HC Deb 15 February 1993 vol 219 cc15-7
32. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will take steps to discourage scientists trained in the United Kingdom from seeking work outside the EC.

Mr. Waldegrave

No. It would be wrong to do so. Science is international. The United Kingdom benefits from scientists coming here from other countries, and our own scientists benefit from experience overseas.

Mr. Mackinlay

Does the Chancellor of the Duchy realise that his reply is breathtaking in its complacency —and also unpatriotic? Is he not aware that 1,000 British scientists are allowed to work in the United States alone, and that a real gap exists—both in terms of the graduates who seek to work in research science, and in terms of our ability to maintain them? Is it not time that the Government ensured that proper rewards existed in this country to encourage scientists to stay here working and developing their skills? Should not the Government also ensure that a proper career structure exists for research scientists?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman is getting a little carried away. The universities' own statistical records show that there has been a net inflow of scientists every year since 1983. There is a tiny movement either way: about 1 per cent. leave each year. If we hark back to the long-distant days of Labour government, we find that about 35 per cent. of those with PhDs left for the United States in the 1960s. The figure is now rather under 10 per cent.

As for my reply being unpatriotic, is the hon. Gentleman really saying that it was unpatriotic of Freeman Dyson to go and work at Cornell university with Feynman? That is madness.

Mr. Bowis

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), who normally endears himself to the House, has looped the loop in his question? Does not Britain provide the world —particularly the developing world—with a great benefit by sending its experts, especially its scientists, to help other countries to develop? Does it not also encourage young people to come to this country to train as scientists, and then to return to their own countries? Neither would be possible if my right hon. Friend listened seriously to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. All of us who spend our time going around university science departments welcome the fact that we hear many different accents from all over the world. Science is international. We are attracting as many scientists to this country as leave our shores—indeed, more. Of those who leave, the majority leave for short-term appointments and many subsequently return.

Dr. Moonie

It is very sad that the Chancellor of the Duchy fails to distinguish between going abroad voluntarily to expand one's career horizons, and being forced abroad by the grossly inadequate remuneration given to research scientists in this country and the utter failure to provide them with an adequate career structure. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on figures produced by the Science and Engineering Research Council and the Medical Research Council over the past year, which show a 15 per cent. fall in the number of PhD awards?

Mr. Waldegrave

I would be the last to say that more cannot be done to encourage science careers in this country, and I hope that we shall present appropriate proposals. It is wrong, however, to adopt the broad-brush approach of saying that every scientist who leaves the country represents a setback, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not adopt such an approach.

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