§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
Today, we have our first major debate on science and in that sense it is rather historical because for the first time we shall have participating in the debate a Minister who has direct responsibility for scientific policy.
I welcome this opportunity to debate the whole of our scientific policy and to examine critically, if necessary, the Government's policy, here and there, on specific issues. As many hon. Members know, the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, in its Report last year, said:Since our last report was prepared a Minister for Science has been appointed. We welcome this recognition of the growing political importance of scientific issues.I have always argued that science and politics have always been intermingled. 44 This is nothing new, but inevitably, when we consider scientific strategy, we are in the realm of Government planning, or responsibility for Government planning, and, therefore, we must discuss that carefully today.
We ask ourselves: why should we have this debate? Are we satisfied that the Government are planning properly? Are we satisfied that the Government are exercising their political responsibilities over the various research organisations, and over the other bodies which are responsible for the application of science? Are we satisfied that the Government are really creating conditions which will provide that flow of scientific manpower which we believe is so important for our technological development?
These are the issues, and so today, in this important debate, we shall try to cover the whole range of Government priorities in the scientific field and the main strategy of science as conducted by the Government and those scientists who advise the Government through the Advisory Council's Report.
I should like to congratulate the Opposition for taking, quite rightly, the initiative in raising this subject. Personally, I feel very humble, although I had a general scientific education. I know that in the Committee there are many hon. Members on both sides who have distinctive scientific and technological qualifications. Apart from that, I know that the scientists who advise the Government are some of the most distinguished in the world. One has only to look at the members of the Council who advise the Government on scientific policy. On the other hand, I am consoled by the thought that, after all, the experts can be wrong. The last time that I ever spoke in a debate when the Minister of Education followed me, I quoted Veblen, the American sociologist, who said that experts sometimes have a "trained incapacity to think." I would only say that all the experts and all our specialists who advise the Government sometimes on scientific strategy may be wrong.
It is in that spirit that we should approach this debate. Added to that, I think that hon. Members who have followed scientific events carefully will agree that there has been a growth in 45 every field of science of intense specialisation. It is extremely difficult for the scientist himself to communicate with another scientist in another field of research or scientific activity. In this elaborate field of scientific policy, when we consider the advice of scientists, we must, as Parliamentarians, always be careful; but in the end it is Parliament that must decide our general scientific policy.
Priorities must be decided by this House, or at least the Executive must report its decision to this assembly. It is Parliament that must decide our scientific strategy and not the experts who advise the Government, otherwise, instead of a democracy, we shall have what has been termed a technocracy.
We shall inevitably cover a wide range of subjects—scientific manpower, research, atomic energy, space research, agriculture, medical research, and our educational institutions—and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will be able to speak from their own specialised interest on the subjects that I have mentioned. Inevitably, the debate must range over a wide field of scientific activity. I want to try to show how we can broadly develop our scientific strategy, how we can really improve our administration, and to discuss the defects of scientific policy here and there, illustrating, from my own experience, what I believe to be grave defects in our present scientific position.
I come, first, to the Minister for Science. I am sorry that the Minister is not in the House of Commons. I assert that a senior Minister who is responsible for science should be in the House of Commons. I believe that the Minister of Science himself would like to to be in this House.
§ Mr. Peart
He is a Minister for Science and he should be a Minister of Science. But that is a pedantic point. I merely argue that the Minister should be in the House of Commons. He is very able—I myself like him personally—but, on the other hand, his work is frustrated by the administrative machine which is at his disposal.
Secondly, we know that the Prime Minister himself was rather apathetic 46 about having politcal responsibility in the House of Commons. Hon. Members on bath sides will remember that time and again we were refused a reply about the appointment of the Parliamentary Secretary. After a long delay, and much confusion from the procedural point of view of answering Questions on science, a Parliamentary Secretary was appointed.
I would remind the Committee, as we said at the last General Election, when we put forward our scientific policy to the nation, that what matters is not whether a man is called a Minister for Science or a Minister of Science, but what he does and whether he does the job properly. That is what we are really concerned with today. We have to discuss the consequences of the appointment of the Minister for Science.
I have here a statement by the Minister himself, immediately upon taking up his appointment. He said that a consequence of his appointment as Minister for Science in the present Government would be,a little more Government machinery and a little more fundamental thinking.I must say that there has been only a little bit more Government machinery. Indeed, the Minister for Science, only the other day at a conference on automation, at Harrogate, rather boasted of his small office. I would not mind him doing that if he had a computor in his office, but for him to make jokes about the size of our science office is something which the public do not take too happily. There is, indeed, an argument for a great deal more fundamental thinking.
The Times Educational Supplement reported that'No change' was the keynote of Lord Hailsham's speech to science correspondents".Throughout we have this feeling that there is to be no major change in Government policy. In other words, the appointment of the Minister for Science by the Government was really window dressing. The Minister himself has merely the old responsibilities that he had as Lord President of the Council, and now much of his work is frustrated. Again, much of his energy is dissipated because he is still the Leader of the House of Lords. Certainly, we should have in this House one Cabinet Minister 47 responsible for science, and responsible to the House of Commons. This is a major weakness in Government policy.
When he welcomed his new appointment the Minister said that there should be no change in the general attitude involved. He said that he had no greater authority over the universities or over the research councils or the Atomic Energy Authority than he had before. I want a Minister with much more authority than in the past. We have no time to lose. We are losing the scientific race in the world. We have no time for complacency or for inertia which are revealed already in Government policy. The smug complacency which exists in the Government about science must go. We must have a change.
Let us consider the administration of science. Here, I ask hon. Members opposite not to be complacent and doctrinaire. I hope that they will ask themselves, "Are we really satisfied with the present administration? Are we really satisfied with the present office of the Minister for Science? Are we really satisfied with the authority that the Minister has?" That ought to be the keynote to our approach.
As I have said, we have a Minister. He is advised by a very important Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and I should like to pay tribute to its work. We have the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which is responsible for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which, again, is responsible for 14 national research organisations. We have the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council, the Nature Conservancy, the Overseas Research Council, and the Atomic Energy Authority. The Minister himself is chairman of the five committees of the Privy Council to which these bodies report.
Then we have another series of Government Departments which deal with scientific research. For example, the Admiralty deals with nuclear propulsion for ships, and also the National Institute of Oceanography. Again, we have the responsibility of the Air Ministry for the Meteorological Office, and the whole series of research units which are controlled and overlorded by various other Government Departments ranging 48 from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Colonial Office.
Then we have the Technical Cooperation Bill, which is creating a new technical office, a new administration which will be responsible for scientific manpower in underdeveloped territories. Also, as hon. Members know only too well, we have the National Research Development Corporation which is the responsibility of the Board of Trade. Apart from that, the D.S.I.R. and the N.R.D.C. have a joint committee which advises both bodies.
Is it not time that the Government should shed their complacency about the structure and make a review of the efficiency of this administration? Is it not time that some hon. Members, even on the benches opposite, should say, "This is not sufficient", in the sense that our application of pure science and applied science to industry is not producing the necessary results? It is time that we had a major review.
In 1958, we have a Select Committee on the D.S.I.R. I am not suggesting that we should have another Select Committee on the whole field of scientific administration, but the Government should examine critically their own administration, because the present administration needs to be improved. I am certain that that view is held by many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
I myself suggest that a Scientific and Technical Planning Board should be created. As one of my hon. Friends once said, we should have a kind of general staff for science as we have for defence—why not?—responsible to the Minister, responsible for the various research organisations and for deciding scientific priorities. There is a need for more planning instead of a proliferation of organisations such as we have now. There is a need for some more simplified structure, for a clearer approach to the application of research to industry. I ask hon. Members opposite not to be complacent.
Today, in The Times, there is an editorial which mentions how thinking is going on in other countries on the subject of the administration of science. During the past few weeks I have been reading some of the documents from the 49 United States, including the Senate's reports on the work of various commissions, and some of the Bills which have been produced and are being examined by the American public. The Americans themselves are arguing about whether or not their effort is enough and whether there should be in that country a department of science and technology of the Federal Government linked to a Cabinet secretariat and covering a wide range of scientific and technical activity.
In other words, there is an awareness, even in the United States—where applied science is ahead of this country—of the need to improve its administration, to create a new organisation. Changes in the American structure have taken place since the war; for example, the creation of its Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to give just three. In other words, the Americans are considering in detail haw to improve their administration of science policy.
This applies not only to the United States, but also to the Soviet Union. There again, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), a former Minister, who is present today, wrote in the Sunday Times in a series of fine articles on Soviet technology, the Soviet Union is not apathetic. Even in that country, they are carefully examining their own structure. I have just been reading a report by Academician Keldysh, who is the president of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Science, on the reorganisation of the work of the Russian scientific establishments.
This report came out only last June. It was decided by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and by the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers that the co-ordination of scientific research and the activities of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Science should be improved. The document ranges widely and makes extremely interesting reading. It says that the Russian scientists must achieve more coordination, must avoid duplication and dispersion of effort. It argues for a new State committee responsible for the coordination of scientific research. Over a whole range of science—from cybernetics to computer techniques, and including research in high institutions—the 50 report critically examines the existing situation.
If such re-examination is good enough for the Russians, then it is good enough for us. This is happening not only in the Soviet Union, but also in Japan. Although the Japanese have created a much more rigid system of administration than we have, they are re-examining their administration. I argue that in this country there must be serious Government rethinking. Hon. Members on both sides, despite the good work that has been done by certain bodies and individuals, cannot be satisfied with our scientific administration. We cannot be complacent. I want a more virile administration and, above all, more virile leadership. I therefore ask my first main questions.
Is Parliament satisfied with the administration of science today? Do we have a correct balance between pure and applied science? Is Parliament satisfied that there is no duplication of scientific effort? Is it satisfied that there is no frustration at all levels over the use of scientific manpower? Are we, as a House of Commons, satisfied that adequate resources are being devoted to out scientific effort?
The Minister himself must admit that something is wrong. Last Saturday's issue of the Guardian contained a report of a speech by Lord Hailsham at a Conservative political centre summer school at Oxford. I only wish that he were addressing the House on this matter. The report was headed "Backsliding on research", and the Minister had some very strong things to say. He said that industry ought to be made more conscious of science and he continued:Outside a few great industries—largely related, most significantly, with our defence effort and Government activity—this is largely virgin territory; it is a scientific mission field, and even among the converts there has been too much purely nominal conversion, and some cases of virtual backsliding.What are the Government doing about that? The Ministers who are responsible to this House are present. It is all very well pointing to these defects, but they have responsibility for remedying them. What new thinking are the Government offering about the curing of these defects in industry, which have already been outlined by the Minister for Science?
51 I will give an example where something should be done—the National Research and Development Corporation, which was set up by the Labour Government. We mention this in our new policy document. Members opposite may not always accept Labour Party policy documents but I know that some of them think that our new science pamphlet is thoughtful and politically constructive. I therefore advise the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), who is smiling, to read what we have said in "Signpost for the 'Sixties" about the N.R.D.C.
We believe that this organisation will be the main body to apply science to industry and to stimulate new activities. We say that it should be reconstructed and enlarged, and that it should be authorised to go into production either in its own establishments, or through the creation of subsidiary productive undertakings, or through joint enterprises with private companies. Some companies may have certain technical advice and personnel, but lack the resources to apply them to a new process or development. The Corporation should be used for mobilising the under-used talents of groups of scientists by placing research or development contracts.
Here would be an opportunity to encourage our young scientists to form research and development teams and to work on particular programmes. That is a positive suggestion. It is a right policy. Again, such a body would be able to revitalise and modernise backward industries. One has only to examine our industrial concerns, as did Lord Hailsham, to discover that there are backward industries, where a new challenge and a new approach are needed.
For instance, there is the machine tool industry. I shall not spend time going into details about that, but every hon. Member knows that we are lagging behind in this key industry, which affects Britain's future—that we are importing machine tools which should be produced here. Hon. Members will obviously have read impartial reports which reveal this weakness. The National Research and Development Corporation could revitalise the machine tool industry not only for its own sake, but for the sake of the nation. My hon. Friend the 52 Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Wiley) and other hon. Members will be raising the question of the shipbuilding industry later this week and in that industry there is great scope for the N.R.D.C.
There is another part of industry where, although we have great achievements to our credit, we may need to expand in other directions—atomic energy. I have always argued that our achievements in the peaceful use of atomic energy are second to none. Britain has a wonderful record in the application of nuclear energy to industry and power generation. Indeed, this is a great tribute to the work of a public authority—the Atomic Energy Authority, which has worked with some of our larger engineering firms, the consortia. Together, they have shown the world what Britain can do.
Not long ago I spent some time visiting the site of the General Electric Company's nuclear power station which it is building at Tokai-Mura, near Tokio. I was very proud of our engineers' achievements. Young engineers like Mr. Roy Smith, the engineer in charge there, are among the finest of our ambassadors. But we must not be complacent. Although we hold the lead in one field of power generation, with reactor types like Calder Hall, in other fields, such as small and medium reactors, we are not in the race for exports. This is a serious defect which must be remedied.
I am concerned that we are not doing enough in this direction. Already one major production unit, Langley, of Hawker-Siddeley—responsible for the Jason reactor—has had to close down. Yet all over the world American firms, backed by United States Government policy, are showing that small and medium reactors can be exported. I hope that the Government will not be apathetic and complacent.
I turn now to the application of nuclear energy to shipping. Three years ago, studies were started by the Atomic Energy Authority and British industry. At the end of 1958, the Admiralty sought proposals for a surface ship. The Galbraith Committee was set up, with a working sub-committee, to study the design of a nuclear propulsion unit with a 60 mega-Watt reactor for a large tanker. The proposition was submitted to seven industrial groups and, in the outcome, a 53 decision was taken to invite five firms to submit tenders covering two major types of reactor, the B.W. reactor and the O.M. reactor.
What has happened since? We are still waiting for a decision. Already, the firms which tendered and which prepared their design teams have in each case spent about £100,000. Even private industry is frustrated by the indecision of the Government. I do not blame the Minister for Science in this case. I blame the Government as a whole. The Minister of Transport will not decide. He is concerned only with gimmicks and notoriety. He is afraid to come to a major decision on something which affects our future.
When all is said and done, if we do not go in, we shall be left behind. Let there be no mistake about that. Already, the Americans have the "Savannah". Already, the Russians have their icebreaker "Lenin". Japan, too, has announced a programme for the application of nuclear energy to marine engineering. The design teams are there in Western Germany.
Yet, time after time in the House of Commons, hon. Members on both sides have pressed the Minister to come to a decision. A decision could be reached now if the Government had the will to go ahead. This week, we shall see at Earl's Court an exhibition of the achievements of Soviet science. I wish the exhibition well. Undoubtedly, there will be a model of the nuclear-propelled icebreaker "Lenin" at that exhibition. It is a strange irony of history that, in 1698, Peter the Great should have come to Greenwich and, after staying in England for three months, should have taken back with him 500 British engineers, artificers, surgeons, artisans and—I am glad to say—artillerymen.
Is it not strange that we, the British people, who were a major seafaring people, should, in an activity which affects the future of our whole shipping industry, suffer delay and indecision by the responsible Minister? I hope that hon. Members on both sides will go on prodding the Government. The delay which we are experiencing in respect of one of our major developments is a shame and a scandal.
Much the same could be said about other projects. For instance, fuel 54 research. The Minister of Power knows that there is still overlapping and far too much duplication in fuel research. One has only to read the Wilson Report on Coal Derivatives to see evidence of duplication in research, the need for a more vigorous approach to the utilisation of coal and, above all, the need for a co-ordinated fuel and power policy. Hon. Members with specialised knowledge of the subject will, no doubt, direct attention to it later.
I come now to research in agriculture. The value of the output from British agriculture today is about £1,500 million. One reads in the Report of the Agricultural Research Council for 1959–60 that Parliament provides only £4,822,910 as a grant-in-aid. This is far too small an amount compared with the total volume of our agricultural production, and it is far too small when set against the need to make our agriculture even more efficient. We have our National Agricultural Advisory Service, but this has not been expanded since 1951.
In the supply of veterinary surgeons and the development of veterinary practice, there is a great danger that the number of qualified men coming forward will not keep pace with the demand, and this trend will probably be progressively accentuated during the next ten years. I assure the House that I am not exaggerating. When we compare our results with those of other countries, and consider the need to increase the efficiency of our own agriculture, we see at once that many more veterinary surgeons and practitioners are needed. The figures I have here in a report of a conference on veterinary education held by the F.A.O. show that we have 82 veterinary surgeons per million of population and 103 veterinary surgeons per million animals. In France, the respective figures are 102 and 194. In Denmark they are 370 and 186.
I could go on giving detailed figures to show how, in an important sector of agricultural activity, we need many more of the men who are responsible for the care of our livestock. Yet there is no sense of urgency behind Government policy. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture, as the Minister primarily responsible, will consider the figures very carefully. Undoubtedly, a shortage will be revealed.
55 In medicine, the Medical Research Council is satisfied that there should be an annual budget of only £5.6 million. This is inadequate. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health told my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that resources did not prevent developments in cancer research, yet only this week in my constituency, like, no doubt, many other constituencies, we had a flag day to raise funds for cancer research. Even our school children are asked voluntarily to contribute towards cancer research. So long as we have to rely on private charity for cancer research, it cannot be said that the State is providing enough.
I do not want to go back to the days before the National Health Service, when we had to sell flags to support our national hospitals. The Government should provide more resources. I regard the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter as rather shocking. I am glad that Professor Alexander Haddow and others have rebuked the Government for it, and I notice that the President of the Royal Society, Sir Howard Florey, made a statement about the excessive number of times that senior research workers have to apply to numerous bodies for funds to support their own work and, moreover, the work of their junior colleagues. Surely the Government cannot ignore the advice of distinguished scientists like that. They must realise that a new approach is necessary.
I come now to space research. I do not believe that we should go in for a moon race, like the Americans or the Russians. But we cannot keep out of space research. There has been complacency here, too. That was the view of a group of Conservative Members who initiated an Adjournment debate some time ago. If hon. Members read the critical speeches of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), and others, they will see that even Conservative back bench Members were restive about the attitude of the Government. I know that it can be argued that we have not the necessary resources. On the other hand, the Ministry of Aviation announced the other day that we are to have what will virtually be a joint Anglo-French-German effort under which we shall build a European space 56 launcher with Blue Streak, with another stage developed by the French. I welcome this. It is right that we should share our space programme with other countries.
It is absurd to say that we should not be in the space race. We cannot keep out of it, whether we like it or not. We must be in space research, whether we have an independent space programme or co-operate in a programme with Europe or the Commonwealth. I know that many hon. Members are indifferent to this, but it affects new technologies, new engineering techniques, new research on materials, metallurgy, power generation and solar cells, fuel cells, and so on. Engineering and scientific techniques in other industries will be affected by space research.
My main criticism of the Government is their indecision and failure to give a lead and to make their purpose clear to the nation. We have had flippant replies from the Prime Minister. Even the Minister for Science has been flippant, although not as flippant as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who asked why he should worry about space since he is in communication with space every day. In May, 1959, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Diefenbaker, asked Britain to join in the development of a Commonwealth satellite programme. I asked Questions of the Prime Minister about it. I have not had a satisfactory answer to any of them.
Why did we refuse the offer of the Prime Minister of Canada in 1959? Now the Canadian effort is associated with the American Administration, and Canada has gone ahead at Fort Churchill. We could have had a wider Commonwealth approach to this matter if only the Government had been alive to it. I accept that it is wrong to go into the space race purely from the point of view of prestige. We must think in terms of European, Commonwealth and world co-operation. We must avoid a space race purely for prestige. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the space race; we must be in it.
The Government should not be dilatory. They must exercise some imagination. Today, we read that when Major Gagarin comes to this country tomorrow one representative of the Minister for Science will meet him at the airport. This is a scandal. I believe that the 57 Minister for Science and the Parliamentary Secretary should be there. We should welcome our distinguished visitor properly. We should roll out the red carpet.
The Government must give further thought to this point. I wish that they would have some imagination and would try to inspire the nation about space research. I hope that they will shake themselves up. I trust that even now Major Gagarin will be met by the Minister tomorrow. If the Minister will not go, some of us would like to go.
I come to my main point, the question of manpower. However much we may talk about development, the application of science to industry and the administration of priorities, education is the key in the end. After Major Gagarin's flight in space The Times Educational Supplement, which I always read very carefully—I do not always agree with it, but I believe that it is a good educational publication—stated on Friday, 14th April:The launching of Major Gagarin … is a sizable witness to human ingenuity. One thinks first of the tremendous foundations needed for such a feat—the distinction in many branches of pure science, an equal array of knowledge and skill in various technologies, and beneath these upper ranges an army of technicians and craftsmen. Many industries and thousands of men have contributed to putting this vehicle into space and bringing it backThen comes this sentence:More than anything else, it is a triumph of education.This is what worries me. This is where we are falling down. This is the main defect in our scientific effort. I am glad that the Minister for Science appreciates that. I am also pleased that the Minister of Education is present at this debate. The Minister for Science said at the annual dinner of the Geological Society, in April:We are still handicapped by the defects of our scientific and technical education of the 'thirties which has left us with an inadequate cadre of trained manpower and an educational machine which does not yet match up to the demands of the present dayWhat a condemnation of Tory policies and of the past.
What does the Minister of Education propose to do about remedying these defects? Recently, we had a debate on the critical situation concerning apprentices. My hon. Friends revealed the 58 defects and shortages in this sphere. I realise that here the Minister has a joint responsibility with the Minister of Labour, but this is one of the keynotes to our scientific effort. If we do not train young technicians we shall never speed up our scientific and technical development. Are the Government alive to this? Do they propose to do something about it?
What do the Government propose to do about over-specialisation, to which attention has been drawn over and over again by scientific opinion? As the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely knows, even the Advisory Committee's Report deals with this. What is to be done about the shortage of specialist teachers and mathematics teachers in schools?
In a foreword to a symposium on the teaching of mathematics at the University of Southampton the Minister of Education said:The schools and industry are both short of mathematicians.He went on to say that he was glad to commend the constructive proposal made at that conference by mathematicians from the schools, universities and industry.
I have put Questions to the Minister of Education time and time again. In March this year I asked what were hisproposals … for a significant increase in the supply of science and mathematics teachers during the next ten years.In reply, he said:The expansion of the universities and colleges of technology should provide more teachers and in the training college expansion programme special emphasis has been laid on the need to increase the output of well qualified science and mathematics teachers. The present campaign to attract more qualified married women teachers back into the schools is designed to draw attention to the present shortage of teachers of these subjects."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 146.]What a reply from a responsible Minister! What a complacent reply!
