tomorrow, and it will be no use the Government opening the gates of finance unless at the same time they provide the manpower to take advantage of that finance.
1540 Turning more particularly to the Bill, and to the constitution of the Research Council, I do not see that there is here any substantial question of principle. There is a constitutional question, but I think that the Report of the Jephcott Committee was right in saying that there could be increased contact between the Research Council and the research establishments either through strengthening the Advisory Council or by creating an Executive Council. An advisory council will not continue long if its advice is not accepted, nor is an executive council able to do its job properly if orders are perpetually issued by it. Whichever is the constitutional basis, the practical effect of an effective council would be the same whether it was called executive or advisory.
I am sure that the governing factor is the one emphasised in paragraph 6 of the Jephcott Report which states that—A change of substance is often helped by a change of form.They are making the change of form in order, I believe and I hope, to emphasise the change of substance. The change of substance that I hope to see is a change to relieve the Secretary of the D.S.I.R. of part at least of the very heavy burden of responsibility which he is carrying at present, responsibility which has obviously grown as a result of his energy and success in his work. The Committee is forced to say that the Secretary, as the permanent head of the organisation, is faced with an impossible task.
The only way to relieve him of the impossible task is to share it among other people. One assumes that the change of substance which will follow the change of form will be some departmentalisation which will allow individual members of the new Executive Council to take a personal responsibility for some sections of the work. There are 14 major research divisions, some with a number of research institutions under them, and presumably these will be divided up among the members of the Executive Council in such a way that each member will have direct responsibility for some of the institutions.
It was rather discouraging to read in the last Annual Report of the D.S.I.R. that only two research institutions were 1541 visited by the Advisory Council in the course of a year. At that rate, it looks as if the turn of the research institutions comes round once every seven years or even less frequently. There is obviously room for improvement.
I would say—here I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Cardiff, SouthEast—that the great test of the Council will be the quality of the men appointed to serve on it. I am not sure that the fee paid to them is a matter of substantial importance. The type of man needed will be the type of man, who, if he is interested in the work and has something to contribute to it, is likely to serve for the honour of doing the work, and the likelihood of £200 or £300 one way or the other affecting his decision is not, with taxation at its present rate, a substantial possibility.
I believe that a great deal of the co-ordination that we all want to see will be achieved through the personal qualities of the men appointed to the Executive Council. I doubt if it will come as a result of vast reorganisation schemes. It will come because these men will get to know personally the people who are working in the fields for which they have a particular responsibility. In that way they will get to know what work is being done, where it is being done and who is doing it. We are likely to get much more effective co-ordination by that rather unorganised type of supervision than we are, I suspect, if I may refer to the point made by the hon. Gentleman, by having people sitting every Thursday round a table. I am not certain whether it was supposed to be a Mad Hatter's tea party, with them all moving on. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman's hand was moving round all the time.
§ Sir H. Linstead
We cannot do that under the Bill.
I want, finally, to offer one or two suggestions about the problems which it seems to me the new Council will have to face. There is the problem of co-ordination, a very difficult one, not, I think, necessarily to be solved by purely mechanical means. There is the problem of finding the manpower and ensuring that it is used at the growing points of science and not dissipated in continuing 1542 work which is either being done elsewhere or is not producing results.
The Council will, I think, have to turn its attention to a problem referred to in the Report of the D.S.I.R.—how much of the energy and resources of the Department are to be devoted respectively to basic research, applied research and disseminating the results of research? At the moment the percentages are 30 for basic research, 45 for applied research and 25 for advisory or propaganda activities. Twenty-five per cent. for those activities seems to be a very high proportion.— One wonders whether trade associations and A.S.L.I.B. and organisations of that kind cannot take some of the responsibility for disseminating information, thereby leaving more resources for direct research work.
Then there is the question still not sufficiently studied by the D.S.I.R., which I would call the application of the social sciences to industry and the problems which arise in the proper utilisation of men and women in industry, including such things as work measurement and automation, which is nowadays a magic word which one has to utter on these occasions, although it existed a good many centuries before the word was invented.
The Research Council must turn its attention more to research in the technical colleges. The grant for special research to technical colleges is only £10,000, while about £300,000 goes to universities. That suggests either that the resources of technical colleges are not being sufficiently developed, or—and I suspect that this is true—that a number of the technical colleges need upgrading in order that they can tackle research of a higher standard. We tend to pay rather easy compliments to research in technical colleges, not realising that they require more resources than they have at the moment if they are to do it properly.
Those represent some of my hopes of the Bill; and once again I emphasise that the Bill itself is of secondary importance. It is merely a machinery Bill. I hope that what will come out of it is a fresh drive under a most energetic Chairman and a most energetic and respected Secretary. If that can be done, and the members of the Council take real responsibility for the development of the sections in which they are interested, we 1543 shall see the Council making a substantial contribution to the maintenance of the standard of living of the people of this country.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
I apologise in advance if I am not able to be present for the whole of the debate. As one who was Lord President of the Council for five or six years, I want to say a few words about the Bill and, within limits, about some of its associated problems. I have been glad to hear the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), who does very valuable work as Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee over which he presides with great impartiality and ability. I do not agree with everything he said, but I was very glad to hear him taking part in the debate.
I agree with him and with the Parliamentary Secretary, however, that the country is greatly indebted to Sir Ben Lockspeiser not only for his work as Secretary of the Department for Scientific and Industrial Research, to which I appointed him, but for the work he did before that with the Ministry of Supply. I would also mention Sir Edward Appleton, who preceded Sir Ben as secretary of the D.S.I.R., and who is now Principal of Edinburgh University. Both men did fine work.
I am not convinced that the Bill is necessary, or that it adds anything to the capacity of work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, but I will return to that when I have tried to describe the existing machinery for running these things. The Lord President of the Council in the Labour Government—and so far as I know, it is still the case— was the Minister in charge, in a general, co-ordinating way, of civil scientific matters. It is useful to have such a Minister.
It is not practical for him to be putting his finger into the works every day and trying to control the Government's scientific work in detail. In the first place, he probably is not a scientist, except possibly a political scientist, and, therefore, he would not be competent to take that degree of what one might call interfering executive responsibility for the work of the scientific organisations of Government. Secondly, if he were a scientist it 1544 would be no better, because he would be a scientist with particular ideas from his particular scientific angle, which might well be in conflict with those of other people and lead to more friction than co-ordination.
On the other hand, the old idea that the Lord President held a sort of honorific office with nothing to do—about the same as that of the Lord Privy Seal, who has literally nothing to do and that is why he is given other work— [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?]" He left with a word of regret to me that he had another engagement. But in his case there is literally nothing attaching to the office and that is why he is used as a co-ordinating Minister or Leader of the House of Commons or in other ways.
It was a mistake, I think, to assume, as it often was assumed, that the Lord President was, so to speak, in a nice-sounding office of the Government which it was useful to be able to confer on the No. 2 in the Government. Mr. Baldwin did it under Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and when Mr. Macdonald went and Mr. Baldwin became Prime Minister there was a switch about of those two gentlemen and Mr. Macdonald became Lord President of the Council. How much interest they took in these scientific activities I do not know. My impression i, that they were not expected to. It was assumed that this was an honorific office for statesmen of certain status.
I remember when I started pushing scientists around, summoning them to the office and cross-examining them. I got on with them very well. I remember one case, however, where a high officer of one of the research organisations was in an awful state when he left my office. He said to someone in the outer office, "This is a fine Lord President. It is the first time that I have been called up like this and put through the third degree. Hitherto, what happened was that I paid my annual visit to the Lord President, we had a nice ceremonial talk for about ten minutes, and that was the end of it until next year."
That was a wrong impression of the Lord President's office, just as it would be if he were to interfere too much. When there is a request for more money and more subjects of research, by all 1545 means give them sympathetic consideration, and, indeed, sometimes encouragement to come along and make applications for more money if there are subjects for research which are particularly urgent.
The Report of the Committee is right in implying, as I think it does, that a situation may arise in which research on a given subject goes on and on over the decades until it becomes a sheer habit. A man may be employed upon a given piece of research for years and years until his brain becomes utterly stale, because he has narrowed himself within that subject.
As I said to the scientists when I was Lord President, "If you want me to give you more money for a new subject of research, I shall expect you to tell me what subjects you can stop research into, in compensation for the money for which you are asking. If you cannot do so, give me your reasons and we will go through the process of cross-examination." They should be told that if they want more money for new subjects of research, they should provide a report stating what other subjects of research can be dropped in favour of the new ones. It is not good that some men should be engaged upon one piece of research for too long. That is mentally suffocating and stifling. They should be moved around.
