HL Deb 10 April 1956 vol 196 cc913-34

2.36 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, as your Lordships know, the Lord President is not a departmental Minister in the ordinary sense of the word, and it is very rarely that he has to introduce a Bill into Parliament. The reason why it falls to me to introduce this particular measure is, as I expect your Lordships know, because the Lord President is, constitutionally, the Chairman of the Committee of the Privy Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as of the parallel Committees for Medical and Agricultural Research. Anything, therefore, that affects, as this Bill does, the structure of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research directly concerns the Lord President. Quite briefly, the purpose of this small Bill is twofold. Its first and main purpose is to replace the present Advisory Council of the D.S.I.R.—if I may so term it, and as it is usually known—by an executive Council. Its second is to provide in a specific Act of Parliament for the expenditure of the Department to be met out of monies provided by Parliament.

To understand what we are proposing under the first count, I ought perhaps to go back for a moment into history. The D.S.I.R., which now plays so large a part in our national life, was originally a product of the stresses and strains engendered by the First World War. It was on July 23, 1915, that a White Paper was published over the signature of Mr. Arthur Henderson, the father of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, whom we are so happy to have here with us today. That White Paper started with these significant words, many of which I think have a fairly familiar ring at the present time. I am now quoting from the White Paper: There is a strong consensus of opinion among persons engaged both in science and in industry that a special need exists at the present time for new machinery and for additional State assistance in order to promote and organise scientific research with a view especially to its application to trade and industry. It is well known that many of our industries have, since the outbreak of war"— that was the First World War— suffered through our inability to produce at home certain articles and materials requited in trade processes, the manufacture of which his become localised abroad, and particularly in Germany, because science has there been more thoroughly and effectively applied to the solution of scientific problems bearing on trade and industry and to the elaboration of economical and improved processes of manufacture. It is impossible to contemplate, without considerable apprehension, the situation which will arise at the end of the war unless our scientific resources have previously been enlarged and organised to meet it. It appears incontrovertible that, if we are to advance or even maintain our industrial position, we must as a nation aim at such a development of scientific and industrial research as will place us in a position to expand and strengthen our industries and to compete successfully with the most highly organised of our rivals. That was said as far back as 1915 and is practically word for word the phrasing of a good many speeches which have been heard in this House during the last two or three years.

The machinery which was proposed in the 1915 White Paper and which was established by an Order in Council three days later was, first, that there should be set up a Privy Council Committee—this is the wording of the Order in Council: to direct (subject to such conditions as the Treasury may from time to time prescribe) the application of any sums of money provided by Parliament for the organisation and development of scientific and industrial research. Secondly, that there should be appointed an Advisory Council to serve that Committee—I again quote: composed mainly of eminent scientific men and men actively engaged in industries depending on scientific research. The function of this Advisory Council which was set up at that time was to be to advise the Privy Council Committee on: proposals—

  1. (i) for instituting specific researches.
  2. (ii) for establishing or developing special institutions—or departments of existing institutions—for the scientific study of problems affecting particular industries and trades; and
  3. (iii) for the establishment and award of research studentships and fellowships."
It is interesting to note that among those whose names appear in the original White Paper and Order in Council as members respectively of the original Privy Council Committee and Advisory Council were those far-seeing and wise men, Lord Haldane and the third Lord Rayleigh. These two were, as your Lordships know, great figures at that time (I remember them well in my youth), both in the world of science and in that of humane letters; and this great scheme for developing scientific research for industry was just the kind of thing that might have been expected to emanate from their distinguished and far-seeing minds.

The original White Paper left it quite open as to how the organisation of the Privy Council Committee and the Advisory Council for prosecuting scientific research in industry might develop, but before long there was in being a new Department of Government, which has come to be known as the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. As your Lordships will know, the activities of this great organisation, with a total expenditure now of the order of —8 million a year, fall into three main groups, corresponding broadly with the three sub-divisions of the Advisory Council's remit. First, there are fourteen directly controlled Government laboratories and establishments, ranging from the National Physical Laboratory to the Road Research Laboratory and the Geological Survey. Then there are, in addition, some forty autonomous research associations which have been set up on a co-operative basis for different industries and which are jointly financed by the industries themselves and by the D.S.I.R. Finally, of course, there are grants to post-graduate students for training in research and for research work of many different kinds in universities and other institutions.

The latest account of the work of D.S.I.R., lying under these three heads, is, as your Lordships know, given in the Annual Report, which was published only the other day. During the whole of that long period of over forty years, the formal structure originally set up in 1915 has remained the same. Throughout that period there has been a Privy Council Committee which, like other Committees of the same family, acts mainly through one member—in this case, the Lord President—and an Advisory Council of eminent scientists and industrialists, which has remained advisory. That setup, as we all know, contrasts to some extent with that of the Medical Research Council which was established after the First Word War under the inspiration of the late Lord Addison, and the Agricultural Research Council which was established later, in 1931. In both these cases the Councils, unlike that of the D.S.I.R., are executive, not advisory, though working under the general supervision of the respective Privy Council Committees and the Lord President.

As your Lordships will know, it is the custom in the administration of Government in this country for independent inquiries to be carried out from time to time into the organisation of Government Departments, and useful suggestions have often emerged from these inquiries. It so happens that, in accordance with this general practice, it was suggested that I should appoint last year a small Committee of Inquiry to review the organisation and functioning of the D.S.I.R. in the light of recent developments in the world of science and industry. This seemed to me a sensible suggestion, as I am sure it will to your Lordships, and the Committee was in fact set up. Its Chairman was Sir Harry Jephcott, the Chairman of Glaxo Laboratories, and the members were Sir Hugh Beaver, who is the present Chairman of the Advisory Council of the D.S.I.R.; Sir Alexander Todd, on whom, as Chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, I rely so frequently for wise advice in many and various scientific matters with which the Lord President is concerned; and, in addition, senior officials of the Treasury and the Board of Trade. As your Lordships will see, it was an extremely powerful Committee.

The Committee got immediately to work and last October they submitted an Interim Report which was published last week as a White Paper. I expect that some of your Lordships will already have seen it. The advice which the Committee gave in this Report was unanimous and clear, and contained one principal recommendation. This was that the existing Advisory Council of the D.S.I.R. should he replaced by an executive Council which would be put ire charge of the Department.

The grounds on which the Committee proposed this important change are briefly as follows. They thought that the present organisation, with the Council of the D.S.I.R. only in an advisory position, places too heavy a responsibility on the Secretary of the organisation. In particular, they thought that a Council which is only advisory could not, in the nature of things, exercise sufficient control over the research programmes of the stations. In their view, better direction of the Department's research activities was needed, and this they felt could effectively be done only by introducing into the chain of executive responsibility as high as might he a number of distinguished scientists and industrialists whose professional authority would be recognised by all concerned. The necessary change, they felt, could most easily be obtained by creating an Executive Council on the model of the Medical and the Agricultural Research Councils. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research would be under the charge of this Council, which would be appointed by and responsible to the Minister—that is, of course, the Lord President.

Needless to say, when I received this Report, I gave it a great deal of thought, in consultation with the best opinion I could obtain in the world of science and administration; and after very careful consideration I advised the Government to accept the Report. That is the reason for the Bill which is now before your Lordships. I should add at this point that I have subsequently received a further, and final, Report from the Committee of Inquiry, putting forward a number of detailed suggestions about the internal administration of the D.S.I.R. for consideration by the proposed new Council when it has been appointed. But Reports of this latter kind into the organisation of Government Departments are, 'as noble Lords who have experience of such things will know, domestic documents, which are usually most valuable to all concerned if they are treated as-such and not published to the world. I am not, therefore, proposing to publish this second Report. I should, however, like to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's gratitude to Sir Harry Jephcott and his colleagues for their excellent and most valuable work in undertaking this Inquiry and in carrying it out so quickly.

I hope that the House will not draw an entirely false deduction from any words in the Report that there is anything radically wrong with the D.S.I.R. I am quite certain that the Jephcott Committee themselves would agree that that is not so; they would agree with what I know from my own experience, that the Department has done, and is doing, extremely valuable work. The object of the proposed change is, quite simply, to improve still further the present administrative organisation so as to meet the additional needs of a time, forty years on from the formation of the original body, when the organisation has expanded out of all recognition.