As hon. Members know only too well, this country faces a crisis in the teaching of mathematics. That has been pointed out by several distinguished mathematicians. I have with me an article by Professor Coulson, of Oxford University, and Dr. Hammersley, Senior Mathematics Lecturer, Trinity College, and the speech by Professor Thwaites, 59 of Southampton University, giving figures to show how we face a serious crisis, not only in the schools, but in industry, because, in the end, new techniques and new engineering need training in mathematics.
Yet, when we prod the Government and ask Ministers what they intend to do about it, we get that type of complacent answer. That is not sufficient. The Government must think out this matter again, or this crisis will frustrate not only our scientific effort, not only our schools, but our productive effort. The problem of the shortage of engineers is related to this subject. I am glad that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has recently pointed that out, and I only wish that someone would shake the Government out of their lethargy.
Four years ago, the Government accepted the advice of the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy and set a target of an annual output of scientists and engineers increased from 11,700 to 20,000 by the late 1960s. But that is assuming that production continues at the present rate, and we want to increase production. Lack of an increase is one of the defects in our society. It assumes that the present staff ratio in our schools will be the same for scientists, and it assumes that we will not need more scientific effort in agriculture, health, the Colonies and the underdeveloped countries. We should increase that output fourfold, for there must be a rapid increase over the next ten years if the situation is not to be fatal to this country.
There is too much complacency. If the Government do not accept my main criticism, at least they should examine their whole administrative structure for science and think how better science can be filtered down through industry, so that industries which are lagging and which need reorganisation can quickly develop. There is complacency. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee know of the crisis in exports. Hon. Members know only too well that we face what is virtually an industrial Dunkirk, that our rise in productivity is lagging behind that of other countries in Western Europe and other parts of the world.
Hon. Members on both sides have warned the Government about this prob- 60 lem. The nation will have to shake itself from its lethargy and end the malaise which is enshrined in the doctrine, "You have never had it so good." There is now a time for leadership on science and technology which are affected by the general malaise in industry and economic policy.
Whatever arguments the House of Commons may have about the Common Market, whether we are for or against it in either party, whatever the decision may be, there must be a reversal of the national policy towards science. There must be a different approach towards science and technology. There must be less of the complacency which was revealed by the last Ministerial Answer which I mentioned, less of the complacency revealed by the attitude of the Ministry of Transport towards the nuclear propulsion of ships, less of the complacency which was revealed in other aspects of scientific activity.
What we need is leadership and more will at Government level. In science, we have often led the way in the past. Over the centuries our scientists have made some of the greatest contributions that the world has known. The British people have a great gift, to which we all pay tribute, and which is to be found at all levels, not just among the "boffin boys" and "egg heads", if I may use those terms, not just among the highly qualified graduates from the universities, but down to the technicians and the men and women who make industry tick. If that leadership and opportunity are given, they will rise to them.
In education, we still legislate for a class and not for the nation. We still have the concept of an elite society and we are still not developing all the abilities and talents of which our people are capable. I want a different approach, an approach which is not yet forthcoming. I want the Minister for Science to ring his bell hard. It is now only a tiny tinkle. I want him to ring it hard and to wake up the Prime Minister and some of his Ministerial colleagues who frustrate scientific effort in many ways.
I urge the Government to show at least a measure of imagination, or, inevitably, we shall acquiesce in the political and technical supremacy of the United States and the Soviet Union. That would be a tragedy. I want the country 61 to exert its leadership at European, Commonwealth and world levels of scientific international associations. The time has now come when there must be a change of policy, and I hope that today the Ministers responsible will give us that change.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) raised a fine tide of oratory which we all greatly enjoyed, but the question which comes afterwards is what is left by the tide when it ebbs, and chiefly in my mind at the moment is his charge of complacency. It was a charge which he made over and over again, and I will do my best to meet it in those subjects for which I am responsible.
I begin by saying how much I agreed with the hon. Member when he said that when the Prime Minister set up the office of a Minister for Science and appointed my noble Friend to it there was general rejoicing, with the one reservation that the Minister was not then directly represented in the House of Commons. No one rejoices more than I that my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth) has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary. We look forward to his winding-up speech, when he will be able to deal with the many industrial questions, raised by the hon. Member, which lie outside my responsibility for education.
I was not surprised that at the end of his speech the hon. Member said that the foundation of a greater scientific effort was in the education of our people. He has written about that in an article which I recently read in Socialist Commentary. I have also seen the pamphlet, "Science and the future of Britain", disguised with a blue cover, which I thought was curious. I also thought that the passage on education was extremely bad, and I will refer to that later.
I hope that it will help the Committee if I give some account of what we are doing now to educate and train more scientists and technologists and technicians. In drawing a comparison between the position before the war and the position as it is now, as I am about to do, I do not want to be taken for a moment to be complacent about the 62 quality or the quantity of science and mathematics teaching today. Rather I wish to draw attention to the rate at which improvements have been made and, within our present policies, will continue to be made, because in the field of education we can never change things all of a sudden, however much we may wish to do so. We have to plan and to invest for fairly distant results, and we have to be judged on the timing, direction and pace of these plans for advance.
The hon. Member is, as he has just shown us, of a very expansive cast of mind, and in that article which he recently wrote he said this, which I think important:Our schools, universities and technical institutions will have to face a major reorganisation, not only in their structure, but also in the content and nature of the teaching of science.I rather hoped he would tell us a little more today—he had many other things to say—about this upheaval. What would it all amount to in the schools and technical colleges and universities? Who would be reorganised? What would be abolished? What new reforms would be introduced?
I am not against changes, but it is well to look at them after considering what has actually been happening. Before the war no one even thought of teaching science in primary schools—
§ Sir D. Eccles
It was true of the primary schools. There was a growing body of opinion which thought that science should be introduced in the elementary schools, but very little was in fact taught in elementary schools before the war. In the grammar schools, of course, there was some very good science teaching, but it was small in volume.
In 1938—that is, the last full year before the war—the number of passes in the higher school certificate, roughly corresponding to A level in the G.C.E. now, was 3,150 in physics, 3,000 in chemistry. These are tiny numbers compared with the figures which I shall give in a moment for our present G.C.E. examination results. In some of the universities there were, as every hon. Member knows, some very fine science departments, but the teaching of science was 63 on the whole modest in extent. For instance, in 1938 in the universities in England and Wales only about 2,000 first degrees were awarded in pure science; about 1,000 more in medicine and dentistry; and not quite 1,000 in technology.
This was the situation a generation ago. Over three-quarters of the population learned no science at all at school, and even after school many apprentices never went anywhere near a technical college except perhaps when they were able to go to an evening class. In those days the total number of students in part-time day classes was 40,000 or less than 10 per cent. of our present figure, and we are by no means satisfied with that.
As I said, one result of the very small number of places in universities was that many young people could study for degrees or professional qualifications only by going to night school, and it was a great tribute to their own perseverance and the skill of their teachers that they succeeded as well as they did, but we cannot avoid the obvious conclusion that there was a great waste of talent which we felt during the war and which in some quarters we are still feeling today.
However, I think it is right to remember the other side. We were able to make ourselves a great nation in spite of a massive neglect of science and of secondary education in general, which shows that there are other qualities and, attainments besides the acquisition of knowledge which we have to keep and not exchange for mere training in skills. In other words, we need both.
Now I turn to what has happened since the war. The grammar schools, rather later the secondary modern schools, soon began to expand, and the pace of the expansion, which was small in the first five years after the war, has quickened throughout the 'fifties. The figures for the G.C.E. examinations provide as good a measure of this progress as I can give to the Committee.
The number of passes at O level in science and mathematics was 109,000 in 1950 and was 264,000 in 1960. Just looking at the last eight years, which represent roughly the period of the Conservative Government, the number of O level passes in physics, chemistry and 64 biology has increased by 140 per cent. and the number of passes in mathematics by just under 100 per cent. During that period the 15-year-olds staying on at school rose by 60 per cent. so the increase in passes was more than twice as great as the increase in the numbers; this trend, which continues now very strongly, must be considered a very remarkable change for the better.
At the Advanced level, the pattern is similar. In mathematics and science the number of passes has increased in the last eight years from 37,000 to 73,000, that is, by 96 per cent., and this figure is again well ahead of the increase in the number of the 17-year-olds at school. I should mention that some of these passes at A level were gained by students from technical colleges.
The one clear deduction from these figures is that there is in progress in the secondary schools a massive swing to science. As one would expect, the swing is greater in the boys' schools than in the girls' schools, and is somewhat more marked in the maintained schools than in the independent schools. In 1959–60, for example, 69 per cent. of the boys and 37 per cent. of the girls who went to the university from maintained schools had at least one A level pass in the science and mathematics group.
I understand that in the independent public schools it is roughly true that before the war 40 per cent of the sixth forms took science and 60 per cent. took arts and that now those figures are very nearly reversed.
Such a great swing in the principal subjects chosen in the sixth forms could not have occurred if priority had not been given in the building programmes to the provision of laboratories and other accommodation to stimulate those studies. The Industrial Fund raised £3 million for such building and equipment in independent schools. In the maintained schools we have so far spent about £25 million on similar facilities and we are now spending about £3 million a year in this way.
We can say with confidence that the increase in the number of G.C.E. passes in science and mathematics is very far from having reached its peak. In the maintained schools we expect that over the next ten years sixth forms will grow 65 by two-thirds and that the proportion of those very much larger numbers who will in fact choose science or mathematics as special subjects will not be very much different from what it is today. Surely that is a revolutionary change, and exactly the sort of change for which the hon. Member for Workington was rightly asking. Of course it is a silent revolution. Perhaps the hon. Member does not like silent revolutions, but this country is very good at them.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
We are all delighted with this, but how does it compare with European countries, with the United States, the U.S.S.R. and Japan? These figures stand by themselves, but in this affluent society of the whole world how does our advance compare with that in other countries?
§ Sir D. Eccles
It is very hard to give exact comparisons, but I know that some countries—France for instance—are quite envious of our rate of progress. But one has just so much resources in teachers, students and buildings and the question to ask is whether we are going as fast everywhere as we could. These figures demonstrate a tremendous momentum.
§ Mr. Peart
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware, despite these figures, that many people in the teaching profession believe, and responsible opinion agrees, that there is a crisis in the teaching of science and mathematics and that some of our schools are short of teachers? How can the right hon. Gentleman be complacent and say that there is a silent revolution going on in this respect and that therefore all is well? It is not well.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Member is in a difficult position because the figures of progress are so tremendous compared with anything that has happened before in our history. If we advance at this pace, we have here and there a shortage, and we have to do something about teaching and staffing.
To take teaching first: as the hon. Member knows, the Minister does not control either the curriculum or the syllabus. The ultimate control lies with the teachers and they must have regard to the examinations for which their pupils will sit. Nevertheless, the Minister can exercise influence in a number 66 of ways, for instance through Her Majesty's inspectors, through courses and conferences organised for teachers, and through the many pamphlets and publications. All these ways of exercising influence are being used far more vigorously than ever before. Only last week a Ministry pamphlet was published on science in primary schools, which takes its place alongside the two major pamphlets on science teaching in secondary schools and mathematics teaching in secondary schools. In this new pamphlet, which might interest some hon. Members, very sensible advice is given to teachers in primary schools. I am certain that many of them will take notice.
I should like to add to that advice that I hope that all primary schools will include in their library some of the excellent books for young children on the history and the discoveries of science. One has only to go to a toy shop to see how the imagination of very young children is stirred by this subject. It is right that they should have as early as possible good accounts of what is going on in science.
A further way in which we are working to improve science teaching is through the examination syllabuses set by the G.C.E. examining bodies. In the third Report of the Secondary School Examinations Council on the G.C.E. and sixth form studies, the recommendations of which I have accepted, a concerted drive was called for to revise, prune and reduce the G.C.E. advanced level syllabuses. The Council was specially concerned to reduce the science syllabuses. Action on that recommendation is well in hand, but I should like to enter one word of caution. While it may well be true that there are parts of science teaching which can now be dropped because they are obsolete, there is a great deal of new material which has a high claim for inclusion. There are aspects of modern physics and mathematics which should be introduced into the syllabus. This kind of change will be with us always. I imagine that the computer itself will rightly cause quite a change in the teaching of mathematics.
Major contributions to new thinking on teaching and syllabuses have been made by the teachers themselves. An important piece of work has just been 67 completed as a joint effort between the Science Masters' Association and the Association of Women Science Teachers. They recently published their three-year researches in a statement on "Science and Education" with many proposals for revised teaching syllabuses in physics, chemistry and biology, both at Ordinary and Advanced levels. The G.C.E. examining bodies are using the Science Masters' Association syllabus as the basis of their present work and Her Majesty's inspectors are assisting science masters in a very interesting experiment with a group of schools to see whether certain aspects of modern physics can be effectively taught at O level.
We look forward, also to the next report from that fertile body, the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales). It is now considering the place of mathematics and science in a balanced system of education for Wales and, as usual—it certainly happened with the last Report—educationists in England are likely to learn a good deal from the Welsh Report.
The hon. Member for Workington mentioned the problem of over-specialisation and asked what we were doing about that. The effect of the universities requirements on the teaching in schools is becoming much better understood. It is fair to say that the universities themselves are now fully alive to the fact that some of the difficulties of specialisation at sixth-form level are very much their affair. They have found that increasing science specialisation has meant a lack of general education and a weakness in the English language serious enough to frustrate much teaching at university level. They have been making a study of their requirements with this very much in view. We all hope that valuable and practical changes will result.
Nevertheless, it is in the schools themselves that the final decision will lie on changes in the curriculum in one way or another. For that reason, I was very glad that a group of about twenty headmasters of maintained and independent schools had come together in a joint effort to see if they could keep the specialisation in the school curriculum within bounds. Their scheme is called the "A.B.C. Scheme" which stands for "Agreement to Broaden the Curriculum". I am sure 68 that the Committee will join with me in wishing these gentlemen every success in what will be an important venture.
I have said enough, though I could say a good deal more, to show that the true picture of changes and advances in science education is far from justifying the charge of complacency, and very different from that in the Labour Party pamphlet. One would not think from reading that pamphlet that more pupils are gaining more and more G.C.E. passes every year in mathematics and science, and that the methods of teaching and examining are being steadily improved by a great deal of hard work by many different people and bodies.
The second point raised by the hon. Member for Workington was the supply of science and mathematics teachers. I live with this problem. The Committee will certainly wish to know what is being done to meet the deficiencies in the different types of school. The foundations of mathematics, which in turn are the foundations of much scientific work, lie in the primary schools. Primary school teachers, who have to teach mathematics in a general class, come very largely from training colleges. Ten years ago it was true that mathematics were at a low ebb in training colleges. It was true even six years ago when I first had a look at the problem, but now two very big improvements are in sight. A major improvement in the academic standards of the newly-qualified teachers will result from a third year being added to the training course. The result of that will be that primary school teachers in general will be better prepared for the teaching of mathematics. The second improvement is that the colleges will give us many more mathematics specialists. We can say that with certainty, because we are planning the new places in the training college programme with that in view.
Even if these big improvements were not coming about, the position today is a good deal better than the description of it given in the Labour Party pamphlet. The author states, for example, on page 35, that fewer than I in 25 women students now study maths as their principal subject. The correct figure for the 1960 entry was 1 in 12. Taking men and women students together, the number studying maths as their principal subject has trebled since 69 1951 and doubled since 1955. The whole of this part of the Labour Party pamphlet was either written years ago or written by somebody with no knowledge of what has been happening in the last two years.
My greatest worry in this field is, as the Committee knows, the growing competition for honours degree mathematicians who are wanted to take the A level work in secondary schools. This is a question both of increasing the number of places in the university departments of mathematics and of offering degree courses of a kind which will lead on to teaching. I am very glad to be able to tell the Committee that the universities are calling a conference on this subject, to be held at the end of September. In all this I should like to thank Professor Mott, the Chairman of the Supply Committee of the Teachers Advisory Council, for the work he is doing in this field. I do not know how we should have made such progress without his enthusiasm and vigour.
It does not seem to be realised yet how considerable is the contribution which the colleges of technology are making to mathematical studies. The Dip. Tech. in Mathematics—it may be in technological mathematics; I am not sure of the right nomenclature—deserves to be a good deal better known by industry. At present, as Dr. Crank from Brunel showed in a good article in last week's Technology, there are many vacancies in these mathematical courses in technical colleges. I am sure that they would not only be very interesting to students but would lead on to careers which are likely to grow in importance as electronics extends its hold on industry and office work. I very much hope that these courses will be fully subscribed and that we can shortly put on others.
Our biggest hope is in the expansion of the universities, which has already been authorised on a very large scale. The university building programmes for the next few years will be half as big as the whole school-building programme put together. We can expect that the proportion of students in the new university places who are taking mathematics or science will remain at least as high as it is today. On that assump- 70 tion there will be in the mid-1960s 60,000 students reading these subjects as against 29,500 in 1955–56: double the number in ten years. An expansion of this order is so much larger than anything we have undertaken in this country before that the charge of complacency cannot sound very real in any quarter.
The advance in the technical colleges in the last ten years has been the most striking of all. We discovered in this country—rather late in the day, I admit—that a modern economy required many more scientists and engineers than the universities could produce but also—and we still cannot fully estimate this demand—very many more trained men and women in the supporting ranks of industry, agriculture, commerce and many other occupations. For this reason, and because it was seen that the secondary schools would provide us every year with more boys and girls ready to proceed to further education, expansion in the technical colleges became a first priority after the war.
This is the story very briefly. In the financial years 1951–52 to 1955–56 starts on technical colleges were authorised to the value of £21 million. Then came the 1956 White Paper. Since that programme was begun we have completed or authorised buildings and equipment to the value of £140 million. That is a figure which nobody on the Opposition Front Bench dreamed about in the days when they were in office.
Just after the war there were 5,000 full-time teachers in all the technical colleges in England and Wales. It took ten years to 1955 to double that figure, but by 1960 it had been doubled again and is now 20,000. I must give one more illustration of the progress being made. This time I shall take the numbers of students taking high level courses. If we define "high level" as courses which follow on from A level passes in the G.C.E., there are 106,000 such students in our universities today, about 40,000 of whom are reading science of mathematics. There are 95,000 students taking high level courses in the technical colleges, almost every one of whom is studying some kind of science or technology. Many of them are studying part-time and are not taking courses comparable with university degree level. But 71 even there, 8,000 are already reading for honours degrees or diplomas in technology, and the number of these students increases every year.
I have given all these illustrations to show that the rate of expansion in the technical colleges has been, and is likely to continue to be, faster than in any other sector of the education field. Against a momentum of that force, how can it be said that we in Britain are complacent about the supply of future scientists and engineers? It is only fair to recognise that the whole of the education service from primary schools to universities is moving forward at a rate never equalled in our history and that within this movement science is the chief beneficiary. Many Ministers have contributed to this.
I now come to the difficult problem of manpower requirements. To anyone who is inside the education service and is using every means he can lay his hand on to put into practice the policies of expansion, any estimates of the nation's needs for scientists and technologists ten or fifteen years ahead seems somewhat idle, because he has such a job to do here and now. None the less, these estimates are a very useful spur, and in the Ministry we are very grateful to the Scientific Manpower Committee for its careful researches.
Not so, however, the author of the Socialist Party pamphlet. He had not even read the 1959 Manpower Report. Yet this pamphlet was published in March, 1961. Even today the hon. Member for Workington appears not to have read the Report. He talks still as though the old target of 20,000 scientists and engineers that we had said we would reach by the end of the sixties is a poor one, and he asked why we could not go faster. If he had looked at the 1959 Report he would have seen that it says that the number of newly-qualified scientists and engineers will reach 20,000 a year by the mid-1960s. Thus, the Report acknowledges that we are five years in advance of the programme which is dished out in the pamphlet as though it were up to date.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
Is it not largely due to the fact that the original estimate was made under a misunderstanding from figures which were, I believe, supplied by the 72 Ministry of Education about the actual output of the universities at that time? That is probably due to the fact that I understand that the Ministry has one statistician still.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Never mind how it came about. The fact was that it was corrected in 1959. But the authors of the Labour Party publication have not even bothered to read that Report. Yet they are purporting to write Labour Party policy.
I should like to give just three comments on estimates of requirements for scientists and engineers. I can say that my noble Friend and I are fully agreed on this. The first is: we must not be satisfied by reckoning the requirements for scientists and engineering from a calculation of the vocational posts that must be filled by persons having these special qualifications. Nobody expects all historians to write history books or all philosophers and classical scholars to spend their career teaching philosophy or Latin and Greek.
§ Sir D. Eccles
How right the hon. Gentleman is. We shall make our economy resourceful, efficient and receptive of change and, according to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), perhaps have a good Civil Service, only when it is just as likely that the leading Treasury officials, lawyers, and company directors will have studied science, al school and after, as one of the arts. If that is right, we require many more boys and girls to take science than the number who must have science for their particular job, and for that reason the calculations of the requirements are really very hard indeed to make.
Secondly, I cannot accept an estimate of requirements for scientists and engineers which does not include a very much larger contingent than we have at this moment for going overseas to work either for a Government or for a private employer. It seems to me that we should and we can regard ourselves as the leading exporter of technical aid, and that if we maintain our present good and liberal policies towards under-developed countries, then our scientists and engineers, our teachers and doctors will be welcomed there in ever-increasing 73 numbers; and at the same time we shall need to send more trained men to all our export markets, men who can win and carry out the overseas orders in the face of the strongest competition from technically efficient rivals.
Thirdly, no one yet knows how great our own demand for technicians will be. I have the impression that we are on the verge of a big break through and that the pattern of employment in a great many factories and a great many offices will change very suddenly and that we may need a concerted effort between the schools and technical colleges—and, if it happened in the United States, it would be the universities as well—to step up the provision of training and courses for technicians.
In all these matters I work in the very closest relations with my noble Friend. He knows very well the problems of my Department and I welcome his advice on all these subjects, and for my part I can appreciate some of the problems in the field of industrial research and development with which he has to deal. Recalling the contacts that I had when I was at the Board of Trade, I should like to make just one plea to manufacturers and exporters which comes out of the experience that I have had since I came back to the Ministry of Education. I would ask them to reward by early promotion the able scientists and technologists whom they seem increasingly anxious to recruit. Nothing takes the heart out of a student like doubts about whether his degree, dip. tech. or certificate will count for anything very much in his journey towards a position at the top.