The Lord President should also take a lively interest in the composition of the Research Council, looking out for possible changes and improvements. I do not think that it was always the case that trade unionists sat upon the Advisory Council. I do not know whether l started the practice; I rather think I did. It is a very good thing for trade unionists to sit upon the Council. I found that some of the industrial research associations had no trade unionists among their members. That sort of thing is exceedingly foolish, because it is necessary to encourage the trade unions to take an interest in science and research.
I believe that even the establishment at Manchester, which does very fine research work in connection with the textile industry, at one time had no trade union representation. The trade unions thought that it was nothing to do with them. The view which I took when I held the office of Lord President was that this matter was very much to do with them.
1546 They have a right to know about it and, if necessary, to use the knowledge they derive from it to push the employers on in the matter of the modernisation of their undertakings. Trade unionists should be represented upon both the central body and the research associations.
The Lord President, or whoever is in charge of this matter, can also keep in touch—in an adequate if somewhat loose way—with the research associations. He should certainly visit research stations during his years of office—and he should visit more than just one or two. This should be done, because it encourages the associations and gives the Lord President information about the situation.
The Bill raises the question whether the existing machinery is, broadly, right, or whether there is a case for some change. The next question is, does the Bill represent a change, or is it window dressing and nonsense? I believe that it is sheer nonsense and a waste of Parliamentary time. I do not believe that it is necessary. It will not make two-pennyworth of difference to the work of the Department. The Bill will change what was an advisory body into an executive body. Apparently this body is an advisory one, while the other two, in connection with agriculture and medicine, are executive—although I did not notice any difference between any one of these three research bodies when I was Lord President. I do not think that it really matters.
This body is to become an executive body. What does that mean? I understand that the Bill provides that its members may be paid remuneration. I do not think that they should be paid substantial sums of money in order to encourage them to work. The most we could give them is £500 a year, which I do not think necessary in this case, as we give the part-time members of the boards of the nationalised industries. That is jolly good pay compared with the pay of Members of Parliament.
We are treated very badly. After a free vote in the House of Commons we were cheated by the Government; but I must not develop that point. These people are very well treated compared with the Chairman of the Education Committee or the Housing Committee of the London County Council. We should be 1547 a little careful, in our public administration, not to create too many bodies the members of which are paid salaries which are too high for the part-time service they give.
They should not be paid really high salaries unless it is necessary. In a good many cases it is, but I do not think that it is in this case. As has been said, there is a real competition among scientists and men of distinction to get on to this body. They want to be on. It would be easy to find industrialists who are interested in this matter. I did not find any difficulty over the money question. I think they got out-of-pocket expenses, which was also the case with the local authorities, and I do not understand the Clause about remuneration. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to modest fees. Does that mean a fee for each attendance in addition to expenses? We should be told.
I doubt whether the Bill will have the effect of improving the quality of the Council. Is it thought that this Measure will enable the Council to take on responsibility for the administration of individual research stations? I doubt that, too. There are a lot of them and I am not sure that it is right that one member of the Council should be responsible for one or more of them. That may, or may not, be a suitable arrangement, but I think it would be better to have a small committee—if such an organisation does not already exist—formed for each station. There would be plenty of people who would be happy to serve on such committees. Therefore, I do not feel that the Bill effects any material change.
It has been stressed that the Secretary of the Department cannot keep various matters under control. Again, I do not see how this Bill will enable him to do that any better in the new circumstances. But I doubt whether the Bill is worth voting against. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) indicated that we shall not divide the House. It is my experience that when one is sitting on the back benches—quite apart from any obligation to my hon. Friend—any Division which one starts up is a miserable one, because people like to go home. In any case, I do not think this Bill worth voting against. I consider it a waste of Parlia- 1548 mentary time and unnecessary. If the Government badly want it, well and good, though I do not think it will make any difference.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) gave rather grudging support to some aspects of this Bill, but in other respects he said it was quite colourless and hardly worth debating. I think that we should hear something from the Government about the directives to be given to the Research Council which is to be created under the Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is most important we should know something about that matter, because of the need to select particular subjects for research from time to time. Surely it is essential to have a fairly continuous review of subjects for research when we are considering how much money to spend on them. In my opinion, that should be one of the main functions of this body.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that we are not spending enough money. It is true that, according to the D.S.I.R. Report last year, many departments took that view, in particular, the Nuclear Physics Committee, about which I wish to say something in a moment. The hon. Gentleman did not go on to say on which particular subjects he would like to see more money spent. I consider it important that some more specific criticism should be made than merely to say that we ought to spend more money on research.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I recall that I asked the Government to undertake a survey of research projects which ought to be tackled, and that people were suggesting should be dealt with, and to determine and assess their cost in terms of men and equipment? Then we should know where the money ought to be spent. Surely that is a reasonable criticism.
§ Mr. Neave
I grant that point to the hon. Gentleman. But, in advance, he said that the Government were not doing enough. I think it fair to say that the grant-aided research associations which come under D.S.I.R. have been receiving more money annually ever since the war, and it is not right to say that we ought to spend more money on research, until 1549 we have had the survey which the hon. Member suggested. I think that the Government must have that point in mind. In explaining the purposes of this Bill, I hope the Financial Secretary will therefore say something about the directives in regard to the particular types of research which it is intended this Research Council shall receive.
At one stage an hon. Member opposite asked the Parliamentary Secretary whether the D.S.I.R. would have any responsibility for atomic energy research, and I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say "No." Of course, in the strict sense, that may be true. Responsibility of the D.S.I.R., as I understand it, is for fundamental research into nuclear physics and not for the atomic energy programme as a whole, which is the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Authority, set up two years ago. I wanted to mention that matter because it might have created misunderstanding, and it is a point which I think is worth clarifying.
The D.S.I.R. has done some very good work through its Nuclear Physics Committee, whose Chairman is Sir John Cockcroft. One important work which it has been doing through powers which will be continued under this Bill is to make grants to various universities for nuclear research. One supposes that that will be continued, and I should like to hear whether there is any intention to increase the grants in future in regard to nuclear energy research. By that I mean —in order to make the point quite clear —fundamental research on nuclear physics as distinct from the application of industrial atomic energy.
During the past few years grants for the installation of different types of equipment suitable for the study of nuclear energy have been made to many universities, including Birmingham, Liverpool and Oxford. I think that the actual amount due to be earmarked this year is £250,000. That seems to be a very important function of the D.S.I.R., and it raises the whole question of the need to have a clear system of priorities for its functions in the field of research. That is a point made by others with which I thoroughly agree, and I am sure that the Government will take it into account in considering future functions of the Department.
1550 There is another aspect of this matter which I think is very important, and which to a certain extent concerns nuclear energy. Up to now the D.S.I.R., through various channels, has been contributing to international organisations, in particular to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This year it is due to contribute a very considerable sum, about £500,000, I understand from the D.S.I.R. Report for last year. That is to say, its estimates will provide for a contribution of that size. Very impressive progress has been made in that field. I suggest that that is certainly one of the functions which should be carried on by the D.S.I.R. after reorganisation, and is one of the matters to which special attention should be given.
Another matter—and here the distinction between the functions of the Atomic Energy Authority and the D.S.I.R. become extremely important—is the search for mineral raw materials. The search for uranium is at the moment being carried out in various parts of the world and is conducted by the Geological Survey division of the D.S.I.R. and not as a responsibility of the Atomic Energy Authority. There is need for the closest collaboration in this field. I am sure the Government will take into account the need for strengthening the organisation in view of the fact that, whilst it is said that we have sufficient uranium for some years for civil use, large-scale search for this valuable mineral to be used as fuel in nuclear power stations will have to continue for many years to come. That is one of the aspects of the work to which I want to draw especial attention, but there are one or two other matters.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that we are lagging behind the United States and other countries, though he did not say which other countries—
§ Mr. Neave
I did not understand the hon. Gentleman to say what other countries, but if he says that he did, then, of course, I accept that statement —in the application of scientific research, particularly, I presume industrial research. The hon. Gentleman said that Russia and the United States are training more scientists than we are. This 1551 is becoming a very familiar, but significant, argument for the expenditure of more money on research in this country. But the survey which the hon. Gentleman himself suggests is also vitally important. We should not be concerned merely with the training of a large number of scientists in order to get ahead of other countries in the application of nuclear energy, particularly for peaceful use, but with the quality of the research undertaken and the quality of the training.
