§ 10.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)
I beg to move,That the Draft Social Science Research Council Order, 1965, laid before this House on 27th October in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.I must apologise for the fact that the Motion as it appears on the Order Paper is not correctly worded. It transpires that this is only the second time during the last 16 years that my Department has had to deal with an Order of this kind. Clearly, its procedural methods have grown slightly rusty—another consequence of 13 wasted years, I have no doubt. In any event, I am sorry.
The Committee on Social Studies was set up in June 1963 under the chairmanship of Lord Heyworth to review the research at present being done in social studies and to advise whether changes were needed in the arrangements for support and co-ordination.
The Committee reported in June 1965. It advised that such changes were needed and put forward as its chief recommendation the establishment of a Social Science Research Council. As hon. Members will know. I announced on 2nd June that the Government accepted that recommendation in principle. On 5th August, I announced that Dr. Michael Young had accepted an invitation to become Chairman of the Council and on 2nd November the names of the 14 members were announced.
The House will, however, recall that while subsection (1,c) of Section 1 of the Science and Technology Act, 1965, provides for the establishment of new research councils, subsection (4) of the same Section requires that no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council declaring a body to be a research council for the purposes of the Act unless a draft of the Order has first been laid before Parliament and approved by a Resolution of each House.
On 29th October, Her Majesty was pleased to order that the Social Science Research Council be incorporated by Royal Charter. I now seek the approval 166 of the House for the draft Order, which specifies the Council's objects and declares it to be a research council for the purposes of the Science and Technology Act. I hope that the speed with which we have moved in this matter will demonstrate the extreme importance which the Government attach to the research councils in general and, in particular, to the objective of social science research.
Perhaps I may say a brief word about the background.
The House will know that the last time that social science research was examined, in 1946, by a Committee set up under Sir John Clapham, that Committee was asked to inquire if any additional provision was necessary for research into social and economic questions. It did not, however, recommend the setting up of a social science research council. It estimated that the need at that time was to strengthen the staff in the universities and for more provision for routine research.
The Clapham Report led to a very determined effort on the part of the Government and the University Grants Committee to foster growth in this field. Over the period 1947–52, that is, the quinquennium immediately after the Committee had reported, more than £1.2 million was allocated to universities specifically for the social sciences, and this gave a considerable impetus, particularly to the teaching of social science, which has had very far-reaching effects. Most universities now offer social sciences, and the proportion of undergraduates entering social science faculties has risen steadily from 11 per cent. in 1959–60 to 14 per cent. in 1964–65 and postgraduate students have increased in number at at least the same pace.
There have also been corresponding developments outside the university field. The number of research institutions outside universities concerned with various social studies has increased since the end of the war from seven to 18, and many of them have achieved a very considerable distinction indeed. Industry and commerce have played a very large part in financing some of these institutions and are themselves employing more and more social science graduates. Not only that, 167 but the central Government and local Government agencies and departments have been showing an increasing awareness of the significance of the social sciences.
The Heyworth Committee, as the House will recall, estimated that total expenditure on research in these subjects in 1964–65, the last available year, was running at £6.5 million, a very substantial sum, and I certainly can see, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in terms of the Department of Education and Science, that the amount we are spending on research which comes within the Heyworth field has been growing at a very fast rate of increase. We have now research projects out to a value of £1 million.
I think it is fair to say that in spite of this very great expansion the Government at the time did not feel entirely satisfied, and that is why, indeed, they set up the Heyworth Committee. I think that many people felt that the total expenditure could and should have been larger than it was, that there were still gaps required to be filled, and I think it was also felt that the amount of social science expenditure had reached a point where some additional co-ordination was needed. It was, of course, the view of the Heyworth Committee, which stated in paragraph 145:We have noted the great increase in the social sciences in the universities and corresponding developments outside. The evidence suggests that the social sciences are ready to move to a new level of performance and for this they need funds for research on a larger scale.It was in the light of that conclusion that it made the recommendation for the setting up of a social science research council which this Order we are now debating seeks to implement.
Perhaps I could say for the convenience of the House a few words on the functions and composition of the proposed Council. It has come out in the event slightly larger than the Heyworth Committee recommended. It recommended a council of a chairman plus 10 to 12 members. This has emerged as a chairman plus 14. I think that hon. Members will agree that we have in the Chairman—many hon. Members will know him—a person of complete dedication to social science research and also a person with a consider- 168 able record of enterprise in getting new bodies off the ground, and this seems a singularly important characteristic in this respect. I was interested to notice—I had not discovered this until after inviting him to become Chairman—that in a book which he wrote called "The Rise of the Meritocracy" there were a number of jocular references to the chairman of a future Social Service Research Council. The book is a rather satyric account of how Socialists find themselves puzzled sometimes by the problems of an élite. He remarks on page 123:Everyone gained from having the best men as Chiefs of Staff. Astronomers Royal, Vice-Chancellors of Universities or Chairmen of the Social Science Research Council. The socialists had to put up with the elite. What a minority of them moaned about was that it should be so well-paid. Granted (some of them would say), granted that the best astronomer should be made Royal, why should he get a larger emolument than the bricklayer who built his observatory?That seems, on the part of the new Chairman, a direct invitation to pay the Chairman a very mean salary. I hope at least that the Treasury will welcome that.
I hope the House will agree that we have succeeded in collecting a very distinguished group of people to serve on the Council, and I am particularly glad that we were able to implement one of the Heyworth Committee's recommendations in having on it not merely social scientists but also very distinguished representatives of industry, of local government and of the trade unions. It is my view that we have here a really effective body of people who will launch the Council most successfully.
We have broadly accepted the proposals of the Heyworth Committee as far as the functions and powers of the Council are concerned. They are embodied essentially in Article 2(1) of the Charter and in the Schedule to the draft Order which is drawn up in terms almost identical to those which appear in the Charters of the other recent research councils, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Science Research Council. But more so in this case than in the case of the other councils, the Social Science Research Council will be breaking very new ground indeed, and its first task will be to decide in detail its own programme of activities and its methods of working. I imagine that it will concentrate initially on supporting research already being carried out 169 in the universities and elsewhere and providing a focal point for co-ordinating and disseminating information. For the tune being at least the Council will not set up research units of its own.
One of the most intricate problems in the whole field is the problem of definition and demarcation. The Heyworth Committee spent a considerable part of its time in discussing this, in paragraph 7 in particular, because the term "social science" covers a number of disciplines and fields. Economics is one of the major ones and so also are sociology, social psychology, social anthropology and political science. These will be the main concern of the Council, and in this particularly we follow the recommendations of the Heyworth Committee's Report. But the field upon which these studies impinge goes much wider than that, and it will be the task of the Council to co-ordinate its work with that of other bodies which may be working in these wider fields, including the existing research councils.