I do not think industry will ever recruit really efficient manpower in adequate numbers unless the leaders in established positions give early responsibility and promotion to younger men often with qualifications which they themselves had neither the need nor the opportunity to acquire. I would ask the Committee how in the years ahead our country, with only 52 million people, can maintain the position of industrial and commercial excellence that we have had for so long unless we search for, educate and ruthlessly promote new talent.
§ Mr. Peart
The right hon. Gentleman has asked industry to do something about the recruitment of scientists. Is he 74 not aware also that the Government are failing to recruit scientists into their own administration? I hope that he has read the 94th Report of the Civil Service Commission of last year.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Gentleman misheard me. I was not asking industry to recruit. I was asking industry to promote those whom it had recruited, which is a somewhat different point.
I should think that the whole Committee agrees that it should be an object of modern policy to look for, educate and promote new talent. Therefore, it is obviously the duty of the House of Commons severely but fairly to assess what the Government are doing to achieve an adequate supply of scientists and engineers. I have given some of the salient examples of the many programmes now in hand. But how different are the plain facts from the party propaganda in the Labour Party pamphlet. In "Science and the Future of Britain" in page 33, at the head of the section entitledCrash programme for Science Educationthe Labour Party says this about scientific education:The position is getting worse.On page 35 the Labour Party says about science teachers:The position is growing worse, not better, as a result of Government inaction.Whether one looks at the schools, the training colleges, the technical colleges, or the universities, these statements are untrue. What is more, they are an insult to the teachers, the pupils and the students who are each year achieving new records in science and mathematics.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
So far, the Minister has been giving hon. Members figures about the education of scientists in England and Wales. This is a United Kingdom debate. Are we, therefore, also to be given figures for Scotland?
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Lady can take it that the Goschen formula applies to the output of all schools. What I have said concerning the figures for England and Wales is also true, in general, of Scotland.
§ Sir D. Eccles
No. The Scottish education system moves forward in parallel 75 with that in England. Indeed, in the past it has been a good deal in front of it.
I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who intend to speak in this debate will repudiate this section of a document issued in their name, because it may well create a false and damaging impression abroad, where people look carefully at our records, and of what we say about ourselves, and where they do not know the facts as well as we know them in this Committee. It would be a fitting action of contrition if the Opposition abandoned their intention to vote at the end of this debate and recognised that, although no one should ever be satisfied, in any age, with the progress in education, the advances now being made in science and mathematics are greater than at any period in British history.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall, North)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education selected as the central point of the indictment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) the charge of complacency. My hon. Friend made a number of other charges and no doubt the Minister, being the skilled debater that he is, selected that one because he thought that he had the best answer to it—rather than an answer to the more detailed charges which my hon. Friend elaborated.
How did the Minister seek to refute the charge of complacency? He did it by two means. First, he pointed to what he said was an inaccuracy in a Labour Party document. Secondly, and more seriously, he pointed to the admittedly serious and real advance that has been made in seeking to solve the problem that faces this country—among so many other problems—of finding an adequate number of scientists, technologists and mathematicians to meet our contemporary needs.
What was disturbing to me about the Minister's speech was that he failed entirely, as I understood it, to appreciate the central problem affecting mathematicians and scientists—if the evidence is to be believed—namely; that the more institutions one creates and the more successful one is in attracting pupils into scientific places, the greater the problem is of finding an adequate number of adequately trained teachers for them.
76 If the Minister were to study the lecture that Dr. Thwaites gave in his inaugural lecture at Southampton University, he would see that this was the problem to which that distinguished mathematician was drawing attention; the more one proliferates universities and colleges of technology—and, of course, one is perfectly right in that aim—the more successful one is, then the more difficult is one's problem in staffing those institutions. After all, the shortage of scientists and mathematicians has been extremely acute. Thus the real danger which the right hon. Gentleman failed to see—and the problem to which Dr. Thwaites was drawing attention—is that one does not have a sufficient reservoir of teachers of mathematics, and there is a danger of lowering the standards. The Minister, in seeking to refute the charge of complacency made by my hon. Friend has, in fact, proved it to the hilt.
In the Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, for the year 1959–60, there are details of a survey into the balance of effort being made to solve the problems of the scope of research, the subjects of research and the people available to deal with these problems. The Council came to a number of conclusions. These are set out on page 15 of that Report. I desire an answer to several of them. In view of this Report, which was published last October, I should like to know what progress has been made by the Ministry of Science either in promoting solutions of the problems to which attention was drawn in the summary of conclusions, or what progress has been made in analysing them. I urge hon. Members to look at some of the conclusions:(e) important fields in pure and medical science need greater activity; (f) many fruitful opportunities for science can be found in the less popular technologies; (g) expansion and development of further education provides an opportunity to develop research in new fields.On page 8 of the Report the Council draws attention to the inadequacy of the arrangements for research in that very classical English branch of technology, civil engineering. It is a great defect in our arrangements that the Advisory Council should have to draw attention to grave defects in such a field as that. If we are to have, as we fortunately have, a Ministry for Science, one of the first matters with which it must deal is 77 solving problems of that kind. Therefore, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the Committee when he replies to the debate what action his noble Friend is initiating based upon the Advisory Council's summary of conclusions.
I draw to the hon. Gentleman's attention, if it is necessary to do so, that the Advisory Council, in concluding its survey, at paragraph 42 said:The concluding impression left by the survey is of expansion of activity at an encouraging rate, particularly in research financed from industrial resources, but yet of an inadequate scale of effort as a whole. There are still too many fallow fields; and, by way of contrast, some activities which could, in certain circumstances, grow too large.Those are serious words directed to the vital problem of the balance of our scientific effort. What action is the Ministry for Science taking to remedy it?
That point which is made by the Advisory Council is underlined at page 11 of the Report of the Research Council of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for the year 1960, which, repeating almost word for word part of the Scientific Advisory Council's Report from which I have quoted, states:We feel that the balance of research effort is reasonable by and large in the main streams of development within the chief scientific disciplines, although there are special subjects where the total effort is inadequate".Those subjects are listed. The Report continues:This effort can only be kept adequate and developed flexibly, however, if substantial and increasing resources are given to research through the existing channels, including this Department.In fields of science such as biophysics, geophysics, meteorology and oceanography, which lie between the main disciplines, we have found insufficient research effort. Relatively few undergraduate students are enrolled, so that there are few teachers and insufficient is done to attract students to post-graduate research in these subjects.It is all very well for the Minister of Education to say that we are doing much better than in 1938 and, therefore, we cannot be called complacent, but that is not the problem which in 1961 we have to face. The problem which we have to face is of a much more intense, competitive situation in the world. We have created much more efficient instruments to deal with that situation, and the question which we must ask ourselves 78 is not how well we are doing in comparison with 1938, but to what extent we are making the maximum use of the opportunities within our grasp. That is the question which the Government have to answer in this debate.
At page 32, the Report of the Research Council of the D.S.I.R. draws attention to another rather dangerous shortcoming in our arrangements for ensuring that our industry is brought up to date in that, as it states, there is inadequate dissemination of research information among our industries. The Report pinpoints that criticism by saying that that difficulty exists especially in small and medium-sized firms. That is a most serious state of affairs. It is well known to those who, like myself, represent constituencies in which the pattern of industry is rather to have a number of medium-sized and small firms rather than a few great ones.
Are the Government seeking to rectify this fault? This is a matter of importance if our industry as a whole is to progress, to make itself competitive and to provide employment. If the Government's answer is that they are seeking to remedy this defect, what have they done and what are their plans for carrying their activities further in this respect?
It is obvious and it is a matter for pride, pleasure and satisfaction, so far as it goes, that a great deal of research activity is being conducted in Britain and that the scale of this activity appears progressively to be increasing. It is inevitable, I suppose, in all scientific effort that there must be a certain amount of duplication, but we cannot afford any duplication that can be reasonably avoided.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, whether the research associations are being used through D.S.I.R. as a means of ascertaining the most promising avenues for research and development. Granted that finance is a limiting factor, what steps is the Ministry taking to ensure that grants are made for the most useful and promising purposes? That is a question which, I hope, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to answer.
My final point is to draw the Minister's attention, since he appears not to have noticed it before, to the forcible and 79 dramatic words which Dr. Thwaites, to whom I have referred earlier, used in connection with the shortage of mathematics teachers. This is what he said in his lecture:… may I, in all humility, point to where I believe responsibility now lies? And first to myself. I have thought very deeply about the wisdom of reporting in public what I, in common with an increasing number of others, have come to believe may already have happened; but I feel it right to say that mathematics may already, in May, 1961, have passed the point of no return, the point beyond which there will be a steady and irretrievable decline, on the average, in the quality of students coming into the universities, in the proportionate numbers of adequately qualified teachers both in schools and universities, and in the overall prestige and standing of mathematics as an academic discipline. Thus it is by no means improbable that well within the term of my own occupancy of this chair of Theoretical Mechanics, there will be no students coming forward to my department who will be, in our present sense, properly trained for a university course in mathematics.Those serious words were spoken in May, 1961. It is now July. Does the Minister of Education say that the problem which Dr. Thwaites was posing, and to which, as the Minister knows, a great deal of thought has been given by his Department, by the House of Commons, and by other people elsewhere, is nonexistent? If he can show that it is a nonexistent problem, well and good. But if it is not non-existent, and if it is not solved, the whole structure of scientific learning in this country will be imperilled.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I welcome very much the speech of Dr. Thwaites. The position is that more boys and girls are coming from the schools today with A level passes in mathematics. Unfortunately, though their numbers are increasing, the number who go on to study mathematics in universities is not increasing. Therefore, Dr. Thwaites is right to say that if there are not enough teachers coming back into the schools from the universities in future years, the number of students who will receive good mathematical teaching in the sixth form will decrease.
The problem is clearly one for the universities over whom I have no control, but I am glad to say that they are now to have this conference when obviously there are two things to be done: first, to increase the size of the mathematics 80 departments in universities, and secondly, to teach mathematics in universities in such a way that they do not produce only research students. If those two things are done together, we will be out of the wood.
§ Mr. Wells
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because it shows quite clearly and rightly that he accepts that the problem posed by Dr. Thwaites is a real one, and that it exists.
This is not a debate in which we on this side are seeking in particular to draw attention to the shortcomings of the right hon. Gentleman in the administration of his Department. This is a debate on science, and on the question whether the Minister for Science as such, and the Government as a whole, are taking sufficiently urgent steps to deal with the problems which lie ahead in the field of science, and, in that field, the provision of a sufficient number of trained and adequately competent mathematical teachers is crucial.
Looking at the question before the Committee today, if the Minister for Science has a sufficient sense of urgency in dealing with the problem facing his Department, as his words sometimes suggest, he has yet to prove it by the action of his Department.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I very much welcome the debate, because I think that it deals with one of the most important subjects discussed here for a long time. It is obviously important economically, and it has not a little to do with the economic crisis which we are undergoing.
I also think that the subject of science and technology has become one of the more significant aspects of the cold war. Our ability to give aid to under-developed countries depends in part on science and technology. Indeed, I am not at all sure that the under-developed countries have not come to rate scientific and technological achievement above purely military achievement.
Though I speak as a non-Marxist, I cannot but note that science and technology are used in the Soviet Union for fashioning the Marxist society. They are the instrument for bringing about the 81 plentitude of goods which will make possible the transition from a class to a classless society. Even though I am sceptical of the feasibility of a classless society, the fact that technology is used in this way endows it with tremendous importance.
This is an important subject. What is more, it is an importance which has developed in a short space of time—the last ten years—and it has not been developed by us. It has been imposed on us from outside. I think that it requires on our part a revolution of attitude—a revolution of administrative structure, to use the phrase used by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart)—and, I think, a revolution in the relations between Government and industry. I am not at all sure that I have seen a consciousness of the magnitude of the change with which we are faced.
One asks oneself—it is the obvious question—why is it that in the short,space of 40 years the Soviet Union, emerging from agrarian serfdom, has reached scientific and technological parity with the West, and, indeed—because I think that this is a fact—is achieving a rate of scientific and technological advance which is far faster than ours?
I think that the answer is only indirectly the Communist system. I think that after the political revolution the Communists found themselves with the job of industrialising their country and they set about creating a new race of technicians. In other words, they underwent their educational revolution long before our own.
We are politicians. It may well be that we have paid greater attention to the Soviet political revolution than to what I suggest is the more significant thing, the scientific-managerial revolution. There are few Soviet leaders from Mr. Khrushchev downwards who have not had a scientific and technological training. As a result, scientific achievement is identified with political achievement, and vice versa.
Last summer I was shown round one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen, the new scientific centre being built on the outskirts of Novosibirsk in Western. Siberia; a galaxy of research institutes devoted entirely to research; 82 no teaching; all researching into the related aspects of a single problem, and on a scale which I think is without comparison in any other part of the world. But the point was that this was a pet project of Mr. Khrushchev. Here was the whole support of the Soviet political authority behind the project. I should be hard put to it to name a single scientific or technological project in this country which had behind it the whole support of the political authority.
Take, for example, Jodrell Bank. The one thing which has brought more scientific prestige to this country than anything else in recent years is Jodrell Bank, and we have seen the sad spectacle of its passing round the hat. We have to undergo a great revolution of attitude before the educational revolution reaches Whitehall. But I think that also we have to undergo a revolution in organisation and in Government structure.
The hon. Member for Workington put his finger on the nub of the point, and I do not think that I can express the problem better than to quote two sentences from the issue of the New Scientist for 29th June:It has been one of Lord Hailsham's proudest claims as Minister for Science that Ms staff could be fitted into an omnibus. In other words, the principle which at present governs scientific policy in Britain is that central planning should be kept to a minimum.This, I think, is the issue. Not only have we to treat science and technology more seriously, but it is inevitable that we treat it on something approaching the Soviet terms. It is a truism that one cannot fight a war one cannot survive in a war, without to some extent fighting the war on the terms set by one's opponent. Exactly the same is true in this case. In the struggle for peaceful co-existence, I think that the Soviet has to come some way towards meeting the West in giving greater freedom to the consumer. But, as she does so, it is bound to undermine the planning system. Equally, I think we have to go some way in adopting the planning methods of the Soviet Union in science and technology.
I give two reasons for suggesting that we should have more Government planning in the way of science and technology. The first is if one looks at the history of science, at the advance of science in comparatively developed 83 countries, so far it has been reasonably uniform. We thought that we were ahead in radar in the last war, but the Germans in fact tumbled on radar at exactly the same moment in time. By and large, scientific advance has been uniform in developed countries. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the scale of investment was modest and within the reach of most developed countries, and secondly, the results were published. There was ease of communication between one country and another.
Now, this has totally changed. The Soviet Union invests heavily in certain selected spheres, in cancer research or in space research—whatever it may be—but does not necessarily publish the results. In order to match this we have equally to invest heavily, but we cannot invest heavily all round. We must select a sphere and have a certain planning authority.
The second reason why we must have a planning authority is that most significant scientific and technological advances are now taking place not in single disciplines such as chemistry or physics, for example, but as a result of the marriage of scientific disciplines. Take, for example, automatic machine translation. This project is, on the face of it, a marriage between two different disciplines, philology and mathematics. As in human life, these marriages do not always come about spontaneously. There has to be a certain arrangement. They do not come about spontaneously in science. There has to be some guidance, some arranger from the outside, which means a planning authority.
The Minister for Science as he now is —it does not require me to say so—is clearly no planning authority. He is the titular spokesman, no more, for a number of independent bodies such as the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council. He has no effective control over them. I think I am right in saying that his control over them is exercisable only by the power of direction, to which every Minister is most anxious not to resort.
Each one of these independent bodies has direct access to the Treasury. If they want money, they go directly to the Treasury and the answer of the Treasury 84 is uninformed by any scientific advice. This is a relic of a past state of affairs, of the day when Government investment in science was in terms of small sums of money and, therefore, there was no difficulty in saying "Yes" to the requests, except in times of financial crisis.
All this has now changed. I think that we have to have a planning authority and that that authority must have as part of it a scientific intelligence organisation—which does not yet exist with knowledge of scientific development in different parts of the world. It also must have an assessing organisation internal as well as external. In other words, it must be able to assess the worth-whileness of investment, say, in medical research as against space research, or whatever it may be.
I consider that the appointment of a Minister for Science is merely a first first step. It makes sense only if there are subsequent steps, and I hope very much that some indication of the subsequent steps will be given to us in this debate.
I also think we have to have a change in the relationship between Government and industry. I agree entirely with the Statement quoted today, which was made by my noble Friend, I think on Saturday, to the effect that British industry is not sufficiently technically conscious, not scientifically and technologically conscious. Just as our political authority is not as scientifically and technically conscious as is the political authority in the Soviet Union, the same is also true of British industry compared with Soviet industry, though I do not think that this is the only difference.
The difference is not so much that in the Soviet Union industry is non-profit making whereas here it is profit making. I do not think that the motives of the I.C.I. managers are basically any different from the motives of the managers of Gosplan. I think the real difference is one of scale, the scale on which things are thought out in the Soviet Union, which is so infinitely greater than here.
To give one or two examples, there are in the Soviet Union completely experimental factories. There is a completely experimental steel works where the main object is pure experimentation, 85 and production is incidental. The techniques developed are later made available elsewhere. This is scale beyond the furthest limits of anything conceivable in any private company in this country. Then again there is the Soviet Committee for Automation and Mechanisation one of whose functions is to scrutinise the expansion and development plans of various production units and brings to bear on these plans the knowledge acquired from a study of what is taking place in the wide world. In other words, here was knowledge brought to bear on the operations of a relatively small manufacturing unit. This again, is an advantage of scale. We have somehow or other in this country to try to do something on these lines.
Our traditional method of coping with this problem is through research associations, co-operative associations by a number of firms in an industry. I have no wish to disparage the research associations. The difficulty I find is that everything done in this way is good, but the question is, is it good enough? In my view, research associations are nowadays inadequate. I think they are inadequate because they concentrate on the fundamental end of the research gamut rather than the applied end. This is because they are partly divorced from production and, what is more significant, the nearer one approaches the application of scientific results the greater is the temptation for firms to hug their secrets to their bosoms.
There is an inconsistency between commercial secrecy and the openness of science. I therefore do not think research associations are effective. I am depressed to think—this is the impression I have—that the Government's thinking about Britain's industrial and technological problems is in terms of research associations. We had an inquiry into the state of the machine tools industry. What has emerged from that inquiry? Another research association. In so far as the Government are thinking beyond research associations, they are thinking in terms of civil development contracts, aid to a firm with a certain civil development. The Government find themselves in the difficulty that if they give aid to firm A they receive requests from firms B, C and D, so they tend to offer aid to a consortium of firms. That in effect means 86 a research association under another name.
I am sceptical about the value of all this. I wonder whether in trying to face our technological problems we are risking investing small sums of money in diverse ways the total result of which I am afraid will be ineffective. I accept the principle of a civil development contract. In defence the Government placed before industry a technologically challenging requirement and gave finance to meet that requirement. I favour an attempt to translate this into civil terms, but I think it has to be done on scale. One has to think of something larger than contracts of a couple of thousand pounds.
It has also to be done with purpose and strategy, the purpose being to make the firms themselves more research and development minded. Although we have had no description from the Government benches today, I feel our approach to this matter is on too small a scale. I ask myself whether what I feel to be the smallness of the approach is not in fact a reflection of the smallness of the instrument which has been chosen. The instrument chosen by the Government for this technological transformation in British industry is the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. The D.S.I.R. thinks automatically in terms of research associations and its budgets have always been small. I think its total budget now is not more than about £10 million. I hope I shall be forgiven for expressing the view—I say it without rancour—that a far better instrument for this purpose would been the old Ministry of Supply, in other words the defence research and development mechanism.
The old Ministry of Supply did not think in terms of research associations but was a customer used to the ruthlessness of selection from a variety of suppliers; the financial starting point was also higher. Its research and development budget was in the region of £200 million. I consider that the opportunity should have been taken with the decline in the defence programme to make use of the expertise of the Ministry of Supply and to extend it into the field of civil development contracts. However, that opportunity has now passed.
87 A somewhat illogical structure has been created in the Ministry of Aviation, which is subjected to pressures for further disintegration from every side. I only hope that those pressures for further disintegration will be resisted, for I think that further disintegration would be to the technological disadvantage of this country. I also think that some use might still be made of the Ministry of Aviation in the placing of civil development contracts. For the reasons I have given, a contract for components for high speed computers would be better placed by the Ministry of Aviation than by the D.S.I.R.
Be that as it may, even though in my judgment an opportunity has been lost, we have to strengthen the instrument for placing civil development contracts, which is the only means now open to us of trying to raise the technological standards of British industry. The suggestion I make for strengthening the instrument is an amalgamation of the industrial functions of D.S.I.R. with the National Research and Development Corporation.
I do not agree with hon. Members opposite in suggesting that the functions of the national research and Development Corporation should be extended to production. I think the Corporation is driven into production because it is under a statutory obligation to pay its way and it cannot pay its way merely by exacting royalties. I would combine the Corporation with the industrial part of D.S.I.R. and make this the industrial and technological nucleus of the Ministry for Science with a mandate technologically to revivify British industry in general and the technologically sick British industries in particular.
Such a nucleus might well in course of time become the sponsor for industry. The impact of Government upon industry in the past has been through commercial policy and the sponsoring department therefore has been the Board of Trade. I believe that the main impact of Government upon industry in future will be via technology and this may well require a change of sponsor. I think we are moving into a new age where the clichés to which we on both sides of the Committee are accustomed on the question of the relationship between Government and industry are out-moded. The least we 88 can do is to fashion now an instrument adequate to the problem which is before us.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Woof (Blaydon)
I am sure that we all listened with very great pleasure to the most interesting speech by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). The way in which he marshalled his analysis proved that he has taken a very deep and constructive interest in science.
Although this is a debate on science, far be it from me to try to compete with any scientific jargon. Speaking for myself as a layman, I would say that it will be impossible to grasp the important fundamental concepts of the subject. No doubt while it would be very difficult for an ordinary person to follow the blue-prints of scientific calculations, it can be widely acknowledged that the ultimate aim of science is to discover order in natural phenomena and to explain things correctly through a close study of their concurrences or sequences.
