HL Deb 14 June 1967 vol 283 cc942-1019

3.52 p.m.

Debate resumed:


My Lords, to return to the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. I should like to thank him for putting it on the Order Paper, and for giving advance notice of the questions he would like answered. Having said that, I must confess that I have not much else for which to thank him. I rather regret the introduction of a good deal of what I can only describe as partisan political prejudice on a subject which, traditionally, we have debated in this House on a non-partisan basis. I only wish I could be as certain that the policies we are following are right as the noble Earl is certain that they are wrong, because this is a very complex and difficult field.

It is no use any of us thinking that solutions to the relationship of Government and science and technology have yet been completely found, or are likely to be found in the very near future. That is why I took up the noble Earl on his reference to what I understood he suggested was the misemployment, or the wasted employment, of Government scientists. He particularly mentioned biologists. He refused to explain the criteria on which he based this statement.

It is no good our discussing a problem as complex as this against a series of positive assertions based, so far as I can tell, on frustrated opinions expressed by the noble Earl's friends. There are, for instance the figures about Government scientists and technologists. I am just going to give him this bit of argument, and then I hope to address myself in a less partisan way to the debate. I do not know whether the noble Earl knows how many scientists and technologists are employed by Government, as opposed to industry. He certainly gave a picture, or an impression, that there were far too many employed in Government. In fact, the Government have only 10 per cent. of the scientists and only 14 per cent. of the technologists, as compared with 26 per cent. and 47 per cent. in industry. I do not want to get into a dog-fight on this matter. I will merely say that this is a much too complicated subject to be dealt with in a series of gloomy and, if I may say so, unconstructive criticisms. And I hope that in the rest of this debate your Lordships will raise our standards back to those embodying the impartiality and constructive suggestions which have marked our debates in the past.

It is not use pretending—I must make absolutely clear to the noble Earl—that any country has solved, once and for all, the problems of Government organisation for science and technology. Indeed, the subject—that is to say, the direct impact of Government and how it should organise or interfere—is in itself new. We have had public institutions for the support of research and development for many years, certainly for more than 50 years, but the first Advisory Council on Scientific Policy was established only in 1947—twenty years ago—and one cannot compare the present new structure with the structure which existed in the days of the A.C.S.P.

It was another twelve years before there was a Minister for Science, and we are still in the experimental stage as is every other advanced country. In the United States argument ebbs and flows for and against a Department of Science; and there is still no such department there. There has been a Science Minister in Germany for only about five years. So I think that there is no need to apologise for being experimental in outlook, willing to try changes for good reasons, least of all in relation to science. What is required is a certain amount of humility on the part both of the Government and of their critics and a lack of dogmatism about what the ideal solutions may be.

I do not propose this afternoon to go over the whole of the ground that we debated in the past, when we discussed the Trend Report and other Reports—and certainly it is a subject of endless and fascinating interest. I should like to say something about how we in Government see the developments in this field; and again I stress that I do so without any positive certainty that we are necessarily on the right road—and certainly we are not on final solutions. There is room for a great deal more experiment and a greater willingness to realise that the ideal solutions may lie far in the future. This is a difficult and dangerous field for Government intervention. That is why I stress the importance of humility.

My Lords, some ages have been distinguished by a romantic and others by a reactionary outlook. In some ways I think that ours is the age of frustration. That feeling was certainly very marked in the speech we heard from the noble Earl. There is, I think, a great deal of frustration to-day because we cannot at once realise the achievements of which our attainments in education and civilisation hold out a promise. We are trying to improve on a massive scale upon what previous generations managed to achieve for a fortunate few, and it is natural that we should be afflicted both by the issues of organisation and by shortages of resources. We have, and we shall go on having, both of these in plenty, and it would be wrong, I think, to argue that these difficulties are the essence or at least the sole essence, of the problem. We have to keep our eyes on objectives and accept that organisations must serve them.

No organisation of itself, paper or otherwise, can do more than help us achieve what we want. What is important is that we do not set up wrong organisations that lead to the sort of frustration about which the noble Earl has been talking—for example, too many committees. Certainly committees are a great problem of civilisation. It may be that we shall evolve something to take the place of committees, but if we are to have organisations people have to talk to one another; and communication is sometimes easier round a table than by letter.