The new Council will be assuming some of the functions which up to now have been earned out by the Human Sciences Committee of the Science Research Council and the Department of Education and Science in regard to postgraduate student awards. The exact demarcation of responsibilities in this respect is something to be examined by the bodies concerned when the Council is fully functional.
Generally, it is going to be very important to ensure a proper liaison between the Council and those Government Departments, of which there are now quite a number, which themselves undertake social science research. I have no doubt that the means of ensuring this liaison will include the appointment of assessors from Government Departments to the committees of the Council and will include the representation of the Council on any inter-departmental committees which are concerned with Government research into the social sciences. This is perfectly normal and common practice in the relations of existing research councils and Government Departments, but the precise arrangements for it are a matter for discussion with the Council once it is fully functional.
There are two other organisational points which I might mention. One is the recommendation of the Heyworth Com- 170 mittee of a special board for educational research. Although it is not mentioned in the Order or the Charter, it does not mean that we have rejected it. We regard this consideration as being a decision for the Council to make and, if it decides to go about it in this way, we shall be perfectly happy. So far as the special arrangements for the field of the "Built Environment" are concerned, the House will remember that I announced on 2nd June that the Government have not felt able to accept that particular recommendation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is extremely enthusiastic about the objective, but he does not think—and I agree with him—that this particular set-up is the one most likely to achieve the objective that we have always had in mind.
The other organisational point concerns the relationship between this Council and the Council on Scientific Policy. On this the Heyworth Committee did not actually make a recommendation. It merely said that if there was to be a relationship then certain things would follow. We think it is too early to say definitely that there should be this relationship. If in the course of the new Council's work it should prove desirable, no doubt it will make a recommendation and we will see how the matter looks then.
With regard to finance, the House will note that the Heyworth Committee's Report offers very detailed advice on the financing of the Council, on how much finance should be available, and on the number of student awards that should be made. As I said on 2nd June, we think it would be wrong for the Government to come to a definite decision about the amount of finance, the number of awards, and so on, until the Council has had an opportunity of making its own recommendations, and therefore we do not propose to decide on long-term finance until we have had the advice of the Council. It is proposed to meet the initial financial requirements of the Council, that is to say for the headquarters staff and salaries and the rest, from the Civil Contingencies Fund, but a Supplementary Estimate for the period to 31st March, 1966, will be put before the House in due course.
There is one last point that I want to emphasise, and that is that we have no 171 intention—I hope that this is clear already—that the Social Science Research Council should be the monopoly body in this field. It seems to us wrong that there should be only one source of finance for social science research, and therefore the setting up of the Council does not mean that there will be less money available for, or less interest in, those other sources of funds for social science research.
The universities, with money coming from the University Grants Committee, are an increasingly important source of funds, as are various foundations, and also increasingly a number of Government Departments. It is not the intention of the Government that any of these other sources of funds should be limited in any way in consequence of the setting up of the Social Science Research Council. We want this to be an addition to the sources of funds which already exist, so that we have what I am sure in this field is a healthy picture—we have as it were a multiple source of possible funds for research.
In conclusion, I should like to say once again how grateful the Government are to Lord Heyworth and his Committee for their very full and penetrating examination of this subject. I may be prejudiced, having been for a brief time a social science teacher, but I am staggered by the number of decisions that are taken, whether by industry, or by Government, or by local Government, with quite insufficient research and information available to them. We spend, and rightly spend, and I hope will spend more, millions of pounds on various kinds of, in the traditional sense of the term, scientific research.
We spend millions of pounds on nuclear physics, I hope more next year than this, but social science research has to a considerable extent been the Cinderella in this field. I feel strongly that an investment in this field will produce considerable dividends to the country in terms of economic efficiency, and also, and I hope more important, in terms of the quality of our social and national life. I hope, therefore, that the House, without disagreement, will welcome this Council and send it off to a flying start with its best wishes.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
I am sure that the House accepts the right hon. Gentleman's apology for the semantic problems of the wording of the Order. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to 13 wasted years he introduced a controversial note, but I think that without being too controversial I can point out that the Heyworth Committee says that in spite of social science being one of the cinderellas of our academic life, the number of people taking honours degrees increased very substantially over those years. In the academic year 1951–52, the number of students acquiring honours degrees in the social sciences was 10,734. By the academic year 1962–63 it was 16,435. Without my slide rule, this seems to be an increase of about 58 per cent. It seems to be substantial by any standard.
I want to follow the welcome which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the new Council. Like him, I must declare a personal interest in its creation, because I am an economist too. Therefore, I assume that we are both social scientists. I also happen to be a practising industrial consultant, which practice takes me much into the application of the social sciences and into industrial society. I believe that this is a side of our national life in which the work that we are discussing tonight can and should be far more widely applied.
As the right hon. Gentleman told us, this Order directly follows the recommendation of the Heyworth Committee. I join him, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, in thanking Lord Heyworth and his fellow Committee members on the work that they have done. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the establishment of the Council was that Committee's principal recommendation. It may be symbolic of the unanimity and warmth with which the House welcomes the new Council that the Heyworth Committee was called into existence by my right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Butler, now Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and that its principal recommendation is being implemented by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, who is a Scholar and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. This suggests a harmony between two Trinities. It seems to me that at the middle of the Trinity 173 is Unilevers, but for a Trinity, Cambridge, man that may be an unpopular point to make.
The House will agree that for long the social sciences have been the Cinderella both of our academic study and also our national research effort. I suspect that there are a number of respectable reasons why this has been so, apart from apathy and a lack of understanding, which would be disreputable reasons. At this moment when we are launching the new Council it is worth detaining the House for a few minutes to suggest some reasons why this has been so, so that we can see how these difficulties and obstacles can be overcome in the work of the Council and the development of social sciences in this country.
I suggest that the first reason is that it is, on the whole, much more difficult to isolate a social situation for detailed study than it is to isolate a situation in, above all, the physical sciences. Possibly the biological sciences are somewhere in between. We all know the tremendous impetus that came into anatomy when anatomists decided to look at living bodies as well as dead bodies. Morbid anatomy had obvious limitations.
This is one of the problems of the social sciences. It therefore also follows that it is more difficult to provide or to create entirely controlled conditions in social research than it is in physical research. I suspect that there are more variable factors in a social situation which one desires to study than there are in a physical situation, and that more variable factors are outside the control of the researcher. These uncontrollable factors can bring a bias into the results of his studies.