I should like here also to pay a tribute to Sir Ben Lockspeiser, the eminent Secretary of the D.S.I.R., who has in these last few weeks retired after a great career in the public service. In view of the extremely heavy burden which the present organisation inevitably places upon the Secretary of the D.S.I.R., it is a great tribute to the outstanding capacity of Sir Ben that he has been able to carry on the present organisation with such success as lie has. I should also like, lastly, to pay a tribute on behalf both of the present Government and., I hope I may say, of past Governments, to the eminent leaders of science and industry who, over all these years, have given their valuable services as members of the D.S.I.R. Advisory Council and its Committees. We and the country owe them a very real debt. It is indeed, I suggest, a striking sign of our confidence in the work that they have done that we should propose, as we do, that the future Research Council should be constituted from the same kind of people as the previous Advisory Council, and that we propose in the future to entrust them with considerably greater power and responsibility than they have been able to exercise in the past.

My Lords, I do not think it will be necessary that I should speak to your Lordships at any great length about the other main purpose of the Bill to which effect is given in Clause 3. The point in question is a somewhat technical one which was originally raised by the Public Accounts Committee in another place. It will now be provided in a specific Statute, under Clause 3 of the Bill, that the expenditure of D.S.I.R. shall be met out of monies provided by Parliament. That is a standard provision and does not, I think, need much further comment in this House. It will not mean any change in the present arrangements for?arliamentary control of the D.S.I.R.'s finances. While the Jephcott Committee evidently felt that, ideally, a research agency under the Government should follow the pattern of the Medical Research Council—financed by grant-in-aid and with a non-Civil Service staff—the Committee also seem to have felt, and I think rightly, that it would not be practicable at this stage to turn the D.S.I.R. into a grant-aided body, since this would mean withdrawing a large amount of expenditure from direct Parliamentary control. I think it would in fact be wrong for Parliament's control of D.S.I.R.'s finances to be reduced. D.S.I.R. is less well suited than some of the other research bodies to looser financial control because of the extraordinary diverse nature of its activities.

Now I should like to say a word or two about the clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 (1) carries out the primary purpose of putting the D.S.I.R. "under the charge of" a Council for Scientific and industrial Research, which is referred to in the Bill as the "Research Council." The next subsection makes provision for a reserve power of ministerial control over the Research Council, in the hands of the Privy Council Committee and the Lord President. In subsection (5) of Clause 1 noble Lords will see that the appointment of the Secretary of the D.S.I.R. is left in the hands of the Lord President, after consultation with the Research Council. This is, I think, a sensible provision, in view of the fact that the Secretary will, as now, have the status of a Permanent Secretary of a major Government Department, and also the status of an Accounting Officer. But I should like to say here that though it would not have been appropriate to provide for this specifically in the Bill, I feel sure that the Lord President will continue in the future, as in the past, to consult the Royal Society before the important appointment of Secretary of the D.S.I.R. is made.

May I add that I understand that the Royal Society are themselves in agreement with the proposals in the Bill? This is important, for, apart from their general interest in scientific matters and their immense eminence in this country, the Royal Society have a particular personal interest in these appointments because they share with the D.S.I.R. the management of the National Physical Laboratory. I say on behalf of the Government that it is our full intention to retain the present relationship between the Royal Society and the National Physical Laboratory, subject to discussion with the Royal Society of any changes of detail in these arrangements which may seem necessary from time to time. As no doubt your Lordships are well aware, the future of this country depends to a vital extent on how successful we are in the practical application of the discoveries of science. I think it is probably true to say that it has never been so important as it is to-day. The D.S.I.R. is the biggest and the most important of the Government's organisations for applied scientific research in the civilian field, and I think we may fairly hope that under the new organisation proposed by the Jephcott Committee the Department will play an even more effective part in the future than it does at present in the furtherance of applied science in industry. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, I think we must all agree that we are greatly indebted to the Lord President of the Council for his brief but lucid outline of this most interesting institution. I agree with him that there is nothing much wrong with it, and I should like to associate myself most fully with the tribute which he paid to the brilliant and devoted service of Sir Ben Lockspeiser, with whom I had a close association at the Ministry of Supply during and after the war. He has done a wonderful job and the nation is greatly indebted to him. I was most interested, too, whey the Lord President reminded us of the history of the organisation and of the men of worldwide fame, beginning with Mr. Arthur Henderson, who had been associated with it. Therefore it is not in any spirit of criticism that I want to ask the Lord President one or two questions.