Let me give some of the reasons for the division between the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology. Again, I am speculating to some extent in regard to this matter. There may be arguments which sound smooth rationalisation, but nevertheless there are sound reasons for dividing for administrative purposes the support of the scientific environment from the support of the exploitation of science. I hope that your Lordships will bear with me in speculating in this way. These two operations are separate in objectives and even in methods, though there may be overlapping in countless directions. For the former, the discovery of new knowledge is the supreme factor; for the latter, the attainment of results measured in terms of economic performance. Each of these tasks is difficult and complex. One can go on for some time exploiting existing knowledge with considerable success, but unless also resources are preserved for adding to that knowledge, the time comes when one is forced to buy new knowledge from one's competitors and one is deserted by scientists of the calibre needed to keep abreast of world science. I know there are those who will argue the contrary to this, but I submit that there is validity in it.

Each of these jobs is man-sized and needs in the present context the weight of a full departmental organisation. The Ministry of Technology are concerned with getting the fruits of research for the economic system. If the Department of Education and Science were to undertake this task also, they would become an economic as well as an educational and scientific organisation. This would be too much to ask of them. Again, it is too early at this stage to return to the point of view expressed by the noble Earl about the division between higher education and schools. On this, we may find something more when Dr. Dainton reports his finding. On the other hand, the Ministry of Technology does not need to be responsible for the Research Councils in order to foster the modernisation of industry, any more than it needs to be responsible for schools and universities in order to get the right distribution of skills in the economy.

I would say to the noble Earl, and I am sure that he will agree with me in this, that we can have too big and too centralised an organisation, as many large industrial concerns are aware. Super-Ministries have not had a happy history and they can fail simply because the burden of policy-making and management ought to be shared out more. It may be argued that the ideal state existed when Mr. Hogg (then Viscount Hailsham) and the noble Earl were responsible for the Ministry of Science, when the Minister had the satisfaction of being able to say that he could get the whole of his Ministry into a single bus. This is an ideal state for an organisation of that kind, but unfortunately, as things developed, it was not possible to confine it to one bus. It has now reached the stage, if we are to make the progress which is necessary, and on which the scientific community are supporting the Government and the country so well, when it is better to have two small organisations which know what they have to do rather than a larger body whose right and left hands are not always able to be co-ordinated. It is extremely important to see that the right hand does not cut off the left hand when it happens to be turned in another direction.

Let me turn to the position of the universities in this context. The universities are concerned not only with education. They are in an indissoluble way concerned also with research. They must occupy a key position between education and research, and in our view it is sound that one Minister—again, I put these views with humility—should be able to take a view over the whole of this territory. The University Grants Committee and the universities ought therefore to be linked with the Department that is concerned with education. I suggest that the present division between the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology is a wise experimental solution and is to be welcomed as giving to each organisation a clear run at objectives which in some respects are limited. No horse can run well if it is facing too many ways at one time.

There is a difference of ideology between the scientific environment, where knowledge overrides time, place and country, and the competitive environment of technology, where results in time and within the budget are what count. Of course, there is much science in technological issues and there are vital scientific elements in all the main issues of State, whether in foreign affairs, industry, defence, transport, or any other. But scientific issues there are not necessarily overriding, whereas, in my view, they must be so in the environment of basic science.

What counts in this complex and difficult field is that the interface between basic science and its application should be understood, or at least recognised, and that sufficient numbers of scientists and technologists of the highest abilities should recognise in the application of science and technology at least as worthwhile a challenge as the discovery of new knowledge itself; and lastly, that there are in practice as well as on paper effective arrangements for consultation and co-ordination.

Let me turn to the Central Advisory Council on Science and Technology, in regard to which the noble Earl had some kind words to say—at least they were not totally discouraging. More than half of Government expenditure on scientific research and development is still for defence, though the disparity is a good deal less than it was. The rest is divided between the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology and half-a-dozen other civil Departments with minority shares, such as Transport, Agriculture, the Scottish Departments, Public Building and Works, Health and overseas.