It is sometimes a little dangerous—although it is quite right to draw attention to it—to say that the quantity of scientists is the main matter which we are here considering. It is not. There is also the question of the value of the research in terms of its successful application in the future. Therefore, there is a very big argument in favour of the D.S.I.R. developing the closest possible collaboration with industry—even more than it has done hitherto—through its industrial research associations.
It is perfectly proper for hon. Members on both sides of the House to point out that far more publicity and information regarding the need for research in special fields is required. I agree that the way to do that is to have a regular survey in order that we may review the finances of the whole of our research system.
To my mind, the reorganisation in the Bill is not quite as ill-timed or as unimportant as the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South makes out. It would give opportunities for more executive powers to be given to the D.S.I.R., and it could solve many of the fundamental problems with which we are faced in regard to our national research in the scientific and industrial field.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) suggested in the course of his very interesting speech that the Bill was really a waste of Parliamentary time. I am bound to say that I disagree with him in that respect because, if it has done nothing else, it has at any rate provided the House with one of its very rare opportunities for considering the subject 1552 of scientific research which is of such vital importance to our national life today. It has, indeed, provided a notable debate in which by no means the least valuable contribution was that of my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend told us something of his experience when he was Lord President of the Council and when he had to deal with scientific and industrial research. Listening to my right hon. Friend, I could not help feeling how very much better these important matters were regulated when he was Lord President than they are now. I also realised how important it is that we should have in this House the Minister charged with this tremendously important responsibility.
I agree with what has already been said about the vital necessity for having a senior Cabinet representative in this House charged with the responsibility of industrial and scientific research, so that the House can have further opportunities to debate the matter and raise points which, as this debate has shown, are of great interest to Members on this side.
Whatever may have been the situation when my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South was Lord President of the Council, I think it is obvious from the interim Jephcott Report, which either inspired or, at any rate, endorsed the introduction of this Bill in the House of Lords, that at present something is fundamentally wrong with the way in which industrial and scientific research in this country is carried out. It may well be —and I agree with my right hon. Friend —that the Bill itself is merely a piece of camouflage.
The interim Jephcott Report which has been published and which has inspired this Bill—and I imagine that the one which has not been published is far more serious in its condemnation—shows that something is alarmingly wrong in the way in which scientific and industrial research is at present conducted, organised, financed, encouraged and co-ordinated. Shortly after the publication of the Report, the Manchester Guardian of 5th April said—and I agree with this:The committee of inquiry which has looked into the affairs of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has come out with a damning interim report. It paints a picture of muddled thinking, of waste, and of valuable effort uselessly employed.1553 That is strong language, but it is language which is justified by the interim Report, which says, in no ambiguous language, that the Committeereached the conclusion that the central direction, under the present organisation, of the scientific effort at the stations … is inevitably inadequate to secure the most effective use of the resources in the national interest.I would be the last in any way to minimise what has already been done in certain fields of research in recent years. We all acknowledge, for example, the great strides that have been made in atomic research and nuclear energy, to which reference was made by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), in whose constituency Harwell is situated. In fact, I think we would all acknowledge that the developments at Harwell, under the leadership of Sir John Cockcroft, in recent years have been quite outstanding.
The criticism that is made of the work of the D.S.I.R. is that there are many other fields of scientific inquiry and effort which have not made such great progress. One of the criticisms I hear about the whole subject of scientific research is a lack of balance. In fact, I think this is obvious from the last Report of the Department. The Report itself contains some of the justification for the condemnation which was expressed in the interim Jephcott Report.
There has been—and it is no secret—in scientific and industrial circles during recent years a feeling of grave disturbance and disquiet at the neglect of opportunities for making the greatest possible use of our scientific manpower and for developing to the utmost the potentialities of fundamental research and the practical application of that fundamental research to the needs of industrial, commercial and domestic life.
The Report itself is evidence of a lack of balance. Considerable sums were expended in some directions; very limited sums are spent in other directions. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has pointed out the apparent neglect of the potential advances which can be made by the Chemical Research Laboratory, the grant to which is very niggardly compared with the grants made, for example, in respect of physical research, fuel research, and 1554 other departments of scientific knowledge. Why this should be, I do not know.
Another matter causing disquiet is the apparent conflict of interest between science and industry. Whereas scientists and persons of academic training tend to be interested in pursuing research for its own sake, and, whereas, looking back, it is obvious to us that none of the great strides in science would have been possible had it not been for the quite disinterested efforts of those engaged—as Rutherford was—in fundamental research, there are, on the other hand, the interests of industrialists whose chief concern, not unnaturally perhaps, is with the application of a scientific discovery to some immediate commercial purpose.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to the notorious neglect in recent years of isotatic polymers. We live in an age in which the resources and potentialities of plastics can be extended very considerably, but development in that respect was held up for a very long time. Whether it is right or not, I do not know; but I fear that the view is commonly expressed that that delay was due to lack of proper coordination between industrialists and scientists. Research in plastics was quite unaccountably held up.
Again, a Report published only five years ago by the D.S.I.R. made the curious statement that the claims of electronics were quite exaggerated. Anyone familiar with the immense developments which have since taken place in electronics, not only in electronic computers but in the whole range of electronic science, would say today that it is quite impossible to exaggerate the claims of research in electronics or the extent to which, if such research is pursued, tremendous advantages to the nation will accrue. To give another illustration, it is very curious to find in the Report of the D.S.I.R. that one laboratory apparently expresses great pride in its research into the use of automatic stokers on railway steam locomotives without realising that those inefficient machines are quite obviously on the way out.
I agree with what other hon. Members have said to the effect that it will be the duty of this Research Council not only to encourage some research, but to stop some research. There are instances in which certain research has gone on 1555 too long. There are many other departments of research in which effort has been frustrated through lack of financial support and the effect of parsimonious Treasury control.
I agree with my right hon. Friend; I do not believe that this Bill will by itself make very much difference, and it will certainly not make very much difference unless Parliament has much more information than the Parliamentary Secretary was prepared to give. He is making not only a great political mistake but a serious national error, I believe, in not making available to hon. Members the final Report of the Jephcott Committee. It is now conceded that it does not contain any matters in which national security is involved. Fortunately, we have emerged from the situation prevalent 10 years ago when it could be said with some justification that there were reasons of secrecy which, on security grounds, should guard some scientific inquiries.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out the other day, now that Russia has advanced to a degree of scientific knowledge which in many ways outstrips our own, and now that the United States is prepared to share many more secrets than in the past, there can be no solid argument based on national security or the interests of peace which justify the concealment of relevant facts about basic research not only from the people of this country but from other nations. Indeed, I gather that it is not even suggested that a question of security is involved in this Bill.
What has emerged—and here I want to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said so effectively—is that in the country, largely due to the great interest being taken in the subject by hon. Members on this side of the House, there is growing—and there will continue to grow—an increasing demand for the dissemination to the public of all possible knowledge on these subjects. If we are to realise the possibilities which my hon. Friend mentioned, and if we are to derive the full benefits which can be obtained by pursuing to the uttermost all avenues of scientific research, I believe that the first essential is that more knowledge on this 1556 subject should be freely available to the public. I believe it to be completely wrong for the Government to wrap it up in secrecy, as they are at present.
The situation is even more disturbing, because, damning as the interim Jephcott Report was, we cannot help having a suspicion that some of the observations made in the final Report must have been even more serious. Thus we have reached a state of affairs in this most vital part of our national life in which the House and the public are not only denied the information which they are entitled to have, but are deprived of the opportunity of putting forward suggestions for improving the machinery by which scientific research is carried on. We are hampered by this lack of knowledge, and I add my plea to those of my hon. Friends that before we have finished with the Bill this information should be made available to hon. Members in the Library.
Even that will not be sufficient. I think it is essential that we should have a Minister in the House who is able to answer Questions through his intimate personal knowledge of the activities of this Department. Personally, I would like to see the appointment of a Minister of Science, because I do not believe that the necessary drive and energy will be injected into this work unless we have a Minister of Cabinet rank, charged with the responsibility of seeing that our national resources, both in scientific manpower and in all the research being carried on, are properly co-ordinated and kept continually under review in the House. Experience in this as in other matters has shown that publicity and the dissemination of knowledge is the first requisite in getting mistakes mended, and in putting an end to muddles in Government Departments and in making the progress that is essential.