It is felt by many who know anything about the D.S.I.R, that the time has about come to look at it again and to see whether, in the quite different circumstances from those in which it was begun, any changes are called for. One point on which I would ask the Lord President to enlighten me is this: when he speaks of the Committee of the Privy Council, does that consist of only one member—himself? Is that so?




Then the Lord President is wholly responsible for this organisation at the top level, both as a member of the Privy Council and as its President. That is a very satisfactory arrangement so long as we have a Lord President as keenly and personally interested in science as the present holder of that high office; but it is extremely important that at this juncture we should provide for occasions when that may not be the case. We can best make such provision by seeing to it that if there is anything we can do to ensure the eminence of the Council, now to become an Executive Council, we should proceed now to do it. This is not, therefore, just a matter of change of names; it is the end of a bright chapter and the beginning of a new in a great institution.

The first question I should like to ask the Lord President is: does he not think it would have been wiser for us to have some knowledge of the contents of the full Report of the Committee which he so wisely appointed under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Harry Jephcott? This Interim Report of two pages is a very interesting document which whets one's appetite for more. It is true, of course, that a full Report of this character, particularly in relation to this Department, probably with wide defence implications, could hardly be made public; but a résumé of the recommendations of the Committee would help us in considering this matter. I wonder whether the Lord President would give some thought to that possibility between row and the Committee stage.

I think it is important that we should k now a little more about what the Committee think, in view of some of the things they say in this Interim Report. They say, for instance, that their investigations so far have led them to the firm conclusion that the organisation of an ordinary Government Department is not suited to the activities of this Department. I think we should all agree with that. I am interested to know, and I ask the Lord President to tell us, how far the changes proposed in paragraph 3 make this an ordinary Government Department. Are the employees, for instance, to be civil servants? Are they subject to all the Civil Service rules, advantages and limitations? Are they subject to the same salary limitations as other Government Departments?

If they are all to be civil servants, we surely have here a constitutional innovation, in that their executive masters will be part-time and not civil servants. We have that structure only, I believe, in grant-aided bodies or bodies drawing revenue as a result of their operations—public boards. I know of no other case where there is a part-time executive body employing a very large number of civil servants with a man at its head who is a Permanent Secretary and a full Accounting Officer in the Treasury sense. Personally, I should regret it if this change meant that the rules of an ordinary Government Department were to be fully applied to the D.I.S R. I think they must have more flexibility in their arrangements, because if we refer to the most interesting Annual Report which was published a little while ago we find there is an amazing range of activities, not only in subjects but in organisations, which can hardly fall within the scope of an ordinary Government Department.

There is another matter which seems to me very important in this Committee's Report. As the Lord President rightly said, they are a most authoritative body. If noble Lords will forgive me, I will read what they said in paragraph 10: We assume that the Department will continue to be a Vote accounting Department and that its staff will accordingly continue to be civil servants. We do not consider this to be the right organisation for a research agency under the Government, and we prefer the arrangements of the M.R.C."— similar arrangements are those of the Agricultural Research Council— But the decision"— apparently the decision of Her Majesty's Government— to make D.S.I.R. a normal Department was taken long ago; and we imagine it would not be practicable at this stage to turn it into a grant-aided body, since this would mean withdrawing a large amount of expenditure from direct parliamentary control. We therefore make no recommendations on this subject. This fills me with a certain amount of misgiving, and I should like the Lord President to tell us the truth of this matter. It would appear as though he appointed this Committee for the sole purpose of inquiring into and making recommendations about the organisation of this Department, and that he withdrew from the purview of their recommendations the question of whether it should be a grant-aided body or a Government Department. The Committee say they assume that this was decided a long time ago and, though they do not like what is in this Bill, they cannot do anything about it. I think that is a fair paraphrase of what this paragraph says, and I feel we ought to have some explanation of that. I do not quite know what it all means. Is this a Government Department like the War Office, or is it a grant-aided body like the Medical Research Council? Or (and this might well be the right solution) is it some hybrid organisation in which there is ultimate Parliamentary control over expenditure but a wide amount of freedom in the spending of monies thus voted? The last point is not without importance, because within the annual allocations, in a matter of so quickly moving change as scientific research, it seems to me that there must be the power to transfer monies from one head to another and from one purpose to another. Unless things have changed a great deal, it would seem that the full Treasury procedure, with the Public Accounts Committee and the rest of it, will make it very difficult to transfer monies from one head to another. Can that be done?

