HC Deb 29 November 1990 vol 181 cc1003-4
5. Mr. Murphy

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists to discuss the future of research and development.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. David Maclean)

December 1989 was the last occasion when the IPMS approached this Department on research and development and the matter was dealt with by correspondence.

Mr. Murphy

Does the Minister accept that public confidence in his Department was severely shaken by the closure of the Institute of Food Research in Bristol? Flow does he intend to restore public confidence in his Department when he intends to sack 40 food scientists at Norwich and Reading?

Mr. Maclean

Quite simply, by pointing out the full facts. Although Bristol closed, the laboratories at Norwich and Reading are being expanded and there are four other research associations. My Department operates labora tories at Weybridge, Torry and Weymouth. Seventy of the scientists who gave up their posts at Bristol will transfer to Bristol university and we shall increase research expenditure from £13 million to £17 million. Food safety research is being increased, not cut.

Mr. Conway

Does my hon. Friend agree that the level of research in this country is the envy of Europe?

Mr. Maclean

I do. For example, in respect of the jobs at Norwich which were mentioned, we are transferring the £750,000 that was being spent at that laboratory on near-market projects such as robotics, meat handling and processing, to diet and nutrition, health and safety, salmonella, listeria and BSE research—which is the right priority for Government.

Mr. Morley

The Minister's answer is not good enough. In a written answer from his Department dated 25 October, he announced a cutback of 38 research projects. Thirteen of them relate to fish refrigeration, shellfish, smoking and safety. The Minister knows that the fishing industry is facing a crisis, so how does he expect it to pick up the vital research projects that he is cutting back, thereby undermining the industry's viability?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman misses the point. Food safety research has increased from £13.2 million to £17.1 million this year. It is right that the taxpayers' money should be spent on basic, strategic and food safety research, and for the industry to concentrate on near-market projects involving food techniques and processing, which it is better able to understand and to fund.

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