I can quite understand that it may not always be possible for it to be arranged for the Lord President to sit in this House. I should have thought it desirable, and I should have thought that, if the Lord President sat in another place, some other Minister should have been charged with this responsibility. If the Lord President had to sit in another place —I say this without any disrespect to the Parliamentary Secretary—I should have hoped that arrangements could have been made by the Government for a Minister 1557 of senior rank, such as the Lord Privy Seal, to have been entrusted with the responsibility for answering Questions in this House on this subject. That duty has already been entrusted to him in the matter of nuclear energy.
It is no less important, in my submission, that someone of the status of the Lord Privy Seal, able to speak from personal knowledge, and occupying the second position in the Government, should be able to deal with this matter, because it is our intention to keep it under constant review and to maintain the utmost pressure to see that none of the opportunities which lie ahead of us are any longer neglected and wasted, as they have been in the past few years.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I agree with the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) that it is not always wise to argue that money is the most important factor in scientific research, although it is certainly disturbing that we are not spending so much money as certain other countries are. That is a matter we have to look into, but I think one ought not to over-emphasise that, but bear in mind that scientific research is very much a matter of quality, very much a matter of getting the right scientists on to the right jobs and of applying their abilities in the right way.
Like some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, I do not altogether agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) that the Bill has no value. It is not a Bill about which one can be very enthusiastic, I agree. I should say it is a Bill which oils the existing wheels, but does not add any new wheels. I think that it has value because, up to now, the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has very largely depended on one man. Others have paid great tribute to him, and I should like to add my little tribute also to Sir Ben Lockspeiser, whom I have had the honour of knowing for many years, for the work he has done. I hope that whatever happens in the future good use will be made of his abilities and knowledge, and that, although he is retiring from this work, he will be found some other work.
However, I do not think it is right that the success of the Department of 1558 Scientific and Industrial Research should depend entirely or even mainly on one man, and I think that the value of this Bill is just this, that it creates a Research Council of executive members who will have the job of sharing this work so that it will not rest with one man only.
There is also something to be said for giving a moderate remuneration to those members, because that gives the Lord President some hold over their services. It is true, of course, that many eminent scientists are only too glad to give the benefit of their abilities for nothing, just for the honour of the thing, but, at the same time, I think that some remuneration is desirable. Therefore, I think that this modest Bill has some value in that respect.
The D.S.I.R. is one of those bodies which require elasticity in its work and independence from bureaucratic control otherwise it will not function. However, as it is run with money provided by Parliament there must be some Parliamentary control as well. Therefore, one has the job in a Bill of this kind of balancing the desire for independence, so that scientific ability can find its proper scope, with, at the same time, giving powers to the House to pull up or provide more funds if it is necessary. The same thing goes on to some extent in nationalised industries, where the House does not interfere in detail in administration but holds the purse-strings and controls the general line of policy. Something like that, in a slightly different sphere, should be worked out in a case like this of bodies engaged in scientific research.
It has been mentioned on both sides of the House that it is very important today to see that there is no waste and that research in some dead-end should be stopped. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) referred especially to that and gave instances from his personal knowledge. Research goes on in departments where, obviously, nothing much further can be got. It must also be borne in mind that scientific activity changes. Something may be extremely important one year but the following year something else is discovered and the kind of research that has been going on up to then is rendered of less value or even of no importance and it is necessary to switch from the one to the other quickly. 1559 The scientists engaged in the job might not see it. It is the job of the Lord President and his advisers to see that and to prevent waste and overlapping.
On the subject of overlapping, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred to the reply made to his Question the other day in which he was given figures showing that civil scientific research accounts for a little over £30 million, but that defence research is costing over £200 million. That suggests that there is a good deal of overlapping. I know that this Bill cannot deal with that, nor can the Lord President of the Council, but I feel sure that the whole question of overlapping of research in civil Departments, in atomic energy and in the Service Departments should be investigated.
The Admiralty is notoriously very much a law unto itself. I remember that very well from the time when I served on the Select Committee on National Expenditure, before which representatives of Departments of the Admiralty appeared. I remember how much they resented any interference with what was happening in their Department. I suspect strongly that the same kind of thing is going on to this day. Therefore, there is a strong case for urging rationalisation in the undertaking of scientific research.
In view of the comments which have been made from both sides of the House, I hope that the Bill will prove to be of some use, if not of great use, and that as a result, it will be possible for the vital work of the D.S.I.R. not only to continue but to branch out into new lines. I hope, also, that the Bill will help to abolish unnecessary overlapping and dead ends.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
In the matter of the difference of opinion between my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), on balance I am inclined to agree with my right hon. Friend that this Bill is a bit of nonsense and will not make much difference. I say to the Parliamentary Secretary, I hope not unfairly, that he did not speak with any ebullience, and he did not betray any enthusiasm for his subject. I do not know whether that is because, as Parliamentary Secretary to 1560 the Ministry of Works, he thinks it a "bit thick" that he should be saddled with those responsibilities, or because the hon. Gentleman is really interested in science and does not think that he has a fair chance to do what he wishes to.
It is clear, however, from what has been said in this debate, even from the opposite side of the House, that what is the matter here is that there is not proper political responsibility for science and scientific research, and that that is becoming an increasingly urgent need. I want to make one or two brief points about some aspects of that matter. If we all, on both sides of the House, stress the importance of science and scientific research, we must also realise that it is our responsibility—and this is a political, Governmental responsibility—to see that there is the right climate for the encouragement of science and scientific research.
The Government have much to do in this matter, and the first step they must take is to make it clear within the Government that the importance of science is recognised. It is plain to us all that that is not obtaining today. We shall not get that recognition of the importance of science in the schools, in the colleges, in the universities and amongst the people at large until the Government themselves make it clear that they realise it is essential to our economic survival to pay a high regard to science.
The second problem has been traversed time and time again during this short debate. This again is a political matter. It is clear that there must be better machinery for the co-ordination of research. I do not criticise the different forms which scientific research takes. I do not urge unification, because that would be disastrous. I intervened when the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) was speaking, to mention Treasury control merely because there is some form of control. It is not a desirable form, and it is unfortunate that when we are discussing science the Financial Secretary is to wind up the debate.
There has to be elementary control in the sense of financial control, but we want more constructive control than that. We want what I would regard as a political control, a public recognition of the different responsibilities for the different branches of science and their different degrees of importance. At present I do not think that we have that. All we are 1561 discussing tonight is a fragment of scientific research.
What is more important is an assurance that we are making the best use of the different branches of research which are Government-sponsored. It has been made clear that these take different forms. We are not satisfied that there is sufficient political direct responsibility for the allocation of resources between the different branches of research. Reference has been made to the allocation as between civil and defence research. I offer no criticism of the allocation because I do not know enough about it, but I feel that in this critical and essential allocation that must be made sufficient attention is not paid to our broad national needs in research.
While I am not able to express an opinion about the merits of the allocation, I feel that the defence Ministries, because of their direct political pressure and voice, have been able to ensure that they have a better proportion of the total allocation than that to which in present circumstances they are entitled.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Would my hon. Friend agree that scientific research, whatever kind it is, is part of the defence programme, now that the cold war has spread more into the economic sphere?
§ Mr. Willey
I was about to make the point. I will express it another way. I am not satisfied that the civilian side obtains sufficient information from the research done for purely military purposes. The Parliamentary Secretary will concede that there is a good deal of research which can be beneficial both on defence and national economic grounds. The Parliamentary Secretary is obviously worried. There is another ground on which he realises that he ought to be doing far more than he is allowed to do —that anyone with political responsibility for research ought to have a far wider sphere of responsibility than he has.
I now turn to the provisions of the Bill which does two things: it deals not only with the Council but with the financial side of the D.S.I.R. The Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with the second aspect, and I do not know whether the Financial Secretary will do so. It is at any rate doubtful whether that is a good solution. It is certainly paying due and proper regard to the Public Accounts 1562 Committee, but there is a lot to be said—I am surprised that the point has not been emphasised—for giving research bodies much more security.
§ Mr. Sparks
Would my hon. Friend agree that there is a lot to be said for encouraging the boys of poor parents to take scientific courses at universities, and that the Services are losing large numbers of them for that reason?
§ Mr. Willey
I certainly accept that. I am obliged to my hon. Friend, who has made a commendably short speech.
I should have thought that there was a case for a quinquennial grant. It is bad for research generally to be on a year-to-year accounting basis. I should have thought that the Government's duty was to pay regard to the Public Accounts Committee but at the same time to devise a formula to meet the situation. In another instance the Government have done it by giving an expressed undertaking to a body that, although it will be given a grant on a year-to-year basis, over a five-year period the money will not be less than the sum assured. I should have thought it was undesirable that bodies undertaking research—this is why, with "economy" in the air, some apprehension has been expressed—should feel that at any moment their work might be prejudiced.