I would also ask the Lord President whether he could do something to strengthen the provision in regard to the appointment of members of the executive body. We have no reason to complain of the Advisory Councils we have had until now, but the Report draws attention to the fact that the system has not worked altogether well. It says in one place that much has been started but too little has been stopped. Now anyone who has had anything to do with wide-scale research organisations, either under Government or in private industry, knows how easy it is for this to happen. Something is developed, research is pushed forward, it gets to a certain stage, and then the interest is changed; something else perhaps takes the place in the light; this goes forward, and devoted people go on giving their time to something which, once of first-class importance, has come down to third or fourth-class importance. Scientists and scientific workers are among the most precious assets we have. We have far too few of them, we have much too much to do with them, and we cannot afford to have that happen.

The Report says: Headquarters determine allocations of manpower and money, but they do not and cannot exercise an effective supervision over priorities in the programmes or over the balance between them. Much is started; but not enough is stopped. As a result many of the programmes have become too diffuse or too uneven in quality. That is a very important and far-reaching criticism. I should like to suggest this for the consideration of your Lordships. I should like to ask the Lord President whether he would care to insert in Clause 1 which now reads: The Department … shall be placed under the charge of a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research … whose members shall be appointed by the Lord President of the Council after consultation with the President of the Royal Society some such words, after the words "after consultation," as: with the President and Council of the Royal Society and with some representatives of the universities. It could happen that the President of the Royal Society was a world-famous archœologist, and he, of course, would have no knowledge whatever of physical science. Therefore to consult him in his personal, or even in his official, capacity would really not be so effective as seeking the corporate opinion of the Council of the Royal Society who would he in touch with every aspect of the Royal Society's work. The Royal Society consists of most distinguished people for whom we have the highest admiration and respect, but, in the nature of things, they tend to be somewhat elderly persons, who have made a great mark in the world of science and may, for that reason, be somewhat out of touch with the younger men in the universities and other places of study and research. Therefore I think it would be desirable that the Lord President, in making these vitally important appointments, should also consult someone who is in touch with younger scientists than the members of the Royal Society are, perhaps, likely to be.

I should like to ask the Lord President also whether the members of this research executive—who have, indeed, much wider and more important functions than the old Advisory Council—are expected to be part-time or practically full-time members, and what sort of fees are going to be offered to them to undertake this tremendously important task. I think it is impossible for your Lordships to exaggerate the tremendous importance of this occasion. We are laying out the structure of our scientific research organisation probably for a decade or so, and it is tremendously important that we should make it possible for the best people to be available and for the best use to be made of their services.

I feel that at this point we ought to ask for some information about the whole layout of Government expenditure in money and staff, and, even more important, about the Government's use of all scientific manpower—the whole:range of it throughout Government services. This D.S.I.R. is only a tiny fragment of the whole. I see in the Receipts and Payments section of this Report that it is stated that the total expenditure is around £6 million. The last figure I remember mentioned of defence research expenditure alone was over £200 million. I do not know whether this figure takes any account of the research which is being carried on by the Atomic Energy Authority or by the scientific institutions asso- ciated with the aircraft and other industries. How much is being spent by the Government en scientific research generally, and where is it being spent? I think we are entitled to know that. And I think it would be helpful in this most important matter if the Government, between now and the Committee stage, were to lay a statement telling us what is the total sum we are spending on scientific research and also how it is being spent. I do not mean to ask upon what projects—that obviously would not be desirable. But I would ask where it is spent—how much, for instance, at Harwell, how much at Farnborough, how much in the War Office establishments, how much here and how much there. If we have that information, then I am sure we shall see that this D.S.I.R. expenditure is a mere trifle. Yet it is a trifle which has its bearing and impact upon the whole vast expenditure in the field of scientific research.

