HC Deb 07 March 1994 vol 239 cc15-6
29. Mr. Nicholls

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made in realising the objectives of the Technology Foresight initiative.

Mr. Waldegrave

On 28 February, I launched the latest stage of the Technology Foresight programme when I announced the 15 panels that will cover the subject areas examined.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that although the programme must have the support of Government, it must be taken forward and driven on the ground by scientists and technologists if the contribution to wealth creation and general competitiveness is to be maintained in practice?

Mr. Waldegrave

I would add two further groups to those mentioned by my hon. Friend—those in industry and those close to the marketplace. The whole purpose of the foresight exercise is to link those designing and selling products with those who have ideas for the development of future key technologies.

Dr. Moonie

Although I confirm our support for Technology Foresight, may I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he agrees that the system of peer review used by the research councils is the best method of assessing the relative merits of basic research projects?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman raises a big question. I have studied the counter-examples such as Lovelock, which was mentioned in the newspaper today. There must be dual funding and there must be room and freedom for universities to back original ideas. None the less, peer group remains, and should remain, the underlying key basis for decisions.

Dr. Michael Clark

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to study the report on Technology Foresight prepared by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology? If he has, would he care to commend the work done by that body, with regard not only to the report but all the pamphlets, reports and publications that it is now preparing for parliamentarians so that they may better be able to understand science?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am very pleased to commend the office's work. The report was first rate and we have certainly benefited from it in my office. A number of its other reports are extremely useful.