HC Deb 23 February 1970 vol 796 cc812-3
34. Mr. David Howell

asked the Minister of Technology by what date he will reach a firm decision on the proposals for the reorganisation of Government research establishments outlined in his recent Green Paper.

51. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Technology when he expects to reach conclusions on his Green Paper on Research in Government Laboratories.

Mr. Benn

Proposals to set up a British Research and Development Corporation were put forward for public discussion in a Green Paper published on 16th January. Both the time and the nature of the Government's decisions on these proposals will depend on the course of the debate on them in the House and outside. If it seems as a result of this that no major alterations in the proposals are needed, the Government would aim to announce their decision in the early summer. The earliest possible date for the establishment of the corporation would be 1972.

Mr. Howell

In the meantime, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the widespread view of many people that the proposals in the Green Paper are basically on the wrong tack and that the effort spent in drumming up more work for Government research establishments might be better spent in putting industrial research back where it belongs—in industry.

Mr. Benn

It is curious that although we published the Green Paper to stimulate debate, in the course of the debate so far there has been no suggestion that we should do nothing, nor has there been any alternative proposal which has stood examination. However, the object of the Green Paper is to have a debate, and if the hon. Member would like to put forward his proposals—and if there were a debate in the House, that might make it easier for him to do so—we would certainly welcome that.

Mr. Dalyell

In view of the widespread public discussion which gives the impression that my right hon. Friend is on the right track, and not, as the hon. Member suggested, on the wrong track, may we have an early debate on this matter? Would my right hon. Friend make representations to the Leader of the House and perhaps combine with that subject a subject which cannot be sensibly separated from it; namely, the Report of the Select Committee on Defence Research Establishments?

Mr. Benn

I think that every Minister likes to have an opportunity for the House to debate his Department's proposals. This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and I will refer my hon. Friend's suggestion to him.

Mr. David Price

Would the Minister clear up one point which is not made clear in the Green Paper? He would assist the House to come to a conclusion by doing so. In the Green Paper he proposes transferring responsibility for Risley, Harwell and Culham to his new corporation; does that mean that the U.K.A.E.A. would consequently be wound up?

Mr. Benn

It is apparent from the proposals in the Green Paper that we see the B.R.D.C. absorbing establishments of the Ministry of Technology on the Industrial side and the residual establishments of the A.E.A., and to that extent it represents winding-up the A.E.A. in the sense in which it has previously operated.