I do not know whether we have ever had a comprehensive statement from the Government on this subject. If we have, I cannot find it. I have been much concerned with this topic. In the past, defence requirements may have made it impossible to make any wide publication, but I think that Parliament is now entitled to know how much money we spend and where we spend it. We might perhaps be told of private research contracts which are given by the public Departments to aircraft firms. These are really grants in aid of research projects in respect of some particular aspect of aeronautical development. Are there research projects in other industries, financed by the Government under the heading of development and research? Without this comprehensive information we are in no position to judge whether we are making the best use of oar scientific personnel. It is obviously undesirable that there should be either waste or overlapping in the work carried on by scientific personnel, but there is reason to think that sometimes research proceeds on parallel lines at the same time in two places unknown to each other. What is the remedy? I shrink from any remedy which creates some colossus of organisation requiring inspection and reports and who knows how much work outside the actual business of research. But we have to find some way of remedying the wastage of scientific manpower.

I apologise for keeping your Lordships so long, but there is one other point which I should like to raise. That arises in connection with the Receipts and Expenditure statement in the Report. There are a number of receipts which rather puzzle me. I wonder whether, in the Committee stage, the Lord President will tell us how these receipts arise. Are they grants from industries for work done for them, or are they amounts received for the sale of products?


Is the noble Lord referring to the Research Associations?


I am referring to the D.S.I.R. Have the Department an income apart from Government grants? Apparently they sell things—either services or products. I should like to know what those things are and who buys them, and what they do. It is a matter of headings, whether it be the sale of products or grants from private industry. If private grants are made to the D.S.I.R., somewhat complicated accounting problems may arise. I am afraid that I have taken a long time. I should not like your Lordships to think that I or my friends are in any way hostile to the main objectives of this Bill, but I feel that this is an important occasion. We are doing something which, if we do not do it as well as we can, we shall pay a heavy price for it in the future. It is our duty to try by all means possible to do the best we can, and it seems to me that we are lacking information to enable us to do that. I would ask the Lord President whether, before the Committee stage or during it, he could give us the information for which I venture to ask.

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support this Bill. I had intended to put to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, a few questions asking for more information, but since the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, has asked a great many questions from which any information I should like to have will emerge, I will not trouble your Lordships by repeating them. I should like to join with the noble Marquess and my noble friend in paying high tribute to Sir Ben Lockspeiser, whose work in the scientific and technological field has been remark- able. Every side of industry owes a real debt of gratitude to his leadership and to the work of his Department as a whole.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a commendably brief debate, but I think a useful one. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, for which I am personally grateful, gives me an opportunity of clearing up some of the points about which apparently there still remain doubts. What are these points? Some of them have already been raised in the Press at the time of the publication of the Interim Report of the Jephcott Committee. Others have emerged for the first time to-day; some have made their appearance on both occasions. I will do what I can to answer the specific questions put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, and if I cannot give him full information straight away, I will try to see that he gets it during the later stages of the Bill.

First of all, the noble Lord asked about the membership of the Privy Council Committee for Scientific and Industrial Research. He asked who they were; is it just the Lord President and a sort of "stage army" of Ministers who come round again and again? There is the Chairman, the Lord President, and there are the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Education. It is a fairly comprehensive body. I do not say that all play a very active part in the work of the Committee. I think that the Lord President may be regarded as the mainly operative member, but no doubt they are all consulted when the Lord President feels that they should be brought into the picture.

The noble Lord asked about the Final Report of the Jephcott Committee and asked whether it would not be better to publish it; or, if that were undesirable—, as he quite realised it might be—about publishing the recommendations. I am not in a position to give him information about that matter this afternoon, but I promise him that I will look into it carefully. There are no dreadful secrets concealed in the Report—I can assure him of that.

The noble Lord also asked about the employees, whether they will be civil servants, with all the proper salaries and rules and regulations affecting civil servants, or whether they will be independent people. The answer is that they will be civil servants, who will continue to be employed as they are at present. There will he no change in that respect.


And salaries?


So far as I know, they will carry on just as they have done in the past, in all respects. I understood the noble Lord to ask whether it was not an innovation to have a Government Department run, or partly run, by an executive committee which would consist of part-time non-official members. Of course, it is not the usual practice; but it is not unique. The Central Land Board and the British Museum have a somewhat similar structure. It is not the usual structure because the D.S.I.R. is not a very usual body, and we have to produce, as we always do in this country, the best we can find to deal with the situation which we have to face.

