HC Deb 28 June 1966 vol 730 cc1567-9
21. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the scope and results of his recent visit to Russia, indicating in particular what comparisons he made between the nature and progress' of Russian scientific development and British scientific development, and their respective practical applications.

31. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on his visit to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Frank Cousins)

I would refer my hon. Friends to my Reply of 24th May to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), in which I outlined the scope of my visit. I would not venture to make comparisons of the kind suggested.

Mr. Hughes

What steps did my right hon. Friend take during his visit to substitute the doctrine of co-ordination in science between the two countries for the doctrine of competition, which would be to the advantage of both countries and of the world at large?

Mr. Cousins

I took steps to discuss with the State Committee of Science and Technology the question of how we could co-operate and derive advantage from each other's experience, but I did not attempt to tell them that their doctrine was wrong.

Mr. Dalyell

Does my right hon. Friend think that we have anything to learn from the Russian system of higher education inside large-scale industry?

Mr. Cousins

It is always extremely difficult to make the kind of comparison in which it can be said that one side has the opportunity of learning something from the other. Both sides, however, know that they have to face serious problems and the technological resources of both countries are being utilised to what they regard as the best advantage. It is quite true that in these two countries some areas of excellence exist which may not be the comparable areas in each case.

Mr. Frederic Harris

In trying to justify the visit to one's constituents, can the Minister say what was the cost to public funds of this visit?

Mr. Cousins

I not only justified it to my constituents but I will justify it to the House if hon. Members wish me to do so. I should certainly be prepared, at any time that any hon. Member wants to put down a Question, to answer it on cost, together with costs of visits which other people have made if hon. Members wish to refer back to them.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that in Russia and many other countries there is much closer co-ordination between university research and industrial need than in this country? Does he not further agree that there is great need to have scientific management in this country of the type which can appreciate scientific changes? Furthermore, does he not agree— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is enough for the Minister to answer.

Mr. Cousins

There is very close collaboration between the universities and some sections of industry in the U.S.S.R., such as. I hope that we are able to show we are developing in this country. This is one of the points in connection with which we said that closer attention needed to be given to the question of people moving from industry into the universities and in the reverse direction, too. Whether theirs is a better use of scientific resources is quite a different matter.

Mr. Hogg

Without any desire to compare unfavourably one system with another, may I ask whether the salient characteristic of Russian science is not the separation of the university from the research institute, and are they not now seeking to reverse that process?

Mr. Cousins

It is true that that problem has arisen and that the Russians are now attempting to reverse the process because they want to get closer together and closer in total to industry so that the effects and values of their science can be transmitted.

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