The conception of science in its broadest terms will also be accepted as synonymous with learning and knowledge. It can be used within the province of more than one particular branch of science, and to all intents and purposes the general use of that word could have some restricted meaning which, no doubt, could be applied by differentiating it widely from other branches of learning and knowledge. In this respect, I have in mind the science of human endeavour and the science of power.
One can always be impressed when confronted by factual knowledge which is hard to dispute, but it must be said that as politicians our actions are primarily directed towards the need for shelter, nourishment and social gratification. But in view of the complex problems of vast industries at the present time, feeding and maintaining huge populations compels us to accept the choice of means which the marked impact of science and technology has made for us to attain.
I believe that it is desirable to look in the face some of the controlling facts which lie behind this cardinal position. In this respect, I have looked through the 1960 Report of the Research Council for the Department of Scientific and 89 Industrial Research, and I have found it most interesting reading. On page 29, in the paragraph dealing with scientific representation, the Report discusses the interaction of scientific activity on questions which are playing such an important part in the political and commercial relations of the United Kingdom abroad.
One can have a strong sense of appreciation for the recommendation that refers to the increasing importance of promoting good contacts between scientific organisations in this country and their opposite numbers in overseas territories, as I believe this to be of fundamental importance to us all. Such a recommendation should be considered as something that is not altogether a futile undertaking, for the reasons, in line with what the right hon. Gentleman said, that we seem to be passing through so many moving events at the present time, involving every leading form of thought and activity in which the sequence can find no record to compare.
Whatever the symptoms that may be implied in the more immediate relations in these disturbing times, the more clear it becomes that we should support any action which might facilitate endeavours to turn the work of scientists into lasting benefit. One's mind goes back to August, 1955, when scientists and other experts made up the thousand delegates attending a conference at Geneva for the purpose of exploring the means of developing the peaceful uses of atomic energy through international co-operation.
Great hopes were placed in that conference, at which more than 1,000 scientific papers were submitted and out of which various aspects of the atomic problem emerged. The conference showed that scientists in different parts of the world had arrived at almost identical results in some understanding of the structure of atomic energy, even though they had been working separately.
But we know only too well that since that time other countries have made their delayed entry into the atomic or nuclear world and are now vigorously pursuing their endeavours to make up for lost time in acquiring this new source of power. This dominant factor is one which hon Members on both sides of the 90 Committee will no doubt appreciate. They will appreciate that it is the world political aspects which deeply interest us in what the scientists are doing in endeavouring adequately to furnish the needs of human society.
The possibilities which science presents to us, adding bit by bit to the mountain of knowledge, with the tasks which remain to control and exploit the forces of nature, are part of a general responsibility which politicians and economists must accept. They must be prepared to look to the effects of the pressure of population needs with the desire for economic expansion.
But whatever the extent of economic developments that are to be conditioned by industrialisation of these new sources of energy, it should be decisively a leading feature of all political thought in being confronted by a picture of the gigantic efforts exerted by scientists and technicians that it should strike a close relationship which we must seek to guide and control. It is in this respect that we welcome the recent agreement for collaboration between the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. to reciprocate the utilisation of atomic energy through exchange visits of their comparable groups of specialists.
Like the right hon. Member for Hall Green, I think that in the field of applied science and weapons technique it is common knowledge that reality has dissipated all illusions about the Soviet Union's backwardness in scientific and technical matters. I think that its aircraft demonstration over the week-end has proved that point. But the establishment of this contact principle in the scientific world should be of immense significance for the future progress of atomic energy, because I believe that collaboration among scientists is all the more necessary since very serious regard is given to all the scientific work to serve military purposes.
The tempo of such developments is well known, and those developments have gone a long way towards producing these decisive technical processes and in bringing about a tremendous change in industrial production. So much is that the case that one must also compare the determining factor of atomic power, 91 atomic processes and electronic machines, which will completely transform not only the life of the present industrial nations but a wider circle of those less-developed nations by assisting the growth of productivity of labour power which will no doubt affect all aspects of human life.
While we recognise that there is much to be proud of in this enlightened and progressive age, with all the wonders of modern civilisation and the new and better methods of communication that have been created by scientific bridges linking up the world, we realise that there is hardly a problem affecting human society that scientists are not prepared to tackle with a good chance of success.
Although my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) commented strongly on the Government's lackadaisical attitude to scientific advance, there is also another story to tell in regard to the speed at which scientific discoveries are brought to the point of application, in the designing of new machinery through technical processes to increase labour productivity.
As a result of the books, brochures and articles that are published, we have no difficulty nowadays in realising the wonders of automation. We see machines operated by machinery, in which the human labour power could be progressively excluded in the whole process from the raw material to the finished article. Consequently, fears are expressed of the danger of unemployment perhaps increasing in a big and important section of the working population, including both factory and office workers.
This is all the more real when we realise that the number of jobs created by automation is less than the number it makes redundant, especially among skilled workers, as a result of facing up to the task of finding new methods of increasing the productivity of labour power. In fact, one can hardly overlook what was said by the chairman of the National Coal Board—our former right hon. Friend, now Lord Robens—in addressing the annual conference of the National Union of Mineworkers last week. Speaking of the need for improved efficiency, he is reported to have said that the miners should not put out of their minds the possibility of a 32-hour, 4-day week.
92 That is a vision for the not-too-distant future, but one result of such a possibly changed situation would be for the natural instincts of labour organisations to become part of the emerging universal movement to increase leisure time by a general introduction to a much shorter working week. After all, that is one of the central planks which we on this side have always tried to maintain.
Together, and in connection with those probable forthcoming tasks, when working people are to be directly involved in increased productivity and by the full circumstances of their livelihood, a greater responsibility will be imposed in finding the right answer to prove that they will be entitled to the benefit in the form of a shorter working week. It should, however, also be stressed that wherever and whenever scientific processes deprive workers of their jobs, it should be the duty of the Government to see that the means are provided by which those workers will be able to acquire such skills as may be required to meet the necessary adjustments in endeavouring to obtain alternative employment. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will let us know whether or not the Government have anything in mind in this respect.
I suppose that any student of the human sciences can do very little more than accept or suggest guiding principles in relation to those definite social and economic changes, but since scientists have opened out the possibility of new sources of energy that may be used in the service of humanity it will be acceptance of the conditions of our existence to work and to live in the sort of world that lies ahead. Despite whatever achievements can be claimed to be worthy of the efforts to remove disparity in economic progress, I must also believe that there is no possibility of paradise on earth than the thought of the one in the skies, for the simple reason that every day we are more clearly realising the confusion in which civilised nations are struggling with their disturbing and complex problems.
It seems appropriate that this debate should be taking place at a time when mankind's prospects are confronted with intense international tensions that may profoundly affect us all. While it is 93 much easier to point to what ought to be done to reverse the trends in the hope of discovering a way out, we can, at least, for the sake of the common good, appreciate the importance of, and substantial agreement towards, making contacts for atomic energy purposes.
In such matters as these, involving accumulating scientific knowledge, whatever contributions can be made to their application to world-wide affairs as a whole, this need should be regarded as a historical necessity. This, we hope, will reflect all the necessary steps which should have the effect of bringing scientists together in an atmosphere of good will and mutual trust. We also hope that such an emergence will have some direct value in dispelling much of the profound anxiety that it is our unkind fate to be experiencing at the present time.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I am very glad that the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) has touched on the topics he has chosen, because I think that we can all too easily, by scientific and technological advance, land ourselves in a position which, if we have not thought it out beforehand, can make things far worse than they are today. I was very interested in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), because I do not know whether, when making his observations about the Soviet Union, he recalled some of the remarks Stalin made about 30 years ago at the first of all meetings in the Soviet Union of Managers of Socialists in Industry.
The meeting took place on 4th February, 1931. In that speech, Stalin made great fun of a quotation from a Russian author, Schedrin, rather less well known in this country, in which the author described the Pompadour family. Lady Pompadour says to Pompadour, "Don't break your head over science, don't go into details. Let others do this, it is not your business—your business is to direct, to sign papers."
Only a couple of years later, Stalin was reporting on the result of the Five-Year Plan and, strangely enough, he was praying in aid some remarks written by no less a person, so well-beloved by the British Treasury, than Mr. Gibson 94 Jarvie, head of the United Dominions Trust. This is what he quoted Mr. Gibson Jarvie as having said, having began by making it clear that he is neither a Communist nor a Bolshevist:Russia is forging ahead while all too many of our factories and shipyards lie idle.… In all the industrial towns I have visited a new city is growing up, a city on a definite plan.He then pays great tribute to Russia's young people:Russia is a country of amazing activity. I believe that the Russian objective is sound and, perhaps most important of all, all their youngsters and workers in Russia have one thing too sadly lacking in the capitalist countries today, and that is—hope.These words were written by Mr. Gibson Jarvie in the middle of one of the greatest depressions we have ever had in the United Kingdom, and I hope that we shall never have one again. I say to the hon. Member for Blaydon that quite as big a risk of those sort of times returning and of the possibility he visualises is the possibility of our pricing ourselves out of the markets of the world. If we do not keep a check on that, we shall rue the day in the end.
We have had a good deal of fun at the expense of this document—Science and the Future of Britain. I say to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) that I cannot believe that it was written after the last General Election. So much of it smacks of the sort of situation that the Labour Party would have liked the electorate to believe in 1959 that I am pretty sure that the picture on the front cover is not inappropriate if it is meant to depict pie in the sky.
I join with the hon. Member for Workington in paying a tribute to the Soviet Union in that it is holding today—the first day that the House of Commons has ever debated science as such—an exhibition in London of the latest products of Soviet industry and various other displays to show the technological advance that the Soviet Union has made. I am also very glad to congratulate and to welcome the arrival of Major Gagarin tomorrow. But the people to whom I should really like to pay tribute are the scientists, technologists, technicians and engineers who made his rocket and made his space ship, Vostok. These are the people to whom I should really like to pay tribute.
95 We in this country have much to be proud of amongst our own scientists, and probably none of us in 1932 would have agreed with Mr. Gibson Jarvie, as quoted by Stalin in 1933, but I think that he was right and that he has been proved right. There is no doubt that the Russians, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green said, started their great technological and scientific revolution before we did. They are now reaping the benefit of some of the leeway that we have to make up. I am not attempting in any way to write down what we ourselves have done. To quote a modern poet:We've come a long way in a little time, The urge of homo sapiens is to improve And has not altogether failed in this pursuit.I would say to the hon. Member for Workington that we have done a good deal better than even he suspected, judging by the excellent report made on the progress in the field of education by the Minister of Education today. It is true that there are still difficulties, and the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. T. Wells) put his finger on one of them. It is perfectly true that we have still a great deal to do. It is also true that there is no ground whatever for complacency, but do not let us write down too low the achievements that we have made, because they are very considerable.
We are nevertheless, despite all our immense achievements, faced with a yet more exacting challenge than ever before. But fast though our knowledge is increasing about how this world works and is constructed, we know that the universe itself, even while we are speaking in this debate, is expanding at a staggering number of miles an hour in all directions. The electronic microscope—and I expect some hon. Members have seen the wonderful programmes on the B.B.C. in its scientific series—has shown that within the smallest cell capable of magnification by that amazing contrivance there is still the inexplicable spark of life. At the other end of the scale, not even Jodrell Bank, to which great tribute has been paid today, the radio telescope, or the biggest optical telescope yet made, is capable of fully penetrating the infinity of space. I agree with T. S. Eliot when he says 96The only wisdom we can hope to acquire Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.I am afraid that is not a virtue for which the House of Commons is particularly renowned. Ringing the sexes as though they were handbells, at one moment we boast that we are the Mother of Parliaments, and the next moment we become Father Christmases handing out comfits like the Dodo at the end of the caucus race. At one moment Britain is John Bull and the next Britannia. None of these rôles is conspicuous for its humility. And yet when one regards the majesty of creation, the endless ingenuity of the minds of men, the resilience of the human body and yet its infinite delicacy of adjustment, I must confess that I often pause to wonder at the miracle of being alive at all.
I trust that what I have said so far will not be thought out of keeping with this somewhat more materialistic debate. I have learned just enough of mathematics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, heat, electricity and magnetism, of wireless and television, to know how little I know and to realise that, so far as technology is concerned, to stand still even for a month is to grow out-of-date. There was a time when I could assemble a five-valve wireless receiver, and I learned the rudiments of television in 1932 when I used to look at the experimental transmissions by the Baird process. Incidentally, there is a man who has never had a sufficient tribute paid to him. Now I am well enough behind as to have to rely on transistors to overcome the ringing in my ears which has been left by that devilish contrivance of man, the dive bomber.
I could not help being deeply impressed by the magnificent article in the Observer Week End Review of yesterday by Professor Herbert Butterfield, and I think we all share his view when he says:Even now one of the things that take one's breath away is the thought that possibly no peaceful or constructive cause in the universe, possibly not even the challenge of world starvation, could have given such drive and such direction to research as war and national rivalry down to the recent decades.I suppose that is always the problem. I do not know if the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) is going to wind up for the Opposition—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, so I understand, came to my division on one of the first anti-rocket base marches and passed by my door. I am only sorry that I did not have the opportunity of welcoming him.
There are certainly times when we have to pause to reflect on the vast propensities of science, both for good and for evil, and in humility to dedicate ourselves to avoiding the avoidable mistakes in its application. I still feel that we may at last, thanks to the scientist, have found something which is going to frighten men into never having war again if they can possibly avoid it. As long as we have an absolute weapon, I believe there is a chance that we may do this. Wheneever a power has been given to man he has always misused it. If he misuses this one he may destroy himself, and that in itself may be highly salutary. If we approach this problem in the right spirit of humility we may have peace in our time anyway.
I suggest there are two main headings—and I am glad that we started with a statement from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education—under which we can divide our study of the matters before us. The first is education; and the second, which is quite as important, if not more so, is the employment and the exploitation, in its best sense, of those whom we have educated. We have heard a great deal today from my right hon. Friend about improvements in higher education and further education. May I say that that has been very greatly welcomed in my division, because we have a college for further education and a horticultural institute which I am sure is dear to the heart of the hon. Member for Workington. The latest White Paper on technical education has been greatly welcomed by all throughout the teaching profession in the Isle of Ely.
The point at which we ought to start to consider this problem is before a child even goes to his primary school. 98 I believe that the most important moment in the human life is that moment when wonder suddenly dictates that a child should ask what, when, why, where or how. It is that faculty to wonder which is the most civilising of all the faculties of man, because it is one which is conducive to man wanting to learn. If that moment is missed—and it occurs before the child goes to primary school—one has sown the first seeds of juvenile delinquency.
Although we have made magnificent progress since before the war and in the last eight years, I still believe that we have to do more, and it means that not one single brain in this country ought to be wasted. The awful thing is that the more intelligent the child the worse is the effect on that child if, when that moment of wonder arrives, it is met either with rebuff or disregard. Then we are wasting brains.
I have little doubt that the reason that some of our children today "could not care less" or "would not know"—horrible expressions—is very largely that somewhere back in their lives, at that moment when they wanted to know and were ready to be taught, they were either rebuffed or denied the teaching that they were looking for. As I say, those are the moments when the seeds of juvenile delinquency are sown. If there are parents who have failed in this problem we must not always blame them. Rather must we seek out ways of educating them so as to equip them to succeed in sending their children to school as a further step in the process of leading on that the word "education" really means.
Then we must see that the extent and range of knowledge required by the authorities responsible for the further fields of education is not such as to make it impossible for a broad and sound grounding in those subjects which are essential, at least to some degree, in a fully-rounded personality.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said today in relation to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy, particularly in those paragraphs beginning at paragraph 49. Perhaps I may read out one or two sentences:We deplore the segregation of children in the middle school into groups according to the subjects they are to study in the sixth form. … In our opinion all pupils in the middle 99 school should have the same general education, in which science should play its whole part.The next paragraph states:… those who are primarily interested in science should continue a serious study of some other subjects and vice versa.In paragraph 51 we find the following:Even within science there are signs of over-specialisation in the sixth form. This is especially true of biologists …So it goes on.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member said that the Minister accepts and agrees with that Report. My argument throughout this debate is: what is the Minister going to do about it? It is all very well him saying that he can do nothing and that it is a matter for the teaching profession. That is not good enough, and the bon. Member knows it.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am not suggesting that any more than the hon. Member would expect me to tell Mr. Brock how to make squibs—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I say that no more than would the hon. Member expect me to tell Mr. Brock how to make squibs would I expect the Minister of Education to tell the education authorities how to reorganise themselves. It is an expert teaching job. Heaven forbid that we should ever get party politicians, on either side, telling the teaching profession how to do that sort of thing. All I say is that if we get a Report from the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy which headlines these particular shortcomings and we get the endorsement of the Minister after he has considered it with his Department, I have more faith in the teaching profession than the hon. Member for Workington appears to have. I do not believe that they will sit idly by knowing that the Minister has approved what has been said in these Reports.
Indeed, we already know that progress has been made along those lines. It is a question of accelerating, regearing and providing more teachers. We know that everything that can be done is being done to bring more teachers of the right type into the various streams of education. 100 Education, in my view, is no longer a matter of the three R's—reading, and 'rithmetic—but the three K's; the K for knowledge or, in other words, science; the K for "know-how," which one might call technology, and the K that is knack, which one might say is acquired technical skill, which is wanted in our factories and workshops.
There are, I am afraid, many children who still regard craftiness as a substitute for craftsmanship. They should be learning all about the count downs of rockets because, if they are not careful, they will be counted out. They will be wasting themselves and we shall be allowing them to do so unless we are prepared to do something about it. I am convinced—assuming that the three K's become more important or a further stage to the three R's—that we must be, satisfied that proper use is made of those whose knowledge of the "know-how" has given them the technical knack that we need. But, I am afraid, the picture here is patchy.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said, those industries whose foundations were laid in the scientific age have set many good examples. But there are establishments where bachelors of science are being wasted, where technologists are being denied the scope which their qualifications justify and where technicians are losing their sense of purpose. It is only natural, I suppose, that men and women with scientific skills should seek the best equipped laboratories in which to work and the highest pay. Yet the greatest need in industry today is fully qualified scientists, technologists, engineers and technicians to come into the factories literally at the floor level. But however important is research, its results will be abortive unless they are translated into action and unless, side by side with those at the machines and who are carrying out the processes of industry, there are those who can interpret the results of that research. No more important problem now confronts us than the discovery of ways of making the best use of our scientific and trained manpower.
Command Paper 902 concerning scientific and engineering manpower in Great Britain in 1959 clearly shows that private industry alone will require 97,152 qualified scientists and engineers by next year. To that figure must be added 101 24,897 who will be required by the nationalised industries and the B.B.C. Over 3,000 more will be needed for State Research Councils as their share in the 15,721 who will be required by the central Government as a whole. When one compares 1962 with 1959 one sees that we need an increase of 44 per cent. for private industry and 19.9 per cent. for the nationalised industries and public corporations. In terms of human beings, those percentages represent an increase of about 25,400 in all.
It is encouraging to know, as the Parliamentary Secretary said in a Written Answer to me on 7th March, that we are ahead of schedule in increasing our annual output of qualified scientists and technologists to 20,000 a year and that we can hope to do so by 1964, which is several years earlier than we expected. But if we are to see many of these skilled people ending up in non-essential scientific dead-end jobs, then much of the time and money that was spent in achieving those results will be wasted. That is why I hope that the D.S.I.R., the research associations—both State and industrial—the universities, the technical colleges, the F.B.I., the trade unions and, not least, the Government, will apply themselves to the immense problem of ensuring the best possible exploitation, in the proper meaning of the word, of our most priceless national asset—fully qualified manpower.
I appreciate that in coming to the question of Government responsibility this is a matter which is dear to the hearts of many hon. Gentlemen opposite. I notice that despite their past achievements, the Soviet Union have recently made considerable adjustments in the management of their scientific activities. The Soviet Academy of Sciences has, by decree of the Presidium, had many of its responsibilities taken from it and passed to a State Committee for the Co-ordination of Scientific Research. Only one of the five members of that body will represent the Academy of Sciences, and that member was mentioned in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Workington.
It appears that the Russians are shifting away from party political control, which they had before in this connection—and are moving more into line with our own concept as it is today—granted, with many differences—but cer- 102 tainly there are similarities in the new set-up there and of the relationship which the D.S.I.R. has with Her Majesty's Government.
I suppose that most hon. Members will have read C. P. Snow's enthralling account of the Tizard and Lindemann clashes, firstly, over radar, and secondly, over strategic bombing. One of the most important observations that Snow makes in his book is on page 81, where he says:It is a clear advantage to the Soviet Union that they have, right at the top of the political and administrative trees, a fairly high proportion of men with scientific and technical training. The proportion of these men in the top executive organisations, or among high ranking diplomats, seems to be somewhere between 35 per cent. and 45 per cent., which is far higher than in the United States or in England. …And he goes on to say:I believe scientists have something to give which our kind of existential society is desperately short of; so short of, that it fails to recognise of what it is starved. That is foresight".And on page 82 he continues:Scientists have it within them to know what a future-directed society feels like, for science itself, in its human aspect, is just that.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue he will see what it means. There is no doubt that scientists have got, as Snow said, something to give which our kind of existential society is desperately short of and, as I have quoted, that is "foresight". That is why I say that there is a strong case for increasing the number of those with scientific knowledge in the Civil Service who may not have any direct scientific responsibilities in most of their work.
There is something akin to the scientist and the poet. I remember once reading Virginia Wolff's "Letter to a Young Poet", in which she complains that too many modern poems would take the reader to walk barefooted across the splintery floor of the poet's garret, to share his squalor and his self-pity, whereas the greater poets of yesterday would have beckoned their guests to the attic window to show them the wonderful view. I am inclined to think that, whether or not they include poets, those 103 working in Government Departments do not have enough time to look out of the windows, be it the windows of their offices or the windows of their imaginations.
If, by bringing in scientists at all levels of Government service, we could revive our hopes for the future, then I would endorse all that C. P. Snow says. Indeed, Stalin was right in laughing at Lady Pompadour. The Government's duty today is not merely to direct and to sign papers. In this scientific age, the Government have two more important rôles. The first is to provide a bridge between the scientific and the political worlds. The second is to raise our mental gaze to the horizons that lie ahead. I do not believe that we shall encourage the fulfilment of these two rôles by centralising the control of scientific activity, and this is where I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Member for Workington. Rather, I think, shall we do it by ensuring that at least one of our Ministers has the time to view the whole scene of our people's varied activities and to contrive ways of ensuring that the right people, be they Ministers, civil servants, industrialists or trade unionists are, at the right time, made aware of the need to consider the right scientific subject. For that reason I rejoice that the Minister is the Minister for Science, not of Science, and that the Minister happens to be the person he is.
