HC Deb 06 February 1991 vol 185 cc341-86 7.16 pm
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the decision by Her Majesty's Government to make real cuts in the Science Budget which will terminate vital areas of research and postpone urgent new programmes; is outraged at the decision of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to suppress the advice of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils made public in previous years; is deeply concerned at the continued crisis in the supply of science teachers and equipment in schools; and calls for a new strategy for science to restore industrial competitiveness, to raise investment in research and development to the level of the United Kingdom's foreign competitors, to raise standards in science education, and to ensure Britain's scientists are able to co-operate fully with their European partners. It is the success of science that has made the world what it is today. It is scientific invention and inquiry above all else that has made the quality of life for many so immeasurably better than it was even 40 years ago and which, at the same time, has given politicians the power of mass destruction in war and, potentially, the means to end starvation and ill health across the globe. There is the closest correlation between the science base of nations and the resilience of their economies. Science policy has never been of greater importance.

All that should seem obvious—except, it would appear, to the Government. We have a great Department of State—the Department of Education and Science—which has the word "science" in its title. But the Government's recognition of the importance of science is a token one. In six years, there has not been a single debate in Government time on the Government conduct of science policy. The last such debate was in 1985, four Secretaries of State ago, halfway through the previous Parliament. The only debates—there have been three—in this Parliament have been called by the Labour party in its limited Supply time.

Ministers' unwillingness to debate their stewardship of science policy and the science budget arises partly from their defensiveness, and defensive they may be, given their record, as I shall show. Also, their reluctance to debate reflects something deeper—a lack of science culture in Government and a lack of proper understanding of science among the wider public. With the absence of a science culture and understanding comes a lack of confidence to engage in the many critical issues of science policy in public debate.

The charges that we make in our motion are serious, and each can be sustained by the evidence. We charge that the Government are failing properly or sufficiently to fund the science base and, as the decisions of the Science and Engineering Research Council earlier today show, that failure is a fundamental one. We charge that things are so bad that the Secretary of State has, for the first time, suppressed the advice that he has received from the independent Advisory Board for the Research Councils so as to reduce public understanding even further.

We charge that the Government have seriously neglected the supply of properly qualified science teachers in our schools and the proper equipment of our science laboratories. We charge that the Government are failing to provide an effective European dimension to British science policy, as the Select Committee made clear, and that, overall, they have no clear or coherent strategy for British science.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will produce a scattering of figures designed to prove how generous has been the Government's funding of the science base, as the Under-Secretary sought to do on the radio this morning. Neither the Government's record nor their promises stand up to serious examination. By virtually any measure, the 12 years of this Government have been 12 years in which Britain has slipped down the league of first division science nations, while others have moved up. According to the "Annual Review of Government Funded Research and Development", published by the Cabinet Office: British investment in research and development is failing to match that of other nations and research output, measured by the number of patents granted in the United States, is suffering accordingly. An international survey of funding carried out by Nature showed Britain as the black spot for research. Britain is at the bottom of the league table for spending on research and development and the science base. As The Daily Telegraph pointed out on Monday, it is planned that there should be a £300 million real terms cut in the funding of research and development between now and 1993. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Britain spends less per capita than any other major competitor. The director general of the Design Council, Mr. Ivor Owen, has said that Britain is facing a national emergency in its failure to capitalise on scientific and technical expertise in the United Kingdom.

The Government's failure to invest in the science base is matched by industry's relative failure. There is a strong correlation between investment in research and development by various industries and their success in the world market. Is it any wonder, therefore, that British manufacturing industry is running its worst ever deficit in overseas trade? With the signal exception of chemical and pharmaceutical industries, which showed a 13 per cent. annual increase in investment and research and development, all other manufacturing sectors showed a decline between 1985 and 1988.

Britain's industry-funded research and development is less than 1 per cent. of GDP, compared with 1.6 per cent. in Germany and 2 per cent. in Japan. The Government do not even have a policy for insisting that companies disclose and report on their research and development in their annual reports.

The Government are responsible for the poor record of industry. That record is a product of the Government's approach to economic policy, which gives higher priority to short-term profit than long-term investment—an economic policy in which the City is the master and not the servant of wealth-producing manufacturing industries.

The science budget for 1991–92 is being increased by £32 million to £920 million. After account is taken of inflation, that means a real terms cut of £30 million from £897 million this year to £868 million next year. In paragraph 65 of its most recent report, the Conservative-dominated Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts condemned and described that as "wholly unsatisfactory".

Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)

Does the hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that, since 1979, the science budget has increased by almost a quarter in real terms, whereas under the Government of which he was a member it was stagnant in real terms?

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman does well to read the brief that he has been provided with by Conservative central office, but as is often the case with those briefs, it is wrong. [HON. MEMBERS: "In what way is it wrong?"] In what way is it wrong? What is wrong is that the Government have continually underestimated the impact of inflation on the science base, and they have done so this year. This year, British science is being told that inflation is 3 per cent., whereas it is more than 10 per cent. That is why the Under-Secretary was put up by the Secretary of State this morning to patter the words that the budget is increasing, when everybody knows that it is going clown, most of all those in the research councils, who are faced with the most vicious and serious cuts in the science base for more than two decades.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the science budget has not increased by 23 per cent. in the past five years, will he reflect on the fact that one of the reasons why it did not increase in real terms under the previous Labour Government was that under them, on average, inflation was 15 per cent.—twice as high as under this Government?

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman has not read the Conservative central office brief. He said that the budget had increased by a quarter in five years, whereas the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) said that it had increased by a quarter in 12 years. They should at least agree the mistruths before stating them.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Is my hon. Friend aware that such is the penny-pinching the British Library has been forced to suspend its subscriptions to many scientific journals, thus depriving our science researchers of access to information that is available to researchers in other countries?

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is entirely right. Only half of the British Library will be built, thanks to the penny-pinching of the Government. [Laughter.] Conservative Members may laugh, but I wonder whether they will laugh when they learn of the decisions that were made this afternoon by the Science and Engineering Research Council. I wonder whether they will laugh about the consequences of those decisions and of the cuts that this Secretary of State has made in the science base.

The consequences of those cuts are dire. Sir Mark Richmond, the new chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council, described the science budget for next year, which Conservative Members have applauded, as "lousy". Sir David Phillips, the distinguished chairman of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, went even further. He said: The consequences of the budgets imposed on us are extremely damaging … Our entire range of scientific activities will have to be reduced considerably … In the short term, it means we are going to have to stop all short-term research grants for university scientists. Is that a matter for laughter, I ask Conservative Members? In the longer term, we will have to pull out of major projects". Sadly for the whole of the science establishment and for all those involved in science, the long term that Sir David Phillips was worried about has come all too quickly. According to its chairman, the Medical Research Council has said that research vital to human health will now have to be postponed. The Economic and Social Research Council has issued a list of cuts that it will have to make.

Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Does my hon. Friend think that that explains the disgraceful decision taken by the Government to close the Natural Environment Research Council unit at Barry dock, which has been involved in world-beating research into the environment and the depletion of the ozone layer? It will be swallowed up by bureaucrats in Southampton.

Mr. Straw

It does explain that, but the closure of research services at Barry in my hon. Friend's constituency is not the only cut being suffered by the NERC.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

It is not being cut; it is moving to Southampton, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

Mr. Straw

The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not Secretary of State when the decision was made. Had he been, he would know that it involves the cut that my hon. Friend has mentioned.

Cuts are being made in the budgets and programmes of the Economic and Social Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Agricultural and Food Research Council.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

The hon. Gentleman said that he does not like the figures being quoted by the Government. Does he agree with the figures that 1 was given this afternoon by the Library, which show that the Government's total research and development budget is a higher proportion of gross domestic product than any other developed country in the world except France?

Mr. Straw

I do not agree with the figures—[Laughter]—and I shall tell the hon. Gentleman why. The House of Lords report on research and development shows that the Government should not take account of a good half of the amount allegedly spent on research and development, because research and development for defence should not be included. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures, he will see that Britain's GDP figure of 2.3 per cent. is lower than that of many of our major competitors.

Moreover, investment in this country as a proportion of GDP, even according to the very generous measures of this Government, has stagnated in the past five years, while in other countries it has increased. If there is any doubt about that, it will be dispelled by the situation in the Science and Engineering Research Council.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Would my hon. Friend be interested to know that today I asked the directors of a pharmaceutical company, British owned and proud to be so, why they had moved their research and development abroad to six countries and the answer was that our education system had failed and that we no longer produce the quantity and quality of scientists that we used to? All they want is for the Government to provide research and development money for the base, and they will see to the markets after that.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right. Had Government investment in research and development been as wonderful as Tory Members who parrot central office briefs say, British science would not now face a serious crisis and we would not have to import millions of pounds more goods than we export. Nor would the Conservative-dominated Select Committee on Education and Science have said at paragraph 65 of its most recent report: We recommend that Government funding of civil R & D be increased to match that of our major partners in the EC, France and Germany, who currently spend around 0.9 per cent. of GDP compared with less than 0.6 per cent. spent by the UK. I can well understand why the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) is furrowing his brow. I prefer to take my evidence from that provided by the Select Committee than from his source.

Mr. Batiste

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

No. I have been generous in giving way.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way so that I can confirm entirely what he has said. I am a member of the Select Committee on Education and Science and went on the visit to Heidelberg, Geneva and Grenoble. [Laughter.] Our report confirms what my hon. Friend has said. All members of the Select Committee would concede that all the British scientists whom we met in every one of those scientific establishments told us that they felt depressed and undervalued. Yet Tory Members say that the Government are supporting those scientists. I must advise my hon. Friend that when I listened to those comments about the lack of Government support I was ashamed to be British.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right. If British scientists were depressed when he met them, they will be even more depressed by the SERC's decisions this afternoon.

The SERC faces greater difficulties than any other research council, partly because it accounts for more than half of the total of the science budget and partly because of the impact of the subscription to CERN, the European centre for nuclear research, on its domestic budget. This afternoon, the SERC held a meeting to discuss the present problems. It has announced measures to combat the shortfall in its funding for 1991–92 and the effects of this on subsequent financial years. I assume that the Secretary of State also has a copy of this. The consequences of the shortfall are serious.

In engineering, the allocation will require sharp cutbacks in a number of areas, notably in: information technology, the application of computing in manufacturing engineering, engineering design, support provided by Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for engineering applications of computing in universities and polytechnics. One could scarcely imagine more serious damage being done to major parts of engineering and information technology, in which we should lead the world, than by those decisions forced on the SERC.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

No, I will not. I have been generous in giving way and I need to get on and make my speech in this short debate. If the Government want to provide a full day to debate their record, naturally I should be more than delighted in that debate to give way.

The SERC says that the level of funding allocated to the science board cannot sustain its existing programme. There is no question of expansion. In particular, it cannot afford to support two major neutron facilities … in Grenoble and ISIS at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at the present level. Nuclear physics has already been the subject of considerable comment in the press. There are concerns about the nuclear structure facility at Daresbury, near Warrington. The SERC says: The Council is committed to pay the UK share of the CERN subscription and the associated UK research on particle physics. For the Nuclear Physics Board to remain within its budget, it will have to reduce very significantly its support for nuclear structure physics. To achieve this Council will have to make plans for the possible closure of the Nuclear Structure Facility at the Daresbury Laboratory. In case Tory Members are not aware of this, the nuclear structure facility at Daresbury is one of the most renowned of such research facilities in the world. It is widely acclaimed not only by British scientists, but by all engaged in nuclear physics research in the world. If that laboratory is to close, Britain will lose its significant facility for nuclear physics research. Yet the Government willingly contemplate ending an area of research, in which we were formerly world leaders and which will shut us out of research developments in future at a stroke.

In commenting on this, the chairman of the SERC, Sir Mark Richmond, said: This is a leading facility for this type of research in the world which we had hoped would keep the UK in the forefront of nuclear structure science for some years ahead. I greatly regret the shadow cast over this facility, its staff and the community it supports. Council will look urgently for ways to run the facility through 1991 and 1992, so we can honour the first stage of the UK-French Agreement to develop and run the EUROGAM detector array. The SERC stated: To help the Council in its further consideration of these issues, a study will be set up to assess the importance of the science in the context of the Council work as a whole.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman is telling the House that, under a Labour Government, these research councils would have no need to choose priorities. If that is so, how much would be invested and where would it come from?

Mr. Straw

I was not saying that. Obviously the hon. Gentleman has not been listening. [Interruption.] Of course there are difficult choices to be made in science at all times, but the last way to make them is as this Government are making them—in a wholly irrational and ham-fisted way. We would increase the science budget.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question was kindly provided yesterday by the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten), the chairman of the Conservative party, who—even under Conservative economic policy, which has produced a lower rate of growth over the years than ever occurred under a Labour Government—said: there will certainly be a growth dividend which can help ensure a substantial and sustained improvement in the quality of our schools and hospitals. I add to that the science base.