Then the noble Lord quoted a passage from the Interim Report which compared the new structure to the arrangements in the case of the Medical Research Council. I propose to say something about that matter in a minute, because I think that is the main ground of criticism—or anyway the main ground of doubts and anxieties about the Bill. I will deal with that more fully, but at this point I would say to the noble Lord, who asked whether such a recommendation as that the D.S.I.R. should be a grant-aided body was outside the purview of the Committee, that, so far as I know, it was not. If they had wanted to make that recommendation, they could have done so. I am speaking "without the book," but that is my impression. What is certain is that the Committee did not think that that was a practical solution and, on the whole, came down in favour of what the noble Lord called "the hybrid body"—and that is exactly what it is.

The noble Lord was not happy about consultation with the President of the Royal Society, and asked: Would it not be better to have said, "consultation with the President and Council of the Royal Society"? Is that not right?


Yes, my Lords. The Bill actually says "consultation with the President."


I do not think that there is any difference in fact, because, so far as I know, there would be no question of consultation with the President of the Royal Society in his personal capacity. He would be consulted as President of the Royal Society. I should have thought that it must be left to him, as the head of this distinguished body, to decide how he consulted his colleagues, but I would make it clear now that it is only in his official capacity, and not in his personal capacity, that he would come into consultation. The noble Lord also suggested that it would be very valuable for many people if the Government would publish a White Paper showing what they spend annually on scientific research and how the money is allocated. I have not had time to get information on this point, but I understand that, so far as civil science is concerned, the figures are given in tie Annual Reports of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy. I will look further into this to see whether it is correct, and perhaps the noble Lord will do so, too. Then, if he is not satisfied, I hope that he will get in touch with me again.

Lord Wilmot of Selmeston also asked about the income of these bodies which come within the scope of D.S.I.R. Again I am speaking entirely "without the book," but I think the position is that, so far as the Research Associations are concerned, these are co-operative bodies formed by various industries for research within those industries. A good deal of money for those Associations comes from the industries themselves, but there are grants towards the expenses from D.S.I.R. When one comes to the research establishments, those are maintained out of Government resources. I have been round nearly all of these establishments, and my impression is that in some cases a charge is made where special work is done. If somebody comes and makes an inquiry that is rather outside the ordinary trend of the research carried out by a particular station, then they would feel it legitimate to make a charge. I must say that I think that if some industry or firm does come to D.S.I.R. and asks for some important and rather expensive work to be done, then it is fair to expect it to make some contribution.

Finally, my Lords, I would say a word about a point that I just mentioned earlier, and which I believe is the most important one that has been raised in the debate. It derives from the sentences which the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, quoted from paragraph 3 of the Jephcott Report. I will read part of that paragraph once more. It says: We have reached the conclusion that the central direction, under the present organisation, of the scientific effort at the stations, taken as a whole, is inevitably inadequate to secure the most effective use of the resources in the national interest. Headquarters determine allocations of manpower and money, but they do not and cannot exercise an effective supervision over priorities in the programmes or over the balance between them. Much is started; but not enough is stopped. As a result, many of the programmes have become too diffuse or too uneven in quality. As I said before, that is not—and I am sure it was not intended to be; and I know the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, did not intend his remarks to be—a criticism of D.S.I.R.: it was merely a factual comment of the Committee when they conducted their inquiries. What the Committee did feel was that as the organisation has grown up and expanded in scope, far too heavy a burden has been thrown on the Secretary, particularly in the supervision of the research programmes of the stations. It must be remembered that in 1921, five years after D.S.I.R. was originally formed, there were only four research establishments, compared with the present fourteen, and twenty-one research associations, compared with the present forty, or thereabouts.

The total expenditure of D.S.I.R. in 1919–20 was £330,000 gross, and in the forthcoming year it is expected to be about £8½ million gross. This enormous increase in the sheer size of D.S.I.R., and in the scope of the field which it covers, throws an extremely heavy—one might almost say an intolerable—burden on the Secretary. The view of the Jephcott Committee was that this trend had gone too far, and particularly—in the paragraph that I have just quoted, and which was quoted by the noble Lord—that the supervision of the research programmes of the stations is not now sufficiently under control. The purpose of establishing an Executive Council in the place of the present Advisory Council is to ensure that the supervision of the programmes is adequate to ensure that the right research is being done. The members of the Executive Council are being given executive control mainly in order to carry out this job of supervising the research programmes.