Clearly, there is the need for a place where the whole question of the balance and direction of Government investment in science and technology can be argued out. Such a place is provided by the Central Advisory Council on Science and Technology, under the chairmanship of Sir Solly Zuckerman. It is important to recognise that this is a relatively new institution. There were those who thought that it was a mistake to set it up but, like the noble Earl, I felt that there was a need for such an Advisory Council, mainly of scientists, industrialists and technologists, to advise the Government collectively.

It is then the task of the Government to take decisions. The task of the Committee is not the administrative one of co-ordinating or allocating resources. This must be for the Government machine, whatever its imperfections, when Ministers have accepted the advice of the Council. It has not been long enough in existence to say very much yet about its work, but it is getting down to a tremendously difficult task, in which it has to look also at the organisation of science and technology in the widest way. Its links with other advisory bodies are close: the Chairman of the Council for Scientific Policy, the Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Technology, the Chairman of the Defence Research Committee and members from these bodies are all members of the Central Council. This organisation provides machinery for discussion of the inter-relationships between these three main aspects of the Government's policy for science.

The work of the new Council is complementary to that of the Council for Scientific Policy, whose task is to advise the Secretary of State on the volume of resources needed for science—and I would put "science" in this respect in quotes—that is, the work of the Research Councils in supporting research both in the universities and in their own establishments, together with some other functions such as the support of documentation, on which I shall have something to say later, the grant-in-aid to the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh, and also how those resources should be divided against these needs.

The Council for Scientific Policy has been in existence for rather more than two years: it published its first Report last spring, and a second Report is already in the pipeline. We have had Reports from two of its Working Groups. There was one on computers, on which your Lordships will remember we had an interesting debate, and one on Liaison Between Universities and Government Research Establishments. These have been published. There have been in existence eight Working Groups, of which four are now in existence. The Council has made some encouraging progress in advising on the resources necessary for basic science, and in discussing long-term objectives with the Research Councils. Present Government expenditure on Science Votes is 11 per cent. in real terms (it is more in money terms) greater than last year.

It is a natural reaction to say that in times of economic pressure resources should be diverted from basic science to the application of existing knowledge. No one can deny the importance of achieving more effective exploitation of the results of our science. This is one of these interminable and fascinating subjects about which one could argue at great length. Recent American studies suggest that research and development expenditure forms a relatively small proportion of the total expenditure needed to make and sell an article commercially. But such arguments have tended to ignore the cost of basic research and the educational system which are, of course, absolutely essential to underpin a programme of applied research that may be relevant to a particular product.

In the field of manpower, therefore, it is clear that some shift in the balance of employment between the discovery of knowledge and its application in practice will have to be achieved over the next decade. But so far as resources for basic science are concerned, what is needed is the kind of understanding of the cost of maintaining scientific excellence which the Council for Scientific Policy is seeking. This is excellence to which noble Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Todd, my noble friend Lord Snow and others, have attached so much importance, which is necessary to retain the essential vitality and quality without which investment in science would be a waste of money.

It may turn out that there is no direct relationship between resources for science and resources for its exploitation: the former depends upon the cost of attaining a level of excellence which is internationally set; the second depends upon economic factors which spring from the situation of the country at a particular time. In other words, it may be just a little too easy to suppose that resources are interchangeable between new discovery and the exploitation of knowledge. What is required is a clear understanding of what is needed to do each job effectively. This again emphasises the arguments in favour of the sort of divisions that have been made in Government organisation.

I should like to refer to the role of the Advisory Council on Technology and compare it with the Council for Scientific Policy. In this field it is extremely difficult to draw an effective diagram of inter-relationships—and, indeed, I doubt whether it can be done two-dimensionally. The Advisory Council on Technology is not really—although there is a certain semblance on paper—a parallel body to the Council for Scientific Policy. The Council for Scientific Policy is an Advisory Council chaired by an independent scientist, Sir Harrie Massey, and it reports formally to the Secretary of State for Education and Science.


