HL Deb 09 December 1959 vol 220 cc176-264

2.58 p.m.

LORD TAYLOR rose to draw attention to the increasing rôle of science in the service of society, to ask Her Majesty's Government to state their plans for the development of science in relation to industry, agriculture, medicine and social needs; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I feel that I should begin with a slight word of warning. I am afraid that this is not going to be an easy speech, either to deliver or to listen to. In the Motion before your Lordships I have really bitten off more than I can chew or, indeed, I believe, more than anybody can chew; and I could not hope to tackle it without the help of my noble friends and those other noble Lords who are to speak later in the debate. As it is, I am afraid I am bound to be guilty of certain flagrantly unscientific statements and I only hope that in correcting me the noble and learned Viscount the Minister for Science will be wearing his scientist's white coat rather than his politician's battledress.

In a sense, this is an unveiling ceremony. I think it is the first major opportunity that our first full-blown Minister for Science has had to state the policy of Her Majesty's Government on science. To-day we shall not ask the noble and learned Viscount to remove more than one veil; but if, now and then, he should just tweak up the hem of the remaining ones to give us a view of some of the good things that we hope are to come, we shall all be appropriately pleased.

It is, of course, no new thing to have a senior Minister in charge of the main civil scientific Departments. For many years this has been one of the jobs entrusted to the Lord President of the Council, but usually the Lord President has had other very important jobs to do as well. When I served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, he, besides looking after science, was Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House of Commons and Chairman of a number of important Cabinet Committees, namely, the Lord President's Committee for Home and Domestic Affairs, the Legislation Committee and the Future Legislation Committee. In revealing the names of these Cabinet Committees I am not giving away Cabinet secrets; I am merely quoting from an excellent book entitled Government and Parliament (published by the Oxford University Press, price 21s.) by the Right Honourable Herbert Morrison; and I understand that a new edition is now in course of preparation.

Nevertheless, in spite of all these jobs that my noble friend had to do, he managed to give a surprising amount of his time to science. I remember that we visited together the main Government scientific establishments, and he always took good care to teach his Parliamentary Private Secretary very much as a senior physician will teach his young house officer. He taught us how politicians and scientists can live together in a happy and mutually profitable symbiosis—although, of course, he did not use that word. To-day from these Benches, my Lords, you will see a Morrison-trained team batting, because my noble friend Lord Shackleton, who is to wind up this debate, succeeded me as his Parliamentary Private Secretary when I involuntarily retired in 1950.

The proposal to have a senior Minister for Science whole-time, as it were, was contained in the Election programmes of both the Conservative and Labour Parties. I have asked some of our Liberal colleagues whether it was also in the Liberal Party programme, but none of them seems to know. I am surprised. Nevertheless, my noble friend Lord Beveridge about a month ago indicated his very warm welcome of a Minister for Science., so I think we may say that all Parties welcome Her Majesty's Government's decision.

Science, and the possibilities for society which it opens up, is the great growing point of our civilisation. In the past fourteen years since the war scientific knowledge and its application have advanced on every front, and the speed of advance is yearly increasing. With science to-day the possibilities are almost infinite: it is no longer true to say that"the sky is the limit." Science is changing the whole pattern of our society, and whether it does so for better or for worse—it is quite capable of changing it for worse—depends on the wisdom, intelligence and courage with which we direct the main streams of scientific endeavour. The machinery of Government cannot stand by in an attitude of laissez-faire. It must adapt itself and change, if needs be, as fast as science itself is changing. From now on science sets the pace, and it will need the full energy and the full time and full wisdom of the noble Viscount—and, thank goodness! he has plenty, of energy and wisdom, if not of time, to keep up with it.

Here I should perhaps declare a personal interest. I make my living, and indeed have always made my living, save for five years spent in another place, by the practice of pure and applied science. During the war I was responsible for spending about £500,000 of (as it was then) His Majesty's Government's money on social research of a very practical kind; and since the war, since 1950, in fact, I have played some part in spending about £250,000 of the money provided by the noble Viscount, Lord Nuffield, through one of his great institutions, the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust. Those who practise science often have to seek grants from the great Foundations and from Government organisations. At any time in the future it might be that I and my colleagues would seek Government aid for a research project. The problem for the scientist is to find what one might call"clean money"; that is, money for research given in the proper spirit of science, given in the realisation that the scientist's job is not to prop up untenable hypotheses but to seek the truth, however unpalatable and however apparently useless it may turn out to be.

The essence of science is sometimes said to be organised curiosity. Sometimes it is said to be the measurement of things or phenomena; sometimes it is said to be the experimental method. My Lords, it is all of these and more. Science is the search for provisional truth, for every scientific fact is bound to be upset if more evidence comes along. My old teacher Professor Pembrey, of Guy's Hospital, used to say,"The scientist believes according to the evidence." But the difficult part is the admission of error when new evidence comes along to upset one's firmly held beliefs. I confess that I found the transition from the laboratory and the clinic to Parliament a very difficult one to make. The process of two-sided debate has little place in science. In law the rules of evidence are strict, and certainty is very properly achieved within a man-made framework. In science the only limits in the search for evidence are man's ingenuity. I think it was when von Helmholtz, the great German physiologist who invented the ophthalmoscope, was receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, that he was heard to murmer,"The only laws I really recognise are the laws of physics." To-day even these laws are no longer strictly enforced.

In the past it has been customary to draw a firm line between pure science and applied science—applied science was definitely"non-U." as it were. But this distinction is fast vanishing. My noble friend Lord Adrian recently said in his Fawley lecture this: Huxley used to insist that the chief aim of the scientists should be to increase natural knowledge rather than human convenience. … To-day we have become more and more aware that concentration on practical issues may lead to big theoretical advances. … There is no longer any stigma attaching to an idea or technique born and bred in a workshop rather than a university.

The truth is that applied science may produce unexpected fundamental discovery, and pure science may yield utilitarian results when it least intends to do so. But the difference still remains. In applied science we set science to work for us on the practical problems of our society. We tell science what we want to do, and science tells us the best way to do it. In applied science somebody has to set the objectives. That somebody may be the industrialist; it may be the humanitarian or it may be society as a whole, acting through the agency of Her Majesty's Government or Her Majesty's Ministers. That is why the position of a Minister for Science can be the key position in the whole future of our society. He has to think not merely of the needs of the moment but of the needs many years ahead, far beyond the five-year life of a normal Government. Because of its structure your Lordships' House is ideally adapted to take the long view. That is why we are indeed pleased that the Prime Minister advised Her Majesty that the first Minister for Science—quite apart from his exceptional personal qualities—should be a Member of your Lordships' House.

My Lords, the oldest of the applied sciences is medicine. It is also, I think, the oldest example of Government intervention in science. I believe that the foundation of the Regius Professorships of Physics just ante-dates Government interest in astronomy for navigational purposes. In medicine, as an applied science, the objectives are obvious: the cure of disease and the promotion of health. The success is also obvious. Even since I was a student 27 years ago a whole series of what were then incurable diseases are now curable, and some have virtually disappeared. But the story is only beginning. Advance now seems to be almost in geometrical progression. The production of health and fitness is of growing importance. I am thinking of a rather wider definition than that given by Professor Medawar in his second Reith Memorial Lecture. He described it as"net reproductive advantage," though, of course, in long-term genetic study this particular definition is a very important one. It would be interesting to see how your Lordships fare on this definition. If it were found, for example, that the average number of children of Peers who attend Parliament is in excess of two we could claim to be a"biologically fit" community. My guess is that we are more"biologically fit" in this respect than another place, but it would need a nice piece of research carried out by, I suppose, one of the Lord President's agencies (or perhaps not) to prove or disprove this hypothesis.

The science of health promotion is only just beginning. It happens to be the field in which I myself work; and therefore, I am naturally biased, and your Lordships should take"with a pinch of salt" anything I say about it. It embraces social, environmental, industrial and also anthropological medicine. It covers medical statistics and medical economics, as well as social psychiatry. I must say that it is a pleasure to note that the work of the Medical Research Council in this field is a growing point, which I hope the Minister for Science will watch and fertilise, tend and stimulate. It should be of special interest to him—and I hope it is—because it is one of the meeting places of science and politics. Doctors and other scientists in this field are providing the raw material for politics; and if they are to do their job properly they must feel free to follow whithersoever the quest leads them, even if it be to show that the accepted Government or Opposition policies are wrong.

Last Session I had a little tiff with the noble Viscount, then in another capacity, though a rather similar capacity, on this very subject; but I am pleased to say that it all ended happily. He gave me three valuable assurances: first, that the Medical Research Council's research staff are not civil servants, even though their names appear in the Civil Service List; secondly, that they can exercise full civil rights without seeking permission; and, thirdly, that the stringent rules of the Medical Research Council about association and publication—which I confess I think have been more honoured in the breach than in the observance—are now being revised. These freedoms are really essential for the modern scientist, and not only for the medical research worker, if he is to do his work as he should: but always subject, of course, to the needs of national security. I am glad the Government are setting an example in the case of the Medical Research Council; and I hope that it is being, or will be, followed in the case of the other Government research organisations. I also hope that it is being, or will be, followed in the case of the universities. Academic freedom is not always quite such a reality as might be expected. Petty professorial tyranny can frustrate good general intentions, and intellectual conservatism may block new thought and advance. The duty of a scientific leader, whether in a university or elsewhere, is to see that his staff are strict in their disciplines, standards and methods, but adventurous in the ideas which they decide to study.

I believe the Medical Research Council to be a model of Government intervention in the sciences. The membership is, and always has been, first-class; and we as a nation have been fortunate in having three outstanding scientists as its three Secretaries—and I include here the present Secretary, Sir Harold Himsworth. The return which we get as a nation—indeed, which the world gets—in terms of human health and happiness for the relatively microscopic expense of £3½ million a year could be reckoned, I believe, it we could turn this sort of thing into cash, in hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Council runs the great National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill; it runs no fewer than 65 research units and groups, many of which are of international repute; and it runs our excellent Public Health Laboratory Service. I was rather pleased to hear the noble Viscount introducing a few minutes ago the First Reading of a Bill to provide a special Board for this service. I think that is a good move, and I am very pleased about it, although until he spoke I had not a clue that it was going to happen. This Public Health Laboratory Service is a very fine organisation, and has done some very good work. But the Medical Research Council runs much else besides. It is not afraid to have two or three groups of people working together on similar lines, even if they overlap, because it has a policy of backing good men, whatever their field of interest. It is not afraid to use part-time directors and workers on its staff, for it recognises that some people do their best work with a multiplicity of interests. It is one of the least rigid of Government organisations.

It is, however, I feel, just a little oversensitive to outside criticism. Perhaps that is because it is not quite sure—indeed, we are not quite sure and I do not know that it would be a good thing if we were quite sure—how far its Minister ought to go in answering in Parliament for its doings. It would be possible (though I am sure the present Minister would not dream of doing it) for him to answer the questions he liked and to dodge the questions he did not like by saying that this or that matter was the concern of the Council. It is the same problem in miniature that faces us with each of the nationalised industries, and it is a very important, fundamental problem. I think that the only way of solving it is to go on as we are. I believe that the worst thing that could happen is that there should be a continuous Parliamentary inquisition, in the form of question and answer, about the Medical Research Council. It would do far more harm than good.

My Lords, if I now make certain suggestions it is in the belief that the good, even the very good, can always be made better, and that this is always worth doing. My hope is to stimulate just a little extra critical self-examination—and even Ministerial examination—which is always a healthy exercise for all scientists. Inevitably, the Medical Research Council has a large number of specialised research committees. The volume of paper which comes to the Council itself for final decision is enormous. Is this really inevitable? And is it really desirable? I think I am right in saying that the Council is a little doubtful about its constitutional power to delegate authority to decide and spend to its committees and agencies. The result is that there is over-centralisation and delay. Meetings of the Council, which ought to be a forum for general discussion on broad scientific medical policy, too often tend to get cluttered up with immense amounts of detail.

The Council's positive decisions are, I think, almost always right. They almost never back a loser, as it were but they do, I believe, sometimes fail to back winners. There are, I think, three reasons for this. The first is something inherent in scientists, even in human nature. Inevitably, most members of Government scientific councils are very senior people, and it is an occupational risk of senior scientists to develop a certain intellectual negativism. They do not like trying out new ideas outside the conventional run of thinking. One remembers reading in medical history of the tremendous struggle which Lord Lister had to get the idea of antiseptic surgery accepted by the London hospitals: and, much nearer our own time, one remembers the tremendous struggle which Florey and Chain had to get enough money to make penicillin on a large scale. When I was a medical student, I was told by my teachers,"Don't go into bacteriology: it is finished". They were absolutely wrong. We are having a glorious chapter in bacteriology, with the whole investigation of the cell envelope and the metabolism of bacteria, which were things completely undreamed of in the old days. I was told as a student that vaccines were finished: yet we have had the wonderful triumph of the Salk vaccine, whereby hundreds of thousands of young lives are being saved throughout the world now.

I have always believed that it might be possible, for example, to develop a vaccine or an antibody against neoplastic tissues—cancer tissues—and recent research work in Canada suggests that this is by no means an impossibility. I think that this is a project to which the Medical Research Council might give very careful consideration. But this sort of positive research calls for a constructive ingenuity, an attack, which is quite different from the analytical ingenuity needed for solving many problems. One remembers how often in medicine the apparently unlikely turns out to be successful. But, having said this about negativism in senior scientists, one must add the rider that not all, or even most, of the senior scientists develop this intellectual negativism, and it is a joy to see in your Lordships' House two scientists who have increased in intellectual flexibility with advance in age.

The second difficulty which the Medical Research Council run into is the opposite side of one of its great virtues. As a broad principle, it backs good men, whatever their ideas and fields of work. It does not say,"Here is our problem which must be tackled, and we will find the men to do it". This method of tackling a given problem is much more risky and much more costly. Often the idea will come to nothing. But when such an idea comes off, this is the way to"hit the jackpot" in science. It is the way in which most of our atomic research is being done. And it is beginning to be done in the sphere of medicine in the United States. Concentrations of scientists are being set to tackle a given problem and it is beginning to pay off.

One would suggest straight away three projects which might be tackled in this way. One is the biochemistry of schizophrenia. Here is something which is just ripe for being cracked. Economically it is an appalling problem, one which must cost the nation £100 million a year in tending schizophrenics in mental hospitals. The second I have already mentioned—a vaccine for neoplastic The third would be research for a biochemical agent, which I am sure exists, which causes high blood pressure. Each needs an expensive and vigorous team, but I believe that each could be followed with great profit.

The third difficulty which arises with the Medical Research Council, and indeed other research organisations of the Government, is in relation to the universities. Most university research is financed through the University Grants Committee, though the Minister of Science's research organisations and the great charitable foundations also make substantial contributions. In my experience, and I think in the experience of most of us working in this field, it is always possible to get grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 for small-scale research projects lasting from one to three years. The difficulty arises for young research workers at the end of three years. There is a great shortage of endowed readerships and research professorships with the necessary laboratory and other staffs. Universities are even reluctant to accept donations of money which would enable them to endow readerships or professorships unless at the same time they see where the money for the professor's staff is going to come from, because otherwise it would make a great hole in their university grant which they would have to make up from some other source. The result of this is that every year good research workers are being lost to clinical medicine. This applies especially to psychiatry and pathology, in both of which clinical demands are very great indeed. Here I think that the Medical Research Council can do a good deal to help, provided they have the money to do so, because it is a much bigger commitment to endow somebody for life or a professorship in perpetuity than it is to make a research grant of £3,000 to £10,000 which is a once-for-all grant.

The other side of this is the unwillingness of the universities to recognise Government research units and organisations as approved places for study for higher degrees. It means that a scientist or a doctor working in a Government institution, if he has not got his Ph.D. or his D.Sc., has to go somewhere else or apply to become an external student of a university in order to get his degree. And very often university departments are nothing like so good scientifically as the Government institutions. Yet because those institutions are not recognised, a scientist cannot get his degree there. I understand that in Germany and America it is common for universities to grant honorary professorships to the heads of Government institutions, which enables those places to be recognised for higher degrees. It also benefits the universities, because they get two or three free lectures a year from someone eminent and very good. I think that this is something which certainly ought to be done, but it is up to the universities to take the lead here, and all we can do is to suggest that they ought to do it. This applies far beyond the confines of medical research, to all fields of science covered by Government activity.

I understand that the Medical Research Council are toying with the idea of a research hospital, somewhat on the lines of the great Bethesda hospitals in the United States. This has much to commend it, but one wonders whether it would not be better to have several hospitals, each with one specialised research unit in a single subject, rather than try to have the whole lot together in a single place. I hope that the Minister for Science can tell us more about this idea and say something of the pros and cons of the case for building a research hospital.