The right hon. Gentleman was saying that the resources were available and that it was a matter of choice whether the resources from growth are used to cut taxation for the very rich or to provide essential services for our hospitals, schools and science base.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)


Mr. Straw

Let me deal directly with the potential closure of the Daresbury research facility.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

No, I shall continue.

Perhaps the Secretary of State can confirm this, but I do not believe that when Ministers made their decisions about the science base they had any idea that a potential consequence of setting the science budget at the level they did was the potential closure of the Daresbury nuclear research facility. If it was, and the Secretary of State knew that the SERC would make these decisions, he had better say so. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) asked me a question, and I am giving him the answer.

Obviously there will always be more bids than resources. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] Of course that is the case. For a Government who claim to have funded science well, the least they can do, and the least that we would do, is to ensure sufficient funds year by year to match inflation. That is what this Secretary of State is not doing next year. That answers the hon. Gentleman's question.

Furthermore, we must ensure that, when difficult decisions are to be made, they are made in a rational way. It is preposterous that the Daresbury research facility is being offered up as a sacrificial lamb because the Government did not do their sums on the total cost of the CERN project. They have included the cost of CERN in the domestic science budget, and they have decided to protect the CERN subscription, but not to offer similar protection to the rest of the science budget. As a consequence, the Government appear to be saying that we must lose a world-beating research facility.

There will always be major issues to be decided at any time about big science versus little science. Those decisions should be the subject of public debate and effective review. It should not he the case that, as a result of his own carelessness and negligence, the Secretary of State did not notice that a consequence of the way in which he treated the CERN subscription would be that major areas of science research in this country would be wiped out. That is unacceptable.

If anything is needed to prove the culpability of the Secretary of State, it is the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, unique among his predecessors, has decided to keep secret the advice he has received from the Advisory Board for the Research Councils. I hope that he will explain why that advice has been kept secret.

Mr. Quentin Davies


Mr. Straw

I have already explained that time is short, and I have been very generous in giving way to interventions.

In 1985, in response to a request from my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray), the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, now Lord Joseph, agreed that the advice that he received from the ABRC should be made public for the better information of Parliament, which votes the moneys for science, and of the public. That practice was commendably followed by each of Lord Joseph's successors.

To their credit, the right hon. Members for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) and for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) followed that practice even though they were not always able to agree with everything proposed by the ABRC. They had confidence in the decisions made, and the right hon. Member for Mole Valley was not scared to say, "This is what has been said to me by Sir David Phillips and his colleagues. This is what I have decided to do, and here are the reasons". In common with his predecessor and successor, the right hon. Gentleman was canny enough to recognise that the publication of the ABRC's advice strengthened his hand as Secretary of State in discussions with the Treasury.

In a characteristically high-handed and authoritarian approach, the present Secretary of State has decided that Parliament should not receive information that was previously publicly available. He has suddenly decided that that information, which is critical to the judgments that we should make about the science budget, should be suppressed. No explanation was offered for that decision, but the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science was put up to answer on 19 November, when he said that his right hon. and learned Friend considers that the advice that the board offers as part of the public expenditure survey should be confidential, as is normal for similar advice from other bodies such as the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council."—[Official Report, 19 November 1990; Vol. 181, c. 30.] That is a putrid excuse. There is no parallel between the advice offered by the ABRC and that offered by the PCFC and the UFC.

It is a principle now that, whenever a Government-appointed committee offers advice that bears on the public expenditure survey, that advice should be kept secret. Does that mean that the views of the Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions, which has massive public expenditure implications, should have been made confidential? Does that mean that all sorts of other advice should be suppressed? That speaks volumes for the Secretary of State's approach to government and decision-making—

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

It was my predecessor.

Mr. Straw

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to wriggle out of it. There is a simple way in which to deal with his predecessor's decision—he should now publish the ABRC's advice.

What is outrageous about the Government's attitude is that they treat decisions about the spending of public money on public institutions as though that money were private money. That is intolerable. In a democracy, such decisions should not be treated in that way.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)


Mr. Straw

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I am not giving way.

On radio this morning, the Under-Secretary of State sought to say that the Secretary of State had accepted the advice of the ABRC when he made his decisions. Although the report from the ABRC has been suppressed, we are now being treated to selected quotations from it.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accepted the ABRC's advice, why can we not see what advice he accepted? I do not believe for a second that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accepted its advice as to the global size of the budget, because I do not believe that Sir David Phillips would be remotely confident about the budget that the Secretary of State has agreed. It may be that the specific advice from the ABRC about which the Minister spoke this morning concerns the distribution of the total cake.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

That is right.

Mr. Straw

Well, if we are given a peep at the advice that the right hon. and learned Gentleman prays in aid, why can we not see the rest of the advice, so that we can see what the ABRC has recommended and measure that against the decisions that the Secretary of State has made? Why is the House continually denied that right?

The foundation of the science base must be laid in schools. There has been similar negligence and underfunding of the science base in schools as there has been of the science base of universities and research establishments. There is a severe shortage of technicians in schools. Oxford university conducted a survey of 16 to 19-year-olds on their attitude to science and technology. The researchers asked those questioned to rank 13 professions and, in terms of pay and status, I am sad to say that solicitors, doctors and accountants were top, with chemists, engineers and science teachers at the bottom. The researchers reported, the lack of government investment in research, and the low status, pay and morale of science teachers has deterred pupils from such work". The recruiting problems associated with science teachers are well documented in the latest report of the Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions, Cm. 1415. In paragraph 3.10, it states: recruitment is notably low in mathematics, physics and chemistry. It also expressed anxiety at the quality of entrants to teacher training in those subjects and said that it was concerned that institutions may be finding it increasingly difficult to maintain even current entry standards. Those standards are already far too low, and far too many are going into postgraduate teacher education in the key areas of science without the adequate degree qualifications. What is even worse is that half of those who teach maths or physics in school do not even have a post-A-level qualification in those subjects.

On top of the problem of a shortage of science teachers there is also the problem caused by the total incoherence of the Government's approach to science qualifications and science education post-16.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

It is in chaos.

Mr. Straw

My hon. Friend is right. The Government talk about A-levels as the gold standard. When the Secretary of State examines the better science education record of other countries, he should recognise that all those other countries ensure that students do more than three subjects between the ages of 16 and 19. They study between five and six subjects so that, not least, a majority of those highly trained young people carry on studying at least one science to the age of 18. In this country, a minority of students study science post-16.

As the Gulf war has shown with terrifying illumination, the world's nations and people live and die by science. Britain was the first scientific nation. It was responsible for more discovery, invention and inquiry than any other nation of similar size. Today, however, the House must acknowledge that there is the deepest anxiety about the continuation of our science base.

That anxiety is coupled with a growing understanding that our appalling economic performance in the 1980s and now is linked to the lack of vision and funding for research and development and the science base by the Government. We need a Government who know that British science and Britain's future are inextricably linked, a Government ready to invest in Britain's future. From Labour, we shall have that Government.

7.49 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'applauds the steps being taken by the Government to sustain and improve still further the strengths and quality of science and science education in the United Kingdom; and notes in particular the successful implementation of the science, mathematics and technology components of the National Curriculum, efforts being made to increase the number of qualified science teachers, the increase in the age participation rate in higher education over the last decade from one in eight to one in five, the significant increase in the science budget since 1979, and the allocation of funds to improve our understanding of the global environment, which provide a sound base for British scientists to play a full role with their European partners, to improve the quality of life, and to underpin the technological competitiveness of British industry.'. I begin by agreeing that, for all the reasons given by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for many more reasons, it is extremely important that Britain gives proper importance to science and to scholarship and research in every part of our society. A strong science base is essential to not only Britain's economic well-being and competitiveness and its industrial base, but our status as a civilised nation. We want to remain in the forefront of discovery and the extension of the bounds of human knowledge, as we always have been.

The acquisition of modern technology and the application of science to human problems are important for the creation of wealth, as we are all aware, but they are also important for the solution of many other social and human problems. The pure spirit of intellectual curiosity is an important quality in its own right. In acknowledging that that is what we all desire, we should also acknowledge that the quality of British science today is outstanding and is internationally acclaimed. There is no evidence that the quality of scientific work done in this country is inferior to that done in any of our rival and competitor nations.

One of the several mistakes that the hon. Member for Blackburn made was to make his case so highly coloured that he wound up painting a picture of a nation in scientific and technological decline, which is the precise opposite of the truth and a grotesque overselling of his case, which was based on a narrow interpretation of some statistics and public spending figures. We could argue at length about how exactly the output of the scientific community should be measured. The measure that the hon. Gentleman used throughout his speech—if I heard him correctly—was the number of patents taken out in the United States of America, or something—

Mr. Straw

It was not "or something". It was the central conclusion of the Cabinet Office's own survey. It decided that surveying United States patents was one of the fairest ways of comparing the scientific endeavour of various countries. It concluded that Britain was losing out.

Mr. Clarke

That was one of the conclusions of a document from which the hon. Gentleman quoted highly selectively. I quote the number of papers on basic and applied research published in the main scientific journals, which the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) will concede is a perfectly good measure of scientific achievement. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Motherwell, South will denounce the level of science practised in Britain or the level of our achievements.

Between 1981 and 1986—the years on which the figures are based—the United Kingdom percentage of the total world output production remained constant at 8.3 per cent. Germany's percentage has fallen from less than ours when it started—6.3 per cent.—to 5.9 per cent. France's percentage has fallen from 5.1 to 4.8 per cent. We have a strong science base in Britain and we should pay tribute to it and discuss, in a somewhat more dispassionate and sensible way than the hon. Gentleman is prepared to do, how we can support it and develop it in future.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke

I should like to make a little progress before I start giving way.

In response to the last part of the hon. Member for Blackburn's speech, I agree with him that any serious long-term policy for science must start by securing an adequate supply of new, highly qualified scientists and engineers. The hon. Gentleman went in for a light and quick attack on the position of science in our schools and the way in which we are producing the next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists.

The background against which we are debating the subject is that science has been given an important new emphasis in our schools. For the first time, we have introduced science, technology and mathematics into the national curriculum. The national curriculum will ensure that every pupil from primary school to the age of 16 does maths, science and technology as part of a developing curriculum. That is a matter for debate in more detail on another occasion, but we are putting more science into our schools.

Let us consider what is already being achieved. The output from our schools feeds on to our higher education institutions. We all acknowledge that our universities, polytechnics and colleges must also turn out increased numbers of scientists and technologists.

Sir Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I do not quarrel with what my right hon. and learned Friend says, but there is a special problem in girls' schools such as Aylesbury high school in my constituency. Such schools have a great deal of catching up to do to provide the same level of scientific provision as corresponding boys' schools. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider carefully the case for providing more in the way of scientific facilities to enable girls' schools to catch up with their boy counterparts?

Mr. Clarke

The introduction of primary school science for the first time and identical science teaching for girls and boys, covering the same fields, will make a difference. It has always been a curious pattern of the British education that very few girls study physics. It was an overwhelmingly male study. When girls continued with science, overwhelmingly they studied biology. In future, both boys and girls will cover either the same general science curriculum to the age of 16 or separate sciences, if they opt for that. That is an important change. I accept that some girls' schools where girls have not been accustomed to scientific education will have to adjust over a period of time and invest in kit and facilities.

Higher education needs to turn out more scientists and engineers of the same high quality that we have always achieved in Britain. They are doing that on a spectacular scale which the public do not seem to follow and certainly do not always acknowledge. I am glad to say that a dramatic change is taking place in the proportion of young people going on to higher education. Ten years ago, only one in eight young people in Britain entered higher education. This year the rate is one in five. We are well on course to make it one in four by the year 2000.

Numbers of students on science-related courses have made a more or less constant proportion of the rising total. We expect the higher proportion of pupils studying science in schools, to which I have just referred, to increase the proportion of young people who opt in future for science and engineering.

Let us consider the overall figures for science and engineering graduates. The total number of graduates leaving university in Britain has risen from 778,000 in 1979 to 1,061,000 in 1989. That is a 36 per cent. increase in the number of graduates coming out of British higher education during the Government's period of office, and the number is still rising. As the science and engineering proportion has risen slightly, a greatly increased number of scientists of both sexes and of high quality are coming into our community.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke

With apologies to the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) who tried to intervene earlier, I give way.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Secretary of State comment on a point that bothers the Royal Society of Chemistry? Relatively expensive substances such as silver nitrate, without which one cannot do analytical chemistry, are beyond the pockets of some universities. Does the Secretary of State have any thoughts on the provision of equipment, particularly for chemists?

