HL Deb 02 April 1941 vol 118 cc973-1000

VISCOUNT SAMUEL rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can make any statement on the extent to which the assistance of scientists has been enlisted in the prosecution of the war; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this House is fortunate in having on its Ministerial Bench the presence of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. That office is not an onerous one, as I know from experience, and allows plenty of scope for the activities of an energetic Minister. One of the functions which have been conferred upon Lord Hankey is to act as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the War Cabinet, and it is in that capacity that I am inviting him today to make such statement as he can to the House and to the country on the activities of that organisation, so far as he can do so without detriment to the public interest—for, of course, many of these matters are highly secret. I have, in the Notice which I have put upon the Paper, added the usual formula of a re- quest for Papers; but there is nothing that I should desire less than that the Motion should be accepted, and that Papers should be presented!

To some, the whole subject is distasteful. There are some minds who regard science as the villain of the present age; they see the horrors of the warfare which, is all around us, and they lament that we should not be free from science altogether. If time allowed, and your Lordships' patience permitted, I should endeavour to give a reply to that charge; it is a fascinating subject. But, whatever views may be held on that fundamental issue, this much at least is certain, that if one philosophy of life enlisted science in its support, and the opposite philosophy repudiated or neglected it, when the matter came to open conflict the issue could not be in doubt. If here in this country we had no science, and if in Germany science was highly developed, then we should already in this war have been beaten and conquered; and if with us science had in the previous generations been carried to an even higher degree than it has, then perhaps there would have been less anxiety than has prevailed. Your Lordships will all agree, therefore, that this subject is not some side-issue and a matter for prigs and pedants, but in the conduct of the war it is the very essence of the whole issue.

If I had been moving this Motion six months ago, it would have been my duty to have done so in a very critical spirit. At that time there was much dissatisfaction at the degree to which science had been neglected; and, particularly among the younger men of science in the country, it was felt that most useful services were being ignored and left aside. Since then, although much remains to be done, undoubtedly great progress has been made, and one does not hear that somewhat bitter criticism which prevailed in the earlier stages of the war. Of course, before the war and from its beginning, in certain aspects great activity was shown. We have the best aeroplanes in the world largely because of the researches of the pure scientist, and the applications made of them by the practical scientist. The new science of aerodynamics has been carried to a very high point at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, one of the most valuable institutions in this country and elsewhere. Our system of air defence depends very largely not only upon our fighter aircraft but also on the Observer Corps; and the efficiency of the Observer Corps depends wholly upon the instruments with which they have been supplied by the scientist.

Again, the campaign against the U-boats has been to a large extent effective because of the marvellous devices of detection which have been provided by our science. The efficiency of our tanks, exhibited so spendidly in the Libyan campaign, is largely due to the perfection of their metallurgy and of their internal mechanism. If Hitler, when he spoke of the "secret weapon to which there was no answer," meant the magnetic mine, our scientists again found a very speedy answer. Continually all these weapons of war and of defence have been perfected. The noble Lord, the Minister for Aircraft Production, to whom the nation cannot be too grateful for the energy and the success which he has brought to his Department—he is himself a personification of aerodynamics, occasionally, perhaps, producing mild tornados—told us the other day that one of our new aircraft had been equipped with an engine six feet in length which developed as much horse-power as the locomotive of the "Royal Scot" train.

Again, in another province the science of nutrition has made great advances, and has given most useful guidance to the Ministry of Food and to the nation at large; and in some respects agriculture also has benefited by the applications of science, although here it must be confessed that the nation is somewhat backward. I cannot doubt but that fifty years hence our present systems of agriculture will be regarded as somewhat crude. I remember hearing not long ago the President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons declare that the failure to prevent or to treat cattle disease alone involved this country in a loss of the order of £20,000,000 a year, besides having a most prejudicial effect upon the volume of the milk supply.

A few months ago a little sixpenny book was published in the "Pelican" series with the title Science in War. It was the work of a group of some twenty of the younger scientists, some of them, however, men with national reputations. In that book much stricture was passed upon the backwardness of British agriculture in the adoption of scientific methods; and the declaration was specifically made that if science were fully used in the development and fertilisation of our soil it would be quite possible for this island to produce enough of the essential foodstuffs to maintain the whole of our population. If that is correct, it is a very important point for the future; for, if that could be achieved, it would remedy the weakest point in the. strategic position of this country and this Empire.

There is now a voluntary Committee of the two Houses, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, of which some twenty members of your Lordships' House are members, which devotes itself to keeping track of all these matters, and to exercising a friendly stimulus upon the various Government Departments where that seems to be needed, and which is ready to offer help where help is desired. That Committee contains representatives, of all the chief chemical and engineering industries and other industries based upon practical science. There are also at work the two Research Councils of the Department of Agriculture, and the Medical Research Council, of which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, has long been Chairman; and there is, of course, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. None too soon, the Government have established the Committee of which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, is Chairman, to co-ordinate all the various activities in the sphere of science of the various Departments of Government—to co-ordinate and to stimulate; that is the Scientific Advisory Committee of the War Cabinet. It has a strong personnel and it is fortunate in its Chairman, whose keenness and tact and long experience of the working of government are invaluable in that office. He not only knows the ropes but he is also able to pull the wires and to get things done; and he walks with a sure tread along paths where the scientific professor would be bewildered and lost. I have reason to know that the members of his Committee very greatly appreciate his leadership.

