HC Deb 16 December 1975 vol 902 cc1148-9
8. Mr. Macfarlane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received requesting increased Government funds for the work of science research in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mulley

I have received two memoranda on the general financial situation of the universities which have included a reference to their research requirements. Some of the research councils have also in their annual reports drawn attention to present financial restraints on their activities.

Mr. Macfarlane

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's reply. Does he recognise the deep concern which exists in scientific and research circles because of the level of inflation and the effect that it is having on their research programmes? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is his Department which directs science policy, or whether responsibility is loosely fragmented through other Departments?

Mr. Mulley

As the hon. Gentleman will know, following the adoption by the previous Government of the Rothschild recommendations, the other Departments concerned with research have a consumer "interest and fund certain projects on that basis. My Department is responsible for general science policy. The advisory boards of the research councils which operate the funds between the councils are independent bodies. They decide the detailed application of the funds.

Dr. Hampson

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the recent report of the Chief Statistician of the Department of the Environment and the Chairman of the Science Research Council drawing attention to the declining numbers entering post-graduate engineering courses, particularly in comparison with the position in Germany, and seeking to promote relations with industry to encourage manufacturing technology? What is his Department's thinking? What liaison does he have with other Department—for example, the Department of Industry—and with industry? As his Department did not bring forward a White Paper on the Public Expenditure Report on post-graduate education, although that Report was in existence for 18 months, will it now start bringing forward proposals to the House so that we can deal with this important issue?

Mr. Mulley

As regards engineering graduates, I recall that the figures for the current year are rather better than those for last year. I take it that the hon. Gentleman has not seen the important Press announcement made by the Science Research Council only last week about manufacturing technology, which referred to whether a teaching hospital should have, as it were, a "teaching factory". The council issued its statement last week and I shall send a copy to the hon. Gentleman.