From my own modest experience I know that this is particularly true of industrial psychology and industrial sociology. I suggest that it follows that in the social sciences there is particular difficulty in reproducing a research study. For instance, if we are doing studies in physical science—let us say that we are studying the electrical properties of copper—provided that we define our experiment correctly we can reproduce it in another laboratory in another part of the world and compare the results, because all the variables are controlled in the same manner. But if, for instance, we 174 were to do a study into the social consequences of introducing automation techniques into, say, the London docks, it would be almost impossible ever to reproduce those conditions again. Certainly, if one did it for the Cardiff docks, the results would be different.
Fourth, I think that the problem of measurement is much more severe in many of the social sciences than it is in the vast majority of the natural sciences. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman and the whole House will agree that the basis of sound scientific research, as opposed to preconceived study—if studies are to merit the name of scientific research—is the accuracy of measurement. The House will be familiar with the classical statement of Lord Kelvin on this matter, when he said:When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.Human beings, of course, understandably do not like being treated as numbers.
Therefore, one is confronted with the problem, first of all, technically of how one measures; and, secondly, to measure without the subjects of one's measurement being so conscious of being measured that they behave differently under the research conditions than they do in their natural environment. I will not press the analogy too far, but I might compare it with the difference between a wild animal and a captive animal.
This takes me to my next point, that conducting research into a human and social situation can, by the very fact of setting up a study, alter the conditions and bias the study. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with one of the classic studies in industrial psychology, the Hawthorne Experiment, carried out by the Western Electric Co. in Chicago, which started in 1927 and went on for many years.
In this experiment, which is of great relevance in considering the social sciences, the company was anxious to study the effect on efficiency of greater or less illumination at a work bench. This was properly set up, under controlled conditions, but the curious thing was that they found, such was the interest the people being studied took in those studying them, 175 that every time they made an alteration in illumination, efficiency went up. They then tried reducing the amount of light until, finally, it was less than they had originally started with, but each time efficiency still went up. This suggested that the variable factors they were trying to study and measure were only part of the total social and phychological position with which they were dealing.
This led those carrying out the study to make this classic observation:Although the results from these experiments on illumination fell short of the expectations of the company, in the sense that they failed to answer the specific question of the relation between illumination and efficiency, nevertheless they provided a great stimulus for more research in the field of human relations. They contributed to the steadily growing realisation that more knowledge concerning problems involving human factors was essential.I am sure that the House can think of many more difficulties facing the social scientist, but they are not reasons for not attempting research in the social sciences.
However, I believe that the difficulties raise a number of points, which it is essential for the new Research Council to keep in the forefront of their consideration. The first, which, from what has already been said, must be evident to the House, is that the quality of people conducting research in the social sciences is probably more important than it is in those conducting research in the natural and physical sciences.
I say that without any wish to diminish in any way the quality of those in the physical sciences, but it is more possible to get by at the beta minus or gamma level in the natural sciences than in the social sciences, because when a researcher in the social sciences is dealing with human beings and trying to study what they are doing, the human skills he requires are infinitely greater than those required in the physical sciences. I am sure that the House will recognise that there is also the difficulty of oneself remaining entirely objective.
When we study the habits of the fruit fly our emotions are not involved. We can be quite neutral in our observations. But if we come to study a case history in juvenile delinquency, for instance, or in something which the right hon. Gentleman has to face, for example the 176 problem of the high percentage of immigrant children in the primary schools, I believe that, however tough we are intellectually with ourselves, deep down, subliminally our emotions are involved. This puts a higher premium on the personal qualities of those involved in social research than those involved in research in the more traditional natural sciences. I hope, therefore, that the Social Science Research Council will give attention to a term of reference recommended to it in the Heyworth Committee's Report but which is not in the Schedule to this Order, though I am quite certain that it is within the spirit of it namely,to keep under review the supply of trained research workers …I am sure that that is implicit in the terms of reference given by the right hon. Gentleman to the Council.
This is an important point. As one who is anxious to see the social sciences in this country develop and be useful, I feel very strongly that indifferent and incompetent work in this field can do far more damage to this whole province of research than indifferent and incompetent work in the natural sciences.
Secondly, I believe that in the social sciences inter-disciplinary work is even more important than it is in the natural sciences. The Heyworth Committee says in paragraph 91 of the Report:What interests us very much is that almost all of the problems have to draw in people from more than one of the social sciences and often from disciplines outside them.It is the latter part of that statement which, in my experience, I have found so important. It is not only a question of inter-disciplinary work within the social sciences but also a question of bringing in scientists from other fields.
I wonder how far the Minister considers the question of cross-membership of research councils which are under his sponsorship. This is probably the best way of getting the necessary liaison. In the context of this Order I think particularly of the Medical Research Council and the recently created Natural Environment Research Council. I suggest to the House that much of the work in the social sciences that is crying out to be done at present is more in the nature of applied research than of pure research. I think 177 immediately, within the Minister's own field—and he referred to this—of the need for more research into educational methods. I hope that the House will not take it as too controversial a point, if, coming for the first time publicly into the field of education, although privately acid in my constituency I am passionately interested in it, I say that I find an excessive dogmatism that needs to be confronted with a few more ascertained facts. The Secretary of State will probably agree with me on that across the Floor of the House.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's decision not to set up a built-in environment Council is right, but it is important to get the cross-membership to which I have referred and, below the Social Science Research Council, cross-membership also in the appropriate committees. If I am right in saying that a bigger harvest will probably be gathered in the applied field than in seeking pure knowledge for its own sake, the problem of sponsorship for applied research is very important.
Obviously, the Council has a duty to encourage the customers for social science research. I think, first, of Government Departments. In my limited career as a Minister at the Board of Trade, I found a number of problems in which there was an appalling deficiency of work done in social science. I give the House two examples. In our debates on the Resale Prices Bill, a great deal was made of a gentleman known as the small shop keeper. At one point, we got into the realm of mythology about him. But, when I made investigations, I found that there had been no solid work done about the economic and social role in our society of the small shop keeper, apart from a few regurgitated articles based on the Board of Trade census of production.
Second, there was the problem of regional development and the efforts one made, in refusing industrial development certificates and so on, to persuade firms to go to the North-East, the North-West or Central Scotland. Here one got well out of the field of economics and into all sorts of difficult questions of personal choice, inhibitions, prejudices, and so forth. Again, as far as detailed work went on the many variable factors 178 involved, I found an absence of proper social scientific research.
I very much hope that all Government Departments, not just the ones mentioned in the Heyworth Report which are those normally regarded as the social Ministries, will realise that there is work here to be done. I hope also that local government and the people concerned in the regions, now that we are moving into regional councils and so on, will themselves sponsor work. Lastly, I hope that industry will do a great deal more.
It is much easier to persuade industry to put money into the natural or applied sciences in the old sense of the word. But there is a great deal that can be learned from the social sciences that not only will lead to a better atmosphere in industry but will positively save money, not least in getting round pegs into round holes and the whole business of selection and job specification. I know something about this in my professional capacity, but I shall not try to inflict a "commercial" on the Secretary of State. I merely identify this as a field in which industry could get a fairly early return from spending a good deal more money in sponsoring applied research.
If we are to have more customer appeal in supporting the social sciences, the Minister must always keep these things in mind in making his appointments to the Council. There is a lot to be said for having on the Council—I do not think there is one—a member who has a prejudice against the social sciences. The mere fact of being on the Council may convert him, and, if he comes from a large company with a lot of money behind him, this might be a good way of getting more money into social research.
I hope that the Council will take seriously its first term of reference,to encourage and support by any means research in the social sciences by any other person or body.I hope also that, in its sponsorship, the Council will seize the opportunities for the new universities above all to come in and do work especially in the interdisciplinary studies and in going across from the social sciences into engineering. I speak particularly with industry in mind.
I hope that the results of the work of the Social Science Research Council and all the bodies which it sponsors will be 179 more widely applied. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, although they may do good work, the results will not be applied unless there is a special effort made. It was Jacques Maritain who reminded us that,By its very nature, knowledge does not tend towards power, nor even towards action; it tends towards truth.The Council is the middle-man in ensuring that the truth is more widely disseminated. I believe that its catalytic rôle, its rôle as the wholesaler, is important.
Finally, it must see as one of its duties the bringing with it of the public in support for the social sciences. It is easy enough to persuade the public that it is right to spend more money on cancer research, polio research, or, after the sort of days we have recently been having, research into how more efficiently to generate power and heat. But to persuade people that it is right to spend the taxpayer's money, the shareholder's money or the ratepayer's money on studying how we behave and how, by the knowledge we can gain, we may learn to behave more sensibly to one another is rather harder. Therefore, I believe that we in this House have a rôle to play. But, unfortunately, I do not suppose that we shall discuss the first annual report, let alone the second, third or fourth, because we do not do this sort of thing.
If the House feels with us on this, I hope that the Leader of the House may take a little more seriously the representations made by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee—I speak now as its vice-chairman; I see the chairman sitting opposite—that we should have a Select Committee on Science and Technology by which the reports could be discussed. What happens at present is an insult to the people who serve on these councils and prepare these reports. The reports are printed and then appear in the Vote Office and that is the end of them. I make that point not in my capacity in speaking from the Opposition Front Bench but as someone who during his entire political career in the House has been very much involved with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman's proposals about the financing of the Council must, of course, be right. It would have been 180 quite wrong for him to have come to the House before his Council had had an opportunity to deliberate and work out its programme and said that he accepted, or did not, Lord Heyworth's financial recommendation.
I conclude with the hope that the establishment of the Social Sciences Research Council will bring a new impetus to the social sciences in Britain, with ultimate benefit to us all, and on behalf of this side of the House I wish the Council well.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
It is important that in this welcome for the Government's proposals someone should speak who is declared to be not a university graduate in order to bring another breath of air into the discussion.
I welcome the Order and also the speed with which it is being carried out. It is not common for a Report such as the Heyworth Report to be acted on as quickly as this has been acted on. It was rather amusing in some respects that a comment in the Economist urging the Minister to take action on the Heyworth Report should have been followed within a matter of days by the announcement of the chairman and the setting up of the research board.
I welcome, too, the decision that the Minister has taken in the actual appointment of the chairman. It is sometimes easy to make an appointment which is safe but not particularly stimulating. I think we can all agree that the Minister has avoided this mistake in this case. He has made a most stimulating appointment, of a person who is likely to bring this body, as he has done others, most actively into action. I believe that in this respect The Guardian comment some time ago, that the Minister had chosen as chairman a man of action and of ideas, was perfectly accurate.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price), in welcoming the Order on behalf of the Opposition, referred to the importance of cooperation with members from other research councils. I declare an interest as a member of the Medical Research Council, and with some knowledge and experience of other foundations and institutions that have been concerned in 181 encouraging and sponsoring social research in the past, and to some extent a recipient of grants myself in the past. He is on a very sound point. As the Heyworth Committee recommended, we should ensure that there is the closest contact between the different research councils and, in particular, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, with the Medical Research Council, which is already working to some extent in this sphere. Sociology and medicine are clearly very closely linked. I hope that, if not in the Council, then at least in the active committees that will carry out much of the work will be ensured that there is this kind of very close co-operation.
I welcome, too, the fact that there will be an effort to bring into some kind of order the very haphazard development in our social sciences up to now. This may prove of some value in meeting the still urgent need for trained economists. The point has been made that one of the ways in which we can encourage the further development of the training of economists is by offering encouragement in research and this may well prove an incentive.
I hope that, in spite of what has been said recently about the great importance of the quality of those who undertake the research, we will recognise that there have been quite a number who have played a very important part in this and who, in some respects, have established new disciplines in the social sciences and yet have had no academic background. This point must be remembered.
I hope that we will make good use of people—I am sure that the Council will—who have wide experience in practical terms and will help to build up the important relationship between the Ministrys and local government and research functions. I agree wholeheartedly that experience in Government Departments, particularly in the social services generally, shows how urgent is the need for the simple facts on which to make proper judgments, and on that ground alone I welcome enthusiastically the setting up of the Council and the speed with which my right hon. Friend has acted.
§ 10.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
I too welcome the Order, but there are three brief points I want to make. I do not think anyone imagines, least of all the 182 Secretary of State, that the establishment of the Council in itself will solve the problem. It is just the beginning. Money will continue to be in short supply, and I do not know, when it comes to the financial implications of the establishment of the Council, whether the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to come near the figure that the Tavistock Institute suggested was needed. It is difficult to establish what is being spent in this field.
Manpower will also be short. The Council will be asked all the time to make recommendations and suggestions—one does not want to make it sound too authoritative—about how those engaged in this work might like to deploy their resources.
The first of my three points concerns the universities. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned them and the co-operation with them. I hope that the Council may find it possible to bring together people operating in similar academic and social activities scattered about the universities. In doing so, the Council will no doubt often be working in partnership with the University Grants Committee.
I have a feeling, which I think is shared by many people, that very often the U.G.C. would benefit by trying to have sub-committees of specialists who are working in different universities and other organisations. Very often such sub-committees would perhaps help avoid overlapping of work and thus be economical.
Secondly, the shortage of manpower will undoubtedly persist for many years. I hope that the Council may be able to do some work in feeding to universities and other bodies ideas and subjects which would perhaps be extremely useful if studied at the postgraduate stage or by people working on their doctorates of philosophy or something of that sort. I have no doubt that this also can provide material which will be useful and which might prevent a certain amount of scarce manpower from working on studies which might be being covered elsewhere, or for which there does not appear to be any relevant demand.