Mr. Clarke

We have increased funding for universities by 10 per cent. for next year, which is ahead of inflation. Within that, science tends to take an ever-rising proportion. Not only silver nitrate but other equipment continually becomes more expensive. I shall consider the point at leisure after the debate.

Our projections of student numbers show that we shall have a further spectacular increase. The number of engineering graduates is projected to rise by some 15 per cent. from the 1988–89 figure to 15,000 by 1993–94. Science and mathematics graduates are projected to increase by one third to 28,000 over the same period. The background is a spectacular increase in the proportion of our young people going through our universities and the proportion who come out as scientists and engineers.

Before we denigrate the education system too much—I agree with everyone else that it should be improved —we must not get carried away by the foolish notion that our system is being left behind by our rivals and that we are not producing the right work force. Our education system is not all that bad—certainly not at the higher education level. We compare very well with all our most important competitors when it comes to young people with higher education qualifications in science. The figures for 1986—I believe that they are OECD figures, and they are the most up to date that I have—show that 15 per cent. of the relevant age group of young people had higher education qualifications in science. In France and in West Germany, only 12 per cent. had them. The figure for Italy is 5 per cent. We are up with the United States, at 11 to 15 per cent., depending on how the comparison is made, and with Japan at 10 to 15 per cent. So we are producing the numbers—[Interruption.] The percentage of the age group is a fair and constant comparison. I can think of no better way of comparing the output of our higher education institutions. Of course, the United States and Japan have larger populations, but we are producing as good a proportion of quality scientists.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

The fallacy in the well-known figures that the Secretary of State has quoted is that they omit engineers. If they were included, we would fall far behind.

Mr. Clarke

I have just given the projections for an increase in the number of engineers. I look forward to the hon. Member for Motherwell, South producing a better form of comparison. We have already heard some foolish comparisons on scientific funding, with which I now want to deal.

The hon. Member for Blackburn said that he was not going to bandy figures, but he threw out the percentage of GDP that we spend on science. I know from my experience in health and in other Departments that comparisons based on percentages of GDP are pretty damned silly. People throw the figures at us at the moment because we had a record rate of growth in our gross domestic product throughout the 1980s. Other countries may increase the percentage of GDP spent on science by going into recession and a period of decline. The hon. Member for Blackburn said that we spend less as a proportion of GDP on civil research than Germany and France. However, using OECD figures again, it is clear that we spend more on civil R and D than do Japan, the United States, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Greece—half the countries of the OECD. So it is foolish to suggest that we do not bear comparison with our competitors. What matters is what we are doing now and where we go next.

The hon. Member for Blackburn made a great deal of today's press release by the Science and Engineering Research Council. I assume that it was because he spotted that the council was to hold a meeting today that this debate is being held. On the strength of that, he built up a ludicrous case in which he maintained that the excellent British scientific base is somehow crumbling. Let us examine what the current year holds.

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

May I remind the Secretary of State of the Select Committee report published in December 1990, paragraph 63 of which points out that the UK is the only OECD country where growth in spending on research was less than growth in GDP"? That is why we are at the bottom of the international league.

Mr. Clarke

When a country's GDP rises quickly, funding may sometimes fall behind. When a country goes into steep economic decline, spending on science as a proportion of GDP may rise spectacularly. I have listed some formidable countries, most notably Japan and the United States, which still spend less than we do as a percentage of GDP on civil R and D. It is a daft comparison, but if we are to make it, the example of the United States and Japan is relevant.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

May I recruit my right hon. and learned Friend to the following idea? Will he bear in mind that the Procedure Committee has said that science and technology is too important a matter to be absent from the agenda of the House of Commons? It recommends that a Select Committee should deal with the matter jointly with the House of Lords, or that it should be dealt with as part of the work of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts. In that way some of these matters might be better understood in the House and I hope that I can count on my right hon. and learned Friend's support, with the Leader of the House, in moving in that direction.

Mr. Clarke

The composition of Select Committees is a matter for the House, not the Government. I know that there has been pressure for a Select Committee on Science for some time, and no doubt my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will deal with the matter.

Dr. Bray

The Secretary of State is a little confused about GDP. Science is not measured in tonnes, like steel. If scientists' pay goes up by no more than the national average, the so-called real measure of R and D expenditure increases proportionately to GDP, by definition. So-called level funding means a decline in research done and a decline in the number of scientists at the same rate at which GDP is growing. I shall back up that assertion with detailed figures later.

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman will find on reflection that in most countries, and certainly in ours, the increase in incomes exceeds the growth of GDP. I cannot recall when the pay of any group of workers in this country, except possibly in the midst of the fiercest pay policies of the late 1970s, did not rise faster than GDP. It is no good trying to invent a special measure of inflation for a particular public service. If the hon. Member for Motherwell, South ever finds himself in the public service arguing a case against the Treasury, he will learn that every Department can produce special rates of inflation which it says apply only to itself. But the fact is that all pay and other pressures apply to the whole economy. The percentage of GDP is not very useful because GDP varies rather more than spending usually does. Trying to qualify the argument with talk of pay increases for scientists will not do.

This year, the Government's overall expenditure on research and development is more than £5.1 billion, of which £2.8 billion goes on civil research. That puts in proportion the tremendous fuss made by the hon. Member for Blackburn about £1 million or £2 million for the laboratory at Daresbury. Among the aspects for which I am responsible, research undertaken at universities, polytechnics and higher education institutions will be funded at about £1.8 billion, of which expenditure through the research councils—the so-called science budget—forms just over half.

I have made it as clear as I can that the Government are committed to maintaining a healthy science base. We have demonstrated that commitment by keeping the science budget at a level that has enabled research councils to carry out leading-edge research at their own establishments and to fund high-quality research initiatives. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State correctly said on the radio this morning, the so-called science budget part of our overall spending has increased by 23 per cent. in real terms under this Government. Just two years ago it rose by 8 per cent. in real terms at one go; since then the figure has remained level. Nevertheless, funding has increased by almost a quarter in real terms since 1979. We cannot sustain that sort of increase every year and it is not possible to carry out in this or any other country every element of scientific research that people might want within such an expanding budget.

Seen against the background of a 23 per cent. increase in expenditure, the diatribes of the hon. Member for Blackburn can be seen in their true light. It is true that in 1991–92 the value of the underlying science budget will remain level in real terms. There is no fancy accounting in that. Lower figures could be produced by leaving out capital expenditure that has been completed. We have just finished an Antarctic survey ship which, I think, cost £36 million, and a new headquarters for the research councils in Swindon and have made some alteration in the timing of the payments of postgraduate fees. When those are left out and we get down to what matters, we find that the money that is available for scientific research willl be up by 6 per cent. next year in line with the forecast on inflation, and that is a level-terms year. There has been a substantial real terms uplift in the past, especially the big 8 per cent. uplift which took place two years ago.

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that of the total research council budget spending only 2 per cent. is spent in Wales? Will he say whether the atmospheric radar station at Aberystwyth, which was opened by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales only two months ago, will continue to be funded by the research council?

Mr. Clarke

The distribution of funding is determined by scientific merit, not by geography. It should remain like that. As far as I am aware—I shall take advice and write to the hon. Gentleman—I do not think that at the moment there is any threat to the establishment at Aberystwyth.

Mr. Tony Lloyd


Mr. Clarke

The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) has been very patient. I shall now give way to him.

Mr. Lloyd

I have not really been patient. I listened with keen interest to what the Secretary of State said about the maintenance of the budget. Obviously, and whether he likes it or not, he will be influenced by what is achieved in practice. When we see facilities that have been centres of scientific excellence for many years threatened with closure we will tell the Secretary of State that something is going wrong. Not only Opposition Members will say that; it will be said by people outside. Jodrell Bank has been a world leader in its field for many years. It is under serious threat that could lead to its work being truncated and to its closure. How does the Secretary of State respond to that?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that there is concern in all parts of the House when a facility has a cut in its budget. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) is in his place and is no doubt following with interest the debate about Daresbury. I have been following the discussions about Jodrell Bank. It is not the case that the Universities Funding Council is reducing the funding of Jodrell Bank. There seems to be some dispute in Manchester university about whether that university can sustain it. I do not believe that Jodrell Bank is threatened.

We have had a large real-terms growth and a level funding base this year. I must now deal with decisions concerning the Science and Engineering Research Council.

The hon. Member for Blackburn completely failed to respond to a relevant comment which we are bound to make and which was put to him in an intervention. We have a 23 per cent. increase in real terms. No one can argue with that, unless he goes in for fancy accounting and says that there are special factors. When Labour was last in power, in 1974–75 and for 1979–80 there was no real-terms increase in the science budget. It was an ice age for the science budget when Labour was in power.

Difficult choices have to be made. The hon. Member for Blackburn did not tell us about any that he would make. Such debates are a permanent feature of scientific study throughout the world and are not confined to this country. Not only are we not behind our competitors, but we are having the same discussion as science communities in every part of the world. In the New Scientist of 2 February, under the so-called "Talking Point", there was an article by Mr. Daniel Greenberg, who is the editor of Science and Government Reform, which is an American publication. In that article, which Mr. Greenberg describes as The phony crisis in American science", he states: Is American science sinking because of financial neglect? Leading scientists created this impression by besieging Washington with cries for more money. By all means take note of their pleas, but understand that much of their distress is their own making in collaboration with their politician friends. In another part of the article Mr. Greenberg states: The reality is that science in America has never been bigger, richer or more productive than it is today. What is suffers from is an unrestrained appetite for doing all things possible by neglecting to set priorities for research. If we are not careful, we could wind up substituting the United Kingdom for the United States in that article, because the choice of priorities which the hon. Member for Blackburn is plainly not prepared to make has to be made to get the best out of expenditure on science.

Mr. Straw

The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not listen to what I said. It is acknowledged in all parts of the House that choices have to be made. The crucial question is about the manner and circumstances in which they are made. What is objectionable is the process by which the SERC has been forced to make decisions which otherwise would not have to be made. Was the Secretary of State aware that the budget decisions would lead to the possibility of closures without any review at all of whether this country should stay in basic nuclear physics?

Mr. Clarke

The hon. Gentleman always says that hard choices have to be made, but makes it quite plain that he would not make them, because he did not mention one. He talked a lot of nonsense which slightly implied that a Labour Government might spend more so that no choices would be made. He latched on to the defence of a victim of a choice that has been made by scientists.

Mr. Straw

That is bluster.

Mr. Clarke

It is not bluster. One of the biggest weaknesses of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen is that on all these matters they speak without conviction about facing up to difficult priorities. When they are challenged about where the money will come from to avoid the hard choices that they talk about, they either wander off into evasiveness or do not answer.

Sir Gerard Vaughan (Reading, East)

While accepting entirely that my right hon. and learned Friend is doing much good work, may I ask whether he agrees that there is something very odd when the procedure for funding CERN over which the research councils have no control means that we now have to consider shutting down an internationally well-known and important facility? Will he give an undertaking to have a look at that?

Mr. Clarke

It is an important point, but I shall not try to digress too long on it. We are making a major contribution to the CERN project. There are arguments about the wider impacts on investment in particle physics, at Daresbury, for example. In recent years the Government have looked at this several times. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science was at the Foreign Office and I was at the Department of Trade and Industry when we last looked at the matter in government. Tempting as it is from the point of view of scientific lobbyists—and I almost count myself among them because I am the Secretary of State for Education and Science—if we spend money on CERN at the behest of British scientists, that means public expenditure on nuclear physics. The idea that somehow it does not count if the money is spent in Switzerland and should not have any impact on what is left to spend in Cheshire is appealing but illogical.

Secondly, I can safely say that at one time the Government looked seriously at the question of withdrawing from CERN and discussed it with the scientific community. On the strength of much scientific advice to remain in CERN, we decided to do so. The discussions about CERN have been going on for years. It was at the British behest that we seriously addressed the question of the management, financial control and the scale of the investment in CERN. I was astonished to find when I came to this Department, having, as it were, passed through science when I was in the Department of Trade and Industry, that our present subscription to CERN is lower than it was some years ago because other countries, at the behest of Britain, have acted to improve the management of CERN.

Sir Gerard Vaughan

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke

This must be the last intervention because other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.

Sir Gerard Vaughan

The increasing subscription, which is totally outside British hands, has thrown the CERN budget into total disarray.