If we are to remain a balanced people—here I agree profoundly with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education—we must not disregard our national characteristics. We must to our own selves be true, and, above all, we must realise that our people are motivated not only by reason by also by emotion. They are human beings, first of all. As the ruthless logic of cold hard facts of science extend both in their range and their influence over our affairs, so must we ever seek ways of synthesising the political and scientific activities of our people. If this is to be achieved, we must widen the scientific knowledge in public administration and enrich the scientists with a stronger sense of the political partnership in which we are joined with them in the quest for ultimate truth. Together, I believe, we can succeed in restoring to our own people, 104 in our own way—heaven forbid that we should do it in the Russian way—that joy which comes from being able to wonder at the miracle of the present. Only then shall we be able to revive their hope in our future and their faith in the purpose of mankind.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on an eloquent, forceful and well-reasoned speech which was, I believe, a very powerful contribution to the debate and to our understanding of the problem we face.
I wish that I could say the same of the Minister. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman wrang out the last drop of self-congratulation for the achievements of the Government in a speech which seemed to gloss over the real seriousness of our situation. His speech reinforced the strength of the charge of complacency which my hon. Friend made against the Government because, in talking about revolutionary changes, the right hon. Gentleman indicted us for not being aware of what was going on and for denigrating our own efforts.
Many of us are just as well aware of what is going on in our schools as the Minister of Education is, and, in fact, we appreciate the efforts that are being made. The Minister invalidated his whole argument by not relating it to a realistic assessment of our needs and by sweeping aside the massive efforts which are being made in many other countries.
In my judgment, the Minister demonstrated the poverty of his case by taking, in this major debate, a single item in the Labour Party's policy and seeking on that ground, instead of answering the principal case, to discredit the whole document. In my view, this is really a tribute to the document, because the case made in it is unanswerable. I shall return to it later.
Having listened to many debates on defence and on the destructive efforts of modern science, I am delighted to take part in a debate which is concerned with its more constructive aspects. It is very important that this country, which must import nine-tenths of its raw material and 50 per cent. of its food, should concern itself seriously with scientific and 105 technical advance. I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) when he says that we cannot divorce this problem from our general approach to public affairs and, in particular, to planning. We are in competition, and we shall increasingly be in competition, with centrally planned countries which grow more powerful every day.
Unless we can generate voluntarily the necessary discipline to ensure efficient planning, to determine a realistic system of priorities, and generate a united national effort, with the willingness to make the sacrifices involved in maintaining our standard of living, we cannot hope to survive. These are the terms in which we should approach the debate today. In the short run, failure may mean the loss of British leadership and the loss of our ability to help the underdeveloped countries within and without the Commonwealth, but in the long run our very survival will be at stake.
We all welcomed the appointment, though belated, of the Minister for Science and, much later again, the appointment of the Parliamentary Secretary. My hon. Friend spoke of the need for looking again at the organisation of the Minister for Science. Sir Robert Aitken, in an address to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, put the matter much more effectively than I could. As hon. Members know, he is the Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University. Speaking of scientists and of others working in the academic world, he said that the question which worried them was whether there was anywhere in the complexities of Westminster or Whitehall where a well-informed and comprehensive judgment was taken about the relative amount of money which should go into university research and Government-financed research.
This concern about the amount of money being spent and about the balance of our effort was echoed by Sir Edward Appleton, on the same occasion. He said that, while he welcomed the increased support of the universities, the fact was that university research was now the poor relation of the scientific world in Britain. He went on to instance many universities without computers and made un- 106 favourable comparisons with Government institutions in regard to the use of experimental officers who could well allow important experiments to go on in the universities while the academic staff carried on with teaching. It is the whole machinery of the relationship of the Government with science which needs overhauling.
We need a technical planning board. Every year, in the Reports of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy and in the Reports of the D.S.I.R., we see a star-studded list of names, but these distinguished scientists and others who advise the Government have neither the time nor, in many cases, the opportunity to advise the Government in the way they ought to be advised if we are to have a comprehensive picture of the future. Such a technical planning board ought to be composed of a group of full-time scientists, not necessarily on the level of the people who are members of the Advisory Council now but capable scientists who could devote their full time to surveying the future.
In September, 1959, the United States Foreign Relations Committee received a report entitled, "Non-military Scientific Developments and their Potential Impact on Foreign Policy Problems in the United States". This document, I know, has been described as a fantastic ragbag of ideas, but it did, none the less, represent a serious attempt to survey the whole future in an endeavour to see that no fruitful field was ignored and that no necessary initiative was not taken because of an inability to look ahead.
We owe a great deal to Dr. Bryan Thwaites, Professor of Theoretical Mechanics at Southampton, who, in his inaugural lecture, drew attention to the proliferation of organisations and institutions in education. He pointed to the schools under the Ministry of Education, to the universities under the University Grants Committee, and to the examining bodies, who are a law unto themselves.
Now we have the Minister of Education who, since that time, has raised, as it were, a new edifice, separate again, which will control technical education at the highest level. I believe that there is a great need in education for a central agency to co-ordinate this whole effort.
107 I disagree profoundly with the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), who says that we ought, naturally, as it were, to hope that all the people involved will take notice of the recommendations of this range of reports, which gets greater every year, because I do not think that in this complex world, in competition with centrally planned economies, unless we have co-ordination between education and scientific development, we will get the maximum use from our resources and energy. That is why I say that we require a technical planning board. With our limited resources, we cannot hope to plan efficiently unless we have this co-ordination.
We have had talk about advances in higher education. The Robbins Committee is about to start work. I am happy in the sense that I am a member of the executive committee of the sponsoring body of one of the new universities which has just had permission to go ahead. But they are only three in number and will in no way meet the need for new places in universities. What worries me is that higher education is to be in a position of suspended animation until the Robbins Committee reports.
It is clear that Lord Robbins proposes to take his Committee round the world to see what other people are doing before he comes to any conclusions. That is right and proper, but anyone who believes that it can be done in a month or two is fooling himself.
I am also concerned about the University Grants Committee. It has performed a useful task in the past in the expansion of the Universities, but the expansion which will be required in future will put a heavy burden on that mechanism. Great pressure has already been brought to bear by the universities in resisting co-operation on technical education, and especially the inclusion of the new institutions of technical education in the university set-up and, I believe, the totally unjustifiable establishment of the diploma of technology, which is one of the reasons that I can give to the Minister for the failure of people to come forward to take places in the advanced colleges of technology because it is still not accepted by many people that these awards are equivalent to university degrees.
108 I do not say that I do not believe that the training that one will get in the colleges of advanced technology will be as good as that in university. I think that it will be, but because these new qualifications have had to win themselves a place in the world it was unfortunate that they should be separated when we have prestige attaching to university qualifications which could automatically have flowed over and attached to the new qualifications in technical education. I am, therefore, not happy with machinery of this sort in education and I am convinced that we must consider the matter again.
I hope that Lord Robbins and his Committtee will consider the responsibility of the University Grants Committee and the qualifications awarded in the universities and technical colleges so that there is a more united effort to go forward. I am convinced that some of the universities will regret their opposition to the new colleges of technology, which will, in the long run, with a much more direct approach to the Government, get better research facilities and the situation which I have described will continue in the universities to the detriment of university research.
I said that the Minister had failed to consider the massive efforts and spending of other countries in education and the output of scientists and engineers. I realise, and admit at once, that it is not easy to make a relevant and proper comparison between this country and other countries, but I do not think that it is good enough merely to write off an attempt to see whether we are matching up to the efforts made by other countries in the spheres with which we are concerned. There are one or two simple comparisons that one can make.
America is spending twice and Russia three times as much per head of population on education as we are spending. The Russians are spending 8 per cent. of their national income on education, while we are spending—and the Minister boasted of this fact—4 per cent. With 20,000 scientists and engineers on the horizon, we are still only increasing our number by about 2½ to 3 per cent. each year, whereas America is increasing her number by 3½ per cent. and Russia by 7 per cent.
109 I do not believe that we can rub out, or ignore, these comparisons in the way which the Minister attempted to do today. I do not think that we must consider only the advanced countries, because this problem which faces us is a long-term problem. We must realise that some of the underdeveloped countries are making tremendous sacrifices. If we in this country are not prepared to make the effort, I do not believe that in the long run we can or should survive in competition with some of the countries which are prepared to make the effort, such as China.
In 1957, China started a twenty-five-year programme for the development of higher education. They are aiming to exceed the number of scientists, not in this country, nor in America, but in Russia, in twenty-five years' time. In 1958, China increased her number of educational establishments fivefold—from 227 to 1,065. In 1958, 50,000 students entered the Labour University at Kiangsi. It will eventually take 400,000 students. There will be in that one university more students than we are proposing to have in the whole university population of this country. Unless the democracies are prepared to make this sort of sacrifice to develop the future, then the outlook is very gloomy.
The Advisory Council on Scientific Policy is much too complacent about expenditure. On the one hand, it gives a long list of matters which disturb it—the way scientific effort is deployed, the low outlay for science in industry, the widespread lack of science-mindedness in the community, and a failure to apply science to problems like land utilisation, fuel, water, agriculture, raw material resources, and noise suppression. It is worried about the acute shortage of engineers and scientists and about a weakness in the commercial utilisation of scientific developments. It refers to the poverty of our scientific communications and our neglect of certain key studies like seismology and astronomy.
Despite this formidable catalogue, the A.C.S.P. states that our annual outlay on scientific development, which is at present running at £480 million, is satisfactory and that the figure of 2.35 per cent. of our gross national product compared with that of America, 2.74 per cent., was reassuring. But surely this begs many questions. In a number of 110 fields America is already well ahead of us, so that any marginal increase in expenditure will not produce the same result. As with defence expenditure—we have seen this in relation to the Blue Streak project—the important thing is not the percentage which we spend, but the total amount which we spend. When we realise that the United States is spending eight times as much as we are spending, we can see that its rate of advance, as in rocketry, will be much more profitable and quicker than we can achieve with a similar percentage. Lord Halsbury, in another place, pointed out that the difference between 2.35 per cent. and 2.74 per cent. was £80 million. This is six or seven times the total expenditure of the D.S.I.R. This £80 million is reminiscent of some of the sums given away as incentives about which we heard when we considered the Finance Bill.
The fact that we are prepared to hand £80 million in relief to Surtax payers, some of whom are getting money from unearned income sources, at a time when we are £80 million down on the United States in scientific research and development shows the sheer stupidity of our order of priorities. There is doubt whether that is a realistic estimate.
Some hon. Members may have read the report by an American, Mr. G. L. Payne, given to the United States President's Committee on Scientists and Engineers, entitled "Britain's Scientific and Technological Manpower". It is one of the most exhaustive studies ever undertaken. Nobody has been more generous to Government Departments than Mr. Payne for the help extended to him. He states in his conclusion that thefunds for British research would need to be increased by one-third in order to match on a population and a purchasing basis the equivalent United States effort.So much for expenditure.
Despite what the Minister has said, the manpower situation is equally unsatisfactory. The document from which the Minister quoted, the Report on Scientific and Engineering Manpower in Great Britain, 1959, divided the future into various periods, from 1956 to 1959 and from 1959 to 1962. It pointed out that at the beginning of 1959, the total number of scientists and engineers was 173,000, representing an additional 111 23,000 new scientists and engineers since 1956. It was also pointed out, however, that had we been able to fill the vacancies which existed at the end of 1959 in the various firms for people of that calibre, we would have been far short of the estimate produced by the Manpower Committee in 1956.
From 1959 to 1962, it was estimated that we would need a total of 211,000 scientists and engineers, requiring an increase of 53,000, whereas we were likely to get only 51,000, and even this figure did not take into account those who emigrated and other shortfalls on the estimate. Therefore, when we come to the 1966 figure, to which the Minister referred, of an additional 20,000, or a total of 220,000, the Minister has no cause for congratulating himself. It was on this point in the Labour Party document on which the Minister chose to chide us. The Times, however, chides much more strongly the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Science, because of his boast about being able to achieve the increase of 20,000 by the middle 1960s. The Times said that that was no longer a realistic figure and that it had been by-passed.
I am certain that these estimates of need are not realistic. Nobody clearly understands how the figure of 220,000 was arrived at and in some respects it is shrouded in mystery. Mr. G. L. Payne points out that he was deliberately discouraged by the office of the Lord President of the Council from speculating about this figure and he comments that it appears to omit the needs both of the Armed Forces and of post-graduate research. Nobody has been more generous than Mr. Payne about the help which he has had from Government Departments, but he states thatdespite the Minerva-like origin and undoubted wisdom of the 1966 estimate, it is probably at least 10,000 short of the full requirement if nothing more dramatic happens than the continuation of present trends.I urge the Government to think again, because since that was said and since the Manpower Committee's estimates were made, a number of other factors have arisen. These include the development of technical colleges, which have made the need for people of high qualifications much greater than ever before. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will 112 not continue to rely upon the figure of 20,000 and that he will not attempt to destroy the excellent Labour Party document by the use of these figures.
What can we say reasonably about these figures? First, the estimates have always been understated. Secondly, the dynamic of science itself will create an accelerating demand which will put any figures out of date soon after they are produced. Thirdly, an underestimate in the figures could provide a serious and severe blow to the success of our nation, whereas any overestimate would not carry the same penalty.
The Minister complained that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington had not told him what to do. In my view, we in the House of Commons should not be telling the teachers precisely what to do. As a teacher, I believe in academic freedom, but I believe that teachers should have guidance. They would like guidance in this matter. What I am concerned with, therefore, is the appallingly low amount that is spent on the means of obtaining this guidance—in other words, on research in education.
So much depends upon the soundness of our educational system. All this is quite apart from the important problems of shortage of teachers and oversized classes. We want research into educational methods at every level, into the teaching of mathematics and science from the primary school upwards; into ways of training our teachers, so that although they are laymen, by the use of equipment they will be able to inculcate an interest in science into their pupils at every level; into the content and the balance of the syllabus in both grammar and modern schools, and into the whole problem discussed by the Crowther Report and summed up in the phrase "numeracy and literacy"—the numeracy of the art student, and the literacy of the science student. We need research also into the sixth-form syllabus and particularly the requirements of university entrance examinations and the effect of selection procedures upon our schools and upon our pupils.
When I say that despite this great need for research in education we have a situation in which, in any year since the war, the Minister has contributed, at most, only £8,000 by way of grants to the one major foundation for educational 113 research, one can understand why the teachers are not getting the guidance, and one can readily understand the scope for much more research when the total of the National Foundation for Educational Research budget in 1959–60 was only £32,559 on an annual investment in education of £600 or £700 million. If anything, it is much worse than the investment in research in industry by industrialists and the Government. Greater expenditure in this direction would produce many benefits to teachers, to our educational system and to the country if it was properly managed.
My final point concerns scientific information and documentation. The increase in scientific knowledge and activity has presented a formidable problem. Dr. Blount, Assistant Director of the D.S.I.R., said earlier this year that scientific documentation—that is to say, the operation of bringing the facts elucidated by scientific research from those who produce them to those who can use them—is getting out of hand. He suggested that research papers should he produced nationally as separate papers and distributed to central libraries and others and that an international organisation should be set up to index these papers and distribute them in a way in which they could be used both nationally and internationally.
What steps are the Government taking to provide the means to bring about such an international organisation? What support are they giving to these proposals? The problem is even wider, however, because 50 per cent. of the scientific literature is in languages which cannot be read by 50 per cent. of the world's scientists. The Russians have tackled this problem much more thoroughly than any other country. The All-Union Scientific Information Service is without parallel in the whole of the Western world. It was founded in 1953 and has a total staff, including the staff members and the non-staff scientists, technicians and research workers, of 17,000 people.
This Service provides the Soviet workers with an exhaustive flow of information on the whole of the world's scientific thought and technical progress. In 1958, for example, 15,000 journals were issued throughout the world in 64 languages from 92 countries. These 114 were abstracted and circulated in their entirety. About 318,000 photostat copies and microfilms were distributed. The institute itself issues 13 separate monthly or bi-monthly journals, bringing these abstracts to Soviet workers.
There is a much more recent development which I think even more important. There is the Ekspress Informatsiia, a publication of the Russian information service on technology which gives scientific progress, and which, by the Soviet Council of Ministers' decree, must be in the hands of the scientific workers themselves not later than ten days after receipt of foreign publications. So that not only has the worker the benefit of the progress made in his own country, but is able to pick the brains of the whole of the rest of the world by this sort of development.
What of Britain? We have two attempts to try to compete, the new National Library of Science and Technology at Boston Spa, under Dr. Urquhart and the new reference library to be built on the South Bank. I have great admiration for Dr. Urquhart, and admiration for his courage in trying to undertake the new development of that library. He is at the moment in the process of trundling tons and tons of books to Boston Spa, where he is to make his headquarters. There is desperate need for this national information service, but it will not provide anything like the service being provided in the Soviet Union, and will not provide for British scientists in this country anything like the same service.
I believe that more attention should be given to this, and, if necessary, to more money being spent in providing the service, because it is not anticipated that until next year they will acquire all the current scientific periodicals and literature, and it will be some years before the Whole machinery is built up to the sort of state required.
But there is an even more miserable position with respect to the new reference library on the South Bank. Originally, it was planned in 1950 as part of a project for a science centre in London. It is deplorable that the whole system has been pigeon-holed and delayed for some ten years, and when we realise that the project being put in hand for the new 115 reference library will provide totally inadequate accommodation it makes it even more deplorable. We shall have, by 1965, almost five years away, a library that will provide seating for only 300 and shelf accommodation for only 500,000 volumes.
Dr. Killian, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has said that at the moment the world output of scientific literature is 55,000 journals, 60,000 books and 100,000 research reports each year. How, in those circumstances, can a library which provides only 500,000 shelf places for books be adequate to deal with this problem?
I think it is a great pity we do not provide scientists with the opportunity to get this information and I hope that the Government will be able to take much more energetic steps both in speeding up the time when this service will be available, and, if necessary, by spending more money on it.
Part of the problem has been that of translation. I think that we have to spend much more time and attention to the system of language teaching in our schools. At present, too many of our youngsters look on language not as a means of communication, but as an academic subject to be tolerated, and, while valiant efforts are being made to improve language teaching, I think that we must have a new national effort devoted to it and I hope that the Minister of Education will undertake such a project.
We have some hope that machine transmission may provide some of the answer to the problem, but that is still in the future—and, incidentally, most of the work being done on it is being done in such countries as America, France and Russia. I hope that the Government will take much more interest, with institutes and organisations, in this new field of endeavour. I think that our smaller firms particularly require a flow of information on technical and scientific developments, and some sort of advisory service, or consultancy service, which Denmark and some other countries have already adopted, is required. But these are minimum requirements.
I am convinced that if the Government would only give an appropriate lead to the country in the field of science, with a 116 proper sense of urgency and with an adequate investment, the country would gladly respond. If they do not, the whole question of our survival is at stake.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
I have listened with very great interest to this debate which was opened by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who discussed the strategy of science. He was followed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), who raised some points of interest which, I think, we should consider very carefully. The Minister has given us what is, I think, a very encouraging report of progress in education.
I want to devote my remarks to science as it concerns industry and the Government, and I should like to illustrate my remarks from my own experience in industry and experience in applied science in various aspects of industry. I would divide my remarks under the following heading: science and its impact on the quality of investment; science and its effect on productivity; the training of our scientists and the use of them; science as it affects industry; and science as it concerns the Government.
Firstly, the problem of the application of science in this modern age. The Minister for Science, when speaking to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, expressed concern at the present time over the application of science. He drew a striking balance between fundamental research on the one hand and development on the other hand. I feel that it is applied science which is, perhaps, the most important at the present time. Are we spending too much of our energy on our forward projects, aircraft, space, atomic energy, and, perhaps, not enough on some of the less glamorous but more basic industries?
I remind the Committee of the debate we had last year on capital investment in industry, and hon. Members have had since a chance of seeing some of the changes taking place in industry. Only last week we visited the A.E.C., to see improvements in mechanisation and production in one company. We saw better production methods being used, more accurate products with tighter tolerances 117 and tighter specifications which have been brought about by the operation of some new processes. Some of the new processes, because they eliminate machining entirely, reduce the capital costs of making any given product. On the other hand, if we bring in automation and mechanisation and similar new developments, they increase the capital cost of making a product. In the long run they bring higher rates of production; but there is the factor of labour, which the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) raised.
We have to consider the need for applying knowledge which already exists in relation to the quality of our investment. Money alone is no guide. As to the extent of our research we also have to consider the human problem, which the hon. Member for Blaydon also raised, and which is just as much an obstacle to progress which faces management as anything else. We have to consider such problems in relation to the time taken in bringing into operation new machinery, and so on. They are management problems.
I turn to productivity and capital investment. The first essential is that there should be an incentive to industry to instal the new equipment so necessary to increase our rate of production.
I have previously raised the question of investment allowances and particularly the need for consistency and continuity in initial and investment allowances. There is always the danger of these being changed from Budget to Budget. Those who are in charge of industry want to know that their capital programmes will not be disrupted over the years by changes in these allowances and that at any given moment some measure taken by the Chancellor will not result in a cut-back in capital investment because of the need to reduce consumer demand. This, however, is a fiscal matter which I do not wish to pursue now.
It is interesting to note the variation in degree of capital formation computed as a percentage of the national product in various countries in 1959. In Norway capital formation represented 29 per cent. of the gross national product. In Germany and Switzerland it was 23 per cent., in Belgium and other European 118 countries, 17 per cent., but in our country, 15 per cent. We must, therefore, in the light of this debate, consider the extent of capital formation here as compared with the countries I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Osborn
This is something which we must consider. I should not like to dwell on it in detail at the moment, though perhaps in the course of my speech the hon. Member will find some indication of the answer to his question.
One of the solutions to these industrial problems put forward by hon. and right hon. Members opposite is that we should have a national planning board.