Thirdly, I hope that when it comes to the deployment of its finances, the Council will pay some attention to the help which could be given to other specialised institutes for the straightforward maintenance 183 of ordinary work. One is sometimes appalled by the number of skilled man-hours put by competent researchers into simply trying to keep their establishments going. This is a necessary discipline to some extent, but it can go too far. The foundations are sometimes not all that keen on backing maintenance as opposed to individual projects and something valuable could be done by the Council in this respect.
If there are sceptics, as undoubtedly there are from time to time, who feel that money and time spent on research are very often time and money wasted, I hope that they will cast their eyes on the figures of manpower in the United States. That greatest of all industrial nations now has less than half its manpower in productive employment while the greater proportion is in service industries, research and so on. I suspect that if we want to go the same sort of way in the development of our resources and wealth and social well-being, we will have to pay some attention to the proportion of our manpower devoted to research.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)
I intervene at this time of the night, if only briefly, because I feel strongly about the Order. I give it my full support and I regard it as extremely important. There is no doubt that social science ought to be making a much greater contribution to the wellbeing of our life in this country.
The setting up of the Council will give added status and prestige—those horrible words—to this study and that status and prestige must get down to the sixth forms in our schools. We have made considerable progress, but much more can be done. Having just left the class room, so to speak, I am very concerned about the way in which this work is sometimes shrugged off by sixth-form teachers and careers masters and so on.
More and more in my work as a Member of Parliament I am appalled by the vital decisions which we take about the life of our people on meagre information—often only hunches. It was bad enough when I was in the town hall and we were planning housing estates and, in a way, compelling people to live in a certain way. I used to talk 184 to my planning officer and architect about this and they would say, "People like to live in multi-storey flats and have night clubs near at hand and so on". I replied that I was not sure and that perhaps we were compelling them to live like that without having found out what they really needed.
The decisions by the National Coal Board last week, affecting 120,000 men and their families, are an example. We talk about redeployment of mapower, but what horrifies me is that we can make such decisions involving such social behaviour without having anything like the information we should have.
I welcome the Order not because I believe that it is a panacea, not because it will see the end, but because it will see the beginning of putting these problems into their right perspective. The late Lord Beveridge used to say that social science was science with people brought in. It is incredible that in this country, where we have spent so much on the physical sciences, where we talk about putting man on the moon and about supersonic airliners, and where a vast amount of money and effort and intellect have been put into these great problems, we are comparatively complacent in our attitude to the social sciences.
At the end of 1964, just after the Science and Technology Bill had been presented to the House. The Guardian, in a leading article, reminded us that £750 million was spent from public and private sources on all forms of scientific research. The Minister tonight said that in 1964–65 we spent about £6½ million on social science. There is no room for complacency, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is not complacent. This is a very poor percentage when we think of all that is taking place in this country and all that needs to be done.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I hope that my hon. Friend does not give the impression that in medical research we are getting away with sums of this sort, because we certainly are not.
§ Mr. Armstrong
I am glad to have that correction, for which I thank my hon. Friend. It needs to be put into perspective.
This is one of the ways in which we can advance human progress. I was 185 brought up in a very closely knit community in a mining village where we believed that when people had better working conditions, better homes and more education, quite naturally they would become better people. I am afraid that we concentrated entirely on their physical environment. This was and is very important, and I would not undo anything which has been done, but we rather neglected some of the things which should go with that affluence, such as social development and the reaction of human beings, the way they behave, what uprooting them from one place and putting them in another means to them. Because this is one of the ways in which we can advance human progress, and because social science has a distinct contribution to make to the development of a progressive, just and satisfying society, I give my wholehearted support to the Order.
§ 10.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The draft Order is laid before Parliament under the Science and Technology Act, 1965, and I believe that it is the first of this type of Order. Under the Act there is a provision that certain bodies shall become research councils for the purposes of the Act. Unless they are named in Article 1(1,a) or 1(1,b), to become a research council the body has to have particular qualifications. Three qualifications are set out in paragraph 1(1,c). The first is that the body has to beestablished for purposes connected with scientific research.That seems to be satisfied by the statement of the objects of this Council in the Schedule to the Order. Secondly, the body must consist ofpersons appointed by a Minister of the Crown.That is recited in the Order itself. I am not sure whether we ought to be asked to accept the Minister's word for that without seeing the constitution of the Council, but I will come back to that in a moment.
The third qualification is that it must bedeclared by Order in Council to be established as a research council for the purposes of this Act.If this Order is eventually made, that will be so; it will be declared to be a 186 Research Council. I come to the primary qualification which is at the beginning of the Clause—The following bodies established or to be established by Royal Charter.This Council which is before the House tonight cannot be a Research Council under the Act unless and until it is established by Royal Charter. The Order states that it has been established by Royal Charter. When? The Minister did not tell us the date of the Royal Charter.
On 2nd November, in reply to a Question, the Minister, after setting out those who were being appointed to the Council, stated:A draft of the Charter to be granted to the Council has been approved by Her Majesty in Council, and a draft Order specifying the objects of the new body and declaring it to be a Research Council for purposes of the Science and Technology Act, 1965, has been laid before Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 153.]I made inquiries at the Vote Office and in the Library of the House to find whether a copy of the Royal Charter was available. I found that there was no copy available in the precincts of the House. Hon. Members should have the opportunity of seeing that the Royal Charter under which this body is established has not only been granted, but that it accords with the Schedule to the Order and, for example, that it provides for the appointment of the members of the Council by the Minister.
The importance of the fact that these bodies are set up by Royal Charter was stressed by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who was then the Minister, on Second Reading on 11th December a year ago, when he stated: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th December, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 1980.]The former Minister then dealt with the mechanism.
In Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said:There is a further safeguard. These bodies are to be brought into existence by Royal 187 Charter. I drew attention on Second Reading to the slightly tortuous reading of Clause 1, because that is the nature of the matter, Scientists attach a good deal of importance to this because it sets an impressive seal of independence on bodies of this kind. The Charter will set out more fully than a Statute what the objects of a council should be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1965; Vol. 705, c. 322.]It is, therefore, of great importance that the House should know what is contained in the Royal Charter which establishes every council for the purposes of the Act. Parliament should be fully informed of the purposes for which it is allocating money for the establishment of a council of this nature. The House should be given a chance of seeing the constitution of that council in detail. It might, for example, solve the problems which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned about demarcation of responsibilities if we could see the constitution of the Council.
A further important point is that once set up, a council of this nature can be given almost unlimited powers. By Section 3(6) of the Act,a Research Council shall comply with any directions of the Secretary of State requiring it to take over from, or transfer to, any Research Council or government department the responsibility for any activities in relation to scientific research.So that there is a point of great importance in the House being well informed of the details of the constitution of a council of this sort when an Order of this kind is brought before the House.
This being the first of this type of Order to come before the House, and an unusual type in that it is a draft Order based upon a Royal Charter, I am anxious that there should not be a bad precedent in the House not being fully informed. The Royal Charter should be before the House, either by being put in the Vote Office for hon. Members to be able to get it or, at least, being placed in the Library of the House for hon. Members to read it, to compare it and to be able to criticise it, if necessary, in the House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take note of this, and that on future occasions when Orders of this sort come forward, he will see that the Royal Charter is ready at the same time.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Howe (Bebington)
I want to make three points quite shortly, 188 but before making those I wish to ask one question which arises out of the Heyworth Committee's Report although not directly out of this Order. Have the Government yet taken any decision about the future of the social survey to which reference is made in the Heyworth Committee's Report and which is still, as I understand it, the responsibility of the Central Office of Information, the recommendation being that it should be transferred to the Treasury? I should like to know, if it is possible, what the answer to that question is.
The three specific points I should like to make are these. First of all, the Hey-worth Committee's Report, in paragraph 144, lays considerable stress on the possible function of the Council as a means of instruction really for Royal Commissions and committees of inquiry, and it says:We were told that Royal Commissions and other official investigating committees had sometimes found difficulty in making arrangements for research which they thought they needed to do their job.The next sentence is even more important:We were also told that some committees had not seemed to be aware that research could have helped them in their task.I would suggest to the Minister that Royal Commissions and committees of inquiry are very important instruments for social science research. They are of a special kind; they consist often of amateur or largely amateur bodies, and it is of great importance that this Council should accept the responsibility there foreshadowed by the Heyworth Committee of seeing that these semi-amateur bodies are fully apprised of the kind of inquiries they could and should make. If one looks at the appendices to the Heyworth Committee's Report one sees very good examples of the kind of questionnaires on which professional advice might be given to other committees on the facts on which they are to advise. It is my experience that not all Select Committees or committees of inquiry are told the way to set about their job. They are given some guidance as to some aspects of their functions, but not given professional social science advice. I hope the Council, when set up, will pay great importance to this.
The second point I want to make is an extension of that one. The Order 189 expressly says that the Council shall provide advice and disseminate knowledge, and this, in my view, is as important as anything else which the Council is set up to do. There are examples in the fields of health and welfare—I shall not trouble the House by citing them now but the Heyworth Report gives, at page 29, the kinds of questions which social scientists set out to answer in those fields. Further examples are given in paragraph 15 pertaining to the social conditions of the aged and other matters. They are of enormous importance to people whose responsibility it is to know these questions and the answers, and who have to apply the answers in practice.
Paragraph 15 says:Social administration is the term used for a range of empirical studies of the social services, Government departments, or other agencies. The social conditions of the aged and the influence of housing and planning upon the community are examples of investigations which have told us more about the society in which we live. Investigations of this kind show what changes are needed in the structure and functions of social services which are often created to meet the needs of an age that is past.Specifically in paragraph 19, drawing the attention of social administrators to this kind of inquiry, the Report says:Anyone engaged in administration in central or local government, or in the institutions of the welfare state, or in education, or in commerce and industry is engaged in fields which social scientists study. Whether he knows it or not, he is using methods and techniques to help him deal with his work and solve problems that a social scientist would recognise. Those that he uses may well be years out of date.I believe that that is of tremendous importance, particularly in the social services, where decisions are being taken not only by professional administrators but very often by lay members of management committees, council committees, education committees and so on, who are administering what are essentially monopoly services. In the private sector, some degree of competition is allowed to play on the structure of the services, and some degree of market research is carried out which guides the people who take decisions. But too often in the social services these lay administrators simply do not know that research is going on about the problems which are their vital concern.
190 My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) was talking about the limited extent to which the reports of these councils are debated in the House. If they are scarcely acknowledged and debated in the House, how much less are they debated in the responsible committees up and down the country? That is an area on which the Council ought to concentrate almost ahead of everything else.
There is only one layman's journal which is doing anything like the job that I have in mind, and that is New Society. I think that those behind its creation and continued success deserve the warmest congratulation, because it is almost the only means of getting ideas from the experts into the minds of administrators and into the minds of national and local politicians. I for one would not learn anything in this field if it was not through reading New Society. So I hope that the Minister will impress upon the Council when it is created the necessity, above all, for taking an active rôle in the dissemination of information.
The last point, in which I may or may not have a special interest to declare, is the rôle of the law, legal education and the reform of the law in the field of social science. If social science is a Cinderella, the study of the law, legal institutions and legal education is a Cinderella among Cinderellas. I justify myself in mentioning it in the debate because it appears from paragraph 7 of the Report that the law can properly be classified as one of the social sciences. It also appears from page 23 of the Report that the Committee were astonished to find how few lawyers were employed in research in social science departments anywhere.
I would ask at least for the Council to consider, when it is set up, who on earth is responsible for research into the working of the law and the machinery of justice, not so much the reform of the substantive laws with which we deal, but the courts, the professions and the bodies that train people for them. It is very difficult to discover which member of the Government is responsible for legal education. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman would rush to accept responsibility for the subject. I should have thought not. It is scarcely touched on in the Robbins Committee's 191 Report, and I doubt whether his noble Friend the Lord Chancellor fully accepts responsibility for it.
It is to be hoped that something will happen, because the putative chairman of the Council, in his rôle in connection with the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs, has recently begun inspiring it to do research into the consumer's end of what is thought about legal services. I hope that the new Council too will look kindly at the idea of doing something to bring this into its sphere of influence.
The questions that I have in mind as being those to which we should begin having answers are these. Are the legal services that we have in this country of the right kind? Can people get advice about the things that matter to them most? I am thinking in particular of the problems which arise in the welfare services. The post-1945 problems which confront the average family are, I suspect, matters about which the traditional legal professions are not as well instructed and as well placed to give advice as they ought to be. I speak with great diffidence about this because my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is sitting near me.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Howe
I have my hon. Friend's consent, and I am delighted to have it.
Secondly, on the other part of the question whether the legal services are of the right kind, have we the right kind of system for compensating people who suffer injury through industrial accidents? Do the damages which people get go to fulfil the right purposes. What do people do with the damages they receive? Is there a proper system for dealing with the insurance companies' money which we disperse as damages? This is all part of the first question—are our legal services of the right kind? These are all proper questions for social science.