Mr. Clarke

As I have just explained, matters have improved. It is still true that the CERN subscription which British scientists want us to continue has an impact on the money that we have available for other matters. I shall put that in context and try to deal with the immediate issues that have arisen at Daresbury and elsewhere.

The key question is how to distribute the money and how to make the difficult choices that the hon. Member for Blackburn would not be prepared to make. The advice from the research councils is channelled to me through the Advisory Board for the Research Councils. I rely on that advice about scientific and research priorities within our resources. In terms of the scientific merits, I keep an arm's-length relationship and the Secretary of State in any Government would be well advised to do the same. I am predisposed to accept that advice, and usually do. I have just accepted the ABRC's advice about the distribution of funds to the councils.

I think that the hon. Member for Blackburn would agree that in the end the difficult choices about priorities within the science budget should essentially be scientific decisions and not primarily political ones. That means that their difficult role is to give me advice, within the resources made available to them—

Mr. Straw

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. This is a short debate and many right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part. Some of these interventions might be saved either for the winding-up speech or the speeches that hon. Members make themselves.

Mr. Clarke

I will take your advice Mr. Deputy Speaker, particularly as the same point is being made in intervention after intervention.

It is important to realise that when a project is turned down the research councils are saying that there are better ways to spend money within the allocation made to them, and those better ways are based on scientific grounds. The overriding political responsibility is mine and I get advice on the scientific priorities. I feel that I should receive that advice in confidence. My predecessor, now the Leader of the House, made the wise decision not to publish this year's advice on the public spending round. I have decided not to publish the ABRC's full advice on the distribution of funds and, as has been said, we have followed the financial division between the councils that the advisory board recommended. When one has advisers of this kind, carrying out this role, the relationship is best one of confidential close advice, not one of public debate.

Mr. Straw

Why not?

Mr. Clarke

I do not have public debates with my civil servants. I am notorious for frequently not taking their advice. If a body has the key role of giving advice in confidence, but that advice is given in a public document to which I have to respond publicly, it becomes just another part of the public debate.

Mr. Straw

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Clarke

No, I am not giving way. The hon. Gentleman has harped on all day, both on the radio and here, about this point, and he is wrong. He accuses me of making what he calls a characteristically autocratic decision, but, as with many other parts of my portfolio, I am following the wise precedent set by my predecessor. I feel that the relationships with the research councils will be greatly improved when we stop having this megaphone debate and replace it with a close confidential relationship on scientific priorities.

The Government suffer a similar problem in arts with the Arts Council and in sport with the Sports Council. We allocate money, the research councils distribute it and the public debate concentrates on those projects that the research council will not be funding. The only scientific projects about which the public ever hears are the ones that have been refused priority or have suddenly lost priority vis-à-vis the rest of the scientific budget. They suddenly become centres of excellence—some of those affected today are centres of excellence. The radio schedule fills up with descriptions of, for example, a chap with a project who was on the point of breaking through on the method of transportation of some disease. All the projects that have been given higher scientific priority and have got the money do not see the light of day in the media. That is how it has gone this year.

All this gives me no chance to talk about the projects that the research councils are funding and that are producing excellent work. For example, there is the work by the Medical Research Council on autism, the breakthrough achieved by the Agriculture and Food Research Council in the Institute of Animal Health in sorting out the seal virus, the earthquake predictions method developed in this country, the tremendous work done on monoclonal antibodies by the M RC's laboratory of molecular biology. We never hear anything about those, although they are financed. We hear only about the ones that have lost out in this afternoon's agenda of the Science and Engineering Research Council because it decided to spend the money on something else that it judged to have higher scientific priority.

There is a difficulty for the SERC that is not of the making of the chairman and the people who assembled this afternoon. Sir Mark Richardson became the chairman in October 1990 and immediately made it clear that he wished to carry out a review of the excessive commitments, particularly to large projects, into which the SERC has entered. He initiated a moratorium on all new commitments on 21 November, which I am glad to say the SERC is now lifting. It made some announcements on 19 December. What has since happened is what is wrongly described as the £40 million shortfall. It is simply that the SERC had embarked on a series of commitments to a number of big projects and they were outrunning the resources given to the SERC, which was therefore not following its remit.

I congratulate the council not on individual decisions, although I can do that, but on its scientific expertise, which is better than mine. It knows what is to be cut out in the review I am not able to compare the study of particle physics at Daresbury or at Strasbourg with the nuclear structure at Mainz, or nuclear physics as against some other part of the science and engineering budget. The SERC has cut back on commitments and it has had to be selective in doing so. Some of the other projects on which it has made cuts have not been mentioned. For example, it has said that it cannot comtemplate for at least two years the gravitational wave detector project. That is an Anglo-German project which the Germans also want to postpone because they cannot afford it.

One can spend a fortune on space astronomy. I once faced a similar problem in getting us out of what I regarded as an extraordinary manned space project in which the European Space Agency and the French wanted us to invest, and did so with the full support of the research councils, although I was attacked by enthusiasts in the House of Commons for trying to save us millions of pounds on a mad international project that would have impacted on our domestic science. I also had a good run with the HOTOL project, and I got us out of spending a few billions on that—money that would have come out of the science budget. The councils are looking carefully at some of the space astronomy projects. The Americans have deferred similar projects for 12 months. Once one gets into this sort of research, the noughts on the end of the bill have an impact on the science budget.

Daresbury—on which we have just had the announcement—presented a difficult choice. It is our only accelerator devoted to basic research in nuclear physics. Irrespective of today's announcement, the SERC has already made it clear that it will continue support of nuclear structure physics and continue funding of individual experiments, and that the NFC agreement on Eurogam with the University of Strasbourg will not be terminated before there is an opportunity to exploit the project. Furthermore, United Kingdom nuclear physicists will have access to the Eurogam machine and be eligible for certain research grants. There will be collaboration between Daresbury and Strasbourg for the next year or two.

I could read, but I shall not, a list of projects that are going ahead under the patronage of the SERC. One of the first things that I did when I came to the Department was to open the new 32 m telescope at Cambridge which had been financed by the SERC. The council faces difficult decisions in astronomy which is an expensive big international science. I am glad that it has been able to lift the moratorium on the smaller grants. If it does not have the courage to carry out this fundamental review, the danger will be that commitment to big projects will roll on while key small grants to people operating in universities, where the future often lies, are put under a moratorium or cut.

We recognise the need for well-judged policies. I have explained to the House what they are. We are committed to a strong scientific base. We have an excellent record of scientific achievement and this is one of the most attractive places in the world to invest for anybody looking for high-quality science. The Government will support research councils in the difficult choices that they have to make when distributing the resources available to them. We shall commit to science those resources that the country can afford and hope to build on our excellent record.

At the behest of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) I recently had a meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and many distinguished scientists who came to discuss this matter. The Prime Minister emphasised his personal interest in science and his determination to continue to chair, from time to time, meetings of the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology and to continue the practice of his predecessor of chairing all meetings of the Cabinet committee that was set up specifically to deal with science matters across the Government. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Havant will agree that the Prime Minister listened with considerable interest to pleas from distinguished scientists for continuity of funding, and for a strategic look at where we are going on science. With the research councils, we shall try to take that look.

I urge the House to accept that this sudden explosion of rage about the consequences of one research council meeting this afternoon and the bandying of selective figures do not accurately give a picture of British science. We have some of the best scientists in the world. Some of the greatest achievements in the world of science are made in the United Kingdom and the Government have demonstrated their support in the most practical way by putting resources into science and by developing schools and higher education systems in such a way that we shall produce further generations of equally good scientists and technologists in ever-greater numbers.

8.29 pm
Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

I do not enter the debate as a scientist, an engineer, or even a technologist, and I suspect that the same is true of the Secretary of State, having listened to him read from a close script about the various scientific—

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Written by me.

Mr. Ingram

That may be, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to be reading closely some of the technological details.

I have worked in industry, spending a long period in the electricity supply industry as a computer systems analyst, and I have always taken a close interest in science, whether pure science or technological development.

For many years—irrespective of what the Secretary of State has said, I tend to support the arguments advanced from the Opposition Front Bench in terms of statistics—there has been a steady decline in research and development and in pure science in Britain. Much of that has clearly been the result of lack of foresight on the part of industry. It has not been investing in the way in which our international competitors have. We can see that in the way in which we lose out in international markets and the way in which our trade in those areas has been declining.

What was happening in science and research and development was brought home to me when I entered the House in 1987. I do not wish to go into all the details associated with my point, but I am referring to the Government's attempt, in effect, to disable the National Engineering Laboratory in my constituency, which was and still is a world-renowned research establishment undertaking engineering research projects, some of which are not carried out anywhere else in the United Kingdom and possibly even the world. American universities send people to that establishment to use its facilities.

On 27 May 1988, Dr. Donald Bell, then director of the laboratory, said: The range of services provided by NEL in the mechanical engineering field is unique. Not only do we have facilities that would be difficult to match—for example, the strong floor used for structural testing and the flow measurement laboratory—but the collective expertise of our staff and the number and variety of testing rigs here are unrivalled. In 1988 Lord Young, then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, announced that the NEL was to be privatised on the incredibly short-sighted basis that it had to become profit making. A laboratory which had established itself in the forefront of research and development for 40 years all of a sudden had to become profit making. Industry was not asking for that; the Government made the decision.

The decision was made in the face of major opposition from industry, some of which was never heard about in the public forum but which we knew took place. The industry made representations to the Government that it needed the research facility. To privatise it in the way proposed would have been detrimental to some of the key industries in the Scottish economy and throughout the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord Young, in his ideological zeal and determination to get rid of the establishment, was prepared to give it away at a knock-down price to a French-owned company. Sell it off to the foreigners, we no longer want it, was the philosophy of the then Secretary of State.

The work force, the trade unions and the wider industry reacted strongly against that dogmatic proposal. As a result of that campaign the Government were forced into a U-turn. Since Lord Young left office there have been many other failed Secretaries of State in the Department of Trade and Industry, but all have continued to look for ways to dispose of that valuable asset regardless of the impact that that would have on the local economy in Scotland and on British engineering.

In the past two years, more than 200 members of staff at the laboratory have been disposed of and the question whether it can be commercially viable now arises. Some of those who are no longer with the laboratory were the brightest and best among engineering research scientists in Britain today. They were disposed of because it was decided that there had to be a cut in that area. The laboratory is now fighting for its survival against a hostile Government who want it to achieve 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. funding from commercial contracts by 1995, compared with 20 per cent. funding from that source now.

The Secretary of State says that the Government have a great commitment towards research and development, but that example alone tells me otherwise. They have put a major resource at risk on the basis of the Secretary of State's dogmatic approach, resulting in the disposal of some key scientists. What happened and is continuing to happen at that establishment is indicative of the Government-created malaise which now afflicts the majority of manufacturing research and development and broader scientific research in Britain.

I know of no British scientist, eminent or otherwise, who is not outraged by the rapid decline in state support in this area. The weight of opinion is against the Secretary of State. It is not a case of bandying around statistics; this is what the practitioners in the field are saying is happening to their area of research. It is not just our domestic scientists who are saying that; scientists from countries with whom we collaborate and against whom we compete in international markets are amazed at the way in which the first-class reputation of British science has been steadily eroded.

I will not quote the figures that I had intended to give to show the decline in research and development. Instead, I will quote from a press release from the Royal Society dated 8 January 1991, to which I was not allowed to refer in an intervention. That is a prominent body, not one to come to its conclusions lightly or even to make mistakes in its calculations. The press release is headed: Royal Society launches major enquiry into UK science policy". That seems to show some concern in that area. I shall not quote it all, but it says: Over the last 10–15 years there have been major structural changes in the conduct of and framework for scientific research in the UK. Some of these changes have been unintended results of policies implemented for other purposes and are having serious consequences for the health of UK research. Examples of structural changes include the following: The proportion of general national expenditure on R and D financed by Government sources dropped from 50 per cent. in 1983 to 37 per cent. in 1988; Government expenditure on the Science Base has declined steadily from 0.35 per cent. of GDP in 1981 to 0.28 per cent. now". That is significantly different from what the Secretary of State was saying. Does he repudiate the Royal Society's figures? With regard to the health of our educational establishments, the Royal Society goes on to say: 1,200 permanent science and engineering posts in universities have been lost since 1979". That does not seem to me to show the healthy state of our scientific community. I would be interested to hear the Minister's reaction to that when he replies.

At a time of recession, when one needs to find a way out of the problems that the economy faces, it is scarcely credible that there should be a massive cut of £28.5 million in real terms in pure science. One of the bleakest pieces of evidence of cuts that I have seen is that by 1993–94 the United Kingdom will be spending less in real terms on the work of all five United Kingdom research councils than in 1990–91. That is happening at a time when we should be spending more to compete in a highly competitive world.

