HC Deb 13 February 1995 vol 254 cc658-9
26. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met the Royal Society of Chemistry to discuss the role of chemistry in the economy.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

I look forward to opening the society's annual congress in Edinburgh this April.

Mr. Marshall

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the Royal Society of Chemistry on organising a conference this very day between practical chemists from industry and research chemists from universities? Will not that approach help to guarantee the continuation of the £4.4 billion that the chemistry-based industries earn in exports?

Mr. Hughes

I can certainly congratulate the society. The opening words of the programme for today's workshop are: Chemistry is the lynch pin of one of the most successful sectors of UK industry. That is absolutely true, and we want to do what we can to ensure that it continues.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Does the Minister not share the concerns of the Royal Society of Chemistry about, for example, the deterioration in university chemistry laboratories, which is preventing students and researchers from reaching their full potential? Science education will be hampered both by that difficulty at university level and by the pending increase in class sizes at school level. Surely the problem will not solve itself. What discussions is the Minister entering into with the Secretary of State for Education, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the difficulties are tackled and chemistry can continue to maximise its role in the interests of the British economy?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Lady has asked a compendium of questions. We regard chemistry as extremely important. That is one of the reasons why we were anxious to increase the amount of money made available to the relevant research council. As for education, the fact that science plays a large part in the national curriculum changes the nature of the facilities needed in schools. There is a large programme of refurbishing science laboratories and adding them to schools, and I have no doubt that that will continue.

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