May I ask the noble Lord about one point? He said that the Council for Scientific Policy is an advisory body. There was an intention that it should have greater powers, as I said in my speech, over the narrower range. The noble Lord considers it to be purely advisory, does he, although the word "Advisory" was dropped from its title?


It is an advisory Council. It may well develop, and in the process we hope that it will help to determine policy. But it will be for the Government machine to carry out the policy decisions that may be arrived at. This is not to say that it may not have certain executive functions within its own field of operation in order to activate itself in giving particular advice. But it is essentially an advisory Council. The Advisory Council on Technology, on the other hand, consists mainly of industrialists and is chaired by the Minister himself. This is a forum in which advice and opinions are exchanged, informally and in confidence, on the general development of the Ministry's work and policies. The discussion is wide-ranging and takes in all aspects of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Technology. It must also be remembered that much of the emphasis of the work of the Ministry of Technology is in the industrial and economic field, and that its research responsibilities are only part of a rather wider remit. This is a point which I know the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, was going to deal with, and I am sorry to hear that he is unable to be present to-day.

Let me now turn to the co-ordination of Advisory Committees. Here, however sturdily I may stand up to the frustration of the noble Earl, I have a certain amount of sympathy with him. Links with the Central Advisory Council have already been mentioned. There are particular arrangements for ensuring links between the Ministry of Technology and the Department of Education and Science. There is joint membership (Professor Blackett and Dr. Adams) between the Council for Scientific Policy and the Advisory Council on Technology, and the secretary of each advisory body attends the meetings of the other.

More intimate arrangements have been made for rendering advice on scientific and technological manpower. The Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology advises both Departments, and the secretariat is drawn equally from both sides (if one can call them sides), and there are other formal arrangements in existence. The Chairman of the S.R.C. attends the A.C.T., and the papers of both Councils are circulated in both Departments. This is quite apart from the informal links at the various operational levels to ensure that there is common understanding and agreement on spheres of action. Thus, it is accepted that between the two Departments migration of skilled manpower to American industry is primarily the concern of the Ministry of Technology, just as the flow of candidates in science and technology into and out of higher education is a matter for the Department of Education and Science. These are matters of practical arrangement, but I must stress, of course, that cross-membership is not enough: there needs also to be effective co-ordination at the official level, and this is a matter of particular importance even though it may not appear obvious in the diagram of the different Councils.

There are close links between the Science Research Council and the Ministry of Technology on the support of basic research in technological fields. This, again, is the prime responsibility of the S.R.C., and the Ministry of Technology have their own advisory body, as I mentioned. Scientific manpower policy provides one of the most striking examples of close collaboration between the two Departments. The Committee on Manpower Resources, under Lord Jackson of Burnley, reports both to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and to the Minister of Technology; and here again the secretariat is drawn equally from both Departments, who decide informally on the topics of principal interest to each. The main Committee have reported twice, and two reports of working groups have also been published.

Then there is Professor Swann's Report, with which many of your Lordships will be familiar, which deals with the balance of employment in science and technology as a whole; and this illustrates the advantages of looking at the whole subject and trying to suggest a balance between both sides. His Report is an interim one (it will be followed later by a final Report) and it shows, I think, that there is great value in looking at the flow of scientists and technologists into employment as a dynamic system to be studied as a whole; and that there are important lessons of balance and motivation to be learned—although let me not suggest that automatic solutions will present themselves.

The current manpower studies—and I have referred to some of the reports—have thrown more light on these problems, but of course they are nothing like new. We have debated these manpower problems for a number of years. The most tantalising problem is that it is likely that over the next five years—this is why we await the Dainton Committee's report with such interest—the candidates for scientific and technological places in higher education will, if anything, decline in absolute numbers, because the growth of sixth forms is offset by a tendency among young people to choose other—I hesitate to say more appealing—subjects or mixtures of scientific and non-scientific subjects.