It is because of all those points, which have been highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), that the scientific community is now in a state of ferment. We should remember also that these scientists are not motivated by political point scoring. They are reluctantly coming forward to politicians to ask them to argue their case. They are not used to it. I was telephoned the other night by a professor asking me to sign an EDM. I thought that he knew what an early-day motion was, but he did not. He is a professor of pure science. I gave him the background. That shows how remote scientists are from what happens here. They think that if they talk to a Member of Parliament and ask him to sign a statement, the Government will respond. I had to tell him otherwise. Perhaps I was able to educate that professor. Scientists are not motivated by political point scoring against the Government, but they know what is happening in research and development establishments and in universities.

It is probable that the nuclear structure facility at Daresbury will be closed. I see the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler), whose constituency it is in. I will listen with interest to what he says in the debate, and I shall be even more interested to see which Division Lobby he goes into at the end of the debate.

Debates here may be hot-tempered, but the nuclear facility has been described by Claude Detraz, chairman of the Associated Committee for Nuclear Physics at the European Science Foundation, as "world class". He goes on to say of those working at Daresbury: In their selected field of activity UK scientists have gained recognised leadership. The New Scientist of 2 February 1991—again, an independent publication—states: At a time when nuclear physics in Britain is acknowledged as an internationally successful area of research, the country will soon find itself with fewer nuclear physicists than Iraq. What is going on? What, indeed, is going on? When British scientists develop into world-class performers like those at Daresbury, what is their reward? The Government have told them that there will be reduced funding, and have left the scientific community to get on with implementing cuts. The scientific community is being left to make the harsh decisions. That is being done against a background of no proper consultation and no proper inquiry into what is happening in the scientific community. That is why the Royal Society has had to undertake the role.

The Secretary of State said that the debate had been generated because of excitement which had been whipped up unnecessarily. Before the debate was arranged, I was approached by Dr. Jim Kellie, whom I had never met before, a nuclear physicist who lives in my constituency. He passed to me a copy of a letter from Sir Mark Richmond, chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council. Sir Mark said: I fully recognise that the nuclear science facility acts as a focus for much of the nuclear structure physics programme. Its closure will reduce substantially SERC's support for the subject, but not remove it completely. We are under considerable pressure as a result of recent Government decisions on funding and it is, I am afraid, inevitable that some areas of science will be hard hit. That letter was from the chairman of SERC itself, again someone who is not involved in the political to-ing and fro-ing of the House, but a cold dispassionate scientist who is concerned about what is happening in the world in which he is a professional. What he says is at variance with everything that the Secretary of State said.

The Secretary of State mentioned the Eurogam programme. In preparing for the debate, I found it interesting to note that the Eurogam programme is one year ahead of anything else, certainly in the USA. That means that British nuclear scientists are leading the field in a key area of nuclear research. The photon tagger, which is also linked with the nuclear debate, was developed arid built by Glasgow and Edinburgh universities. Again that is developmental work at the very forefront of world research.

If those facilities are closed down or put at risk, two things will follow. First, the highly talented British scientists who are currently working in the facilities will see their years of hard work destroyed at a stroke; that will inevitably lead to them going abroad to continue their research, and we shall lose talented scientists. Secondly, it will mean that the culture of pure science at British establishments, the excitement among young scientists and the energy that they put into the years of work to produce results for the good of the nation will be lost. When we lose talented people and projects in that way, no young, bright scientists will come forward in the future. We can turn them out of our universities by the thousand, but if there is no work for them, they will go abroad.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Hurry up.

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Member shouts from a sedentary position, but I intend to debate in my own time. If the hon. Member has a point to make, let him make it.

The overall effects of the cuts, not just in the programmes that I have mentioned, will mean that in years ahead Britain will be without trained nuclear scientists, at a time when we need more trained personnel because of the demands of decommissioning nuclear power stations and because of environmental studies.

The savings being made now may be written off as small beer by the Secretary of State, but they will cost us dear in the future. There is nothing sensible or constructive about the Government's policy on British science and research and development. At best it is a Luddite policy of the worst sort. It has become sadly apparent what the Prime Minister meant when he talked about a classless society. The message from the decisions on science to the young scientists in the classrooms of Britain today is that there is no point in going to class because in the long run their talent will no longer be needed.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Time is getting very short, and many hon. Members wish to speak.

8.47 pm
Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

Everyone realises that we are under great pressure. We are grateful to the Opposition for making time for the debate. I regret very much that there has not been a full-scale debate on the subject for six years, but my perspective goes back further. When the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) talked about resource allocation in the sense of a relationship between expenditure on science and science policy and the immediate consequences, he was starting at the beginning of the 1980s; he said that the consequences were felt almost immediately in that decade. With that I disagree.

It is important to note that we are looking at a much more fundamental and much longer-scale relationship, especially between the work in pure science and the subsequent benefit to society. We should consider a period of 15 to 20 years. It is for that very reason that, generally speaking, when we get into these debates we tend to get locked into statistical argument and inevitably pick up the language of those who write to us and properly protest.

Of course, as the Secretary of State said, we are not a nation in scientific decline. If any of us thought that, we probably would not be here and we would be taking a much more serious view of the whole thing. What are the questions we should be asking ourselves?

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Is this a joke?

Sir Ian Lloyd

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman said that if science was in decline we would all be elsewhere. Surely we would be here, bringing it to people's attention.

Sir Ian Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman has misinterpreted me. We would certainly be taking it far more seriously than we are. We would be here much more often and we would be taking evidence from a much wider spectrum of opinion.

We are not talking about total funding or about the national division between total expenditure on research and total expenditure on development. We are not discussing the structural division between the public and private sectors or about the divisions even within each sector. These are immensely important topics. Where should fundamental science be done? In a world in which what is described as big science is unavoidably international, how much should be done, in which fields, and who should pay? How should the burden fall, and how should adjustments be made?

Many legitimate differences of opinion are possible. Statistics inevitably envelop most arguments, and they are neither conclusive nor dispensable—but they are often revealing. However, it would be unfortunate to adopt the view that such discussion, because it is difficult, should become increasingly confidential. I also regret that the 1990 report of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils has not been made available, because that published in 1989 was of immense value.

The statistics are not encouraging. There is profound and widespread concern in the scientific community that is greater than any I have experienced since I first entered the House. That concern has existed for many years, and has been gravely aggravated by inflation—particularly that affecting the price of new and expensive highly technical equipment. The identifiable problems will be alleviated, but not solved by higher funding alone. That is a necessary but not a sufficient condition.

When I last spoke on this subject, I ended with the word "priorities". The latest analysis of public expenditure figures for 1993–94, which was published yesterday or the day before, shows for the first time the extremely interesting figures for expenditure per head.

Total Government expenditure per head of the population in 1989–90 was the large sum of £2,431. Of that, research and development on defence accounted for £45; education and science, £33; Department of Trade and Industry, £7; energy, £3; and others, £5—making a total of £93, leaving £2,338 remaining. Of that sum, no less than £1,426 was spent on health and social security—£513 on the former, and £913 on the latter; £361 on education; and £551 on other areas.

Those figures inject a degree of perspective, as they reveal also that we spend £257 million on the running costs of leisure centres. That kind of imbalance is seldom discussed in the House. That sum is equal to £4.5 gross per head of the population, and £2.5 net. The Science and Engineering Research Council deficit this year of £8 million is equal to 0.39p per head of the population. If the figure is £14 million next year, that will be equal to 0.69p. That figure is seldom related to, and weighed in the balance against, the £2,431 of total expenditure per head of the population. Only debates of the kind that have not been held for six years, particularly in respect of science funding, can reveal such disparities.

It is no use trying to apportion blame without taking a longer perspective. We should ask ourselves what is the critical path analysis of recovery from now until the year 2005, what policies are required, and what should be the distribution of expenditure. Those questions cannot be answered without a great deal of work and analysis, although we may make guesses.

However, we can identify the critical path analysis arrived at by Japan for the years 1960 to 1965, which yielded that country's dominance today. I use that word advisedly, having read two reports from the British embassy in Tokyo, which undoubtedly confirm; that judgment. Could we have emulated the Japanese? I have no doubt that we could have done so—but, both then and now, the answers would be different. However, Germany, Japan and the United States are not weakening their basic science.

Whatever we do, we must identify and support the critical path network for research and development in the United Kingdom, which involves taking a forward perspective—however difficult that may be—of at least 15 or 20 years. If that were done, right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House could try to agree a common basis and set of objectives. As the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said, we must create greater public awareness of the relationship between today's education and science and tomorrow's fundamental science, for the standard of living that will exist in 2010 will clearly depend on its application.

The Overseas Technical Information Service summary of the Japanese "White Paper on Science and Technology 1990" makes several significant comments: Supported by scientific and technological development, Japan has matured into an economic giant that produces 14 per cent. of the world's GNP. In recent years, the people's consciousness has been transformed in the midst of this economic prosperity, and they now wish to live their lives in comfort and fulfilment … Rather than analysing the contribution which science and technology make to economic growth, the paper considers their roles from the standpoint of ordinary people, and attempts to show how science and technology contribute to the creation of a satisfying life based upon comfort and fulfilment". That philosophy is increasingly reflected in so much that is coming not only from Japan but from elsewhere.

Right hon. and hon. Members who visited the extraordinary exhibition staged by Hitachi in London a couple of weeks ago found that philosophy clearly stated in the documentation available at that event. Hitachi alone spends £2.7 billion on research and development, and employs 16,000 people at 33 research and development establishments worldwide. That development certainly has taken place within my lifetime, and probably within the past 20 to 25 years.

We must give priority to a policy of defining the critical path and following it, backed by all the resources and political will that we can muster.

I shall make one more contribution towards perspective in this debate because from time to time it is helpful to discover that our situation is not unique to the present time. In 1855, Newton's biographer, Sir David Brewster, said: It is from the trenches of science alone that war can be successfully waged and it is in its patronage and liberal endowment that nations will find their best and cheapest defence. That was 150 years ago, and it is certainly as true today as it was then. He dedicated the volume to His Royal Highness Prince Albert with these words: whose views, were they seconded, by statesmen willing to extend education and advance science, would raise our country to a higher rank than it now holds. I do not know what a similar biographer would say today, but I have an idea that, if he viewed the spectrum of argument and information that have been put before us, he would reach a similar conclusion.

8.59 pm
Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

I shall be as brief as possible, because I realise that many other hon. Members wish to speak. The hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) also wishes to make a contribution because, like me, he wants to bat not only for Warrington but for Britain and world science.

I must pay tribute to the contribution made by the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd), who is an esteemed Member of the House, and is knowledgeable about his subject. I contrast his style and knowledge with the stance of the Secretary of State in the debate. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is new to his office, but we have often clashed when he has held other offices.

Naturally, I wish to mention the Daresbury laboratory, because it is important to Warrington and to world science. The Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, in its report, called upon the Government to ensure that our scientific endeavours became international in character. The report pointed out that there was a need for Britain to develop and strengthen her international links in order to retain her place in world science. The report also outlined some of the major weaknesses in British science, describing them as areas in which a concerted Government response is essential if Britain is to face the challenge of Europe. Unfortunately, despite the Secretary of State's soothing words, we appear to be going in the opposite direction. That is why I welcome this debate, as did so many hon. Members before me. Although the Secretary of State pointed out that Daresbury has about two years to go, the sword of Damocles is hanging over it.

Daresbury is the only experimental nuclear physics facility in the United Kingdom, and there is no doubt that it conducts research of the highest international standard. It is a world leader in its field, and operates one of the most successful particle accelerators. In addition, the laboratory has contributed to many important collaborative ventures. By any standards, the nuclear structure facilities at Daresbury are of world class. Scientists abroad regard it as the "jewel in the crown" of the Science and Engineering Research Council, and have written to me on the subject.

The only way to give the facility a long-term future, and to save it, is to put in more funds. Yet all that I have described is to be sacrificed for the paltry sum of £8 million, which is unbelievable to people abroad and to the many people who have written to the centre. I have a large number of their letters here tonight. They do not come only from people in this country but from Japan, America, Germany and France. In all the letters that have poured in, they have said that they could not understand why the Government are doing this to a facility which is world-renowned—nor can I, and nor can the people who work at Daresbury.

There is not merely the question of the direct effect upon the 150 people who work there, many of whom live in my constituency. The indirect effects must be considered too. Even at this late stage, can we remove that sword of Damocles? Having listened to the Secretary of State tonight, I am not comforted. Indeed, leaving the present Government in charge of scientific research is like leaving Dracula in charge of a ward full of anaemics, and then wondering why they do not recover.

Mr. Oppenheim

The hon. Gentleman had better persuade his union sponsors to employ a new script writer.

Mr. Hoyle

I take no notice of the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim), the Secretary of State's Parliamentary Private Secretary. He is trivial at all times; triviality is second nature to him.

Let me tell the Secretary of State that, instead of leaving a fertile plain on which plants can grow high, he is creating a desert on which little now grows and on which, if he continues with his present course, nothing will grow in the future.

9.5 pm

Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South)

Next week, the more romantic of us will be tempted to say it with flowers. If the beloved lives abroad, Interflora may oblige; the problem is that, given what the pound sterling can buy when translated, a fabulous spray can become a rather disappointing pot plant. The trouble is that the pound sterling is first translated into an international currency, the fleurin, which is based on the Swiss franc. What the pound sterling can buy here often loses in purchasing power abroad because of the relationship with the Swiss franc.

We are now confronting exactly the same problem with regard to nuclear physics. The £60 million-a-year contribution that we make to CERN is related to the Swiss franc and to Swiss inflation; that means an unexpected contribution to CERN of an extra £10 million this year. Two thirds of the £90 million SERC budget for nuclear physics already goes to CERN, while an extra £20 million goes to support individual CERN scientists, leaving only £9 million or £10 million for the nuclear structure facility at Daresbury, which, as we have already heard, is under threat.

I make a direct connection between the threat to the nuclear structure facility and the overbudget on CERN. It appears that the nuclear structure facility may be sacrificed because of that extra contribution, to which I gather that the press release mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) also referred. The Daresbury structure is being nibbled away for the sake of big science abroad, with big budgets being spent to achieve limited results—in contrast to the excellent results being achieved at Daresbury.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), the former Prime Minister, visited Daresbury only last July; I was with her. She said that she was most impressed and later wrote: It was clear that the Laboratory is at the frontiers of research in several fundamental areas, and I do hope that this will receive the international recognition it deserves. Dr. Akito Arima, president of the university of Tokyo, wrote that Daresbury was the most important center for nuclear physics in the world". The United Kingdom is the world leader at present, but it will not be able to maintain that status if the facility is destroyed and if we no longer produce philosophy doctorates in the subject. If the facility closes, a number of postgraduates will lose their PhDs as it is—at least nine from Birmingham university alone. Deleting nuclear physics is not the act of a Government who are committed to the future of science in this country.

The Conservative-dominated Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts has said: The UK is undoubtedly disadvantaged by the amount of funding devoted to scientific research. On the basis of Government funded civil R and D as a percentage of GDP, the UK is not as well funded as Italy, France, Sweden, or Germany". That may seem pretty damn silly to the Secretary of State, but it strikes me as pretty damn telling.

The Advisory Board for the Research Councils wrote to my right hon. and learned Friend on 18 December. I seem to have come across the letter; perhaps it fell off the back of a lorry. The letter says: The proportion of the nation's wealth deployed through the science budget will have declined by 15 per cent. between 1981 and 1994.… This will make it difficult to sustain scientific excellence.… These cutbacks … widen the disparity with research budgets in other advanced countries. I am not necessarily suggesting that my right hon. and learned Friend will be able to produce millions of pounds out of a hat in order to re-establish our credentials in the science world or to save the nuclear structure facility. However, it is unfair that SERC should have to bear the whole cost of undoing problems that are not of its own making. It is unfair that the nuclear structure facility should be given the chop on the basis of rising costs when its own costs have been declining.

CERN appears to be sacrosanct and ring-fenced, whereas the rest of the science budget needs to be ring-fenced from CERN. There is a precedent for this. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) knows well, the British Library, because of its voracious nature, was ring-fenced from the rest of the arts budget. It kept eating into the arts budget. That ring-fencing was probably done against Treasury resistance, and I am sure that the Treasury would not be keen on ring-fencing CERN. Nevertheless, I have three possible lifelines for my right hon. and learned Friend, and I hope that he will accept one of them.

First, the CERN budget could be renegotiated. The Foreign Office is understandably reluctant to do that. After all, it might offend our European partners—though I cannot imagine why such sensitivity should be shown so recently after such disunity on the European political front. I could understand a modicum of embarrassment on the part of the officials having to renegotiate. After all, it would imply an element of carelessness in failure to solve the root problem at the previous stage of renegotiation. Thus, to save the face of officials, the NSF is about to be sacrificed. There are snags in this course. First, it will undermine our reputation as a reliable scientific collaborator. Secondly, CERN's problems will only re-emerge. I understand that it is planning to spend an extra £0.5 billion on a big new facility in Switzerland. What will next be sacrificed on the altar of the massive "Z" bosom of CERN? Will it be the rest of Daresbury? Will it be the astronomy budget? In my view, procrastination is not a viable option.

Secondly, the Government could renegotiate the host contribution to CERN. I understand that the hosts make a profit six times greater than their contribution to CERN. Of course, the savings from such a renegotiation would be uncertain, and they might come only in the medium term, but the savings from closing the NSF would also only come in the medium term because of the massive redundancy costs involved. I should like to hear from the Secretary of State a pledge that he is prepared to renegotiate the host country's contribution.

Thirdly—and perhaps most important—my right hon. and learned Friend could draw down on the aptly named flexibility margin, the ABRC's back pocket. In 1992–93 and in 1993–94 the ABRC has put 2 per cent. more than usual in its back pocket. If it were to bring that back to its normal 2 per cent. flexibility margin it would have vast amounts of money—enough money to save the NSF and probably to remove the other areas of pressure in the science budget at the moment. The back pocket amount for 1992–93 is £39 million, and the amount for 1993–94 is £60 million.

It is odd to quote the arm's-length principle in response to this argument. After all, the demise of the NSF, if it comes about, will be the result of Government policy. There will be precious little use in quoting the arm's-length policy to a drowning man.

I have mentioned three lifelines for the NSF and the science budget. I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will pick up one of them and throw it to them rather than remain aloof.

9.14 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

There is more to this important subject than an argument about taxpayers' money. We must recognise that the Government cannot give the scientific community a blank cheque and that the public spending implications must be realistically borne in mind. It is entirely reasonable to expect industry and commerce to fund a considerable proportion of research, and not necessarily only in the sphere of applied science, upon which industrial money tends to be concentrated in the universities at present.

There are some companies in the United Kingdom with a notable record on carrying out even blue-sky research. They have often benefited from it, as we see from the register of patents worldwide. Remarkable in that is the pharmaceutical industry. The statistics reveal that it invests about £1 billion per annum on research and development. That is a significant and productive sum. It is an example to the rest of British industry, and it is right to say in a debate such as this that the part which does not invest to any significant extent in research and development should consider sponsoring scientific study to a much greater degree. The industrial sponsoring and support of research falls far short of what is now a well-established tradition in the United States of America. There, corporate involvement, particularly in the work of advanced science and engineering laboratories, is well established.

However, there is an important, perhaps dominant place for Government funding. The support given by the Government to science and technology should be proportional to the need perceived and the potential advantage that can be obtained. The raw fact that Italy, France, Sweden and Germany—countries with a way of life and an infrastructure strikingly similar to our own—support scientific research at a level in real terms up to 50 per cent. more than the United Kingdom does not tell the story fully without considering need and achievement.

Fortunately, in terms of need, the Government have had the wisdom to perceive that there is a serious deficit in science education and training. Unfortunately, with an equal and opposite lack of perception, they have failed to take the steps required to meet that need and to fill the deficit. Many examples can be given. There is not time to list them all in the debate, but one striking example can be found in the considerable, continuing and miserable shortage of good quality science teachers. In the interests of brevity, I shall make but one point which shows that to be the case and demonstrates the failure of Government policy towards science education.

The Government's bursary scheme, which attempts to lure people into teaching as a second career, has failed already. Taking physics, chemistry and biology together, one would have expected the bursary scheme to be showing an increase in the number of applicants for places on courses in those subjects for the postgraduate certificate in education, but that has not happened. In 1989 there were 898 applicants for those places; in 1990 it was down to 840 and in 1991 it was down to 822. So, despite the bursary scheme, we are producing fewer science teachers. We may be producing many science graduates, but the Secretary of State should visit Lloyd's, the stock exchange, accountancy firms or the non-scientific parts of the Civil Service, the tax inspectorate or the factory inspectorate. He will find plenty of people with science degrees there because those jobs pay better than teaching science in schools.[Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) thinks that this is a funny subject. Perhaps she has not looked at the statistics.

As one looks at secondary schools, it is obvious that there is still a crying need for further measures to be taken to introduce into the education system for the first time—the problems are not just the fault of this Government—a quality and quantum of teaching that would meet the need. This is not a problem that one would see in anything like the same way in the colleges or lyceés of France or the gymnasiums of Germany, where we would find a much higher level of achievement in bringing people from business and the professions into science teaching than there is currently any sign of achieving here.

Before we can ask the Government to fund British scientific research, we must ask whether it is worth funding. On the basis of the evidence, the answer must be that of course it is, and it is worth funding on the evidence of achievement and potential achievement more extensively than is so at present.

We have heard much about Daresbury. I emphasise that the hon. Members for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) and for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) were right about the potential damage to the United Kingdom's reputation as a country of scientific excellence if the effect of changes in the funding of the Science and Engineering Research Council means that Daresbury has to close.

Professor Detraz was mentioned earlier. In his comments to Sir Mark Richmond, he said: All members of NuPECC were amazed and horrified to learn of a proposal by SERC to remove much of its funding for Nuclear Physics. This would close the world-class SERC facility at Daresbury, and renege on its formal agreement". That is quite an accusation to make against the Government and the British scientific community, but it is justified and true.

The hon. Member for Warrington, South spoke of the effect that that will have on young PhD postgraduate students, not only at Birmingham university, which he mentioned, but at other United Kingdom universities. The effect is obvious. There are jobs elsewhere for them and the brightest and best will leave the United Kingdom. Brilliant young British scientists are working at universities in the United States, and some in universities of the European Community, not only because jobs are available for them but because the effect of decisions such as that taken in relation to Daresbury is to undermine the confidence of young scientists in this country. It will undermine the confidence not only of those whose PhD theses are based on what is happening at Daresbury but of PhD students in other scientific disciplines, particularly the expensive ones, who may have a great contribution to make but feel that it can be made more securely elsewhere.

In a spirit of realism, I recognise that SERC can be criticised for over-optimism in the past. Whether that is a fair criticism is another matter. There are three major influences other than overheating based on optimism. The first is international subscriptions. As we heard the effect of those from the hon. Member for Warrington, South, I shall not repeat him. The second is a factor which should be borne in mind but has not been mentioned—the gap between agreed university salary settlements and SERC's agreed public expenditure outcome. I understand that every 1 per cent. of university salaries costs SERC £1 million for the year. This has not been taken sufficiently into account. The third influence is the poor public expenditure outcome. Bearing in mind the other factors, it is impossible to plan international science with a see-sawing public expenditure outcome: £12 million this year, on a budget of £450 million, and £35 million last year —it speaks for itself.

Annuality is causing disease for SERC. Annuality means that it is inevitable that it will be less efficient than it could be and that science has a less than happy future. For SERC, some form of indexation is needed just to enable scientific research in this country to run hard to stand still.

The advice that the Secretary of State has received must have been along the lines of the Yugoslav proverb: situation desperate, not serious. It is high time that Ministers realised that for scientific research in this country the situation is now both desperate and serious, and that proper funding should be given to it.

9.24 pm
Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

I am grateful to you for calling me to speak in this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and as time is short, I shall be brief.

First, I must declare an interest in the sense that for most of my working career as a lawyer I have represented a university. Although I no longer practise as such, my law firm represents a number of higher education institutions.

The debate arises on an Opposition motion which is absolutely typical of just about every Opposition motion we have ever heard on education in recent years. It starts with an attack on the Government for not spending enough money, follows up with an implication—I use the word advisedly—that the Labour party would spend more if it were in government and had a chance to do so, and rapidly avoids taking any line on any of the hard decisions which must be made, if one accepts that there is a limited overall budget for science and education, as for most other subjects.

Most people who have attended this debate will accept, as I accept readily, that there are a number of important areas of public expenditure that could usefully use more or less whatever sums of money are made available to them. The national health service is one, to which I would add science and research. As knowledge is infinite, so the sums that one can spend on pursuing research are infinite. The reality is that we must judge priorities. A great deal of this debate has been about how to select priorities.

I would not want politicians to have to determine those priorities on a detailed basis. The only way to make the difficult judgments between one person's work and that of another and between one area of research and another is by peer group assessment. That may result in some hard decisions. It may well be that my right hon. and learned Friend will have to defend those decisions in the House, but he is absolutely right to say that, as a matter of principle, the advice that he receives should be kept confidential between him and those who advise him. It is for him to defend the judgments made based on the advice he receives.

We have some fundamental failings within the United Kingdom. It is not that the Government spends inadequately. We have had an interesting canter over the course on statistics. In reality, any objective look at the statistics between the developed countries over the past 10 years shows that the British Government spend tolerably well compared with most of their competitors. The real difference arises in the fact that the United Kingdom private sector pays significantly less than in Germany, the United States and Japan.

United States expenditure on research and development is heavily pump-primed by defence expenditure. It is not a realistic model for us to follow. The models of Japan and, to a lesser extent, Germany are relevant to us. In Japan, for every pound of Government spending on research and development there is about £6 from Japanese industry. The figure for Germany is nothing like as much, but it is still substantially more than pertains in the other developed countries.

In addressing that problem, we must consider what the Government could have done during the 1980s to redress the imbalance in the private sector and to what extent the Government have already succeeded. There are some outstanding exceptions in the private sector of British industry, some of which have been referred to, and I should not like in any way to diminish the contribution of many fine companies and many sectors of industry. But to take the figures overall, it seems that the private sector neither invests enough in research and development, nor gets enough from the publicly funded research and development in higher education institutes.

I disagree fundamentally with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). It does not matter to me whether a science graduate teaches science, researches into science, becomes an investment banker or goes into the law. What matters is that decision makers across the board should have a far higher level of scientific awareness than happens in the United Kingdom at present.

The difficulty is that change takes a long time to feed through. Our problems of the 1980s came about as a consequence of the education reforms in the 1960s. The remedial action that the Government have taken will not begin to be felt for many years to come.

The successful implementation of the science and technology part of the national curriculum and the extraordinary growth in the participation rate in higher education is the seed corn from which a fundamental change of attitudes in the United Kingdom will occur in the future. Correlli Barnett, in his book, "The Audit of War", highlighted the way in which the United Kingdom, throughout the century, has become progressively committed to an anti-industrial culture. The education reforms of the past five years and the successful implementation of the national curriculum, with its emphasis on teaching science up to the age of 16, are important ingredients in changing that culture to one that is more consistent with a successful industrial and manufacturing country in the future.

The attack on the Government is misfounded. If one identifies lack of education in science and technology as one of the causes of our current problem, the efforts of the Government, in the teeth of opposition from the Labour party, to reform the curriculum so that more people learn science and technology are obviously the right steps to overcome it. Those efforts have achieved dramatic success in the 1980s.

It is equally important to realise that there is an enormous gold mine of technology and knowledge to be exploited in our institutes of higher education. Sadly, that knowledge is underutilised in comparison with Germany and Japan where the relationships between industries and universities are much closer than they are in the United Kingdom. In the 1980s the Government have addressed that problem—there has been an enormous growth in science parks. The British Technology Group's monopoly of publicly funded research has been abolished. Measures have been taken to encourage universities to develop their technology transfer and relationships with local industry.

I admit that the process of encouraging the utilisation of universities started from a low base in the 1980s, but, as the process continues, it will be of particular importance to the regions served by universities. In my region, Yorkshire, we are particularly well served by fine universities and polytechnics. An important part of the continuing development of local industry must be the ability of a region to regenerate its manufacturing base from the resources available to it from its higher education institutes.

I know that the debate is to conclude shortly, and so in summary I say that it is important to appreciate that the Government have maintained spending on science and technology throughout the 1980s in difficult circumstances and against competing priorities. They have done extraordinarily well in doing so even though many wish that more could be achieved—in time one hopes that it can. My right hon. and learned Friend has said that he will continue to set priorities and I hope that he ensures that they are established by the scientists themselves. I hope that he will defend vigorously the role of science in society and the importance of technology transfer because, throughout the next century, they must be the basis upon which our nation will prosper.

9.32 pm
Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

It would be nice if the eagerness of hon. Members on both sides of the House to speak encouraged the Government to find time, at least once every five years, for a full day's debate on science. I am afraid that that is whistling in the dark:.

Hon. Members have spoken with great knowledge, concern and in all seriousness about the plight that science is now in. I accept the points that have been made about balance between the interests of the private and public sectors and their relative roles. It is singularly perverse for Britain to be cutting its basic research and undermining such advantages as it once had now that everyone, except the Government, accepts that basic research is the necessary foundation for up-to-date technology.

It is our most successful companies and industries which are most insistent that the underfunding of research councils is jeopardising the country's science base on which they depend. As that base broadens, so can the range of industries that it sustains.

On the measurement of research and development, let me try again. I am not bandying phoney price indices and I understand the problem to which the Secretary of State referred of every department creating its own price indices. I ask hon. Members to read the sources and methods of the national income accounts. It is expecting too much to ask the Secretary of State to do so, but perhaps his officials might do so.

Science is measured not in tonnes like steel but in terms of scientist hours times pay. I repeat that if scientists' pay increases by no more than the average—there is no question of special rates of pay—the so-called real measure of research and development expenditure increases proportionately to GDP. So-called level funding in real terms means an actual decline in research done in scientist man years at the rate at which real GDP grows.

It seems from what the Secretary of State said that he simply has not got his mind round the problem. Perhaps his officials will try to explain it to him. Civil research and development in the United Kingdom of 1.8 per cent. of GDP compares with 1.9 per cent. in France, 2 per cent. in the United States, 2.7 per cent. in Germany and 2.9 per cent. in Japan. We are some 50 per cent. behind Japan in civil research and development, including in the private sector.

Investment, growth, profits and the balance of payments have all suffered in both the shorter and longer terms, contributing in turn, along with the neglect of research and development, to the continued decline of Britain's industrial competitiveness. If we narrow the measures down to academic and academically related research, in an absolute quagmire of statistics the only decent estimates go back as far as 1982. They are in the studies carried out for the Advisory Board for the Research Councils by Irvine and Martin.

The most comparable countries are France and Germany. The United Kingdom spends 0.38 per cent. of GDP on academic and academically related research, compared with 0.44 per cent. in France and 0.49 per cent. in Germany. Substantial measures must be taken to raise expenditure on research in our society to the same level as that in Germany and France, not in cash terms or even cash terms per head but in research intensity.

In his approach to the science budget, the Secretary of State has turned into a blip what scientists hoped was a trend established by the real increase in the science budget in 1989. We now have a sharp cut in real terms. I am not inventing any price indices; if the Secretary of State reads the record he will find that an amendment which I tabled to an industry Bill was the origin of the autumn statement. I would not cook figures. At 1990–91 prices, as given in the autumn statement, there was a welcome if overdue and inadequate increase in the science budget of £90 million in 1989–90. I fully admit that the Government made that increase. In the Government's definition of real terms, the budget was slightly improved in 1990–91. But there is a cut in real terms in 1991–92 of £29 million.

The Secretary of State was disingenuous when he argued that, after cutting out capital and extraordinary items in the current year, the 1991–92 provision will preserve the real value of other items. The Secretary of State cannot suppose that there will be no capital and extraordinary items next year or in future years. He mentioned one such item in his announcement of the allocations to the research councils on 24 January. It is the construction of the clinical research laboratories for the Medical Research Council at Hammersmith. The Secretary of State cannot assume that with capital expenditure one takes it out last year but piles it in this year. That is cheating with the statistics. As we have heard from hon. Members on both sides of the House, the Science and Engineering Research Council faces an immediate crisis. To keep out of the Tower of London, the council at its meeting today made sweeping cuts across all boards. It is not only the nuclear physics board that will suffer; some of the cuts will be aimed at new projects that depend on increased resources—but they go far beyond that.

When the Secretary of State and his officials have had time carefully to read the statement of the SERC they will find that, contrary to his suggestion, there is no commitment by the SERC to run the nuclear structure facility through 1992–93 or even to honour the first stage of the UK-French agreement on the Eurogam detector. The SERC has decided to look urgently for ways to do so. There are three possible ways: diverting funding from other boards that have been severely cut; diverting flexibility allowance from other research councils that have been equally severely cut; or the Government doing as they did in a similar situation a few years ago and finding additional funds to avert a crisis that they had not anticipated when they decided the size of the science budget.

I urge the Government to make an additional £5 million available this year. When the Secretary of State sees the detailed case submitted by the SERC he will have to admit that there is no other way in which nuclear research can be sustained in this country without gravely damaging other equally important areas of research. I stress that all SERC boards are suffering in the same way as the nuclear physics board.

As a well managed funding body, the Medical Research Council reviews all its research units on a five-year cycle, ending some and starting others. But this year the MRC has to make a 15 per cent. net cut in the units reviewed —all of them doing research that is vital to human health. That is not just a short-term blip. The number of actual laboratory bench research workers in the MRC has fallen from 3,974 on 1 January 1980 to 3,533 on 1 January 1991 —an 11 per cent. cut in the lifetime of the Government. The number of research grants to universities fell from 524 in 1980 to 320 in 1990, and is planned to fall further, to 250 this year—less than half the 1980 number—and to 235 next year.

The neuro-regeneration interdisciplinary research centre at Cambridge, working on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, will not go ahead, or it will do so without a building. The diabetes centre in Newcastle will receive only a token grant. Are these the Government's priorities? Agricultural research has been cut by the Government because it too successfully increased productivity.

Faced with the justified concerns of the public and the Government about global climate change and its effects, the Natural Environment Research Council is having to use its scant resources to fill the most yawning gaps in our knowledge. British scientists—I concede the importance of recognising the continuing quality of British research—are making an outstanding contribution to the international research effort on the global environment, but on foreseen resources it will not be possible to make climate forecasts before the year 2010, in 20 years' time.

We can argue with the Government about whether we should stabilise carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000 or 2005, as the Government want, but can they seriously argue that we should wait until 2010 to forecast the effect of these emissions on the global climate? Should we make such massive resource shifts as are required to cut carbon dioxide emissions in unnecessary ignorance of their likely effects? Britain must give a lead in telescoping the necessary international efforts. We need not pay more than our share. In international science programmes generally, we pick up in work far more than we pay out. But the observation, analytical and modelling systems needed to produce global climate forecasts can and should be operational by 2000 in half the planned time.

lso on the global environment, in the most difficult area of all, the Economic and Social Research Council had put forward a major programme on social and economic aspects of climate change. The interagency committee, gathering together all the research councils and the relevant Government Departments, is urging the importance of this field. However, the Economic and Social Research Council is able to make only a very modest start. To do that, it is having to cut drastically the quasi-executive servicing that it provides to Government Departments. That demonstrates perhaps the greatest weakness in the Government's science policy, but it is divorced from Government policy generally.

The independence and integrity of scientific research are the foundation stones on which the progress of science depends. It is a grotesque distortion to use that as an excuse for ignoring scientific advice, refusing to publish it, abusing scientists for the supposed irrelevance of their work and depriving them of the resources that they need to do their job.

The European Community research programmes and the co-ordination of our science policies with those of our European partners are of increasing importance. I wish that the House could have found time today to debate the policies that we have put forward. Those are the boost to industrial research and development; the increased incentives to the private sector to increase its effort; the diversity of sources of funding needed for basic research; the wider access by polytechnics as well as universities to research funds; the co-ordination of science policy across Departments; and the organisation of wholly independent advice to Government and to Parliament, which the Government cannot suborn, on scientific issues of major public importance.

The straits to which the Government have reduced Britain's scientific endeavour mean that the debate has had to concentrate on the immediate plight of scientific research. I hope that the Government will think again, and think more clearly, about just what they are doing to British science and to the future of the country.

9.46 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Alan Howarth)

Like other hon. Members, I welcome the opportunity to debate such extremely important issues as the place of scientific research in our national life, the relative responsibilities that fall to Government arid the private sector, and the distribution of responsibilities in our society.

We have heard a great deal of special pleading, a certain amount of sloganising, and much discussion about. the percentage of GDP which might appropriately be devoted to expenditure on science. The percentage of GDP is the latest current slogan, because it is occasionally found convenient to select statistics which seem to be helpful in supporting the case that the scientific community and those who seek to champion it naturally wish to make in support of more support for science. We all want to see such support.

It is a remarkably arbitrary measure and there is no logic or merit in selecting a particular percentage of GDP. When one looks at what takes place in different societies, one finds that widely varying percentages of GDP are applied to scientific research. The German Government spend a rather larger proportion of public money on civil research and development as a percentage of GDP, but in recent years they have been reducing that percentage. The French have been increasing it. By way of public expenditure, those countries deploy a rather larger proportion of GDP on scientific research than the United Kingdom. The USA and Japan deploy a smaller percentage, but are the most powerful economies in the world. The United States is indisputably the world's leading centre for creative research and the capacity of the Japanese for applied research and technology transfer is, as we all know, formidable.

