HC Deb 16 October 1991 vol 196 cc300-1
7. Mr. Brandon-Bravo

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the number of science parks that have been established since 1979.

Mr. Leigh

Only two university science parks existed in 1979; there are now 41 and a further 20 are planned.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Is my hon. Friend aware that possibly the largest science park is the one attached to Nottingham university, which provides 48 units of advanced accommodation? What bothers me most—I wonder whether my hon. Friend will address this point —is how the possible taxation policies of the Opposition may affect the staff who are employed in those parks, which are the seed-corn of our country's future. Although the employees may not be the highest paid, is it not the case that the kind of salaries necessary to keep science parks running would be precisely the kind of salaries that would be almost taxed out of existence by a Labour Government? Once again we would see the brain drain that we thought we had brought to an end 12 years ago.

Mr. Leigh

My hon. Friend is right to refer to the successful science park of Highfields in his constituency. It is an example of the type of high technology and investment that we in the Department of Trade and Industry encourage. We have more and better science parks than any other country in Europe. You may not be surprised to hear, Mr. Speaker, that I did some research into my hon. Friend's point. I found that a senior research scientist earning more than £30,000 a year would be required under Labour's taxation plans to pay £5,000 a year extra tax and £2,600 a year national insurance. In other words, the Labour party would impose £150 a week on our senior research scientists. These men and women have highly developed skills and they are extremely marketable internationally. If Labour was ever to get close to Downing street, there would be a queue to flee to America. The only science parks to be set up would be, not in Cambridge, but in Cambridge, USA.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I welcome the Minister's announcement and the development of the science parks. In particular, I pay tribute to the one in Antrim in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister have conversations with his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office to encourage the speedy provision of the proposed science park in south Belfast, which could utilise the provisions of the excellent university there?

Mr. Leigh

Of course, I shall.