My next question—and here I tread even more warily near my hon. Friend's toes—is this: are the legal services which are available, available at the right cost? Hon. Members on both sides of the House will shout abuse at the Law Society about the conveyancing system, and shout abuse at my profession about 192 some of our curious rules, but there is nobody independently engaged in studying the cost basis of these services and the cost at which they ought to be provided.
Finally, are the people who provide these services properly trained? It is now more than 100 years since the Commission appointed by Lord Palmerston reported about legal education. So far as I know, the recommendations of that Commission are still waiting to be taken up. There is a great opening for the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to rush in. It is more than 30 years since the Atkin Committee on Legal Education reported, and here again one of its two major recommendations is still waiting to be taken up. This is even more closely in the right hon. Gentleman's sphere because the recommendation was for the establishment of a joint committee of solicitors, the Inns of Court and of the universities to survey the whole business of legal education. That has never been taken up, and it is time that someone looked at it.
More recently, it is now, I think, seven years since the Inns of Court were asked by the then Attorney-General to move more swiftly towards the integration of their educational system with that followed by the Law Society.
These are important questions affecting an important profession which advises many people on the operation of many important services. These are questions which I suggest could well be looked at by this new Council whose existence I welcome most heartily.
§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I do not want to detain the House for very long, and I have no intention of following the hon. and learned Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe) in what he said about the legal profession. I always regard that as a dangerous subject in which to get involved, and I have no intention of doing so.
I welcome this Order, and in particular I hope that it will mean a considerable increase in the number of social scientists in local government. I stress this point because I have had considerable experience in local government and it seems to me that there is a great need for social 193 scientists to be attached to housing departments, planning departments, and so on.
Many of the outlying areas in our big cities are like cultural deserts, where people have been put into their houses, where they have been isolated from one another, and where no attempt has been made to find out what they really want. In Liverpool, communities which had existed for a long time have been broken up. The people have been sent to the outlying districts of the city, and this has resulted in women who, for the first time in their lives have become completely isolated, having nervous breakdowns and that sort of thing.
The hon. and learned Member for Bebington said that New Society was doing a very good job. I agree with him. I am sorry that it did not take up the case that I wrote to it about a few years ago, precisely on the effects of housing estates in the break-up of communities and people becoming isolated. As a city councillor I did a personal survey of a housing estate. I went into the problems that the people came to sec me about and made an analysis of the sort of things with which they were concerned. One of the problems was that young people were living in houses where there was no room for them to take advantage of the increased educational opportunities, where entire families met in the evenings in the one room, the television set was on and youngsters had no opportunity of isolating themselves and studying in the proper way. The result was that people came to me and said, "Can you get us a transfer into a house where there is an extra room?" That was one problem, but I found many similar ones.
It seems to me that these are the sort of problems which the social scientists attached to local authorities could discover and give advice about to local authorities. On this basis a serious attempt could be made to solve these problems in advance, so that they did not arise once the people had been pushed into the overspill areas.
There is a need for social scientists in industry. What has been worrying me for a long time has been the effect of overtime not only on industry but on family life. This is something that needs a great deal of study, and in this the social scientist obviously has a job to do. 194 I hope that the Council will encourage this type of research.
I feel that all colleges of technology should have a department which encourages the development of social science. I know that in many colleges of technology this is called liberal studies, but this must be expanded, because we are dealing with people, and if we forget this we are going a little too far in the wrong direction. I remember a book being published in America with the fantastic title, "Are Workers Human?" This is an example of how far in the wrong direction one can go. The book was asking this question about workers not as human beings but as things to be analysed—as something within the industrial system, rather like cogs in a machine.
The speed with which this work has been carried through has been fantastic, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon it. I am pleased with the response of the House tonight. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) spoke in a very positive way, in a very good speech.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
We on this side of the House would like to acknowledge the very courteous remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I would respond by saying that, last Saturday morning, I visited one of the colleges of advanced technology, which is shortly to become a university, where we discussed with some members of the academic advisory committee the future of the general studies course at the college, and the type of head of department we were looking for. I agree that this is just the sort of matter which a number of advanced and senior technical colleges could be considering.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will be satisfied with the tone of speeches from both sides of the House this evening. I should like particularly to mention the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe). The latter raised some very interesting points. I would underline his point about Royal Commissions, and the help which the Social Science Research Council will be able to give in future to these 195 semi-amateur bodies. I would point out to my hon. and learned Friend, however, that it is one thing to give advice to these bodies, but it is another to force them to take it.
I recall what is in some ways the most unfortunate Royal Commission Report since the war, that of the Morton Commission on Divorce. The trouble was to get the Commission to see that certain kinds of evidence were germane and relevant to what they were studying. Some of its members were inclined to think that the important thing was whether one made certain conventional value judgments or not. With that one reservation, I agree with what my hon. and learned Friend said on this subject, as I did with what he said about the working of the law. I think it is true that there is a good deal more interest today in law reform, but not, I think, in the way in which our legal system works. I agree that this is something which merits a good deal more research.
I agree also, of course, with what the right hon. Gentleman and many other speakers in the debate have said about the danger of taking important decisions on inadequate research. Of course, this applies throughout our national life, and from Governments downwards. One article which the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt know well is the one by, I think, Mr. David Henderson, in one of the Oxford economic papers about some important political decisions which have been taken before now. No Government has been completely free from guilt in this respect. Important decisions have been taken on rather inadequate research. One realises the danger of this.
I can think of many important topics which we regularly debate in the House, on which some research and some detailed knowledge would be a help. For example—and I shall not develop this point—tomorrow, we shall be considering the important issue of immigration, the question of what might be called the "danger threshold" in a school, the proportion and concentration of immigrants. This is a matter on which, so far as I know, we have never done solid research in this country, and it is something on which I hope that, one of these days, a research approach will be possible.
196 I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that there is no intention that the Social Science Research Council should have a monopoly of projects on the subject. There is nothing to prevent the Department of Education and Science putting out its own research projects. Some degree of diffusion of this work is important for a Government. Surely it was right—perhaps I can take a little credit here—that, when the Plowden Committee on Primary Education was set up, it was given, I hope, a reasonable sum of money, so that it could do its own research as it went along. A certain amount of diffusion here is very important.
I hope, too, that note will be taken of what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) said, not only about the danger of making decisions on hunches, but also on the wider question of what I think Sir Karl Popper has called in this respect, "the unintentional consequences of intentional human actions". My hon. Friend mentioned, for example, housing and the dangers in the past of such things as what one might call "Dagenham building", when large quantities of rows of houses were erected with no similar provision for shops and community services. That is an example of the early days when we had very little research in this field.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), who also made a useful contribution, talked about the new Council feeding out ideas to the universities. I hope and believe that there is a quite widespread feeling in the House that universities ought to be rather more open not only to influences from outside but also to particular projects sponsored from outside than they have been in the past. This is a field where there might well be a good deal of scope for the Council to feed out ideas to the universities.
