HC Deb 08 March 1993 vol 220 cc656-7
29. Mr. Knapman

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the size of the science budget 1978–79; and what it will be in 1993–94, at comparable prices.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. William Waldegrave)

The science budget in 1978–79 was £800 million at 1993–94 prices. The planned expenditure in 1993–94 will be £1,165 million. After taking account of changes in departmental responsibilities, the figures on a comparable basis are £827 million and £1,040 million, which gives a real-terms increase of 25.8 per cent.

Mr. Knapman

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Can he, in the real-terms increase in the science budget for the coming year, underline the Government's commitment to supporting British science and technology? Is he aware that the Agricultural and Food Research Council will be able to undertake much valuable research work as a result of the settlement?

Mr. Waldegrave

I know that my hon. Friend makes a contribution as a member of the Agricultural and Food Research Council, and that is valuable. I greatly admire the Agricultural and Food Research Council, which has taken difficult decisions recently. It has reorganised its work and is now doing internationally acclaimed work both in basic areas such as molecular biology and applied work such as the work that it has done on bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Dr. Bray

Does the Chancellor agree with the Agricultural and Food Research Council that the figures for 1994 to 1996 represent a cut in previously planned totals and that that will mean cuts in terms of its programmes?

Mr. Waldegrave

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I published all this advice to meet some of the justified demands for more information on these matters. I do not deny that the previous plans were higher before the recession hit—we should all like to spend more on some of these important programmes—but we got a real-terms increase this year which we are protecting in the years following and which is good against the present background.

Sir Giles Shaw

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although the total may be arguable, what is important is the distribution of that money within the sciences and the technological programmes that we want to see continued? Does he expect not only to address that matter in his White Paper but perhaps to indicate whether defence science will be lower and civil sciences will be higher?

Mr. Waldegrave

I agree with the implication of what my hon. Friend said. This year, total civil research and development by the Government has increased faster than the science budget—by about 2 per cent. That represents a proper balance of priorities.

Ms. Mowlam

Is it not hypocritical, on International Women's Day, to create a committee to look at discrimination against women scientists at the same time as women civil servants are having their jobs contracted out to the private sector and he is unable to ensure that the benefits of equal opportunities apply to both the public and the private sectors?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Lady should have welcomed the fact that the chief scientific adviser, with my strong support, has launched a campaign to bring more women into science and engineering. I am sorry that she does not welcome that fact.

Mr. Mans

How does our current expenditure on civil research and development compare with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average?

Mr. Waldegrave

We are above the average for the OECD countries in our total spend on civil research and development. Hon. Members on both sides of the House might be forgiven for forgetting that fact in the barrage of somewhat selective statistics sometimes produced by Opposition Members.

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