HC Deb 12 June 1995 vol 261 cc491-2
24. Mrs. Anne Campbell

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what response he will make to the technology foresight panels' recommendations for additional spending on Government-funded research and development. [26055]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. David Hunt)

I have announced a technology foresight challenge fund, totalling £80 million, to which my Department will contribute half during the next three years.

Mrs. Campbell

Will the Chancellor confirm that his Government's "Forward Look" figures show that, between 1986 and projected spend in 1996, the Government will have taken almost £1 billion out of the science and technology budget? Are not the Government taking money out of science and technology in lorryloads and giving it back in jam jars?

Mr. Hunt

I do not accept that at all. The science budget, for which I am responsible, has increased by more than 30 per cent. in real terms in the past 16 years. As to the science and technology spend throughout Government, in all Departments, the hon. Lady will be aware of the effects of the review of defence spending and, indeed, the effects of the launch aid in the aerospace industry and several other factors.

The important thing is that the latest statistics, published in March, showed that more was being spent on research and development by industry, by universities and by Government.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in recognising the important impact of the technology foresight process, we should pay great tribute to Sir William Stewart, who retired last week as chief scientific adviser, who played an enormous part in making that such a great success in the wider sphere of Government scientific policy and was also a great pleasure to work with?

Mr. Hunt

I welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to the five years of distinguished service that Sir William Stewart gave as chief scientific adviser to the Government and as head of the Office of Science and Technology. His vision and leadership were instrumental in the successful establishment of the Office of Science and Technology and, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in the publication of the White Paper, "Realising our Potential", which was so well received both within and outside the scientific community. I also take the opportunity to pay tribute to the work done by my hon. Friend during his time in office.

Mr. Battle

May I make it clear that Labour welcomes technology foresight in principle and the reports so far? We would urge the Government to enhance and carry the process forward. I ask the Minister, when can we welcome a full debate on science in the Chamber in Government time to discuss the reports? When will the Government publish practical action plans to implement the proposals of the report? When will other Ministers in other Departments welcome the reports and their recommendations, so that they are not left on the shelf in the Office of Science and Technology and ignored by Ministers in other Departments, as has happened in the past?

Mr. Hunt

I start by welcoming the hon. Gentleman's acceptance of the technology foresight exercise. I pay tribute to the many people who have played a part in bringing about what I believe to be one of the most innovative programmes ever to have taken place in this country. Of course, he will know what my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have already said about carrying forward the technology foresight message. The Government recognise the importance of science, engineering and technology. That is reflected in our response to the whole technology foresight exercise.