§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.32 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Michael Stewart)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The reason for the introduction of the Bill is to be found in the growing importance, over many years, both of science and of its application to industry. As is known to the House, and as was discussed in the debate on the Gracious Speech, one of the changes being made in the organisation of civil science is the disappearance of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the spread of its functions over Government Departments and other bodies.
I want to make very clear indeed, in case there should be any doubt anywhere on the matter, that so far from this implying any criticism of or doubt about the value of the work that has been done both in D.S.I.R. and by Government scientists generally, on the contrary the changes that are now being made are evidence of the value and growing success of that work. It is as if the plant has thrived to a point where it bursts the pot in which it was originally confined, and it must now be put into a surrounding more suitable to its size and future potentialities for growth.
All this is, I think, common ground among all those who have studied the subject. Differences arise as to the form which the new organisation of civil science ought to take. But even on that there were some matters which were also common ground. I think it would be generally agreed that much of the scientific research work should be organised in research councils, independent bodies, which so far as they are connected with a Minister, are connected with what one might call a neutral Minister—that is to say, a Minister who has not got a Departmental interest in the particular branch of science which they are studying—and, further, that that Minister should be advised by a council particularly on the question of the allocation 1979 of resources between the different branches of research.
It was, I think, also generally common ground that there should be an organisation of some kind, though of what kind might be in dispute, which would be concerned with the task of applying to industry the results of scientific research and promoting the development and use of that knowledge in industry.
The late Government, looking at this problem, concluded that for the latter task a body to be known as I.R.D.A. should be created, though they did not include in it the National Research Development Corporation, and it seemed to us that there was an inconsistency in that decision. The late Government also appeared to take the view that not only the work of scientific research to be done by research councils but the work of development should, so far as it came within the ambit of the Ministry, all be within the ambit of one Ministry, the Department of Education and Science, and I was interested to notice that in the debate in another place on this matter that appeared to be the one view which was universally rejected—that one could have one Ministry responsible for the whole gamut from education in the schools stretching right through schools, universities, scientific research and the development of science in industry.
The present Government, therefore, decided on a form of organisation to which this Bill gives effect. I want to summarise briefly what the main features of that organisation are. First, there are the research councils, of which there are now to be, at any rate, for the present, four—that is to say the two already in existence, the Agricultural Research Council and the Medical Research Council, and two new ones brought into existence, the Science Research Council and one which will come to be known, I suppose, as "Nerc"—the Natural Environment Research Council, concerned with the earth sciences and natural environment. It is proposed that these research councils should be within the ambit of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and that he should have a Council on Scientific Policy. That body will replace the present Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, whose latest Report has just been issued. I take the opportunity of paying tribute to the work 1980 of Lord Todd with that body. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] It would perhaps be an impertinence for me to add anything further to that.
The Council on Scientific Policy will be a body composed of independent members, and there will be assessors from the research councils and from the Government Departments concerned who will have its papers and will attend by invitation. I would also mention at this point that the Department of Education and Science will take over from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research the responsibility for overseas scientific liaison and for general scientific information; that is to say, it will be responsible for the National Lending Library of Science and Technology. These are being put within the ambit of the Department of Education and Science.
The other part of the Government's decision as to how these matters should be arranged was that the task of development, of ensuring the application of scientific knowledge in industry, should be the task of the newly created Ministry of Technology. I will refer in a little more detail to the functions of the Ministry of Technology later. First, I want to say something about the research councils with which Clauses 1, 2 and 3 are concerned.
Hon. Members will see from Clause 1, first, that the councils are to come into existence by Royal Charter. That is important in order to preserve their status and independence. But since, of course, they are spending money ultimately provided by this House, it is provided in Clause 1 (4) that, when a council is created, Parliament shall have been previously informed of and have approved the objects which that council is to pursue. The mechanism is perhaps a little complex but it was created in order to give these two results—that Parliament should know the objects for which it was being required to vote money and that the status and proper independence of the councils would be preserved.
Hon. Members will also notice in Clause 1 (1, c) that we are not stopping short necessarily at the councils I have mentioned—two already in existence and the two to be brought into existence—but that the Bill provides for the creation of other councils in future should the need be shown. It 1981 may, for example, appear that there is a need for a research council into the social sciences and I would not want to nail the thing down even to that. We want, when making a statute, to leave sufficient room for such future developments as may from time to time appear to be necessary.
The new Science Research Council and that concerned with environmental resources will, unlike the two councils already in existence, have a scientific and not a lay chairman. In this we are following the recommendations of the Committee on the Organisation of Civil Sciences. But it seemed not unreasonable to keep the present arrangement with the Agricultural and Medical Research Councils. This again is a matter on which it is not necessary to be rigid for all time. Here again I should like to pay tribute to the work of the chairmen of the Agricultural and Medical Research Councils.
I will pursue in a little more detail the work of the Science Research Council. It will be concerned in the first place with the grants for university research and awards for post-graduate students. Next, it will be responsible for certain facilities which serve the needs of university scientists—for example, the National Institute of Research in Nuclear Science, which is at present financed by the Atomic Energy Authority. It will be responsible also for the Royal Greenwich Observatory, at present financed by the Navy Department, for the Royal Observatory at Edinburgh, until recently financed by the Treasury, and for the Radio Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
I have mentioned there the various Departments that have been previously responsible because I think one of the reasons why it is necessary to have a Bill of this kind is that so much of the provision we have made in the past has been created a bit at one time, a bit at another, with bits springing from one Government Department and bits from another, and it is sensible, at a time of a major reorganization of the organization of civil sciences, to bring together into one Department the kinds of work which are all, in fact, forms of scientific research and to collect them out of the various Departments with which previously, 1982 for historical reasons, they have been connected.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that special attention will be given to the overhead costs of post-graduate work which, until recently, have been calculated really on an undergraduate basis?
§ Mr. Stewart
I will bear that in mind. I hope that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to develop that point during the debate.
I should also mention now that the Science Research Council will also advise on United Kingdom policy towards international research bodies which were, I think, referred to by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) during the debate on the Gracious Speech—C.E.R.N., the European Centre for Nuclear Research, and E.S.R.O., the European Space Research Organisation.
I want to turn now to the other new council, that concerned with environmental resources. The guiding idea behind the creation of this council was to bring into one body the group of earth sciences—geophysics, geology, oceanography and a good many others. That means breaking up and bringing within the ambit of the council a number of organizations already existing that at present have attachments elsewhere— for example, the Nature Conservancy, the Geological Survey and the National Oceanographic Council.
The Natural Environment Research Council will also assume financial and policy responsibility for the research now carried out by the Meteorological Office, in seismology and geomagnetism and will co-ordinate research in meteorology generally with that carried out by the Meteorological Office.
It will be apparent that this council, taking over, as it is, the fine work done previously by other bodies will have to work through committees of itself and it will establish for each main activity a committee which will be based on the body that has hitherto been responsible. For example, there will be a committee concerned with nature conservation and ecology and a committee corresponding to the Fishery Research Advisory Committee of the Development Commission.
The Minister of Land and Natural Resources is bound to be considerably 1983 interested in the work of this council and he and I will have to consult on certain appointments to it. There must be similar contact between myself and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales and the Departments responsible for fishery. Similarly, it will be necessary for joint arrangements to be made between the Natural Environment Research Council and the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources about the work now done by the Nature Conservancy and the Geological Survey.
I have tried to describe the two new research councils. I turn now to the work which will be done by the Ministry of Technology, which is referred to in Clauses 4 and 5. In the Ministry of Technology we bring together the resources of the Atomic Energy Authority, the National Research Development Corporation and the industrial side of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. That, again, is a desirable development.
It is further provided in Clause 4 that there may be some expansion of the functions of the Atomic Energy Authority. The reason for that is that in doing the work so far entrusted to it the Authority has built up most valuable teams of workers and acquired equipment, and to get the full use out of them it is necessary to widen the range of work which it can do. This is the kind of development which is always to be expected when Governments have to organise scientific work in a period of constantly widening scientific knowledge.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this seems to run contrary to one of the three points made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that he intended to try to release scientists from Government organisations in order that they could devote themselves to the export trade? This was obviously to be a very long-term process, but the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion seems to be that scientists not so fully employed on defence contracts in the Atomic Energy Authority should divert their energies to other Government work rather than to the export work which the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested.
§ Mr. Stewart
No. This is a question of enabling the Authority to do work of a kind which under its present restrictions it cannot do, but which, if combined with the kind of work which it is now doing, gets the fullest use of the services of the people and the equipment which it has required. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Transfer them."] No. That might damage the work which the Authority is now doing. There are certain types of work which can be best done if done by the people who are also doing the kind of work now done by the Authority.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an example to assist us? I am sure that he can convince me, but he has not as yet, because it seems that if there is a side of the A.E.A. which is redundant to its normal terms of reference, it would be more appropriate to transfer it to some other station of the D.S.I.R., or to the N.P.L., or to the National Engineering Laboratory. These are other parts of the Government's scientific effort to which they could be transferred. It would assist us greatly if the right hon. Gentleman could give us at least one example of the sort of work which he has in mind.
§ Mr. Stewart
I will give one example —the work of desalination. The general principle is that if one wants scientific work to be properly done, one cannot always divide it up as precisely as statutes would like. One brings together a group of people and provides equipment originally to do one kind of work. One might then find as a scientific fact that one would get the best results if one somewhat widened the scope of work which they could do. If one immediately says that that is a different kind of work and it must be done at a different place and under different auspices, one might produce the result that neither that work nor the original work would be as well done as if they were done together. It is not intended to widen without limit the function of the Authority; far from it. It is proposed to give it a rather greater freedom than the present restrictions on its work allow.
§ Mr. Stewart
I understand that it cannot proceed to get the best results without a widening of the present definitions of what it may properly do.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
I think that I can give two quick examples of the kind of work which the A.E.A. would welcome immediately as a result of the Bill. The electronics division at Harwell has done splendid work on providing control equipment for the reactors. It could develop these measuring devices to help the petroleum industry and the chemical engineering industry. This would not only mean that men would be usefully employed, but our export effort would be helped. At Aldermaston we have considerable skill in computers. That skill can be used to tremendous advantage to help British industry and the British export effort. The Bill will provide the Atomic Energy Authority with precisely the kind of opportunities which the Government want.
§ Mr. Stewart
Many hon. Members want to take part in the debate and I should like to conclude what, after all, is an introductory speech without delaying the House too much.
I regret that it is necessary in the course of this speech so often to mention these long-sounding titles of different organisations, but the House will appreciate that the people working in them are very much interested in what is being done and that it is sometimes necessary for clarity for me to spell out, in greater detail and more laboriously than one would normally wish, what is actually proposed.
I was dealing with the functions of the Ministry of Technology and mentioning that it brought together the Atomic Energy Authority, with this widening of its functions, the National Research Development Corporation and the industrial sides of D.S.I.R. Its task will be to promote the application of knowledge to industry and in the main the instruments, the methods, by which it will do that are, first, that it will be the sponsor Department for the electronics, computer, machine tool and telecommunications industries.
1986 Some question has been raised as to what is meant by being a sponsor Department. It means simply that where these industries have business to do with the Government, this is the Department through which they will do it. This is the Department which can speak at the highest policy-making levels of Government for the needs and problems of these industries. Further, it will be the Ministry concerned with the placing of development contracts and with the placing of public purchases. This is a considerable and growing range of responsibilities and it was therefore right to decide to create a new Ministry to do this work. As the House is aware, the Minister will be the chairman of the Advisory Council on Technology and the deputy chairman is Professor Blackett.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but what he has just said may be much more important than he intended to make it. Is he now saying, as he grammatically did say, is he trying to convey, that the Ministry of Technology is to be the procurement agency for all Government purchases? That is what he said. I wonder whether he really intended to convey that, because we have certainly understood nothing of that as yet from any statement, written or oral, in the House.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that I said "all Government purchases". If I did, it was certainly what I did not intend to convey and I do not think that I said it. I said the placing "of public purchases" not "all public purchases" would be one of the means by which the Ministry of Technology would do its work. I would have thought that that was fair enough.
§ Mr. David Price
The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the industries which the Ministry of Technology will sponsor is telecommunications. Does that mean, following what he further said, that that Ministry will be placing the public purchasing contracts and development contracts which the G.P.O. has to a large extent been responsible for in the past? What bearing will this have on the development work which has also been undertaken in the past by the G.P.O.?
§ Mr. Stewart
I said that it was the sponsoring Department of that industry.
1987 I think I made it clear what that meant. I went on to say that another of the jobs of the Ministry of Technology would be the promotion of the application of scientific knowledge in industry, partly through development contracts and partly through public purchases. I have neither said nor implied that the whole range of public purchases falls within the Ministry of Technology, while some of the placing of public purchases does.
The question has been raised, in view of the creation of the new Ministry, of the principle by which one can divide those aspects of science which are connected with the Department of Education and Science and those aspects which are connected with the Ministry of Technology. Some alarm has been expressed that a false distinction, or one that could not be properly followed out in practice, will be made between pure and applied science.
As I see it, the nature of the distinction is this. There is, on the one hand, research—whether pure or applied—which is geared to the need of industrial progress. That will fall within the ambit of the Ministry of Technology, but the scientists working within that Ministry will be by no means debarred from carrying out pure research. Indeed, if they were they could not do the rest of their work properly. On the other hand, however, there is work done for the general advancement of scientific knowledge for any purpose, and that work occurs mainly in universities and, therefore, lies more properly in the domain of the Department of Education and Science.
I accept that there is the problem, which I mentioned before, of deciding at what point one should make the cleavage if one is not to put too many responsibilities into one Ministry. I believe that the arrangement here is the one which most stands up to the criticisms that might be made of any division of the whole process, which stretches right from the school to the direct application of science in industry.
I will give one or two details about the reorganisation, about which questions have been asked. The National Physical Laboratory now goes to the Ministry of Technology. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone asked earlier whether 1988 there had been consultation with the Royal Society about this point. That is so, and arrangements are being made to safeguard the special interests that the Royal Society has in this institution. There are some scientific institutions which will not go into the Ministry of Technology. For example, the Tropical Products Institute will go to the Ministry of Overseas Development. That is a decision acceptable to all those who work there and to all those who have been interested in the matter.
Another decision—I must admit, a more arguable one—is that the Road Research Laboratory should be with the Ministry of Transport. I deliberately said that it was controversial because there is a serious weighing of argument to be done here. On the one hand, should one divorce this work from the Ministry—which is, after all, the producer of so much of the roads? The Ministry of Public Building and Works, for example, does not itself do the major proportion of all the building done in the country. The Ministry of Transport, however, is in that position in regard to roads. If one divorced the Road Research Laboratory from it it might be difficult for the work to have the reality that is necessary. On the other hand, there is anxiety over the fact that people working in the Laboratory might feel that they will not have proper freedom of action because they are not under a neutral Minister. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to see that proper freedom is guaranteed to the Road Research Laboratory. I believe that it will be shown that this was the right decision to have made.
I will refer also to a point raised in the debate on the Gracious Speech by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock)— that of manpower. In future, the Committee on Scientific Manpower will be known by the title, "Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology". It will report to both the Ministry of Technology and to the Department of Education and Science, and it will be serviced by both of those Departments. That is inevitable because if it is to do its work properly it must be concerned with both the study of the needs of industry for manpower and the possibilities of the education service of supplying the different kinds of man-power. 1989 I think that it will be workable for it to have this dual relationship with those two Ministries.
A special point to bear in mind in considering manpower problems is that it is a matter of seeing that the educational system is geared to produce people who have the skills and knowledge which industry and commerce require. There is also the question, once they have gone through the educational process and entered their working lives, of making full use of their resources throughout their careers. This is a problem to which Sir Willis Jackson has paid particular attention, an important problem about which we should learn more in the years to come.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there will be two separate reports produced by this Committee, one to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the other to the Minister of Technology, dealing with two separate aspects of the manpower question?
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot answer that offhand. I am not sure, speaking offhand, that there would be any great advantage in that. It would seem that these reports must deal with both of those matters and that both are of interest to both Ministries, although each has its own exceptional responsibilities for one side. I would not want to assume that it would cut the two in half as rigidly as that seemed to suggest.
As I mentioned before, this will affect the livelihoods and working conditions of a considerable number of staff. About 8,500 staff are concerned, of whom about 1,500 are not at present civil servants and will not be civil servants in future. Their existing contracts of service stand and will be honoured. Then there are about 7,000 who are now civil servants. About 6,000 of those will continue to be civil servants, mainly in the Ministry of Technology and some in other Government Departments, but small numbers. There will be about 1,000 who are now civil servants and who in future will be in the service of one or other of the two new research councils.
The details of their conditions of service are exactly the thing on which the Government will have, and will be glad to have, full consultation with the representatives 1990 of the staff, but I wish to make it clear that their terms of service will be substantially aligned with Civil Service conditions and that their pay and superannuation will not be inferior to Civil Service conditions. I emphasise that the considerable detail that has to be settled in a transfer of people like this will be the subject of the fullest consultation between the Government and the representatives of those concerned.