The Government strategy has been to reduce public expenditure as a proportion of GDP for the justified reason that that way provides the opportunity to liberate resources into creative activity in the private sector, not least in support of science. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) was right to draw attention to the importance of the private sector pulling its weight and making the contribution that it ought to our science effort.

Had the Government not had that policy of redefining the respective roles of the various parties and the Government's responsibility, we should be heading towards a much smaller overall sum for creative and worthwhile scientific endeavour than otherwise would be the case. In particular, the strategic withdrawal from near-market research was self-evidently a sensible move. It cannot make sense for the Government to devote public funding to research with a foreseeable potential for commercial application at the price of supporting the basic research projects of which the Government will be the major supporter.

The strategies that we have initiated, and the policies from the DTI to promote investment and encourage industry to invest in applied research and take up its responsibility in near-market research are all the right things to have done. We created a tax regime that gives industry incentives such as the scientific research allowance, which gives 100 per cent. in the first year and makes it attractive and sensible for industry to invest in research. All that is pointing us in the right direction.

Our strategies have enabled the Government to increase their support for basic research, which is inescapably our responsibility and where we have to be the major supporter and champion. As Opposition Members know, the Government have made important real terms increases in funding for basic research of some 23 per cent. over the lifetime of the Government. As the strength of the economy developed, we saw the priority to enhance support of basic research as extremely important. Two years ago, in one year we were able to increase by 8 per cent. in real terms our support for basic research. We are now holding steady at that level and the prospect is that we shall continue to do so. I look forward to a time when the continuing development and improvement of the economy will enable us to improve that position.

I take the point made by some hon. Members about discontinuity of funding. I appreciate that planning is not easy against the background of inflation and against the imperative need to contain expenditure and to match expenditure against resources. That has not proved easy for the research councils. Some have been more successful in that task than others. However, they must accept the responsibility to live within their budgets. As has been acknowledged, part of the difficulty for the SERC in particular derives from the fact that it took a somewhat optimistic view of what might be available to it.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)

The Minister knows that many hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the SERC. There must have been some breakdown or inadequacy in the financial control and planning to have allowed this crisis, which is none of the chairman's making, to develop so suddenly. The crisis involves more than Daresbury, although I stand second to none in my appreciation of that fine institution. It involves institutes closer to my heart in the west midlands, such as the ACME Directorate and the information technology programme. Funding for all of these will be cut so badly that they will not be able to recover because planning will be impossible. Is there not a case for a set of measures to see us through this unfortunate development so that it can be sorted out and will not happen again?

Mr. Howarth

Once again, the Labour party is reacting to difficulties by simply saying that we should somehow conjure up more public expenditure. The hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) invited us to find £5 million and another hon. Member asked for £8 million. We wish to make available the best resources that we can and that is what we have done, but it would not be in the interests of British science if we were simply to make concessions and start handing out additional funding across the board. If we were to do that, we would rapidly find that our control of public finances had collapsed. The prospects then for real terms funding for science would be grave. It is indispensable to live within budgets.

Dr. Bray

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howarth

No, I do not have much time.

Amid all the gloom and doom and the apocalyptic visions of Labour Members, let us keep the matter in perspective. Sir Mark Richmond, in his announcement this evening, says: it is important to remember that the great majority of our programme remains in place. It is all of excellent quality. I missed hearing from Opposition Members any generous appreciation of the real and major achievements of British science on which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State expounded in the earlier part of his speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) and the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle) have made eloquent, lucid and strongly felt representations on behalf of their constituents and on behalf of the science that takes place near Warrington at Daresbury.

I recognise the difficulties that are faced at Daresbury. I recognise the anxieties of the scientists there not only in respect of the future of their scientific work but in terms of their job prospects and their families. That underlines the fact that it is difficult and painful to make choices, and we should pay tribute to the courage of those who are making the decisions. It is not easy to reorient a programme.

Two processes are taking place in the consideration being undertaken by the chairman and members of the Science and Engineering Research Council. They are, rightly and properly, balancing their books, and if we do not live within our means the future for science is grim. They are also, and this is at least as difficult, reconsidering priorities within their overall programme, and that must be right. Science is changing rapidly and if we are to innovate and to make room for new developments, if, very importantly, we are to create headroom for more responsive-mode grants, for more funding of new science, new creative individual scientists and small teams, from time to time changes in the existing pattern and balance of priorities have to be made. That is not easy and I recognise that the SERC has special difficulties because it has long-established considerations—a commitment to major facilities, long-term programmes and international subscriptions.

To respond again to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South about the very large proportion of SERC funding taken by CERN, we have in a determined fashion renegotiated that subscription. If my hon. Friend studies the facts he will see that the real cost of our contribution to CERN has fallen by 23 per cent. in three years. He will see that the cost of CERN is—

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 213, Noes 254.

Division No. 60] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Armstrong, Hilary
Allen, Graham Ashby, David
Alton, David Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Anderson, Donald Ashton, Joe
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Henderson, Doug
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Hinchliffe, David
Barron, Kevin Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Battle, John Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Beckett, Margaret Home Robertson, John
Beith, A. J. Hood, Jimmy
Bell, Stuart Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Howells, Geraint
Bennett, A. F. (D'ntn & R'dish) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Benton, Joseph Hoyle, Doug
Bermingham, Gerald Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bidwell, Sydney Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Blair, Tony Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Blunkett, David Hughes, Simon (South wark)
Boateng, Paul Illsley, Eric
Boyes, Roland Ingram, Adam
Bradley, Keith Johnston, Sir Russell
Bray, Dr Jeremy Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Kirkwood, Archy
Buckley, George J. Lambie, David
Caborn, Richard Lamond, James
Callaghan, Jim Leadbitter, Ted
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Leighton, Ron
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Lewis, Terry
Canavan, Dennis Litherland, Robert
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Livsey, Richard
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clelland, David Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Loyden, Eddie
Cohen, Harry McAllion, John
Cousins, Jim McCartney, Ian
Cox, Tom Macdonald, Calum A
Crowther, Stan McFall, John
Cryer, Bob McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cummings, John McKelvey, William
Cunliffe, Lawrence McLeish, Henry
Dalyell, Tam McMaster, Gordon
Darling, Alistair McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McWilliam, John
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Madden, Max
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dewar, Donald Marek, Dr John
Dixon, Don Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dobson, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Doran, Frank Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Duffy, A. E. P. Martlew, Eric
Dunnachie, Jimmy Maxton, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Meacher, Michael
Eadie, Alexander Meale, Alan
Eastham, Ken Michael, Alun
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fatchett, Derek Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Faulds, Andrew Moonie, Dr Lewis
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morgan, Rhodri
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Morley, Elliot
Fisher, Mark Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Flynn, Paul Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mullin, Chris
Foster, Derek Murphy, Paul
Foulkes, George Nellist, Dave
Fraser, John O'Brien, William
Fyfe, Maria O'Hara, Edward
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Parry, Robert
George, Bruce Patchett, Terry
Golding, Mrs Llin Pike, Peter L.
Gordon, Mildred Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Gould, Bryan Prescott, John
Graham, Thomas Primarolo, Dawn
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Quin, Ms Joyce
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Radice, Giles
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Randall, Stuart
Grocott, Bruce Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Reid, Dr John
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Richardson, Jo
Robertson, George Straw, Jack
Robinson, Geoffrey Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rogers, Allan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Rooker, Jeff Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Rooney, Terence Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Turner, Dennis
Rowlands, Ted Vaz, Keith
Ruddock, Joan Wallace, James
Sedgemore, Brian Walley, Joan
Sheerman, Barry Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wareing, Robert N.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Short, Clare Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Skinner, Dennis Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Wilson, Brian
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Winnick, David
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Worthington, Tony
Snape, Peter Wray, Jimmy
Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Tellers for the Ayes:
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Thomas McAvoy.
Steinberg, Gerry
Stott, Roger
Adley, Robert Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Aitken, Jonathan Cope, Rt Hon John
Alexander, Richard Cormack, Patrick
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Couchman, James
Allason, Rupert Cran, James
Amos, Alan Critchley, Julian
Arbuthnot, James Currie, Mrs Edwina
Arnold, Sir Thomas Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Speld'g)
Ashby, David Davis, David (Boothferry)
Aspinwall, Jack Day, Stephen
Atkins, Robert Devlin, Tim
Atkinson, David Dickens, Geoffrey
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dorrell, Stephen
Baldry, Tony Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dover, Den
Batiste, Spencer Durant, Sir Anthony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dykes, Hugh
Bellingham, Henry Eggar, Tim
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Emery, Sir Peter
Benyon, W. Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bevan, David Gilroy Evennett, David
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fallon, Michael
Blackburn, Dr John G. Favell, Tony
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Body, Sir Richard Fishburn, John Dudley
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fookes, Dame Janet
Boscawen, Hon Robert Forman, Nigel
Boswell, Tim Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bottomley, Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Franks, Cecil
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Freeman, Roger
Bowis, John French, Douglas
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fry, Peter
Brazier, Julian Gale, Roger
Bright, Graham Gardiner, Sir George
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gill, Christopher
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Browne, John (Winchester) Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Buck, Sir Antony Goodlad, Alastair
Burns, Simon Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Butterfill, John Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carrington, Matthew Gregory, Conal
Carttiss, Michael Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Cash, William Grist, Ian
Chapman, Sydney Ground, Patrick
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth) Grylls, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Hague, William
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Conway, Derek Hampson, Dr Keith
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Redwood, John
Harris, David Riddick, Graham
Hind, Kenneth Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Roe, Mrs Marion
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Rost, Peter
Irvine, Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Janman, Tim Sackville, Hon Tom
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kilfedder, James Shaw, David (Dover)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knapman, Roger Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shelton, Sir William
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Knox, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shersby, Michael
Lawrence, Ivan Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lee, John (Pendle) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Speed, Keith
Lilley, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Squire, Robin
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stanbrook, Ivor
Lord, Michael Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Steen, Anthony
McCrindle, Sir Robert Stern, Michael
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stevens, Lewis
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sumberg, David
Malins, Humfrey Summerson, Hugo
Mans, Keith Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maples, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marland, Paul Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Temple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mates, Michael Thorne, Neil
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thurnham, Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Townend, John (Bridlington)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Tracey, Richard
Miller, Sir Hal Tredinnick, David
Miscampbell, Norman Trippier, David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Trotter, Neville
Moate, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Monro, Sir Hector Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Morrison, Sir Charles Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Moss, Malcolm Walden, George
Neale, Sir Gerrard Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Nelson, Anthony Waller, Gary
Neubert, Sir Michael Ward, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Warren, Kenneth
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Watts, John
Norris, Steve Wells, Bowen
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Wheeler, Sir John
Oppenheim, Phillip Whitney, Ray
Page, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Paice, James Wilkinson, John
Patnick, Irvine Winterton, Mrs Ann
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Winterton, Nicholas
Pawsey, James Wolfson, Mark
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Yeo, Tim
Porter, David (Waveney) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Powell, William (Corby)
Price, Sir David Tellers for the Noes:
Raffan, Keith Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and
Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House applauds the steps being taken by the Government to sustain and improve still further the strengths and quality of science and science education in the United Kingdom; and notes in particular the successful implementation of the science, mathematics and technology components of the National Curriculum, efforts being made to increase the number of qualified science teachers, the increase in the age participation rate in higher education over the last decade from one in eight to one in five, the significant increase in the science budget since 1979, and the allocation of funds to improve our understanding of the global environment, which provide a sound base for British scientists to play a full role with their European partners, to improve the quality of life, and to underpin the technological competitiveness of British industry.

10.15 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have just finished a debate on a very important subject, which started at 7.16 pm and ended at 10 pm. That is a total of two and three quarter hours, less a minute.

I make no complaint about the time that I was able to take, although I should have liked to speak for longer. The Front-Bench spokesmen, however, took 73 minutes to open the debate and 28 to wind it up—a total of 101 minutes in a 164-minute debate.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that you protect Back Benchers' interests ferociously. In that role, you may feel that their interests are not being served when the Front-Bench spokesmen feel it necessary to take up such an extraordinary amount of time. Will you consider persuading Front Benchers to be a little more considerate about the time they consume, especially in short debates?

Mr. Speaker

Unhappily, I have no control over the length of any speeches, except on days when I am able to ask hon. Members to speak for only 10 minutes between either 6 pm and 8 pm or 7 pm and 9 pm. Nevertheless, I agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said about today's debate. A number of Back Benchers who would have liked to speak were unable to do so. If they will write to me, I shall send them the extract from Hansard reporting the hon. and learned Gentleman's comments.

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