§ Mr. Osborn
The board, they suggest, would be responsible for the programme of investment. But who are the best people to judge how financial resources and national resources in knowledge and science should be deployed? Will this board, which would be another branch of the Civil Service and a piece of bureaucracy, be better able to give the decisions than managements on the spot? I say that we must still put our faith in the managements of industry. Weak and inefficient managements, of course, must go. Those criteria are always applied in business, but there is a limit to the number of good managers that are available to take over vacancies which then arise.
Part of the point made by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) was answered by Dr. King at a meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. United Kingdom productivity per man-hour in the years 1950 to 1955 was half that of the O.E.E.C. countries and about 60 per cent. of that of the United States. These are very rough figures because exact figures are not known. In the period 1955 to 1960, United Kingdom productivity was 70 per cent. of that of the O.E.E.C. countries and was about the same as that of the United States. Various reasons have been put forward to explain these figures, especially in comparison with those for the O.E.E.C. countries. One explanation given is that the United Kingdom started at a higher level of productivity. Perhaps we need to re-assess the technical factors 119 involved, bearing in mind that our present fiscal policy, designed to protect the £ sterling, must also have a bearing on plans for expansion.
The Sloane Fellows who visited Europe and this country recently were concerned at the lack of professional management here. They were concerned that we had not started a Committee for Economic Development of the kind outlined by an hon. Member earlier in this debate. We must consider the relationship between Government and private enterprise. This is one of the most important problems which will face the country in the next few years.
Meanwhile, we are still asking ourselves why our productivity is below that of the United States. I happened to be in the United States when the first productivity teams were on visits there. It is obvious that there is a question of rationalisation and standardisation, but that problem is outside the context of this debate and today we must come back to people. It has been mentioned already that there was a lack of training of scientists before the war, and that fact must be accepted. I have heard stories that before the war doctors of science were out of work in Germany but since the war there has been a sufficient supply of scientists to meet the demand for scientific knowledge in that country.
As to the training of scientists in our universities, it is interesting to note that the percentage of scientists in relation to the labour force in the United Kingdom was 0.59 and in America 1.36 a few years ago. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has pointed out today that there has been considerable progress in recent years, as evidenced by the fact that the target for the 1970s will be reached in 1964–65.
The rôle of the universities in relation to industry is a matter of great importance which we must consider. Industrial organisations, including the F.B.I., have shown increasing confidence in our universities in the last few years, whereas hitherto the universities had been rather isolated and remote from day-to-day problems of production. Today, however, there are many types of committees.
In Sheffield, for example, there is an engineering and metallurgical committee 120 which advises and supports university professors on research projects. Representatives of firms which finance university research are on the committee. There is a school of thought that believes that a university professor who combines teaching with research may be in danger of becoming obsessed with research and with the research prestige of his department and forget the importance of teaching. A balance must be found between the two. I believe that the people best equipped to consider this balance are those who are more closely connected with the universities than are Members of Parliament.
In one university alone I have seen work done on overflow from reservoirs, on piling for the support of heavy plant, power stations or rolling mills erected on marshy ground. Is this type of research fundamental or applied? At Sheffield University there is a close natural liaison between those who are concerned with the manufacture of steel and those who do research work at the university. This informal contact makes the university professor or research worker aware of current problems in industry.
What do hon. Members opposite propose? Should there be a more formal body and should university advisory bodies include civil servants? I think not. I think that we should leave it to industrialists who are concerned with the research going on at universities and the heads of faculties to find out what is required. It would be dangerous to impose too much of a bureaucracy on the processes of scientific thought. It is essential that we should calculate how much research work should be carried out in the universities and how much should be transferred to national laboratories, such as the National Physical Laboratory, and to the research associations. Lt is sometimes felt that in the sphere of the universities and the national laboratories the atmosphere is too refined and that too many people there are not concerned with day-to-day industry. It is also essential that those carrying out fundamental research should be aware of the day-to-day needs of those applying their ideas.
I return to the questions of the application of science and the deployment of people responsible for its application. 121 Where can they be placed so as to be of the best value to the nation? Far too many of our brilliant scientists stay on at universities after they have obtained their degrees in order to obtain Ph.Ds. Would it not be better for them to go into industry or perhaps into a halfway house—a research association—where they could have contact with the day-to-day problems of applying their knowledge in industry and on the shop floor?
Where should a university graduate go after leaving a university? If it is to a research association, what is the attitude of the industry to personnel in research associations? Members of research associations can visit factories, but they are still outsiders. Even within a company, laboratory personnel are unfortunately isolated to a certain extent from those engaged in production. I support the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). We must bridge the gap and have more scientists on the factory floor. That is the way in which we shall achieve the greatest impact in future years.
To go a stage further, we must have trained scientists as managers. Unless a manager has sufficient technical knowledge, he will not understand the processes at his command. No amount of knowledge is any good to a manager unless he can understand his fellow men and lead. On the other hand, if a manager has insufficient knowledge he cannot lead. The greatest need today is to see where our scientists are going and to ensure that our knowledge is used properly. In the last few years the criterion for entry into universities has been academic qualification. Is this the right qualification? We want scientific leaders who can present their case to other people. We want leaders who can put their ideas into practice. A few years ago I was very encouraged to learn that a team from one of our universities had visited a War Office Selection Board to learn how they chose leaders for the Army. Another criterion of selection may be essential if we are to get the right type of people out of our best seats of learning.
I turn briefly to consider the work undertaken by research associations. I want to refer particularly to the impetus 122 which my noble Friend the Minister for Science and the Parliamentary Secretary for Science have given to their work. We see from the Estimates that there has been an increase of £1,450,000 in industrial grants. Is this enough? This is where we could deploy our national resources to a greater extent. There has recently been a conference of members of research associations. I hope that the Minister will comment on the subject matter of the conference.
Surely the best people to provide advice on the application of research in industry are those connected with research associations. They have dealt with the conversion gap. They have dealt with the subject of putting ideas into practice in small firms. There are a large number of small firms in the country. They have dealt with what is called the exploitation gap. The deputy-chairman of Elliott Automation made this statement some time ago on the use of computers:Although technically we are neck and neck with the Americans, [...]he response from industry is extremely sluggish and unenterprising. This is not because the British are stupid, but because they are conservative, rather anxious to watch every penny, and disinclined to experiment.Many people in industry who have experimented have found that it costs money, and there will be failures.
Research associations can provide other services. One association with which I am connected, the British Steel Casting Research Association, presented a paper on work simplification and the studies it has carried out in its member factories. It pursued the normal practice of work study, with its scientific knowledge and background. It surveyed processes and operation times in a factory. That type of work should be pressed forward in view of our economic difficulties. The work done by research associations in providing operational research, sibonetics and work study is of immense value to firms which have not those facilities.
I was interested to read an article in the Guardian of 24th May by Mr. Victor Smith. He stated that in Germany 85 per cent. of those employing less than 100 favour work study, whereas only 3 per cent. of small firms in the United Kingdom are in favour of using work study. We must find out why this is so. We must realise that the application of 123 work study in connection with science will give us the results we so badly need in our factories at the present time.
I want to refer now to the work of the Production Engineering Research Association, which has run courses for production engineers. The Association has recently sponsored research at the request of individual member firms. I support the concept of development projects sponsored by the D.S.I.R. in individual firms. It may not go far enough. Some projects are not being carried out because of the uncertainty about capital costs, although many people connected with research are confident of the outcome.
The hon. Member for Dartford mentioned libraries. I support everything he said in connection with a reference library and a lending library. Tabulation of information is very important. The Production Engineering Research Association is also developing a world register of production engineering research. Research associations are carrying on in their own way and doing excellent work, but there should be some co-ordination. To reiterate: research associations are valuable instruments for accelerating the application of work study. They are good instruments for developing sponsored research on specific problems.
We must again consider the development contract so that we can pursue a particular project more energetically. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green advocated co-ordination between D.S.I.R. and N.R.D.C. Careful consideration must be given to his remarks.
How much research are we doing in comparison with other countries? I have tried to obtain comparative information from Europe. Apparently we and the Americans are able to tabulate what we are doing and make the information available. There is very little available information on expenditure on research by European countries. Our expenditure per head of population is now approaching that of the United States.
Reference has been made to the scale of research and the fact that industries in Russia have factories or production lines adjacent to research associations. This is the case at the Foundry Research 124 Institute in Krakow—which admittedly is not in Russia. Remarkable success has been achieved, for instance, in the field of continuous casting in Russia. A few years ago a team connected with the steel industry visited Russia. In its report it said,In modern society technological advances are only possible by investment of considerable sums of money and by generous expenditure of manpower in order to develop any idea from drawing office or laboratory stage to an economic production unit. This is the most important lesson to be learned from the Russian visit. If the United Kingdom is to keep in the forefront of industrial progress, then there must be much emphasis placed on investment in co-operative research and development.This country has the alternative of putting up facilities similar to those of the Russians or of deciding how we can at least deploy research on a larger scale than we are doing at the moment. I think that the decision on this is not unrelated to our association with Europe. If we were linked more closely to Europe, there would be greater opportunities for inter-European collaboration on research.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the place at which I was employed before the war spent more on research than most other British industries put together?
§ Mr. Osborn
I take note of that remark. I have already stated the scale of research going on in this country per head of population compared with the United States.
I welcome the opportunity of a full-scale debate on this vital subject. It covers a wide range, including agriculture and medicine. I have confined my remarks to economics and the application of science in industry. Research and development is related to our standard of living. We must not decry some of our technical and scientific achievements, particularly in aircraft production, electronics, and even atomic energy. The Decca system for navigation is one example of our achievements.
Having confined my observations to a rather narrow compass, we must decide how we shall apply science to industry in the immediate future. There is a need for fundamental and basic research, but our immediate aim must be to apply the knowledge that we already have. I welcome the lead given by my hon. 125 Friend the Minister for Science to encourage our research associations. There is an immediate challenge which faces both Government and industry. This is the relationship between Government and industry, and we must give it immediate thought and careful consideration.
Already industrial organisations have been approached and are thinking about this subject. At the same time they are asking for a lead and for some form of economic planning. This planning must be co-ordinated by industry and the Government. We do not want to adopt the extreme proposals which have been put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am opposed to those proposals because they would lead to the creation of a bureaucracy.
The Minister for Science has many committees which advise him. There is the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy, and we have the Zuckerman Report. I urge the Minister for Science to take the advice of industrial organisations, trade unions, and other people and give every consideration to applying to industry the knowledge that we have and of deploying our manpower and financial resources so as to best aid the Chancellor of the Exchequer in resolving our economic problems.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) raised many interesting points. Like other hon. Members, I find myself in some difficulty, because the field over which I wish to range is so wide.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should concentrate on applying the knowledge that we have, rather than on fundamental research. I think that the hon. Gentleman is making an artificial distinction, because the people who have the responsibility of applying the fruits of research are different from those who will carry out the fundamental research. If we make an artificial distinction, there is a grave danger that we may place far too little emphasis on the need to continue the tradition of fundamental research which has given Britain its great name in the scientific world.
I also question the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that in planning the economy and scientific resources of this country 126 we build up a bureaucracy. We must recognise that bureaucracy is as much a danger in private industry as in public industry, and that it is a manifestation of the twentieth century and not a particular attribute of a political system.
This is a United Kingdom debate. I am the first Scottish hon. Member to have spoken today. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has been present during most of the debate, and I have been glad to see him in his place.
I mentioned earlier that the Minister of Education included only figures for England in his statement on the present and recent position in education. I wish that he had given the figures for Scotland. This is the first debate that we have had on science, and I hope it will be clearly established as a new tradition that it is a United Kingdom debate in which Scottish hon. Members may take part.
I have in my constituency two of the research establishments sponsored by the D.S.I.R., the National Engineering Laboratory, and one of the building research stations at Thornton Hall. We are extremely proud of them, and of the impact they are making in Scotland as a whole.
When the Government spend money on research, whether it be by development contracts, whether it be through the National Research and Development Corporation, or whether it be through the various semi-Government establishments, research associations, and research councils, I hope that they will bear in mind that Scotland wants more than a fair share, because in the past we have not had that fair share. We have a great deal of leeway to make up in establishing science-based industry in Scotland.
We believe that if we had more of the scientific research of Britain established in Scotland it would provide a tremendous stimulus to the modernisation of Scottish industry in general and would provide an opportunity of employment for the many graduates in science and technology from Scottish universities who at the moment have to come over the Border and offer their talents in England, and, indeed, abroad. We have a real claim for more money to be spent on science in Scotland.
There is an opportunity which should not be overlooked. During the debate mention has been made of the National 127 Research Development Corporation, and the suggestion has been made more than once that it would be a good idea if the Corporation, instead of selling its patents abroad when it cannot find private industry to develop them in Britain, should set up industrial enterprises to exploit those patents. This has been talked about as though it were a new development, and as though the Board of Trade would have to allow the N.R.D.C. new powers to do it, but it is being done now.
A few months ago I had some correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I pointed out that on page 19 of the latest Report of the N.R.D.C. there was an example of the Corporation having taken shares in an industrial enterprise to exploit the production of printed electrical circuits because it felt that that was a good thing to do. It was a good thing to do, and this idea should be extended. We do not need to regard it as revolutionary.
The Government have permitted it to be done and, therefore, they could permit this idea to be developed and used on a wider scale. I do not like to see British ideas being sold for industrial development overseas when they ought to be developed here, and this country given the prestige and income which would result.
I wish now to turn to a very different subject, one in which the Minister has a direct responsibility and on which his office has to make very important decisions. I believe that up to now some of the decisions which have been made have been wrong. I refer to the whole question—which is linked with the Atomic Energy Authority—of the disposal of radioactive waste.
This is a limited, but highly important and urgent question. The view of the Minister, or, rather, that of his Department, is likely to be decisive in this matter. There are disposals of radioactive waste from nuclear power stations which do not come within its purview, but, nevertheless, what is done by the Atomic Energy Authority will lay down the guiding principle for everything else. Indeed, it is the Authority which sends its delegates to international conferences on this question and which puts the point of view of the Government, or at any rate of science in Britain.
128 I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary has read the reports of some of the international conferences on the subject right from 1956, when there was the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation which first made the decision internationally thatthe release of radioactive waste should be a matter of international co-ordination and agreement.In 1958, there was the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. This is the conference which used only to deal with oil pollution, but which regarded radioactive waste and the possible contamination of the sea by the discharge of such waste into it as such a crucial matter that it introduced a new article into the International Law Commission's Report, which was accepted, to the effect that not only oil pollution but pollution by radioactive waste material must be regarded as a matter for international consideration and agreement.
There was also the Monaco Conference, and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he or his noble Friend has read the full report of this international conference of scientists considering this question. A great deal of it is technical and I could not follow it, but also a great deal may be understood by the layman, particularly the discussions at the end of the sessions, when the various specialists got together and had to use ordinary language instead of their specialised jargon.
It is an extremely disturbing report. It is disturbing to read what the biologists, the oceanologists, the geologists and the physiologists have to say about the dangers to which we are exposing not just ourselves but all the, nations of the world by continuing to dispose of radioactive waste into the sea.
This conference was followed by a discussion in an ad hoc panel set up by the International Atomic Energy Authority under the chairmanship of Professor Brynielsson. Here, I can begin to quote a few figures. We are not only worried about the present. Whatever amount of radioactive waste material is now being disposed of into the sea, it is infinitesimal compared with the amount which will be disposed of in ten or fifteen years' time if we continue to follow the present policy.
129 So far as it is possible to make an estimate it seems to me that at present about 60 tons of waste fission product a year from installed nuclear power plants is going into the sea. As was pointed out by the British delegate to the Monaco Conference, this represents only about one-tenth of the natural radioactivity present in the seas of the world. But in the future, and when atomic energy will become the major source of world energy requirements, it is probable—of course this is speculation —that there will be 1,000 tons of fission waste a year so disposed of, which represents twice the natural radioactivity at present to be found in the sea.
The Parliamentary Secretary will recognise that here we are concerned, as were the scientists, not with danger to individuals, the kind of danger which is covered by the recommendations and standards of the International Radiological Protection Committee, but with the genetic changes to mankind. From that point of view what happens to the inhabitants of Manchester is equally important to the inhabitants of London, and what happens in this country is, from the genetic point of view, important to Japan and Canada. It is that about which we are concerned.
Oceanologists assert that they do not know enough about the movement of currents in the oceans to make certain predictions about what will happen to the waste. They say that they need to do more research before they can make certain predictions. The biologists say that they do not know enough about the way in which living organisms in the sea are affected by radioactivity and, therefore, they do not know and cannot tell us how far radiation in the sea is absorbed into living organisms and reaches other bodies through edible fish foods. The physiologists do not know how far radioactivity affects man. More research is needed.
The geologists have a hopeful view and maintain that disposal, or storage, on land is not only a possibility, but is practical. They indicate that it would be perfectly suitable and safe to store radioactive waste in liquid or in solid form ether in salt or shale mines or in deep porous rock or even artifically fractured rock. Scientists, particularly in Western Germany and America, indi- 130 cate this possibility. Here, we are confronted with a division of scientific opinion about whether it is safe to dispose of radioactive waste into the sea. I do not here refer to high-level waste, I am discussing low or intermediate level waste.
Scientific opinion is aware of the wide gaps in its own knowledge and representatives of some countries argue that in view of these gaps, and the uncertainties and dangers, we should play safe and store the waste on land until we know more about it. Another group of scientists—I regret that the representatives of the Atomic Energy Authority are among them—say that it is perfectly reasonable to go on disposing of waste in the sea.
One of the factors which come into the discussion, and which was mentioned many times at Monaco, is cost. How much would it add to the cost of producing atomic energy as a major source of power if radioactive waste material were to be stored rather than disposed of in this manner? I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that, whether the costs are greater or not, and whether or not it would be more convenient to us on a small island to consider how much simpler it is to dump cans into the ocean, the factor of cost should not be the consideration when we are thinking about the genetic dangers to humanity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say that he will look into this matter and will read the reports. I hope that he will consider whether it is right that Britain should continue to take the attitude that she is taking at the moment instead of giving a lead for the greater security of the world.
I turn to another aspect of the debate. That is the need for a social sciences research council. It has not been mentioned very much so far, but as a sociologist this is one of my sincere precepts. Many people think of social research on a trivial level of market research, of finding whether one detergent is better than another, and of trivial opinion surveys which are carried out. They do not think of the real contribution which sociology, as a science, is able to make in analysing the social set-up in which we live. There are many directions in which social research can be of immediate and long-term immense 131 value to the Government. One is in the planning of urban communities. One is in housing lay-outs. One is the special problems of the new towns.
I am reminded that many years ago, when the new towns of England, Wales and Scotland were first set up, there was a very good practice. The chairmen of the development corporations, with their principal officers, used to meet every now and again to discuss developments in their towns and exchange views about their problems. They took with them to those meetings their research officers. Those research officers found this extremely stimulating. They gained a great deal from the meetings until they were told by their respective chairmen that it was all very well, but they had better be careful and not let out secrets about what they were doing in research in their own new towns. As a result, the practice grew up of formal meetings during the day and quiet little secret gatherings in the evenings in someone's flat where they really "let their hair down" and told each other about research in the new towns.
We need the co-operation of different experience in new town housing and in urban research and development generally. There is need for a continuing review of population trends. To some extent that is carried out, but it is not enough. There is also the operational research on the National Health Service. When one considers the vast enterprise which the Health Service represents and the tremendous investment of capital—even under this Government—which goes into the service one still sees how little, comparatively speaking, goes into research of the fundamental kind, one finds an extraordinary comment on the kind of society in which we live. There is the whole problem of what the probable economic and social consequences of automation will be, what the social consequences of industrial change will be in the next ten years.
These are all matters in which we need not wait for the sudden surprise and shock, the realisation that disaster is only six months ahead of us, but should use the techniques available to us so that we can be ready with the research done when the crisis comes. It is in education and manpower for social 132 sciences that we can make a contribution. I hope that a social science research council would work for the various Government Departments, plus direct work for the Minister for Science who could use a number of specialists in social science and help to avoid some of the disasters which are looming over his head tonight.
It seems an extraordinary comment on the way Britain does things in an atmosphere of Toryism that there should always be the same recurrent pattern of crisis whenever a crisis hits us. Take, for example, the acute shortage of mathematics teachers, which has been mentioned in the debate by my hon. Friends. It is a crisis, no matter what the Minister of Education says. It is a real and intense crisis. First, we get the experience of the workers, mathematics teachers in the schools and universities, realising that something is going wrong, that there are not enough teachers and that classes are getting larger and larger. They indicate their awareness to university staffs. Then there is a period of publicity and conference speeches and letters to The Times. All this takes two or three years to penetrate the public mind. At that point the Government suddenly realise that there is a crisis. They call a conference to tell the people who started the information that there is a crisis and ask for their views on what should be done. That is the extraordinary pattern of years and years taken up until it is too late to remedy the problem.
If we had not only a social sciences research council but a technical and planning board, this is the kind of thing it would do. It would conduct continuous research into what is going on so that Government action could be taken on the basis of knowledge. Science is not a collection of specialists, but a method of approaching the problems with which we live. The implication of science is that all the time we must be fighting against the politics of restriction of whatever kind. The implication is that it will bring a full life to everybody.
May I conclude by quoting a past chairman of the Labour Party, the late Professor Harold Laski. Those hon. Members opposite who tonight have suggested that it would be an extremely 133 good idea to have scientists in key positions in the Establishment and in the Civil Service will be interested to know that he was one of the first people to pioneer this idea in 1945, when he gave a lecture in which he ended with these words—and it is because we on this side of the Committee believe that the Government do not share his view and our view that we shall divide the Committee:For it is the glory of science that it meets with honesty the true facts of the civilised world we seek to make the more noble and more dignified.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I will not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) beyond saying that it is a pity that a speech which contributed considerably to the debate was marred by an unscientific injection of party prejudice. Nevertheless, I very much agreed with her opening comment on a point which, I think, needed underlining in the debate—the necessity to keep clear in our minds, when discussing scientific work in this country, the differentiation between the scientist who is working in industry for the development of technological processes and the scientist who is working, often in a university laboratory, on fundamental scientific problems.
The keynote of the debate is to be found in two speeches, one by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who opened the debate on behalf of the Opposition, and the other by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). They both called attention to deficiencies as they saw them in the organisation of science in this country, and it was interesting to note that they both tended towards the same sort of solution, which was a greater degree of Government oversight, planning and control. The hon. Member for Workington went so far as to indicate clearly that he would welcome a greater control by the Minister for Science even over the research work in our universities. My right hon. Friend suggested that a solution to industrial planning and the control of scientific activity in industry was to be found in some type of union between N.R.D.C. and the practical scientific activities of D.S.I.R.