I have had to deal with a subject which requires the constant mentioning of different organisations, all of them with names that are intolerably long if they are not abbreviated to initials and intolerably ugly if they are. I hope that it has not been wearisome to the House to travel through this rather tangled process, but I believe that at the end, when the Bill is in operation, the Government structure for the organisation of science will be less of a tangled maze, will be constructed on more rational principles and will also be such as to provide for the future growth and change the nature of which it is almost impossible to foresee. I think also that it is a structure, and particularly that part of it which involves creating the Ministry of Technology, which gives the proper importance to the task of applying in industry the results of increasing scientific knowledge.
The fact that we have to debate now a Bill involving such scientific complexities is typical of a general problem that faces Government today. We say repeatedly that science must play an increasing part in our national life and that Governments, therefore, must understand it better. There seems to me to be one fundamental difficulty about this. Science, whether by that word we mean the purest research, what the Charter of the Royal Society calls useful arts, the less precise studies in the social sciences or whatever meaning one gives to the word, begins when the human spirit says, "I am no longer content with blind guesses, with myths and traditional applications: I want to know", whereas the man of government, from the earliest days of government, is almost always in the position where he has to say, "I have to act. I cannot know. I want to make as good a guess as I can."
That gives one a difference of temperament from the start between government and science. It is that difference 1991 which we must try to bridge. The Government have to realise that while so often in government one cannot wait for complete knowledge and absolute proof before it is necessary to act, it is desirable to use all our modern means for acquiring knowledge to get oneself as far from the blind guess and as near to exact knowledge as human affairs make possible.
It is important also for the scientist to realise when he comes to work in government that he is working in an atmosphere in which his desire for exact knowledge and certainty of proof is respected but where, sometimes, action has to be taken on balance of probability, on judgment.
I hope that in the mechanism that the Government are creating and part of which is described in the Bill, we shall be doing something more than merely setting up a structure of councils and arranging for the proper conditions of work for the people concerned. We shall be providing an atmosphere in which these two temperaments—that of politics and that of science—so different in their approach, can, none the less, accept cheerfully the necessity which is imposed upon them in the world in which we live of working together.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Marples (Wallasey)
I am sure that the whole Houes will be grateful to the Secretary of State for Education and Science for his lucid explanation of a most complicated Measure, with its long-sounding titles which are oppressive if one reads them in full and unintelligible if read as abbreviations.
I ask the House to indulge with me today, for two reasons. First, I have had some technological difficulty with my teeth—of a temporary nature—and I may not be as audible as usual. Secondly, this is my maiden speech at the Dispatch Box from this side of the House after being practically 20 years a Member of the House. For those two reasons, there is a little difficulty for me this morning.
As to the first point of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I should like, on behalf of the Opposition, to join him in paying tribute to D.S.I.R., because it has a long, hard and difficult time and many 1992 battles to fight. It is difficult sometimes for people in an organisation, after they have built it up to strength and efficiency, to see it go elsewhere. I also join the right hon. Gentleman in his tribute to Lord Todd and the work which has been done by the Agricultural and Medical Research Councils.
I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman for about the first 20 minutes of his speech on the science research councils and the other matters. The Bill is flexible; there is room for more research councils, which is a good thing. With most of what the right hon. Gentleman dealt with until he came to the technology part of his speech, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) would have been in agreement. My right hon. and learned Friend did a great deal of work on this basis.
It was when the right hon. Gentleman came to the question of the Minister of Technology that I had my doubts, for a number of reasons, mostly of a practical nature. I had five years in transport and a number of years at the Post Office, so I had to deal with these points in a practical way. I am inclined to think that the whole success of this Measure will depend upon how Mr. Cousins operates his new Ministry. It will stand or fall by what he does and not by what he says in this House. Let us get that clear.
I am, therefore, sorry that we do not have the advantage of listening to Mr. Cousins explaining precisely his duties, functions and objectives. I am sorry that we are not hearing exactly how he proposes to run his Ministry. I hope that he will give us his ideas—I will not say when he comes here, because we on this side hope that he may lose the by-election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wishful thinking."] While I am on that point, I should like to say that we shall all be sorry to see the present hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) leave the House. When I first came to the House in 1945 and 1946, he was extremely kind and helpful to me.
It is not easy for me to put myself in Frank Cousins' position. The first thing I would ask myself is what I am supposed to do? This is where Mr. Cousins will find himself in difficulty. I have looked at the definition of technology. I have 1993 been to the Imperial College, I have seen a number of industrialists and I have made an intensive study of this since I became ''shadow Minister", but I have never found the same definition from two people. They are all different. I looked al the Oxford Dictionary, which says:systematic treatment; scientific study of the practical or industrial arts".One eminent industrialist said to me— and I think he was right—that management has many functions and that technology is only one of them.
This function cannot be divorced from management or separated from the other functions. I will try to explain my point and I will refer to the Post Office, as the Minister this morning has dealt with that Department. There are many stages in management. The first thing to do when running a Government Department or business is to find what people want. Then, it has to be produced at the right cost, which means an optimum size of factory. It is no use producing 10 Mini Minors a year; one would never get the price down. Then the product must be sold, for which market research is necessary, as is advertising. There is a whole range of management functions of which technology is only one and from which it cannot be separated.
One example is market research. For years, the Russians have tried to do without it, but now they are very interested in market research. A number of companies in this country try out a product in the Midlands to start with. Bird's Eye, for example, try out a new food in the Midlands to see how it goes. If it is a success, they then go in for it in a big way. Therefore, even the Communist countries, who used to be able to force their consumers to take that what they offered, are now getting very much interested in market research.
Moreover co-operation of labour comes into this. I notice that on 9th December, when discussing an Amendment to the Machinery of Government Bill, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used these words:acceptance of technological advance through- out industry and provide a central point for the encouragement of development, innovation and the acquisition by industry and the acceptance by the trade unions of technological equipment, new methods and the use of the latest types of machinery, the plunge into the 1994 electronic age which is needed if Britain is to survive."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 1661.]It is the trade union part, frankly, which is the one of the most important of all, and it is the one where we have been the least successful. What we have got to cure is the fear, sometimes the irrational fear, in the minds of men that they are to become unemployed. I know of this from my time in office at the Ministry of Transport. For example, we tried everything we possibly could to get the N.U.R. to accept liner trains. We do not need a Minister of Technology to design liner trains. We have got the prototype already. We have failed to get the N.U.R. to agree to operate liner trains. All road haulage must be able to use those trains. The Government must not spend capital on equipment which cannot be used effectively.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is this not a complete vindication of the appointment of Frank Cousins in his new rôle?
§ Mr. Marples
Hon. Members on that side of the House may think it is, but let us look at some of the things Mr. Frank Cousins has done in the past. The docks, for instance: we have not seen the modern scientific age accepted by the men in the docks. I wish we had, and so, I hope, do hon. Members opposite; we all do, and I am sure that there is no disagreement about that; but we have not seen it happen. We have not seen any rushing into the scientific age in the docks in the Port of London Authority. We tell exporters that there cannot be any working at the weekends to get their exports out of the country.
I certainly wish Mr. Cousins well in his new task. I have said this before, but there has not been—
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
It is not only the employees, is it, who are restricting modernisation of our docks? Have not the employers themselves also failed in the past in introducing new means of discharging?
§ Mr. Marples
Well, there have been failures on both sides. I was answering 1995 an interruption by an hon. Member opposite who thinks that the appointment of Frank Cousins is a suitable appointment because of his experience with trade unions. I was pointing out that a union for which he was responsible is not exactly noted for a scientific leap forward at the docks. That is what I was saying.
Then again, in London, it took us five years to get "standee" buses. Another example, is that it took us years to get the one-man buses. All these are scientific tools which were there but not being used because the men would not allow us to use them.
One of the things Mr. Cousins is to do is to deal with telecommunications. I was very interested in this and I would like to explain to the House why. I well remember, from when I was Postmaster-General, the Post Office having the excellent Research Station at Dollis Hill. I remember, also, the engineer in charge at that time, the Director of Research, and— I speak from memory— there were altogether 6,000 engineers and research people at the Post Office, a formidable undertaking indeed. I maintained, when I was Postmaster-General, that only the manager—that is, the Postmaster-General—who is in charge of all the men and the research and had all the knowledge, only he was in a position to make effective decisions and only he was in a position to help industry by making technological aid available to it through the Post Office. I will try to explain why I say that. I went there in 1957, and if hon. Members will allow me I will weary them by telling of one of the things we did.
When I went there I said, "What I want to do is to be able to dial much longer distances than we can now dial." Hon. Members will remember that then there was only a very small dialling area in the centre of London. I said, "Why do we not get an instrument which will dial much farther, instead of getting the toll operator?" Again, I am speaking from memory but I think that I am right in saying that it costs about £110 to equip the telephone. That telephone has always been able to dial from Hertford in the north to Reigate in the south.
But we were stopped from dialling by the Post Office. From 1912 onwards the 1996 method of mechanically recording a call was very simple. I have brought with me, and here it is, one the Post Office's exhibits. This is a "single meter" costing 18s., I think. Every time the man at the other end picks up this machine it clicks once like a speedometer, and it registers a local call, and we multiply the local call by 3d. But this instrument could not record 6d., 9d. or 1s. calls or 1s. 3d. calls and so we were prevented from using the £110 worth of capital equipment.
The Post Office said, "Instead of dialling yourself, you must get the operator to dial for you". The operator dialled and then had to get a little slip of paper and put down how long a call lasted from the start. There were tens of millions of these vouchers being totted up and the amounts put on the accounts. Therefore, I asked, "What are we doing about this?" And what they were doing was this. This is where the technologists in the Post Office came in. They were making a better meter, a "multi-meter", which would record 3d., 9d., 1s. calls. But the point was that it was going to take years and cost millions of pounds to get it installed. We had already started it.
After a lot of argument we came to a very simple answer. It was a management answer, not a technologist's answer. It was, "Why do we not reduce the charge for all the dialled calls of 6d., 9d., 1s., ls. 3d., and use instead the equipment which already is installed?" They said that we should lose a lot of revenue. I said, "Then why not charge the difference to the rental?"
I think that hon. Members remember when I came to the House and announced some staggering increases in rental to raise about £50 million worth of new revenue in a year. It was not exactly popular and nor was I at the time. I remember some of the remarks which were made. Some of them deeply wounded me, that I was not able to sleep for a week or two afterwards. But what people did not know was that I was coming around three weeks later to reducing the charge for ls., 9d., 6d. calls all to 3d.
Thus, pricing policy is the function of management, and, therefore, only management can really make the decisions to help industry. Therefore if Mr. Cousins is going into telecommunications, 1997 and if I were the Postmaster-General, I should tell Mr. Cousins what he could do with his Ministry of Technology, because telecommunications in the Post Office is the Postmaster-General's business, and it is the Postmaster-General who should be responsible for running that show. I would not have Mr. Cousins barging in, or even Lord Snow, much as I like both of them.
I believe that the Ministry of Technology will have the greatest difficulty in operating in isolation. I think that it will have great practical difficulties with Government Departments, too, because the one place where private enterprise is really savage, ruthless and raw is in Government Departments in Whitehall, especially when their functions are being taken away from them.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does this not depend on politicians who are Ministers? If this was true under a Tory Government, I would hope that it would not be true under a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Marples
Let the hon. Gentleman just wait till he has served a little time in a Government Department. But then I have never seen such a docile lot in my life as hon. Members opposite.
If the Government are to have a Ministry of Technology, why do they not also have a Ministry for Pricing Policy and a Ministry of Accountancy and a Ministry of Salesmanship and Marketing? I have tried to put myself in Mr. Cousins' place, and to decide what I would do if I were head of his Ministry. I do not think that it will work, but I hope it will, because it is essential to the nation that we progress much more rapidly in the field of applied sciences in businesses and in Government Departments than we have done in the past.
One of the things which ought to be done is to try to get more engineers and scientists to take over administrative posts in Government Departments. This is a most difficult thing to do, because a skilled civil engineer would much rather be on a site in Africa, building a huge hydro-electric dam. He finds that job much more satisfying than being employed as an administrator at head office with nothing to do but face a succession of "headaches" during the week.
At the Post Office we had Sir Gordon Radley, a skilled engineer, and as hon. 1998 Gentlemen know, I brought Dr. Beeching in on the railways. Hon. Gentlemen opposite voted against his appointment, but apparently they are now to promote him. It shows that they learn rapidly. I also brought in Colin Buchanan, a civil engineer and a town architect.
Quite frankly, the proliferation of Ministries which is proposed by the Government frightens me. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the other day that one reason for the appointment of Mr. Cousins and the setting up of a separate Ministry was psychological.
The other day I was reading the American magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology. I was interested in it because it dealt with the Concord project, with the fact that the party opposite was trying to introduce a new scientific look, and so on. Its editorial of 23rd November, 1964, said:If the British Labour Government withdraws from the Anglo-French Concord, supersonic transport programme it will deal a mortal blow to its aerospace industry and reduce that once-proud island to a second-rate technological power. It may be that this is what the British Labour Party leaders desire. Or it may be that they are so unfamiliar with the nature of modern technology that they cannot foresee fully the consequences of such action.Abandoning the Concord at this relatively late date would blunt the spearhead of British advanced technology and eventually leave the fibre of its industrial complex flaccid and obsolete.The next bit is interesting:Some people may rejoice over the prospect of a short term gain in eliminating the front runner in the supersonic transport sweepstakes. But those with a deeper appreciation of the Western Alliance will regret the technological decay of an ally that has stoutly shouldered its fair share of this burden in the past.If that decision was taken for psychological reasons, it has done more harm than the psychological advantage of Mr. Cousins can undo. I think that the continuation of the Concord project would be very much to the advantage of this country.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on one point. I think that the transfer of the Road Research Laboratory to the Ministry of Transport is a good move. During the Committee stage of the Machinery of Government Bill my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said that we do 1999 not want a Minister in charge of science, but instead, we want every Government Department to have its own appreciation of technology. Unless management has an awareness of technology and is saturated in it and determined to apply it with guts and courage, we shall not get it applied no matter how many separate Ministries there are.
I believe that where there is a specialised research department it must have purposeful direction, and, normally, if it is not under a Minister who is responsible for the job in hand, there is no drive to complete a job within a given time. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) said that in research there was no substitute for the discipline of a tight timetable.
The Road Research Laboratory helped me, but nothing like as much as I thought it ought to have done. Almost as soon as I was appointed I went to the Road Research Laboratory. I spent the whole of one Saturday there, and we had a long discussion about some of the problems. I decided on the Pink Zone and to take over London's traffic as an experiment for five years. We discussed that, and then I asked what was to be done as a long-term solution. In the long term cities have to be rebuilt, and I wanted to know whether we were rebuilding them on the right principles, and whether the right principle was a road, a pavement, or a direct access, or something else to enable us to come to terms with the motor car. There was not a lot of work done on that, and I therefore decided to set up a separate inquiry.
I read the book "Mixed Blessing", by Colin Buchanan. It was the best book that I had read on the subject. I had not met him until then, but we started a study group at the Ministry, and I collected a team around him. We also had a steering group to give some discipline to the proceedings. This was management moving in on transport. I did not ask the Road Research Laboratory to do it, because even if I had done so I should not have been in control. I should not have been able to get action in the lifetime of a Parliament, because the trouble with scientists is that too often they dribble on and never come to a decision.
2000 I am glad to say that Colin Buchanan is now a Professor at the Imperial College of Science and Technology. He has started a technological course and 11 post-graduate students—civil engineers, architects, town planners, economists, and so on—are attending there for a year. I went to see them the other day, and they are getting on splendidly. I think that I can claim, therefore, that the previous Government did make some contribution to technological matters. I was very much impressed with the wide range of subjects being taught at the Imperial College. I noticed that there was even to be a lecture on polygamy. I did not know that that came within technology.
If road research is to come under transport, what is to happen to the building research station? The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that, nor has it been mentioned in any other statement as far as I know. If the argument is that road research should come under transport, I cannot see any argument for keeping building research divorced from Works.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I am interested in the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the Road Research Laboratory. Would he agree that it is very important that, as far as possible, it should preserve an independent status, because it does a great deal of research which may or may not be palatable to a Minister of Transport? Its independent status is exceedingly important, even if it comes under the general auspices of the Ministry.
§ Mr. Marples
If it comes under the general auspices of the Ministry, it will not have independent status. It will be under the Minister. That is a certainty, whether the Minister is Mr. Cousins, myself, of the right hon. Gentleman. If it comes under the Ministry, it will not be independent. There is no halfway house between the Ministry having it, and an independent person having it.
What are the Government's priorities for the use of scarce scientific manpower between research, education, and the application of technology. One of the biggest science based industries tells me that it has been losing scientists to the universities. I agree that scientists are needed in the universities, but they must not be drawn away from the application 2001 of science to produce hardware. There must be a rapid growth, not only in the generation of ideas but in getting results from the application of those ideas. That was true in Germany after 1860, and it is true of Japan today. The Japanese have a remarkable record of doing relatively little research themselves but of showing tremendous efficiency in applying the results of somebody else's research.