I would ask him in his reply to answer these few questions, but I will make them as brief as possible, for it is his speech for which the House is waiting. First of all with regard to the word "scientist" —the class of people whom the Government are enlisting in their war effort. The Council of the Institute of Chemistry has communicated with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee to which I have referred, and other representations have also been made from authoritative quarters, expressing the view that some of the Government Departments at least take too narrow a view of the word "scientist," that they concentrate too much upon professors from universities and the like; and the suggestion is made that industrial men of science ought to be more frequently employed—chemists and physicists who are actually engaged in industry or in practice as consultants. There are many men, it is thought, of great merit and ability who if they do not hold some conspicuous position are liable to be overlooked, and have in fact been overlooked. Therefore they urge that there should be a clearer and a wider definition of the word "scientist" in this connection, and that the services of men with scientific training and experience who are engaged in practical affairs should be utilised even more frequently than they are to-day.

Secondly, the criticism is sometimes made that the scientists in the Government Departments are occasionally not sufficiently in touch with actual operations, whether military, or industrial, or agricultural, or whatever it may be—that there is not a sufficiency of direct contact. Scientists are often introduced into Government Departments in order to stimulate the bureaucracy, but it is sometimes found that after a month or two, or a year or two, they themselves, become bureaucratised. And this tendency is made more marked because very frequently their work is highly secret and they are therefore unable to maintain full contact with other quarters. Perhaps the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy may be able to say something on the steps being taken by the Government in order to secure adequate and continuous contact between the scientists within the Departments and the people engaged in actual operations.

My next question is to ask him what progress has been made—no doubt he will be saying something on that subject—in research on the effects of bombing, the great new feature of modern warfare: the effect upon the human body and the effect upon buildings. Further efforts, we, know, are being made to co-ordinate national and international scientific-work, and particularly is this so between this country and the United States of America. The House and the country have cordially welcomed the mission of Dr. Conant, the President of Harvard. Americans are always welcome in this country—and Harvard especially has close ties with our universities—but never are they more welcome than at this moment, when the whole nation is filled with a sense of gratitude for American support; and especially since the missioner is Dr. Conant, who has taken so leading a part in rousing his own countrymen to the gravity and the true meaning of the issue. Can the noble Lord tell us what has been the outcome of that mission and what steps are being taken to secure co-ordination as complete as may be between American and British science in the prosecution of the war? And again, what use is being made of the great reservoir of talent which has been recruited from abroad through the influx of the refugees from religious and political persecution? This war in which the liberties of all mankind are at stake, and which is fought for the rescue also of the soul of Germany, is one which should enlist the sympathies of all men of scientific spirit and ability, no matter from what nationality they have originally come.

And then, further, with regard to the task of reconstruction to which the nation is now addressing its mind, and on which we had an interesting debate in this House a few weeks ago, how far is the aid of science being enlisted there? We have a Cabinet Committee presided over by Mr. Greenwood, the Minister without Portfolio. May I say in parenthesis that I hope it will not be long before we get rid of that absurd Continental title and devise a better name than Minister without Portfolio? I have never known a Minister in this country with Portfolio, and how can a title be used which simply expresses the absence of something which is non-existent? We have also the new Ministry of Works and Buildings established, and these two bodies have now a most important duty to perform in preparing the way for the events which will follow when the war is over. Town and country planning is developing a science of its own, and it is only in its infancy, but it needs encouragement and nurture in order that it may develop with sufficient rapidity to cope with the task which will devolve upon it when the war is over. There must be research in the lay-out of cities and in methods of building, and there again this country has been somewhat backward. There are, of course, agencies for research in building methods, but they are at present inadequate, and they cannot be quickly improvised. These are matters that should be studied now well in advance, and I trust that steps are being taken in that direction. Further, they should also be international in their scope for, while we wish to preserve in our architecture and in our towns general national characteristics, there are many achievements elsewhere that may be of great interest and value for adoption here.

I was fortunate for many years in having a close friendship with the late Graham Wallas, one of the most original and fertile of practical thinkers. When Wallas was a member of a Royal Commission on the Civil Service years ago, the Macdonnell Commission, he made a proposal, which was not favoured by his colleagues but which may deserve to be revived and perhaps adopted now. It was that with a view to securing the fullest knowledge of methods all over the world and the growth of knowledge elsewhere our Embassies should have as Attachés and not only Military and Naval and Air Attachés, and not only representatives of commerce and of the Press, but also Science Attachés. It would be of immense and obvious advantage if our international machinery made provision for the collection of information systematically on the developments of science in all spheres in other countries of the world. I throw out that suggestion without expecting an immediate reply in the hope that it will receive consideration as opportunity offers. These are the only points I desire to lay before the House. We shall await with keen anticipation whatever statement the noble Lord is able to make without detriment to the public interest on a matter which is of vital importance to the prosecution of the war. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Vis- count for his helpful, suggestive, and understanding speech, and for giving me an opportunity to explain to the House what the present system is for the harnessing of scientific research to our war effort. The present position has been built up on foundations well and truly laid before the war. The three great pillars of scientific research on the civilian side were the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, and the Agricultural Research Council. Their sole function was the study of scientific problems and the giving of scientific advice. They are all responsible to the Lord President, who is Chairman of the three Committees of the Privy Council under whose general direction they respectively work. The three Departments work in very close association. The administrative heads, who are officially known as the Secretaries, meet constantly together to discuss their common problems. They have set up joint committees on matters of mutual interest, and they constantly meet on all kinds of committees, including the Scientific Advisory Committee. I do not think that contact could really be any closer. On the military side the Departments concerned before the war were the Admiralty, the Ministry of Supply, the Air Ministry—whose responsibilities for research have since been passed on to the Ministry of Aircraft Production—and the Ministry of Home Security, which is a halfway-house between the Service Departments and the Civil Departments. In addition there was quite a good bit of research in the Civil Departments.

Before I come to the development of the system in times of war, I want to refer to the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Committee. It was exactly six months ago, almost to a day, that the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who was then Lord President of the Council, with the approval of the Prime Minister, set up a Scientific Advisory Committee. It was the last official act of his career. He had given great thought to it. At the last meeting at which I saw him, when he asked me to become the Chairman, he spoke of it with infectious enthusiasm, and I think it is a very remarkable instance of his far-sighted patriotism. My colleagues and I are at one in hoping that the Committee will prove a worthy monument to its distinguished founder.

As I am going to draw a good deal on my experience with the Committee, I had better begin by explaining its status. Apart from the Chairman, the members are the President of the Royal Society and the two joint secretaries of the Royal Society, the secretaries of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, and the Agricultural Research Council. I am sorry to say that Sir Edwin Butler, secretary of the last-named body, had to retire through ill-health shortly after we started, but we have had a great deal of assistance from the Chairman of the Council, Sir Thomas Middleton. In addition to these members, at the request of the Committee, the Lord President of the Council invited Sir William Bragg, the former President of the Royal Society, to become an additional member for the period of a year because his term of office in the Royal Society had come to an end very shortly after we started. Our secretaries are Professor Topley, a distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society, with a colleague from the War Cabinet Secretariat. Your Lordships will see that that composition gives the Committee contact, through the Royal Society, with the whole stream of scientific work and thought in the country and Empire; through the Government representatives, with the whole of Government research; and, finally, through the Chairman and the Lord President of the Council, to whom we report, with the policy of the Government in these matters.

The noble Viscount has raised the question of whether the Government have not interpreted the term "scientists" rather narrowly, and there have been suggestions made that that is reflected in the composition of the Committee, which ought to have included representatives of applied science. The reason for their non-inclusion was not in any way a failure to appreciate the great importance of applied science in our war effort, but simply that the proposal did not fit into the scheme of the Scientific Advisory Committee as the Government conceived it. The Government envisaged a small body with contacts over the whole range of science but not representing any particular section, so as to ensure the utmost use of science and scientists in the prosecution of the war. The representation of applied science, with its many branches, must inevitably have added considerably to the membership of the Committee and would have altered the whole conception. The Government, however, are at the present moment in touch with the professional societies concerned with a view to the possible establishment of a separate organisation working in the field of applied science, and in close touch with the Scientific Advisory Committee. An announcement may be expected before long. As I proceed I think I shall show very definitely that the term "scientist" has not been interpreted in any narrow manner.

In accordance with the stress laid in the terms of reference on the importance of the Committee devoting themselves to our war effort, the Committee have done so and will continue to do so. Nevertheless, the importance of the eventual use of science in reconstruction and post-war times has not been overlooked, and the Committee have been in touch with the Minister without Portfolio on this subject. We have not got very far because most of our time has been given to the war effort, but I hope that in due course we shall provide him with a full portfolio. At their first meeting the Committee decided that they must have as a background for their future work a survey of the whole of the scientific activities of Government Departments in the field of science. That survey has proved its value in providing the Committee and the Government Departments with up-to-date particulars of all the official channels through which knowledge of scientific problems is available, and as to the relations of the various scientific departments and councils and committees one to another. In addition to obtaining a number of written reports for this survey the Committee invited the Directors of Scientific Research of each of these Departments engaged in war work to tell them something of their activities. Sometimes they were accompanied by Staff Officers representing the users of science— the operational side you might almost say. Of course, as the noble Viscount has said, some of these matters are extremely secret, and to ensure against any risk the Committee delegated to a few of their number who were already associated officially with secret Government research work, these discussions upon the survey of research.

In coming to the question how far science is used in the prosecution of the war I am going to return for a moment to the three pillars of research of the permanent civil research organisations. In normal times these three Departments are concerned mainly with the contribution of science to peaceful development, but now the whole of their vast resources are available and are being largely devoted to our war effort. I will take the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. It has thirty-three advisory boards or committees, each dealing with a particular subject and each commanding the services of distinguished experts. How distinguished they are may be judged from the fact that they include fifty-one Fellows of the Royal Society, and the Department itself has eleven Fellows of the Royal Society on its staff. There are in addition eight Fellows of the Royal Society or university professors who are retained as consultants. Beyond that there are fifteen university professors who are doing research work on extra-mural contracts in their own laboratories. Then a lot of important work is being done in co-operation with the research stations and individual firms by means of groups maintained either by a number of industries in co-operation or by particular firms, and to those I should like to pay tribute. The Department has ten research institutes, including the National Physical Laboratory, which the noble Viscount has mentioned, the Chemical Research Laboratory, and laboratories for research on building, food investigation, fuel, roads, forest products, water pollution, and pest infestation.