§ Mr. Bevins
The hon. Member is rather overlooking the "gentleman's agreement" about five-year expenditure which exists between the Treasury and the D.S.I.R.
§ Mr. Willey
I am much obliged to the Parliamentary Secretary for making that clear. Whether this gentleman's agreement, particularly in an atmosphere of general economy, is sufficient, and whether it would not have been better to have regarded this as a body which needed some assurance that strict accounting might be changed in the light of its particular needs, are matters which should have been further considered.
I want to say a few words about the Jephcott Report. I entirely disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). I could turn to the Report and, with equal research, make a case the other way. What has discouraged me is that my hon. Friend has come to a natural conclusion on his reading of the interim Report, and that may be unfair. The Parliamentary Secretary 1563 has said that there is no reflection on the D.S.I.R., but the fact remains that the interim Report is being considered as a reflection on D.S.I.R., and we have to consider what has happened in the light of the Report. In the interest of the D.S.I.R. the further Report should be published.
There is here a very anomalous position. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that after all the distinguished Chairman of the Committee of the Inquiry is now the Chairman of the D.S.I.R. and we can leave it to him to implement his own Report and avoid a great deal of publicity, which may excite comment and argument. However, that is not good enough, because the Report has in fact been construed as being critical. I could quote parts of it which clearly seem to reflect on the past work of the Department. In the interests of those who by implication appear to be criticised, further publication is required.
Quite apart from that, it is not good enough, in respect of a body like this, to say that, provided we can be assured that the organisation itself will effect the recommendations which have been made, we can rest satisfied with that. We are entitled to know more. The lessons of the inquiry could be applied to other organisations. Hon. Members should have access at all events to parts of the Report to satisfy themselves that the action which will be taken is properly taken, and that the lessons to be drawn from the Report are applied in other circumstances.
Finally, I want to say a word about the Research Council. For clarification I asked the Parliamentary Secretary about it and I understand his reply to be that the Council will consist of scientists and industrialists. I assume that by industrialists he will not include trade unionists. I gather that he meant industrialists in the ordinary sense of the term.
I used the expression "scientists and industrialists". If a trade unionist or a trade union leader had the necessary industrial or scientific qualifications, obviously he would be considered, but we certainly do not want a Research Council consisting of delegates from various bodies or associations. We want the best men we can get.
§ Mr. Willey
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look at this point again. This is a body with responsibilities wider than those of agricultural or medical councils. There is a place in such a council, not only for trade unionists, but for people with wide general public interests. I hope that when we reach the Committee stage of the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary will look carefully at this matter again, and consider whether it would not be better not to limit the Council to specialists, but to bring in some people who would look primarily to the national interest.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
The conditions which led up to the establishment of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1915 were more or less the same as they are today. We can recall the time, in 1915, when we were rather shocked to realise that we had fallen so far behind Germany in the application of science to industry. The relevant White Paper of that period states that situation very clearly. It says:It is well known that many of our industries have … suffered through our inability to produce at home certain articles and materials required in trade processes, the manufacture of which has become localised abroad, and particularly in Germany, because Science has there been more thoroughly and effectively applied to the solution of scientific problems bearing on trade and industry … it appears incontrovertible that if we are to advance, or even maintain our industrial position, we must as a nation aim at such a development of scientific industrial research as will place us in a position to expand and strengthen our industries.Those words were written in 1915, but they are as true today as they were then.
In 1915 we had fallen behind Germany in our industrial and scientific research, and today the position is rather worse. We now find the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. galloping towards the winning post, while we are losing ground behind them. It is true that we awoke in 1915, but we slumbered and slept between 1918 and 1939, and we now find ourselves at the rear in the matter of technical education. That is a matter which can be discussed in more detail tomorrow.
If we are to advance, or even to hold our position, we must have a more thorough-going policy of scientific integration with industry. Now that the Bill is 1565 being introduced, the House should seriously consider whether it is not time to make a thorough investigation into the question of scientific research in industry. The whole structure should be re-examined, as has not happened since 1915. It is true that four research establishments have increased to 14 in 41 years, and that 21 research associations have increased to 40. We are also spending £8½ million, but are we sure that this Measure, which has as its principal object the changing of the Advisory Council into an Executive Council, will meet the requirements of the present situation?
We must co-ordinate the research resources of the nation. There is a danger of isolated groups working upon parallel researches unknown to each other, resulting in a waste of scientific ability when we have insufficient to spare. It has been stated tonight that £31 million has been spent on civil research and £204 million upon defence. It is obvious that our future must ultimately rest upon our industry. However important defence is at the moment, this is a temporary phase, which we hope will pass in a very short time.
I conclude with this suggestion. We are passing through a very important stage in our industrial life. We shall be having a discussion tomorrow on technical education. We have our universities, more or less independent, where we have graduates and postgraduates; and new technical and technological colleges will be set up. I am suggesting that the time has arrived when we should have, over and above this whole system, another type of institution—independent centres of research fed by students and post-graduates from the universities and technological colleges, which will distil their influence down into our industries. By a comprehensive scheme of that kind, we may have some hope for the future.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary does not feel that it is a matter for reproach that the debate has ranged so far beyond the content of the Bill which is now before the House for Second Reading, because I am sure he will agree that it has been a useful and valuable debate. I want to intervene 1566 briefly, and to confine myself to one or two points which arise directly from the Bill, and on which I hope that we will be able to get some further information from the Financial Secretary when he winds up the debate.
I think that the main anxiety of all of us is that whatever machinery is set up for this purpose, the national interest must be safeguarded, and not any industrial or commercial interest. I foresee that there is some danger, unless we can have certain assurances from the Government, that this machinery might be used in a way that would allocate to the national cost some of the least immediately rewarding research, in the financial meaning of the word "rewarding." While private industry would work with greater concentration on those branches of research which produce quicker results.
It may be that that is the Government's deliberate policy, and if that is in fact the case, it should be stated. There have been one or two references to stopping research projects. I am sure that a case can often be made out for stopping research which has become almost automatic, but what we want to be sure about is that no research is ever stopped or diverted because of any clash, real or potential, with private interests in the same field.
We know that there is fierce competition at the present time between the various pieces of private research which are going on. That brings me to the question of the personnel who are to form the new Research Council. I support my hon. Friends who had asked that there should be some trade union representation on that body. I think it is a great mistake if the Government take the view that only scientists of the highest calibre in their own fields are fitted to co-ordinate and plan the scientific investment of this country. Surely we should try to take at least the scientific workers along with us in what we are trying to do. It is most appropriate that direct representatives of the men and women who have to carry out these policies should have an opportunity of sharing in the planning and organisation of the work.
I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary said that he did not want a collection of delegates. But I think it unfair to suggest that workers, by reason of calibre, would be unable to contribute 1567 constructively and usefully in their own right to this kind of work. I do not see why there should not also be one or two people representing the general public interest, the "consumer interest" as it were. After all, in deciding the expenditure of a limited budget and which projects may be undertaken and which may not, there are many considerations which are non-scientific ones, but social, economic and often humanitarian, all of which should be weighed when these competing claims are decided.
My second point concerns the position of the staff. It seems an extraordinary innovation that here we have a group of private individuals, to be selected by the Lord President of the Council in consultation with the President of the Royal Society, who will be paid a modest fee and who will employ civil servants. I think that the House should know what is the position of those civil servants. For example, who can sack them? Can this group of individuals sack a civil servant employed in one of those departments? These are serious questions which must be answered. What chance have these civil servants of promotion and transfer? Are they interchangeable with the scientific civil servants directly employed by the Department? I hope that we may receive an answer to those questions.
The third point which I wish to raise concerns the question of committees which the Council has power to appoint. Has consideration been given to a wider range of people being brought in to serve, or will they merely be a faculty of specialists?
My fourth point concerns the universities, and I appreciate that it can be considered only in a general review of our financing of fundamental research. As a member of the governing body of more than one college in this country, I am convinced that we have not begun to work out the most economical and useful way to finance research in the universities. I am certain that it is not always most helpful for heads of departments to be going to different sources in a search for money. I should like to see more co-ordination with the University Grants Committee, which never has enough money to spend. There seems to 1568 be a certain amount of waste of administrative time when applications have to be sent by the head of one department to the D.S.I.R. in the hope that some money will be forthcoming, while an Academic Board is trying to get money from the University Grants Committee and other members of the staff are seeking help from private industry for sponsored projects, which takes up a lot of university time.
