HC Deb 22 June 1992 vol 210 cc13-4
30. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proposals he will make to the European Research Council during the United Kingdom presidency.

Mr. Waldegrave

As the presidency, we will prepare the ground for the fourth framework programme, which will define Community research in the years ahead while assessing whether any financing problems that remain from the third framework programme need dealing with. I want to see better management and evaluation of EC programmes. I shall be seeing Vice-President Pandolfi in London tomorrow.

Mr. Ross

Does the Chancellor of the Duchy agree that one of the most important steps that the Council could take would be to support the proposed global climate observation system, which would ensure a sound scientific basis for the adoption of environmental policies?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. He will be well aware of the initiative launched in Rio by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in this connection, and I shall draw his remarks to the Commissioner's attention tomorrow.

Mr. Oppenheim

Should we not recommend the ending of all European Community Research funding for fat-cat corporations such as Olivetti, Siemens and Philips. which over the past few years have proved brilliant at lobbying for funding for prestige research products, but less than brilliant when it comes to producing efficient, marketable goods? If they devoted half the effort that they devote to lobbying for protection and research grants to producing such goods, they would be world beaters.

Mr. Waldegrave

We firmly believe that individual corporations and products should not receive research support, either from the Community or from our own domestic programme. We should use the European programme to support generic science and strategic science, which can have a wide range of applications, but we should not be drawn into individual industrial decisions of the kind that my hon. Friend rightly criticised.

Dr. Bray

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy aware that the science communities—not only in Britain but in France and Germany—want the European framework research programme to be well supported? Does he propose any steps to bring the national peer groups together, so that, with their pooled wisdom, they can help to improve administration standards in Europe?

Mr. Waldegrave

I think that there is a role for domestic advice to strengthen the European Community's assessments. At the last Council meeting, I pressed hard for better evaluation of the existing European programmes and received considerable support around the table. We in Britain have a great deal to offer in that direction.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend use the British presidency as an opportunity to keep a beady eye on the expansionist ambitions of President Delors in this regard, as in many others?

Mr. Waldegrave

Yes, although it should be recognised that Britain receives a good return from European research and development expenditure—a rather better return than under the juste retour formula. None the less, that does not mean that we should not question any unnecessary expansion and ensure that evaluation and assessment of projects are better and tougher than in the past.

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