I must say one word about psychiatric research. In crude economic terms, this is the most important of the lot. I am not thinking about psycho-analysis, which bears roughly the same relation to scientific psychiatry as Marxism does to modern economic and social history. Both are half or quarter truths, which have become dogmatic creeds in the hands of unscientific and over-enthusiastic disciples. Modern scientific psychiatry is a tough, hard job of applied biochemistry, of applied biophysics, of applied sociology and statistics and of good clinical medicine. I think that preventive psychiatry is one of the most important growing points in all science, for here we seek to find out by scientific method what kind of society will do most to create a healthy mind. Such a society is a truly healthy society.

I think we are already finding out that it is not a purely materialistic society. Too much material wealth is bad for men's minds, just as too much material poverty is bad for men's bodies. We shall find clues in this field, but not the full answers, if we look in the United States, in the Scandinavian Social-Democracies, and even in Russia. In the United States, we find bounding energy and enterprise marching hand in hand with tension-states and duodenal ulcers. In Scandinavia, we find superb social planning and a wide distribution of material wealth—yet high suicide and divorce rates, a decay of sexual morality and a neglect of religion. In Russia, we find—or we think we find—a low neurosis rate and a high sense of social purpose, built on a largely fallacious and potentially dangerous philosophic interpretation of history. It looks as though a condition of psychiatric or mental health may well turn out to be no more and no less than the practical application of Christian ethics to our everyday lives. I hope it may turn out that faith in science, which is the popular faith in Western Europe, may yet lead us back, as a simple pragmatic proposition, to faith in God.

I turn now to agriculture and to the Agricultural Research Council. Some people have rather mixed feelings about farmers. This need not worry us, because many people have similar mixed feelings about doctors. In fact, they are both applied biologists, working for the good of society, though perhaps neither would recognise themselves as such. And if, in the course of their work, they manage to make a decent, reasonable living, the chances are that they will do their work that much better, to the benefit of us all.

It is not surprising that the Agricultural Research Council has developed on lines increasingly similar to those of the Medical Research Council. Once again we find the State running, or helping to run, through the Agricultural Research Council, a series of research units and institutions—there are 43 of them in all—many, like Rothamsted, the Rowett and the John Innes Institution, world famous for their work. Their range is from pure science—insect physiology, virology, plant cell physiology and embryology—to such applications as agricultural engineering, agricultural statistics, biometrics, farm buildings, and how to build the most efficient and profitable farms. The only thing that I missed in going through the list was agricultural economics—and that may have been my fault.

The annual report of the Agricultural Research Council is a real thriller, particularly for those who have got no further than 1st M.B. botany and zoology. I should like to mention particularly the section on chemical weed control and trace elements. It so happens that I am very interested in another context in selenium as an industrial hazard. Selenium is a most remarkable metal which has two strange properties. First of all, it is photo-electric sensitive, and secondly it is a one-way electrical channel; that is to say, it will let an electric current through only one way and is therefore used as a rectifier. As I say, I am interested in it as an industrial hazard, and I was amazed to find that selenium has a practical application in agriculture. In particular, I learned from reading the report of the Agricultural Research Council that one part per million added to the diet of lambs will prevent the development of a disease called muscular dystrophy. Now muscular dystrophy in human beings is an awful and incurable disease. One wonders whether there may not be a profitable line for medical research here, just waiting to be explored. But I would say this. Robert Burton, in Anatomy of Melancholy, described marriage as a lottery with twenty blanks to one prize. In my experience, medical research is much the same. But in medicine speculation does not answer the questions. As John Hunter wrote to William Jenner: Do not think—but try.

This parenthesis on selenium illustrates the importance of overlap in science. It never matters if two separate units are tackling similar problems. What is important is that we should find out what other folk, looking with a different approach, are doing in our own fields. Reading the report of the Agricultural Research Council one is struck time and again with the possible inter-relations between medical research and agricultural research. I have one further point about the Agricultural Research Council. I should like to ask: Do their staff, working in the Council's institutes and units, enjoy the same scientific and civil freedoms as are enjoyed by the workers of the Medical Research Council? If not, I hope that the Minister for Science will give early attention to this matter.

The last of the great scientific organisations responsible to the Minister for Science with which I propose to deal is the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This is not in any way to belittle the work or the importance of the work of the Nature Conservancy or the Atomic Energy Research Institution or on space research, but my noble friend Lord Shackleton will be dealing with these later on. The history of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (D.S.I.R. hereinafter) is well set out in an excellent book entitled Science in Industry by Professors Carter and Williams of the University of Manchester, for which, as is so often the case, we have to thank the Nuffield Foundation. The D.S.I.R. is, according to Messrs. Carter and Williams,"a mixed bag". It covers the National Physical Laboratory, the National Chemical Laboratory and the Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory, and it looks after research in geology, fuel, forest products, roads, hydraulics, water pollution and much else besides. It feeds, sustains and supports 46 research associations concerned with the application of science to industry, ranging from ceramics, felt hats and hosiery, to files, springs and welding. It maintains four scientific attaches in Washington, Paris, Stockholm and Bonn—and one just wonders why not in Moscow.


There is one coming in Moscow.


I am delighted to hear that; we think alike. It makes a great number of university grants, including £53,000 a year to what it calls"the human sciences"—and I notice that three friends and colleagues, Mr. Trist, Professor Zangwill and Professor Titmus, are among the recipients. I should call these"the social sciences".

I must confess that, reading and thinking about these three great organisations, the one I am the least happy about is the D.S.I.R., because it covers such an enormous field. I believe it is impossible for its chief executive (its secretary) to know more than one part intimately. I have had a fairly wide administrative experience and I have been much impressed with the dangers of bigness. Nature found out millions of years ago that animals could get too big; and it is exactly the same with organisations. There is, I would suggest, an optimum size for any organisation, and, in particular, for a research organisation, and that optimum is determined by the capacity of the human brains at the head to scan adequately the whole field.

One symptom of being too big may well be an increase in overhead expenses, so I did a few sums. I took the M.R.C. estimates for 1959–60. They are £3,500,000 total expenditure, and administrative and central expenditure £182,000, or about 5 per cent. The Agricultural Research Council Estimates for 1959–60 are £4,545,000 total expenditure, and administration £133,000, or just over 3 per cent.—a very good figure indeed, I should have said. The D.S.I.R. estimates are £10,625,000, with headquarters' expenditure £749,000, or just over 7 per cent. My Lords, I think there is something wrong there. I asked a very good accountant yesterday whether one can compare overhead expenses properly in these matters, and he said,"Only if the organisations are comparable." I think that here the organisations are comparable, and that the D.S.I.R. overheads are too high. That is almost certainly because the Department has got too big. I think the time has come to perform a dichotomy or a polychotomy, rather like that which the Lord President is in the process of performing in the case of the Medical Research Council.

I think that the Council of the D.S.I.R. may even itself be thinking on these lines. I notice, for example, that it has shed the Ditton Laboratory for research into vegetable storage and transport; it has shed the Low Temperature Research Station (I think at Cambridge), and the Pest Infestation Laboratory, to the A.R.C. as from July 1 of this year. I should have thought that it ought similarly to shed the Forest Products Research Laboratory, which really is more appropriate to agriculture than to the D.S.I.R.

The D.S.I.R. started life more or less as a Government Department, with, however, a high-powered Advisory Council. In 1956, following the Report of the Jephcott Committee, the D.S.I.R. Act was passed, and this converted the Advisory Council into an Executive Council, bringing the D.S.I.R. much more into line with the M.R.C. and the A.R.C. The Minister delegates his power to this Council, but still retains final responsibility; and I think I am right in saying that the staff still remain civil servants. The present Research Council is a very strong one. About two years ago, or possibly a year ago, it produced a 5-year plan for departmental development. Nevertheless, I think there is a very good case for splitting the D.S.I.R., and, strong as the Council is, I think it would be even stronger if its members were able to concentrate within more limited fields.

No single council, however good, can comprehend the vast scope of the work of the D.S.I.R. Members cannot possibly visit regularly and know its many component parts. One suspects that at the periphery some bits are undergoing intellectual ossification or even disuse atrophy. I suggest, therefore, that it would be in the best interests of science in the service of the community to split the D.S.I.R. into four new Research Councils, working on Medical Research Council lines—namely, the Physical Research Council, the Chemical Research Council, the Engineering Research Council and the Industrial Research Council. One must remember the speed of growth of science in the modern world. One must make the evolution of our scientific organisations match up with the speed and growth of scientific knowledge. In any national scientific research plan there is bound to be overlap. I have tried to show that that is not necessarily bad. One does not expect any definitive answers to these questions from the Minister for Science this afternoon. One's aim is rather to sow seeds and suggest principles which might underlie future policy.

I said a moment ago that the D.S.I.R. is spending £53,000 per annum on the human sciences. The Government spend upwards of another £81,000 per annum on the Social Survey under the Central Office of Information. Both these pieces of spending are positive recognition by the Government that science can be applied to help solve the problems of society, just as it can be applied to those of, say, the human body. Five years ago the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, addressing the British Association (and I hope he will forgive me quoting him), said this: Social science can tell us dispassionately what is happennig in our society … With modern techniques of social fact-finding and measuring, social science may well be the most important scientific development of the century. One must remember that the noble Lord speaks as one of the great natural scientists of our time. Just a month afterwards our greatest social scientist, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, said in his Bowie Memorial Lecture: Social science is the field of human knowledge on whose successful cultivation the possibility of human happiness in the future depends—perhaps more than any other single thing that men could do to-day. Those are strong words, but I believe they are true; and I believe that the time has come for Her Majesty's Government to establish a Social Science Research Council alongside the other great Research Councils, so that scientific method may make its next great contribution to the welfare of mankind.

I know that social research is still very immature. It has only just learnt to measure—indeed, sometimes it is a little too preoccupied with this measuring. Society presents so many problems for research that it is easy to waste time studying irrelevancies, like the school-men of old trying to compute how many angels could be fitted on the head of a pin, or the Lilliputians disputing which end of a boiled egg ought to be cracked. Here the purpose of research becomes of vital importance, since all human phenomena are covered by social science. Selection of what is worth studying is the key to success. The touchstone for selection is the value of a particular project to society, though not necessarily its short-term value. Indeed, often short-term social studies are appropriately made by workers in individual Government Departments. The need to-day is for long-term social studies—not merely analytical, but also constructive—stretching out into what may be called the fields of social engineering and social architecture.

Even more than in social medicine, a Social Research Council should feed ideas to Government and politicians. Here are just a few of the problems to which a Social Research Council might bend its efforts. The first I have already mentioned: the best size of organisations for social efficiency, whether they are hospitals, factories, towns or even research councils. The second is the problem of conurbations, which I think is the greatest challenge to our urban societies in this century and, thirdly, there is the problem of communications, whether by word or sight or movement, whether by vehicles, wire or electromagnetic wave. I am sure that such research would emphasise the importance to science, and to us all, of clarity and precision in the words we use. Science would join the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, in his battle to rid ourselves of verbal slush. The fourth problem is that of social morality—and this is a place where the scientist and the humanist must meet in co-operation. And fifth there is the problem of the relations and understandings between the great groups of society, the nations. Here the scientist, the geographer and the social historian must come together in a common effort. For success, social science needs the stern discipline of natural science; but it also needs courage and a sense of adventure—a willingness to set targets high and to take risks.

My Lords, I have tried to outline for the Minister for Science not a programme of action but a programme of thinking. We do not ask him to-day for any snap decisions. In all scientific advance, and indeed in all human advance, there is a constant battle between courage and cynicism. We must count ourselves fortunate that Her Majesty's first Minister for Science should have not only the intellectual capacity, but also that greatest gift of all, courage. And in using it for the benefit of science in the service of mankind he may count on our full support. I beg to move for Papers.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I think my first task in answering the noble Lord would be to thank him for the admirable and, in some ways, remarkable speech with which he has interested us this afternoon. I should be less than gracious if I did not say how deeply touched I was by the personal reference to myself with which he has just concluded his speech. Ministers like sympathy and, even if they do not deserve it, they like praise, and I was very grateful to him for what he said.

I was also grateful to the noble Lord for introducing this subject to this House to-day. Oddly enough, it is the second debate in Parliament this week upon my Ministry, the first taking place in another place. I do not think that two are at all too many. On the contrary, I think there are a great number of debates about some of the subjects which have been raised this afternoon which we ought to hold in one House of Parliament or the other, and I would agree with the noble Lord that this House is perhaps the more useful forum to ventilate a great number of them. At the same time, I should like to say—and I do not think in this respect I should be outside order—that my understanding of the relationship between the two Houses has always been that the mere fact that a Minister is in the Lords does not preclude Members of the House of Commons from writing to him or coming to see him, any more than the mere fact that a Minister is in another place precludes Members of our House from writing to that Minister or going to see him. Therefore, although the arrangements for answering for a particular Ministry may vary from time to time, according to whether a Minister is in the Lords or the Commons, the ordinary human contact which ought to take place between Members of either House of Parliament and the Minister concerned ought not necessarily to be precluded by the fact that he is in one House rather than in the other. Speaking for myself, I always want to make myself as much accessible to Members of another place, should they desire to write to me or discuss matters with me informally, as I am to Members of your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I think that the speech we have listened to indicates very plainly to all of us the immense range of the field covered by what one might call science. The noble Lord has, in fact, traversed a part of the ground which I ought, if I were conscientiously surveying the field, to traverse myself, and there are many other things that I should have to talk about in detail if I proposed to take that particular course. I do not favour the oratorical device of saying what you are not going to talk about in order to talk about it, but it might be convenient to enumerate some of the subjects which are at large this afternoon, if only because they illustrate the need for public discussion and the range of public discussion which has got to take place.

If one starts physically at the top, I suppose I should have to start with space research and explain the Government's policy in regard to that. I hope that within two years British instruments may be in orbit round the earth—a statement which would have seemed astonishing a very short time ago; and I believe that the modest but, I think, well-thought-out programme which has been provided for us by the scientists will enable us to get our feet wet in the waters of space at the earliest possible moment, and with the greatest possible advantage to this country, on a scale which is commensurate with our other scientific efforts and which will command the respect of scientists throughout the world. But that is a subject which requires much fuller exposition than I can give it to-day.

Or, again, there is the whole field of atomic science, for the research part of which, in peaceful uses, I am myself departmentally responsible. I should have liked to tell the House in detail about the work which is being done on the great proton synchrotron which I saw only two days ago, built by the Atomic Energy Authority for the National Institute, something which the modern professor of nuclear physics will have to refer to rather as a professor of Latin refers to his Lewis and Short, with this trifling difference: that it is about the size of a cathedral and contains as its principal item a magnet of 7,000 tons of steel. I should have liked to describe our international co-operation at Winfrith Heath in the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, or our own national effort at Dounreay on the fast reactor; and to discuss the fascinating question of the chances of success in the problems of fusion, as distinct from fission, in the nuclear field, which might revolutionise once again human technology and sources of power. These are only a few of the problems in the nuclear field, any one of which could be made the subject of debate.

Again, the noble Lord touched upon the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I do not think I will deal at this stage with the proposals he made for its reorganisation, but he was certainly right in saying that it covers an immense range of activities, from the atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory to the man at East Kilbride who actually showed me what was wrong with the fork of a bicycle, the very large number of Government research stations, the large number of research associations in which the Government is a partner with industry, and, of course, the equally important and growing work of awarding research grants inside the universities. One is right in saying that this is a department of the State which in a very few years has grown out of all measure—more than doubled. I should think, in the last ten years. Since 1938, it has risen from an annual expenditure of about £800,000 to £13 million in the current year, and it is growing at that rate.

Talking of the universities, one would have to enter on to a large discursus on that subject, because the truth, of course, is that the future of our scientific effort depends very largely upon the universities with the colleges of advanced technology; indeed, I see that the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has a Motion down upon the Paper in which this subject is precisely raised, a subject which I think would afford a very valuable source of debate, especially taken in connection with questions which are very closely related with my present work and with the teaching of science in the schools and technical colleges, the curriculum, the danger of over-specialisation and the future size and distribution of the universities themselves and the work of the University Grants Committee. All that, I hope will also be discussed.

Lord Taylor's special knowledge, which we all recognise, has enabled him to give to-day a remarkable appraisement of the work of the Medical Research Council, representing again a great increase over the past few years, now approaching its £4 million mark but still growing; and again he made a number of proposals for its further growth. I should myself think he was right in supposing that, in addition to the units in the teaching hospitals and the universities, and in addition to the work at Mill Hill, there is probably scope for further development of our clinical research work, although I should not wish this afternoon to comment upon the particular proposal he made. But it is clear that clinical research is one of the main fields in which medical research can be developed.

There is, as the noble Lord said, the Agricultural Research Council, whose work he cited in some detail; and one would have to go to very considerable length to describe, for instance, the immense new responsibility of monitoring radio-active fall-out which is taking place all over the country and the station which this Council is operating in connection with that work. One must not forget, too, the Nature Conservancy, with its fundamental work in biological and ecological research; nor the work of the Overseas Research Council, which the Government decided to inaugurate some months ago and which may provide an indispensable link in matters of research between ourselves and many of the former colonial and other undeveloped countries of the world.

Most of this comes within the terms of my appointment as Minister for Science, and of course a great deal else besides. We have seen a great deal of discussion about the machine tool industry in the remarks delivered by Professor Seymour Melman and in a more confidential document instituted by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research itself. There is the whole question of nuclear propulsion for ships, which is the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, and the whole question of the future of the civil aviation industry and airframe industry in this country, which is the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation. All these are matters in which the Minister for Science must take an interest and for which he must bear, with his colleagues, a considerable measure of responsibility.

This I think, establishes the fact that when, this afternoon, we are looking at this matter in the broadest possible light, we are doing no more than scratching the surface of a subject which I hope will prove a valuable quarry for questions and debates in coming months during this Parliament. Indeed, one would say that the subject of the relationship between Government and science and technology, in all its aspects, is one of the great challenges held out to this present Parliament. The whole question of development, the stage between research and commercial exploitation, will have to be tried out again and again, principally in relation to particular industries and projects and the whole relation of Government assistance to it requires discussion.

But this afternoon my thought is to come back to a central theme, which I think Parliament must face in dealing with the ultimate challenge of science. I do so the more readily because it is a political problem with which all modern societies are faced. In our case it can be expressed as: how we are to get the best use of our science and technology by fitting the administration of it into our Parliamentary and democratic system which we should not wish to interfere with or undermine in any way? In answering that problem I want, if I can, to set out in my own words both what we are setting out to do by appointing a Minister for Science, and, as simply as possible, why we are setting out to do it in this particular way—because I think this is a fitting subject and a fitting time to discuss the subject in this House of Parliament.

My Lords, let us first look at the nature of the challenge. Science is not a thing that you can disentangle from life and treat separately from life. Between the botanist whom I have seen in one of the research stations of the Nature Conservancy, counting grasses from a small plot of ground no more than a square yard in area at the top of the Pennine Chain, and the professor of nuclear physics with his synchrotron, there is just as much difference—more difference in some ways—as there is between a teacher of Chinese and a teacher of modern history. For some reason, they are lumped together as scientists because they own a common tradition, a common approach and contribute to a common corpus of knowledge, although they do it in greatly different ways. Between the applied science which discovers the form of the bicycle fork and the fundamental science of the atomic clock there is an immense range of difference. Yet they are all scientists.

The first point, therefore, which has to be made is that science is not something that you can disentangle from life. What is a scientific society? Is it the modern society into which, willy-nilly, we are all moving? Let us remember that we are all—communist and capitalist, democrat and authoritarian, Christian and atheist—faced with the challenge of the approach of a scientific society and the need to learn how to operate this society, and to understand what it means consistently with our deeply held convictions about the nature of man and the way in which he ought to live on this earth. In the last resort, the scientific life and efforts of the world depend upon a very tiny core of highly qualified men. The noble Lord said, I thought wisely and rightly, that we are not dealing now with the lifetime of a Parliament, or with day-to-day politics, but with a much longer time scale.

It is worth while reminding ourselves that Rutherford was born in 1871; his definitive research took place, I suppose, about the turn of the century. The atomic bomb went off in 1945, and the first atomic power station was inaugurated in 1956. What we are doing and saying about a scientific society is set against the background that perhaps 20 or 30 years of intensive education and training and effort, from the cradle to the Royal Society, go to produce the men upon whom, in the last resort, this kind of progress in human knowledge may be said to depend. They have, maybe, 20 or 30 years of useful life, and at the end of it their researches may be left unfinished for a new generation to deal with before they can make any impact upon the life of ordinary men. So we are talking in terms of generations rather than Parliaments.

But this tiny group of pioneers is, as it were, at the top of a gigantic pyramid. Although they are themselves the activators of new advances, their work has to be supported by an immensely more solid block, expanding slowly, with an infinitely broader base which is the result of the application of the efforts of past pioneers. I thought myself that the noble Lord was quite right in starting at the bottom of this pyramid by describing the necessity for developing scientific literacy on the part of the governing elements of the country. By"the governing elements of the country," in a democracy I mean precisely everybody. Of course, one must again dwell here upon the fact that one can only achieve that in the interim for the present.

All of us—or a large majority of us, of whom I certainly am one—have reached adult life with great gaps in our scientific education which it is now much too late to repair completely, and we must now look forward both to the interim measures of encouraging knowledge about, and interest in, science among those adults who will never be fully literate scientifically, and also, in our educational system, to encourage a greater degree of scientific literacy for the future. I would say that it is extremely important that we should encourage literacy, both for the sake of encouraging interest and also for the sake of discouraging sensationalism, which is almost as great a danger in this realm as contempt. Moreover, over and above the general literacy there is the educational base in which some formal training in scientific subjects must form an integral part, both to form the foundation of the literacy I have been trying to describe and to provide the raw material out of which the actual scientific and technical effort can be maintained.

Science requires to be sustained by an immense army of skilled craftsmen. Sometimes when I travel about the country I meet romantics who deplore, with tears in their eyes, the supposed decline of craftsmanship in the modern age. When it comes down to brass tacks they mean that they can no longer get cottages with thatched roofs. But this is pure romanticism, however one may feel about the absence of thatchers, for the truth is that the type of skill required is changing. The skilled worker is constantly required to be more versatile, but the need for craftsmanship and craftsmen is constantly increasing. The professor of Latin who wants to use his Lewis and Short needs a bookbinder and a printer; but the professor of nuclear physics who is building his proton synchrotron needs an army—the contractor, the architect, the surveyor, the steel manufacturers and craftsmen, the fitters and the builders, skilled to a degree of fineness of tolerance which previously would have been considered fanciful. All these are required in order that science may be taught at all, still less new discoveries made.

Again, in the book to which the noble Lord referred, by Carter and Williams—and I may say with some pride that I had the pleasure of appointing Professor Carter to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a very few weeks ago—there was a calculation about the number of technicians required to support a scientist. I do not know whether the calculation was correct, but what was abundantly clear is that we can get no adequate use or deployment of qualified scientific manpower, of the scientific graduate, of the graduate technologist, unless there is a vast army of technicians to support their work. That, again, is one of the great problems that we have to face. Lastly, we have the technologists and the pure scientists themselves, all of university standard, whether they come from universities as graduates or from colleges of advanced technology with diplomas, who form the corps d'élite of this army moving perhaps from one grade to another—because although I have been discussing this pyramid as if it consisted of layers, like a neapolitan ice, the truth is that there is no artificial division of this kind in life. There must be constant communication and understanding amongst all and one could be conveniently graded in one rather than another.

This is the kind of picture of the industrial and scientific society in the modern age which all political communities have to face. I have, of course, over-simplified it. It remains the responsibility of Government to oversee the whole, to view the weak places, to foster it, to bring it into existence and to make it in conformity with our fundamental view of life. But what must be abundantly plain is that this cannot be the work of Government alone but is the joint responsibility of all those who are concerned with the administration of any part of the sophisticated and complicated life of our society. Above all, the scientific work which I have described has to be administered by scientists. There is, in fact, no one else who can administer it. This is true in Russia and America, and it is true in Britain. Each of these great communities, having been faced with broadly similar problems has devised a method of administering these things, which is suited to their own form of society. Ours demands democratic control. It demands responsibility to Parliament, the responsibility of a Minister to Parliament for the expenditure of public money. These, I should have said, are the requirements.

The Russians have worked out an ingenious and highly successful system of administration through their Academy, a body which is superficially (though not altogether) comparable to our Royal Society, but that could not work here. It would not be compatible either with the insulation which the scientist demands from the controversial aspects of politics in doing his work, or with responsibility to Parliament. The American Constitution may provide responsibility to Congress, but the responsibility is through the President and not through a Minister; and therefore, I think, we are driven back in this country to some form of responsibility to Parliament, through a Minister or Ministers, for the scientific development of the nation.

Now there are three broad models from which we could have chosen. I believe that it would be possible to do without any special Minister for Science. After all, there is no aspect of our public life which has not some Ministry responsible for it or sponsoring it—and no one knows that better than the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who, I am glad to see, is now to take a part in this debate. We could perfectly well give the Agricultural Research Council to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Medical Research Council to the Minister of Health. The various departments of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research could be split up among, the various executive Ministers even more effectively than the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has described; and a perfectly effective and possibly extremely efficient political machine consistent with our Constitution could be thereby established. I am bound to say that that would cause deep offence in the scientific world. Scientists require their integrity and their independence of the Government machine to be respected; and, so far as I can see into the future, this is likely to be the case.

Or, again, we could bring into being a vast Ministry of Science. I believe that that would involve the marriage of defence and civil science. It would involve the destruction of the existing Research Councils and their incorporation into a single Ministry, with a Minister at its head. Again, it might be an extremely efficient structure and the Minister might be advised by professional, whole-time scientists and civil servants who would play the part of a kind of General Staff in the furtherance of scientific policy. This again would have definite advantages; but it is not the model we are following, and I feel that it is worth while pausing to see some of the disadvantages.

In the first place, I believe that it would accentuate the feeling I have described in condemning the other model—the feeling on the part of scientists that they were being deprived of their independence. Each one of these executive councils, and the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, which was founded, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in the time of the Labour Government in 1947, for the purpose of giving general scientific advice on a balanced policy in scientific affairs—each one of these is manned, broadly, by distinguished scientists who, outside the field of the committee or council on which they serve, command wide influence amongst their brother scientists. And, therefore, if a policy recommended by them is carried into effect on the authority of a Minister, then, in the long run, we can count on the partnership and co-operation that we need.

The marriage of defence and civil science, again, is an attractive and logical proposition, because the distinction between the various defence and civil sciences is wholly artificial and arbitrary; but I must warn the House that, at any rate I think in the view of those scientists who work in the civilian field, it would be considered a disastrous move. They are very great realists. They realise (and it is in many ways a sad commentary upon human nature and our times) that, I suppose, almost nine-tenths—perhaps less, but a very large proportion—of the money which goes into research is motivated in one way or another by defence motives; and they would be very sorry indeed, I think, to join a Ministry in which a large proportion of the personnel would inevitably be dominated by defence policy. They see, I think, in a Minister for Science, in the sense in which we have adopted it, a real assurance that the civilian application of science will not be forgotten in the light of the overwhelmingly superior sums of money which are now being spent on defence projects.

So we come down to what appears at first sight to be a modest proposal, because nobody looking at the Office over which I preside can fail to notice how small it is. There are just 39 of us, down to the last doorkeeper. Of course, in a sense that is misleading. We are responsible to Parliament for the expenditure of very large sums of public money—£92 million, I think, in the last year on the Atomic Energy Authority, and probably another £20 million, all told, elsewhere for civilian purposes. But at the same time it is enough to give this figure of 39 to show that this Office is a quite different kind of animal from the Ministry of Education, or the Admiralty, or the Board of Trade, and it is performing a totally different kind of function, in each case the executive work being carried out by scientists with a relative freedom, though subject to Government direction of one kind or another. No one is more aware than myself that this is an evolutionary and not a revolutionary step; and no one could be less dogmatic than myself about the direction in which this kind of organisation is likely to lead us. But I was quite certain that it was my duty to try to make this organisation work, and that this organisation, rather than another, is the best if we can work it in our own society in which we live.

I was very glad to hear the noble Lord say sincerely that it is a great mistake to regard science and scientists as if they were concerned merely with material things. This is not true. Science is an integral part of our Western European culture. Its characteristic modes of thought; its spirit of free inquiry; its abjuration of a priori dogma; its want of respect for the mere ipse dixit of authority; its requirement of publication; the provisional character of its opinions and hypotheses; the long self-discipline of mind and body, which success in science exacts of its devotees; above all, its integrity and regard for truth and life—these, my Lords, are not really material things. Nor are the rewards they bring merely material rewards, though, as always, if they are sought for their own sake, it is surprising how often the material rewards are forthcoming too. But they are part of the very culture and civilisation which we wish to preserve and, at the same time, are trying to create.

Heaven forbid that I should try to decry the solid foundations of Graeco-Roman culture, to which I personally owe so much, and upon which our own civilisation is founded; or that I should deny the efficacy and inspiration of religion in this connection! But let us remember that the ancient world fell down because of its inability to get out of the dilemma presented by slavery, and that the thing which has enabled us to get out of that dilemma and to achieve a much higher degree both of culture and of material wellbeing is the machine, the application of science to all aspects of active life. And let us not forget that, although among our ancestors there were men probably far more pious and devoted to the Christian religion than any but the best of us are, they still were unable to escape from the dilemma presented by a society in which, in order to preserve the quality of culture, many had to work without the necessities of life, or what we should now regard as the necessities of life. And so let no one say that what we are about in discussing science is simply the discussion of material things. This is not so. It is not so in its short-term sense because the values of the scientist are not merely material values. It is not so, either, in the long-term sense, because the problems which beset our ancestors may in fact be solved by the things which we are discussing to-day.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Viscount, the Minister for Science, for the speech which he has just delivered to us. It is perfectly true, I think, that this is his first considered pronouncement to your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lord Taylor said that he did not expect him to make firm pronouncements on the various points my noble friend made, and I think the Minister has taken full advantage of that invitation, which one can understand. I should like to join with the noble Viscount in congratulating my noble friend Lord Taylor on the very admirable speech that he made. I thought he would do so, because I know his qualities, his knowledge, his sincerity and his abilities. Indeed, I feel a little honoured, and even embarrassed, by the fact that one of my former Parliamentary Private Secretaries should be opening this debate, and another, my noble friend Lord Shackleton, who I am sure will also make a very good speech, is winding it up—not that I wish in any way to hold them responsible for any opinions I may express in the course of these brief observations. But it is a very pleasant thing, and, of course, they did get a certain amount of knowledge and experience when they were with me during my period as Lord President of the Council.

I am not quite convinced, speaking personally, that it was necessary to create this new Department. I admit that I have a bit of a bias against the creation of new Departments unless they are really necessary, because the more Ministers there are in Government, the more Parliament is rather over-weighted with their personal interest and political security, and I do not believe in the creation of Ministers for fun. If some Members of Parliament had their way there would be Ministers for everything under the sun, with the result that about half the Government side would be occupied by Ministers, and that would not be healthy for the balance of power between Parliament and Government.

I must say I am not yet satisfied—though I am quite willing to be satisfied—that it was necessary to change the functions of the Lord President of the Council and to establish the Minister for Science. If it were intended that the new Ministry should be a big administrative Department—or, at any rate, should be administrative—with the Minister giving the scientists meticulous instructions on what to do, and keeping them under day-to-day control, then it would have been another matter; but the noble Viscount has said, and I think has said rightly, that if you try to handle scientists in that way you will kill them—scientifically, at any rate—and that they will become less valuable than would otherwise be the case. I think that his point of view about that is right.

Nevertheless, they sometimes need inspiration, leadership, guidance, and a little control in regard to the spending of public money; otherwise, they can run away with the till—not in any dishonest sense, but in amount. Moreover, there is this danger which I dropped upon when I was Lord President—namely, that there can be a tendency in the scientific institutions to leave a man in one job too long, with the result that he may get stale after a time; that he may get into a rut. I came across a man who was doing a job in a research laboratory, and he had been doing it for 30 years. I do not think that that is right. I think he ought to have had a change, because that would freshen him up and would give him a new interest in life. That is a point that wants watching.

Another point that needs watching, I think, is that there is a tendency for research into existing subjects to become completed; there is a point where there is really not much more scope for research into that subject. But if one does not look out, the research expenditure on that subject will go on and on, out of sheer habit; and, in the meantime, the scientists, aided by Members of Parliament, if they need any help, will find new subjects for research and new subjects for expenditure, with the result that Government expenditure continues to go up. Parliament takes an interest in science, and that is a very good thing. We have the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, with which are associated Members of both Houses of Parliament, and of which, for the time being, I happen to be the President, although I am in no way speaking for it. It is a useful body, which shows that politicians and scientists can live together in the public interest without quarrelling with each other; and it is doing, I think, very valuable work in the cause of science and of the Parliamentary association with it.

Now can it be said that, when science was one of the functions of the Lord President of the Council, it was neglected? I think, having regard to what the Minister for Science has said this afternoon, that the job which was done then was much the same job as that which he will be doing now, except that he has taken on atomic energy, which might have been taken over by the Lord President of the Council or might have been left where it was. I admit that Chat is a material change. However, he is going to make it not a heavy job. I am not sure that he is going to make it a full-time job, in view of the circumstances in which he is operating. Therefore, I am inclined to think that the Lord President of the Council was doing the job quite well. It is true that the Lord President has his functions at Privy Council meetings, and that he has these scientific bodies to which he ought to pay proper attention. In my own experience, however—and I took more interest in these scientific bodies than a number of my predecessors had done—it left me time to do quite a lot of other valuable things for the country, not to mention the Party. It did not kill me; it was a possible thing to do. And I do not think that I neglected the scientific side of things.

The noble Viscount was himself Lord President of the Council, and I thought it was a bit rough that he should have been transferred from that office and recruited as Minister for Science. I think that the title of Lord President of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council is a jolly sight better than that of Minister for Science, which is one of these modern titles, when everybody has to be a Minister for something—all of it created after the First World War. In his spare time he had time to be Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation—and, after all, I do not think anybody can say that he had a bad record there. The Conservative Party managed to scrape through the last Election not too badly; and I thought it was a bit rough on the noble Viscount that, directly that victory was over, he was pushed out of the Conservative Central Office and into the office of Minister for Science. I did not think that was altogether the right thing to do. But he had time to look after the Conservative Party, which must have taken a fair amount of his time, as well as being Lord President of the Council. I should like him, in the course of his reply, to tell us what is the real case for the creation of this post of Minister for Science. Is it really necessary, or is it merely adding another State Department to the many State Departments which exist, the tendency being for the numbers of them to increase?

Now Government science is, I think, carried out very well, though no doubt there will be room for criticism and room for improvement. As to industrial science—the industrial research organisations associated with particular industries—I sometimes wonder whether the industries themselves take enough interest in the work of these research councils, to which the noble Viscount's Department makes appreciable grants year by year. I have a feeling that the industries set them up, or the D.S.I.R. helps them to set them up, and that then they are rather neglected, both by the employers and by the trade unions associated with the research bodies. Here I should like to impress upon my trade union friends that they have as much a right, and as much a duty, to take an interest in these research councils as have the employers who sit upon them; and I think that they can be valuable to the trade union movement as well as to the employers. As well as the three great scientific advisory councils, there is, of course, the Nature Conservancy, the inspiration of which is Mr. E. M. Nicholson, who is a great authority on these matters and to whom I shall always be indebted as my principal civil servant when I was Lord President of the Council.

Therefore I should like the Minister to tell us whether he thinks the work will be more intensively or more thoroughly done than it was before. I am a little doubtful whether he can show that that will be the case, because it would be inconsistent with the doctrine that he has laid down—on the whole, a sensible doctrine—that the Minister should not try to do the scientific work himself but rather should see that it is done and that a hand is kept upon expenditure.

My noble friend Lord Taylor mentioned the possibility of a research council for social science. Theoretically, I think there is a lot to be said for it, and it attracts me, naturally, very much indeed. However, I must confess that when the late Professor Harold Laski, for whom I always had a warm regard, pressed me to establish a council for social science I was a bit stuck about it because the question was put: What is social science? I could not find an answer to that question at that time; but there may be an answer to it, and I would not discourage the noble Viscount in any way from giving thought to whether it is a practical thing and whether it is possible. There is, of course, a danger, not in connection with the existence of these great scientific councils indeed, my noble friend Lord Taylor made something of a case for breaking some of them up a little—but within the organisations themselves, or, rather, in the use that is made of scientists. There can be too many committees in Government Departments, with the result that, if we do not look out, scientists will be attending committee after committee without having proper time to read the papers, without having proper time to think and without having proper time for research. I remember that once I saw a plan of the scientific committees of the Colonial Office. It was an enormous plan, with an enormous number of committees. There is always the danger of Government becoming afflicted with too many committees, and this can be very wearing to scientists, who really need time to think freely, should they be asked to serve on one of these committees.

I wish the noble Viscount luck in going in for space research, but I have reservations about this. I sometimes wonder whether we have made such a success of this planet that we ought to go messing about with other planets. Would it not be well to make a success of this planet first, and then bother about space research and going to the moon? If somebody bangs into that moon and hurts somebody on it, there will be a lot of trouble. I wonder whether it is worth all the money that the Russians and the Americans are spending on it. I think it is a sort of swank exhibition on their part, though I must admit that the Russians have been the more successful up to now. I wonder whether it is worth our while to spend an enormous sum of money on this research, although I hope I am not being too conservative on the subject.

The Minister for Science said that he would have relations with the Ministry of Transport on the nuclear running of ships and with the Minister of Aviation about nuclear and other scientific questions in connection with aviation. I should like him to develop that subject a little and tell us who is going to be responsible for these things to Parliament. Will it be the Minister concerned or will it be the noble Viscount?


It will be the Minister concerned.


The noble Viscount had better be careful, or he will get himself into trouble if he goes barging into those great and powerful Departments too much. What he said sounded to me as if it would lead to a little confusion about responsibility. The noble Viscount said that we either have to run things as they are, which is much in the same way as the Lord President's outfit ran them, or have a vast Ministry of Scientists, and I agree with him that that would not be a good thing. At any rate, I welcome his speech. We wish the noble Viscount luck in this new venture, and I am sure that it is most valuable that the House should be having this debate to-day.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, in the first speech which I made in your Lordships' House after the new Parliament had been elected, I welcomed wholeheartedly the appointment of a Minister for Science, for a slightly negative reason. I felt that if the Heads of Government throughout the world decided really to abolish war, they would find in the Minister for Science and in science the need for a great deal of action to see that war and arming were in fact abolished. I still welcome the Minister for that reason, in the hope that the Heads of Government will come fairly soon to a sensible decision about war.

I should like to welcome most heartily what the noble Viscount said, throughout practically all his speech, but above all his doctrine that science is not separate from life. I would make a plea to him that he will give any help necessary for turning the study of society into a real science, instead of letting it be history or a piece of politics or a philosophy. I speak on this matter with a good deal of personal feeling. I hope that I may give your Lordships a brief account of how I came to do the things I have tried to do throughout my life. Although I am often called a political economist, I assure your Lordships that I have never made a serious study of political economy, as set out by the professors of that subject. As a university student, I was taught nothing but ancient Greek and Latin, except when I was taught also a little ancient Hebrew.

At the time I was at university, I hoped to become an astronomer, a natural scientist. I was turned from that by the Master of my College, Edward Caird. He said to me and several others among us, fully 60 years ago,"You must stick to your studies here and do no politics or philanthropy while you are university undergraduates, but I hope that when you have finished, you will go out to see if you can discover why, with so much wealth in Britain, there is so much poverty as well and how poverty can be prevented." I took his advice. I went to Whitechapel to study the facts of society, not books about society, and not theories or assumptions to be tested. One of the results of that was the Beveridge Report. I will not say whether or not it was a good result—I will leave that to your Lordships.

I know that the excellent result for me was that it brought me into close touch with those two great figures, Sidney and Beatrice Webb. On the advice of my noble friend Lord Attlee, they made me Director of the London School of Economics. I think that what the Webbs did there is really the main answer to the question which I am putting to the noble Viscount—namely, how to make the study of society into a real science. First of all, Sidney and Beatrice Webb wanted the students to have contact with natural science. Their doctrine was that the person who wished to become an economist ought to start by studying mathematics and biology. Then he must have contact with the facts; and, finally, and infinitely the most important, and in some ways the most difficult, he must have impartiality. They said that no teaching should be given in their school which was not impartial. That was their doctrine, and I think that what has come from the work of Sidney and Beatrice Webb is the most encouraging example that we have in this country to-day of the power of a good idea.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb started the London School of Economics with no endowments at all. In the first five years, the total income was £2,400 a year. Now the School has something like £650,000 a year. There are almost 4,000 students, all but a few pursuing university courses, and of the regular students one-third come from overseas. This is a growing number, because recently the proportion was only one-quarter. This is the School that Sidney and Beatrice Webb produced by the essential ideas—facts and impartiality. The London School of Economics and Political Science is a place for bringing together eager and able young people of almost all the important races in the world—bringing them together to study together, to become friends together and to understand people of other races. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to be slightly frivolous for a moment by describing the entertainment that I went to last night. It was a play produced by the students of that institution which they had asked me especially to come and see, and I spent a delightful and instructive two hours listening to and looking at it. Let me say that was not because I understood what the play was about. As an old man, I have already realised that nearly all young people's brows are much higher than my own.

I can tell your Lordships, quite briefly, that it was a play written in Germany by a German author (it was translated into English by one of our students) called The Man Outside. It was the account of how a man had returned from Siberia and Stalingrad and discovered that his wife had, meanwhile, found another man. So much I did understand; and I understood also that the returning man was slightly unhappy—I am glad that he was a little unhappy. But what I want to say about that play is that, although I could not understand what the author was after, it was admirably acted by the students; and, also, it was acted by an international cast. I think it was particularly interesting that when they wanted to find someone to act the part of a colonel (I do not know whether he was a German or an English colonel) they chose a Turkish student; and there were other similar mixtures of all races. I suggest that the bringing together of able young men and women of different nations, to learn together, to get to know one another and to understand each other's way of life, is one of the greatest services that any institution can render to the world. That is what is happening in that particular invention of Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

If Edward Caird were giving me advice to-clay he would give slightly different advice, though probably in the same form. Sixty years ago it was:"Go and find out why there is so much wealth with so much poverty". To-day it would be:"Go and discover why, when all ordinary men and women in the world want peace, they get war instead, and how that can be prevented." I am not going to give your Lordships the whole answer to that problem, but I do suggest that international institutions for the education of the young are a real and great contribution to that essential purpose. I want to be sure that such institutions—and this is for social science and not for natural science only; I will come to that in a moment—will continue to grow. I would ask the Government to give them the maximum of help they possibly can to bring together international studies and international students.

Finally, there is the answer to my question, how can one make the study of society a real science and not a philosophy or a history. I say this without throwing any insults at the arts and sciences—I know and have worked so much and so long with so many scientists and so many splendid teachers in the arts; but the answer to my question is to bring the methods of natural science to rule in the study of social science.

Let me end with a word on one great university institution that is being born at this moment, of which I had the chance of learning something about a week ago by sitting at dinner next to Sir John Cockcroft—namely, Churchill College at Cambridge. I think I understood Sir John perfectly (I hope I did; if not, I must apologise to him later) that the purpose of that great College is to be mostly post-graduate in science, but not excluding social science. I have already told your Lordships how the founders of social science at the School of Economics wanted biology and mathematics as preliminaries to economics. In my time at the School I tried to bring natural science and social science together by establishing a Chair of Social Biology. I am sorry that that did not continue—perhaps I was to blame for going away to do my own research at Oxford, rather than staying in London; but it is no use going into old quarrels. It is certainly clear that the London School of Economics, as founded by the Webbs, with their desire for natural science merit, goes on with its great growing work of social science; but it has no direct connection with natural science. I cannot help having a dream of how wonderful it would be if we could attach to the name of Churchill—the greatest living name in the world to-day—a great new thing of bringing natural science into working contact with social science. If that suggestion comes in any way to the Minister, I beg of him to help it, not with one hand but with both hands and, indeed, with every power that he has. I hope that the Government will give that help in every way, because on making social science into a true science depends a great deal of the prosperity of the world in future.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence that I venture to intervene in this discussion. When I listened to the wonderful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with its great range and width of knowledge, I felt rather despondent about my own contribution. But I am impelled to take part in the debate, first, because I realise the tremendous effect that the development of science is having on human society, and as one who has spent most of his life among people, observing the pressures that affect their whole characteristics and way of living, I want, if I can, to make my own small contribution to this discussion and I persuaded myself to do it, secondly, in that I think it might have been misunderstood—and it would have been regrettable—if in the discussion of such a subject as this no Spiritual Peer had taken part.

I welcome the Motion because, as I say, science is having such a large and, on the whole, beneficial effect upon the life of society. For another and quite different reason I welcome it—and this is more of an aside than anything else, although it is important. There is in some quarters an assumption that science has discredited or destroyed the whole basis of religion. As a Christian, I believe that Christianity has nothing to fear from any form of science that is engaged in the disinterested pursuit of truth about the world, including man's nature, for I believe that all truth comes from God, and that although there may be temporary differences of interpretation, there can be no ultimate conflict between what we may call religious and scientific truth. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for the way in which, during part of his address, he seemed to confirm that contention. I am also encouraged by the noble Viscount the Minister for Science for the way in which he ended his speech by emphasising the importance of the social and spiritual realities as an essential part of the whole field of scientific investigations.

The Motion is wide and diverse. It is, I think, of fundamental importance that there should be a full discussion as to the proper relationship between Government policy and scientific discovery, and an attempt to clarify the spheres in which the Government may rightly interfere with scientific development. I should like to make one or two observations on what I think is the basic question. I doubt whether a Government should try to control or forbid scientific research through fear of the consequences of any discovery. Scientists must be free to pursue their inquiries and researches, whatever the consequences. I would assume, however, that such scientists would be motivated by two ideals: the ideal of loyalty to truth, and the ideal of devotion to human welfare. If it is debatable in what realms of science a Government can rightly interfere, there is no doubt, I think, that it is the duty of any Government to watch carefully the social effects and problems produced by scientific discovery. The difference between scientific discovery and the problems that discovery produces must be clearly kept in mind.

This need is well illustrated in the field of industry, where scientific discovery has led to mechanisation, and is proceeding fast to automation. This is altering the whole conception of work. The human element in a large part of work is becoming less and less, and man becomes more and more a cog in a wheel. I have stood beside men working at a conveyor belt. I could hardly blame any man, after doing that for a sufficiently long time, for thinking or, at any rate, being tempted to think, that he, a human being, is not much more than that part of the machine which has not yet been invented. He feels increasingly that he is the servant, if not the slave, of the machine. A notice in a factory that I once saw brings this out. The notice read,"Do not waste the time of this machine"—man in subjection to the machine. In such conditions, work becomes a horrible necessity imposed on people in order to get money.

There is need to-day for a big effort to humanise industry. Industry that has become mechanised through scientific research and development needs to emphasise more and more that industry exists to serve human ends. It may seem a little strange that I should want to emphasise that, but it arises out of an experience. When I once visited a factory where there were a number of young women engaged in work, I stopped by one and said,"What are you making?" She looked at me and said,"Sir, I haven't a clue". Neither had she a clue. She was just there at the conveyor belt, making certain motions for eight hours a day. She did not know what she was doing, and she did not care. It was a horrible necessity in order to have so many pounds at the end of the week. That was her idea of work. I took that young woman to a certain house. I knew what she was making; she was helping to make a sewing machine. In the house to which I brought her there was a sewing machine, and John Smith and his wife and two children were there. Mrs. Smith was making a frock for the little girl. I was able to show the young woman that her daily work was linked with the service of human ends, and that she was helping Mrs. Smith to look after her little girl and her home. That is what I mean by humanising industry: helping people to realise the human ends that industry exists to serve.

But there is something else. Automation brings up this problem of how man is to spend the increased leisure that he is likely to have with its advent and development. Leisure can be a blessing or a curse, according to man's ability to use it. I would submit that it should be Government policy to encourage the development of what I call the non-utilities as well as the utilities. By"non-utilities" I mean, of course, the arts, educational and cultural activities, sports, games and recreations, all that enriches the mind and all that nourishes the soul of man. Man needs much more than bread by which to live. Here, again, I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, advocate the establishment of a social research council as part of the whole scientific scheme of our country. There is tremendous need for the kind of research that such a council could engage in—research into the art of living, the art of living fully and happily in a society where material prosperity prevails. I sometimes think to-day that we have not yet faced, nor even realised, what may be the problems for society of continued prosperity. We used to know what the problems of poverty were, but we are only beginning to glimpse the problems of continuous prosperity.

There is another aspect of the subject to which I would refer as I conclude. In a study of the effect of science in relation to social needs there should be a study of the effects of science itself. Our need is not only for more science but also for a more realistic appreciation of the limits of science—and I emphasise"appreciation of the limits of science". The scientists themselves are increasingly aware that science should be a servant not a master; that it cannot decide moral questions for us, nor should it dictate what our ultimate aim should be. One of the great social needs of our time, I think, is the need for a sense of responsibility, and this increases as science puts more and more power into man's hands. Nuclear energy illustrates this. Nuclear energy can be a blessing; it can bring destruction. Which it is will depend upon the responsibility with which man uses it. So the need for the development of responsibility grows as scientific discovery places more power in man's hands. Scientific development has done great things in helping to raise the material standard of living, but I would emphasise that we can raise the standard of living and not necessarily raise the standards by which we live. That is why, in welcoming this Motion, I want to add a rider that the development of science should be studied in the widest possible context and in relationship to the tremendous effects that it is having and will have on human society.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion is concerned with the development of science in relation to various needs, in industry, agriculture, and so on. And, of course, if it were not for the relations of science to industry we might not have the pleasure of seeing a Minister for Science on the Government Bench. But when we discuss this matter I hope we shall not think merely of the best way of getting some immediate profit. We have to think of the needs of science itself. It is quite right to discuss the best way of applying scientific principles and scientific discoveries to increase our prosperity, but we must make quite sure that there is a steady output of principles and discoveries to apply. We must be very careful that we do not starve the basic research work and the training of scientists in schools and in universities, the kind of research and training which qualifies a student to go in for the whole field of science, both pure and applied.

It is quite true that one can get immediate returns by canalising scientific effort into particular fields. We have seen that happen in two wars, and of course we have seen the phenomenal results of the concentration of physics and physical science in the U.S.S.R. But the picture changes very quickly, and the important point is that we have not now an unlimited supply of scientists, and are never likely to have one; and it would be very short-sighted to plan great expansions in particular developments of applied science if these are likely to absorb more than a reasonable share of the promising men. We must not strip the universities or the schools of all their teachers and research workers in science, in order to get them to work on Government projects supported by grants in the hope of some immediate return.

There is no real danger, I am sure, of our putting too much emphasis on the practical applications of science, but at the same time it is important to emphasise that, whatever the Minister does, he should always be particularly concerned, as I know he is concerned now, with the pure science, the basic science itself. At present I think the majority of international scientists at work in the accepted fields are reasonably contented with the general machinery which has grown up for State support of science. It has grown, like so many British institutions, without very much formal planning, and it is rather a large and straggling body which it would be difficult to justify logically.

There are a great many different institutions connected with it. The Royal Society administers a grant and gives fatherly advice. The University Grants Committee looks after the teaching and research in universities; and then, under the Minister, there are the two Research Councils and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy. They have learned to get along together, and we have confidence in them because their membership is always very carefully chosen. As long as they contain enough active scientists of high standing and good judgment, we cannot complain that scientific policy is ill-informed or ill-directed. Fortunately, the State is not the only body to turn to: there are the independent foundations which support science, and they make a very important safeguard against either Government caution or Government exuberance.

So far as fundamental science is concerned, I think we all know that what is wanted of the Government is that it should ensure the conditions in which advances can be made, conditions which will give adequate time and equipment and economic status to scientists with good ideas. We do not expect committees to be able to put ideas into their heads. In fact the most realistic plan for promoting basic advances in natural science is to give the bright scientists all, or nearly all, that they want. The present machinery gives them a good deal of what they want, but there are two points of detail that are worth bringing up, though I am sure that the Government are well aware of them.

The first is that the traditional subdivisions of scientific work, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology and so on, do not cater for some of the new developments which overlap the boundaries. There are important lines of work going on now in subjects which do not fit the standard classification, biophysics, genetics, geochemistry, oceanography and so on, and some of those lines may need special help to let them grow properly, because they are outside the standard teaching programme of universities and outside the special concern of any single research council. It would be a great pity, for instance, if we neglected one undoubted bonus that has come from the nuclear bomb tests. They have caused an appreciable increase in the radioactive carbon in the sea. We know when it happened; so we can hope to study the currents in the ocean by the distribution of the radioactive material, and we can hope to learn a good deal about the structure of the ocean bed. Oceanography, marine biology and geochemistry generally are not so very well endowed, and one would welcome an assurance that their needs have not been forgotten just because they do not happen to fit into the standard pattern.

There is one other more general point about the financing of research in natural science which I think deserves airing. It is that many of the scientists who work in university departments feel hampered by not having enough assistants to help them—not having as many as they would get if they were in a research institute where there was no teaching to do as well. In universities we expect the senior men to do some teaching, and to supervise beginners in research, as well as to do their own research work; and it is therefore extremely important that they should have reasonable facilities for doing it. It is often wearisome work, with nothing to show at the end of a day, and it is natural to grudge the time that has to be spent on all the routine preparations and the maintenance of apparatus—work that could be done just as well, and often better, by a trained laboratory technician.

The need for more help of this kind is generally admitted, but it is not easy for universities to meet it. Nowadays, they get a block grant instead of earmarked grants for particular developments, and they already spend so much of their grant on science that it is difficult for them to put this particular need in front of others. It is the usual sort of difficulty which arises when earmarked grants are given up in favour of a block grant, but I hope that the Government will find some way of meeting this particular demand. We must do all we can to help the universities to keep up the standard of basic research in their departments—the sort of work that Rutherford was doing in Cambridge 30 years ago. It is the universities, and of course the schools, that are mainly responsible for the supply of trained scientists; and they will be far better trained if there is good research work going on in the room next door. Provision for more technical assistants would, I think, be a very good investment in keeping university science going well; and it will become even more necessary in the next ten years, when we have many more students to teach. We must have more senior people to teach them, and they must be more than just good teachers. If they are good at research, too, it is going to be far more difficult to keep them in universities. It is going to be far more difficult even to keep them on this side of the Atlantic if their research has to be done in much worse conditions than they are going to get elsewhere.

My Lords, I thought it right to air these points about the basic claims of science—the goose that lays the golden eggs for industry. But I think that those claims are in good hands at the moment, and I am quite sure that we can put our faith in the concern which I know the Minister for Science has for it. But I am also concerned to support the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in his plea for more encouragement for social science. There we can scarcely blame the Government for any neglect. We can blame ourselves, and to some extent we can blame the subject. I still retain my faith that Lord Taylor referred to in its enormous importance, although I admit that there is no very concrete result to justify that faith. But there is no doubt about the neglect. It is true that the London School of Economics is flourishing and that social science has become a popular subject in many of our universities. It attracts good students; they feel that there ought to be important developments ahead. But in sociology, at any rate, there is a great lack of senior men for teaching and research, and there is a lack of posts which they ought to fill. We are far behind the United States in the help we give, and there is a danger that the good students will go off into other fields if the subject is allowed to remain as it is now.

I said a moment ago that the subject was partly to blame. Of course, social science is a very wide subject; it includes well-established and highly respectable fields, like economics and anthropology. But it is sociology—the anthropology of civilised nations, if you like—which is still trying to find its feet, and it has an uphill fight because of the nature of its material. The natural scientist is on a much easier wicket. He studies dependable things, like sugar molecules or electron orbits: he can do experiments, and he has the controls which he needs to keep him on the right line, to prevent him from being swayed by his prejudices and his emotions. The social scientist has to study quite undependable things like live human beings, all modified by an expensive upbringing, in varied surroundings and exposed to constantly changing conditions which are never going to recur, so that one cannot easily check the results. It is no wonder that the natural scientist feels superior—I admit to feeling some superiority myself in comparing these things—when one finds the relative lack of controls in the ordinary kind of research project in social science.

Sociology has a long way to go before it will have reached the status of real scientific impartiality, but it is high time that we gave it a better chance of doing so. We have urgent reasons for wanting to know more about the way people are likely to behave in a civilised society. I will not try to enumerate all the fields that social science could enter: they have been dealt with very well by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the vast range illustrates one of the difficulties of the subject. It also illustrates the immense advantages that would be gained if we could have clear understanding to guide us instead of traditional prejudice.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has suggested some of the measures that might be taken to help the social sciences to develop more rapidly. I am sure he is right in saying that the most important thing is provision for more permanent endowment of Chairs and senior research posts in institutes of sociology. There are already some notable advances, like the Wolfson endowment of a Chair of Criminology at Cambridge, but we need more provision for research and advanced training in other fields besides that. We want to avoid having to rely on temporary grants for particular projects. Sociology is never going to get far if most of the investigations have to be made by workers who must find some other kind of employment after three or five years, when their grant has expired.

My Lords, I began by saying that we have not an unlimited supply of good men, and that we must not be too eager to develop applied science to increase our immediate prosperity if it means weakening basic scientific research and teaching in the universities. That may seem rather hard to square with the demand that we should encourage a new field, particularly when it is one which still has its techniques to work out, and one which has very little to match the real achievement of natural science. But I believe that the natural sciences are in no great danger of losing too many students to the social sciences. At present, at all events, the best recruits to them are likely to be from the arts side, from people who are interested in personal relationships rather than in molecular physics. That situation may change in time, as the social scientist becomes more like the natural scientist in his methods, but at present science at large can gain only if it tries to enlarge its boundaries in this particular new direction. The general pleas for encouraging sociology will not get us very much further—I know that only too well; and I feel that Her Majesty's Government ought to give serious consideration to the concrete proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor: that we should have a Social Science Research Council, on the lines of the Medical Research Council. I am not myself quite convinced that the time is ripe for it. Councils and committees rarely initiate good lines of research, though if research has begun they can help a great deal to keep it going. I doubt whether the various U.N.E.S.C.O. projects in the social sciences have borne much fruit, although I know too little about that matter to criticise.

At all events, I believe it is quite clear that the noble Lord has made out a very strong case, at least for a preliminary survey of the need for a Social Science Research Council, and for deciding the particular field or fields that such a Council might be expected to cover: whether it should include, for instance, economics or anthropology, or what should be done with the overlap with medicine, psychiatry, law and all the multifarious activities in which it might become engaged. I think it might be found that a Research Council in a rather limited field of social science would be a very great support to the Minister for Science and a great addition to the machinery that we now have for promoting the developments of science to industry and to health. At all events, I am quite sure that the time is ripe for some concrete encouragement of sociology by Her Majesty's Government. We should all be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for bringing up this Motion, and for the excellent speech he has made in support of it; and it has been a great encouragement to hear the thoughtful appraisal of the present situation which we have had from the noble and learned Viscount the Minister this evening.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that everyone, and particularly those of us concerned in our work with science, will be deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for introducing this subject. For myself, I want to speak very briefly about one extremely limited but, I think, important aspect of the general topic he has put before us. So rapid has been the progress of science, so immense are the horizons it opens up before us, that the plain fact is that any competent scientist in almost any field can think of a vast range of problems that it would be profitable to investigate. A number of such problems have been mentioned tonight. They have ranged from anthropological problems and problems concerning the relations between families or nations, to research on the toxicity of selenium.

One may ask: Why are not all those problems going to be followed up? Why are many to be shelved, as they will be, often indefinitely? The answer is very largely,"Because we have not the trained scientists, the trained technologists and the trained technicians to tackle them." More urgent than a shortage of money or materials—although in some fields those are, in all conscience, short enough—is the shortage of men of the right training and ability. It is this factor, the limitation of talent, to which comparatively little attention is given, that will in the long run fix a natural limit to all our plans and hopes. It is a curious thing that we know much more about the coal resources of this country than we know of the resources of national ability. We know that we have not yet reached the limits of those resources, and meanwhile a recognition of the shortage of scientific ability obviously imposes very great obligations upon us—the obligations to foster and develop that ability through our educational system, and to see that we do not waste what we have. We have to face the fact, for example, that if we devote too much scientific skill at all levels to making new detergents, or advertising them, or into servicing new commercial radio channels, then we must go short in electron microscopes to investigate virus diseases. I am not saying which of the alternatives is more valuable but that, at present, even if we have the money, there are simply not the men for us to have it all ways.

One of the most difficult and most interesting problems that the scientific revolution forces upon a free society is that of deciding on what front it wants its limited scientific ability deployed, and how pressure can be brought to bear, consistent with freedom, to see that then ability is deployed in the right direction. But if one leaves that very difficult problem on one side, a supply of manpower remains the most important element in the kind of problems that are in our minds to-day. If we need more scientists it is manifestly the job of the educational system to produce them. And here let me say straight away that we have not done as badly as we are sometimes supposed to have done. Immediately after the war the Barlow Committee, as noble Lords will know, recommended doubling the number of university scientists. The universities responded to that challenge, and I believe it is still true to say that we, in this country, are producing at the moment more graduates in science and technology, taken together, than any other country in Western Europe.

The universities responded to the challenge, and, if I may say so, the schools, with less lavish encouragement, have responded better still. The size of our sixth forms has been steadily and markedly increasing. The percentage of boys in them specialising in science has been increasing, too, and it is now over 60 per cent. for the majority of schools and under 50 per cent. for very few indeed. It is gratifying that this should be so, for the schools have to feed not only the universities but the great structure of higher technological institutions on which so much depends.

But it is also in the schools that the greatest danger for our scientific future lies, and this is one reason among a number why many of us are glad to see the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, as the first Minister for Science, because we feel that he knows and cares about English education as perhaps few men do. It is in the schools that the danger lies. Partly because they have hitherto been able to respond to the demands made upon them, it is still not realised how precarious their position is as regards scientific education. My Lords, we often speak and act as though, if we build splendid university laboratories for chemistry or engineering, if we create a network of technical colleges, then we are doing all that we need to do to secure a flow of trained scientific manpower. But we are not. All such institutions depend in this country—not in every country, but in this country—on a high level of achievement in the schools. If the boys in our sixth forms are not taught enough physics, chemistry and mathematics, they must be taught them at the universities at five times the cost and with the prospect of very prolonged university courses.

There is no doubt at all that those who teach in the schools are desperately afraid that they cannot continue the expansion which they have been making, or even maintain the level which they have hitherto reached. They are alarmed for two reasons. First, the actual accommodation for science teaching is in very many schools altogether inadequate. To say that is not in any sense to criticise the Ministry of Education or local education authorities. Within the limits imposed upon them they have done very well indeed. But in the face of the speed of scientific advance, in the face of what some other countries are doing, we may well ask: Are those limits the right ones?

As many noble Lords will know, private industry started a scheme a few years ago to encourage scientific education by helping to build laboratories in independent and direct-grant schools. The material and, no less, the psychological effects of that scheme have been immense, and worth far more than the £4 million that it cost. The country has reason to be grateful to the men responsible for it. But it necessarily left untouched the great mass of the grammar schools, from which most of our scientists actually come. I know that in many of these schools some new and fine laboratories have been built, but there are still far too many schools in which the provision for teaching science is utterly out of scale with the advances in universities and technical colleges and with the kind of prospects for the future of this country which noble Lords are considering to-day.

Is there not a case here for some much more urgent action than simply allowing new science laboratories to take their place in the queue with other educational buildings? Is there not a need here for some bold scheme involving, say, £15 million or £20 million to bring every grammar-school laboratory to a state when it can hope to make a full and adequate contribution to the scientific needs of the community—some scheme outside the ordinary cut and thrust of the education estimates? We know that the number of pupils in our sixth forms is going on increasing. We know that a still greater proportion of them will want to study science. We should rejoice in this. Yet there are schools to-day which are in fact afraid of any such increase in the number of potential scientists, simply because they have nowhere to put them. In the light of the discussion we are having to-day it is difficult to believe that we can or should tolerate such a situation. But, my Lords, the need for laboratories is the lesser of our problems.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, could he say whether there is not an equal need for laboratories in secondary-modern schools as well as grammar schools, because many of the young laboratory assistants come from the secondary-modern schools?


That is absolutely true. I should really have said"all secondary schools". The need, I would say, was perhaps not so immediately urgent—I repeat, not so immediately urgent—because it is the grammar schools which will produce the technologists and the graduates; but the fundamental need is equally great for the future of the country.

Much more important, much more urgent and, I am afraid, much more difficult to achieve, is an adequate supply of teachers of science and mathematics. I wish I could find words to convey to noble Lords how critical this situation is and how fundamental to our national scientific effort. We often speak of problems of teacher supply in purely quantitative terms. In a pamphlet I have just been reading, for example, it is claimed that the number of science teachers has gone up a little in the last year. But it is not only numbers that we are talking about, for this particular problem is partly a qualitative one. To run our educational system at all we need always to have in the schools a fairly small but significant number of men and women of some real academic competence to teach in sixth forms and prepare their pupils for higher education. The hard, plain, inescapable fact is that in science and mathematics we are not getting them. It is equally plain that without them our hopes for the proper application of scientific knowledge to our national affairs are simply doomed to frustration from the start.

In October, 1958, it was estimated that in maintained secondary schools there were something like 800 posts in mathematics, physics and chemistry unfilled or unsatisfactorily filled. In that year 200 posts in grammar schools were advertised for which no single application was received. In any year something like 60 per cent. of the men graduates taking their first post as teachers of science or mathematics have neither first nor second-class honours degrees. Those figures may sound small, but I want your Lordships to think of the hundreds and thousands of children, of able boys and girls, who are involved in those figures and who lie behind the statistics. It would be easy to multiply statistics that reveal a state of affairs that is cutting at the very roots of any attempt to give to science the place that it should have in our national life.

The causes for it are, of course, complex. It would be hopelessly naive simply to demand that the Ministry of Education should"do something about it." It is a problem that demands a com-billed effort to resolve it. In so far as it springs from financial causes, as to some extent it obviously does, the teachers themselves must cease to resist adequate differentials between the highly qualified sixth-form teacher and the great majority of his fellows. In so far as it depends on inadequate publicity, the Ministry of Education must be prepared to conduct a campaign of recruitment comparable with that by which industry attempts to attract scientists to its service. In so far as problems of morale are involved, we must look to the Ministry, and particularly to the local authorities, to provide conditions more worthy of a profession than some of those authorities sometimes do.

Industry must also play a part by asking itself whether all the highly-qualified scientists that it employs are employed in tasks really worthy of their talents, and by ensuring that no wasteful duplication of effort occurs between different organisations working on substantially the same problem competitively. Finally, the universities can make a great contribution. If they would more often urge their students to teach, if they would proclaim less often that research work is the highest destiny of man, if they would even give some priority to the admission of intending teachers, they would be doing something towards the solution of this extraordinarily difficult and intractable problem.

Some years ago the intending teacher was subsidised to go to a university. That scheme was abandoned, and I think rightly so. Now it is the technologist who is subsidised by scholarships, free of means test, given by industry. Today the graduate in science and mathematics is wooed by almost every profession, except one. All the appeals of advertisement, all the glamour of research, all the visits to universities of personnel recruitment officers, are directed at him to attract him to almost any career except teaching: and yet, unless that one, itself as satisfying a career as a man can have, attracts to itself a more adequate share—that is all I am asking, a more adequate share—of the men and women of ability and character, it is surely clear that scientific advance in every field will be frustrated.

There is one last point that I should like to make. I think that we are beginning to realise more and more clearly that, if science is to play its proper part in our lives, we need to produce men who are not simply good science specialists, on the one hand, or arts men altogether ignorant of science, on the other. The mitigation of the results of necessary specialisation, the enrichment of one kind of study with some awareness of others, is one of the most interesting and difficult and challenging problems in education to-day. Actually, it is one to which we in the schools have devoted a certain amount of thought, and from it has come the conclusion—the only certain conclusion, I think—that such cross-education, as it were, if it is to be effective, demands unusually good teaching. When we are without the men and women to teach the essentials of the basic science subjects we certainly cannot hope to tackle this more difficult and yet immensely more important task of making the historian or the classic or the ordinary educated man aware of the nature and possibilities of scientific advance.

My Lords, I have spoken of a critical situation in the schools, and the fact that it is now becoming really critical is my only excuse for detaining your Lordships so long. So much depends on the development of scientific knowledge. Our security, our prosperity, our health, the contribution that we can make to the backward peoples of the world—all these things are involved. It is vital that we should realise that this whole edifice of hope and opportunity rests upon an educational system that, though it may reach its pinnacle in the university laboratory, has its origin and foundation in the schools.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount mentioned in his speech that a great many people will never be literate scientifically, and I must regretfully confess that I am one of that great majority. Therefore I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Taylor for making, in a quite remarkable speech, such a complex subject quite clear to me, and also for dealing with such a very wide field. Indeed, the whole field as covered by his Motion is so large that it has an important bearing on the whole field of man's material and physical needs. My noble friend said that he had bitten off more than he could hope to chew. Whether that may be so or not, he certainly gave us a tremendous amount of information—a good deal of which I have already digested, and the remainder of which I hope to digest in due course when I read his speech.

I have noted what appears to me to be virtual unanimity on vital matters between my noble friend and the noble and learned Viscount. Their words are not the same, of course, but their meaning appears to be the same. My noble friend said that in applied science we expect someone to set the objective; and the noble and learned Viscount spoke of the difference between commercial exploitation and applied science. He also gave us some idea of the tremendous scope of science. For instance, the changing of the fork of a bicycle was dealt with by a scientist, as was some other huge apparatus, the precise name of which I dare not try to repeat, though I remember that it had some 7,000 tons of magnetic steel inside it. But I am glad to learn that all these things have a scientific content, for it means that there may be some justification for some of the things I hope to say.

It is true indeed that when in applied science someone sets the objective we see some quite remarkable results. For example, I understand that in a cinema in New York last night the audience not only saw and heard a film but could also smell it. The scientists had so contrived that, in a space of 88 minutes, the audience smelt 112 different smells, all of which were scientifically whisked away before the next one need arrive; so that there was no confusion, for example, between the musky odour of an angry tiger and the delicate aroma of rice wine. One can imagine the tremendous scientific effort that went into such a project, however unworthy one might think it. There seems to me to be scope for the social scientist, the sociologist, to ascertain what happened, not to the scientists who produced the 112 assorted smells but to the doubtless very large number of people who had to make thousands and thousands of tests, so that each one of those assorted smells would appear—I was going to say"to the beholder", but"to the inhaler"—what it ought to be.

To me, I think that the most welcome aspect of the debate is that almost every noble Lord has put forward the development of social science, sociology, as the greatest need. I believe that the noble Viscount agrees with that, because in a quite remarkable phrase he said,"Science is not something which you can disentangle from life". As I accept that so utterly, it seems to me that the development of the social sciences is one of the most important things we have to think of. The scientist's objective, as my noble friend mentioned, is truth—or, at least, truth according to the evidence. To the scientist, scientific truth is a good thing: but, to the layman, scientific truth in its application to everyday affairs is a good thing only when it contributes to human happiness and well-being. Therefore, it must be the Government's concern to ensure that the development of science in relation to industry is accompanied by the necessary changes in the economic and social fields.

I hope that the noble and learned Viscount had that in mind when he said that it is the Government's responsibility to oversee the whole job, and that the whole job does mean the whole field. Because, my Lords, the Industrial Revolution of the last century was enacted under conditions of complete laissez faire; and its unnecessary brutalities were typified by the pathetic Luddites, who fought hopelessly to stem the tide of progress. To urge that the twentieth century scientific revolution should be enacted without similar brutality and hardship is not to encourage a Luddite mentality, but I hope to prevent it from ever arising. We must never deal with scientific development in the abstract but always in relation to its application.

As has been made clear in the debate, there is no real dividing line between science and industry. In The Times of last week an article by the science correspondent mentioned a scientific instrument known as a"diffraction grating", which has the property of separating light of mixed wavelengths into its component parts. Engineers can now use it to construct gear systems with a precision previously undreamed of, and they can correct a lathe normally accurate to one-thousandth of an inch so that it becomes accurate to one-millionth part of an inch. Significantly, The Times correspondent mentioned that the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington has a division which knows where it is going and why, and realises that industry must be carried with it. I hope that we can all be as confident that industry or the Government, or both, know where they are going, and why, in the translation of scientific discovery into industrial technology.

In the last few years, we have become familiar with these technologies under four heads: automation, which is the specialisation of work processes designed to eliminate human labour and detailed human control; radiation, which, among many other things, provides for both direct and remote control inspection techniques and the use of radioactive beams to change the composition of many existing materials; electronics, and also the great plastics industry. Taken together, they provide an integration of work processes which reduces waste and costs, increases production and improves quality.

Compared to the United States, we are in our infancy in applying these scientific discoveries to industry, but the point is, in my view, that in this country in a few years' time they will result in a vast increase in production, and certainly in productivity per man. To quote two examples from British firms who are already applying these techniques, Imperial Chemical Industries, in the second half of last year, earned a gross profit, expressed as a percentage of sales, of 15¾ per cent., and in the first half of this year, the figure was 20¼ per cent. Similarly, the Ford Motor Company, in the first half of 1958, earned 11.4 per cent., and in the first half of this year, 13.8 per cent. Presumably all this will eventually lead to a reduction in prices and will make possible a greater enjoyment of these products by all our people, and therefore it is going to be an excellent thing. Again, it is a remarkable fact that in October of this year production was some 9 per cent. higher than in October last year—some £1,500 million more wealth, a great deal of which came from these new scientific discoveries.

All this is, of course, to the good, but there is a darker side to the picture. In some respects, the new methods have led to the debasing of craft skills and to the virtual wiping out of many small craft industries, some of them not in any way related to the firms employing the new technologists. The noble and learned Viscount said rightly that there is a need for more craftsmen. But this is often not a need for different craftsmen, as he pointed out, but for craftsmen in a different industry. In the industries where the new technologies are being used, craftsmen are in many cases being replaced by semi-skilled workers and there is considerable redundancy. There is nothing spectacular in this redundancy, because all but a minority of employers allow the natural wastage—that caused by retirement, by death, and by people changing their employment—to take care of over-staffing when the new technologies are introduced. The serious thing is that there is a stabilisation of the labour force which very much restricts the openings for new entrants into industry. In the United States this problem has already reached serious proportions. The Government survey there estimates that increased production arising from new methods wipes out one million jobs a year. Every year there are 750,000 youngsters from colleges and schools who want jobs. This means that there is the need to create 1¾ million new jobs every year in order to maintain a high level of employment.

This same problem is emerging here. The record October production figures that I have mentioned have not meant more employment. That is the significant thing. Nearly 3,000 youngsters who left school last July still have not been able to get jobs, and their number will be increased by those who leave at Christmas. Obviously there is no need for panic, but certainly there is need for a scientific study of this problem, and that is what I understand is in my noble friend's mind, and what I believe the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, had in mind, when he referred to this point.

In my experience, the new technologies, contrary to an opinion widely held, do not demand a wide training in new skills. The experience of most factories is that a small number of people are upgraded, almost half find that their work is scarcely altered and the remainder are downgraded, because their personal skills are taken over by the new machines. That really is the object of the exercise. We find that both more and less skill is needed, because the various skills are integrated into a new method of production, and the further scientists go along this road, the more the need for manual skills will diminish. It has been pointed out, I think by every noble Lord who has spoken, that the demand for people trained and capable of taking decisions—managerial, supervisory, technical and scientific—has increased. Only 25 years ago there was one scientist, engineer or technologist for every 1,000 production workers. Now it is one for every 60; and in many of the industries in which these new technologies are being applied, it is less than one for every 20. That means a 50-fold increase in top men, including scientists, in 25 years.

We are all aware of the figures which have been published this morning in the two White Papers. They are encouraging. At the same time they give us reason to ask, as I would ask the noble and learned Viscount, if he can tell us whether, in the Government's view, inside three years, the actual and potential training facilities will be sufficient to meet this anticipated demand, which has risen so rapidly and is still rising; because this is going to help to solve the problem of outlets for all these young people coming into industry.

Another problem which is rapidly becoming acute arises from the great difference in output per person employed in industries such as oil and plastics, certain chemicals, iron and steel and food manufacturing and packaging, to which these new techniques apply, and in those other industries where they cannot be used or have not yet been used. I think this may indeed be the biggest problem which our social scientists will have to solve.

According to the census of production for 1957—and these are the last figures I have been able to get—the output per person employed in oil refineries, for example, was £2,281 a year. In the clothing industry, it was not £2,281 a year but £548 a year. That is one set of workers producing four-and-a-half times the wealth produced by another set—and, incidentally, nearly all the workers in the clothing industry would be craftsmen, many of them with a far higher relative skill than the people engaged in the industry producing four-and-a-half times as much in value per person employed. In other industries, like chemicals, drugs and plastics, the output is well over the £1,500 mark: whereas in such important industries as building, furniture and textiles it is less than £800.

The point is that we shall still need clothes, houses and furniture, however far our scientists take us. But they are produced by skilled workers whose earnings, by force of economic circumstances—there is nothing of Party politics in this—will be far less than those of unskilled workers in the favoured industries. And I have no doubt that the next census of production will show an even greater disparity in comparative value of output. As an inevitable consequence, those craft industries which have not been eliminated by the scientists will be destroyed by the refusal of young people to enter them, although they are still vital and necessary industries.

It is already happening. I have personal knowledge of a small market town in East Anglia where a craft factory has successfully trained two generations of workers. It cannot train a third because the youngsters prefer to go to Imperial Chemical Industries. There, I am credibly informed, they can earn a satisfactory wage by turning on a tap and at intervals turning it off again. There is nothing wrong in that; they are doubtless performing useful and important work and playing their part in producing this large and extremely satisfactory average output per worker employed. But I would submit that this is a problem that we must ask our scientists to look at, both in relation to the rest of industry and in relation to its social consequences, because, just as it would be quite useless to treble the number of cars unless we had something to drive them on, so it would be equally useless to provide a multiplicity of gadgets if we had no clothes to wear, nothing to sit on and no roof to sit under.

This point is one that must be considered, because it seems to me that, generally speaking, we all applaud the march of science and regard it as progress—and rightly so—but we must at the same time think of the inevitable disadvantages which seem to be created. For example, just as the discovery and use of antibiotics has increased the risks of cross infection in hospitals, so in every fresh scientific discovery there is a new scientific problem. This means in effect that when one set of scientists has conferred a new blessing on us we have to appeal to another set of scientists to get us out of the mess.

I earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government will give, and continue to give, the greatest possible encouragement, financial and otherwise, to every department of science. But, at the same time, I ask them to ensure that each major development is used in such a way as to add to the sum total of human happiness, so that, not 100 years hence, but to-day, it can be hailed as a blessing and not a curse.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, when I was a young and ardent student of mathematics, physics and other branches of science I thought that the ills of mankind were all going to be solved by the development of pure science and its application to industry. That was in the days when the study of radioactive substances was a few years old, when the special theory of relativity had only been adumbrated and chemotherapy was in its infancy. No one at that time could have imagined the speed with which scientific development has been accelerated, and still less the speed with which in recent years it has been applied to industrial processes of all kinds. But, on the other hand, one has been forced to recognise that the discoveries of science can be used for good or evil, and that a certain degree of caution, as well as optimism, is necessary. We have had, for example, the spread of radioactive substances—the distribution in the air and otherwise of ionising radiation which provides a new danger to life. These are things which need to be viewed with a great deal of caution. I cannot help feeling somewhat surprised at the report which was issued recently about letting radioactive wastes escape into the sea and the optimism with which it was recorded that so many thousand plaice had been recovered and that only a small percentage of them showed any trace of radioactivity. We cannot draw conclusions out of short-term experiments in matters of this kind where the results may not become apparent until many years later.

In other fields of the application of science one has seen disquieting results. The use of pesticides in agriculture, for instance, has proceeded apace with toxic residues left upon the food which we eat. Other ingenious ideas have been applied, such as feeding hormones to animals in order to accelerate their growth or alter the nature of the flesh which we eat, and in the result a considerable number of people are already eating what I consider to be diseased food. These developments arise because it is advantageous and profitable to make use of them. They are developed by scientists who are directing their attention to one particular object, which they may achieve, and they are put into operation without any regard to possible ill effects which those particular scientists are not capable of judging and to which few other people are paying any attention. I am therefore rather pleased that the first Minister of Science is not a professional scientist; that he has not a large Department under him, and that consequentially we may hope that he has got the leisure and the breadth of outlook to pay some attention to the disquieting features of this process of scientific development, as well as to the very optimistic aspects of it which will, of course, be pressed upon him with great persistence, efficiency and ingenuity.

The Agricultural Research Council, for example, is engaged in furthering the interests of the producers of foodstuffs. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, in so far as it is engaged in assisting research associations, is largely engaged in assisting the production of new articles of all kinds—chemicals, plastics, food preservatives and one thing and another. But the primary object of the exercise is not the advancement of pure science; it is to provide new means of producing things in order to make a larger profit. I am not averse to that. I think there is the possibility in all this of providing mankind with a greater abundance of commodities, and with a greater amount of leisure, although I do not know what use is going to be made of that leisure.

I do not know whether our educational system is in any way preparing the young for the future which lies before them. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has quite properly spoken about the need for more well-qualified teachers in sixth forms of our schools. But there is also a need for more well-qualified teachers in the lower forms of schools. A great deal of the time of teachers in the sixth forms, in quite a number of schools at any rate, is being wasted in teaching children elementary matters which they should have learnt before they reached that stage. We are, indeed, in a large number of schools in this country, engaged in teaching children to read by the Chinese method, which is a terrific waste of time and totally unscientific. Nor in the teaching of arithmetic and other subjects is full attention given to the scientific disciplines, elementary as they are, which are involved in it, nor is attention given to the necessity for accuracy—I do not mean merely mechanical accuracy, but precision of thought and of expression of it in language. These, and many other things, are important if science is to develop in this country upon a balanced pattern, and if the results of science are to be used, in the increased leisure which it is likely to bring to the population, in such a way as to be ultimately beneficial, instead of possibly being quite injurious.

I do not want to detain the House any longer after the very interesting discussion which was initiated by my noble friend. But I venture to say once more that I hope the Minister will look at all the problems which are involved in this matter, and in particular to the necessity of ensuring that steps adequate to the situation are taken in order to protect the health and well-being of the population from ill-directed applications of science to productive purposes.

6.27 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I shall be forgiven for a slight intervention. I wish to intervene because I feel that this debate has been over-weighted by an assumption that ought to be challenged, the assumption that the happiness of not the greatest number, but of all, depends upon the development or maintenance of a huge mechanical factory system which must dominate the economics of the world and, in this country, dominate the whole of our competitive economy. I do not believe that, and there is one point I should like to take up with the Minister for Science, and that is indeed the occasion for my rising for just a minute or two.

The noble Viscount spoke about the romanticism of the thatched cottage, and then went on to say that the people who are engaged in the technological branches of modern science, as applied to industry, are craftsmen; and, associating the two ideas, that of handicraft and individual economy, or small group collective economy, suggested the notion that the technical advances are in themselves as individualistic as the older ideas. I quite admit, of course, that we are in the grip of a mechanical monster called progress, and I do not think for one moment that we can get out of that, even if we want to. I do not think many people will want to. I pointed out once before in a debate on a relevant subject that quite a number of people have thought about these things. Aldous Huxley, for instance, says that the amount of high-powered machine production that is required is about one-third of the total economy of a healthy nation, looked at from the point of view of industrial progress. There are others who put the figure at more or less the same—either a little lower or a little higher.

I recognise, of course, that, especially in a competitive world, you must deal with the question of scientific development, but I hate to think of the idea of an economy which will be based completely upon a high-powered factory system, because I feel sure that it is going to mean the slavery of the people of this country, and of the people of other countries. You cannot have high-powered factory development upon a modern scale, with atomic energy and all the rest applied to it, unless you are able to regiment the people to a degree that they have never tolerated until the present time, and I hope will not tolerate.

What I plead for (and with this I will conclude since I have no right really to intervene in the middle of a discussion of this character, although I seem to take the place of another) is that we shall recognise the advantage of at least a field for the development of genuine handicrafts, genuine small agricultural production for instance, co-operatively organised, if you like, but without the remote markets, and more in the lines of production for use; that there should be a field, and possibly an expanding field, for that as an offset against this antici- pated slavery of mind that will be due to the completely mechanised industrial system that we seem to be facing. After all, it is not true that handicraft is uneconomic; at any rate, it is not as uneconomic—however you define a term like that—as it is made out to be.

From the standpoint of agriculture, I am perfectly sure that mass production is bad production. There is plenty of evidence from writers of repute upon agricultural subjects that that is the case. One point has been mentioned by the speaker who preceded me. There are over 700 different kinds of chemicals used in the food we eat from day to day. That is part of the price we pay for the development of modern science, and we are not producing more. If we apply as much energy, mental, physical and scientific, to the proper use of the land of the country, and the proper use of our powers as producers, it will be possible to build or maintain a very high standard of human industry which will not be a mechanisation of the human soul but will give, even at a price worth paying, if it comes to that, a much larger development of character than we have at the present time.

I am not a scientist and therefore I have no right to generalise upon the subject, but I feel very sure that a great many of the moral problems with which we are faced to-day are due to the advancement of science, just as the denigration of religion is due to the advancement of science. I do not say that we should stop the advancement of science.


My Lords, I do not think your Lordships should be asked to accept as a fact that the denigration of religion is due to the advancement of science. It just is not so.


My Lords, I quite understand the point the noble Lord is raising. When I say that, I mean the advancement of a misunderstood science, the advancement of a science that has no balance. There is a great deal, I think, in that statement: that the lack of balance and the lack of moral culture side by side with mechanical culture has produced many of the problems with which we are face to face. That is what really mean. I do not mean any slur upon the lines that we should not welcome the development of science. At the same time, if we are to have science applied to industry and human life, let us realise that we are men and not machines; and there is a side to be considered and I suggest a field where the smaller production of individual work that men can be proud of can well go on and develop, even if we are forced to bow to this mechanical monster to which I have referred.

I am sorry to intervene, but I feel that that ought to be said, or something like it, because there has been an assumption that we must fall down before this god of mechanisation. I am not prepared to do it. I believe that some of the older theories and ideas that come from men like Blake and others are of great value in the human attitude, and also I feel that we have got to consider religion—I do not mean by that any question of creed, but a religious attitude to life—just as much as the mechanical. We are overstressing the mechanical, and that is one of the reasons for the problems to which I have referred.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, my main qualification for detaining you this evening is that when I was younger, wiser and slimmer, I specialised in science at Winchester for a year, and I had the honour of sitting at the feet of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, whose eloquent and powerful speech this evening I so greatly admired. However, in case your Lordships may think that I acquired some scientific literacy from the noble pedagogue, I must put you wise. Having scored 3 marks out of 150 in the final examination, I decided that science was a field for the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, but not for me.

Going in last wicket at the end of your Lordships' eleven—and I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, for his homespun and deeply humanistic intervention, since it allows me to pursue this cricketing analogy—I shall necessarily be very brief. In the interest of brevity I should like to say that I agree with all, or almost all, that has been said in your Lordships' House this evening. Having said that, I should like to divert your Lordships for an instant to some international aspects of science.

I believe that certain fields of scientific research peculiarly lend themselves to international collaboration. That is shown by the success of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research at Geneva, and the co-operation between the European countries and ourselves over the Winfrith Heath advanced nuclear project, to which the noble Viscount, the Minister for Science referred. I believe, secondly, that this type of co-operative research will be particularly valuable where large and particularly expensive projects are concerned. I believe, in particular, that there are strong economic and, indeed, political reasons for exploring energetically and exhaustively the further possibilities of building up scientific collaboration with the countries of Europe, and in particular with the countries of the European Common Market.

I was fortified in my amateurish feeling that science represents an expanding opportunity for fruitful international collaboration by my recent experience as a delegate to the 5th N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Conference in Washington. I found myself, thanks to some little local difficulties here last October, sitting in the seat which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, had kept so warm on the Science and Technical Committee of this particular gathering, under the chairmanship of a young and extremely able American Senator, Senator Jackson. The Committee on which we sat made a number of unanimous recommendations. I will not enumerate them all; I will just touch briefly on three of them.

The first was that our N.A.T.O. countries should forthwith decide to embark on a co-operative programme for peaceful research into outer space. I am quite unrepentant, despite yesterday's Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, despite what the Minister has said this evening, and despite what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has said, in my belief that our national effort in that field should be bigger than it is now. I have tried before, in this House, in an amateur way, in an illiterate way, to advance the reasons for my belief, and I am not going to do so again this evening. I should just like briefly to refer your Lordships to the remarks which the former Minister of Supply, Mr. Aubrey Jones, made last August in opening the 10th International Astronautical Federation congress in London. These were his words: Scientifically, there is surely no doubt at all but that every State which claims to bear the banner of civilisation should do everything it can to encourage advances in knowledge of the physics, chemistry and even the biology of space. My Lords, I will leave it there and, however it may he, I should like to say that I agree 100 per cent. with the Advisory Council in their belief that, if ever there was a sphere in which international co-operation was demanded, this sphere of space research is it.

I am glad, for this reason, to note that the Government have already made an approach to the Americans which has been favourably received. Nevertheless, I do not think that, in the long run, this problem is best tackled by every country making the best bilateral arrangement it can with the Americans. Inevitably this involves duplication, overlapping and waste of effort. I should hope that the Government would opt for a more ambitious scheme of co-operation. There are many possibilities. There is co-operation with the Commonwealth, both the old and the new Commonwealth countries. What has been done about this? Has any Governmental approach on this question been made to the Commonwealth countries? There is co-operation with the advanced industrial countries of Western Europe, in particular with the Common Market countries. Has any official approach been made to them? There are longer-range, and possibly Utopian, possibilities of co-operation on a really world-wide scale, either in the United Nations, in the ad hoc Committee on Outer Space, or in the Non-Governmental International Committee on Space Research,"COSPAR". I personally hope that everything possible will be done by the Government to ensure the widest possible international collaboration in this field of space research. But, as a beginning, I trust that they will seriously examine the possibility of a fully integrated programme which embraces the Atlantic community as a whole.

Secondly, having once again detained your Lordships in outer space, I should like to give you a short ducking. We in this island are peculiarly dependent upon the sea, but for an island people it is curious how little we know about the ocean upon which we so much depend. It is, indeed, curious how little the countries of the Atlantic community as a whole know about the oceans which lap their shores. In fact, oceanography is one of our most neglected areas of research. Because of this, I was very glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, with all the weight of his great authority, had to say on this subject today. There seems, perhaps, to be growing up a greater awareness of the importance of oceanographic research. For example, the N.A.T.O. Council has established a sub-committee for research in this field—if that is the right term. Now the Scientific and Technical Committee of the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians has recommended that a series of oceanographic expeditions should be mounted under N.A.T.O. auspices.

Finally, there is the question of N.A.T.O. science fellowships. A N.A.T.O. science fellowship programme was recently instituted. I gather that this programme, which is still in its early stages, is popular and successful and should lead to a cross-fertilisation of some of the younger scientific minds in our Atlantic community. It has been recommended that this programme should be enlarged.

My Lords, I have made this brief and illiterate intervention in your Lordships' debate this evening, partly because I want to emphasise the seeds of international collaboration which science can sow, and partly because I hope that the Minister for Science will always view his manifold responsibilities (for one thing that has become clear to me this afternoon is that those responsibilities are really manifold) with an international as well as with a national eye. More specifically, I understand that the North Atlantic Council's Science Committee will be meeting next month, while some—I hope the majority—of your Lordships are pottering about after the fox and the pheasant, or cutting graceful arabesques an Alpine slopes. For that reason, I personally hope that, while your Lordships' backs are turned, our representative on the Science Committee will support and welcome the proposals before it for increased collaboration in the scientific field within our Atlantic Community.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, in speaking last on this side in this debate I find myself in great difficulty because of the really vast range of the subject, and, as I told the Minister for Science when I showed him the size of my speech, I also honour my promise that practically all of it will be thrown away. But I must first of all congratulate my noble friend Lord Taylor for initiating a debate in which there have been so many distinguished speeches.

I should also like to thank my right honourable and noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. I have often sat behind him in another place, and once I had the duty of sitting behind him in a debate on science. As the Parliamentary Private Secretary, when he had left the Chamber I was directed to take notes on what was going on. I remember one honourable Member from a Scottish constituency making a most profound appeal for a scientific approach to peat—the peat that grows in a bog. I wrote down the word"peat" in my notes, and after that was highly exhausted. In due course my noble friend, in going through the notes, came to the point where the word"peat" appeared. He said,"We now come to the state of peat", and then he saw nothing after that. One could see the honourable Member leaning forward, waiting anxiously for something important to be said. My noble friend said:"Peat. That is something which is of very great relativity." That was quite an accurate statement, and it certainly satisfied the honourable Member. Therefore it is a particular pleasure for me that I should be speaking from the same Bench as my noble friend.

However, in congratulating the Minister for Science, I must regretfully say that on this occasion I disagree with my honourable friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. Now that the noble Viscount opposite is removed from the political sphere he will not interpret this as another split. I believe that it is of profouund importance that we should have a Minister who is virtually a full-time Minister in this field, if only so that he may become, in that telling phrase, literate to a certain degree in scientific matters. From the speech we have heard from the noble Viscount, I am very pleased that he should be the first occupant of this post, because I believe it was a really worthwhile and valuable, indeed philosophic, contribution to a subject which is obviously going to occupy more and more of our time in future. I really would congratulate him on his first speech.

The noble Viscount referred to the time-scale in science. I, too, should like to refer to a time-scale—not over the last hundred years, but to remind your Lordships that civilization, so called, has existed for over 10,000 years and we have still several hundred million years to go yet, unless we blow ourselves off the face of the earth: that is, without counting the possibility of an existence on some planet, whether there is a science of oceonography on it or not, to which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, may in due time take us.

It seems to me that against this background we are hopelessly misguided if we think in terms of a type of society such as my noble friend Lord Amwell has spoken of. I believe that science will, in fact, liberate us from the machine, just as the machine has, to a large extent, liberated a large number of people from the worst extremes of toil—


And also profoundly alter our exchange system; because if we can produce abundance, and the whole world can, who is to buy the abundance?


My Lords, I hope that by that time we shall live in a rationally organised society, and it is because I believe that science will inevitably drive us in a direction where we shall have to think rationally and plan our affairs that I believe it is a good thing and not just a bad thing. It is true that each year we become more and more dependent on science, and that our lives are affected in so many ways that it is becoming more and more difficult for illiterate laymen and illiterate politicians to find their way through these difficulties and to think forward sufficiently into the type of future there may be. It means, I am afraid, that the true scientists, or at least the scientifically conscious non-scientists, must co-operate in trying to provide the understanding, not only for those who have to lead the nation but for the whole people. It really is essential if we are to understand what is likely to happen to us.

In industry it will take the chemical scientist to see the future development of chemical engineering and the nuclear physicist the market for radio isotopes. So, whether we like it or not, the scientist will play a more and more important part in our lives. We, for our part (speaking as a non-scientist) have also to see that he is sufficiently humanised in the process; and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, will give us great confidence in this matter. But science is now part of the creative energy and intellectual vigour of our society, and we have to learn to live with it.

I should like to turn briefly to this question of scientific and engineering manpower. I must confess that Her Majesty's Government have successfully confused us all by arranging for the publication on the very day of this debate, or just before, of two most important documents which have contributed usefully to the destruction of most of my speech; because we now have a number of up-to-date figures which make comparisons extremely difficult. The only conclusions to which I can still come—which are the same, and are the main burden—is that we shall continue to underestimate the need for scientists and technologists. The Report makes clear, for instance, that in 1962 (if I correctly remember the figures) there will be a shortfall of about 5,000 or 6,000 scientists and technologists. The number will be that far below the estimate of the best that can be done. Even on the achievement of this figure of 20,000 scientists and technologists, not, as originally thought, in 1970, but in 1965, I still think that the Advisory Council and the manpower-investigating body from the Ministry of Labour have set their sights against the background of a pretty cautious Government approach. We are going to pay far more heavily from under-estimating than from over-estimating. If we over-estimate and it happens that there are too many scientists, then there will be a wonderful result: some really first-class scientists will find their way into teaching.

It is on these grounds that I would ask the noble and learned Viscount the Minister to be extremely bold in his thinking and not to accept these rather narrow calculations which, though doubtless well planned and carefully thought out, are almost bound to be overtaken by greater needs. The story of this newest Report suggests that, even now, industry is probably underestimating its needs. Certainly we know that the needs of education are very much greater. I should now like to mention, therefore, the position with regard to the universities, and here I would strongly echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, about the importance of sustaining science at the university, where in fact the greatest part of pure research takes place, and the need to provide more funds to make that scientific manpower go further.

It is ludicrous that with this extraordinarily precious"raw material" (if I may apply that term to scientists) we are not using it to the greatest advantage; and I should have thought that Her Majesty's Government might well carry out some investigation into the use of that manpower, not in terms of whether they are all necessarily in the right job, but rather seeing that they are given the maximum help to achieve the best results. The need to increase the number of places for scientists and technologists at universities will grow all the greater because of the pressure for places on the university. And if, as I suspect may happen (I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, would bear this out), we find that the number of children coming forward from sixth forms who are capable of going to university is not in proportion to the number of places, and that the places do not keep up with the demand of these young people to go to a university, then it is not merely in the frustration and waste of that result that we shall be in difficulties; for the pressure for increased specialisation will grow all the greater. To-day it is the specialists in the universities who are sustaining this split between the two cultures of which Sir Charles Snow has written. I should like to say something about this aspect, because it is profoundly important, I believe, from the point of view of the development of science and the relationship with the conduct of our affairs in the terms of which the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, has spoken.

When I was at Oxford I knew hardly any scientists. I regarded them as a strange race who spent their time in laboratories and elsewhere, and ultimately went about some mysterious, useful but, on the whole (we thought), hardly intelligent rôle. We realised that there were some great scientific minds. We comforted ourselves with the thought that they were probably unable to write English: and on that note we rather dismissed them. Then I found myself undergoing what I can only call a really traumatic experience where, as surveyor on an expedition, I found myself living among scientists. To my great horror I found that they were not only good scientists but extremely cultured and, indeed, more broadly educated than I was. It may be arguable that those were subsequently distinguished academic scientists, but there is this need for harmonising the two cultures, and I do not believe that can be done by teaching a little elementary physics or biology at the"O" level stage.

I believe that it is quite possible to introduce a degree of, if not literacy at least some reasonable understanding, certainly among older and reasonably sophisticated people. It is within the capacity of all of us here, I believe, to learn something, for instance, about atomic energy. In this day everybody ought to know what an isotope is. That is not so hard to do, and there are other aspects of science in which, with the co-operation of science and with the aid of journals like the New Scientist, it may be possible to mitigate this specialised effect and ensure that there is a better understanding of the potentialities of science. I would ask the Government to give very careful attention to that particular point, and I am sure that this is one subject in which the noble Viscount would himself be interested.

I should like to turn briefly to one aspect of the Annual Report of the Advisory Council, which refers to the Royal Society's Year Book and their Report of last year, in which it was made clear that certain imbalances in pure research, and not necessarily in applied science, were growing up. Particular reference was made to the biological sciences. There is a tendency, obviously, in these days of atomic energy and remarkable advances in the physical sciences to ignore the biological sciences—they are less dramatic; they are less exciting—and we have, fortunately, some very interesting material in the Report of the Nature Conservancy on the work that is being done.

I would emphasise (and again I should like to do this, if I may, with my noble friend Lord Amwell in mind) that the significance of nature conservancy is not derived just from a vague desire to preserve records or to keep the country pretty, but to achieve a real biological balance in our life, in order to understand as to what our land consists of. It is really no exaggeration, I think, to say that the biologists, and particularly the ecologists—and there are very few ecologists in this country in comparison to the importance of this work; there is the Bureau of Animal Population at Oxford, but a large number of the ecologists are engaged in applied ecology, and we want more research in pure ecology—have an opportunity to play a tremendously important part in increasing our understanding and generally leading us towards a policy in which there will be a proper use of land.

Investigations are carried out now and again into the various types of chemical insecticides and treatments. But it is not only a matter of their effect on a particular parasite or pest; it is their relationship to the ecological balance as a whole. I am not attacking these things. I am saying that we do not at the moment, any more than in the past, understand the proper use of our land. Nor are we investigating enough the various biological aspects of soil: the fact that artificial enrichment of the soil (and this is where other people in the past have been laughed at and accused of being merely cranks) may not be as satisfactory as making a more intelligent use of biological agents which may produce the chemicals, the nitrogen, naturally. And when one realises in regard to animals grazing on the surface that the bio-mass above the land may well be less than the bio-mass in the soil, the worms and vertibrates, then one can again, I hope, see the importance of this type of research.

I should have liked to quote (but there is not time) an interesting article which Mr. Max Nicholson, who is the Director General of the Nature Conservancy, wrote in the Times Scientific Supplement on this very point and the prospect of making up nitrogen losses by means of nitrogen fixation of living organisms. Also the studies of photosynthesis and of planned nutrition may suggest biological ways of achieving ends which at the moment we try to seek chemically. There is, therefore, a need for this understanding against the background of the other sciences.

There is not time to deal with the Minister for Science's responsibilities in the field of atomic energy, but I do not doubt that we shall have plenty of opportunities later. I should like just to make two pleas. One is, now that an agreement has been negotiated in the Antarctic as a result of which the pressures for political advantage are less great, that. I hope that the really valuable scientific work that is being done there will not be summarily cut short. It would be an act of extreme cynicism when we have been doing this scientific work in the Antarctic if, now that the political pressure was slightly less, it were to be cut down; and the more so since it looks as if we are advancing into a particularly interesting field with much greater prospects of doing useful work. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, would have been interested to know that there is the possibility of using hovercraft in the Antarctic. They will not be able to go up the glaciers, but they will be able, probably, to traverse the pack ice.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to come to the matter which the noble Viscount mentioned at the beginning, and that is his responsibility for space travel. We know that he is not intending, because he told us through the Press, to fling satellites round the moon, and I do not disagree with that. But it seems to me quite incredible how calmly and with what little interest people generally have greeted the quite extraordinary prospects that now open up before the inhabitants of this earth. For years the possibilities of space travel have been understood. They have been understood very much longer than the possibilities of success on the part of Columbus were understood in his days. Now that it is upon us, people are still regarding it as a rather jolly piece of science fiction. But it is not science fiction any more; it is science fact, and it is obviously only a matter of time before man himself is in space. Indeed, it looks very likely as if it will be a Russian man.

I am not urging that we should join in any competitive scramble in regard to space travel, but I support the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe: that we ought, where possible, to step up the international aspect of co-operation in regard to space. At the moment we have hired a lodging for some instruments in an American rocket. It is not a matter for very great national pride, but I suppose that we should have been glad to have a representative with Columbus in his day, and this would seem to be the equivalent. But all the Government's statements on this matter seem to be really rather nervous, rather afraid of ridicule, rather afraid that the people will say,"Why do you not spend the money on something different?" And this has been the cry of every plain man in regard to science.

Nearly every important development—and it may be there will be many such developments coming out of space—has come from an investigation into natural phenomena without any immediate prospect, or, indeed, sometimes any distant prospect of a really useful return. Now we have the advantage of the Report published to-day which says that there is some useful research work to be done in space, and I think it has rather greater implications than the immediate scientific gain. There is the implication that at last mankind will have to face up to the fact that they belong to one earth. I should have thought that by the time there was any sizable measure of international co-operation with regard to space the dangers of a breach in earth peace, anyway, would be greatly reduced. Whether, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, it is safe to let man go off into outer space is another matter altogether. There is a rather pleasant theory that the reason why earth has never been visited by inhabitants from other worlds is that it is a natural phenomenon that technological advance always exceeds spiritual advance and that every advanced race has always blown itself out of existence. I hope we shall avoid that fate.


It seems that original sin exists in the other planets also.


Undoubtedly. I would only say, at the conclusion of this debate, during which we have ranged very wide, that for the time being we sit, not very comfortably, on our own little globe, but I hope that some of the researches which the noble Viscount will carry out will be into forecasting a little the shape of society, not over the life of this Parliament but over the life of future Parliaments: because at some stage we are going to have to adjust ourselves, and the whole world is going to have to adjust itself, to a situation which is totally unlike any of the traditional political and democratic situations of the past. I hope that at some time we shall, with the aid of science, get some really effective planning techniques; and if the Minister can play a part towards that end, I shall continue to applaud what I believe to have been a wise appointment.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and who, if I may say so, have vastly encouraged me with the great wealth of enthusiasm and knowledge which I now feel that I can count upon both by way of advice and, if need be, of criticism in the discharge of my duties. I should also like to thank the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat, not merely for the most interesting speech which he has made but also, once again, for the kind remarks which were made about myself. Speaking, as I do, only by leave of the House, I do not want to outstay my welcome, but there have been a number of questions which have been raised to which I think some sort of answer ought to be given. The noble lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was concerned that the creation of a Minister for Science was unnecessary; but there, I think, he was in a sense labouring under a mistake of fact. He said that it was wrong to create a Ministry for the sake of creating a Ministry—and there I would agree with him. Now it is true that we have created a new Minister and a new Office for the new Minister, but the Office has been made by amalgamating two Offices—the Atomic Energy Office and the old Office of the Lord President of the Council. That is one less, not one more.


But there was not a separate Minister for atomic energy. That was in the charge of the Prime Minister; so it is one Minister more.


This is quite true. I was talking about the Offices. There is one Office less, not one more. Now what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, fails to understand is that there are also no more Ministers, because I am the Lord Privy Seal. It is true that I am also, under this glorious hat of one of the ancient offices of State, the Minister for Science, which has been made by an act of the Royal Prerogative. But, by a wise dispensation of Providence, there is no salary for the Minister for Science. He is not paid anything; and therefore his ministry must be held either by a man of great wealth, which I am not, or, alternatively, by somebody who holds another office, which I do. The result is that there are no more Ministers either.

Now the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who has had my experience, not merely in the Ministerial field of having been Lord President of the Council under the old régime but also of being something which, in the Labour Party, does not have a name, but which in the Conservative Party is called Chairman of the Party, thought that perhaps I would not have enough to do in my new work. My Lords, it is of course true that the Lord President of the Council has in the past had a great deal of this work to do; but I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has realised how much this work has grown in recent years. I forget when he stopped being Lord President of the Council, but in the last year for which the Government of which he was a Member was responsible, the D.S.I.R. Estimates were £4,500,000, and they are now £13 million; the Agricultural Research Council Estimates were £2,100,000, and are now nearly £6 million; the Medical Research Council Estimates were £1,726,000, and are now getting on for £4 million—and in the current year there is £92 million for the Atomic Energy Authority. I agree that most of the spadework is done by the Councils; but there is work to do by the Minister, and it does bear some relation to the amount of work which is being done by the Councils.

It is perfectly true, of course, as the noble Lord said, that during the last Parliament I was also Chairman of the Conservative Party and played the same sort of rôle in political life as he, on his own side, played with some distinction. I managed to do it, and I do not think I skimped either job. I think that I gave the first part of my time to my work as a Minister and to my departmental work; and I am sure that those who know the time I gave would admit it. But there were those who thought that by the end of the Election I was looking pretty"green", and I am not sure that they were wrong. I would quite honestly say that I think the time had come to call matters to an end there.

I do not myself think that it matters at all whether the particular ancient office of State which is held by the Minister for Science is that of the Lord Privy Seal or of the Lord President of the Council. Both have arguments for and against; and it may well depend upon the allocation of offices inside a particular Government which is chosen. It was precisely for that reason that I supported the creation of a separate office, so that it could be connected with any of the ancient offices of State as Government policy dictated. But I am perfectly sure that the time had come to create a separate office, and I think that the psychological effect of doing so was to intensify public interest in this kind of work which we have been discussing, and that will be wholly to the good. It was a perfectly legitimate evolutionary step, towards the making of which nobody had more to do than the noble Lord himself.

The second point on which we were challenged in order of time, both by two or three other noble Lords and by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, was space research. It is true that some people think we are doing too much, and that some people think we are doing too little. On the whole, I have sympathy with both points of view, although I do not agree with either. The people who say we are doing too much on the whole say,"Why can you not spend your money on cancer research?"; or,"Why can you not make things better on this planet?", as the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth put it. There is a good deal of superficial sense in that. But the truth is, that modern astronomy and modern physics need to grow, and if we are going to keep our scientists they must have worthwhile work to do. Just as Galileo was working with the first optical telescopes, so the first scientist in this field wants to work with radio-astronomy and with instruments placed outside the atmosphere. You can abandon that kind of science in this country altogether if you want to, but if you do not want to do that you have to carry on with a programme of space research—and that is what we are doing.

On the other hand, when people say that we are not doing enough, I do not know what they mean, and they never will say exactly what they do mean. Some of the more popular journalists say that we ought to have a rocket to take a satellite of our own into space, and not, as they say, to"thumb a lift" from the Americans. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, takes exactly the opposite point of view, and thinks that we ought to have a great many more people thumbing a great many more lifts from a great many more different countries. All I can say to those who say that we ought to have a rocket of our own is that we can do that only when a rocket exists.

No country in the world—neither America nor Russia—is rich enough or powerful enough to divert its manpower to producing a rocket solely for the purpose of space research. We all know very well what the Americans and Russians have their rockets for. We all know that when they send these wonderful engineering achievements around the moon, they want a lot of people to take note of it, apart from those interested in pure scientific research. We are not getting a rocket a moment sooner or a moment later because of the space programme. What we have done in the space programme is to ensure that, if and when a rocket is available, and should Parliament agree and the Cabinet so decide, our design studies will be available to modify that rocket for space research. And I am perfectly sure that that is the correct answer.

On the other hand, I must frankly say to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, and to others who think that the absence of international contacts, or the limitation of our international contacts to America at the moment, is undesirable, that we are in some ways as internationally minded as anybody. I can tell them that if they want us to hold up what we are now doing until we can get other and wider international co-operation on the first three satellites to be used with British instruments, which is what we are talking about, the only effect will be that we shall do less, not more. We shall hold up our programme for another year, two years or perhaps five years. These experiments are being ordered, and we shall be doing less still if such advice is taken. We are in close contact with the Canadians and Australians, and also with our European friends and"Cospar", about different aspects of our experiments. But we are doing what we think is right—legitimate science on a limited scale—and not allowing political preoccupations of one sort or another to interfere with the scientific work. On the whole, I feel certain that we have chosen the right plan.

Many noble Lords raised the question of the social sciences. This presents a difficult question to answer within a short compass. There is a good deal of social science research going on. The D.S.I.R. and M.R.C. have undertaken several individual studies, partly at the request of the Government and partly under the ægis of one of the American programmes of aid. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, pointed out, the social sciences are not vet very mature. Research depends for its value not only on the need for it and on the scope of the field in which it takes place, but also on the availability of suitable manpower. We have a Human Sciences Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Medical Research Council are also engaged in work on human efficiency and the application of the social sciences to medical problems. The universities are engaged in fairly extensive work of one sort or another. As the noble Lord knows, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has in his own Department instituted research into penology, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a standing inter-departmental committee on social and economic research which reports to him.

In 1946, a proposal for a Social Research Council, similar to that which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has put forward, was investigated at the request of the then Government—I think, of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth—and was rejected. The results of that investigation were published in Command Paper 6868 of that year. I do not necessarily say that the decision of 1946 must stand for all time, but I would say that it does not follow that, because the social sciences need encouragement, a Social Research Council is the right organisation to do it. I would say of almost any science that when it is immature the university is the place where the work ought to start, and the individual project is the way of starting it, as is being done in the D.S.I.R. and the M.R.C. But I am far from saying that this suggestion has not a future. I am simply saying that my present thought is that the suggestion is probably premature. It is noted, and certainly not rejected.

The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, drew attention to the sciences that do not fall under the normal classification, and in a rather different context my noble friend Lord Jellicoe spoke of one of the sciences to which the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, referred—that of oceanography. I think that this also applies to what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said. On being appointed Minister for Science, one of my first actions was to ask the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy to take a fresh look at the general balance of our scientific effort. I especially drew their attention to such divisions as oceanography, seismology and astronomy, and to the relative stress to be placed on biology in comparison with the other sciences—a question which interested the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. They have undertaken to look at those matters for us. I think that this is the appropriate action to take, so that science can speak with a united voice on these matters. Noble Lords can be assured that I will pay great attention to that advice when it comes. I think that it is a desirable study to undertake from time to time. Noble Lords will probably remember that it was undertaken by the Royal Society almost immediately after the war.

The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, raised the extremely important question of the need for highly qualified scientists to be free from the drudgery of what he described as technical preoccupations, in order to do their legitimate work of research and teaching. This is a matter which has already engaged my attention but, oddly enough, it has presented a certain amount of technical difficulty, to some of which the noble Lord referred. We have to consider the position of the Universities. Much of the money for scientific research is channelled through the University Grants Committee and in that Committee it is part of the law of the Medes and Persians that money cannot be earmarked. So, as the noble Lord rightly said, it is apt to be"snapped up" and not used for the purpose which he has in mind. But I assure him that I have had this question in mind. I shall discuss it with my Advisory Council, and I hope that eventually some happy solution will be found which will not get me into too much trouble with the various people concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, raised questions of the greatest importance in relation to school and university education. I do not want to deal with them in detail at this late hour, for two reasons. The first is that they are so important, and the second is that my own conviction is that they will be much more easily and better discussed when the Central Advisory Council's Report is published, which should be very soon now. A great deal of discussion will arise out of the consideration of that Report. Broadly speaking, I agree with the noble Lord. There is some danger that scientific effort may be strangled or limited by the absence of suitably qualified teachers in the schools. I think that that is a danger which we must watch carefully, and when the Report is considered in the light of other and equally important Reports on broadly the same subject matter, we shall have to consider exactly where we stand and what must be done.

I do not think that this is perhaps the occasion to deal in detail with the question of science teaching, but personally I attach just as much importance to it as the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. I understand, having discussed it informally with my right honourable friend the Minister of Education, that he is slightly more optimistic about it, but I should fancy that this is a question of stress and degree and that there would be no difference between us as to the seriousness of the matter and the importance of dealing with it.

So far as laboratories in the grammar schools are concerned, the policy pursued in the Ministry of Education recently has been largely dictated by the tremendous pressure on the building programme. The Industrial Fund, of course, was designed for the type of school which you are not going to pull down and build again, but to which you add a laboratory. Broadly speaking, the building programme of the Ministry of Education was concerned either with the building of new schools or with the refurbishing of grammar schools, and whenever that was done the provision of adequate laboratory accommodation was always considered an important part. I am now very much out of date with this story, but at the time when I was concerned with it, which is now over two years ago, I reckoned that about £20 million of the grammar school building which we had undertaken represented science equipment and building, so far as it could be disentangled from the account. The Industrial Fund was £3 million. Again, I would quite frankly state that the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, is entirely right in saying that, although it is less important than the provision of teachers, accommodation is a limiting factor and is one of the matters which must be dealt with properly if we are to get an adequate supply of scientists of all types.

I would say, frankly, that one of the things on which I know that my right honourable friend the Minister of Education must inevitably lay stress in the coming Parliament—and always in education one chooses certain subjects to get special attention—is the growing need for the parent to be encouraged to allow the child to stay on at school after the compulsory school age. If we are going to get the increase of numbers of scientists and technologists that we need, we must employ the untapped resources which we still have in our school population.

Apart from that, I should have said that, on the whole, the recent Report which has come to me from the Committee on Scientific Manpower is an encouraging one. It shows that they had underestimated the demand for scientists, but it also shows that they had underestimated the production of scientists; and although there is in most fields still a shortfall to be expected in the next three years, on the whole I should say that the Report was an encouraging one.

I hope that we may at some time during this Session have some debate about the size of universities and their contribution to our scientific effort. But, again, I think that that probably will come at another stage more conveniently than to-night. My own conviction has been—and indeed it is I think the only reason why the Government, as a whole, have acquiesed in the present targets—as we were advised, that the development of a university is more a biological growth than an engineering exercise, and that teaching staff and the maintenance of quality as you increase imposed certain limitations on size. I should entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that if it had simply been a question of prediction and demand, the requirement of university places would have demanded higher targets than we have so far recognised. It may well be that one of the results of, perhaps among other things, the quinquennial review by the University Grants Committee will be that these targets will have to be revised in an upwards direction. At all events, I think that opportunities will occur of discussing this matter further, and I would thank noble Lords who have made the point that our production of scientists does depend upon the size and the distribution of the universities.

There has been very much else of value said in the debate, but noble Lords can be quite certain that, even if I have not answered all the points in detail, I will see that everything that has been said is garnered together and considered most carefully. I hope that this is the first of many debates we shall have on the subject, and I should again like to thank noble Lords who have taken part in such an interesting discussion.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, in many scientific discussions—the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, I think, will confirm this—the rule is: no praise and no thanks. We are not yet quite a scientific assembly, and therefore I would ask to be allowed to thank every noble Lord who has taken part in what I have found a most interesting debate. Its purpose was to discover the pattern of thinking of our new Minister for Science and to deploy before him our pattern of thinking. Both these objectives we have achieved, and I think we are well satisfied with what we have found. If he goes on as he has started, we shall be very pleased indeed. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.