I do not agree with my hon. Friends who have stressed the shortage of scientific manpower. We are short of the ability to use our scientific manpower to the best advantage. Six of the most brilliant scientists in my own year at college have gone to the United States, and there is a continual drain of such people from this country to the United States which we simply cannot afford. We are getting an inferiority complex about this shortage of scientific manpower, and I consider that if we made suitable use of our existing manpower, such a shortage would be eliminated.
Not only do we lose many of our best brains to the United States because we do not pay our scientists sufficient, but we are losing money as a result of their work. May I quote a very eminent scientist, who said:For every £ which has been spent in this country on pure research we have, sooner or later, been obliged to spend £3 in dollars in the United States on the products, or on licences to manufacture, the very goods which were based on fundamental research done in this country.In saying that I know that I am going beyond the terms of the Bill, but it is one of the results of the present position which deserves urgent attention from the Government. I hope that we shall soon be given an opportunity to debate fully the whole question of scientific research, and not be limited as we are tonight.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
The Financial Secretary will, I think, agree that although we have not had a very full House this has certainly been an extremely interesting and valuable debate. He, at any rate, has had to go out and get himself briefed on the subject. I think I would be justified in drawing attention to the very much greater interest displayed on this side of the House on this extremely important subject than among hon. Members opposite.
1569 We were very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who had such experience in this matter—and who is, as he hinted, a distinguished political scientist—should have thought it worth while to give us his advice.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works referred to the foundation of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1915. The hon. Gentleman, however, did not refer, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) did, to the White Paper produced at that time over the signature of Mr. Arthur Henderson. I think that for that we on this side of the House can take a certain amount of credit. I think, also, that the hon. Gentleman might have given some credit to the real founder of Governmental research in this country, Lord Haldane He, in fact, was the originator of all Governmental research in this country, research for defence and civil research. On his advice the chemical research department was added to Woolwich Arsenal.
Perhaps I might quote from a speech he made at that time. He said:I would, in the first place, begin by adding, in the interests of economy, £1,000,000 to our estimates for higher education…Of course, in those days money had a different value—I would take every step that would interest the manufacturer in the application of science to industry.Lord Haldane and Sidney Webb, later Lord Passfield, were also responsible for the foundation of the Imperial College of Science and Technology.
I add my praise to that of other hon. Members for the great efforts of Sir Ben Lockspeiser in the very substantial extension of the Department which went on after the war. The Department is still, in spite of its growth in size and function, responsible for only a tiny fraction of the research work done in this country. Several hon. Members have referred to the extraordinary disparity between research done for civil purposes and defence purposes. It has been estimated that the total amount spent on research of every type and everywhere, including industry, is not much more than £300 million, although about £235 million is spent on military and defence research in 1570 addition to the work done by the Atomic Energy Authority.
It is very difficult to obtain figures of the amount of money spent by industry on research in its own establishments, although attempts have been made by the Federation of British Industries, recently by the Manchester Research Council, and I believe that the Department is trying to find out by inquiry of its own. The general estimate is between £50 million and £70 million a year. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who opened the debate for the Opposition, that amount is very much less than the amount spent in the United States of America.
Some hon. Members may have seen an extremely interesting article in the District Bank Review by Mr. John Dunning, who estimated that the average United States firm spends 2½ to 3½ times as much as the comparable British firm on research, after allowing for the difference in money values. I should like to emphasise the importance of encouraging research in individual firms and not only in cooperative, industrial research associations.
It is important that firms should conduct their own research and have their own research establishments. This is not only the case in the new industries. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) who referred to the necessity for pressing on with what was called the "expanding front of science." That, of course, is the case with the most advanced work, but it is very necessary also to carry out research in many of our traditional industries.
In a recent very interesting lecture, Sir John Cockcroft estimated that the annual expenditure on research and development by the railway, shipbuilding and motorcar industries in this country was, respectively, £350,000, £200,000 and £3 million. These, of course, are appallingly low figures, and I doubt whether the figure given for the motor car industry can be correct. I should have thought that it was much less, but, of course, it may include the ancillary industries, which provide materials and components. It is still an appallingly small figure for an industry with a turnover of something like £500 million.
1571 Hon. Members may have seen in the Financial Times an article dealing with the great technical centre which has been set up in Detroit, where they employ several thousand scientists, engineers and research workers on work for their main and ancillary industries. But it is not only these industries which are backward in this country. Some of them are in the field of mechanical engineering—for instance, the machine tool industry.
The hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and one or two other hon. Members referred to the increasing difficulty, to which a lot of attention has been paid in recent years, of getting to industry the results of research carried out either in universities or in research associations —the problem of communication and getting the results applied. This, of course, is one of the very important functions of the Department. Clause 1(3) of the Bill deals with the dissemination of the results of research which is the responsibility of the Intelligence Division. I think that it was the hon. Member for Putney who gave some rather extraordinary figures—I do not know where he got them—about the proportion of money being spent in various activities, and the figure for this particular work seemed very high. I imagine that his figure included the moneys spent by the Industrial Research Associations.
The amount actually in the Estimates for the Intelligence Division is not very high. The Division has a very important function in addition to disseminating the results of research in this country. It has the function of collecting the results of research carried out in other countries and of disseminating it in this country to research bodies and industries. We certainly need to benefit from the research done in other countries, especially on processes and manufacturing techniques. We might also as well wake up to the fact that we are no longer the main country in the world doing fundamental research Other countries are catching up with us in these matters, and we might as well take advantage of the work they are doing and here very valuable work can be done by the Intelligence Division in the collection and dissemination of this sort of information.
I wish to pay credit to the extremely valuable work done by the small number 1572 of scientific attaches which we now have in a few countries abroad. Reference has been made to the report on the revival of German science and research by the scientific attaché in Bonn, which was very valuable. I am wondering whether it is not time for us to have a scientific attaché in Moscow. I do not know who fulfils that very important function. I was surprised to see in the list of countries in which we have scientific attaches that Switzerland is not included, because I should have thought that certainly in certain applied fields Switzerland was a very important country.
There has not been a great deal of expansion in the staff of the Division. This is a matter very closely related to the National Reference Library and to the National Library of Science Inventions, which was one of the planks in the Conservative Party programme of the last Election. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) asked a Question about this on 8th May, but the reply which he received did not show that this very important matter was being pursued with any very great activity.
A good deal of doubt has been expressed about the responsibilities of the new Research Council, particularly with reference to its relations with the Minister responsible for the Department. It certainly has an enormously wide field to cover, as has already been pointed out. It is responsible for the distribution of funds for scientific research; it has to distinguish between fundamental and applied research; in applied research it has to distinguish between its own associations and the industrial research associations.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the danger of overlapping. The Council has, in addition to watching other forms of overlapping, to be careful to see that there is no overlapping between work done in the stations and work done in industry itself. Industry must be encouraged to do its own work where possible, and when it is backward in research there should be no hesitation on the part of D.S.J.R. to do this work at its own stations and, if necessary, to set up a station for this purpose.
Many industries benefit from these research stations, yet make no contribution towards them. For example, the building industry gets a great deal of benefit from 1573 the building research station yet contributes nothing towards the maintenance of that station. I imagine that the radio industry obtains considerable benefit from the radio research station.
I suggest, also, that there may be a further case for setting up industrial research associations with a compulsory levy, as was done in the case of some of the development councils—for instance, in the cotton industry—and it is a fact that the forms of contribution paid vary enormously. Sometimes the contribution comes from trade associations; sometimes it is a compulsory levy, and sometimes it is a voluntary contribution from an individual firm. There is a case, where an industry is backward, for having a compulsory levy for the purpose of setting up a research association.
There are various possibilities of overlap in research, and I am talking mostly of applied research. There can be an overlap between two research associations, one of which receives subscriptions from the manufacturers of a product, and the other from the users of the product. I should like to refer to the danger of a conflict between the Cotton Industry Research Association and the Rayon Research Association. The Rayon Research Association is largely supported by the two manufacturers of rayon in this country. They provide the results of research to the users of rayon. As a consequence, these users, who are also often cotton textile manufacturers, do not need to join the Shirley Institute; yet the Shirley Institute, which has been built up as a large textile institute, is doing a large amount of very valuable work.
The important thing is that a research institute such as this should be impartial in its research into the raw materials. There are many problems involved in the mixtures and the use of fibres, and so on, and the work done at these institutes should be carried out impartially for the industry as a whole. There is here a danger of overlap, and possibly of lack of funds for the main industry research association, which is, of course, the Shirley Institute.