Let me give the House an example I heard the other day from a leading industrialist. The Japanese wanted to build a factory which would equal the entire output of Terylene from the United Kingdom. They had not done the research themselves. They said, "We will pay I.C.I. a royalty. You give us the 'know-how' and we will pay." I.C.I. officials went out there, and the Japanese asked, "How long will it take to build this factory?" estimated about three years. The Japanese thought that that was too long and asked, "Cannot we do it in less?" I.C.I. said, "Perhaps it could be done in 2½ years."
In fact, from the digging of the first sod to the production of the first yard of Terylene it took 11 months. Then they decided to have another plant with exactly the same output but with all the modernisation that had gone on since—and that one took seven months to build.
That was a remarkable achievement, and shows what can be done by applying some "know-how" in the organisational skill. The Japanese believe that it is better to let someone else have the headaches of the fundamental research and of ironing out all the difficulties in the first prototype. There is something in that. We, too, can learn from other countries. America, for instance, can teach us a great deal.
An example in America, as compared with this country, is the efficiency of an industry which Mr. Cousins is not taking over, but which is fundamental to the health of this country and definitely needs some reorganising, namely, the building industry. The constructional industries are one of the weakest points in our economy at the moment. Many people blame the industry, but it is not the industry's fault. It is the fault of the architects because the builder merely builds what the architect tells him to build. If he did not he would 2002 be sued for breach of contract. I would like to see a break-through made in that direction.
The difference between the cost of constructing similar-sized hotel rooms in America and over here is tremendous. In America the cost is between £2,000 and £2,400, whereas for a similar-sized room here it is £4,250. The wages of American craftsmen concerned are between four-and-a-half and five-and-a-half times as much as they are over here. There is obviously much to be learned from these countries, and my hon. Friends and I am going to spend our very short time in opposition in learning a great deal very rapidly.
There are one or two technical points which arise on the Bill. Clause 1 makes some fairly detailed provisions in connection with the constitution of research councils, but it occurs to me, as a layman, that Clause 6(2) nullifies those provisions. Perhaps that can be explained. In Clause 3(6) and (7) the Government are asking for very wide powers. The Statutory Instruments referred to in those subsections will not even be required to be brought before the House, let alone be subject to the negative Resolution procedure.
Clause 6(1) contains unusually wide powers, and seems to be a blank cheque. It talks aboutresearch and development in any of the sciences (including the social sciences)Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up can give us some indication of the examples of the social sciences that might come within the terms of that subsection.
I hope that at some time soon the Minister of Technology will give us his own comprehensive explanation of precisely how he will set about his work, and exactly what he wants to do. So far the explanations have been inadequate and incomplete. We shall judge him fairly by his deeds and not by his words. This House is always fair to a new Minister, but we shall certainly watch developments carefully.
In the short period that we shall be in Opposition we will do our homework seriously. I want to assure the House that our study will be practical and constructive. Some of us are starting a course of instruction in computers. Any hon. Member opposite who wishes to do 2003 so can come with us. We shall cover the whole field, including programming.
We shall be visiting the Japanese and seeing how they build their Terylene factories so much quicker than we do. We are also going to the United States to learn from them. I believe in going to other countries where one can always get new ideas. It is not a case of denigrating our own industries. I go abroad a lot, and I am alarmed at the way in which some people do denigrate our industries—to such an extent that the foreigner who buys from us begins to believe what he is told. This is making it very difficult for some industries.
We shall be diligent and thorough in our homework, so that the country will see that the Conservative Party is well equipped for another 13 years of office.
§ 12.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)
The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said that he was making his maiden speech at the Opposition Dispatch Box. My remarks will be more virginal. In making my maiden speech, I ask the House to extend to me the courtesy which it has shown to many of my hon. Friends since the Gracious Speech.
I am conscious that I follow in the footsteps of many distinguished predecessors. If I make only a brief reference to my most immediate one—the former Minister of Health—it is not out of any churlishness but in anticipation of possible future political events. I have in mind, too, his own predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, so it is clear that I have been set some very high standards, which I must attempt to live up to.
The constituency which I represent is situated in the heart of south Yorkshire. When the right hon. Member for Wallasey was speaking about the attitude of my colleagues in the trade union movement there came into my mind immediately a picture of the miners who had moved to that area from Durham and Scotland as a result of the technological changes that had taken place in the mining industry—changes which were warmly welcomed, no doubt as a result of the change in ownership, leadership and compassionate understanding which was extended to their problems. 2004 That was in stark contrast to my experience as a manual worker coming directly from private industry into the House.
My constituency is concerned with much more than coal mining. It is perhaps most famous, among its many reasons for being celebrated, for its horse racing and its railways. The behaviour of the trains is much more predictable than that of the horses.
§ Mr. Walker
The right hon. Gentleman will be vividly conscious of the pivotal point that Doncaster occupies in South Yorkshire, in transport terms. It has a live, vigorous and far-sighted council—a Labour one, of course. It is an ancient borough, with a history dating from the days of a Roman settlement. It has an enormous growth potential, and could well have been designated by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary as a focal growth centre for south Yorkshire. It has all the potentialities for growth that we so urgently need.
I have referred to the position that Doncaster occupies in our transport system. I link this with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wallasey in relation to the application of science and technology and think, too, of my own experience in industry when realising that the provisions of the Bill seem irrelevant unless we can translate them into practical terms, in terms, that is, of raising our production, of lightening the burdens of human labour and of arming our craftsmen with the means whereby they can enrich the nation.
It is significant that, as a consequence of the actions of the former Administration, those scarce reserves of the vital skill and scientific knowledge which we so desperately need to implement the provisions of the Bill are being wasted at the Doncaster railway workshops as a result of the plans of the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Wallasey. The plans of the right hon. Gentleman have resulted in the craftsmen in British Railways workshops being confronted with redundancy and compelled to waste their skills in other fields.
I have been engaged in administration in industry; I have been for many years a shop steward in industry, a skilled craftsman in industry, so I think I know 2005 something about the failure to apply technology and science in our industries. There is one subject of discussion on the floor of the typical British workshop—when the manager is not breathing down the necks of the men—which is always calculated to raise a big laugh. It is this matter of applying science and technology to production.
The application of technology, the scientific revolution and the transformation which is allegedly overtaking our industry seem, somehow, to have bypassed the workshops. Indeed, only yesterday I was talking to one of my hon. Friends who was referring to the fact that he had apparently, as a half-timer, been working at the next factory to my former place of employment. He had recently been passing the factory and had thought how much he would like to see again the inside of the place where he had worked 50 years ago. He sought permission to enter, which was granted, and went into his former workroom and commented to the manager, "Why, it has hardly altered. I worked here 50 years ago and it was like this then." The foreman replied, "It was like this 100 years ago."
I would refer to a factory where I worked, which is part of one of the largest organisations in the engineering industry in Britain, on which so much of our export drive depends and which boasts that it is a leader in its particular field. In that establishment there is a skilled craftsman of 70 years of age who, when he is asked to work on a job on Sundays, is carried to and from his work in a taxi: he is so valuable. The reason is that the machine which he operates and which is so vital to the company's profits can only be operated by him, and only by him because he served his time on the same machine. As I say, he is 70 years of age. [Laughter.] It is funny, but it is also tragic. This is private industry.
Only a few weeks ago one of my apprentices on the workshop floor came to me with an engineering textbook and showed me the picture of a machine tool with which many of my engineering friends will be familiar, a wall-planing machine. It was the picture of a machine that had been designed and built by the great James Watt. The caption beneath 2006 it—the boastfully proud caption—stated, "This machine is still in use."
Here we are talking of applying the fruits of technological research to industry. We are talking of cybernetics, of computers, of automation, and yet we are still applying the machine tools used at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. My goodness, when I go into the Science Museum, in Kensington, I am on familiar ground. I know that plenty of my colleagues share my view on this. Many of our factories are not so much places of production as museums.
I do not seek to denigrate either my industry or my country. Indeed, the engineering industry, the largest in the country on which so much of our export drive depends, is as proud of its traditions and its history as we as Members of Parliament are proud of and cherish the history and traditions of Parliament. With all due respect, it is. obvious that these two institutions, the engineering industry and Parliament, have something in common.
I am conscious of the pressure of time and of the anxiety of some of my colleagues to enter the debate, but I think it important to try to understand why the fruits of science and technology and the ideas which are already coming forward and which the Bill is intended to stimulate further are not being applied. I see many good reasons for this. First, I will make a brief reference to one of the associations of research with which I have some acquaintance. It is the Production Engineering Research Association, in Melton Mowbray, which is doing wonderful work and which received in 1963 a grant of £80,000 from the D.S.I.R.
I mention the grant for a particular reason. The Production Engineering Research Association seeks to familiarise people like myself, through the medium of pamphlets, technical journals, film shows, and so on, with its findings and research. As a manual worker, I was recently privileged to see some of the new techniques demonstrated on film by this organisation and afterwards requested that the information portrayed should be made available to me so that I could apply it in my work as a skilled craftsman. I was told that I could not have the information because I was not an individual affiliate to the organization 2007 and that it was only available to individual affiliates who made contributions to the Association.
It is absurd that we as a nation should be paying for research and that the people responsible for implementing that research should be denied the chance of doing so. There are many examples of the new techniques, the new innovations and the new scientific developments being applied in Britain. As for disparaging nationalised industries, it is significant that whenever we see these new developments being applied in almost every case it is due to the provision of public funds—in the nationalised industries, the Coal Board and the steel industry to which we have lent so many millions of public money.
If I may be forgiven for digressing at this point, I will say this about the steel industry. The company responsible for manufacturing the majority of the thread cutting tools used in the engineering industry has its headquarters in Sheffield, as one would expect. The most critical factor in the manufacturing of thread cutting instruments is the quality of the steel used. One can readily understand why this company should have its headquarters located in Sheffield.
Yet, two years ago, the chairman of that company, in his annual address, said that this company, with its headquarters in Sheffield, imported the steel for these tools from Japan, because Sheffield could not produce steel comparable with that from Japan. As the right hon. Member for Wallasey said, they have been quick to adapt our techniques and developments and apply them there. If there is any ground for the indictment of privately-owned steel, that is sufficient. Where we have the application of these new techniques, in our motor car factories, for example, it is where public funds have been applied.
The important factor in the innovation and application of new development has been the lack of availability of funds and the absence of willingness on the part of private industry.
Clearly, if we are to get these new ideas applied to industry so that we can have the necessary growth and raise our exports we must be prepared to spend public money to achieve this end. Instead, as has been all too often the case 2008 in the past, of making available public funds for individuals and groups of individuals to be used in their own interests, we should say that where our money is being supplied it should be used in our interests and under our control and that the benefit should accrue to the people of this country.
I think that the most vitally important task before us is not so much to speed up the flow of new ideas, although this is important, as to get the ideas which are in existence, applied to our production drive, and somehow to bridge the gap between conception and application —between conception and birth, to follow up the terms in which I introduced my speech. Only by doing this shall we achieve the legitimate objectives of my right hon. Friends in the Government who seek to fulfill the targets which the people have sent us here to obtain, and which, I am confident, with the approach envisaged in this and other legislation, we shall do, not in the short time but in the very long time that we shall be here.
I thank the House for the courtesy which it has shown to me. I do not apologise for going beyond the bounds which are legitimately accorded to a maiden speaker, but I thank the House for allowing me to do so.
§ 1.04 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I think that I voice the opinion of all hon. Members present in congratulating very warmly the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker). If he made a noncontroversial speech, I think that many of us are looking forward to the time when he is controversial, but we liked very much his sense of wit and we liked, as the House always likes, and will always listen to with attention and sympathy, people who come here with a solid knowledge of some facet of British industry.
I myself did a graduate apprenticeship and went back to the same machine shop and tool room recently. I can vouchsafe that they are very different today. I think that the hon. Member must have been very unfortunate if, in the tool room where he trained originally, he found the same tools. All the overhead drives have gone, all the old presses, and many single action presses have gone. Now there are transfer presses. In the tool room one 2009 sees tools which certainly never existed up to five years ago, such as spark erosion tools and tape controlled tools. I think that the hon. Member is very unfortunate. I do not think that British industry should be judged by one single instance, as I am sure he would not wish to judge it.
I think it fair to say a word in defence of P.E.R.A. I would put it as one of the outstanding research establishments. It is a very valuable research establishment. It is true that it accepts a grant from D.S.I.R. but the great majority of this money comes from industry itself. So I think that it is not unfair that those firms which subscribe to P.E.R.A. and provide money to pay the staff and buy the equipment that members should benefit first and foremost. I am sure that the hon. Member's firm will become a member of P.E.R.A. and that then he will be able to benefit fully from it.
I am a little sceptical about the Labour Government's enthusiasm for science and technology. I had the feeling, after the Prime Minister's Scarborough speech of 1963, that we were to have a really genuine approach to it, but it seems to me, from the way in which that this Ministry has been set up, that the enthusiasm which started in the autumn of 1963 ended on 15th October, 1964. I hope that this will not be so, because as someone trained as an electronic engineer and a scientist, I am absolutely certain that we have to stimulate, to prod and do everything conceivable to get this country forward into the scientific age at a much faster rate.
I think that the creation of a separate Ministry is in some ways a confession of defeat. I should like to see every Government Ministry having many scientists and technologists on their staffs. After all, in our defence Ministries, the Ministry of Aviation, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Transport, the Post Office and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—all these staffs should have people with an inquiring scientific mind at every level. Just as we have a ladder of administrators and a ladder of accountants I believe that we should have a ladder of scientists and technologists arid that they should be integrated all the way up.
My fear is that by taking this as a separate subject, and creating a separate 2010 Ministry, the Whitehall Ministries will tend to say, "That is not our job any longer; it is for someone else to do. Science and technology is not for us. We have a separate Ministry for that. We do not need to press and drive forward in the quest for new methods and new applications". I hope that that will not be so. I should like to see the whole of Whitehall and all our Ministries, particularly those which are concerned with industry which has a big scientific content, embued with science.
I have trained as a scientist and since then I have tried to humanise myself, but, on the whole, those who train in the humanities do not seem to try to scientise themselves. It should be a reverse process. I ask those responsible for recruiting our civil servants to bear in mind that basic knowledge of science is just as essential, and more essential, than a basic knowledge of ancient languages or of administration. I would like to see this applied to the training of schoolmasters, or to any profession. When one wanted to go to a university in the old days one had to pass a divinity examination. I was ploughed in it, so I remember it well, but eventually I got through.
It was essential to pass "Divvers", as it was called to go to Oxford.
It is essential today that someone should have at least a basic knowledge of science before going to Oxford, even if he is to read law, modern languages, or anything else. This would be a good basis even in the schools and it might go down even to the primary schools, because they have all got their eyes on the ultimate gaol of getting boys into the universities. If they knew that they could not get there without some basic knowledge of science this would have a very very salutary effect.
If we have to divide up the whole spectrum of education, science and technology we have to draw the line somewhere, but I have a fear as to whether we have drawn the line between science and technology, between research and practical development and application, in the right place. My fear is that, somehow, we are denigrating the task of the technologists. I hope that the Minister will achieve something, but we need ten times as many technologists as we need pure scientists. Therefore, 2011 we should do everything we can to increase the stature, prestige and morale of those who are going to be responsible for the Ministry of Technology.
This point was brought out very well in the Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy. There is a whole chapter on page 17 on the need to give technology status and position in industry and in the country as a whole. I think it was at the annual general meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee that the Duke of Edinburgh said that we ought to try to make science more fashionable. I say to hon. Members that today the need is to make technology and engineering more fashionable because it is the technologists and engineers whom we are lacking. These are the places which are vacant in our colleges.
I have noticed that it is the new industries which have been put under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Technology—the machine-tool, electronic, telecommunications and computer industries. I wonder whether this shows a right sense of priorities. Is it not the old industries in which technology needs stimulating? Do not shipbuilding and some of our basic older industries need a little prodding, rather than these new industries? When the Minister winds up the debate, perhaps he will say why the decision was taken to include these modern industries. I have been examining the possible reasons, and the one factor they seem to have in common is that they are modern, they are science-based and they apply over the whole spectrum of industry. Every section of industry uses machine tools and almost every section uses some form of electronic control, or it will soon do so. Telecommunications is becoming more and more vital to the whole infrastructure of our country, and it affects the efficiency of all industries. The computer industry must affect all Ministries and all industries. That seems to be the common factor.
Lord Snow said in another place that one of the Government's tasks was to listen before deciding exactly which Industry should be included, but this has not been done. Have the trade associations been consulted? I have not been able to check all instances, but in the case of the Conference of the Electronic Industries, covering nine trade 2012 associations, not one was consulted be fore they found themselves with the sponsorship, transferred partly from the Ministry of Aviation and partly from the Board of Trade, and put under the new Ministry of Technology.
Is this the way to govern? We have been told that hon. Members opposite have been thinking out this policy for a long time. If this is so, why have they not got time to go to these trade associations and consult them? That is the wise way to govern, instead of rushing about like a bull in a china shop. The Government's approach has been shown clearly not to pay. I need only quote the surcharge and many other things which have been done in the past 65 disastrous days. I ask the Government to listen, as Lord Snow said they should listen. I ask them to consult. Let us try to fashion the Ministry of Technology on sensible lines.