We have debated this whole problem, and the noble Lord, I remember, on another occasion, has referred to a number of factors which influenced it. There is no doubt that it is a worrying one. It promotes careful thought about the attractiveness of science, at least as it is presented. In fact, there is hardly a subject which gives more scope for argument and discussion than this particular one. It is not, perhaps, much consolation —or it may be a little consolation—that similar tendencies are discernible in other countries, such as Germany and the United States. In any case, we look forward to Dr. Dainton's diagnosis, and, we hope, his prescription, though it will not be an easy one to find.

Another striking problem is the situation revealed by Professor Swann's analysis of the flow of qualified manpower out of the universities. He has shown how the proportion of the ablest graduates entering industry and school-teaching has declined, until we may ask how we are to ensure this continuity either of our science teaching in the schools or of our capacity to go on paying for science in a technologically competitive world. This again was a subject to which the noble Earl referred: the demands of the universities. But, of course, they sprang from the laudable purpose of Governments—both this and, if I may say so, very much the previous Government also—to expand the universities, and we have to face the consequences of this action. These are large-scale problems, and in these advisory groups we hope to have an early-warning system which will enable us to respond in time.

Much of the imbalance which the Swann Report showed was due, as I have indicated, to the really phenomenal growth in higher education and not to hoarding, for which I am sure no university would ever admit it had the resources. We hope that this phenomenal growth, with its acute consequences, will not be repeated for a number of years, because undoubtedly it is imposing a tremendous strain on the stock of scientific manpower in the country. Noble Lords will recall the reports of bodies such as the Institute of Physics on this matter.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether I am not right in thinking that the universities are expanding even faster than Robbins anticipated, and therefore should we not look at this matter very carefully to see whether they are not going a little too fast? I am only asking the noble Lord. He knows better than I do.


My Lords, I notice the extremely guarded words of the noble Earl, and I fully sympathise; it is a most delicate subject. I think that perhaps I will not be drawn any further. It may be that my noble friend Lord Beswick would like to deal with this, but one would certainly not wish to come to any misleading conclusions on it.

Again, the Report points out that patterns of career expectation have been created which may well have to be re- vised. Yet in all these issues one must never forget, least of all in educational matters, that we are still a free people, and we choose to take our own decisions on our own careers in the light of all the advice and the policies which are available.

Let me turn lastly to the question of executive action—I am sorry to be so lengthy: I will try to speed up. This must rest with the Minister who is responsible for the policy of his Department and the funds it is empowered to spend. The web of committees is a sort of elaborate array or system of antennae designed to ensure that the wisdom and experience of expert bodies involved are taken up to the point of decision-taking. There is, or there ought to be, no confusion or complexity about this. Nor, I submit, is the structure of advisory bodies, within our present knowledge of human organisation, more complex than the subjects they are charged with studying. The work of these committees has thrown up problems and objectives to which the organisation of Government can and must respond, at risks of a kind to which the noble Earl has drawn attention.

I had intended to say something about Sir Gordon Sutherland's Working Party, but I understand that the noble Lord who is to wind up for the Opposition is going to deal with that subject, so perhaps your Lordships will allow me to leave it, apart from saying that they have made a very comprehensive study and it is a very important part of the total picture. But, as the noble Earl said, there are other aspects of inter-Governmental and university and industrial relationships which must not be ignored.

The relationship between the universities and industry is, for instance, a subject for further examination. Some research has been carried out and we believe it is necessary to extend the survey to examine methods of improving liaisons between universities and industrial research in general. I am sure noble Lords will be glad to know (if they do not already know it) that a joint committee of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and of the C.B.I. is examining this problem, and the Government will be happy to lend them such assistance as may be possible.

It is almost impossible to do justice to all the aspects of science and organisation, and I have always been conscious that one body has been peculiarly frustrated and has complained that successive Governments have always ignored them. I refer to the social scientists. I do not see that there is time to debate this subject adequately to-day, but so that noble Lords may not think that the Government underrate—and I am sure no noble Lords themselves would underrate—the importance of the work of the Social Science Research Council and the really appalling shortage of social scientists, many of whom could be playing a part in helping to solve these problems about which we are talking to-day, may I say that this is something we might debate on another occasion. It does not fit tidily into the pattern, but it is clear that in science, as in so many other forms of human evolution or other evolution or development, we move by a series of mutations, artificial or natural, and the Social Science Research Council was a very desirable such development.

