HC Deb 05 December 1961 vol 650 cc1115-6
8. Mr. Peart

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the number of scientists who are known to have left the United Kingdom during the past five years to take up scientific positions abroad.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) on 18th July last.

Mr. Peart

The Ministry and the Government are always dodging this issue. When will they give real figures? As every hon. Member knows, there is a serious drain of scientific manpower from this country. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that unless something is done, it will be serious not only for British industry but also for our way of life?

Mr. Freeth

From Questions which we have had in this House previously the hon. Member will realise the difficulty of getting any really accurate figures. I am told that it is estimated that immigration in recent years is more than half the rate of emigration. In addition, it is not only a matter of financial rewards on the other side of the Atlantic or elsewhere. Certainly, one of the main causes which has come to my notice is the existence of centres of research of international standing, conducted under inspiring leadership, where the best work may be done in particular spheres. It would be very wrong if we attempted to dissuade scientists from going to such centres and coming back enriched to give us the benefit.

Mr. Peart

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that every responsible scientist and leader would give him information about the drain from our laboratories of laboratory personnel and research personnel? This is going on and it is no use being apathetic about it. The Government must do something and get the information. They have it available.

Mr. Freeth

The hon. Member must realise that the information given in the Press from time to time relates to particular research laboratories or institutions. If the hon. Gentleman is asking for national figures he knows as well as I the difficulty about getting them.

Sir Richard Pilkington

Does the Minister consider that the emigration of scientists at the top is more than balanced by the immigration of people who, however worthy in themselves, are certainly not scientists?

Mr. Albu

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a great deal of the difficulty in this problem is caused by the inadequacy of research funds in universities? May I ask how it is that when the Minister is himself responsible for grants to universities from the Research Council he should transfer my Question on this matter to the Treasury? Does not this make complete nonsense of the functions of the Minister for Science for the co-ordination of research?

Mr. Freeth

As the hon. Member says, my noble Friend is responsible for grants given by the Research Councils for research work either at the universities or in association with them. By far the greater amount of university research work is done on funds provided by the University Grants Committee for which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible.