HC Deb 25 October 1993 vol 230 cc573-5
38. Mr. Whittingdale:

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many representations he has received concerning the science and engineering White Paper.

Mr. Waldegrave

I received more than 800 representations during the consultation period for the White Paper. Since its publication, there has been much interchange between my Department and scientists and others in relation to the programmes initiated by the White Paper.

Mr. Whittingdale

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, contrary to some recent articles, the proposed introduction of technology foresight has been given a warm welcome by individual companies, business organisations and all those who have a direct interest in the well-being of British science?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. The New Scientist, for example, has argued that the technology foresight programme gives a real prospect of bringing academia and industry closer together. That is one of the principal objectives of the White Paper.

Mr. Cohen

Has the right hon. Gentleman had representations on the science White Paper that concern chemical warfare and chemical weapons? Does he remember, when he was in the Foreign Office, meeting me, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and representatives from Kurdish organisations and from anti-chemical war bodies and telling them that he was concerned about Saddam Hussein gassing the Kurds in Halabja? Was he not at that time approving arms to Iraq? Should he not be releasing into the public domain all the documents about that situation, and should he not resign?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Scott inquiry will deal with those matters and the hon. Gentleman will find that, in his enthusiasm to throw mud, he has got it almost exactly wrong in every respect.

Mr. Rowe

Does my right hon. Friend share my view that, by the time a child has reached the age of 11, he has in many cases already decided whether his interests fall into the arts or science divisions? Therefore, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he is looking seriously at promoting science and engineering in primary schools, where the impact will be the greater?

Mr. Waldegrave

Last week, I met the Association for Science Education—an admirable organisation—which has, with the Gatsby organisation and others, done much good work in secondary schools. We talked about the importance of the subject that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Dr. Moonie

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to see the New Scientist article on technology foresight—clearly his civil servants are on the ball. Does he agree with the views expressed by Dr. Fiona Steele of the CBI, that concerns are being expressed about the future of the technology foresight exercise and how valuable it will be? Is he aware that what is at stake here is not the substance of the exercise itself but what is done with it thereafter? What further plans does he have for expanding and developing his ideas after technology foresight has taken place?

Mr. Waldegrave

I met the CBI which, jointly with us, held a seminar on the subject after the article appeared. It made a public statement saying that it very much approved of the exercise as long as—we are thoroughly in agreement with it on this—it was market led. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party will support us on that.

I am disappointed to see that the hon. Gentleman is still not in the shadow Cabinet. It is disappointing to the science community that the Labour party does not think it worth while to have a shadow Cabinet spokesman on science and technology. A number of people in the shadow Cabinet did not receive any votes, so I do not see why the hon. Gentleman should not be there as well.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Has my right hon. Friend had any representations from the Atomic Energy Authority, or as it is now known AEA Technology, about the excellent work that it is doing to move Government-funded scientific research into the private sector and to develop the AEA Technology centre at Winfrith in my constituency? Can he tell the House what his Department is doing to encourage that excellent initiative?

Mr. Waldegrave

I attended an excellent meeting, on the fringes of the Conservative party conference, sponsored by AEA Technology in which it put forward a strong case for showing that it will thrive in the free market and carry through exactly the kind of technology transfer that the Government and the country want.

Forward to