There is, however, one important subject which I think in a review in which we are covering the whole organisation we ought not to ignore, and that is the problem of scientific and technical information—a problem which is international in nature and is vital for the further progress of science; namely, that there should be an improvement of information for scientists. The noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, who succeeded me, and who indeed I think is still President of ASLIB, has himself been actively informed and involved in this. While recently the bulk of new thinking and experiment has been concentrated in the U.S.A., now all scientifically-based advanced countries are beginning to contribute and have either set up or are considering setting up a national policy-making body.

In this country, this body—the Office for Scientific and Technical Information —was set up within the Department of Education and Science just over two years ago. Perhaps it is too early to call it a success story, but it shows a measure of activity, in that it has already built up an impressive programme of support for basic research, experimental services and improvement of existing services—on which it is empowered to spend £370,000 in 1967–68, where two or three years ago I doubt whether it was spending One-tenth of that. Indeed, much of the work was left to bodies, not only like Asus but certain industrial bodies of which the Atomic Energy Authority was the notable leader, to develop the potential role of what may best be called almost a new science, again, the role of computers, in storing and handling the mounting tide of scientific literature.

I should like to refer in particular to the retrieval service for medical scientists, known as MEDLARS; to the Chemical Society's experiments with chemical information services (how often in the past we have worried about chemical abstracts!); the work of the Institution of Electrical Engineers on information services for physicists and electric/ electronic engineers. These are major experiments, covering large subject fields, and these have also been developed in co-operation with Europe under the ægis of the Information Policy Group in O.E.C.D.

Equally important to OSTI are experiments in the expert analysis of literature as a basis for information services more precisely tailored to user-needs. On the one hand, the Office for Scientific and Technical Information is supporting reference data centres which attempt to ensure that important reference data for scientists are effectively collected, evaluated, disseminated and retrieved. The only thing we are still lacking is a name for a subject which really ought to have its own title. Some while ago I suggested that it should be called "exaggalectics", from the Greek word "exaggalo"—to inform, but it seems to have an unfortunate ring and I think we ought to have a competition for a word comparable to one which will be familiar to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—I refer to "cybernetics"—because we really need a word to describe the science of information dissemination, retrieval, and so on. Of course, the Office for Scientific and Technical Information is supporting actively admirable bodies such as ASLIB, and the National Lending Library for Science and Technology. There are real developments in this field, and I hope at some stage we might have a further discussion upon them.

One interesting point which I should have liked to deal with—and again, inevitably, a debate of this kind can only be a further discussion in a theme which is widening and making greater demands —is the extent to which all Government Departments, not just the two mentioned by me (and the noble Lord mentioned others) should have the professional administration necessary to evaluate the benefits which may be derived from research and development, and, where necessary, the facilities to carry out such research as they think desirable. Here, too, there is no finality and there is indeed some controversy, but I am sympathetic to the importance which the noble Lord attached to that.

I have attempted to give some rationale, some basis and even a little philosophy in relation to the present system of organisation of Government activity in the field of science. I emphasise again that I approach the whole subject with humility. We do not know the best form of organisation. Research and development is a continuous and restless process. It is possible to look at it in ways other than that of supporting the scientific environment and the application of science. It is a cyclical process, which both uses and generates wealth. No-one can pretend that the present pattern of Government organisation for science and technology is ideal; like the structure of many British institutions it has arisen as a result of piecemeal decisions taken over past years. One cannot just stop the progress of science in order to allow it to be considered by committees to formulate perfect organisations for its management, although we have tried to do so. We have set up committees, like the Trend Committee. Not everybody was satisfied with that, but they did contribute to the new thought and, as I believe, to a more effective organisation. And we can look at the vast changes which have taken place in the scientific field of government over the past few years, and especially during the past two years. So this is by way of being a progress report.

I know that my noble friend Lord Beswick will deal with a number of the points in the field of space and international co-operation to which the noble Earl referred. I think our basic sciences can reasonably be regarded as healthy and world-renowned. