HC Deb 22 July 1968 vol 769 cc23-4
28. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister of Technology what studies he has made of the implications for British nuclear technology of the decision to withdraw British participation from the proposed CERN 300 GeV nuclear accelerator.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Technology (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalien)

The decision not to participate was taken only after the most thorough examination of all relevant factors, including the industrial implications of the project.

Mr. Fortescue

Does the Minister agree that without a healthy foundation of fundamental research applied research cannot exist at all, and that ultimately the whole work of his Department depends on full participation by British scientists in fundamental research on a European or even a world scale?

Mr. Mallalieu

Fundamental research is vitally important, but it is a question of priorities.

Mr. Brooks

The way in which the Government announced the decision left many of us with a feeling of deep disquiet. Will he ensure that a much fuller statement of the implications of the decision is published as soon as possible?

Mr. Mallalieu

I was not aware of the disquiet. It seemed to me that my right hon. Friend's announcement was fairly complete, but I shall bring my hon. Friend's point of view to his notice.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the Minister recall that in the White Paper is was stated that British industry had been remarkably unsuccessful in obtaining contracts for C.E.R.N., and that if we spent £44 million in our contribution to this project we should have that much less to spend on other advanced technologies, the rewards for which are much higher?

Mr. Mallalieu

That is undoubtedly correct.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my hon. Friend assure the Germans and other Europeans that there is no sense of absolute finality about our decision?

Mr. Mallalieu

I think that there is finality about this decision, but that does not mean that we do not want to go on collaborating on other projects.

Mr. David Price

Does the Minister agree that basic research lends itself more favourably to international cooperation than does development work in which there are commercial pay-offs and which lends itself to a good deal more political argy-bargy, for understandable reasons, than does fundamental research?

Mr. Mallalieu

That is a somewhat philosophical question, but I should think that it is correct.

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