In attributing more importance to research in this field we in Britain shall he following along the same road that many other countries follow today. This is true of both East and West. The Secretary of State and I have both visited Czechoslovakia in recent months. I was impressed by how the Academy of Science there is doing considerably more about the social sciences today than in the recent past. It is rather interesting 197 that in a number of Marxist countries social science is being accorded a respectability today which it has not had in the past.
I agree with all that has been said about the importance of trained economists and trained researchers and I agree with what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bebington about the value of many of the articles which appear in New Society and the need to disseminate new information as it becomes available. But I hope that we shall not suppose that it is only trained researchers in a particular discipline who make all the valuable contributions to that discipline. In social science, as in oilier aspects of science, what is called "the invader" has an important part to play. In looking back on the history of science I am struck by how often it is the invader from outside who understands the new ideas best of all and makes the most important contribution to our thinking. Dalton who revolutionised and opened up the study of modern chemistry was himself a meteorologist by profession.
The same is true in the social sciences. For example, in our own time it is a writer like Dr. Ian Little, who is well known to the right hon. Gentleman, who started life as a logician, who has proved an important invader in the field of welfare economics and its whole theory. I hope that this will not be forgotten, and I was glad to hear the Government's view that this body, while it has an important part to play in social science, should not in any way be thought of as an exclusive body. I should like very much to join the general welcome which the House has given to this Order.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)
It is a very good thing that the House has had a debate on this Motion rather than passing it formally. It would not have been fair to the members of the Heyworth Committee, nor to those who have taken the responsibility of membership of the Council, if we had simply formally passed the Order without discussing its effects.
The discussion has ranged widely. At times I felt a little worried whether some hon. Members were thinking of overload- 198 ing the Council with solving the problems of law reform, the future of housing estates, and a number of other things. It is clear that we are now creating a new stimulus for thought and research which will have an impact on a whole range of social problems, which is long overdue in our society.
The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price) spoke of the happy relationship which he had observed between the inspiration of Trinity College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge, on this subject. Coming to this debate as an ex-student of the London School of Economics, I like to feel that I represent the most distinguished school of social studies in the world, although, like all other ex-L.S.E. students, I am always ready to welcome encouraging developments elsewhere.
The hon. Gentleman flattered many of us by the quotations he flung across the Floor, saying, as he delivered each of them, that we should, of course, recognise it. I confess that I did not recognise them all, and I saw one or two other puzzled expressions in the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman made many most interesting observations about the nature of research in this field, and I quarrel with him on only one point. I think that, perhaps, he overstressed the need to avoid emotion. It seems to me that, in speaking of the social studies, we are speaking of a field in which people do have strong convictions and in which it is possible to make the mistake of trying to retreat, as it were, into an ivory tower and think that all worth while research must be divorced from the convictions which we hold. Many of the greatest teachers and researchers in economics, political science and the social sciences have been controversial figures, but the quality of their research has not been spoiled by their having a case to make and being partisan in support of it.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about the possibility of cross-membership of the various research councils as being one way of creating better liaison and communication. I have had inquiry made, and I am informed that we have no cross-membership at present; but the Government certainly do not rule it out. Meanwhile, a very useful form of liaison between the various research councils is the present practice of one research council having an assessor at meetings of 199 another council or sometimes at meetings of its committees. This is a good way of keeping in touch and being informed of particular developments. I am sure that this will automatically arise from the activities of the Social Science Research Council—not that we as a Government will say how it should arrange its affairs in conjunction with other councils. It is a fairly obvious and well tried way of keeping in touch.
I welcome the other expressions of good will coming from both sides during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) spoke very wisely about the need for links between the practical work being done in the various fields of research and the academic side of it. An interesting example of this is that in social studies both in this country and overseas there are people who started out on this kind of work without a conventional academic background but who have advanced by way of practical work to most distinguished academic positions. An obvious example which comes to mind is Professor Titmuss who was never a university undergraduate but who is now a most distinguished professor and a member of the Social Science Research Council.
The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) made three points which are very much in line with our own thinking. The kind of co-ordination for which he asks, emphasising the need for a relationship between the Council and work being done in the universities and the smaller research institutions, is one of the primary functions of the Council. It will be for the Council to co-ordinate the work, survey what is being done, and see what gaps ought to be filled. I gather that that is precisely what the hon. Member has in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) had no need to qualify his references to status and prestige. They are, perhaps, overworked words but they are the right words in this context. We want to raise the status and prestige of this work for various reasons, and that is why there is to be this Research Council as one of the family of Councils now established or being established.
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) was disappointed because 200 he had not seen a copy of the Royal Charter. I shall see that a copy is placed in the Library. He asked when it had been approved. Her Majesty was pleased to order that the Council be incorporated by Royal Charter on 29th October. My right hon. Friend announced this fact in moving the Motion, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear it. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that everything that is in the Charter about the objects of the Council has been described by my right hon. Friend in considerably more detail than appears in the Charter. I do not think that my right hon. Friend missed any detail that the House should have had. However, I will ensure that a copy is placed in the Library.
I will not follow the hon. and learned Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe) in his views about the legal profession. He asked about the Social Survey. The recommendation about its future is among several recommendations in the Heyworth Report which are now being studied by Departments concerned but not immediately involved in making the Order, which is to carry out the first and most important recommendation of the Committee, that the Council should be established. Other matters, including the one that he raised, are being considered actively in the light of the recommendations of the Committee.
I agree very much with what the hon. Member said about the communication of the results of the research to people concerned in the field. I agree that this kind of thing is needed in new ways and new dimensions. It is essential that as the research and academic work develops there should be new methods of communicating. This idea was reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in what he said about local government and industry and the need for these things to percolate to the people doing the job in practice. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) made the same point. He spoke of the need for universities to be more open to people and influences from outside. This is happening in a number of ways, and the creation of the Council will open up new ways.
We have had a debate at some length in view of the lateness of the hour, and 201 I think that is right in view of the importance of the subject. I agree with those who have said that we should debate these matters more than we have done. During this year we have established a new framework of research councils under the Science and Technology Act, a framework under the umbrella of the Council for Scientific Policy, and this Council is an addition to the family. It is extremely important that Parliament should discuss what the councils are doing and that hon. Members should question Ministers about what they are doing to help the councils in their work. I hope that hon. Members at Question Time and, where possible, in debate will return to these subjects so that we can inform ourselves about them and help to create an informed public opinion so that the results of the work can be fully implemented throughout society.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Draft Social Science Research Council Order, 1965, laid before this House on 27th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.