At the same time, I am sure that it was not the intention of the Jephcott Committee that the Executive Council should interfere in the detailed work of the research establishments. As the Jephcott Committee said, the directors of research must have considerable freedom. Personally, I am certain that in matters of research a fairly high degree of independence is not a bad thing; indeed, it is far better to have rather too much independence than too little. What I should hope to see is the fullest possible independence of the directors in the carrying out of their research programmes, but effective control by the Executive Council of the content and the broad objectives of these programmes. The Executive Council will, as I see it, exercise general supervision and will give decisions on broad questions of policy. That is the sphere of the Council, and I am sure if they are wise they will keep to that sphere.

This question leads to another mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston. If we are making this change, why do we not go further? Why do we not transform D.S.I.R. from a Government Department into a grant-aided body on the model of the Medical Research Council? In my view—and I give it only as my view—to suggest such a proposal as that would be to show a not complete understanding of one great difference between D.S.I.R. and the Medical Research Council which, I suggest, makes D.S.I.R. really sui generis. I refer, of course, to the extraordinary variety of subjects which come within the purview of D.S.I.R. The scope of the Medical Research Council is fairly wide—it covers the whole gamut of medicine—but all questions for the Medical Research Council are of a medical character. They have that much in common, whereas the D.S.I.R. is protean in character. There is practically nothing that does not come within its purview, as your Lordships will see when I tell you that the establishments alone (I may be allowed to say this because we do not often have an opportunity of discussing this subject) deal with the following subjects.

First, there is food investigation: and that includes all forms of food, from meat and vegetables to kippers—and there is a special kipper research laboratory at Torry, near Aberdeen. Then there is the Forest Products Research Laboratory, including all timber from the time it is cut to the time it is brought into use; that is to say, all timber from all parts of the world. Then there is the Fuel Research laboratory, including all forms of fuel; there are the Geological Survey, the Hydraulics Research Station and a Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory which is by itself a vast subject. There is a Pest Infestation Research Laboratory, a Radio Research Laboratory and a Road Research Laboratory—and this includes all questions of surfaces of roads, lighting of roads, planning of roads, road safety and traffic control, the lighting of vehicles and many similar subjects. Finally, there is the Water Pollution Research Laboratory. When I mention these, your Lordships can see how wide D.S.I.R. spreads its net. And that is in addition to the forty or so co-operative Research Associations.

That picture is a very different one. I suggest, from that of the Medical Research Council. Their work, as I have said, is entirely concerned in one way or another with medicine, and it is possible to appoint to the Medical Research Council a large proportion of members whose expert knowledge covers a very wide range of medicine indeed. It would not be possible to constitute the Executive Council of from experts in this kind of way. Moreover, quite apart from the almost amazing diversity of D.S.I.R.'s field of work, it should also be remembered that their annual expenditure, which, as I have said, is £8½ mil- lion gross, is about four times that of the Medical Research Council. For all these reasons, I felt it right that we should not by Act of Parliament, at this moment of time, deliberately reduce Parliament's measure of control over D.S.I.R.'s finances, and that the constitutional position of the Department should remain as it is now.

So the new structure which will grow up as a result of the Report will not be entirely new. It will be based entirely on the foundations of old; and I believe that it will be none the worse for that. But it will be modernised and brought up to date. It is easy to criticise any new scheme, but this one, I submit, has been produced by a Committee with practically unrivalled qualifications for the job. They had a Chairman who is a most successful head of an up-to-date business; there was the Chairman of the existing Advisory Council of D.S.I.R.; there was a famous scientist, who is the Chairman of the Government's Advisory Council on Scientific Policy; and there were two civil servants of great distinction. That is the body that recommended this scheme. They believe it will work, and I ask your Lordships to-day to give it a chance to do so.


My Lords, if your Lordships will give me leave, I should like to thank the Lord President for his most informative reply, and for his most ready willingness to go further into the matter when he has had time to make further inquiries. I regret to say that I was unable to give him any notice of these questions, but it appears that he hardly needs any. I think we are fortunate that in his busy official life he finds time to keep this important matter so close to his heart.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.