I think that in considering both these suggestions we must bear very much in 134 mind that we cannot separate control of research and scientific effort in the universities and control of research and scientific effort in industry from control of the universities and control of industry. There is very great danger that if we extend unduly the planning and directing of university activities and industrial activities we may find ourselves drying up the very springs of original research and development which we are seeking to expand.
One point made by the hon. Member for Workington is of particular interest to me, and illustrates the main thesis that I want to develop. He chose as an example of inadequate Government expenditure the activities of the Medical Research Council. It so happens that I am the House of Commons representative on the Council, and I can well understand the hon. Gentleman's approach to its expenditure of between £5 million and £6 million a year. When I first joined the Research Council, one of the first questions I asked myself was, "Why £4 million? Why not £400,000, or £40 million?"
It is not until one has begun to see how such an organisation works that one begins to understand how it takes shape and develops, and decides its programme and its activities. This is a Council of some extremely distinguished scientists who, like all distinguished scientists, are most avaricious within their own field for the acquisition of Government money for development and research. One could not have any more well-equipped body to decide what aspects of medical research should be exploited, who are the people to exploit them, and how the money is to be divided.
On the whole, although it sounds unscientific, that kind of development by those knowing their subjects and avid to develop them probably provides a far more fruitful method of investment, and a far better dividend, than if the investment were determined by a national planning body saying, "There is a certain amount of money that we will allocate to research and development. The Medical Research Council shall have £x, and no more."
I was a little disappointed that the hon. Member for Workington made some rather unfortunate references to the 135 necessity for flag days for cancer research. I think that he was on the wrong foot. The House may not know it, but every month the Council receives donations and benefactions for medical research which are, in many cases, small but none the less precious.
Someone will send £2 for cancer research—why? Probably because a beloved member of the family has died and he or she wants to make some such gesture. Because of any desire on our part to see everything channelled through Government sources. we must not deny to the public the opportunity to make small—or, sometimes extremely large—donations for the help of humanity—
§ Sir H. Linstead
There may be very substantial contributions from the Government that are adequate to cover a particular section of research and development, but I see no necessity for denying the voluntary effort that goes into the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, for example, if people desire to contribute money voluntarily for that purpose for a deeply felt emotional or family reason.
What has emerged during the debate is the important point put by the hon. Member for Workington, who said that it was for Parliament, and not for the experts, to decide on scientific policy. How to control the advance of science, and the national activities devoted to science, is an extremely important constitutional point.
It has been said that war is too serious a matter to be left to generals. It might be said that science is too serious a matter to be left to scientists. If that is said, it is only to repeat the question: how is the community to control scientific discovery? Because it is quite clear that the impact of science on human life—the control of the growth of population, discovery of new sources of power, the cure of disease, the prolongation of life, the stepping up of food production, the scientific aspects of defence, 136 probing into space—any one of these can, at any moment, suddenly provide humanity with a most spectacular discovery which could revolutionise our society.
There need be no excuse for emphasising the importance of science and technology to Britain. Export or die is an exaggerated way of putting it, but it is at least clear that if we cannot export, our living standards will fall and we shall be faced, possibly in the not far distant future, with substantial unemployment. The only way in which we can overcome that is to sell to those countries on which we depend for our food and raw materials what they want to buy, not what we want to sell, and increasingly today the things that they want to buy are those that they cannot manufacture themselves. These are the things which contain in them the latest discoveries of science.
We have from now onwards to live on our scientific wits, because, apart from coal, this country has practically no raw materials. It is very easy to argue that the main means of developing our scientific resources is more public expenditure, but the situation, as we all know in this Committee, is not as simple as that. We can argue that there should be more public expenditure on science today, but tomorrow we shall be arguing that there should be more public expenditure on the National Health Service. I expect that on Wednesday someone will say that there should be more public expenditure on Wales, and certainly on Monday people will argue that there should be more public expenditure on education. The problem is that of selection of priorities.
Reference has already been made to the remit which the Minister for Science made to the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy when he asked it, in 1959, to report upon the extent of our scientific investment and whether it was adequate. The Report has been made and has been commented upon by a number of hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. Some of them have found in that Report cause for condemnation of the Government.
I think that, first, the rate of development is something upon which we can congratulate ourselves. The Council 137 goes out of its way to say so. The comparison with America which it makes is another matter upon which we can be reasonably, but not complacently, satisfied. We are at least doing as much, size for size, in the way of scientific development as America is doing. I have noted that throughout the debate, to the whole of which I have listened, rather too much willingness to assume that our industry and our science are lagging behind the industry and science of other countries. There is, I am sure, little justification for us to say that. Indeed, our exports would not be what they are if that were the situation. It is rather the problem of the future than the problem of the moment that we want to have in mind.
The Council made an estimate that for 1959–60 we were spending £480 million. It is interesting to recall that Sir Harold Hartley, working on very much the same sort of ground five years ago, made an estimate of £234 million at that time. It is not bad progress—this is not being complacent: it is merely recognising facts—if over five years we have doubled the amount of our scientific investment.
I think that the lesson to be learned from the Advisory Council's Report is contained in the sentence that has already been read:There are still too many fallow fields.It seems to me that that underlines the primary duty of the Minister for Science. What are those fallow fields? They have been listed. We need to discover new materials and new sources of energy. We need to develop coal technology in order that we can make the best use of the one raw material we have. We need to develop machines for calculating and for automation. We need to investigate how to control noise, and we need also to investigate the metabolic diseases of animals with their bearing on human foodstuffs.
No clear emphasis has been placed on the necessity for checking and pruning, although I think it is extremely important. After a time promising lines of research run out, and the personnel tend to follow the same lines unless their attention is turned elsewhere. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about the cultivation of the fallow fields and also about letting over-cultivated fields lie fallow.
138 The Minister for Science has three channels that he can use to encourage the development of scientific work in this country. One is direct Government action through the Government-owned research councils and institutions. The second is indirect Government action through the universities and the colleges of advanced technology. These are indirectly supported by the Government via the University Grants Committee or the Ministry of Education. Finally, there is the channel of industry and the research associations.
My general feeling is that we shall get the best results if the maximum use is made of instruments other than Government organisations. There is clearly some work that the Government must do themselves. There is defence work. There is work involving such large expenditure that no university and no private industry could be expected to meet it. There is, indeed, work of such size that it can only be done internationally. Even one Government cannot meet it. Then there are neglected fields that have not attracted workers voluntarily. In those circumstances, the Government have to do the work directly.
It is interesting to note that an expedient which has not been mentioned in this debate has been tried in America and dropped. That is what is called project finance, whereby a Government Department would pay a university to undertake research work on some project. I was interested two or three years ago when the then President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told us how embarrassing these project researches had been and how glad he would be when they could be dropped.
I come back to the point that I made earlier when I said that science is too serious to be left to the scientists. Scientists are entitled, in reply, to say that science is too serious to be left to the politicians. In other words, we must remember that the scientist is increasingly sensitive of his lack of authority where spectacular and dangerous use is sometimes made of his discoveries and he is demanding an authoritative word in the use of what he finds. As a citizen, he is entitled to that word but, as a scientist, he is unwise to push his claim too far. His place in the scheme of things politically is as a referee, rather than a player.
139 We are all familiar with the traditions of the Civil Service, where they give advice to a Ministry whether it be of their political persuasion or of another, and I think that the scientist will find himself in a more authoritative position if he guards jealously his scientific independence and does not tarnish it by descending too obviously and too vigorously into the political arena and taking sides in party politics.
A Government need scientific opinion which is authoritative and objective. Where are they to find it? If science involves itself in party politics and if individual scientists align themselves with political parties then they will jeopardise the acceptance of their opinions. I have emphasised the necessity for keeping as much scientific work as possible out of the hands of the State—by using the universities, for example—and I have done so because it is important that scientists and their work should not be unduly dependent on the Executive.
This point was put in a form which, I think, will appeal to hon. Members and which, in any case, should be on record and should serve as a guide to any Minister who is seeking to decide whether a particular scientific activity is suitable for direct Government activity, or should be suitable for encouragement by some other means. It is a statement which was prepared by Dr. Addison who was, at the time, Chairman of the Local Government Board when the Ministry of Health was being set up. The question was: should the Medical Research Committee —as it was so-called—become a Committee of the Ministry of Health?
Dr. Addison wrote:… a keen and energetic Minister will quite properly do his best to maintain the administrative policy which he finds existing in his Department, or imposes upon his Department during his term of office. He would, therefore, be constantly tempted to endeavour in various ways to secure that the conclusions reached by organised work under any scientific body, such as the Medical Research Committee, which was substantially under his control, should not suggest that his administrative policy might require alteration. The more active the administration of his Department the greater this danger becomes. It is essential that such a situation should not be allowed to arise, for it is the first object of scientific research of all kinds to make new discoveries, and these discoveries are bound to correct the conclusions based upon the knowledge which was previously available, and, 140 therefore, in the long run to make it right to alter administrative policy.That enshrines a principle which should should be preserved whenever the principle arises and whenever that decision has to be taken in Government circles.
I welcome the fact that the new Minister is the Minister for Science, not of Science, The Minister of Education runs—if that word can be permitted—education. The Minister of Health runs health. But it is the duty of the Minister for Science not to run science, but to foster and encourage it, independently, so far as may be, from the executive Government of the day. I see his duty as being to define, on the best advice he can get, the problems on which the resources of the country ought to be concentrated. He should make certain that the fallow fields are cultivated and that the over-cultivated fields are allowed to lie fallow.
The Minister should himself, and by his staff, follow matters up by personal contact rather than by directive and Ministerial circular to make certain that the broad plan is being carried through by the various agencies for which he is responsible, and he should then apply the accelerator or the break not by directive, but by influence. Having defined the framework and allocated the responsibilities, the Minister should be zealous to leave the scientists their freedom.
The Minister has immense responsibilities, but he will discharge those responsibilities best by the least possible use of the great power of his office and by the maximum possible use of its great influence.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I must begin by saying how sorry I am that the unofficial time-table has superimposed me on the Committee at this stage. I know that there are many hon. Members in all parts of the Committee who would have spoken and whose speeches might very well have been more instructive than mine.
It is necessary, also, for me to ask the Committee for its customary kindness to one who finds himself in this unaccustomed position at the Dispatch Box. At any rate, I shall not be able to complain that the subject of the debate has been so limited that there is little for me to say.
141 Paraphrasing Pistol in the "Merry Wives of Windsor", we can honestly say that the whole world has been our oyster. This has been a unique discussion in that we have been concerned with virtually the whole universe. Bearing that in mind, I shall try to honour my undertaking to the Parliamentary Secretary to finish at the duly appointed time which we have agreed between us.
Before making more general comments on the matters raised in the very interesting speeches which have come from all quarters, I wish to discuss two matters which I have been following. Apart from its merits, one of them does pose the sort of policy problem which troubles some of us in regard to the present set-up of the Government's science departments. I intended to hang what I wanted to say on the development of an astronomical telescope, but I have discovered that the particular example I had in mind is being erected under the authority of the Admiralty, and, since that is not one of the Votes we put down, I shall not pursue the example in detail.
The matter I wish to raise is relevant when work of a scientific character is to be done. If work of a highly specialised character is to be undertaken with money provided by the Treasury, it is insisted that "the lowest contract procedure" must be followed, If, as happened in the particular case I have in mind, one wishes to have made a mirror from a trial blank, there are very few firms which have the requisite skill and knowledge. The lowest contract procedure may well mean that, in some cases, either the right firms will not tender for the job or the wrong one will get the contract. In the instance I have in mind, a valuable trial blank given to us by the United States has, I understand, been ruined by a firm without adequate technical knowledge of this kind of work. I am not certain whether this is the case. I believe it to be so, but I think that, generally speaking, when one is dealing with specialist contractors it should be the responsibility of the Ministry to hammer out some procedure which obviates the sort of problems that I have outlined. It is common sense to do so.
Let me put it this way. Suppose that the Committee decided that it would be a very pleasant gesture to commission the painting of your portrait, Sir. Sup- 142 pose that we put the project out to the lowest competitive tender. We might get an art student who gave the lowest price but not necessarily the most pleasing result. I am sure that that is something which the Committee would not wish to arise, and I am sure that the scientists do not wish it to arise in the specialist eases to which I have referred.
There is another point about this telescope which bring it within the purview of the Minister for Science. It concerns the site of the Isaac Newton telescope. This is to be an expensive project, and is to go to the new home of the Royal Observatory in Sussex. I am told that for about one-third of the year no observations are possible because of our climatic conditions. I suppose that there may be a case for a large telescope there —this is a 98-inch telescope, assuming that the mirror is not too badly ruined—so that our scientists and astronomers can get experience on its use. But the Ministry might have considered in connection with Commonwealth development the siting of a large new telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere is very well supplied with large telescopes. There is a 200-inch and 120-inch telescope in the United States. The Russians are building a 236-inch telescope. There are many others. However, in the Southern Hemisphere, there is no large telescope and not many small ones. There is a celestial outlook which has been virtually uncharted by modern large telescopes.
Recently there was a conference in Paris attended by five nations—I regret that Great Britain was thee only as an observer—where the project of having a joint venture in a 120-inch telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, four or five nations sharing the cost, was discussed. It is in matters of this kind that I hope that the Ministry would feel that it could act as a co-ordinating agency and, therefore, make available to British astronomers a first-class telescope at relatively little cost in an area where there are at present no facilities.
A personal point which I should like to raise concerns noise. No hon. Member who represents a constituency near a large airport, as I do, could possibly let a general debate on science pass without mentioning it. I believe that public interest, anxiety and alertness 143 about noise has greatly increased in recent years. We have had our own Private Act which has done and will do a great deal to mitigate the nuisance in certain respects.
Lord Brabazon, speaking about the potential faster-than-sound new large jets, delivered himself of some strong observations about this matter recently. He took the view that it was not right to inflict further sound torture on hundreds of thousands of people so that a few hundred people could travel a few miles quicker, often, incidentally, at unearthly hours of the night. I rather share that view. I know that there is a committee on this matter and that it is being taken seriously in a number of quarters, but I should like the Minister for Science and his Parliamentary Secretary to be much more vigilant about it.
There is a strong feeling in my constituency and in other constituencies around London Airport which have a heavy burden to bear, particularly those within the check points, that it is very difficult for the Minister of Aviation to be on both sides. His primary job is to get as many aircraft into the air and flying as safely as he can. The ordinary member of the public feels that it is difficult for the Minister to reconcile these two views in the best interests of all. I very much hope that the Minister for Science would feel that this is something in which he could make a sort of useful independent check, as the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) suggested.
I should like to pass to wider considerations. It is trite to say that Britain's economic survival will depend in no small measure on its ability to train and effectively to employ sufficient scientists and technicians. Speaking on 23rd September, 1959, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister said:We are determined to keep Britain a great and go-ahead country, leading the world in important branches of technology and translating its technological advances into productive capacity …It is true that after the election was won we returned to one of our customary periods of productive stagnation. Nevertheless, all will agree that that was a laudable objective. In these circumstances, it is extraordinary to find the speech that the Parliamentary Secretary 144 made, and on which my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) has already commented, expressing his great satisfaction that the target figure for the output of scientists and technicians has now been achieved.
On Saturday, The Times very properly and succinctly took the Parliamentary Secretary to task when it said:Yesterday Mr. Denzil Freeth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry for Science, declared 'it can be a matter for pride' that the target for doubling the output of scientists and technologists will be achieved five years ahead of time—that is, by 1965. Others beside his audience may be forgiven if they feel confused as well as proud. In fact, Mr. Freeth said nothing that was not already known. The Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, in its 1959 Report, also forecast that the goal of 20,000 scientists and engineers a year would be reached 'by the mid-1960s'. It went on to say"—although I do not know how far the Parliamentary Secretary went on to comment about this—that the foreseeable output would still fall short of needs, especially in respect of mathematicians, physicists and chemists.As The Times hinted, the speech seems to reveal, particularly in conjunction with something else I want to say, some considerable degree of complacency on the part of the Parliamentary Secretary.
In this connection it was a little unfortunate and unfair that the Minister of Education should seek to chide the Labour Party for stating an out of date target in its document. After all, that was a target that was accepted by the Government, a target which got out of proportion in the first instance upon statistics that were supplied by the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry and found to be inadequate. If the Minister looks at a little piece of literature published by the Conservative Central Office and entitled Science and Technology, he will find on page 8 a full explanation of how this happened. It stated:The Government accepted this figure as a reasonable aim and took measures to enable the universities and technical colleges to reach it. The Report carried out by the Scientific Manpower Committee in 1959 found that a higher rate of output than had been anticipated three years before was already in existence and it made the comment that if the rate of growth continued, this aim would be reached by 1965. It has now been stated by Mr. Denzil Freeth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Science, that the output of 20,000 scientists and engineers a year will be reached in 1964.145 As far as I know, although it had been forecast as a target which might be reached, that was not announced as an achievement to the country until the Parliamentary Secretary announced it in a Written Answer to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) on 7th March. As this pamphlet was not published until March and was obviously written in February, it is a little unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should take up so much time on a trivial debating point and something which the writers of the pamphlet could not possibly foresee when it was written, as the announcement had not yet been made.
I was equally astonished that the Minister of Education should justify the complacency with which certainly he, if not other members of the Government, regards the situation by referring, not to figures of something which happened in 1945–50, but to something even earlier than that. We are used to nearly everything that the Government do, fifteen years after the war, being contrasted with what the Labour Government did immediately after the war. On this occasion, we were taken back, not to 1945 but to 1939. This is an astonishing new doctrine to justify Government expansion and achievement by such figures. As I listened to the Minister going through the figures for 1939 and what has happened now, I thought that it was an emphatic condemnation of Tory Ministers of Education before the war. Then only two out of eight of our children had any education beyond the age of 14.
Of course, after the ferment there was with the publication of the White Paper and the Education Act during the war it would have been an astonishing thing if there had not been rather more passes in the changed situation and that the numbers did not go down; we do not suggest that that could happen even under the present Government. The Minister's argument seemed to me to be an astonishing one, and one which was not really worthy of the occasion.
The Minister then went on to bolster up another part of his speech by quoting from Technology for July. It is true that he drew attention to the fact that industry was not taking very much interest in the diplomas of 146 technology, but no one would have known that he was quoting from the article by Dr. Crank headed, "Crisis in Mathematics", he was very selective in the quoting which he did. He did not give the impression to the Committee that hon. Members would have drawn from that article who, as I did, read it before he spoke. Dr. Crank himself said about the teaching of mathematics, which is the kernel of the problem of the future output of scientists—and this not something said about 1939 but now—We are faced with a crisis which if not resolved could have catastrophic consequences for the nation.He goes on to say that, in his view, in order to make good the present deficiency in mathematics teacherswe require half as many again of mathematics graduates at the universities as the universities produce in a whole year.But there was a much more devastating statement on the shortage of mathematics teachers. Without mathematics teachers now we cannot produce students who will themselves become either teachers or scientists. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) referred to these passages of the lecture which I am sure is familiar to the Government, but which needs to be put on record again, a lecture by Professor Thwaites on 23rd May, 1961. He referred to a survey carried out by the Incorporated Association of Headmasters of 996 schools, including maintained, direct grant and independent schools. Of those 996 it was found there were only 194 which had apparently a full complement of mathematics teachers: 802 had vacancies. The total number of vacancies was 1,740, or more than two vacancies per school. It goes on to say—and I think this is particularly important in view of what one takes to be the Government attitude today to this—It would be criminal to put a gloss on the situation which these figures reveal.That is not something written in a Labour Party document but in a survey of the situation at the present time.The fact is that in a single year there was on the average a shortage of mathematics staff of nearly 50 per cent. in some 800 schools.How the Minister or the hon. Gentleman could be complacent in the light of those figures I do not know.
147 Professor Thwaites put the deficiency in this way:For the universities the present deficiency equals at least one year's total output of Ph.D.s and for grammar schools the present deficiency equals at least three years' total output of graduate mathematicians.On page 31 of that document he says:The disappearance of properly organised mathematics has consequences for all the sciences and so ultimately for the life of the whole nation so appalling they need no emphasis by me. One may ask"—I take that up on behalf of the Opposition, and I ask the Government—what the Government and in particular the Minister of Education have done about it. I can only report to you that there are few outward and visible signs I have seen which suggest adequate central remedies. If ever there was a time for resolute leadership from the centre, this is it.This matter has not come upon the Government in the middle of the night, as it were; it ought not to have come upon them quite unawares. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington has asked Questions, and I initiated an Adjournment debate on 9th May last year pointing out the position which similar investigation had revealed. It is true we did not get so much detail as Professor Thwaites has now provided. I got a rather optimistic answer then from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education and he ended by saying:I very much hope that the House will feel that this matter, which is not yet solved, is, at any rate, engaging our urgent attention."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1960; Vol. 623, c. 170.]The country wants rather more than urgent attention given to this matter. It wants some sign of how the problem will be overcome if we are not to run into extraordinary difficulties in future in the staffing of both scholastic and industrial establishments.
Having looked at the mathematicians we have not got, we might look at the scientists the Government have got and see how they are treated. A good test of the Government's attitude and sincerity is how they treat their own people, what salaries they pay them and how they look after them. The answer one gets is that scientists come off pretty badly. On the whole, the Government pay their staff badly, often house them badly, and give them a status which is often very 148 inferior to that of others who have far less preparation to make for the tasks and obligation they carry.
This can be seen in the figures for recruitment. The fact is that the Government have consistently failed to recruit the scientific personnel they need even for their fairly limited obligations, that is limited in comparison with what I should like to see. The ninety-fourth Report of the Civil Service Commissioners states of scientific classes that:For some years Your Commissioners have failed to fill an adequate proportion of the notified vacancies in scientific classes. … The results for the year 1959–60 show that the situation has worsened and the present position now gives rise to grave disquiet….Recruitment to the Scientific Officer grade continues to be far below what is required to fill the vacancies, despite a considerable rise in the number of applications. The shortages are mainly among physicists, engineers, chemists, and"—As hon. Members might guess—mathematicians…. In the Assistant (Scientific) class the number of applications was considerably less than in the previous year, and the number of candidates successful fell by about one third. Only just over a quarter of the established vacancies were filled.This is for the Government's own scientific services, and then we have the optimistic picture which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education presented today.