I come to one aspect of the Bill which I hope is not sinister, and perhaps we can have an assurance on this point. if not, perhaps some of my hon. Friends and I will be putting down an Amendment for debate in Committee. Clause 5(1,b) says that one of the tasks of the Minister is…furthering the practical application of the results of scientific research.Does that mean that this Ministry itself or the establishments under its control are now going in for production? If not, how does one further the practical application? Surely it means development and production.
This was borne out by an intervention by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), who said that the Atomic Energy Authority, which is dealt with in Clause 4, ought to develop and produce scientific instruments, and this was not denied by the Secretary of State. It is said that the Authority wants extra powers because it might go into production of scientific instruments. Is this the intention? This is implied in the Labour Party's election manifesto. At the bottom of page 9, it saysA Labour Government will go beyond research and development and will establish new industries".We remember "Signposts for the Sixties," which referred to science-based industries. Is this the way that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues intend 2013 to establish new industries? Will they allow the Atomic Energy Authority to manufacture scientific instruments which it has developed in the course of its other tasks?
We have been told, too, that one of the ways in which the new Minister of Technology will use his powers is in purchasing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) was questioning this, and we were left in some doubt as to exactly where the responsibility would lie and who would undertake it. It is true that development contracts and purchasing have done a lot to modernise American industry. I think that it was Mr. McNamara who said recently that no less than 1,000 million dollars all chargeable to tax were spent last year on the machine-tool industry by the defence services of the United States. This has done a lot to modernise the machine-tool industry of the U.S.A. and, therefore, has benefited all sides of civil industry as well.
I wonder whether this policy is to be followed in this country. Purchasing can have a tremendous pull, but I do not believe it should be centralised in this new Ministry which is not equipped for the job. It should be left with such responsible Ministries as Defence and the Post Office, and not transferred, as would appear to be suggested by some of the phrasing in the Bill.
Now I come to the question of casting. I am one of those who are very sorry that the Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), a very good chairman, was not given a job in the new Government. We feel that he has taken an interest in the whole of the scientific and technological field, and I would like to have seen him "head up" this Ministry, because I am sure he would have done so with great wisdom and ability. The Prime Minister, however, has given Mr. Frank Cousins the job. I am sure that Mr. Cousins would not have risen to his position in the Transport and General Workers' Union and the T.U.C. if he had not got the ability, but, as my right hon. Friend said, he starts in this task from about minus-20. This Trade Union is the one place where the Luddites and restrictive practices seem to have got control. I see that he has left the door open so that he can go back to his job 2014 when hon. Members opposite come to sit on this side of the House again. I hope that his knowledge of trade union affairs and of negotiation will be brought to bear so that he can persuade other trade unionists and people who are afraid of progress and technological success to come forward into the twentieth century. If not, this country will go down further and further in its standard of living and in its ability to pay its way in the world.
I therefore give the Bill qualified support. I am suspicious of a number of factors in it and I hope that we shall have some of these clarified when the debate is wound up. I very much hope that the hon. Member for Edmonton will find a place at some time not too far ahead in this Ministry and that Mr. Frank Cousins will live down his past. He has surrounded himself with very able civil servants and I hope that he will lead his Ministry into making progress.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
This Chamber is a lonely place to be in when one is making a maiden speech yet I have waited until now because I thought that this was an appropriate occasion for me to speak. I follow in representing Eccles a man who served the constituency and this House long and well. He is now not enjoying the best of health and I am sure that everyone in the House will join me in wishing him well for the future.
Until recently I was a schoolmaster and head of a business study department. Had the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) been one of my students I should have been compelled to put certain remarks on his school report. The right hon. Gentleman confessed today that he was now doing his homework. I should have had to write, "Ernest would have done a lot better had he done his homework in the past" because now the right hon. Gentleman is in opposition whereas previously he was in Government, and this is precisely why the Opposition are where they are today. It is because of their failure to realise the mood of the country in desiring change.
Some hon. Members will probably feel that they know Eccles only as a place where cakes are produced. Although Eccles cakes may be delectable and 2015 delicious to eat, thank God the economy of the division does not depend on cake-eating. Eccles is a constituency which has accepted change and a place where some of the older industries, particularly coal mining and cotton, have been modernised. We also have growth industries—chemicals and plastics—and across the Manchester Ship Canal we have at Trafford Park some of the best examples in existence of modern British industry. I plead for the constituency that we have plenty of room for more industry, and we need more. We would welcome new industry of any type into the area and the people of the region have clearly shown their ability to come into the latter part of the 20th century.
Some hon. Members may think that with a technical college background I shall spend most of my time in this speech on technical developments, but that will not be the case because I believe, like Hazlitt, that man is the only animal that laughs and cries, because man is the only animal that can appreciate the difference between things as they are and things as they ought to be. Herein lies the challenge. Many of us, knowing what can develop from a carefully considered application of science to technology and knowing what could have been achieved, are positively astonished—I had better not use the word "disgusted"—at the naïve attitude of so many people towards the potential to be obtained from innovation.
I should have thought that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) has said,There needs to be a general shift of technological activity and research and development through the whole spectrum of research in universities, in Government institutions and industry. There has to be a shift so that a greater proportion of the technological efforts of the country is applied to meeting"—in the short run—the basic needs of the country for food, clothing, housing and exports."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 477.]These are our basic needs. These will be the short-term aims, but if we are to see the full exploitation of knowledge for society this will be best appreciated when we realise how technical change will affect human beings. I 2016 should therefore like to devote some of my time in this debate to the social implications of technical change.
The right hon. Member for Wallasey hinted that technical change had been achieved but human beings were not prepared to accept it. This is a perfectly valid criticism of his method of procedure. If we are to have technical change let us, for heaven's sake, take the people with us and not achieve these changes in isolation and present them as a fait accompli because human beings will always want to try somehow to protect themselves from the evils of unemployment.
I am not saying that we ought not to accept change. I also want to see change come about, and the major reason why the Minister of Technology is the person who has been selected is precisely because the Prime Minister appreciates the problem which lies ahead. It is mainly for this reason that I strongly support the Minister who has been selected.
If one takes a historical view of production it could be said that the quality of life in Greece is represented by their philosophers but their philosophers were able to philosophise because they had slaves. The quality of life in Rome resulted primarily from the fact that the patricians had the plebs to support them. In the Middle Ages the knights in shining armour could go dashing off in all directions—like Members of the Opposition—saving all sorts of delectable ladies because the serfs were giving them the time to do it.
In the heyday of British industry, the highlight in terms of production, the time when laissez-faire economics ruled the day, we had employers who were able to exploit human beings in such a way that they became veritable wage-slaves. If we are to expect the full fruits of technical change, if we are to meet the challenge of the export markets, this can only be done if we take the people with us on this venture. If we do not take people into our confidence, technical change will not come, and it is precisely for this reason that I welcome the appointment of Mr. Frank Cousins as Minister of Technology.
Apart from the application of science to technology and the need to innovate in British industry, we must create a climate of acceptance. People must be sure that 2017 they will not be the slaves of the machine. The Reith Lectures this year gave us a lead. Sir Leon Bagrit was stimulating and challenging while at the same time giving us an insight into what could happen. We tend to be afraid of the machine age because we fear that the production line will take control of us. People remember what happened to Charlie Chaplin, but he, poor fellow, was dominated by the machine. by a production line which got completely out of hand, whereas today, in fact, the computer will assist the dignity of effort of the human being on the production floor because it can control the rate of flow in such a way that the dignity of the human being will still be recognised. Unless we appreciate that human beings are involved in this revolution, we shall get nowhere.
As an educationist, I make this plea. We tend to say that we are short of a certain group of people, and then tremendous pressure and effort is put into securing them, and, in the process, we very often twist and distort the character of the student. It is true that we need more technologists—this is accepted on both sides of the House; but in our indecent haste to produce the number of technologists we want, let us not do it at the expense of individual students. We must still strike a balance between the scientist and technologist and the arts student. In our effort to secure more technologists, please let us not do it at the expense of compelling schools to turn people on the path of technology before they are ready. I was rather surprised to hear one hon. Member speak in terms of a crash programme for technologists. This, I feel, cannot be the right approach. Our terms of reference must be encouragement and balance.
One hon. Gentleman opposite—I rather liked this—said that the arts student knows less about science than he ought to. As a possible arts graduate with a science background, I should like to think that the arts student knows as much about science as the science boys know about the arts. The science people are at least prepared to learn something of other disciplines. Would to God we could induce some of our schools which are already bigoted in their approach to education to accept the dignity of the technologies.
I thank the House for receiving me as it has. I have tried to make a serious 2018 contribution, based on my background. I conclude in this way. Given the right kind of political climate, given the appropriate decisions on technology, and given also that the benefits of a technological revolution go to the many and not to the few, I am certain that the people of Britain will welcome change and that, if they do, it would be of great benefit not only to all of us in these islands but to the peoples of the under-developed countries and of the world in general.
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
I am sorry that there were not more Members here to hear the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). I was most impressed by it. If I may say so, it is obvious that the hon. Gentleman has high qualifications for taking part in a debate of this kind, and the observations which he made about technical change were most interesting. The House generally agrees with him that we must find a climate of acceptance of technical change. His comments were very sensible, and we look forward to hearing him again.
I shall pursue the discussion of the Atomic Energy Authority, which began during the Minister's speech. The subject arises under Clause 3 in relation to the National institute for Research in Nuclear Science and also under Clause 4, by which the Atomic Energy Authority is permitted to undertake work apart from atomic energy as such.
The Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, the principal establishment in the Research Group of the Atomic Energy Authority, is in my constituency, as is the Rutherford Laboratory, which, of course, is the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science. The Weapons Group at Aldermaston is quite close, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor), and, as he is not here today, perhaps I may be allowed to ask a few questions about the future so far as it is affected by the Bill.
Workers in these establishments, together with employees at the Cudham Laboratory, near Abingdon, and other organisations, such as the Engineering Group and the Production Groups at Risley, will be affected by the powers granted to the Minister of Technology 2019 under Clause 4 and, specifically, by the extension of research functions under that clause.
It is interesting to relate this discussion about whether we should have a Minister of Technology to the subject of atomic energy, since Mr. Cousins is now in charge of the Authority and, presumably, he has some plans for it. There have been suggestions from both sides today about what the Authority could do in the future, but the sooner a statement is made and the uncertainty is cleared up the better for all those employed. In my constituency there are several thousand people employed by the Authority of whom a considerable proportion are graduate scientists and engineers, and it is important for them to know as soon as possible what the Government's plans are.
First, I refer to the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science. I understand that this will come under the Science Research Council, and, presumably, this means that it will not be on the Authority's Vote in future. This will probably be an improvement. I welcome the recommendation which has been made and the provision for it in the Bill. But the position of the Atomic Energy Authority as distinct from the N.I.R.N.S. is much bound up with the whole future of power generation.
It is interesting to note that the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy referred to the Atomic Energy Authority in this connection in paragraphs 35 to 38 of its latest Report, Cmnd. 2538. It notes that the Authority was set up to deal with a wholly new technology which, because of the military implications, was essentially a Government operation. It may be that the situation is now changing due to different policies in regard to military developments in the nuclear field. We shall be debating such matters in a different context next week, no doubt, but the fact remains that the position of Aldermaston is changing and has been doing so for some time.
In paragraph 36, the Advisory Council says that, in the long view, and we should take a long view of the future of the Authority, the pattern of a publicly owned authority such as the A.E.A. would not necessarily be the correct form 2020 for Government participation. The reason for this is clear, and what the Advisory Council envisages for nuclear energy in the future is a much closer partnership between industry and the Government authority for nuclear energy. This is important, and the Advisory Council's preference for this to be on the lines of the Industrial Research and Development Authority is clear from paragraph 38.
The advantage of I.R.D.A. as distinct from the Ministry of Technology would have been that it would group science and technology together under the Ministry of Science. That would have been preferable in the light of the functions of the Atomic Energy Authority. The new solution which the Government have provided by creating a separate Ministry is bound to have the effect of splitting the link between science and technology right down the middle. Lord Halsbury mentioned this in another place the other day and said that it might be the price that we had to pay.
If the new Ministry is set up, we all hope that it will achieve a good advance in the atomic energy field, but it is important for the nuclear industry—I declare an interest in it in that I am a director of one of the firms in a nuclear consortium which is engaged in power station construction—that we should look at these points carefully and decide on a sensible organisation for the future. When one looks at the manifold activities of the Atomic Energy Authority, one sees how uncertain one can be about whether direct Ministerial responsibility is the right thing or whether an independent authority subject to the Ministry of Science would not be better.
The functions of the Research Group at Harwell alone cover research into all the non-military problems of atomic energy, mainly materials and effects of radiation, but also many branches of physics, chemistry, metallurgy and also electronics. Is that range suitable for direct Ministerial control? I doubt it. We want to know more about what the Government policy is for a large organisation in civil research with a big spending power. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has said, it is scientists and not Ministers who should manage Government laboratories.
2021 I now want to ask one or two questions about Aldermaston, principally on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury. In 1962, Aldermaston was cut back in regard to its requirements of fissile materials. The Weapons Group was down to about 16 per cent. devoted to civil purposes. I should like the hon. Gentleman to give an assurance to the staff about the future. I know that they are to be turned over to other work, but could he say how long the change-over will take and whether there will be any redundancy. It is important for the staff to know. We should like to know whether those who have been trained with the equipment there will be able to pursue other activities successfully.
With regard to Clause 4, and the Atomic Energy Authority in general, we welcome the fact that most scientists would like to use their talents and resources in a wider field. But we want to know more about this wider field, and the sooner a Government statement is made, the better.
The Atomic Energy Authority has had many ups and downs, as, indeed, has the industry. Last year it spent £45 million on civil research. It is important to have a clear policy, because three-quarters of the research was on the development of power reactors. The future of the Authority depends on this, and, therefore, an early decision, which we did not get out of the last Government, is required about the choice of reactor. I hope to hear that the advanced gas-cooled reactor will receive full consideration, and that the question of competition in the field of reactors will be decided in favour of British workmanship and skill. I have mentioned that I am a director of one of the companies concerned with power station construction. We shall be concerned, as will the whole of the industry, with the question of the comparative costs of reactors, British and American.
Mr. Cousins has given the impression that the whole Authority is to be reviewed. Is this so? Is the whole Authority and not only Aldermaston to be reviewed? If so, when can a statement be expected?
In general, there is no special merit, as we have heard today, in setting up a new Ministry. The problems will not be solved merely by doing that. It is not the 2022 best way of dealing with atomic energy, but since we are to have the new Ministry can we have early information from it? The Haldane proposal would have been much more likely to have brought about the partnership between industry and the Authority which the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy wanted, and I think that it would have provided freedom of research for scientists. Except for that, I support the Bill in respect of the Clauses concerning atomic energy.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
First, I should like to express my congratulations to my two hon. Friends who have made maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) is a member of my own union. We were all interested as well as amused by the practical knowledge that he obviously had and by the racy manner in which he expressed it. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), with his experience in the teaching of industrial subjects, which is extremely important in this field, as he made clear, brought home to us the very human problems involved in technical change.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). He could hardly expect me to answer the questions that he has put to my right hon. and hon. Friends. He must know that there has been for a long time general agreement about the need for a review of the atomic energy structure and functions, and also that we have been awaiting for a long time decisions about the future nuclear power programme. He cannot expect my right hon. Friends to have come to decisions during the short time that they have been in office.
I want to speak on two aspects of the Bill and take the debate a good deal wider. The first aspect is the method by which the Government determine policy for the support of research and development. The second will be some of the problems which face the new Minister of Technology, a matter which has occupied the debate to the greatest extent so far.
In the last few years there has been an increasing interest in the problems involved in science policy, particularly Government science policy, and in Parliamentary control. Anyone who reads the latest Report of the Advisory Council on 2023 Scientific Policy—I add my words to what has been said about Lord Todd, who has done an excellent job—cannot but be aware of the complete confusion in the minds of the Council and those scientists who advise the Government as to how they are to carry out their task. Control of science policy is a branch of public administration which needs a good deal further study. I recommend to hon. Members two brilliant contributions from which I have drawn a good deal of inspiration. One is an article by Dr. Stephen Toulmin in the spring issue of Minerva. It is a great pity that Dr. Toulmin was unable to continue his research in this country and went to America. I hope that it will be possible for him to return and continue his work in a suitable university or other institution in the very near future. My second source of inspiration was the evidence given by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, written largely by Dr. Eric Trist, to the Heyworth Committee which is studying whether or not we shall have a Social Service Research Council. This has since been published as a pamphlet.
It happens that both of these studies are examples of the great value of the social sciences, about which the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) asked questions. I hope that the Hey-worth Committee will report soon. It seems to be taking rather a long time. I hope that, when it reports, a social sciences research council will be set up.