The Department is to have increasing responsibility for fundamental research, through grants to universities, and I support those hon. Members who have said 1574 that they hope this will include the colleges of advanced technology which are to be set up by the Government. There will always be arguments as to where the balance should lie as between applied and fundamental research. In recent years it has been felt in this country that we need to have more applied research. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) referred to the fact that we very often produce the fundamental work in this country and have to pay dollars for licences to manufacture the resulting product because we are unable to carry out the rest of the development.
Before the war, expenditure on applied research was 1.1 times expenditure on pure research in this country; in the United States it was 2.5, but Sir John Cockcroft tells us we are now spending less than 5 per cent. of our total on pure research, and in the United States the figure is 7 per cent. No doubt, this is very largely the result of the enormous expenditure we are now making on research for defence purposes, most, if not all, of which is applied.
I am not against using the result of other people's pure research; we certainly need more of both. I am reminded of what a distinguished industrial scientist said happened to him in the United States. He was approached by a very worried American who said, "We hope you are going on with your fundamental research." When asked why, he replied, "We depend on it". I think it is about time that we took advantage of other people's expenditure in this field.
The Bill gives to the Department, in addition to the powers to make grants for research, power to make grants for bursaries for post-graduate instruction. This is very important indeed. I know that industry is worried and does not want men to remain too long in the universities; but most modern technologies are becoming more and more complicated, and it will not be possible to give a young man a full knowledge of many modern techniques and technologies in the ordinary three years for a first degree. Mr. Oriel, President of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, in his presidential address called for an "All Souls of Technology", where men straight from the universities and from a variety of industries could rub shoulders with one another.
1575 I hope that the Imperial College of Science and Technology, whose expansion is entirely in the post-graduate field, will fulfil this function; but it is impossible for it to do so if students do not receive grants. At present, they do not get enough British post-graduate students. For instance, there is a great need for advanced education in reinforced concrete design. Much of the advanced teaching in the post-graduate course comes in the fifth year of a degree course at a Technische Hochschule on the Continent. At present, there are more Commonwealth and foreign students, including Americans, doing this post-graduate work at the Imperial College than British students. This is one of the reasons why we are falling behind.
I shall not cite the great lists of departments for whose research work the Government is responsible. Many hon. Members have dealt with that. I want to reinforce what has been said by all hon. Members, I think, about the need not for greater detailed control, but for greater general oversight and coordination. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) referred to the number of bodies working on nuclear physics. When one realises the enormous expense involved and the cost of equipment required, one can see how important is this matter of co-ordination.
Finally, I come to the problem of whether there is a substantial change or not. I agree with those who cannot see that this Research Council will really make a great deal of difference. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South expressed very great doubts about this. It is very difficult to see what it will be able to do. Hon. Members have made suggestions for membership of the Council. I am sure it must be a balanced one—pure scientists, industrial scientists, and so on. There should, I think, be an economist member with special interest in technological change, and certainly a leading trade unionist who is interested in these matters.
It is of the greatest importance that the workers should he taken along with us in these problems of change. All this new scientific work means change in industry, and it is very important indeed that the trade unions should be carried along with all these new develop- 1576 ments. For that reason, I am quite certain that we must have a trade unionist on the Council, as on the Industrial Research Associations themselves. The appointment of Professor Melville as Secretary has been generally welcomed, but I think it is unfortunate that there was a six months' interregnum before he was able to take up office.
Apart from all that, we must remember that it is not the Council which will do the job, unless some of its members become full-time members, and then they will be civil servants. The job will be done by the staff. If there is a criticism in the Jephcott Report, the criticism is that the Government has starved the D.S.I.R. of adequate scientific staff to carry out the programming at headquarters. It is quite inadequate at the present time.
There is one division, responsible, I think, for spending two-thirds of the whole Vote, and responsible for looking after not only D.S.I.R.'s own stations, but also responsible for grants to individuals for research, which is headed by one man who is lower in rank than most of his colleagues, including, of course, the establishment officer and the directors of the stations whose work he is supposed to control. That is the sort of petty parsimony which I draw to the attention of the Financial Secretary, because no doubt it comes from the Treasury; but it is not really an economy and it is the sort of thing which can and does lead to overlapping within the Department itself.
This part-time Council, the members getting £500 a year or various bits and pieces, will not run D.S.I.R.; it cannot possibly do the necessary programming and planning work which will be required. There must be a staff which is adequately paid and adequately provided with junior staff; and it must itself be of an adequately high level. There must be senior scientific officers—and I am not using the term in the technical Civil Service sense but meaning men capable of scientific administration—in the Department, whole-time, who are able to do the programming; much of the trouble which the Jephcott Committee mentions arises from this parsimony in the staffing of the Department in the programming branches.
1577 As some hon. Members have said, whether the new Council is to have any effect at all must depend on the quality of the men who serve on it. By and large, it will succeed or fail not, I think, in so far as it is able to do this detailed job, which can be done only by staff within the Department, but according to the extent to which it is able to develop a real feeling of leadership in the organisation—and I mean scientific leadership—and not bureaucratic administration. The members will have to devote their attention to the question of staffing, I am certain.
One of the most important points is that they must see that there are adequate opportunities for promotion for the staff within the Department, because many of them today are neither scientists nor general administrators; once they are in the Department it is very difficult for them to find avenues of promotion within the Civil Service. We do not want a situation in which the best men enter the Department and then have to leave to find their promotion outside.
I believe that for the very great expansion in Government support of research of every kind which we need we must have a first-class staff of high morale, given every sort of opportunity inside the Department. They are the people who will do the work, not the Executive Council. The part-time Council will be unable to prevent the overlapping or deal with the problems which we have been discussing today—and, goodness knows, its responsibilities are manifold enough —if it does not have a first-class staff to support it.
Like my hon. Friends, I doubt whether we can have confidence in the Government's intentions until there is a senior Member in this House responsible for the co-ordination of all scientific research and, I would say, for technical education. I have nothing against the present Lord President of the Council, who, I am certain, has done his best; after all, his distinguished grandfather very nearly burned down his ancestral mansion by carrying on experiments with electric lighting in the early days of electricity. But that does not necessarily make him the man for this job. In view of the amount of public money which is spent, I think that the House which controls the spending of public money should have a 1578 senior Minister here, responsible for the subject, when it discusses these matters.
In a recent article in the magazine Discovery, a Cambridge scientist attempted to find a scientific law for the rate of growth of science itself. He did it by measuring the growth in the number of scientific publications, in expenditure on science, in the number of scientists, in the number of scientific patents, and so on. They all pointed to the same conclusion doubling in numbers in a period of 10 to 15 years, much faster than the growth of the population; and that, no doubt, accounts for the shortage of scientific manpower.
The problem of increasing specialisation and the amount of knowledge which the researcher must absorb is becoming a frightening problem, so that every new major advance requires more and more lower level support. This emphasises the task which, in the opinion of my right hon. Friends, hon. Friends, and myself, the Government have to face in the allocating of resources for a race in which we cannot afford to be left behind.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Henry Brooke)
A point on which I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) is that it was well worth while having this short Bill in order to provide an occasion for the House to debate this supremely important subject of scientific research. I think it was the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who said that here the future of Britain is at stake. The future of Britain is at stake in more than one direction, and I have no question whatever that this is one of the main directions in which we, as Members of Parliament, have to look, with all those others who can help, because though we cannot save the future for our children and the world by scientific research alone, nevertheless, we could ruin the future if we were to neglect it.
The need for this Bill is, despite the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), real and twofold. We have the first Report of the Jephcott Committee, which recommends—and I hope it is unanimously agreed that the recommendation is a sound one—that the existing advisory body should be transmuted into a body with executive responsibilities. We 1579 also have the recommendation from the Public Accounts Committee, dating as far back as 1947, that there ought to be a specific statutory provision for the expenditure of the D.S.I.R. to be met out of moneys provided by Parliament. If any hon. Member suggests that this Bill is unnecessary and useless and trivial, I suggest that I certainly, as a Treasury Minister, and the whole House, too, should have regard to our own Select Committee, the Select Committee on Public Accounts, and not continue to disregard its clear recommendation on this matter. We should all wish to provide a proper statutory foundation for this body, which is fed with moneys provided by Parliament.
