§ The Minister for Information Technology (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 8764/86, a draft Regulation concerning the Framework Programme of Community Activities in the Field of Research and Technological Development 1987 to 1991; endorses the view that the Framework Programme offers an effective means of assessing priorities for European Community Research and Development and for monitoring its implementation; and welcomes the United Kingdom's endeavours to secure a cost-effective programme of high quality scientific and technological research with the main emphasis on activities aimed at promoting Europe's industrial competitiveness.The Commission has put forward ambitious and far-reaching proposals for Community research and development over the next five years within the context of an overall strategy, or framework programme. It is proposing new or significantly expanded research activities in eight main areas with a total cost of 7.735 billion ecu or about £5.3 billion. Further details are given in the explanatory memorandum before the House. This framework will replace the present framework programme agreed in 1983, which is due to run until the end of 1987. An indicative spending target of around 3 billion ecu or £2 billion was set for the current framework, excluding energy demonstration activities and work in the European Coal and Steel Community, which are not covered by the new proposal.
The origins of the present proposal can be traced to an idea put forward by the Dutch Prime Minister at the European Council in December 1984, when he argued that Europe needed to develop a "technological dimension" to ensure that it was able to compete effectively in world markets, particularly for high technology goods, against United States and Japanese competition. His initiative, rightly, placed technological development in the wider context of the internal market, common standards, public procurement and a trade policy. The proposal now before the House, which is a refinement of two earlier Commission memoranda, concentrates more narrowly on one specific aspect, namely, the strengthening of the research and development capability. There is no doubt of the importance of this aspect, but it is essential to remember the wider picture, which is one to which I shall refer again.
In parallel with the consideration of the Commission's earlier memoranda, discussions were also taking place on what has become known as the Single European Act. Member states decided to include in the Act new treaty articles on technological research and development in recognition of the importance of this subject to Europe's economic future. Article 130 F of the Act explicitly recognises that the primary aim of European Community research and development shall be to strengthen the technological basis of European industry and to encourage it to become more competitive at international level. Article 130 I of that Act sets out the basis for adopting a framework programme. The draft proposal before the House has been prepared in conformity with those articles. It must be adopted by unanimous decision of the Council, 1032 following which specific implementing programmes in the various main areas of research may be adopted over the next five years by qualified majority. It is, therefore, of great importance that this framework should correctly identify the most appropriate areas for European collaborative research, ensure cost-effective management procedures and set a reasonable cost to the total programme. I shall deal with each of these aspects in turn.
I should point out that since the explanatory memorandum was placed before the House there have been some developments which have alleviated some of the Government's concerns described in that memorandum. The Community's scientific and research committee has proposed a revised structure for the research proposals and has redrafted the technical content in a standard format which considerably clarifies the objectives and proposed means of implementing the research. The Commission has also tabled a draft action plan on evaluation which sets out how it intends to measure progress towards the various research objectives which will be embodied in the framework programme. It has also spelt out how it sees Community activity linking with EUREKA activities. These are all helpful developments which, the Government believe, mean that the draft proposal now provides a better basis for decision on priorities and on the size and scope of future European Community research and development. However, significant changes in a number of other respects will still be required before this draft proposal can be adopted.
The Government have always recognised the potential value of collaboration within the European Community in tackling research and development problems. The Single European Act has already recognised that in terms of promoting industrial competitiveness. There are other issues which, because of their sheer size and scale, lend themselves particularly well to European collaboration—the fusion experiment JET is a good example. There are still other areas, such as environmental research, where the problem quite obviously transcends national frontiers and where study on a European basis can provide an additional dimension. Research which will contribute to the establishment of common European standards and thereby to the promotion of the internal market is also an obvious area for joint effort. In assessing Community research proposals the Government are always looking for this European added value, which will ensure that the Community research offers more than national programmes in the same areas. It is obviously important that Community and national programmes should complement and not duplicate one another. It is also important to establish the correct balance between the two. A strong national programme provides the best basis for effective participation in Community activity. The Government have also to bear in mind other international programmes which may offer better ways for collaboration. The European Space Agency, for example, or the European Council for Nuclear Research, CERN, or the European molecular biology laboratory—or most recently EUREKA: all these organisations have their place, and again Community programmes must not duplicate them.
As far as the scientific and technical content of the framework is concerned, the Government have welcomed the proposed emphasis on activities promoting Europe's industrial competitiveness. We attach the highest priority to programmes in the fields of information technologies, 1033 such as ESPRIT, telecommunications, such as RACE, industrial technologies, such as BRITE, and advanced materials. These are all areas where we believe that greater collaboration between member states at the pre-competitive research stage can help to lay the foundations for a true internal market.
The Government therefore support an increased emphasis on research in support of Europe's industrial competitiveness. Previous and current programmes reflect the fact that Community research had its origins in the 1970s when energy problems, quite rightly, dominated our thinking. Priorities have changed. This does not detract from the continuing importance which the Government attach to some of the activities in energy. For instance, the JET experiment is recognised internationally as being first-class science and a field in which Europe is pre-eminent, but we must be careful not to commit ourselves prematurely to the next stage of fusion research, the scale of which may require even wider international collaboration involving the United States and Japan.
The Community's research programmes on non-nuclear energies have also produced some very valuable results as well as identifying some approaches which are no longer worth pursuing. In the Government's view the emphasis in this sector should now be on demonstrating the economic viability of the technologies which have been developed. Moreover, there are established wider forums for international research and development collaboration on these technologies, for example under the auspices of the International Energy Agency. Community programmes in radioactive waste management and radiation protection also quite clearly have an important European dimension and should continue, as should programmes on health and the environment.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Is this a convenient moment to raise the question of Ispra and the problems of that site in northern Italy, which many of us have visited at some time or another? Is there any way in which Ispra can be improved or shrunk?
§ Mr. Pattie
There are ways in which Ispra could be improved. If it helps the hon. Gentleman and the House, I may come to that topic in more detail later. In the past few days I have gone around Europe and discussed with my opposite numbers on the Research Council the industrialists' report on the joint research centre at Ispra. I discussed that yesterday in Rome, and obviously the Italian Government are very interested in the matter. I should like to discuss it in detail, perhaps later in the debate. The Italian Government have been particularly receptive to our suggestions, which I will put on the agenda at the Council meeting next Tuesday morning. I assure the hon. Gentleman that much effort has been spent by me and others on this, and it does not require my receiving a brief on the subject. I know the problems of the JRC off by heart.
The Government believe that useful and viable programmes can be maintained in the sectors to which I referred earlier at around the current levels. As well as being concerned with the scientific and technological quality of the Community research, the Government are concerned with the cost-effectiveness of its management. There is sometimes a tendency within the Community to confuse quality with width and to assume that more is necessarily better. In my experience, this is rarely the case. 1034 What we shall be looking for in the framework programme therefore will be activities of the highest scientific and technological quality, but ones which are carefully targeted and sharply focused on areas of direct relevance to Europe's industrial needs and which are managed in a cost-effective fashion. I shall deal with some of these aspects in more detail.
§ Mr. Pattie
I wish to deal with these aspects in more detail, and if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue he may find that his intervention is more telling.
The Government will be concerned to ensure that Community research and development programmes measure up to the same high standards of management and cost effectiveness as domestic United Kingdom programmes. I regret to say that this has not always been the case in the past. In some sectors, such as ESPRIT, the record is good, but in others, such as the Community's own joint research centres, the record of financial management is poor, and the relevance of the scientific work to the Community's current needs is very limited. The JRC at present consumes a substantial proportion, around 25 per cent., of the total Community expenditure on research and development and over the past 18 months the Government have pressed hard to ensure that any continuing JRC activity secures much better value for money. A panel of eminent European industrialists has been reviewing the centre's work and submitted its report last week. The panel has concluded that the JRC as presently organised does not meet the Community's research needs and that fundamental changes in management procedures will be required. The Government will wish to be satisfied that these changes will be implemented.
I have already mentioned evaluation. This has been another major aspect of the Government's policy. Without effective evaluation of programmes that are based on verifiable objectives there can be no assurance that money is being well spent. The Commission has made some significant progress on this front over recent weeks, which I greatly welcome. Provided we are satisfied that an effective evaluation system is in place, we can have greater confidence in the future management of Community programmes. We need also to consider more imaginative approaches to financing programmes. We should not be limited to 50 per cent. support levels for all industrial programmes. This may be necessary for small and medium-sized enterprises, or in the first year of a project, but we should consider tapering funding levels to test industry's commitment to the research.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The Minister has moved on beyond the point at which I would have liked to ask him this question. He used the phrase that we should not confuse quality with width, which is an elegant way of saying that the Government intend to cut. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister at Milan, Fontainebleau and subsequently at Luxembourg last December committed Britain, together with other European nations, to increase research and development on a European scale to combat w Eat the Japanese and the Americans are doing? How does the hon. Gentleman square that with the way in which the 1035 Government are dragging their feet on these commitments? Does he not understand why many regard Britain as having reneged on those undertakings, given three times?
§ Mr. Pattie
The hon. Gentleman always finds it difficult to understand that if one is having a debate in the European forum in this or on any other matter one is debating the size of a new programme, and it has been agreed that the aim of such a new programme should be to increase activity. It is not anything other than realistic to say that we should like to have cost-effective programmes. The hon. Gentleman is rushing to conclusions, as he so frequently does. I cannot hope to reform him.
I find it remarkable" however, that at a stage when we are considering a new framework programme we must have regard to all the expenditure that went on before the first programme, and that we are still having some difficulty in convincing the Commission to come forward with what I think any hon. Member who takes an interest in these matters would recognise as sensible evaluation procedures. All that we are seeking in any programme of this sort is to determine the objectives, whether we shall recognise them when they have been achieved, and whether it will be possible to turn off any of the programmes so that others may be commenced in their place. Surely those sets of procedures, which I have lumped together under the term "evaluation", should be a pre-requisite of any form of activity of this sort. I find it some commentary on the ineffectiveness of the Commission's procedures that we should at this stage, when we are talking about the second framework programme, still be discussing the evaluation procedure. The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) may find that straightforward and acceptable.
§ Mr. Pattie
Indeed. The hon. Gentleman will have to await the outcome of the Research Council's meeting next week. As I have said, the entire thrust of the programme is to find a series of eight action lines that will address the research and development needs of 12 European nations.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)
None of those reasons explains why the Government are trying to keep research off the summit agenda. Are the Government trying to do that? Is it the Government's intention at the Research Council next week, if it is not discussed at the summit, to support an increase in the proportion of the Community's budget that is directed to R and D?
§ Mr. Pattie
The hon. Gentleman must have intelligence that is better than that which is available to anyone in the House if he knows what attempts are being made to keep various items off or on various agendas. It would not make any difference whether the presidency decided that it did not want to have something on the agenda for debate later this week. If any of the member states wished to raise the item, I have no doubt that they would do so. There are items such as "any other business" or "any other matter" under which a member state can raise the issue in question. I am sure that a member state would find ways of raising it.
§ Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage)
As Labour and Liberal Members are talking about cuts in the European research programme, would my hon. Friend care to speculate on the implications for the programmes if the commitment of the two parties to abandon civil nuclear power were implemented?
§ Mr. Pattie
It will be interesting to hear whether Opposition Members care to take up that issue if they seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is a matter for them to answer, but I am sure that my hon. Friend's point has been duly noted.
The Government remain concerned about the scale of the Commission's expenditure proposals. At the last Research Council meeting in Luxembourg in October the United Kingdom representative indicated that on the basis of the approach that I have outlined the United Kingdom had concluded that a cost-effective and viable research programme could be drawn up for about 3.5 billion ecus, compared with the Commission's proposed expenditure of 7.7 billion ecus. We believe that expenditure at this level should be adequate to cover all of the priority research programmes at adequate levels, but we recognise that some additional funding may be necessary to respond to the particular interests of other member states. It is a view that is broadly shared by France and Germany. It is a level of funding which the Government believe is consistent with their commitment to increase the proportion of Community resources that are devoted to priority research and development activities. Moreover, in the light of the overall pressures on the Community budget, the Government believe that it is a far more realistic rate of expenditure than that which the Commission proposed.
There are, however, a number of other member states which would be prepared to agree to either the Commission's target expenditure or to figures substantially higher than that which the British Government believe to be necessary. I am at present in the process of consulting my Research Council colleagues to try to determine the common ground on which we might build an agreement on this point. I firmly believe that it should be possible to meet the aspirations of other member states within a total expenditure very significantly less than that which the Commission has proposed, if, as I have argued, research is concentrated on high priority areas, with a clear Community dimension and on the basis of rigorous and effective management procedures. I believe that it is only by following this approach that we can feel confident that European Community research will respond to Europe's research needs, and that lies at the heart of the Government's policy, which I commend to the House.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)
Three issues in the European framework programme for research and technological collaboration face the Minister in his capacity as Chairman of the Research Council and at the forthcoming Council meeting. The first issue is the scale of resources that should be committed. The Minister has had a good deal to say about that matter. The second issue is the extent of control that member Governments should seek to reserve to themselves. He hid that issue among a lot of waffle about efficiency and so on, which comes ill from the Minister who had considerable responsibility for the development of airborne radar during his term as a 1037 Defence Minister. The third issue is the relationship between European programmes and national programmes.
The Opposition regard the science and technology policies of the Government as totally inadequate. The restoration of Britain's technological and industrial competitiveness is the avowed ultimate aim that the motion sets for the European programmes. The Government show no signs of waking up to the magnitude of the task. So we have to address ourselves to actions taken within the limitations of present Government policy that might at least leave open the possibility of constructive development by a future Government who are seriously interested in industrial recovery.
We make no objection to the commission's proposals for the Framework programme. The United Kingdom research and development contribution to European programmes will still remain small compared with that of any Government who wish seriously to restore the industrial competitiveness of this country. When the Labour party comes to office, the resources that we will need to commit, and stimulate industry into committing, will certainly allow room to correct the imbalances between possible European and United Kingdom programmes.
§ Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)
The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the document that we are debating mentions the possibility—indeed, the desirability—of what he calls trans-European mobility of scientists. I do not demur from the hon. Gentleman's desire that the United Kingdom should make a sensible contribution to the cost of the European programme for research and development. Does it strike the hon. Gentleman that, if the Labour party were to carry through the wider public expenditure commitments that it has made and to accept the implications of its taxation policy, there would be no scientists working in Britain because the levels of taxation will drive them out of the country? In America, the top rate of personal taxation will be 28 per cent., whereas in Britain the basic rate is 29 per cent. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in future, it will be important to ensure at least that our top rates of tax are no higher than those in other member countries of the European Community?
§ Mr. Howarth
The hon. Gentleman wishes scientists to be paid at internationally competitive rates. The problem is that, if we take it away in taxation, we will lose them.
§ Dr. Bray
He is paid £8,500, with another £1,500 in London weighting. It is absurd to say that a brilliant young scientist earning £10,000 a year is highly paid. The hon. Gentleman is living in cloud cuckoo land. [Interruption.] The Minister is on to the point. I do not think that Conservative Members really know how badly scientists have been treated by the Government. I do not think that they have ever looked at how the salary scales of scientists compare with the earnings of their friends in the City. They are putting an absurd argument.
1038 Until the Labour party comes into office, the enterprise and insight shown by the Commission and by Commission officials, much maligned by precisely the type of slur that the Minister is casting, so far overshadow the ignorance, timidity and prejudices of present British Ministers that I would cheerfully trust Commission officials better to understand and provide for the real needs of Britain. I hasten to add, for the benefit of those officials, that that will not apply to Labour Ministers.
On the extent of Commission and national control, any coherent programme must be sufficiently negotiable to take advantage of the opportunities open to it, and thereafter to have sufficient continuity. Both considerations point to the Commission being allowed considerable responsibility, which it will be able to exercise in practice only if it remains sensitive to the interests and institutions of member countries. The Commission is far more likely to understand and tolerate the initiatives that we shall have to take nationally to restore national competitiveness if it is allowed and encouraged to play its full part in the initiatives necessary at the European level.
On the relationship between European and national programmes, there is not much to be said about the Government's national programmes, because there are not many of any significance. But let me treat this in the context of the national programmes that we believe to be necessary in the United Kingdom. The test of the adequacy of science and technology policies is that they should contribute what they have to to the restoration of Britain's technological competitiveness. The measure of competitiveness is that we should be able substantially to restore full employment, without generally reducing the expectations of those now in work and without running into the constraints of inflation and the balance of payments. Of course no Government will be able to do that overnight, but it is possible to estimate the research and development resources needed to achieve that result in due course.
Much else is needed in industrial policy in training and investment. But the income of an industrial country above the average global level that can be earned in operating branch factories planted in countries by overseas multinationals is broadly determined by the range of technologies in which it is able to maintain world competitiveness in technology centres with the full range of industrial activities from research and product and process development, through pilot and full-scale production, innovation, marketing, and investment in branch operations elsewhere.
§ Mr. Jackson
The hon. Gentleman speaks about maintaining a competitive position in a wide range of sectors. I should like to ask him a question about one institution, Harwell, in my constituency—it is concerned with the nuclear industry, which is very important for our competitiveness, and so on—which I have put to my hon. Friend the Minister. What will be the implication for Harwell in my constitency, for this important industry and a range of British competitors of the implementation of the Labour party's policy?
§ Dr. Bray
The diversification of Harwell into other research, started under the Ministry of Technology in the 1960s, when I was a junior Minister in the Ministry, has proceeded well and will, of course, proceed further. Whether, in the long run, people will choose to work at 1039 Harwell or elsewhere will be a matter for the individuals concerned. It is clear that any Government giving top priority to research and development will create such a buoyant market for scientists and technologists that they will not have the slightest difficulty in finding the jobs that they want wherever they choose to work.
I shall continue with my argument about the competitiveness that is needed to maintain the expectations of those in work while restoring full employment. As a first step, we need broadly to increase the level of our civil research and development from its present 1.6 per cent. of GDP to about the 2.5 per cent. that was reached in Germany and Japan as long ago as 1983. By now, that percentage is probably being approached in France. Translated into money terms, that means increasing our civil research and development from about £5 billion this year, from both Government and industry, to £9 billion per annum in four or five years. That is the amount that will be required to match the 1983 level of Germany and Japan as a proportion of national income. If we measure that against the £1.1 billion per annum proposed by the Commission for the whole of the Framework programme for the whole of Europe, we see that it is tiny in proportion to the figures that I have quoted.
Much can be said about how we can manage this restoration of technological competitiveness, but we cannot deal with that in this debate. It will need a combination of general fiscal incentives for research and development, project support and advisory services, and we must take the necessary action to restore our much eroded science base. I shall relate it to some of the European programmes, such as BRITE.
A lot can and should be done to update the technology of our established manufacturing industries. The new EURAM programme in advanced materials gives us the opportunity to bring our metals and new materials manufacturing industries up to speed, so that they are better able to complement the investment that more newly industrialised countries will make in established technologies, the installation of which we are only just completing. However, the fastest rate of growth will continue to be in information technology.
The industrial participants tell me that the European RACE programme in telecommunications research is going well. Before long that will reach the point where major issues of policy will be raised on the operation of switchable wideband fibre optic networks, procurement, and industrial structure. The European Commission deserves full credit for having encouraged Mr. Ian Mackintosh to put forward his proposals for Eurogrid, the switchable wideband fibre optic network, which he has now published in his book "Sunrise Europe." That book is far more readable than most Commission documents. The RACE programme is plainly pointing in that direction.
The connection of every home and workplace in Europe into a switchable wideband network, and still more the value added services that that will make possible, offer a vehicle by which Europe will be able to catch up with the large and still rapidly increasing lead which the United States and Japan have built up in information technology industries and services, a catching up process that no European country would be able to afford on its own.
1040 I have seen no sign that the Government have woken up to the challenge and the opportunity offered. Indeed, I see many signs that they are still heavily prejudiced against the active industrial policy that is needed. We have seen in this debate their foot-dragging over the European framework programme of research and development. It is the more to be deplored because Britain's role could be decisive. Certainly Germany, led by Siemens and the Bundespost, opposes RACE because it thinks it can go it alone with the rest of Europe falling in behind. But it can not, and if the rest of Europe pushes on with RACE and shows signs of developing it into Eurogrid, Germany would soon join in. It is quite specifically the British Government who are blocking progress.
We do not have to be starry-eyed about Europe to see the role that European technological co-operation can play—and it would not be to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Technologically, the world is one, and includes the developing and newly industrialised countries as well as Japan and the United States. The House should urge the Government to give more positive support to the programmes of European research and technological development than is reflected in their recent actions and in the motion before us.
§ Mr. Richard Page (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Such is the nature of this place that we have only 90 minutes to debate a subject that I believe could and perhaps will be the basis of the growth in wealth and employment throughout the EEC and in the United Kingdom during the next decade or so.
I support the establishment of the framework, but I can also appreciate the Government's concern at the volumes of money that are involved. However, £5.3 billion over five years is really not a great deal of money when one considers the programmes in Japan and the United States. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has reversed the television slogan "Never mind the quality, feel the width" by claiming that we must aim for quality. I would like to believe that is correct, but we should not stint when a little more research into quality is needed. If we are to stay ahead or if we are to stay level with the opposition, we must have the programmes that will produce the results that we need for our industries to provide all the jobs and the growth that we want to see in future.
I do not agree with the principle of throwing money at a problem. However, when we consider the amount of money that goes into an early warning system or a Chevaline, and compare that sum with what is necessary for the growth of so many bases of our industrial companies, £5.3 billion over five years tends to be put into perspective.
Having said that, I would like to show that I am impartial in my comments by referring to the comments made by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray). I listened to the hon. Gentleman's criticisms and I recalled the period of the previous Labour Government when the Labour party was supported by the dynamic Liberal party. I struggled to recall the initiatives taken by the Labour Government to assist British industry. All I can think of is the National Enterprise Board. After that, there is a big black hole.
The Government deserve credit and praise for what they have done to help industry through Alvey, ESPRIT, EUREKA, research in advanced communications in 1041 Europe, BRITE and all the other programmes put forward by this Government. My hon. Friend the Minister can dismiss the criticism, because we are doing something, unlike the Labour party.
Under the eight programmes within the framework, all the new technologies except that of space is covered. Space technology will be covered under another aspect of the EEC. I will not argue with the general principle. There is, however, always a "but" and many hon. Members raise the "buts". It must be sensible to have a framework that prevents the duplication of problems within each member state. I hope that we can be sure that we will get our share of the action. The calculations on the Airbus programme have been complex but in the programme proposed under the framework, there will be nearly 1,000 projects. There are 210 projects in ESPRIT, RACE has 31, and EUREKA has 72. There will be many programmes to be covered by the £5.3 billion. The control of those programmes will be very important. The need for control is self-evident—my hon. Friend the Minister made that point—because control has not always been successful in EEC activities.
Within all those activities, there is danger of two overlaps. First, there must be doubt about the proposed division of research areas and the scale of the programmes. For example, there will be an overlap between the research programmes on the environment, under the No. 1 programme on the quality of life, and biotechnology. The environmental protection and study of natural and technological hazards seem to be inextricably linked with the management of agricultural resources. Therefore, the Government's reservations about the basis on which the Commission has grouped some of those activities are well founded. They were right to ask for clearer details on the content of the programmes and to stress the need for objective management and evaluation. I support what my hon. Friend the Minister has said on that point.
The second overlap is that within the United Kingdom systems and programmes. It is important that we have a clear research and development target in information technology, as that is the area to which the greatest amount of money will be allocated. My hon. Friend will remember that the report of the committee chaired by Sir Austin Bide, currently being studied by the Government, recommended additional public expenditure of about £300 million. If we extend that over the next five years, in the public and private sectors it will be about £550 million. Therefore, we must know how the European and our domestic information technology programmes will be co-ordinated.
Are the priorities recommended by the Commission and the Bide committee compatible? Will they come together? It is not yet clear how the collaboration between the academic and research teams envisaged by the two bodies might be dovetailed. That must be clarified.
In addition, the West Germans have said that they wish to run their own information technology programme rather than join the EEC programme. The Government must make absolutely clear the balance between the Community programmes and our national research.
The Commission's proposals will have to be judged on its success in co-ordinating all those factors. If it does not co-ordinate them properly, that will lead to bickering and dissent. I do not want that to happen. As I said at the start of my speech, I believe that the growth and the wealth of our country will rely upon how effectively the programme goes forward.
1042 My next point—a fairly obvious one that has been raised in the past—is that every one of the programmes must have a commercial point to it—a product that will go into the market places of the world and be sold at the right price so that work activity can be generated in the Community. It is no good doing a series of almost esoteric research and development if someone else picks up the rewards at the end of the day.
When my hon. Friend enters the long and detailed negotiations in the Community, I hope that he will spend every possible moment ensuring that every programme has sales and jobs at the end of it. If he does that, he will have done an invaluable service to this country for the next 10 or 20 years.
§ 11.9 pm
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I followed the speech of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) carefully and I wholeheartedly share his belief that the future of Europe and of this nation will depend on the invention and especially the application of new technologies. We must all agree with that because the Government have said it. That is their rhetoric, but the sad fact is that when it comes to be translated into action they will find ever-more elegant phrases to justify cutting the money available to achieve it. We must judge people not on their words but on their delivery. If that is the future for Britain, as the Prime Minister herself would agree, we are doing miserably badly. Britain is now running an increasing deficit in high technology which, in my view, is at least in part a direct result of the fact that the level of research and development in this country has become catastrophically low. I shall deal with that aspect in a moment.
§ Mr. Ashdown
I shall be giving figures to back my case and I shall be happy to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene at that point.
We must welcome the programme proposed in the Community document. I believe fundamentally in new technology, in research and development and in the new inventions that we require if we are to be competitive and efficient in the world into which we are moving, only if we tackle those issues on a European scale. There is scope, of course, for national programmes, but tying it all together on a European scale is vital because it is the only way to stand up to the competition of the United States and Japan in this area. In so far as the Community "framework programme" actually provides a framework for this, it is to be welcomed.
I must confess that the language in which we are invited to participate in the Single European Act strikes me as obfuscatory and odd. Last night my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) had to read from a Community document in French because there was no English translation. I almost wish that the document before us were in French. I fancy, indeed, that it may be a translation from the French, as the English is so bad in some places. On what appears to be page 6—the copy is so poor that it is hard to tell—we are told:The Community programmes, on the other hand, combine a strategic conception of the 'top-down' type with 'bottom-up' implementation.1043 What on earth does that mean? A Single European Act that is both top down and bottom up—the mind boggles. Unfortunately, there is worse to come. The document continues:On the other hand, the precise definition of the projects and their implementation are prompted by an open, transparent and variable-geometry process promoting cross-fertilisation among the industrial and scientific partners involved not only at the level of the projects themselves but also downstream of their implementation.One is seriously worried at the terminology involved. What on earth is a "variable-geometry" organisation? Are we being asked to join some kind of swing-wing quango?
§ Mr. Ashdown
If the hon. Gentleman can eludicate, I shall certainly give way. Perhaps he could do it in French.
§ Mr. Soames
I could indeed, but for the benefit of the public school boys present I shall not do so.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that his comments merely reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page) said—that none of this is possible without a clear, coherent management strategy and that unless we hang out for that strategy we may as well sink the whole thing?
§ Mr. Ashdown
I take the point, which echoes what the Minister, too, was saying. Members of all political parties sometimes take comfort in the aphorism, which I may well have invented in front of the mirror myself, that ideas are not responsible for the people who believe in them. One might add that ideas coming into implementation are not responsible for the bureaucrats who murder them.
The Community programme is a great idea, but I hope that in trying to translate it into English, French or any other language so that we may understand and express the grand transcendental notion of the Single European Act the bureaucrats in Brussels will find a better method than the appalling and meaningless prose of the document before us. If the Government intend to hang out for a better way of expressing things in the Berlaymont in Brussels, I am frankly all for it. The Government fairly comment in their explanatory note that there are areas, includingthe presentation of information in the document,in which they look forward to a more professional approach. So do I. In no circumstances do we wish to achieve anything less than the best value for money that we can get out of these programmes, paltry and small though they are. I welcome the Government's decision to drive and push for that.
I hope that the House will forgive me—I have been in it long enough to be a sceptic—but I realise that when the Government use phrases such as value for money they do not mean just value for money; rather it is a front for cuts. That is what is at the heart of this proposal. The evidence is there and it is perfectly plain and I shall seek to touch on it in a moment.
A careful reading of the Minister's elegant prose at the beginnning of the debate will reveal that, when it comes to it—I repeat what the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) said—it is the British Government, perhaps assisted by the West German Government, who are dragging their feet on this. If I felt that the Minister 1044 was being honest and admitting that the Government are dragging their feet to get value for money and better management, I would accede in full to the proposals put forward by the Commission—I would be happy about that—but I have the strong suspicion that the Government are using this as an excuse to cut funds for vital projects in the future.
Despite those caveats, we must welcome the Government's motion, however the last sentence of the Government's motion—I shall read it to the House for fear that there mught be a suggestion that I was out of order—reads:; and welcomes the United Kingdom's endeavours to secure a cost-effective programme of high quality scientific and technological research with the main emphasis on activities aimed at promoting Europe's industrial competitiveness.We must substantially disagree with the Government on that point, because research and development in Britain is falling to disastrous levels. Those levels cannot sustain our industrial needs, even our present needs, let alone what they should be. They are well below the levels needed to follow along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West to promote the new technologies.
The Government tell us that research and development should be increasingly industry financed—I do not dissent from that as a concept—but if one considers the figures one will discover that Britain's industry-financed research and development is less than that of Belgium, Italy or Luxembourg. Surely we must do something to turn that round, and if industry does not do so, Government must cajole it to do so or, indeed, take over such financing.
Britain cannot afford to fall below the line on this matter, but that is not the end of the story. It appears that 60 per cent.—a massive sum in comparison to any other European nation—of finance for research and development goes into the defence sector. If we had a decent freedom of information Act we might have a situation similar to that which exists in the United States where a degree of such finance will spin off into the private sector. Our secret system prevents that from happening.
One does not have to accept my word on this but take, for example, the words of Sir George Porter president of The Royal Society and a close friend and mentor of the Prime Minister. He says that morale amongst scientists and technologists in Britain is at the lowest level reached this century and he blames that, fairly and squarely, on cuts in Government funding.
The suggestion made by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) that the Labour party's policies would cause some kind of vast exodus of scientists from Britain came strangely from the mouth of a person whose party has encouraged that exodus to the point that, by the time the next Government come in, one doubts whether there will be a corpus of scientific ability in Britain [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] I dare say that that may be slightly over stating the case, but figures will prove my point.
The truth is that, as pointed out by Sir George Porter, 82 fellows of The Royal Society, a premier British scientific institution, are now resident in the United States.
Last year I visited Silicon valley and it struck me as extraordinary and tragic that the second largest population in that area is British, larger than the Hispanic population. It is an area noted for the research and 1045 development of high technologies. We are witnessing the beginnings of a brain drain from Britain because of the lack of Government support for research and development.
It was significant that the Minister touched on the question of space research and development. I wonder whether the Minister has read the excellent article by Admiral James Eberle published in The Times on 13 November 1986 in which he said that Britain's lack of any policy towards space research and development was losing the country serious opportunities in that area.
I return to the point that I tried to put to the Minister during his speech, because it is within that context that we must look at this programme. We must remember that the Government made commitments at Milan, Fontainebleau and Luxembourg to increase the resources going into research and development. Calling on them to honour those commitments in no way means that we do not wish to get the best value for money. Those commitments have been made, and it is reasonable for people in this country who study these matters, and for many of our European partners as well, to regard British action following those commitments as reneging upon them and being thoroughly unhelpful.
§ Mr. Richard Page
I have listened with great care to the hon. Gentleman's criticism of the Government's actions over the last few years. What actions were taken by the Labour-Liberal Government between 1974 and 1979 that have somehow brought about this dramatic situation?
§ Mr. Ashdown
I remind the hon. Gentleman that there was not a Liberal Government in 1974 to 1979. We participated with the Labour party. I also remind him that during that period industrial production was going up while unemployment, inflation and mortgage rates were coming down. The figures show that that was one of the best periods of Government that Britain has had for a very long time.
I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman disagrees, but I ask him to look dispassionately at the figures for industrial production during that period and to compare them with the present figures. In fact, one sixth of our manufacturing base has been wiped away under this Government and 2 million jobs have been lost. We are now running a balance of trade deficit that will mount in the years to come and will become one of the most significant factors in our economic decline unless policies are changed. For the first time in 150 years Britain had been reduced to being an importer of manufacturing goods. The devastation wreaked by this Government in the last seven or eight years has been a disaster for Britain, and those birds will come home to roost.
In that climate the need for research and development is now so much greater than when our economy was much more prosperous. There was less of a need then, but there is a desperate need now.
§ Mr. Ashdown
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those figures, which I did not have to hand. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West has taken note of them and will bear them in mind for the future. 1046 However, I recognise that the figure I am giving about the industrial devastation of Britain, including the high technology sector, are uncomfortable facts. If the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West studied them he might realise that our industrial base and economy are now facing a desperate situation.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the only way out is to encourage the new technologies and to build on Britain's inventiveness. That is why the Government's policy of dragging their feet within the European framework is so damaging.
§ Mr. Ashdown
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way, but other hon. Members wish to participate and I am coming to a close.
Research and development in Britain is now woefully inadequate and falling behind. In Europe, the total sum that will go towards research and development over three years from the Alvey and ESPRIT programmes combined is still less than what IBM gives in one year. I welcome the framework programme and this document, provided it means a serious approach to a pan-European research and development programme with adequate funding to face up to the competition in the world markets. If on the other hand this is yet another piece of rhetoric, or a cover or front, behind which this Government will again drag their feet, hold up progress in Europe, cut the budgets and obfuscate and delay, no one can welcome it. We must give the Government the benefit of the doubt on this occasion, but we shall be watching to see whether the goods are delivered. If they are not that will prove a disaster for Britain and, I hope, for the Government.
§ Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)
Plainly, there is much on which the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and I are bound to disagree, but I warmed to the section of his speech in which he drew attention to the abuse of language in this document. One feels for my hon. Friend the Minister as he grinds through the meetings of the research council and has to deal with this fairly intractable prose. Therefore, there is all the more reason for congratulating the Government, and especially my hon. Friend, on the momentum which this area of EC policy has achieved during the British presidency.
All hon. Members would agree that scientific research is a suitable area for international co-operation. Science, properly, knows no frontiers and, as a distinguished scientist said in a letter to The Times this week, it is becoming increasingly meaningless, in academic terms, to talk about British science. I welcome a move towards the internationalisation of our policy in this area.
The Commission's proposal of 5 August sketches some principal areas of research activity that are envisaged in the framework programme. They include research into information technology, microelectronics and data processing and research that will lead to the modernisation of the older European industries. Britain should welcome that. Sadly, for too long, we shrank from embracing the modernisation of too many of our industries. This category includes research into materials such as ceramics and composite materials and research into advanced design and manufacturing techniques.
Such research programmes are immensely expensive, and have already acquired a formidable momentum in 1047 competitor countries such as Japan and the United States of America. Earlier this year, I visited the fifth generation computer project in Japan. I did so in company with the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray), and I hope that he will allow me to say that his experienced and learned appreciation of the work being undertaken there greatly enhanced the benefit that I gained from the visit. The fifth generation computer project is an immense programme. It is Government-inspired and funded, it has enlisted contributions from all the major Japanese electronics and computer manufacturers, it has drawn in the best academic contributions from other countries, including Britain, and it is focused in a pragmatic and down-to-earth way on eventual commercial application. It suits those Japanese firms and Japan itself to undertake that research co-operatively at the pre-competitive stage, and I welcome the Government's thrust towards the development of similar pre-competitive research on a European scale.
Defence is not a policy area where the EC has any standing, but defence procurement is important for industry and the benefits of European research to industry are our central concern in this debate, so I hope that I will not be ruled out of order if I allude briefly to defence. We cannot afford the wasteful duplication of extremely expensive research and development among fragmented European NATO members. After Reykjavik, and after the Democrats' capture of the Senate, we must focus more clearly on the need for Europe to provide effectively for its own defence. Whether research would be on the means to produce conventional weapons that we may need or on aspects of the strategic defence initiative, such research is massively expensive and massively important. The research must be concerted, if not by the EC, by a parallel system in Europe.
In medical and environmental research, we are on less controversial territory. Who would dispute that we must mobilise all the resources that we can to find a cure for AIDS, which is proposed as an example of the first framework item of research to improve the quality of life? One major strategic programme in this area, unstintingly funded, would be preferable to a variety of fragmented programmes. Is it not right, too, that we should invest in research into protection against radiation? If we are to have nuclear power, we must leave nothing to chance. After Chernobyl, the public will not let us do so.
Another area of research proposed in the document is biotechnology. This is particularly necessary in the European Community, weighed down as it is by the excesses of the common agricultural policy. Developments in biotechnology should, as the document says, help a movement towards new relationships between agriculture and industry. Agriculture could diversify towards objectives other than food production, working with the pharmaceutical and energy industries.
Agricultural research should also contribute to the solving of environmental problems. The Institute of Horticultural Research at East Mailing leads Europe in research on root stocks. That institute has proposed to the Commission a project to develop micropropagation/genetic manipulation for forest trees. The institute will develop such systems for broadleaved trees such as poplar, oak and birch, building on its experience working with fruit trees. This project should be immensely attractive to 1048 parts of Europe where people are worried about dying forests. It would be beneficial both environmentally and politically.
Agricultural research should not of course be blamed for the existence of surpluses. It is a benign contribution to enable two blades of grass to grow where previously only one grew. Surpluses are the product of political decision—or indecisions—which give incentives to produce crops where markets are already saturated. The remedy is to stop doing that, not to discontinue agricultural research. The history of agriculture alternates between feast and famine. We in Europe are sated in this generation, but it will not always be so. To condemn ourselves to ignorance in the future would be an extraordinary folly.
One justifiable area of agricultural research would be in import substitution. We tend not to think about the need to ensure supplies until a crisis is upon us. Hon. Members are now aware of a crisis. The navy bean crop in Canada and the United States has failed this year. Navy beans are what we import—no less than 80,000 tonnes of them each year—to turn into baked beans. Baked beans are an indispensable part of the English way of life—indeed, of House of Commons life. The fact is that they are going to be horribly expensive before long.
So far no variety of navy bean has been successfully developed which will grow in our climate. But the preeminent centre of research into beans in Europe is the National Vegetable Research Centre, now a part of the Institute of Horticultural Research. In a fit of what I must charitably call absence of mind, public funding for research into beans in the United Kingdom has been cut. It was cut at a late stage in the programme when new varieties were already in the national list trials. The cut was made without consultation with the National Seed Development Organisation—a commercial organisation which the Government created to exploit public-sector bred varieties. Perhaps, however, relief is at hand. The NVRC has applied to the Commission for Community funding for farm-level development of navy bean cultivars.
Apart from averting mass demonstrations by frustrated housewives, it makes sense to find a new crop into which British and European farmers can diversify. I hope that the Government will therefore smile on this application.
That brings me to another point. Industry, farming and the academic world will be disposed to welcome the Government's commitment to a collaborative approach to European research. But they will ask whether this commitment means that more cash will be forthcoming.
The experience of the IHR is that if it is successful in obtaining European funding, the benefit is docked off at home. I wondered whether it was a little ominous when the Minister talked about complementing rather than duplicating. There seems to be a Catch-22. The Commission does not want to find projects which are not funded by Governments in the member states. But our Government do not want to fund anything that is funded from Europe. The Commission believes in additionality; I am not sure that our Government do.
§ Mr. Jackson
My hon. Friend has talked about the importance of giving incentives to research programmes without losing national funds. What about the Plant Breeding Institute at Cambridge? I understand that the Government are contemplating the privatisation of that 1049 body without any of the assets going to the Agricultural and Food Research Council, which must damage its ability to take advantage of privatisation.
§ Mr. Howarth
My hon. Friend draws attention to a real issue. That research establishment is an excellent one and it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that it has the resources that it needs. I hope that the apprehensions of my hon. Friend will prove to be unjustified.
I noted the reservation expressed by my hon. Friend the Minister about the total cost of the programme—£5.3 billion. That is not an excessive sum to be spent jointly by 12 of the wealthiest countries in the world. But I know there is a problem. We have, rightly, been struggling with might and main to limit the growth of the Community budget. But it should not follow that we should reduce the common policy for science and technology to almost nothing. Surely the proper reaction—I am sure that my hon. Friend must be sympathetic to this—is to acknowledge that this is a good policy in which we should invest. To make room for it we must work harder still to limit the common agricultural policy. We must cut it from the 73 per cent. or 79 per cent. or whatever grotesquely disproportionate percentage of the budget it turns out to be. I am informed that the CAP overshoot is likely to be £2 billion this year. That is where savings should be made, not on research funding.
My hon. Friend the Minister in his explanatory memorandum talks about the appropriateness of a "gradual" increase in the proportion of Community resources earmarked for research and technology. That, I suggest with regret, would be a formula for a continued gradual relative decline in Europe's industrial competitiveness. yet the very purpose of the policy is to promote Europe's industrial competitiveness.
The last question I should like to consider is that of co-ordination of policy in practice. Within the United Kingdom we have, notoriously, found it hard to co-ordinate and establish priorities in publicly funded research. Ministerial responsibility for programmes has often been split between, for example, the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Trade and Industry, or between the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with the research councils independently playing a major part in the allocation of taxpayers' money. Responsibility has been diffused to the point at which Ministers in all Governments have too often been unwilling to acknowledge paternity and to fight to secure adequate funding for particular programmes. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has taken an unwarrantedly high proportion of total public expenditure on research and development.
If we face such difficulties within our country, how will 12 European Governments sort out their policy on research? Even to establish the framework programme will be difficult. It will be hugely more difficult to make progress on the second stage of negotiating specific programmes.
It is proposed to outflank that second range of difficulties by having decisions taken by qualified majority. I wonder whether my hon. Friend would agree that the Government will need to clarify their systems and lines of communications between Departments, with industry, and with the academic world, so tha they are prepared to argue effectively in Europe the case that they 1050 believe is right. We also need a strong presence of our scientists and officials on the advisory committees of the Commission.
I regard this policy as an exciting prospect, but it raises important and difficult issues. I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing us to this point and I look forward to him leading the Community further forward.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) aroused passions earlier by talking about the Labour party and the export of scientific and engineering talent. He proceeded to read out seven or eight sheets of notions conceived before he listened to the Minister setting out the Government's case. I do not know whether he is interested in the debate, but he raised the question of income tax. That has nothing to do with the problem. He shares the romanticism, to which the Prime Minister gave credence yesterday at Question Time, that this has to do with taxation. It has to do with the amounts of petty cash paid to our scientists and engineers. By comparison with any other country in the world, they are so badly underpaid that we are now the biggest exporter of scientific and engineering talent. That is our major problem. Moreover, scientists have to go to other countries to obtain any continuity in their work, and that is another reason for their leaving this country.
We were asked what the Labour party's attitude was towards nuclear issues and research. The phasing out of obsolete reactors does not mean that a Labour Government would switch off the sort of research funds that we are discussing tonight. Phasing out certain reactors does not mean that the United Kingdom will abandon all its studies into, say, particle physics. That is what the great bulk of this money is about. Of course research should continue into fast reactor technology and into fusion, and all the other things connected with CERN. Britain, of necessity, must be interested in high temperature reactors. If nuclear sources of heat can be used for purposes other than the generation of electricity, such research will play a significant part in any future programme, particularly in relation to the conversion of coal.
We are concerned about the restoration of British industry, because that is the most important factor. However, as time is short, I shall concentrate on one point, even though there is much that I would like to say. The fourth item involves £281 million, which is to be given for the application of new technologies to the modernisation of industrial sectors. That worries me, because the amount of funding is obviously insufficient. If the fifth item, involving nuclear research, is taken away, along with information technologies, we are left with about £3 billion out of a total of £5 billion. When the rest is divided up, the amounts are very small.
In the application of new technologies, I am concerned about the translation of pure theory into applied technology. Labour Members who have studied the situation in Europe know about the weaknesses. There is an absence of any sort of co-ordinating agency. All of us would applaud what has been said about the necessity for enforced managerial controls over research programmes of this size, but commercial application is involved. In the remaining days of this month, I hope that the Minister will raise time and again the whole question of how a system can work in the absence of such an agency. I do not know, 1051 for example, what Sir Austin Bide is doing in his investigation in relation to Alvey, and so on. I do not know what conclusions he has reached.
Leading personalities in the scientific world are concerned about the lack of co-ordination, on how manufacturing industry is able to take advantage of what is available and is alerted to the potential of research. The transitional mechanism is non-existent in Europe, and we should give attention to this and to the fact that multinational companies play such a dominant part in European industry and have their own methods of tuning in to what is happening.
An example of the lack of co-ordination is the fact that there is no clearing house for all the PHD research in Europe. It is not fed into a central computer and fed out into industry so that companies understand what is being done. Therefore, much of the work is lost because it is not available to industry.
The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) ignores other hon. Members on similar occasions, but he is looking with increased agitation at his watch, so I shall make my final point. If the Minister will agree that a co-ordinating agency is a central part of the management that he seeks, I shall make room for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), who is a regular attender at these debates, and an expert on this subject.
Bearing in mind the fundamental and desperate problems of the balance of our research programmes, it is a pleasant change for us to be debating research programmes that are not devoted to the military sector. Self-evidently, there are relevant and pertinent programmes included in this proposal, and some worthwhile research is being carried out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) has said, particularly on cancer and AIDS, all of which will be appreciated by all members of the European Community.
I urge my hon. Friend the Minister not to come to an agreement on this until clear and definitive performance yardsticks have been agreed, and he is satisfied that they are in place. These programmes are far too vital for the future of European, and therefore our industry, for the calculations to be wrong, which would lead to some of the programmes being abandoned. These great new industries in Europe will be able to compete internationally only on a pan-European scale, so it is crucial that the initial research is correct.
I greatly welcome the approach of my hon. Friend the Minister. He has a mammoth task, and knows that it is absurd to pretend that the United Kingdom can compete in the industrial big league without some fundamental changes in our research programmes. A balance of 60 per cent. going to military research is a disgrace for an industrialised Western country which has been at peace for over 40 years.
The Government should make the funding of basic and strategic science once more their priority, and let us leave to industry the business of funding applied research and development. As for the European programmes, my hon. Friend is right to be concerned about the Commission's 1052 ability to manage these vast but excellent plans. He should proceed only when he is satisfied that the matter is properly gripped.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I was in Norwich yesterday at the university of East Anglia, where Professor Davis and Doctor Duncan of the biology department were two of many who have said at many universities that they think that Europe is becoming much more efficient in giving out money in the most worthwhile way. I hand over that bouquet for what it is worth. There is now a high regard for what the Commission is doing in many British universities.
I strongly support any moves that the Government make on wider fusion research, and bringing in the Americans and the Russians.
Cannot the problem of CERN and the exchange rates be sorted out? Every other country has arrangements to ensure that, if the exchange rate goes against it, particle physics does not take up so much of the scientific budget.
In the light of EMBO, we should consider the case for a biological sciences council.
§ Mr. Pattie
I share the view of some of those who have participated in the debate that we have not had long enough, but anyone who takes an objective view of the debate and reads the contributions will find, even if the names of the contributors are deleted to ensure absence of party bias or rancour, that the most constructive contributions have come, almost without exception, from the Government Benches.
I compliment especially my hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Page). The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon was one of the most thoughtful and constructive that we have had on research and development for quite a long time and it will repay further study. Complementing and duplicating was a topic embraced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West when he was talking about the Bide report and how we can be satisfied that there will be compatibility with European Community programmes. When my hon. Friend studies the Bide report he will note that one section is set aside specifically for European Community activity. There is a deliberate and positive attempt to recognise convergence, complementality and avoidance of duplication, and there will be two related programmes.
I noted with interest the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon raised about older European industries and defence expenditure, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) referred a short while ago. I noted also the comments that were made on agriculture and horticulture research. I am sure that the report of them will be read carefully by those in other Government Departments.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) made an extremely constructive contribution, if I may say so. He addressed himself to the question of how we can ensure that innovations become marketable products. That is one of the thrusts of the Bide report, which suggests that others are thinking on the same lines as the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman talked also about co-ordination. The 1053 various programmes that have been introduced have been established on the basis of a minimum of bureaucracy and the maximum involvement by industry.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) urged me to say that we want action and not rhetoric. In supporting innovation, the Government have spent twice as much in real terms as that which was being spent in 1979 by the previous Labour Government. That is action and not rhetoric. The establishment of the Alvey programme in 1982 was action and not rhetoric. The establishment of ESPRIT 1 in the European framework programme under the jurisdiction of the Government was action and not rhetoric. The establishment of RACE under the Government was also action and not rhetoric. The Bide report was initiated by the Government. The EUREKA programme has been adopted, taken into account and made more realistic by the Government, and we have established the British National Space Centre.
As for the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray), he wrote an article which appeared in The Guardian recently, which was described later by someone as nothing more than "pseudo scientific piffle." We did not even have the "pseudo scientific piffle" this evening. We had opposition to various programmes announced by the hon. Gentleman. He claimed that the Government are opposing the basic research in Europe programme and industrial technologies in opposing EURAM. Let me make it clear that we are supporting BRITE and EURAM in doubled expenditure terms. We want to double the expenditure—do I have to repeat that again?—yet the hon. Gentleman is saying that we are dragging our feet. This is——
§ It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business).
§ Question agreed to.
That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 8764/86, a draft Regulation concerning the Framework Programme of Community Activities in the Field
of Research and Technological Development 1987 to 1991; endorses the view that the Framework Programme offers an effective means of assessing priorities for European Community Research and Development and for monitoring its implementation; and welcomes the United Kingdom's endeavours to secure a cost-effective programme of high quality scientific and technological research with the main emphasis on activities aimed at promoting Europe's industrial competitiveness.