I say this with all humility, because I am an engineer and not a scientist, but I believe there is a lot of loose talk about what is known as the "unity of science", the continuity of pure and applied science and of technology. It is true that the methods of the practitioners of these arts are roughly the same. The practitioners themselves are often interchangeable and there is no reason why the prestige of one branch should harm the prestige of another. It is also true that scientific discoveries should be quickly adapted and generally translated into useful products and processes. But these generally accepted ideas are no guide to the appropriate structure of general organisation or of policy.
2024 There are probably four main reasons of national policy for public support of research and development, although, of course, they considerably overlap. First, what one might describe as maintaining the level of intellectual achievement—mainly in the pure sciences and fundamental research—the advancement of knowledge. Secondly, there is the extension of technology into speculative fields, through objective research. This involves fairly basic work but it goes a good deal further into application. Thirdly, there is the development of new products and new materials, which is an extension of the work on technology in the speculative field. Fourthly, there is the solving of practical problems, whether they be technical or social, whether connected with weapons or with housing, for instance.
The first of these four aspects which is mainly concerned with pure science is, in economic terms, what can be described as a "consumption good". Most of the others are in the nature of investment goods. On most of the consumption goods, we can expect no return, but one certainly hopes for a return, eventually, on the investment goods.
The proportions of finance that should be devoted to each of these various aspects of research and development cannot be considered except as a policy matter which must be determined ultimately at the highest level. They are matters on which scientists or technologists themselves cannot do very much more than advise on the results of spending money in different ways. These are the choices which Lord Snow has described as the cardinal choices. Even in applied science and technology, there are different criteria by which projects must be judged. Some can be judged according to scientific merit, others by technological or social merit or by different mixtures of all three. The criteria of choice must depend on the context within which the project is undertaken. The National Research and Development Corporation uses different criteria, for instance, from the Medical Research Council.
What conclusions can we draw from this analysis for the machinery of Government? First, I believe that the 2025 organisation of and the support of research and development must be such that each unit, each research council or authority or whatever it may be, has only to take decisions as between commensurate alternatives and not between what have been described as "chalk and cheese" types of alternatives. An example would be whether to spend more on cancer research or on space research. This is not a scientific choice. It is a political and social choice.
Secondly, in view of the changing nature of scientific research, there must be a rational and flexible grouping of subjects of all types of bodies concerned with the distribution of research grants and the conduct of research. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the present arrangements have largely developed piecemeal and are not the most rational. Unlike hon. Members opposite, I believe that the Bill brings greater rationality into this subject than has so far been the case.
However, the present arrangement is still more by type of the grant-giving body than by the nature of the research or the problems to be solved. For instance, the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be supporting much applied research not only through the universities but through the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the new Natural Environment Research Council. In these bodies, the criteria for support are sometimes social and sometimes technological. The Minister of Technology on the other hand will be supporting some fundamental work through the Atomic Energy Authority. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be sufficiently powerful in the Cabinet to see that the research councils get their full share of funds for applied research.
I welcome the appointment of a Minister of Technology, whose job it will be to deal with the end of the research and development spectrum where we can expect relative shorter term returns. Much of this work is, of course, more development than research. It is that type of work which is most nearly ready for industrial exploitation and therefore, of course, by far the most expensive, if we can possibly except modern research in high energy physics.
2026 It is completely right to separate this work from work undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. But it is absolutely essential that it should be conducted in closest relationship with the economic Departments—the Department of Economic Affairs, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Power. There are two reasons for this.
First, it is important that the areas of technology which are encouraged by the new Ministry are those which are concerned with economic affairs—the economic planners—forecast as most likely to be valuable to us in the years ahead. Secondly, it is extremely important that those responsible for encouraging development of new technologies maintain the closest contact with those industries which have importance to our national economy.
The National Research and Development Corporation valued its close relationships with industry through the Board of Trade and it is extremely important that this link between the N.R.D.C.—the enlargement of whose powers I welcome—and the Government is not broken. There is considerable need to improve the communications between Government and industry, which have never been good, no matter which party has held office. Certainly, I do not think that the late Administration made any great improvements in this matter. There is a tendency for Ministers to talk to industry through what I may call its "elder statesmen" and not to those who are far more actively engaged.
The Advisory Council on Technology which Mr. Cousins has appointed is a very distinguished body. Several of its members are friends of mine. I am glad that four of them are connected with Imperial College, of which I was a graduate and am now a governor. But it tends to be dominated by what an hon. Member opposite called the "glamour" industries. Its members are very senior and very busy. I do not know how much time they will be able to give to this very important task and I hope that Mr. Cousins will find some way of involving men who are in, say, their forties and with their reputations still to make—men who have not got their "K's" yet and are personally 2027 directly involved in research and development in industry. I know that my right hon. Friend has ideas about this subject and that he is to set up advisory committees under his advisory councils, but I am not sure what will be the relationship of these bodies to the "Little Neddies", and it is important that we should know more about that.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) that the industries named for sponsorship so far have been the rather obvious ones and have been industries which, except for machine tools, are already progressive and advanced. I recognise the need to support technological developments which are what I would call "way out ahead." The latest Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy draws attention to the difficulties of the scale of research and development in some of these industries, a scale which can be accepted only if it is supported by Government and only if the industries themselves co-operate in it.
We have to be selective in what we support and I agree that one of the most urgent problems which my right hon. Friend faces is the modernisation of some of the more traditional industries and in particular the machine-building industries on which our exports ought to depend much more in future. I do not mean only machine tools, but I include textile machinery, printing machinery, marine engines and so on. We have to examine the export potential of a whole range of engineering products and to seek methods of raising their technological level. This is the crux of the problem, the basis of the questions which hon. Members opposite have directed to my right hon. Friend.
I do not think that he can be expected to answer these questions within the time his Ministry has been set up. This is a subject which the party opposite failed to deal with and we are now making a new attempt. Proposals for the use of Government purchasing power have been made on both sides of the House, not only Government purchasing power, but the purchasing power of the nationalised industries. For instance, through its research establishment, the Central Electricity Generating Board has probably played some part in improving the quality of the products which it buys. But I agree that there is another problem.
2028 We have to examine the relations between bodies like the C.E.G.B. and manufacturing industry to make sure that the standards laid down by the buyer are not such as to act as a deterrent to exports. Perhaps I can say, without implying anything more than I am in fact saying, that a similar situation exists in the aviation industry. The relationships between the airlines and the aircraft industry are very important, not only to the commercial success of the airlines, but for the future of the aircraft industry. This is a problem which my right hon. Friend will have to consider in the case of bodies like the C.E.G.B.
I turn now to the machine-building industries in general. Many of the firms in the industry are too small. On the whole, the scale of the industry is too small. We have to ensure a much larger number of mergers much faster if we are to get industries of a sufficiently large scale to undertake research and development, market research and so on and if we are to ensure that they have the sort of scientific management which they need.
One form of merger would be a joint company formed between a number of firms and the Government or a nationalised industry. I am glad that we have the support of Lord Todd for the setting up of joint companies between the Government and private firms. This is a method used by the N.R.D.C. and I do not see why we should not expand it.
I do not know whether hon. Members appreciate the useful development work which is done by the research bodies of the nationalised industries to which my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster referred. Practically all the mining machinery now being used by the National Coal Board has been developed by the Board's own engineering research department. It is being made by private firms, presumably under licence from the Coal Board, and exported on a considerable scale. The Gas Council's research establishment at Solihull is now developing a new method of forming gas out of petroleum products and this, too, is being exported.
Even the railways, which a few years ago were among the most technically backward sections of British industry, now have an absolutely first-class research department at Derby developing products and modernising some old 2029 products which may have some export potential. It may be thought that such an antiquated and traditional piece of mechanism as a railway wagon would not be capable of being improved, but at Derby some radical changes are being made in the bogeys and springing of wagons which may provide an export potential for this traditional industry.
In a reply which the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) gave in June, 1963, it was stated that there were nine companies already in existence in which the Government held shares and at that time the Government received more than £140 million a year in dividends. That shows that this is not so radical a new idea as hon. Members opposite suggest.
What the Government might do is to introduce a short enabling Bill, along the lines of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. Act, allowing the Treasury to advance money for purposes of this sort, so that there would be no hold up in the translation of some of these ideas into practical manufacture. We must never forget that the whole object of the exercise of the Ministry of Technology is to make money for the national economy. We have not only to encourage new projects and new processes, but rigidly to scrutinise existing products, often the most glamorous, to see whether they can make the contribution which they are expected to make towards our national economy.
We must not forget that engineers who are employed on advance projects such as aircraft can often bring new and more sophisticated ideas and methods to the traditional engineering industries. I agree that it is better to bring the men to the industries than to try to take the industries to where the men are, because the traditions in industries such as the aircraft industry are such that they are not suitable for the normal commercial exploitation of engineering products. Their standards of safety and design and so on are far too high and they do not have the required commercial outlook. On the other hand, bringing men with their type of sophisticated training and skill into the more traditional and commercial industries can often have a substantial effect on the raising of the technical levels of those industries.
2030 I welcome my right hon. Friend's interest in the status of engineers, but I warn him that before starting to grant a charter, he should be certain that the standards of entry into the profession will be high enough and will be comparable with those of other countries, although in the end the status of engineers will depend on the demand by industry for first-class brains and first-class education and training. If there is no demand from industry for men of this sort, nothing in the world will help to raise the status of engineers in this country. It is the responsibility of industry to see that the standard of our engineers is high.
Finally, while my right hon. Friend is considering advanced and expensive technological developments, I hope that he will remember that in many respects we can no longer go it alone and that we have to collaborate, not only with our friends in Europe, if we are to stand up to the industrial giants in the world. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. It is merely the march of scientific and technical progress and we had better face it. If we do not face it, we shall continue the backward-looking attitudes which are more typical of the party opposite in their attitudes towards the City and the Empire and so on. We have to face the world in which we are now living.
In dealing with these problems, my right hon. Friend will be making a major contribution to the great re-examination of national policies now being undertaken by the Government. In this country we now face the moment of truth, a moment which we have been approaching ever since the end of the war. This is not a question of a temporary crisis. We are now on our own, as it were, temporarily aided, but the aid will not last for long. It is fundamentally a very simple problem and we have overloaded it with complications. Either we sell more abroad than we buy, or we cannot go on spending abroad, investing abroad, or raising our own standard of living. It is as simple as that.
This is the task with which my right hon. Friend's Ministry has been created to help, because it is very largely on the technical level of our industries that we shall depend for success in this task. I do not believe that we are not competitive by price. At least, I have been recently 2031 talking to people in industry who say that by price we are fully competitive in many of our industries. Are we technically competitive? That is the important question.
It is not going to be in the future the City of London, however great its expertise, that will save us but the manufacturers of the sophisticated products which we can sell abroad. The reputation of my right hon. Friend will be made by the power which he exerts not in the corridors of the universities and scientific institutions, but in the corridors which lead to the development, design and production departments of our industries. In this I wish him the best of luck.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I would like, first, to join the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and others who have paid tribute to the D.S.I.R. and to Lord Todd and the committee which has advised the Government for many years on matters of scientific policy. Having had the opportunity and pleasure of going to Vienna to discuss the problems of keeping Parliamentarians in touch with scientific advances, and having been led in that exercise by Lord Todd, I can assure the House that this country has been served nobly. I am sure that the whole House will hope that in his new capacity he will prove himself as forcible a personality as he did in the sphere of Government science.
This debate is, I suppose—certainly in part—concerned with a Bill, which represents an attempt to ally quite a large number of Reports, none of which fully agreed with the others. We are primarily concerned with the question of whether we should have a Ministry of Technology. The Secretary of State, in moving the Second Reading, used the term "neutral Minister", which caused a flashback in my memory. It is only in the last few moments that I have discovered of what I was reminded.
It was a paper which, on that visit to Vienna, was presented to many of us—and I am glad to say that the hon. Member for Edmonton was one of those who made that visit—by Professor Weisskopf. His subject, "Why Pure Science?". He told us in that paper:Weak interactions are known to us through radioactivity. The usual radioactive decay, the beta decay, is the best-known example 2032 of a so-called weak interaction. It is a process which takes place in the nucleus, whereby a neutron is transformed into a proton and in so doing releases an electron and a so-called neutrino, that mysterious particle without charge or mass.I hope that, if we are not to have I.R.D.A., the new Ministry will not be described as a "neutrino Ministry"—that is, one without charge or mass.
We are to have a Ministry of Technology, with Mr. Frank Cousins at its head. All those who heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) can hardly wait to see the two of them taking each other on across the Floor of the House. I certainly wish Mr. Cousins every possible good wish in stopping any drift in this matter, but I warn him that there is nothing that drifts like "Snow". I hope that the "Corridors of Power" do not prove too fascinating and do not take the eye of Mr. Cousins off the ball.
We must consider, first, whether to have a unified Ministry. I can never remember which came first, the Report of the Trend Committee or that of the Robbins Committee. Both Committees were hard at work and it was almost a race to see which would present its recommendations first. Certainly, the recommendation of the Robbins Committee for a division of Ministries, with the important reservation of the minority Report at the end by Mr. H. C. Shearman, was hardly borne out by what was stated by the Trend Committee. If I had to choose between which machinery I would have—between what was recommended by Lord Robbins and by the Trend Committee— I think that I would choose the Trend Committee's recommendation.
I suppose that all hon. Members are in the great difficulty when approaching this matter that we cannot possibly know all we should know about all the research councils and their work and all of what goes on in connection with science and technology in Government Departments. Would that we could. We must, instead, try to form a balanced judgment as a result of reading reports written by those who are most qualified in these subjects. As I say, on balance, I come down in favour of Trend, but, in particular, I feel that the last Government—and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) will not mind 2033 my saying this—made a mistake in seeking to implement Robbins and Trend by dividing two things which should not have been divided. They decided to divide N.R.D.C. from I.R.D.A. That was a mistake.
Although I would prefer not to have had a Ministry of Technology, but, rather, an authority—and I would much rather have seen an authority set up earlier—I would have liked to have seen N.R.D.C. and I.R.D.A. together, certainly under the same auspices. Knowing the long experience which the Board of Trade has had with N.R.D.C., I am not at all sure that it would not have been better to have put N.R.D.C. and I.R.D.A. together under Board of Trade auspices.
That the Government have decided to unite the two is a right decision. The Government have placed them under the same auspices, but that presupposes one other thing, and to illustrate this I quote paragraph 103 of the Trend Report, which stated:We take it to be axiomatic that neither the Minister nor his advisers should seek to exercise supervision over the scientific judgment of the research agencies acting within their respective terms of reference and within the resources which can be made available to them.I hope that whatever decision is taken on these matters, that axiom will be upheld. This is absolutely essential and I tried to say so when we were debating the Machinery of Government Bill.
I was glad to hear what the Secretary of State said today about the rôle of the Ministry of Technology. Would that we could have had it two days ago, when we were debating the Machinery of Government Bill. Instead, we had to place a lot of trust in what we were told—with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sitting beside the Pussy Galore of the Goldfinger outfit. He reminded me of "Odd-job", in view of his having to play the role which befell him in that debate.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the statement in the written reply of the Prime Minister of 26th November about the role of the Ministry of Technology?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am, and I appreciate that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) takes an extremely objective view of all scientific 2034 matters. In view of that, I am sure he will agree that when we have a Bill designed to establish a new Government Department one hopes that a fair description will be given to the House of what the new Ministry will be setting out to do. That we did not have when debating the Machinery of Government Bill. Instead, we got a rather pious, platitudinous statement about the psychological importance of having someone like Mr. Cousins in charge of such a Department.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Does the hon. Member recollect anything in the Prime Minister's reply, to which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) referred, about direct purchasing arrangements by the Ministry of Technology?
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
No. I am grateful for that intervention. It was a great pity that the opportunity was not taken on Second Reading of the Machinery of Government Bill to fill in these gaps. However, the Secretary of State today went a good way towards answering many of the questions which were left unanswered when we debated that Bill. Meanwhile, hon. Members have had an opportunity to read the reports of what was said in another place on this matter. I appreciate that Lord Snow went a considerable way, but many details still need to be filled in.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey made a fair comment when he said that if we are to have a new drive to improve technology and the application of it to industry, perhaps we might find someone better to lead it than a man who has failed to produce it in the British docks when he might have been able to have done something about it. Nevertheless, we still wish him well. I hope that preferably before he comes into this House, he will answer the request put to him today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey to come out with a clear, categorical statement of what he intends to do.
There is another Report, published before either the Trend Report or the Robbins Report, which is of considerable importance in this context. I refer to the Report which has come to be known as the Gibb-Zuckerman Report on "The Management and Control of Research and Development". Many recommendations were made in that Report but none 2035 was more important than that contained in paragraph 310:What we would hope to see is a much greater overlap between the Scientific and Administrative (and indeed the Executive) Class of the Civil Service than now exists. We look forward to the day when men who began in the Scientific Civil Service will become Permanent Secretaries, and when others who started in the Administrative Class will occupy some of the senior posts in research organisations. We believe that there are jobs at present held by members of the Administrative Class which could be done as well by scientists, and vice versa—there are some that could, perhaps, be done better. There should be much greater flexibility in deciding who is the best man to do a job regardless of his origins and classification.That was closely in line with what we recommended in the Report, to which I referred two days ago, which was prepared under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), when we tried to produce a Report on "Science in Industry: the Influence of Government Policy". I repeat, as I said two days ago, that one of the things which we pressed as strongly as any in that Report was the need to regear the whole Government machine.
One great danger which I foresee in having the Ministry of Technology is that unless deliberate action is taken to prevent it, it will tend to make certain Government Departments feel that they can leave all the difficult technical matters to the Ministry of Technology, who will save them the trouble of sorting them out. It would be catastrophic if this were the consequence.
I reiterate my plea for a new look to be given, not only to those Government Departments dealing with industrial matters, but particularly to the Treasury, and to ensure that we really have the Cabinet machinery, the necessary Cabinet committee and its proper secretariat, as well as the Treasury itself, so geared as to be able to give all possible co-operation in whatever the Ministry of Technology decides.
I am also a little anxious about the separation of the clearly defined industries which are to be put under the auspices of this Department. A danger which is creeping into scientific talk these days is the somewhat unreal distinction which is drawn between what are called the science-based and the traditional industries. There are very few 2036 industries today which can afford not to be science based. Some of the oldest of all are certainly technologically based, and if they are technologically based, they are probably scientifically based too.
In any event, "technology" is a wrong word to use for this. According to the dictionary, technology is really a synonym for terminology. That is not what we want. I have tired to redefine it in my own vernacular by saying that I would put science as the knowledge, technology as the "know-how" and the technical work as the knack of how to put one's "know-how" into operation. I still believe that far and away the most important of all these is the last.
The great danger about technology is that it means words and terminology, and it is not really words and terminology that are wanted. What is wanted is action, and we will get the action through the technician rather than from the technologist. If we do not get the right number of technicians, if we do not get an adequate number of engineers, all the technology in the world in all the Ministries of Technology will not get us what we really want, and that is improved production to meet foreign competition. The hon. Member for Edmonton never said a truer word than, towards the close of his speech, when he said that it was a question of whether we exported more than we bought. This is the big issue. When we get our visible trade balance right, we can do all sorts of things.
I hope very much that the new Ministry of Technology will not corner the four industries in the way that has been declared so far but that it will use its influence throughout the machinery of Government in all the Departments to get them thinking scientifically and technically. If it can achieve that, it will be doing a wonderful job and I hope that in doing it through Government Departments the Ministry will be able to get it better applied outside as well.
I suggest that the first job of Ministers is in Government Departments. Until they get their headquarters right, any operation upon which they embark will go wrong. That is true not only in military operations, but of any civil enterprise. If we do not have the headquarters right, we will not get the results that we seek.
The great danger of the new Ministry is that it will tend to say that its main 2037 interests are the four industries in which it has declared an interest—telecommunications, electronics, computers and machine tools—that those are the ones that it will bother about and the rest can go hang. I do not say that that is what Mr. Cousins intends to do. Nobody yet knows what he intends to do, because he has not said. Again, I reiterate the plea that he should say it as soon as possible, before his by-election.
Until Mr. Cousins says these things and makes it clear that he merely regards these four industries as vital to all others and that he will do his best to help those industries to help the manufacturing industries, the natural supposition will be that the industries which have not been included under the auspices of this Department can go their own happy way without bothering too much.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker), in a very amusing maiden speech, which we all enjoyed, referred to a research association not being ready to promote what it had done and to get it into the industry. I am sorry that the hon. Member chose that example, because P.E.R.A. has been exemplary compared with some of the other associations in trying to get industries to take up what they have produced.
The kind of thing which has to be encouraged by the new Ministry is to get the research associations not merely to sit on what they have done, but to get the industries which are supposed to support those research associations ready to take up what the research associations have discovered and produced. That is the approach that we want throughout industry. If Mr. Cousins goes about this the right way, he may be able to help in this process.
That Mr. Cousins should start trying to progress research council work or anything of that sort or to try to regulate the flow of scientific effort inside the research councils is, however, a dangerous exercise for him to take on. He is not a scientist; I do not think that he professes to be. The important thing is that he should be a good picker of men to see that the right people are in the research councils with which he will be concerned and that they are enabled to get on with the task. It is up to the Ministry to get the results 2038 of that work fully taken up and employed to the advantage of the country as a whole.
I have already spoken for longer than I intended, but I should like to add this. I hope that hand-in-hand with the creation of this new Ministry the Government today will realise that the best possible chance they can give to this new Ministry is to find better ways of enabling us in Parliament to take a much more active part in promoting the country's scientific effort.
We in the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee—and the hon. Member for Edmonton, as Chairman of that Committee, is to be congratulated on having done all that he has to get this brought about—have put forward a proposition that in this Parliament we should have a Select Committee to deal with scientific matters. I hope very much that the Select Committee on Procedure which is about to be set up will go into this suggestion as strongly as possible, because it would be of immense benefit not only to both sides of the House, but, more important still, to the scientific effort of the country.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
I think that there has been a very general welcome for the Bill in the House and that the sentiment on both sides has been one of warm good will towards the Secretary of State and the Minister. The argument so far has been, inevitably, to a certain extent about the split of responsibilties between these two Ministers. I hope that we shall take this as read from now on and go on to think about how the Ministers will operate.
In the wide range of activities from nursery schools to universities and to industrial production, I myself feel that the most vulnerable link in the chain is undoubtedly that between pure research and its application in industry. All the evidence points to this, and it seems to me absolutely vital that the link between both sides should lie within the responsibility of one Minister. In my view, that is the primary consideration.
The Bill does rather give us here in the House a feeling of being a stretcher party which has gone out to pick up the bits and pieces left after a protracted and rather bloody Whitehall battle, and that we are really just handling bits left over 2039 from past activities rather than creating new activities. Although I think that, naturally, the new Minister is anxious to acquire his birth certificate to protect him from any slurs of illegitimacy from hon. Members opposite, I should like to see the powers more closely defined and perhaps increased when we are in Committee on the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), very rightly in my view, asked how the Minister will operate—both Ministries, indeed. Well, I think that in the Department of Education and Science we are relatively well on the way to a good solution and that the problems are relatively well defined. In science, education, production, personnel, we have gone a long way towards defining the problems, thanks to the Robbins Report and thanks, also, to the Scientific Manpower Committee, and we are not, in the Bill, making any very new departures.
However, the wording about the Secretary of State's powers to give directions to research councils is a little different from that in previous legislation, and though I am assured that there is no intention to alter any of these powers, I hope that we may expect that these powers may be used more actively in the future than they have been in the past. If this is so, and I hope it is, then I think the use of the powers of the Secretary of State to give directives to the research councils should be under very close public scrutiny both by this House and the scientific community.
I think, therefore, that it might be desirable to put into the Bill a Clause requiring research councils to publish not only retrospective reports of their activities, but reports on what research they would like to do if they are able to get the money out of the Secretary of State and the Treasury to do it. There could be argument as to the direction of and emphasis in the work of the research councils, and undoubtedly the Select Committee would be a good instrument for review by the House of those reports.
In the field of technology the situation is a good deal less clear. There are three broad lines so far. First of all, the taking over of the responsibilities and the interests already existing; secondly, 2040 bringing advanced technology and new processes into industry; and, thirdly, the sponsoring of the four industries, machine tools, electronics, telecommunications and computers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wallasey pointed out that the whole field of technology is a function of management alongside sales, market research, production, and so on. He asked, why make this specific function the concern of one Ministry? We have, of course, other functional Ministries.
The Ministry of Labour is the most obvious example and the question occurs to one's mind. Why not abolish the Ministry of Labour? That might well be a good idea. Do we need a Ministry for every functional activity? I am quite sure that the answer is that we do not need a Ministry for every functional activity, but we do need it for some. Of course, the need will vary from time to time, but I think that the time is now ripe for technology to be a functional Ministry.
It is a serious problem how the Ministry is to operate. The first requirement, undoubtedly, is intelligence. It has got to know what is going on in industry. I think a sign of strength here is that a senior post in the Ministry is held by Professor Blackett, who is constantly emphasising this need for intelligence. This is another aspect in which the Bill needs strengthening. If the experience of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in its industrial investigations is anything to go by it is very difficult under present statutory powers to find out sufficient of the technological methods in any industry.
We have in the economic field the Statistics of Trade Act, which gives the Government really astonishingly wide powers to investigate. Something parallel to this is needed in the technological field, for the men who carry out inquiries as they did with machine tools and in the textile machinery industry. If we are to have those powers, then the Bill may be supposed to give an opportunity for the first step towards the creation of these powers of investigation into the technological methods in industry. As the Government already have powers under the Statistics of Trade Act to inquire into costs, I think that those 2041 powers could be conveniently linked to inquiry into technological methods of an industry's operations.
However, I hope that we shall not wait till this intelligence system is organised for reporting on technology in industry. We see in industry a sort of cross-patching of projects and of functions. An aircraft, for instance, is a project which goes through various stages of project study, design, the drawing offices, the workshops, and throughout this long process there are two types of management. First there is the project manager who is responsible for the budgeting of the project, and he has a very powerful means of influencing the departments which actually do the work, the drawing office, the design office, and so on. In industry this is the situation. How is the Minister of Technology to operate? He will be able to influence projects and to influence functions. I wonder whether he will have enough scope, the scope which I think he needs, with projects in the field of the four industries. But he will have some.
In computers, for example, we are undoubtedly an under-developed country and a very under-developed Government. The Phillips Company in Eindhoven spends more on computers each year for its own use than the British Government as a whole spends. They spend more on the purchase, hiring and maintenance of computers. Are we then just to fight the old battles about justifying each computer as we go and advance at an astonishingly slow rate in this country, or is there something which the Minister of Technology can do?
I think that we could well set up a national data processing service, using telecommunications from the Post Office, to give industry a computer service, from any point in the country. This could well be started by the Post Office and the Ministry of Technology which has a very close interest in the subject. Pilot schemes could be started which might cost £5 million and take about five years. This is only an example of the kind of project which the Ministry of Technology might encourage.
On the functional side, several suggestions have been made by the Feilden Report. One important suggestion was the production of design manuals. There are several fields in which they would be 2042 useful in industry. For example, in chemical engineering there is nothing in this country to match the Kellogg design manuals. Again, in computers, we have nothing in the way of a computation library so that any person can pick up a computation where somebody else has done the work and so save himself the time of doing it. These are only examples of the kind of functional activity which the Ministry of Technology should undertake.
When one has got an intelligence system going, when one has cut one's teeth handling a number of projects and functional reforms, there remains the problem of instruments. The good Lord Todd has given us his blessing for public investment in particular firms with equity shared between State and private individuals. In America, the enormous expenditure on defence projects has led to a tremendous proliferation of relatively small but high powered firms who derive their income largely from bits and pieces of Government research projects.
The economic environment in which those firms operate does not exist in this country. One cannot go along anywhere and set up the kind of small firm which handles the special type of lode cell which goes into missiles, in the way these firms are proliferating in the States. There is not sufficient income for these firms simply from selling their products; but they exist as spearheads, as a means of advancing technology, in particular fields in ways which require a very sensitive and quick adaptation to new needs and opportunities, perhaps to which a Government Department is not equipped to respond. It needs, too, a very quick source of new finance.
N.R.D.C. has not been able in this way to encourage the small intensively science based firm acting as spearhead in one particular direction. Given, say, the power to advance up to even only £1 million to any one enterprise, the Ministry of Technology could find a large number of outlets for stimulating scientific advance in industry over a very wide range. Possibly there could be a new Clause in the Bill to deal with this.
We are proposing to give the Minister wide powers to spend money on the application of scientific research and development in industry. We are already giving him wide powers to wage war against sin. 2043 The problem is that when the Minister goes to the Treasury and says, "I want to wage war against sin", he may find difficulty in getting funds for any particular project. If we define more closely some circumstances in which he can get this money, I am sure that it would not produce a tremendous battle across the Floor of the House.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite say that this is the thin wedge of nationalisation, or public ownership, or doctrinnaire Socialism, and choose to fight that battle, there is no doubt that that kind of Amendment could not be carried in the Bill.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The hon. Gentleman is basing part of his argument on the experience of American science-based industries which have proliferated within their huge expenditure. Would he not agree that many of those firms have done well precisely because they have used techniques and methods discovered in the course of military research and have applied them in the commercial field? I could give dozens of examples. If we provide firms with a Government subsidy to do this, we remove from them the very feature which has benefited these industries in the United States, namely, the prospect of getting money in the commercial market.
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Gentleman is right. Having got going, the firm is then able to expand tremendously into the civil field in many cases, but it has got going, and it is there that the defence contracts have played such a tremendous role. This is up to hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they adopt a doctrinaire attitude on this, there is nothing that we on this side of the House can do except to indulge in the kind of ding-dong battle to which hon. Gentlemen opposite treated us the other night. But I do not think that this is the sentiment of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think that they are wholly prepared to see Government money going into the equity of small science based firms in a very big way.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
If the hon. Gentleman is arguing the case for a five-year budget for research and development, and things of that sort, I am with him.
§ Dr. Bray
With a great deal of control in the hands of the chap in the firm itself, and not under direct Treasury control, and, therefore, inevitably, public money in the form of equity in the company? I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support, and if a new Clause is tabled perhaps he will put his name to it.
I am sure that the Minister of Technology will be interested to have the views of all hon. Members on the methods of working the new Ministry. I hope that during the Committee and later stages of the Bill hon. Members will continue this discussion on the methods of working the Ministry. If that is done it will be of great benefit to the Government.
§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
When we debated technology in the debate, on the Address, on 5th November, I said that I hoped it would be the first of many debates on the subject during this Parliament, and I was certain that the experience which had been brought to the House by new Members would prove invaluable.
I was impressed by the speeches of the hon. Members for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) and Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) in this debate. They bore out the expectations which I expressed on the last occasion. Both hon. Members were very lucid and practical, and this debate has benefited greatly from their contributions.
The hon. Member for Eccles said that in the advance of technology one should take along the people affected. I very much endorse that attitude. If we must have a Minister of Technology, I think that we have made a very good choice, because Mr. Cousins will be understood by the workers in the industries affected by the technological advance, and will be able to explain to them why they should support the efforts of the Government.
That is not to say that I support the establishment of the Ministry of Technology. I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), that it would have been better if we had had a thorough examination of the Ministry of Technology the other evening instead of having to wait until today. It would have saved a lot 2045 of acrimony and Government time because we might have got through the Bill quicker if that kind of explanation had been given to the Committee on that occasion. We have had quite a good explanation from the Secretary of State this afternoon, but he left out a few things, and I should like to put some questions on them.
One recommendation in the Trend Report was that there should be an annual White Paper on scientific policy, and that this should be debated in the House. I should like to know whether the Government have accepted that recommendation, and, further, now that the Ministry of Technology has been established, whether there will be an annual White Paper on its activities which can similarly be debated in the House. This would be of great assistance because, when these White Papers appeared, we would discover what the Minister of Technology had been doing.
The next thing to which I refer is the breaking up of the D.S.I.R. I cannot agree with the Secretary of State's distinction between the two types of research. He said that research could be divided into two kinds—one, pure or applied, which is directed to the needs of industry, and the other which is directed towards the general advancement of scientific knowledge. I know that Professor Zuckerman has attempted to define different kinds of research, although not along those lines, but I do not think that it is possible. I believe that all research is one, and that to try to draw an arbitrary line between one kind and another will lead to trouble.
This was very much the feeling of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, which wrote to the Prime Minister in the middle of November about the establishment of this new Ministry. The Institution does not object to the establishment of a Ministry as such; in fact, the very contrary is the case. It says that technologyshould be the responsibility of a Minister of major rank with the support of a strong Department because of the complexity of the problem and the wider range of policy issues involved.I do not want to go all through the discussion that we had on the subject the other day, but I think that it is based on a misunderstanding, as the right hon. 2046 and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said at the time. Later in its letter to the Prime Minister the Institution said:We regard it as vital that the basic research now undertaken outside the Universities should be continued and extended. It is particularly important that this should be carried out closely together with applied research, as in D.S.I.R. Any attempt to separate them would be seriously damaging to both kinds of research.I go further. I say that to try to separate the kind of research carried on in the universities from that carried on in Government institutions could be equally damaging.
What will happen to the research carried out in the colleges of advanced technology? That research will be concerned primarily with technological matters, and yet will come under the Secretary of State for Education and Science. This feature of the new proposals may be harmful to the long-term future of our research.
§ Mr. Maxwell
Will the hon. Member kindly read the Prime Minister's reply to the letter from the I.P.C.S.?
§ Mr. Lubbock
The Prime Minister's reply, which I also have, was in very mollifying terms. I do not think that he dealt with that point in any of the short paragraphs which comprise the letter. The Institution was not left very much the wiser when it had read it. The letter said that the Prime Minister knew what the views of the I.P.C.S. were before he formulated his proposals.
I now turn to the question of development contracts and public purchases. As far as I am aware, this afternoon was the first occasion on which we have been told that it was one of the functions of the new Ministry of Technology to place purchases in private industry, and particularly in the four named industries —telecommunications, machine tools, and so on. I want to know a great deal more about the proposals before I can accept them. The Secretary of State gave us very little idea who was to decide which public purchases would be made by the Ministry of Technology and which by the Departments which would hitherto have been responsible.
Let us consider the telecommunications industry. Who will decide whether a particular purchase will be made 2047 through the auspices of the Ministry of Technology or through the Postmaster-General? Some criterion should be laid down if we are not to run into trouble and the duplication of effort between the two Ministries. I could give many similar examples.
We heard a great deal of talk about civil development contracts in the previous Administration, but this idea has never really got off the ground. I am convinced that it is a very good idea, and I would like to see it extended, but we ought to hear a little more about the way in which the Minister of Technology will be able to get the idea going where the previous Administration failed, through the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I do not see that purely by creating a new Ministry we shall suddenly achieve a great expansion of Government effort behind developments in civilian industries.
I have a word to say about the choice of the four industries. It is a little arbitrary. As one hon. Member said, it has been confined to those industries which are most advanced technologically but not necessarily to those which can benefit most by the application of technology. One example which came to my mind during the discussion with the scientific instrument industry, which has been particularly backward in this country—under the protection of high tariffs, I am sorry to say. That industry could benefit greatly from the application of technology.
What will be the new function of the Atomic Energy Authority? Here again —and this is analogous to what I have already said about public purchasing by the Ministry of Technology—I want to know a great deal more about the kind of work which it is supposed to undertake. The Secretary of State gave one example—desalination—but I am under the clear impression that the Authority is already doing work of that kind, and it is not being prohibited from doing it under its present terms of reference.
I do not believe that a proposal like this would have been put into the Bill without a very clear idea in the mind of the Authority itself and, through it, the Government, of what kind of work it 2048 will undertake. It must have had certain projects in mind, and the Secretary of State should be a little more frank with us and tell us what immediate ideas the Authority has in this respect.
There are three really big problems facing the country which are not affected by the Bill, although the new machinery which we are setting up will, in the long run, perhaps do something to alter the situation. First, we have the problem of matching the manpower needs of industry and Government Departments to the output of the colleges of advanced technology and the universities. There is a serious long-term gap here, which was referred to in an article in the New Scientist by Mr. B. J. Holloway, Secretary to Manchester University Appointments Board, under the title, "The Threat of Manpower Starvation". Mr. Holloway says that by 1970 there will be a serious shortfall in particular disciplines. Not everyone agrees with his conclusions. Sir Willis Jackson wrote in the New Scientist thereafter saying that some of Mr. Holloway's assumptions were not quite right. But this has drawn attention to a very serious situation.
The same thing is dealt with in the Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, which has just come out. If we look at the figures in the appendices we can see how serious the situation is. For example, in 1962–63 fewer engineers qualified for first degrees in the colleges of advanced technology and universities in both electrical and mechanical engineering, and fewer electrical engineers were admitted to membership of the professional institutions concerned, than was the case in 1961–62.
These are the two disciplines which Professor Zuckerman, in his last Report, said were going to be short of men in 1965 and the second half of this decade. This is a very serious problem. I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles, I think it was, who said that we should not compel the schools to direct boys and girls into the technologies rather than the arts. This is really a matter of public relations more than anything else, and I am very glad also to see in the Report of the Advisory Council that attention is being paid to the status of technology.
I think that the idea of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. putting on programmes of 2049 technological subjects is a very good one. The Report says:The B.B.C. and the Independent Television authorities are now beginning to respond to the need to present programmes on technology of the kind that have been successful in popularising pure science.I hope that many of these programmes will be put on at peak viewing hours and not relegated to the end of broadcasting time in the evening. I should like to see them replace some of the muck that we have to put up with on a Sunday night, such as "Sunday Night at the London Palladium". Let us replace that programme with a programme on nuclear power stations. I think that that would be a first-class idea.
After the election I went to Anglesey, to relax for a week or so, and while there went to the nuclear power station which is being built at Wylfa. This is a most impressive achievement of British engineering. It is the largest power station in the world and when completed it will have an output of 1,180 megawatts. It is impressive and would make a fine subject for a television programme on Sunday night.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Would the hon. Gentleman say that he advocated this during the election campaign or waited until after the election?
§ Mr. Lubbock
As a matter of fact, I had not seen this station at the time of the election. However, I shall be glad to repeat these remarks in my constituency. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that.
Another subject which would make a very fine television programme is the engineering work which went into the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. We hear a great deal of the achievements of Sir Bernard Lovell, but how much do we hear about the engineers who built the telescope?
That is the first main problem. The second is, I think, the acceptance of new methods, although the hon. Member for Doncaster may say that it is not difficulties on the shop floor which have prevented the introduction of new methods. I think that this is a problem for both sides of industry, for management and the trade unions and that it cannot be solved by one in isolation.
I have been in the kind of works described by the hon. Gentleman. I 2050 remember distinctly an incident very similar to the one he quoted, of a foreman in a shop who showed me the machine which he had worked on as an apprentice. But there has to be cooperation by both sides, and this really is why I welcome the appointment of Mr. Cousins, as I said at the beginning.
Finally, the third great problem which we have to face is the transfer of scientific and technological manpower and resources from defence and their application to civilian purposes. This has not been discussed at all today, but if one looks at the figures one finds that the Ministry of Aviation is spending as much as the total amount of public money spent on the whole of D.S.I.R.
Over a period of years we must try to correct the balance and divert resources back from military to civilian purposes. If this problem can be solved we can look forward to an era of unparalleled abundance not only in Britain and the West, but in the world as a whole.
One word, in conclusion, about a Select Committee on Science and Technology. I entirely agree with everything that has been said by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am very keen on this idea, too, and would go further and say that we should not wait for the report of the Select Committee on Procedure, but should set up this new Committee now.
§ 3.4 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
It seems a pity that time is moving on and that we have to draw this debate to a conclusion, because I am sure that those hon. Members who have sat through it would agree with me that we have had thoughtful, knowledgeable and, I think, helpful contributions from the hon. Members who have addressed us—my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing), my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) and the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock). I will not detain the House by commenting on their speeches, although I should like to have done so, but I will make reference later in my speech to one or 2051 two points which they have made. If I do not go into greater detail it is because the Joint Under-Secretary needs time in which to wind up and not because I think that their speeches do not deserve further comment.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the two excellent maiden speeches which we had from the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) and the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). It struck me that the hon. Member for Doncaster showed us that robust approach which characterises hon. Members from Yorkshire. His comments on the human aspects of technological change were, I think, to the point. I certainly have a common experience with him in that I too have railway workshops in my constituency, and so that is a common bond between the hon. Member and myself.
The hon. Member for Eccles developed rather further the thought that people have to be carried with us if we are to be successful in technological change. I am sure that we all agree with that. My own observation would be that the fear of unemployment is only one of the fears which people nourish in contemplating change. I believe there is as well a deep and innate fear of the unknown, particularly when the language in which change is presented is a language with which many of the people who fear the change are unfamiliar. It is, I believe, as much a problem of communication as it is of actually effecting the particular technological change.
Secondly, I would observe for myself that I think that there is a certain split personality in many of us in this country. As consumers, we want change passionately and demand it. We want better products, better roads, better hospitals and better schools, but I sometimes think that as producers and providers of services we are far less enthusiastic of change—indeed, rather resistant to change. We want the other chap to change. We want the people who will benefit us to change. We say that they are stick-in-the-muds, not up to date and not with it, but, on the other hand, our own particular job is somehow rather special and that should not be changed. I believe also—I make no party point about it—that we must 2052 practise what we preach and start with change in ourselves.
I think that this debate has illustrated the importance of this House debating scientific and technological subjects more. The debate obviously today is an occasion for a sort of tour d'horizon. It is important that we should have more debates on specific aspects of the very wide spectrum which we call science and technology so I should like to add my plea to that of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely, the hon. Member for Edmonton, and the hon. Member for Orpington that we must have a Select Committee for science in this House. I would be content for us to try it in the limited fields proposed by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee to the last Administration and, no doubt, repeated to this Administration. Let us start with that, examining the Reports of the Research Council and, if we can, extend it to the research associations because they get substantial grants of public money, and therefore, I think, would be a proper field for a Select Committee to study. I hope that if such a Select Committee is established we start with having a little innovation into the House of Commons itself. Let us not be limited to the word of mouth. Let us make proper use of visual aids. When we debate economic matters I think how much easier it would be if we could show a slide to illustrate a graph. We talk about the necessity for the country to be numerate as well as literate, but what are the opportunities in this House of presenting numbers in an agreeable, intelligent and concise form? This is a matter I have been feeling very strongly about for a long time and I am delighted to have the opportunity of stating it in public.
Coming to the Bill as a whole, I think that this debate has made clear that in respect of the Governmental arrangements for assisting basic scientific research the proposals in this Bill are agreeable to us on this side of the House. They follow very closely the recommendations of the Trend Report and more especially the proposals of the last Administration. As the House will recall, these proposals were outlined by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) in a Written Answer on 28th July. These 2053 proposal, with one important exception—namely that relating to the Ministry of Technology—were confirmed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in his Written Answer to a Question on 26th November—if I may be allowed to say so, I thought it was a very full and helpful Answer—and in is speech today in presenting the Bill.
We on this side of the House are very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has reaffirmed the Haldane principle which established the independence of the Research Councils and which, I believe, has served science and the nation well ever since. This principle received the blessing of the Trend Committee arid I think it is worth recording, before we give the Bill a Second Reading, the reasons why the Trend Committee reaffirmed the principle established as long ago as 1918.
I should like to read the appropriate paragraph from the Trend Report. Referring to the Research Councils, the Trend Committee said:They enjoy independence in their scientific decisions; their membership consists of independent individuals, both scientists and laymen; and while their Chairmen are part-time and do not necessarily have the relevant scientific or professional qualifications, their Secretaries give full-time service and are scientifically qualified. Moreover, although they are formally subject to direction by the Committees of the Privy Council, they effectively control their own policies and, negotiate their financial requirements direct with the Treasury. Finally, while the Minister for Science does not attempt, in his capacity as Chairman of the various Committees of the Privy Council concerned, to dictate to the Research Councils on scientific matters, he is—in a real sense—'their Minister', who protects their interests within the Government, considers their Estimates before they are submitted to the Treasury and answers for them in Parliament.I am certain that the Secretary of State will prove to be just such a Minister to the two old Research Councils and to the new ones which are to be set up under the Bill.
I should like to raise a fundamental question, and it is simply this. Is our national effort on basic scientific research, whether in Government laboratories, private industry or university laboratories, sufficient? There is no satisfactory breakdown of national figures between basic research and applied research. Indeed, it is part of the argument that has been going on, whether the two can be divided. Some hon. Members think 2054 it is impossible and others think that it must be done, at least for administrative purposes.
Certainly, as far as figures are concerned, we have no satisfactory breakdown. But we do know from the figures of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy that whereas in the accounting year 1955–56 as a country we were spending about £300 million on research and development and this represented 1.7 per cent. of the gross national product, by 1961–62 we were spending £634 million annually representing 2.7 per cent. of the gross national product. Since then the trend has continued upwards.
We must ask ourselves: Is that satisfactory? Is this enough? How do we compare with other countries? While acknowledging that international comparisons arc difficult, the National Advisory Council has taken the view that the proportion of the gross national product devoted to research and development in Britain was of the same order of magnitude as in the United States. But the House will notice that because of the far greater size of the American gross national product, the total scale of American research and development is vastly greater than it is in this country.
A recent survey prepared for the O.E.C.D. confirmed that in terms of science spending, as a proportion of gross national product, Britain was very little behind the United States of America. It also showed that we were well ahead of other Western countries. Our spending per head of population on scientific research is roughly the same as that of France and Germany put together. But is it enough?
This raises the next question: by what yardstick can we as a nation, and particularly the Government, judge whether we are putting enough money, men and resources into basic research? I do not believe that there is a sovereign yardstick, because if there were it would have been found many years ago. This is one of the many questions one can pose but, having been posed, is incapable of a precise answer. We have guides to help us to determine the scale upon which our scientific operations ought to be conducted. The first, clearly, is international comparisons. The second is a qualitative guide. Are 2055 there any obvious fields in which our scientific effort is inadequate?
To carry it a stage further, have we able scientists in particular fields who are being frustrated through lack of opportunity? Thirdly, we have always got to make comparisons with the other calls on the public purse and upon our natural resources. This is above all the function of the Government of the day. They having had all the advice, finally have to make the choice in any one year or any quinquennium.
We are still left, however, with a problem of selection, and there is no simple answer to that. I notice that the Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, 1963–64, which was obtainable yesterday from the Vote Office, says:…Britain clearly cannot engage freely in certain expensive fields of science, such as space technology or high-energy physics, if this would involve restraining the growth of other potentially fruitful fields of knowledge. This means that priorities in science will have to be determined. We ourselves have never had the powers to tackle this problem, even if we had had the kind of foresight without which any statement of priorities could prove a highly dangerous exercise. We know of no way to determine precisely what proportion of any country's gross national product should be devoted to the advancement and exploitation of science. Our own view is that the United Kingdom is still spending too little. But, if the resources which the Government can set aside for science cannot be increased sufficiently to allow us to embark on all the good scientific projects of which we know, it will be up to the Government itself to decide, on the best advice that can be tendered, what our national priorities should be.This is the 64,000-dollar question, more important than what particular division of duties we make within the Government machine. It is the problem of how we select our priorities for the deployment of our resources on scientific research. One of the answers, and there is no one answer, is greater international cooperation on joint products.
This, as the hon. Member for Edmonton knows, is a matter on which I can speak claiming that I practise what I preach, because those hon. Members who were with me when I was on the Council of Europe will recall that, rather ahead of Governments, I, with their assistance, managed to get across the idea that space research was an 2056 obviously appropriate field for this form of treatment. I tell the Secretary of State that I shall watch him and his Council's activities in support of this role, which if I cannot claim to have been responsible for as a parent, I can claim to have encouraged its birth.
We are still left with the problem posed by the Advisory Council. I repeat that the question of priorities in science and technology lies at the heart of our national science policy and, therefore, of our national destiny. I do not expect the Parliamentary Secretary to add to the resolution of this problem today—though I should be delighted if he were able to do so—but I very much hope that he and the Secretary of State will, in the coming months, give us opportunities to discuss it further and inform us of what thoughts they have, as I am sure they will, on the problem of selecting our national priorities.
It is fair to say that our main difference on this side of the House with the Government's proposals and the Bill before us has arisen over their proposal to create the Ministry of Technology. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone and I made clear our doubts about this during the debate last Wednesday on the Committee stage of the Machinery of Government Bill. These doubts were further confirmed today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and by several of my hon. Friends. I am sure that the Secretary of State realises that our disagreement with the Government is over means, not ends. The end of putting greater technological impulse into our affairs is one which is common to all hon. and right hon. Members.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to answer some of the questions which my right hon. and learned Friend and I raised on Wednesday. I shall not weary the House by repeating them in detail today. There is the question I put in regard to the use of development contracts on the civil side as distinct from the military, and the whole question of Government purchasing as a means of increasing technological in-ovation. Certain remarks of the Secretary of State have, with respect, only served to confuse me further about how the Ministry of Technology is to work in 2057 these matters. Third, there is the proposal made by the Prime Minister, in his Written Answer a few weeks ago, to identify particular industries or parts of industries suitable for action. I have not changed the view which I expressed about this on Wednesday. It seems to me to be a function more appropriate for an economic Department rather than the new Ministry of Technology.
Fourth, there is the whole question of how the new Ministry is to be staffed. I entirely endorse what was said on this point by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely. We can discuss the finer points of having or not having the Ministry, but, at the end of the day, it will depend upon the quality and, above all, the training and background of the staff one has in Whitehall.
In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, I ought to indicate the way I myself should have approached the problem. In my view, it was essential to put more technological thinking into all Government Departments. Therefore, I should have liked responsibility for technology to be put wherever possible on the functional Departments in relation to the work which they do. I can think of no Department, not even the Foreign Office, in which there are not technological and scientific aspects to the problems which have to be tackled. One fear I have about the Ministry of Technology is that it will present a perfect excuse for most of Whitehall to remain technologically illiterate. Everything will be passed to the Ministry of Technology. I hope that this will not happen, and I am sure that the Secretary of State and Mr. Frank Cousins will do their best to resist this happening, but Departments will not become more technologically literate or more numerate until they have the responsibility put squarely on them. There is nothing like giving an undersecretary or assistant secretary a straight responsibility to make him go off and do his homework.
I should have liked the industrial side of the D.S.I.R. to go into the Board of Trade. Also, I should have liked the Board of Trade to be federalised, one of the legs of the Department being a limited Ministry for technology but brought in under the Board of Trade. I say that because I believe that to get a greater technological impulse into industry is so tied up with the economics of an industry 2058 and its exports that a Ministry of Technology would marry better with the Board of Trade than if set up on its own.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may accuse me of still having imperialist tendencies from the days when I was a Minister at the Board of Trade, but as I am no longer in that office I think I may be said to be objective. I believe that the relationship between the Board of Trade and the N.R.D.C. has been an extremely good one and that if we had developed further the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) we could have fitted many of the functions which are now going to the Ministry of Technology into an expanded and revivified and better financed N.R.D.C., where we have a Council which has been working very well.
Further, I think it absolutely essential to get improvements in the British Standards Institution. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West spoke about standards. In so far as any Department is responsible for the B.S.I. it is the Board of Trade, and I do not believe that the Board of Trade has been as vigorous as it ought to have been. This relates to the grant-in-aid relationship. If there is one technological field which one can clearly identify as ripe for improvement it is the British Standards Institution. Therefore, I hope that the responsibility for the B.S.I. will be transferred from the Board of Trade to the Ministry of Technology. I should have preferred the whole arrangement the other way round.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Member was objecting to the establishment of the Ministry of Technology on the ground that it would cause other Departments to ignore their responsibilities in this field and say that the Ministry of Technology was dealing with them. Would not the same objection apply to what he is now proposing—the creation of a kind of section of technology within the Board of Trade?
§ Mr. Price
That is not so. It is the difference between a division within a Department and being a separate Department. It has been my experience that it is easier to cope with Ministerial demarcation problems if they are all under the same umbrella of a big Department than if they are in separate 2059 Ministries. I would hope to develop further on some occasion—I will do it in Committee—my views about how these things should be done.
I conclude by saying that we welcome large sections of the Bill and most certainly agree that the Bill should have its Second Reading. We are still rather unhappy about the creation of the Ministry of Technology. We are not satisfied that it is really necessary to achieve the purpose which all sides of the House hold in common—the introduction of a greater technological impulse into our national affairs. We shall wish to probe the Government a good deal further in Committee about certain features of the Bill, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall do it in a thoroughly constructive frame of mind. We shall at the same time require answers to many of the questions that we raised on Wednesday about the functions and the work of the Ministry of Technology to which we have not yet received any answer.
Finally, I assure the Government that, although we are, as I have said, unhappy about the creation of the Ministry, we on this side will give Mr. Frank Cousins a fair chance to make a success of his new office. We shall not oppose for the sake of opposition, but we shall, as always, be vigilant, which is our duty.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. James Boyden)
I crave a modicum of the indulgence for which two of my hon. Friends have asked today. It is physically more comfortable to speak from the Dispatch Box, but I am not so sure about the mental state. There is a considerable amount of ground to be covered, and I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I omit to answer some of the points which have been raised. If I do, I will endeavour to write to them about them. I thought that there was considerable contrast between the reasonable and constructive speech of the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) and the speech of the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples).
First, I should like to say how pleased I was that my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) spoke 2060 up for the miners and railwaymen. How anyone in this House can talk about "irrational prejudice" of men faced by technological change—their "irrational" fear of innovation—passes my understanding, as one who represents miners and railwaymen.
Like my hon. Friend, I would say that, of all people, they have shown the most balanced appreciation of the forces of technological change and have been far more responsible and far more patriotic than many sections of wealthier groups when it comes to their own vested interests. I pay tribute to the miners and railwaymen of Doncaster and to those of Bishop Auckland for the way they have accepted technological change at very great personal discomfort and inconvenience.
When my hon. Friend remarked, "This machine is still in use", I thought that those words might be put at the portals of this place, because his references to some of the mechanical contrivances could be applied to some of the administrative and other procedures we have to suffer occasionally in the House. My hon. Friend made a speech in which there was a considerable amount of constructive thought and the A.E.U. and the electors of Doncaster are to be congratulated on their choice.
There was an equally outstanding speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). He will find that the House always listens to a member with knowledge who speaks with sincerity, and in the emphasis on social attitudes, in the praise he had for the Prime Minister's selection of Mr. Frank Cousins for this post, my hon. Friend is reflecting what many of us think—that social attitudes and command of men are as important as many of the things that have been put, in a rather piffling way, by right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
I assure both my hon. Friends that the House will listen to their future speeches with considerable interest. I have always been told—and I think that there is justification for it—that the second speech is much more difficult than the first.
§ Mr. Boyden
I welcome the right hon. Member for Wallasey to his new 2061 position. We hope that he will stay in it a long time. We hope that he will soon be able to surmount his current technological difficulties. I think, however, that he clanged his clangers with even more aplomb than usual. When he was talking about the irrational fear of men facing mechanisation, and about scientists "drivelling on" and never coming to a decision, I thought that that was precisely what he himself was doing.
At the very end of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman threw at me three Clauses of the Bill, suddenly, out of the blue, when he had had half-an-hour to explain his views. I will respond as quickly as he put the points. Clause 6(1), ergonomics and cybernetics; Clause 6(2), no: Clause 6(3) makes the transfer of property and the transfer of contracts between the research councils and the Government Departments more easily done by Order than at the moment. The Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act, 1946, validated transfers between one public department and another, and this makes the same facilities available between research councils and Government Departments. I hope that I have now satisfied the right hon. Gentleman on the three technical questions which he threw at me in that way.
I was also surprised that he did not quite understand the difference between the Building Research Station and its objectives, and the Road Research Laboratory. For example, I thought that this attitude to the problems of the building industry—"Damn the architect"was an even greater danger than usual considering his wide knowledge of the building industry. After all the speeches which we had heard earlier from his side of the House by the great reformers, the great modernisers, the former Minister of Public Building and Works and the former Minister of Housing and Local Government, I would have thought that all the problems of the building industry had been solved.
I ventured to suggest on several occasions that there might be a shortage of bricks. My local newspaper knew far more than the previous Minister of Public Building and Works about the situation, because, while representatives of his Ministry were saying that there was no shortage of bricks or cement, and plenty of copper tubing, and so on, my local 2062 newspaper was drawing my attention, anyway, to the problem.
However, to return to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Building Research Station. As he knows, the Road Research Laboratory deals more or less with monopolies, with the Government and with local authorities, and there is not a great deal of diversification about the needs it meets. On the other hand, the Building Research Station has much wider contacts, contacts with the public sector and with local authorities, and its contacts with the private sector are very considerable, and we think that its position in the Ministry of Technology is right for it.
The point of principle is that we think that none of these arrangements will make any difference to the independence of the scientists working in these research bodies. I speak for all of my right hon. Friends who are concerned when I say that we shall see that their scientific independence is continued and maintained.
I was very impressed with the phrase of the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing)— "scientising the humanists"—as one who made a half attempt to scientise himself, if economics is considered to be a science—and I sometimes hear some strange things about economics. I also appreciated the phrase of the hon. Member for Eastleigh about a few visual aids. I have a document here to which I want to refer and which would be much better put on a screen. Perhaps a few hon. Members would say that this was particularly didactic and reminiscent of my former avocation.
I particularly wanted to say to the hon. Member for Hendon, North that not only do we need the humanists to know more about science, and the scientists to push it to the extreme, but we also need the whole concept, the whole prestige, of engineering and technology to be equated with our basic prejudices for evaluing the classics and evaluing the arts and art.
I want to refer to an extremely good oration at Lanchester College of Technology, Coventry, when the third annual Lanchester College Lecture was given by one of our greatest living indiustrial engineers, Sir Harold Roxbee Cox. Speaking about design, he said: 2063Of the beauty, as well as of the engineering achievement, which it is possible to appreciate in a bridge or a dam we are most of us conscious. Of these qualities in a piece of mechanical engineering I believe relatively few of us are.He went on to elaborate this in the lecture and went on to say that there was as much satisfaction in designing a gear box as in renovating a church or cathedral, or in building a new church or cathedral. One of the reasons why the prestige of engineering, which we so badly need to improve, is lagging, is that this fundamental point has not yet sunk into the schools; nor is there enough propaganda for this aim in the world at large. I would certainly think that hon. Members could fulfil a useful non-party rôle in endeavouring to stress this side of our social attitudes.
Without wishing to weary the House, I will quote a little more from Sir Harold's oration:We are apt to think of the arts and the sciences, and to study them, as if there were a chasm between them. They have, indeed, one basic need in common—craftsmanship.He went on:In one great area of human effort the barrier has never existed—in architecture. In many buildings, perhaps aesthetic considerations have prevailed in a way detrimental to engineering efficiency; in others, functions or economics, or both, have proved inconsistent with acceptable appearance. But no one, I think, has ever denied that art and science meet in architecture, and no one finds it odd that in one thing a man should seek to embody quantitative properties such as volume and strength with qualitative properties such as elegance and rhythm. Sometimes this has been achieved by mere decoration of the engineering minimum, sometimes by a triumphant stroke which any person of sensibility, whether he calls himself artist or engineer, recognises as elegant. Such a solution is seen in the vaulting of a cathedral roof".The image which I would have liked to have projected on to a screen would have been that of Exeter Cathedral choir vault.
We have, in the scientific age, lost the unity of the Middle Ages. That period had its virtues, not many social ones, I agree, but there were a considerable number. We must now make a conscious effort to build a greater unity in the three spheres to which reference has been made.
I turn to some of the specific points which have been urgently raised in the debate. The right hon. Member for Wallasey and my hon. Friend the Member 2064 for Eccles spoke of the importance of the social side of developing technology. I will quote from the last Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, issued yesterday. On the subject of management, the Report states on page 15:Management is of prime importance. This is not merely a matter of having scientists or engineers in top management, important though that is. It is equally necessary that there should be, dispersed throughout the industrial organisation, people with scientific and technological qualifications in all disciplines and at a variety of levels, in order to ensure that minor technical problems can be solved quickly, and that major technical problems can be recognised and transmitted to the research department to be dealt with by people with the highest technological and scientific qualifications. There is need for a thorough study of means of communication between the innovator and the body responsible for policy determination".We believe that the Bill makes a substantial contribution to fulfilling that aim. It is certain, from the debate so far, that hon. Members are agreed about the necessity for a great stimulation of technology.
I have been dealing more with the social side of the matter and I now come to some of the specific measures which will flow from the Bill. A great deal has been said about sponsorship, which is, in fact, quite an old term. It dates from the activities of the war. In some Departments there is a clear indication of sponsorship. For example, in agriculture it is obvious that the Minister of Agriculture has a specific task of general administration of policy. In aviation, the Ministry of Aviation is the main customer. The Ministry of Technology will seek to bring into sponsorship the industries which have been stated, and it will be reviewing the need for bringing in others.
The traditional industries have been mentioned. There is a special Ministry looking after the shipbuilding industry, but a team of people is working in the Ministry of Technology to try to locate the problems and industries which need sponsorship, then to study, empirically, their needs and to take the necessary action.
There has been a good reception for the empirical approach of my right hon. Friend Mr. Cousins. Indeed, in The Times of 27th November there was the heading, "A good beginning". The Times leader on this, welcoming the setting-up of the Ministry of Technology, said: 2065No matter how tidily the various committees are apportioned among different Ministries the divisions will be criticised and problems of co-ordination and planning will occur.We have had a certain amount of that today.What ought to be remembered is that no one Ministry can contain every facet of education science and production. Splitting up the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research will have its disadvantages and by being transferred to executive Ministries some research bodies may lose valuable independence.'I challenge that.The question of what they may gain can be shown only by experience in the new setting.…What was heartening yesterday"—after the Press conference—was the indication that the Ministry will put its purpose of modernising industry above party considerations. The Labour Party's manifesto spoke of developing new industries either by public enterprise or in partnership with private industry. Mr. Cousins does not rule out the possibility, but it will not be his primary purpose. The needs of the situation will be the deciding factor.…Once the Science and Technology Bill is enacted the Ministry will be more positive. It has an impressive advisory council of men of standing in industry, education and the trade unions. They may well develop the team spirit that was one of the National Economic Development Council's achievements.…The tone set by Mr. Cousins and Lord Snow yesterday is the right one. It is up to industry to respond in the same terms.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
It is all very well reading out that piece, but is the Minister aware that the uncertainty which is now widespread regarding the future throughout industry, and particularly the aircraft industry, is causing a great deal of concern to many of the scientists in our universities? Apparently, in the very short time of the last four weeks there has already been, a considerable drop in the number of students who wish to study aeronautical subjects. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of this? It is of concern to many of us.
§ Mr. Boyden
I would have thought rather more of the hon. Member's intervention had he been present during the debate and tried to make a contribution. Certainly, there has been great difficulty in many fields of technology in getting sufficient students to take up the places 2066 that are available. I am surprised at the hon. Member raising this matter when right hon. and hon. Members of his party were in office for 13 years and 62 days, although I do not remember the precise figure. This is a difficult problem.
If the hon. Member's implication is that the Bill will not do anything to help it, I entirely disagree. In any event, the division of functions was well on the way, prepared by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who is sleeping there so comfortably.
§ Mr. Boyden
I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not as comfortable as he looked.
Certainly, this is a difficult problem. It is one which the Bill will do a good deal to remedy.
I intended to give more elaboration of the support that we have found for the Bill. I give just one more instance, from a technical journal, the Electrical Review:It is clear that Mr. Cousins and his principal colleagues are not now wasting any time and they exhibit an empressive grasp of what is required of them in guiding and stimulating a major national effort to bring advanced technology and new processes to British industry.
§ Mr. Lubbock
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some very important speeches have been made during the debate, but the Minister is not replying to any of them.
§ Mr. Boyden
I will deal with one of the points which the hon. Member for Eastleigh raised, and that is the question of the British Standards Institution. We agree that this particular problem needs looking at very carefully. There will be a fresh look at the work of the Institution to see that the best contribution can be made from it to further any objectives 2067 which we both have in mind. It may be that more money will be needed; it may be that better organisation will be needed. Whatever it is, this will be looked at.
My right hon. Friend, in being pressed about the Atomic Energy Authority and the way in which its function would need to be enlarged by legislation, referred to the work which is going on about desalinisation of water. The way in which it is necessary to widen the powers of the Authority is this. Desalting plants have been set up in many parts of the world by British firms, and in the growing world-wide interest in such plants there should be scope for expanding our export market.
As matters stand now, the Authority can do work of this kind only in so far as desalting plants will be coupled with nuclear power reactors and the sources of energy, and for the most part these plants would be only of a large size, and it is likely that the requirement for desalinisation plants in the immediate future will be met by plants of a size which could use conventional sources available. Development in this way can best be done by widening the powers of the Authority—
§ Mr. Graham Page
What I am asking the hon. Gentleman is whether, if these sorts of powers are reasonable for the Atomic Energy Authority, the matter can be brought before the House. Clause 4 lists an extension of these powers, a sweeping extension of powers, without bringing the matter before the House in any way.
§ Mr. Boyden
We will consider that point, but the powers are not quite so sweeping as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
2068 There has been a good deal of discussion about the reasons for the selection of the four or five industries which Mr. Cousins has selected for sponsorship. The background of this is the way in which, in engineering products particularly, the British share of overseas trade has been declining. For example, imports of machinery, excluding vehicles, represented a rise at constant prices of 224 per cent. in the 12 years from 1950. Between 1960 and 1962 the domestic demand for textile machinery, machine tools, optical instruments, and including computers, was met as to more than 25 per cent. by foreign machines. Comparing United States and German and British net exports—that is, exports minus imports—ours were relatively the smallest, in the most developed and technically most advanced of this machinery, scientific instruments, machine tools, and plastics, in which international trade was growing fastest. It therefore follows that this is one of the things which need particular attention.
Of course, the basic factor underlying this is that price wars now have this innovation. In future, firms must not only compete, but must lay new foundations for advance, and it is their research which will generate new investment and capture new markets. This basis of development is very much in the minds of my right hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Boyden
I must get on. I have an important announcement to make about the chairmen of the two councils. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is pleased to announce that Sir Harrie Massey has agreed to be Chairman of the Council for Scientific Policy, and Sir Harry Melville, Chairman of. the Science and Research Council. We are very grateful that these two distinguished gentlemen have undertaken this work, and we think that this is an indication of the confidence which many scientists have in the new organisation, and in the new arrangements which are being made.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have never argued that the division of work between the D.S.I.R. and the 2069 Department of Education and Science needed to be undertaken. What was in dispute was where the line should be drawn. It is equally true that once the decision to have one Ministry for all education was taken, this became of increasing importance, and time and again I have heard right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when defending a particular argument, say that they thought it was about right. On this occasion, in this Bill, there is far more justification for the particular line which has been drawn than there was on many occasions when right hon. Gentlemen opposite were drawing lines.
I appreciated the contribution of the hon. Member for Eastleigh, but I thought that some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wallasey and some of the criticisms voiced outside were expressed in a phrase in The Times Educational Supplement, which said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was in the happy positionof being able to evaluate the more bloodcurdling threats of the Opposition for precisely what they are: sound and fury and little else. The Tory position is, of course, invidious. They must appear to be avid for the Government's blood; yet any really carnivorous assault might well prove mortal to their own cause at a is stage.Expressed a little more elegantly, what some of them have been doing can be summed up in the words of Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. TheyDamn with faint praise, assent with evil leer,And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.That is the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he is rather ashamed of himself.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
On a point of order. Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, perhaps I may put this point to him. The argument which he used for putting those four industries under this new Ministry of Technology—
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I did prefix my remarks by saying, "Before the hon. Gentleman sits down". The four industries.—
§ Mr. George Lawson (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.— [Mr. Lawson.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.