It must not be thought that even where recruitment takes place the Government are able to face the competition of salaries and conditions offered elsewhere and in private enterprise. The Signals and the Research Development Establishment recruited 13 and lost 17 Assistant Officers in 1960. In 1959 it recruited 15 and lost 23. In 1958 it recruited 5 and lost 8. I do not know how long it will be before there is nobody left in the Department. It cannot be long at this rate. This is not unrelated to the appointment of scientists generally and the Government's old-fashioned and grandmotherly attitude towards scientists is partly responsible.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I have little time and I promised to sit down by 9.30. I have not deployed half the points that I wish to make, and I hope, therefore, the hon. Member will forgive me.
149 I raised in the House before the time of the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, and therefore I do not blame him, the question of accommodation for the Government Chemist's Department. This has struggled on for years in odd buildings all over London. I was surprised when a constituent of mine told me that when it rained people on the upper storey of one building had to put on their mackintoshes and put out pots and pans. After I had raised the matter and a representative of the Daily Mirror had been round the next day, something was done. The roof, at any rate, was partly attended to. There is a lift in the building that frequently went wrong; it also vibrates in such a way that some of the delicate instruments cannot be used in the building during part of the time. Several years late, various people from these different glum offices in London are now to be brought together in a new building. At least I thought it was to be a new building, but I made a mistake. It is not a new building at all.
What the Government have done is to find on the South Bank an old office building—perhaps I should say "an office building" rather than "an old office building"—and convert it. Although a very distinguished committee of scientists, headed by Dr. Linstead, who I believe is a brother of the hon. Member for Putney, has condemned it root and branch, the Government still intend to go on with this alteration. No wonder people in the Department believe that the Government have very little interest in them. I wonder if the Minister for Science knows anything about this.
This is not the only case. I could go on ad nauseam. We were told that there was to be a great new building upon the South Bank to house the new Patent Office and the new National Reference Library. Originally the Labour Government had proposed that there should be a great science centre on the South Bank which was to house the Royal Society and other bodies. This was endorsed in 1952 by the Conservative Government, but like many other things it has now been lost. I gather that it has been abandoned. The Patent Office and the new National Reference Library are to go into an inadequate new building on the South Bank.
150 The Patent Office works under very considerable difficulties. It has not got enough staff. It is very awkwardly housed. This may be one of the reasons why one may wait from anything between two and four years to get a patent. It now transpires that even in the new situation not all the staff of the Patent Office are to be in one building. Some are to be in one building and some are to be in Cornwall House next door. The National Reference Library has been so designed that it will have room for only 500,000 books. This is totally inadequate. Dr. Killian, the Director of the Library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has pointed out that every year there are about 60,000 new books on scientific technology alone, apart from 100,000 reports.
On the South Bank we shall have a peculiarity. The new National Reference Library is so planned that there will be virtually no room for Growth. The Patent Office will be entirely inadequately housed, with some of its staff not in the new building. The Government Chemist's Department is to be housed in a fudged up office building which has been condemned by a committee of scientists. This is a wonderful example of how the Government are looking after scientists.
Perhaps I may mention in my last remaining minute the inadequate accommodation for the Road Research Laboratory. For years it has been housed in old Army huts on the outskirts of London. We have now at long last got the new experimental road at Crowthorne, but anybody who imagines that the offices are also to be at Crowthorne is mistaken. The members of the Road Research Laboratory trot along in the morning and sign on at Langley. Then they go back along the road to the new road at Crowthorne, thus wasting time and money and helping to create some of the road chaos which they are being paid to solve.
There are many other points I should have liked to make, but unfortunately I have promised to sit down just before 9.30. We believe that the record which has been shown by speeches tonight, including the devastating speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), shows that there is a lack of drive and imagination 151 in the Government's attitude to science generally and very little co-ordination in scientific research. We think that the Ministry establishment is totally inadequate for its task. In view of the lamentable performance and deplorable speech of the Minister of Education, unless the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, whom we bear no ill will personally, can put up the kind of formidable performance that Mr. Trueman put up last Saturday, which I think is unlikely, we shall have to take the traditional way of showing our displeasure in the interests of the nation.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary for Science (Mr. Denzil Freeth)
Like the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), I, too, am in an unaccustomed position, but science always leads us into fresh fields and pastures new, and I hope that I shall put up as good a show as he did. I am very glad that, even though the world seems at present to be approaching what the scientists possibly call a state of criticality, the Opposition have held to their intention to debate today our nation's scientific effort.
Although many of the criticisms and suggestions made from both sides of the Committee during the debate deal with particular matters where immediate action could be taken, it is a fact that unless our scientific effort is rightly orientated and sufficient in volume we shall never be able, in the near future, to do that which is necessary to equip our nation for the years ahead.
It is essential, therefore, to have the Government organisation right. I propose, first, to deal with this particular point, namely, the provision of conditions which favour the growth of scientific discovery, and conditions under which those enaged in scientific discovery do not feel that politicians are attempting to direct it.
My noble Friend's office has been criticised on both sides of the Committee this afternoon because he recently said that the total staff could travel in a London Transport double-decker bus. Since my arrival the total complement has increased to 59, so we can now all travel together only when standing is permitted in the rush-hour.
152 In fact, such criticism is completely unfounded. It ignores the federal nature of the administrative structure. The Minister's office is a small administrative secretariat which handles his relations with the bodies for which he is responsible and which advises him generally. It also services the Advisory Council of Scientific Policy and the bodies which advise the Minister. A lot of the work which normally would be done by the executive office of an executive department is, in fact, done by the research councils and the Atomic Energy Authority.
My noble Friend is advised on general scientific policy by the Advisory Council, which is purely advisory and not executive. We believe that this is a very important point, and I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) said about to the importance of having a purely advisory scientific body to advise the Minister.
I shall try to deal later with the Opposition's proposed scientific and technical planning board, but I suggest to the Committee that the advantages of a purely advisory council of the type we now have, composed of scientists and industrialists and some official members are, first, that there is no political element in the advice which is given or in the reports which are presented to Parliament and the nation.
The last Report of the Advisory Council has been mentioned a great deal in this debate, not least by the hon and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells), and I hope that I shall show the amount of attention which Her Majesty's Government have been paying to the recommendations on page 15 of that Report.
Secondly, the Advisory Council makes scientific judgments and not political ones. It considers the scientific needs of the nation as it sees them. Thirdly, Parliament remains the judge of policy, since to it my noble Friend and I are responsible for having accepted or rejected, followed or neglected, the advice of the Advisory Council and the other expert bodies.
Also part of this federal structure are the four research councils for which my noble Friend is responsible. While, constitutionally, he may issue directions to 153 them, he does not normally, and should not in my opinion, intervene in the day-to-day running of these bodies nor attempt to interfere in their scientific judgments.
This concept of research councils stems from the fact that scientific judgments can be made only by scientists. They cannot even be made by politicians with scientific training. General overall policy is rightly a field where the Minister has a responsibility for the public good so that public money may be well spent, and so on, but a high degree of consultation and co-operation exists between my noble Friend and these councils, a degree which I have discovered is increased rather than diminished by the informal nature of the co-operation.
Another advantage of the research council concept is that scientific judgments on whether lines of research are worthy of public support are made by eminent research scientists and not by politicians; either by Members of Parliament or Ministers who have large postbags containing letters saying that certain lines of research favoured by their correspondents are wholly desirable. Such eminent research scientists can understand not only the background of problems, but also, and I suggest, to a degree which no layman could, the fears and ambitions of the would-be research worker.
Fourthly, the desirability of any project as part of the national and, on occasions, the international picture of research can be judged by top scientists and expert laymen acting together. All the research councils have this dual composition. For example D.S.I.R. is much strengthened by the services of distinguished leaders from industry and the trades unions. The Medical Research Council has greatly benefited by the services as chairman of Lord Limerick and, more recently, Lord Amory, whose departure to further important service in Canada we must in this context though perhaps selfishly, sincerely and deeply regret.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) that there is nothing at all derogatory in the research councils going to the Treasury individually to arrange their budgets rather than going through a central Ministry of Science. What is important is that the projects 154 should be considered upon their merits. It is impossible to say that because we spend so much on lepidoptera we should spend so much on research on hydrology. It is impossible to say that if we spend so much on scrapie in sheep we should spend so much on work on the problem of noise. It is equally impossible to say that because so much is spent on D.S.I.R. or the Agricultural Research Council there is a certain amount which must he spent on the Medical Research Council as well.
May I try to deal with the points raised about the four research councils. First, the largest which spends, if I might correct my right hon. Friend, not about £10 million but about £15 million per year—the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. As long ago as 1887 Professor T. H. Huxley wrote words which I think still have a very important meaning for us:It has become obvious that the interests of science and of industry are identical; that science cannot take a step forward without, sooner or later, opening up new channels for industry;He went on:We may hope that, at last, the weary misunderstanding between the practical men who profess to despise science, and the high and dry philosophers who profess to despise practical results, is at an end.Unfortunately, it is not. But the task of dealing with this problem is that for which the D.S.I.R. has been Her Majesty's Government's main instrument for over thirty years. The work, of course, must begin with basic research. Last year, D.S.I.R. provided no less than £2¾ million in research grants and postgraduate training awards to universities. This figure compares with the one of only £400,000 when my noble Friend first became responsible for this Council. In addition, the Department provides large and essential items of equipment which university resources are unable to provide.
I recently told the House of the three reactors to serve university workers and others in Scotland, the Midlands and the London area. These will cost well over £250,000 each and a substantial annual sum to operate. Again, approval was recently given to a grant to Oxford University to provide an electrostatic generator, and D.S.I.R. will provide about £750,000 to cover the estimated capital cost.
155 Both basic and applied research also takes place in the Department's 15 main laboratories. These include the National Physical and National Chemical Laboratories at Teddington, the National Engineering Laboratory near Glasgow, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) referred, and stations dealing, for example, with building research—which the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington will be pleased to know is doing very active research work in trying to deal with the problem of noise—radio and road research—where the hon. Member's imagination ran away with him almost as far as Crowthorne —fire fighting and prevention, and treatment of fish, in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) criticised my noble Friend because he reasserted when he became Minister for Science that he had no powers to direct the universities. We happen to believe that this is a very important thing. We believe it is most important that academic freedom in the universities should be preserved. One hon. Member spoke about the Government getting their balance wrong between basic research work done in the universities and basic research work done in D.S.I.R. stations and other institutions. This is an exceptionally difficulty problem in which the most violent opinions are held in the most violent manner by very eminent gentlemen. Certainly, it is one where no final decision can be taken.
Much development work takes place not only in the D.S.I.R.'s 15 laboratories, but also a very great deal is done in the 52 research associations which are partly financed by a grant from D.S.I.R. as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn). These cover 60 per cent. of British industry reckoned by output. It would be invidious to mention any particular association, but I think that the machine tool industry, being one of the latest which has been gathered into the research association fold, deserves mention in this debate. I believe that it can do a great amount in providing the machine tool industry with that research which, hitherto, it has not had.
There has been a substantial amount of criticism about the number of British industries which were not going forward with research as fast as they should. It 156 has been suggested that the research associations were not the answer to this problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green thought that the research associations dwelt too much on fundamental research and not enough on applied research. In the research associations I have personally visited—the wool industry, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, and one or two others —I gained rather the opposite impression, that directors of research association laboratories had difficulty in persuading their members to permit their staff to engage in sufficient fundamental research and that the industry always wanted applied research to be done for the contributions that it paid.
The hon. Member for Workington asked what was being done to encourage development contracts in civil industry and suggested that the National Research Development Corporation should take over some work from D.S.I.R. and join it, or be amalgamated, or, at any rate, come into the same stable with it. There is a joint committee of N.R.D.C. and D.S.I.R. which meets to consider those projects which fall in the no man's land which divides the two and to make sure that there is no gap. D.S.I.R. is also willing to finance not only development contracts where these are suitable, but is also encouraging research associations in their laboratories to take a great deal more sponsored work than they do at present. This should enable a great deal more new work to be done.
I listened with great attention to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green and particularly to his references to the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aviation. First, D.S.I.R. has arranged that its development contracts shall be carried out with the use of the Ministry of Aviation contract officers. Secondly, there is a fundamental difference between development contracts of the old Ministry of Supply and those in civil life, because the end user for the Ministry of Aviation and the old Ministry of Supply was a Government Department—the Army, the Navy or the Air Force—whereas in this case the end user is an industrial company which will use the machine when it is fully developed. This makes a very great difference.
157 The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark asked about a human sciences or a social sciences research council. I should be out of order to anticipate the Question which she has done me the honour of putting on the Order Paper for tomorrow. Certain remarks have been made, however, about the scope of the D.S.I.R. effort in Scotland. The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark wanted not only a fair share; modestly, she wanted more than a fair share, which is a very feminine characteristic.
The fact remains that whereas the population of Scotland is less than 10 per cent. of that of the United Kingdom, no less than 12 per cent. of D.S.I.R. funds are spent in Scotland. One has to bear in mind not only the eight units of D.S.I.R. in Scotland which provide Government support for science in that country. One has to remember, also, the support given by the semi-independent institutions, such as the Rowett Institution, and the increasing number of research laboratories of private and individual firms.
May I say a word about the criticism in the Labour Party document "Science and the Future of Britain" of the efforts of the Agricultural Research Council and the suggestion that the Council lacks intensity in its research. This has rather wounded and hurt the scientists in that body; I very much doubt whether they could work any harder. It is worth while pointing out that it is not just a matter of pouring money into research. The limiting factor in agricultural as well as in medical research is the lack of a lead in a particular line of research which would be likely to produce a solution to that particular problem.
The same comment is true of cancer research. I have said before, and I say it again, that no person with an idea which the Medical Research Council considers likely to provide a profitable line of research will be starved of funds. My noble Friend asks me to say that this is the assurance which he has gained from the M.R.C. and which he gives on behalf of the Government.
It is always possible, however, for a body of experts, even a body of scientists, to err, and it is, therefore, a good thing that there should be an alternative body to which the research worker may apply as a second source of funds to 158 gain support for his research project if the first source refuses to grant the money. What is important, surely, is that the second source of supply should not be a layman and certainly should not be a Minister.
I have mentioned the Labour Party document and I should not close without dealing with it rather more fully than it has been hitherto.
§ Mr. Freeth
I understood earlier that some hon. Members opposite said that it was a policy pamphlet. However, if it is here for discussion, let us discuss it—
§ Mr. Freeth
I did not propose to tell the House what was in the pamphlet, but only to tell it how much better Government policy was.
This pamphlet is, of course, a very odd pamphlet—not least because it was obviously written in time for the 1959 election, and has been very slovenly revised since. It is not the new model based on the new discoveries of science, but a two-year-old model camouflaged in a cover that is partly borrowed from the Tory Central Office and partly borrowed from pictures in the daily Press.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington said that it was unfair to refer to the manpower report, which the authors had not seen when they wrote the document, because I did not answer a question on the subject until this March, and their document was published only in March. They should have read paragraph 87 of the Engineering and Scientific Manpower Report, published in November of last year, where my answer to a Question is also forecast.
In page 19 of the pamphlet, it is suggested that the Food Investigation Board should be transferred from D.S.I.R. to the Agricultural Research Council. In fact, the two research 159 stations art Cambridge and Ditton for which the Board was responsible were transferred to the A.R.C. nearly two years ago. There is nothing like covering one's bet after the race is over.
There is no mention in the document about space or the space programme. The hon. Gentleman has forgotten the excellent Answer I gave him on 2nd May, and he has also forgotten that only last week Germany agreed to join the European Launcher Organisation which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation proposed, and for which he deserves very great credit in this House and in the country at large.
This document, apart from not mentioning any space research programme, has, in page 3, one sentence which is in italics, and comes right at the beginning:A man-made satellite, adventuring into space, circles this small planet once an hour.Indeed, it would be very clever if it did, because I am advised that if such a speed were obtained by a satellite put into orbit, it would be great enough to cause the satellite to overcome the pull of the earth's gravitational field and fly off into space. Perhaps that is the trouble with the Opposition.
The main trouble with the pamphlet, and it is the basic division between the two sides of the Committee today, is that in it science is treated solely as an instrument of social and economic policy, and scientists as the instruments in the execution of the overall plan. Only Chapter VII deals with pure research. It is very short—only two pages out of 42—and deals mainly with administrative detail. We believe that to devote so short a chapter to so important a subject as basic science is very short-sighted indeed.
I have already given reasons for my belief that the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy gains from being an advisory body responsible only to itself for the scientific judgments and recommendations that it makes, but the Opposition want to have it replaced by a scientific and technical planning board "which would be the chief instrument to co-ordinate scientific activity. Presumably, therefore, it would be executive, and not merely advisory.
I am told that the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) wants this 160 board to be composed of full-time scientists. Quite frankly, I think that this would mean that basic science would be subordinated to the applications and developments which the planners thought most desirable, and the field where scientific advance was most likely would be starved because it did not fall where the politicians thought that advance should for the time be.
I believe that a board which would consist largely of scientists, so we are told, would have a volume of work sufficient in detail to prevent scientists who served on it from doing any science of their own. They would cease to be scientists, and would become administrators. We are told that my noble Friend's office would have a leading scientist administrator as director-general, but, it is our experience that to divorce the scientist from his laboratory reduces considerably the contribution he can make in advising the Government. That is one of the reasons why we do not believe that the Opposition's policy is right, and why we believe that our policy is. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] We very much wonder whether scientists would be prepared to serve on this Board under those conditions.
The article in yesterday's Observer, by Professor Butterfield, has received praise already in this debate from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. May I quote from it:It is sometimes imagined that government and society ought to take command over the sciences; but the future will not allow itself to be managed in the way that this policy presumes. Government and society tend to expect the scientist to serve a utilitarian end. The mere passion to learn the truth about the universe easily comes to appear as a luxury, or to be dismissed as in the last resort the residue of quasi-religious anxieties. Before we know what we are doing, it can be replaced by sheer lust for greater power over nature.Later, he said:A world that gives science the greatest opportunity possible for autonomous development not only possesses freedom now, but has the promise of more flexible development in the future.This policy Her Majesty's Government have been trying to carry out for the last few years and it is the policy that they will continue to carry out as opposed to the policy in the Socialist White Paper. [Interruption.]—Well, mock Blue Book then. Our programme shows an orderly and planned advance in science. We 161 admit that our own organisation may not be perfect, but it is a great deal less imperfect than anything else that has been suggested in the Committee today. Although I have been at the Office of the Minister for Science for only a few months, I am certain that, as a broad concept, it is right and that it provides a framework within which Government-financed science can continue to expand as it has done in the last ten years.
The Government intend the scientific needs of the nation to be pinpointed and
§ any gaps in our national effort to be made good. In this endeavour, I ask the Committee to give us its confidence and support.
§ Question put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 133, Noes 212.163
|Division No. 247.]||AYES||[9.58 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Randall, Harry|
|Albu, Austen||Hilton, A. V.||Rankin, John|
|Awbery, Stan||Holman, Percy||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reid, William|
|Baird, John||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Benson, Sir George||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Bowles, Frank||Janner, Sir Barnett||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Boyden, James||Jeger, George||Ross, William|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Skeffington, Artnur|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Kelley, Richard||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||King, Dr. Horace||Small, William|
|Chetwynd, George||Lawson, George||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Snow, Julian|
|Col lick, Percy||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Spriggs, Leslle|
|Cronln, John||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Cullen, Mrs. Freda||MacColl, James||Stross, D r.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Swain, Thomas|
|Deer, George||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Delargy, Hugh||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sylvester, George|
|Diamond, John||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Dodds, Norman||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Donnelly, Dosmond||Marsh, Richard||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Mason, Roy||Thornton, Ernest|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mitchison, G. R.||Tomney, Frank|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Monslow, Walter||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Evans, Albert||Moody, A. S.||Warbey, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, John||Weitzman, David|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moyle, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mulley, Frederick||Whitlock, William|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wigg, George|
|Gourlay, Harry||Oram, A. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Owen, Will||Willey, Frederick|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Padley, W. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Parkin, B. T.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hannan, William||Pavitt, Laurence||Woof, Robert|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Peart, Frederick||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pentland, Norman|
|Henderson, Rt.Hn.Arthur(Rwly Regis)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric|
|Altken, W. T.||Bishop, F. P.||Burden, F. A.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Black, Sir Cyril||Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A,(Saffron Walden)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bourne-Arton, A.||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Balniet, Lord||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Carr-, Compton (Barons Court)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braine, Bernard||Channon, H. P. G.|
|Batsford, Brian||Brewis, John||Chataway, Christopher|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)|
|Beamish, col. Sir Tuftan||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bell, Ronald||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Buck, Antony||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Bullard, Denys||Cole, Norman|
|Cooke, Robert||Holt, Arthur||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hopkins, Alan||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hornby, R. P.||Pym, Francis|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Ramsden, James|
|Costain, A. P.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Coulson, J. M.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Iremonger, T. L.||Rees, Hugh|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Jackson, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Critchiey, Julian||James, David||Renton, David|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Outran, Charles||Jennings, J. C.||Rippon, Geoffrey|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roots, William|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Deedes, W. F.||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Duncan, Sir James||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Seymour, Leslie|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Sharpies, Richard|
|Eden, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Shepherd, William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kirk, Peter||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Langford-Holt, J.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntfr'd & Chiswick)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Smithers, Peter|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Farr, John||Lindsay, Martin||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Fell, Anthony||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Fisher, Nigel||Litchfield, Capt. John||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Freeth, Denzil||Longden, Gilbert||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Gammans, Lady||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gardner, Edward||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Taylor Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||McLaren, Martin|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Teeling, William|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Goodhart, Phillp||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gough, Frederick||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Gower, Raymond||Maddan, Martin||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Marten, Neil||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Grimond, J.||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Turner, Colin|
|Gurden, Harold||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mills, Stratton||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Montgomery, Fergus||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wade, Donald|
|Harris, Frederio (Croydon, N.W.)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.>|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Noble, Michael||Walder, David|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Walker, Peter|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Wall, Patrick|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Whitelaw, William|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Wise, A. R.|
|Hendry, Forbes||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hicks Beach, Ma|. W.||Percival, Ian||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hiley, Joseph||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Woollam, John|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pitt, Miss Edith|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Pott, Percivall||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Holland, Philip||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison and|
|Hollingworth, John||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Mr. Finlay|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West) rose—
§ It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.