HC Deb 24 January 1994 vol 236 c18
36. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many university graduates were recruited by the chemical industry in 1993.

Mr. David Davis

The Chemical Industries Association carries out a survey of graduate recruitment annually, but I understand that firm figures for 1993 are not yet available. The latest survey showed recruitment of graduates by major employers in the United Kingdom chemical industry to be 856 in 1992, and the provisional prediction for 1993 was 652.

Mr. Devlin

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the chemical industry is to maintain its position as Britain's second largest export earner, it must continue to recruit topflight scientists from our universities as they graduate? Is not the fall-off that occurred in 1993 a cause for concern? Should we not encourage the chemical industry to recruit as many people as possible so that it has the scientists to carry it forward into the next century?

Mr. Davis

First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's continued interest in these matters: he is a member of the all-party chemical industry group and has many chemical concerns in his constituency which he ably represents. Like him, I welcome the chemical industry's substantial contribution to research and development and, indeed, to the whole economy. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend and with the president of the Chemical Industries Association that companies would do well to consider carefully the need to invest in highly trained staff and research and development as a factor in securing longer-term economic progress.

Mr. Miller

British universities are clearly doing an excellent job in providing graduates to the chemical industry—despite the fact that they are under-resourced —but what conclusions does the Minister draw from the article recently published in Physics World about the acute shortage of physicists in British universities? Has the hon. Gentleman drawn any conclusions in respect of that shortage that extend into other disciplines?

Mr. Davis

Let me set the matter straight for the hon. Gentleman. It is projected that between 1987–88 and 1995–96, the number of science, maths and engineering graduates will have risen from 40,000 to 67,000. The number of full-time postgraduates studying science, maths and engineering has risen by more than 30 per cent. since 1987–88, and it is projected that the intake of students into first-degree physical sciences, including chemistry and physics, will have grown by 40 per cent. between 1987–88 and 1995–96. In addition, postgraduate research has doubled over the past decade. It is difficult to see where the problem arises.