HC Deb 04 July 1994 vol 246 c14
29. Mr. Merchant

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what measures he is taking to improve Britain's scientific links with Israel in areas of mutual interest.

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

On 23 June, together with the Israeli Minister for Science, I launched the United Kingdom-Israel Science and Technology Research Fund for joint strategic research projects, for which the UK and Israeli Governments have each made available a sum of £300,000 over a period of three years. These resources are to be matched by another £300,000 from philanthropic sources over the same period.

Mr. Merchant

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his steps to increase scientific co-operation between Britain and Israel. That is especially appropriate as the peace process gathers strength. May I encourage him to look at ways of extending the present programme beyond its initial three years?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome. The scheme will benefit British and Israeli science and many will benefit from the work. The initial calls for proposals were issued today. We had better see how the scheme goes before we extend it beyond three years, but I have every hope that a good start will be made and that co-operation will develop.

Mr. Gunnell

Can the Chancellor of the Duchy assure me that the areas of mutual interest do not include any aspect of armaments, nuclear or non-nuclear? Can he also assure me that the recent change in the Government's position on the sale of armaments to Israel will not affect that issue as far as scientific co-operation is concerned?

Mr. Waldegrave

The announcement to which I have referred is about civil science.

Mr. Batiste

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his efforts in this important initiative. Can he confirm that private sector funding for the scheme has already been made available? Will he also confirm that the initiative, which comes at the end of the arms embargo on Israel, is an important signal to British industry and to academia that this is the right time to enter into new business, trading, research and scientific links with Israel to our mutual benefit?

Mr. Waldegrave

I should like to pay tribute to the contributors from private philanthropic funds who have joined the two Governments in this. The Hanadiv, the famous Rothschild Foundation, has contributed money, as have others. I think that other hon. Members believe that the stance taken by the current Israeli Government is brave and should be supported. As those who follow these matters know, Mr. Shulamit Aloni, the Israeli Minister of Science, has taken an honourable role in seeking to build bridges in the middle east.