One hon. Member—I think it was the hon. Member for Islington, East—suggested that the first Report of the Jephcott Committee was a damning document. Other hon. Members opposite seemed in the debate to be confused over the actual difference that the Jephcott recommendation, which has been accepted by the Government, would make. If there is anybody who is not by now clear in his mind as to the essential difference between an executive body and an advisory body, then he cannot possibly have studied the first Report of the Jephcott Committee with sufficient care to entitle him to make any comment whatever about its contents. The change, to my mind, as I shall seek to show, is a fundamental one, and is a considerable part of the answer to a number of the allegations made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. When I am speaking of the new Research Council let me say at once, as, I think, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works said, that the general intention of the Government is that it should be a body of about the same size and character as the present one, and that it should also, like the other, be of the very highest quality. The present Advisory Council is composed of men distinguished in science and in industry. There are two representatives of organised labour on it at present. We think that that is just about the right size and just about the right character, and there is no intention of making radical changes.
We are also exceedingly anxious to secure the services at all times of the best people we can get. I do not know 1580 whether the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East wishes to press his question about the precise fees to be paid?
§ Mr. Brooke
The present fees paid to the advisory body are £350 to the Chairman and £150 to the individual members. We are examining the fees that would be appropriate to be paid to the new Research Council. I should not be surprised if they were higher than those figures. The essential point—and I hope that I carry the whole House with me in this—is to get the new Research Council appointed and operating, and that we cannot do until we have this Bill on the Statute Book.
The hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) inquired particularly about the position of the civil servants who would be working under a Research Council that did not itself consist of civil servants. Let me assure her that the civil servants there will be in exactly the same position, as to terms and conditions of service and security, obligation to mobility, and so forth, as if they were working in any other Government Department. She may possibly not be aware that we already have the same situation, with statutory authority also behind it, in bodies such as the National Assistance Board. I do not think, therefore, that there need be any misapprehensions on that score.
A number of hon. Members have inquired about the second Report of the Jephcott Committee, and I want to deal with that matter, and to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works said about it—and, indeed, what was said in his valuable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead). The second Report of the Jephcott Committee, which I have here, was specifically written in the form, not of recommendations, but suggestions about lines of thought which, in the opinion of Sir Harry Jephcott and his colleagues, the new Research Council, which they had recommended, would do well to pursue.
I do not want to conceal from hon. Members that when I read the second Report it was with a certain excitement, to see whether I would find anything sensational or melodramatic, but I was entirely disappointed in that respect. I must put to the House, however, the point 1581 that, bearing in mind the intention with which this Report was written and presented to my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council; bearing in mind also that we shall be getting annual reports from the new Research Council, on the work that it has done and is doing and the conclusions it has reached, in exactly the same way as we have annual reports from the existing advisory body, it really would be the best plan to get this new Research Council set up so that it can reach its own considered conclusions on the lines of thought which the Jephcott Committee, in its second Report, has suggested. Then the Council will be able to tell us in respect of the whole area what conclusions it has reached after necessarily much closer and more thorough consideration than the Jephcott Committee, an external body, could give, and report to the House.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Could the Financial Secretary explain why he does not think that the new Research Council could not equally well do that if the final Report of the Jephcott Committee were published, and if the Council also had the benefit of any comments which hon. Members here, or persons outside, might wish to contribute to those recommendations?
§ Mr. Brooke
I can answer that question, because the second Report is of a tentative character. The Jephcott Committee said explicitly that these were not recommendations. These were suggestions as to lines of thought which should be followed up. I believe that in any organisation there are times when documents of that kind ought to be written and when they ought not to be given to the whole world until those to whom the suggestions are addressed have had time to assimilate and to consider them and reach their own conclusions.
I can but ask the House to accept my assurance on this. I give an absolute assurance that there are no skeletons in this cupboard; that nothing of a dramatic nature is being concealed. Were I a member of the new Research Council—a post for which I certainly would not be qualified—I should consider this second Report valuable material, but certainly, I should wish to consider it 1582 myself and reach my own final conclusions on it.
§ Mr. Willey
I know that the time of Financial Secretary is limited, but would he appreciate this point? We are setting up a new piece of constitutional machinery which is quite anomalous on the basis of the Jephcott Committee Report. For that reason I think we should know something more of the reasons which have led to this course.
§ Mr. Brooke
I can assure the hon. Member that there is nothing further in the second Report which deals with the recommendation regarding organisation.
I was asked whether my hon. Friend would give a directive to the Research Council. The Council will consist of very eminent and able people. I am sure that they are not the kind of people who, at the first meeting, will expect to have a short piece of typescript in front of them before they can start. I visualise that they will settle down to the work, and there will be a considerable measure of continuity because they are taking over from the existing body. Having gone a certain way, the Council may desire to communicate with the Lord President and to consult with him. It may be that then the position will arise that he may desire to give a direction or an informal directive so that the Council may know that it is acting in accordance with the desires of the Government. But to give a directive at the outset, before the new body has started its work, and when there will be a considerable amount of continuity, would be putting the cart before the horse.
I do not wish to import party politics into this matter—I think too much of that has been imported into the debate already —but it is fair to make the point that the aggregate net expenditure provided for in Estimates this year is more than 50 per cent, higher than it was in the last year when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the affairs of this country. We are working to a five-year plan which runs up to March, 1959, and I should judge that it would be one of the early duties of the new Research Council to formulate its own ideas for the financial pattern following March, 1959.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), who also made a 1583 very constructive contribution to the debate, asked whether there was any intention to strengthen grants for research in nuclear physics. I do not think it would be right for me at this moment to lay down in any way how future grants are likely to be allocated as between different purposes. He was perfectly right in saying that the D.S.I.R. is responsible for supporting research into nuclear physics, that is, the fundamental work which lies behind the practical utilisation of the energy within atoms. Research on the methods of utilising that energy is the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Authority.
I trust that the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East will not press his allegations that Treasury Ministers are interested in nothing but short-term economy. He knows that the Treasury could not discharge its vast responsibilities if it were not constantly seeking to look ahead to achieve long-term economy by wise decisions which may involve greater expenditure. I think any suggestion that Treasury Ministers are parsimonious towards science is a little unfair. I congratulate myself that I have made some contribution towards the expansion of the Imperial College at South Kensington.
A great part of the importance of the work of the D.S.I.R. lies in the assistance and stimulus which it gives to the industrial research associations. We can all congratulate ourselves on the fact that industry's growing interest in all this is shown by the fact that, whereas five years ago the contribution of industry was to the contribution of the Government as 16 to 10, now the ratio is about 20 to 10. I really do not fear that conflicts between public and private interests as the hon. Member suggested are going to arise. Perhaps he will bear in mind that henceforth there is going to be a Research Council in a very much stronger position than any advisory body could be if its members think that something is going wrong somewhere. This body has to carry responsibility. It must report to the Minister if it is dissatisfied about anything, and its members are to be individuals of great distinction who, if individually they are not satisfied about the way in which things are going, will be in a position to resign, and the public will want to know the reason they have resigned. That is very different from an 1584 advisory body which in itself carries no responsibility.
In conclusion, I come to what seems to me to be fundamental. That is that, as a nation having limited resources of technical manpower, materials and money, it is imperative that we should seek to use those limited resources in the finest way and to the best advantage. The suggestion is that there are grave gaps and much overlapping. It would not worry me if there was some overlapping because from my knowledge of scientific research it is desirable to have scientists working on neighbouring problems. They help one another. This is not a tidy field and can never be a tidy field. If there are serious gaps it will certainly be a duty of the Research Council to call attention to them if by its own efforts it cannot see any means of closing them.
Its main duty, unquestionably, will be to stimulate scientific research because, surely it is accepted on both sides of the House, it cannot possibly do all the research itself. I have a feeling that some hon. Members wanted a kind of scientific totalitarianism, that the Minister responsible to Parliament should have everything in his own hands, should arrange everything and do almost everything. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South dealt faithfully with that idea. He deprecated the idea of a Minister, who was going to seek to do everything and perhaps meddle in everything.
I am quite sure that in the whole of this country no individual could be found better qualified by his own personality, capacity and intense interest in this subject to carry the Governmental responsibility for it than my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council. So far as I am acquainted with the views of scientists, they are proud indeed that there should be someone of his quality and his deep concern to be their representative in Parliament.
When we hear suggestions that the Government should do the whole thing themselves and should take a direct responsibility for everything that is done. I then ask myself how that could possibly be squared with the freedom of the universities—another principle which we prize in this House. The two are incompatible. What we have to do is to seek a system which will preserve 1585 university freedom, the freedom of the scientists throughout, and which will apply the resources of the Government so as to fill the gaps and stimulate the best possible work in the wisest directions for the whole of the industrial and scientific field.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.