Then there is the Geological Survey. The Department really is now assisting every Department of the State, and especially Service Departments. For instance, in home security problems such as building and shelter construction and bomb disposal the Department gives a lot of help to the Ministry of Home Security. It also helps the Ministry of Food in storage problems and combating pests that would eat up the food, and by advising economical methods of packing to save space. The work of the road research section is invaluable to the Air Ministry in the construction of aeroplane runways. Geology among other contributions to our war effort makes one very interesting one, because it tells the local authorities where to find sand in their own neighbourhood, thus saving a great deal of transportation and expense.

Next I come to the Medical Research Council with its forty-five committees or sub-committees, its National Institute for Medical Research, and its nine smaller research units which bring an immense amount of assistance to our war effort. I would like to give an example. Before the war, in concert with the Ministry of Health and other Departments concerned, preparations were made that have been much expanded during the war, for safeguarding public health against the risks arising from war conditions, such as enemy action, or concentration or over-concentration of populations in certain areas. An Emergency Public Health Laboratory Service was established with laboratories all over the country so that any unusual outbreaks of disease might be rapidly identified. Stocks of anti-sera and vaccines were accumulated and distributed throughout the country, and provision was made for their replenishment in case of necessity. I can assure your Lordships that precautions have even been taken against those extremer forms of frightfulness with which writers in the Press of all countries from time to time like to make our flesh creep. In all this work, as I can testify, because I have been concerned in it myself for years, the Medical Research Council has taken a very prominent part.

Let me take another subject which the noble Viscount mentioned—nutrition. In a speech in this House in July, 1939, I ventured to state that fifteen years normally elapsed between research on nutrition and its application. That is no longer true. Under the pressure of war conditions science has come into its own. The Food Policy Committee of the Cabinet, for instance, makes a great deal of use of a scientific advisory committee, and my noble friend the Minister of Food makes a great deal of use of a technical advisory staff. He issues a stream of guidance to the public on nutrition natters, bringing out the importance of milk, potatoes and other vegetables which provide the essential vitamins and mineral salts in their natural and most effective form. A national wheatmeal bread, the result of concentrated emergency research, has been put upon the market; and my noble friend's milk scheme is another example of the application of research. In my noble friend's presence I hesitate to speak of Woolton pie, but if people will only take my noble friend's advice I am quite confident that we shall come out of this war a healthier and sounder nation than we entered it.

I want to emphasize that the sphere of the Medical Research Council is not limited to the word "medical" in its normally accepted sense. It is concerned with all the problems that affect man's health and efficiency. This has enabled the Medical Research Council to assist the Defence Departments by increasing the efficiency and well-being of the men who have to operate machines such as aircraft and tanks and so forth. Very good work of this kind has been done by a Flying Personnel Research Committee set up nine months before the war. The Scientific Advisory Committee have been very interested in this and have brought it to the attention of the other Departments. Indeed the work of the Flying Personnel Research Committee has been extended at the request of the Admiralty to the Navy, and in addition a Military Personnel Research Committee has been set up.

The Agricultural Research Council, with twenty-five standing and technical committees of scientists with special experience of the matters with which they are dealing, with a field experimental station, and with great influence on the work of the twenty-three existing agricultural research institutes and other agricultural research subsidised by the Government, also make a great contribution to our war effort. At present, however, for historical reasons really, their powers are less comprehensive and unfettered than those of the other two Research Departments of which I have been speaking. I shall refer to that matter a little later.

I come now to the use of science in the military side of the war, where, as already mentioned, the Departments concerned are the Admiralty, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and the Ministry of Home Security. There is very much in common between the methods of these Departments. Each has a Director of Research. The Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Home Security have Central Advisory Committees to assist the Directors in planning and carrying out the work. The three Defence Departments are represented on them and the Committees include un- official as well as official experts. The Ministry of Aircraft Production has an Aeronautical Research Committee, the successor of the Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, in which, if I remember aright, my noble friend Lord Mottistone was concerned with me as far back as 1909. In each case detailed work is delegated to sub-committees, which usually include both official and unofficial experts. The First Lord of the Admiralty announced in another place a few days ago that, in order to strengthen still further the co-operation between the Admiralty Research Department, outside scientists, and the Navy itself, the Board had decided to set up a scientific advisory panel under the chairmanship of the Director of Scientific Research.

All these Departments maintain research establishments, more than a score in number, all manned by highly qualified scientists. They work in close co-operation with one another, and one Defence Department will often refer a particular problem to an establishment maintained by another which has better facilities for the job. Each Department has constant resort to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Council, as well as to universities or other research institutes, or the research laboratories of producing firms. There is an increasing tendency to bring the large producing firms into co-operation at the earliest possible stage so that full advantage can be taken of their knowledge and experience—a point to which the Scientific Advisory Committee attach the utmost importance. That, I think, is the stage where applied science, working on the one hand with pure scientists and on the other hand with the user, plays a most important part in the scientific work of the Government.

I must also in passing mention among Service research activities the Ordnance Board which now acts under the Ministry of Supply. It is an inter-Service body with executive functions as to trials and calculations concerning firearms, their equipment, ammunition and armour. The Board, it is rather interesting to recall, derives originally from the Committee of Field Officers and Artillery under the æegis of the Board of Ordnance, 1518. Its standing members are officers of the three Services, and distinguished scientists are appointed from time to time from outside as associate members.

I am afraid that statistics of committees and establishments do not really give a picture of what is being done by the Government Departments in the world of science. If I may, I should like to give just a few of the subjects on which research is being done. I cannot go far into it for reasons which the noble Viscount stated to your Lordships, but I would mention a few of the subjects dealt with and ask your Lordships to think what research into them involves, to think of all the branches and sub-branches that there are to each of them. Take the design and development of warships, or aircraft, or mechanised vehicles. The noble Viscount said our aircraft were the best in the world, and I believe they are, but our ships are also the best in the world, and I do not think our mechanised vehicles are less efficient.

Think of all the research that is needed on these armaments, of all the gadgets that you see when you visit them. Think of the artillery and bombing problems of the three Services, of ballistics, range-finding, aiming and spotting, projectiles, fuses, propellants and other explosives, of small arms and their ammunition, of machine guns and of the innumerable problems of the submarine, the submarine mine, the bomber and the fighter, the means of locating them by day and by night in thick weather or in clear weather, the means for destroying them when you have located them. Then there are armour problems for ships, aircraft, tanks and armoured cars and for the individual fighting man—great problems these, with great metallurgical problems in all of them. Think, too, of the vast complex problems of signals and communications, so tremendously important but so tremendously complicated by the progress in radio. Then there is gas warfare. We can never overlook the possibility of our enemy resorting to that. Research there has to be pursued as hard as we can. There are also all the medical and agricultural research problems to which I have already referred.

When I have said all that I have only touched the fringe of the subject. Every item is being pursued systematically and unremittingly all over the country by, in the aggregate, a veritable army of scientists. At our universities hundreds of young men are being trained in scientific subjects and according to their aptitudes they will be allotted to research or to the Defence Services or to industry. I have not got complete figures, but in one branch alone with which I have been associated I know that 700 young men are being trained at the universities in that way. At technical institutions and colleges all over the country, again by arrangement with the Government, thousands of young men, many of them actually in uniform, are being given a background of scientific education to fit them for the requirements of the modern Fighting Forces. In addition to that thousand of men are being trained at the Services establishments. I should like to pay tribute to the educational authorities and the people at the universities and the technical schools who are putting so much energy and life into this work. I have seen some of it, and it really has to be seen to be believed—the keenness they have inspired in the sailors, soldiers, and airmen who are doing this work. In this way the Defence Services and ultimately the nation are being permeated from top to bottom with science. Much the same is taking place in the Dominions. These are really inspiring developments, and they give one much food for thought.

These are the facts, and perhaps your Lordships might like to know the conclusions of the Scientific Advisory Committee after examining all these matters. In the main they are to the effect that the scientific activities of the Government are far more effective and far more extensive than is commonly realised and that much of the criticism is mainly due to lack of knowledge of the facts. For instance, there is one criticism that the Government have failed to make effective use of the services of outside scientists. As a matter of fact, the names of nearly 300 senior outside scientists of the highest class were actually given to the Committee in the course of their investigations, and that list did not include the great mass of younger scientists engaged on war work in all those establishments—I think I have mentioned between forty and fifty at least—maintained by the Government for research work, or in the Services.

Of course, it would be too much to claim that the fullest use is being made of every senior scientific worker, but I believe that in all the more important fields the majority of those especially well fitted to assist our war effort have been given an opportunity to do so. But there are some fields where the opportunities have not yet appeared, and we are conscious of a feeling of frustration in some quarters there. As regards the younger scientists to whom the noble Viscount referred, the junior scientific workers, the demand in the different fields of science is very varying and fluctuates, and it is only possible very gradually to absorb in work of national importance all the very large numbers who are anxious to employ their special knowledge in some form of war work. This problem will be kept constantly in mind, both by the Scientific Advisory Committee and by the Government, and everything possible will be done to find places for those who have not yet been able to pull their whole weight. But in view of all the difficulties the Scientific Advisory Committee believe that serious criticism of the present position is not justified.

Having recorded general satisfaction with the range and effectiveness of the Government's scientific activities, the Committee reached the conclusion that some of the existing forms of organisation are better than others. They call attention, in particular to the effective and economical methods developed by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Council, whose success they believe is largely due to the fact that they have been given full scientific freedom and complete control over the funds at their disposal. As I have said, the Agricultural Research Council, as at present organised, has not the same freedom of initiative and action. Believing that the scientific development of agriculture is of the utmost importance, both to our war effort and in problems of reconstruction, the Scientific Advisory Committee have been considering how such freedom could be secured and how the Council's activities could be made more effective. In consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Committee have drawn up proposals for strengthening fundamental research and ensuring a more ready application of promising scientific discoveries to actual agricultural practice. I will not trespass on your Lordships' patience by describing the proposals in detail as I understand that a statement in regard to them is to be made in another place.

So far as the scientific activities of the Defence Services are concerned, the points to which the Committee attach the greatest importance are the following: 1. Provision in the organisation of Departmental scientific staffs for regular consultation with a strong advisory council or committee which includes outside scientific experts. As I have shown, the Departments concerned have applied this principle generally. 2. The utmost possible use of the facilities of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Council. This is already in operation and will probably be extended. 3. A much wider and more intensive study of those problems connected with early and adequate provision for the well-being and efficiency of personnel in the design of new instruments of war. This again, as I have indicated, is well in hand. 4. The close co-operation at every stage of research, development and production between the operational and scientific staffs, in other words between research and development on the one side and the user on the other.

These principles were discussed at a meeting of the Ministers principally concerned which was convened by the Lord President of the Council. It was found that Government Departments had already applied them to a considerable extent according to their needs and that they were continuing the process. The policy of the Ministry of Supply, for example, is to promote close contact between those responsible for research and production. This is true also of the other production Departments. The Admiralty encourage their scientific staff to go to sea, and welcomed a suggestion that scientific workers should be attached to the Fleet in order to bring them into the closest possible contact with the actual conditions under which new devices should be operated. The Ministry of Aircraft Production believe in and promote the principle of co-operation between the scientific and the operational staffs. The Ministry of Home Security have taken special steps to promote co-operation between research workers and those responsible for practical work in the fields of engineering and administration. This has proved helpful in the development of shelter policy and other matters. I think, therefore, that the noble Viscount will agree that I have said about as much as can be said, without trespassing on ground on which I ought not to tread in public debate, to show how widely the Government have construed the term "scientist" and how fully the principle has been applied of co-operation between the research worker, the applied scientist, and those engaged in operations.

I should like to mention one or two I other matters which have engaged the attention of the Scientific Advisory Committee. Our second term of reference gave us the task of suggesting to Government Departments the names of scientists for particular investigations and tasks. We have had a good many requests, and we have made suggestions which have been adopted, including suggestions for some very key posts. I must, however, mention in this connection the invaluable work of the Central Register of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, for the utilisation in Government Departments and elsewhere of persons with scientific, technical, professional and higher administrative qualifications. With the aid of the Government Departments concerned, and of the Royal Society and other outside organisations, and of a very strong advisory council of their own, they have built up a very comprehensive register.

I think that I have time for a word about new inventions. Owing to oversimplified versions of our terms of reference at the time of our appointment, it was widely assumed that our function was to receive and to report upon new inventions, and for a time the Committee were absolutely deluged with them. Since ample arrangements already existed for dealing with new inventions, and have existed ever since the beginning of the war, we passed them on through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to the proper channels; but we ensured that every proposal received careful consideration and that a reply was sent. Some cynic has said that the new ideas are never bright and that the bright ideas are never new. I do not endorse that, but, as I have told your Lordships, a vast amount of science and brains has been concentrated upon the invention, the discovery and the development of all these new methods of war, so that it is not surprising that most of the bright ideas have been anticipated, especially when the technique of modern weapons is considered. Now and again, however, the exceptional case arises—I have met it myself, and I hope that in a humble way I have contributed one now and then myself—and when it comes we cannot afford to miss it. Inventions and bright ideas, therefore, will always be welcomed and will be given thorough examination.

The noble Viscount has raised the question of enlisting scientific researchers of other countries, and he has mentioned, among others, refugee aliens. That is a matter to which the Scientific Advisory Committee have given quite a deal of attention. There are, of course, obvious limitations. If, as I have said, we have not absorbed into the Government war effort all our own men of science, we cannot have absorbed unlimited numbers of refugee scientists. In addition, much of the work is extremely secret, and precautions have to be taken. Nevertheless, quite a number of refugee specialists are employed in research laboratories, mainly on the medical side so far as the Government are concerned, but also in industry. Special organisations have been set up both for obtaining information, suggestions and assistance from friendly refugees, including men of science, and also for assisting them to obtain employment. I could give statistics, but they would take more time than I can afford.

The Scientific Advisory Committee have gone into the question of co-operation within the Empire, and report that scientific co-operation with the Dominions, India and the Colonies is on a satisfactory footing. Canada, of course, occupies a place of special importance, and her collaboration in the scientific field is proving of the greatest value. There is also in Canada scope for close co-operation in scientific matters with the United States of America; and so Professor Fowler, a scientist of great distinction, has been in Canada for some eight months, and is now being relieved by Sir Lawrence Bragg, a colleague of equal distinction.

I come now to the point mentioned by the noble Viscount about co-operation in scientific matters with the United States of America. At one of the early meetings of the Scientific Advisory Committee this question was raised, and the matter was discussed with Processor Fulton, of Yale, who was on a mission to this country on behalf of the National Research Council of America. A member of the Committee, Professor A. V. Hill, had recently returned from a visit to that country, and the subject was discussed with him, and then with Sir Henry Tizard, who had returned from a similar mission. After consideration of the Committee's proposals, and after consultation with the proper authorities in the United States, the Government drew up a comprehensive scheme, which has already been put into operation. His Majesty's Government have selected and sent Dr. Darwin, the Director of the National Physical Laboratory, as Director of a Central Scientific Office, working under the direction of the British Supply Council in North America, to collaborate with United States research bodies, to act as a channel for the exchange, with the appropriate United States authorities, of technical and scientific information, and generally to coordinate scientific and technical inquiries to and from the United States authorities, except on those matters which are already dealt with very effectively through the Service Attachés. Professor Fowler's scientific mission to Canada is closely linked with this system, so as to ensure a complete interchange of scientific and technical information between the three countries. The noble Viscount may see there the germ of his idea of future Scientific Attachés, of which I have made a special note.

At the same time, President Roosevelt has sent to England Dr. Conant, the very distinguished President of Harvard University, to establish a corresponding mission in this country. Dr. Conant and some of his colleagues have been present at meetings of the Scientific Advisory Committee. The mission has received a very warm welcome, and very careful arrangements have been made to facilitate its work. Its permanent Secretary, Doctor Hovde, was a Rhodes Scholar, and spent some years at Oxford, and he knows his way about here very well. Accredited American scientists have already arrived in this country. As an example of the sympathy between scientific bodies in the United States of America and in Great Britain, I should like to recall the generous gift to the Royal Society of 10,000 dollars "for the aid of science in Great Britain" from the American Philosophical Society, which was announced a few days ago.

The historians of war from the earliest time pay their tributes to the importance of science. The theme of a long chapter by Polybius on Archimedes is that: The genius of one man is more effective than any number whatsoever. In these days no one man, whatever his genius, can cover more than a fraction of the immense field of science in war, of which I have only been able to give the faintest impression in the time at my disposal. We require thousands of scientists. We are engaged in a death struggle with an enemy who boasts, not without justification, of his achievements in the field of science. Our scientists are at least as good as his, and with the aid of the scientific resources of the Empire, and especially of the United States of America, we are building a scientific equipment which is destined to play an ever-increasing part in our war effort and in the period of reconstruction that must come thereafter.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will be not less satisfied than myself with the statement that the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has given us, and in particular we shall not fail to be well satisfied that if our scientific efforts fall short, it is not for want of committees. I have had a good deal of experience of committees of this kind in the last war, and I do not think any criticism that I can make will be in the direction of saying that scientific advice was not asked or in the direction of saying that it was not given. I think the trouble was rather that it was not always taken. This remark may lend itself to a rather obvious retort: "Perhaps they did not think much of your advice when they got it." Well, I must admit that it is natural to make a retort of that kind, but I think I can get away from the personal aspect of it because I have had occasion to look through the papers of the late Sir Joseph Thomson, who was associated with a good many committees in the last war, and I gather very clearly that his experience was exactly the same as my own. I expect that since those days the position has been greatly improved.

There are difficulties about it. Scientific men have their own ideas as to what might be attempted, and those are not always in very good agreement with Service views as to what is practicable, and to what time and attention can best be directed. That difficulty I think is inherent. To begin with, the man who conceives an idea has an interest in his own child, which may not always be shared by others. The noble Lord spoke about the liaison between the scientific and development side and the operational side. The few remarks I have to make have chief reference to that. My knowledge is not perfect; it only comes by way of ordinary information and gossip. Perhaps if it were perfect it would be confidential and my lips would be sealed. As it is, they are not. If what I say is somewhat irresponsible, that defect in my imperfect information will no doubt be taken into account in assessing it.

But I have certainly gathered the impression that when scientific men are called upon to create necessarily elaborate devices for purposes of anti-aircraft work and the like, they may spend their best efforts in constructing devices, necessarily elaborate, for the purpose, and then somewhat suddenly be divorced from them, without any adequate chance of instructing those who are to use the things in the inevitable difficulties and help them over what may be called their teething troubles. Naturally, any device of that kind goes through a phase when it requires a good deal of help and assistance. Laboratory tests can never fully explore the difficulties which may be met with in practical application, and when an elaborate device is handed over to private soldiers not at all instructed, and perhaps not even given on paper any directions as to how it is to be used, naturally the position is somewhat critical. If one observes the way in which private soldiers at times handle the furniture, or even the gateposts, of the houses in which they may be quartered, their capacity to deal with delicate and complicated contrivances without instruction will naturally cause some slight apprehension.

I have heard—whether it is justified or not I do not know—that something very near a strike was caused at a certain place by the refusal of the military authorities to allow anyone not in uniform to come and smooth over the difficulties and instruct men who were in uniform as to how the difficulties could be over come. It may be that what I am saying is out of date, and those difficulties have been overcome, but I am well convinced that they had a certain reality. Those points of connection between development and operation are among the most difficult and the ones in which probably organisation still requires to be given further attention. If I may, in conclusion, thank the noble Lord for his statement, I am sure I shall be associating myself with those who have this question at heart.


My Lords, before this debate concludes, I desire to say one or two words—one in commendation, and one in criticism, of the arrangements made by His Majesty's Government for the co-operation of the scientific world in our war effort. As the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has disclosed, he and I began co-operation in these matters thirty-four years ago, and I have had cognisance of what has been going on since then. I would say with that knowledge that we are indeed fortunate that we have still got him as head of this organisation, for it is a fact that Lord Hankey has been organising this thing for all these years, ever since 1907. We have still got him here to bring together all the best brains, as he has indicated, not only of this country but of the Empire, and I believe of almost the whole world except the strange, bizarre Germans, with their lunatic notions of their own national importance; and this enables him, I think, to say with confidence as he stands at that box that we have made a good plan of our scientific organisation. I think that the plans made are good.

The one word of criticism before this debate concludes is this. The French were very successful in the last war in taking the public into their confidence whenever they could on those aspects of war which affected the citizen and about which the citizen did not know. That was partly due to the fact that the President of the French Republic had a distinguished relative with an even clearer brain than his own, Professor Poincaré, who was utilised by successive French Governments to give little announcements to the people which had a marvellous effect in calming the public mind. A famous one, which has been quoted more than once, concerned what he would do in an air raid, and this was published in every newspaper in France and in leaflets distributed by the million. This wise old scientist, whom everyone trusted, as they would trust the word of the great scientists to whom Lord Hankey has referred, said, "Some of my friends go down to the cellar because they think the bomb will not penetrate. Some go to the roof because they think the bomb will fall through. Some stay in the middle of the house because of their constitutional disposition for compromise. For myself, I remain safe and sound under the impenetrable vault of probabilities." Every Frenchman loved the phrase. And it was quite true in the Paris of those days, where the chance of being injured was about a million to one against.

I beg my noble friend Lord Hankey to point out that we want more of that sort of thing now. We have a wonderful array of scientists who have a sense of values, and who could do the same sort of thing for us now as Professor Poincaré did for France in the last war. I give one instance, and one instance only. I see in his place the Minister of Aircraft Production, whom I have known all his life. This dynamic personality is trying to make all the people of this country who are concerned with making aircraft disregard the risks, within reason, and keep on working. At the same time another part of the Government, which ought to be co-ordinated by the scientific brain of Lord Hankey, is terrifying the public by fantastic talk about carrying gas-masks in broad daylight on a breezy day. Every man with any common sense knows—I do not want to put it too high—that that is the proceeding of a lunatic, and makes us the laughing stock of every foreigner, especially of the Germans. How could any German aircraft drop a bomb for which we have an answer in a gas-mask on a breezy summer day? We have already got mastery of the air in daylight. Why do these foolish things? I implore the noble Lord, who has done so much to bring scientific brains together, to enlighten the public on these elementary matters. We have an intelligent people. Tell them to keep their gas-masks and take care of them, but do not compel them to carry them on all occasions, jostling in trams and 'buses when, in no conceivable circumstances, can any German aircraft drop asphyxiating gas for which the mask would be a protection.

In that way we should encourage the aircraft workers to go on working in security, knowing that our fighters can keep the enemy out of the air, and that it is impossible for anything like a concentration of gas to be dropped in such circumstances. Those of us who served in the last war know that. Scientists know it better than I can describe. You want not only dozens but hundreds of aircraft to make it worth while to drop an asphyxiating gas in sufficient concentration. Therefore the Minister of Aircraft Production is quite right in saying, "Go on, don't be afraid." Yet while, as I say, we have the Minister of Aircraft Production advising his people to go on working unless the thing is really severe, at the same time we have another Department of the Government advertising to the people that they ought to hide themselves behind every kind of protection and go on working in the dark behind brick walls, where of course no proper work can be done on aircraft production or anything else. There is a complete lack of appreciation of the real risks and the relative dangers. I hope I have made my meaning clear to my noble friend, because I am quite sure that if he could ensure the communication to the people in intelligible form of the knowledge these scientists have got, it would put a stop to all these follies which make the people: think the Government do not mean what they say and that the whole thing is a fake. On the general question I observe that the noble Lord has done his utmost to secure the co-operation of science, especially for war, and my noble friend Lord Samuel, who had to leave on an urgent matter, has begged me to say that he would be very glad to withdraw his Motion.


My Lords, I shall detain the House for a few minutes only. I would congratulate the noble Viscount on having raised this important issue of the use of science in this present period or, for that matter, in any period in future whether we be at war or at peace. As has been shown, too much attention cannot be given to regimenting the entire scientific talent of the nation and directing it into those channels in which immediate and effective use can be made of it. There is much to be done to bring about such a desired result. Your Lordships who have spoken have marked the various measures that might be implemented in giving further effect to this policy. You will not, I feel sure, wish me to go into details, and will agree that in any case such cannot usefully be debated in your Lordships' House. Rather should broad principles be laid down and encouraging suggestions made to bring about this policy in the fullest possible way.

We are indeed fortunate that we can now approach this question with a feeling of great confidence—nay, more than that, of great enthusiasm—because for the first time in our history we have a Prime Minister who, in addition to his unique powers of leadership and quite uncanny prevision of things to come, has a mind peculiarly receptive to scientific ideas. He is, moreover, determined to utilise those powers of science in every possible way and to lead us forward to that victory which unquestionably we shall achieve, and also to use science in the period of aftermath and reconstruction. As your Lordships know, to give practical effect to these ideas the Prime Minister has set up the Scientific Advisory Committee under the distinguished Chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Hankey. This was a truly great and unique move, and I am proud, if I may be allowed to do so, not only to congratulate Lord Hankey on this work that he has been doing in charge of that Committee, but also on his remarkable exposé of the work and the powers and future policies of his Committee.

With his vast experience of this there can be no doubt at all in your Lordships' minds that he is the ideal Chairman for such a Committee consisting of the leading scientists of our country. Perhaps your Lordships may allow me to remark that in the course of my duties I know of at least two vital matters in which immense services of importance have been rendered by Lord Hankey's Committee. We are daily, in fact, reaping benefits in two most vital spheres, and I feel sure that your Lordships will urge that Lord Hankey's Committee may be given the widest possible powers so as to function as what one might perhaps assume to be a scientific cabinet to our great national advantage. In this I am sure he will only be implementing in full the dynamic and great vision that the Prime Minister had in setting up this most useful body that has performed, and will continue to perform, such great service.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.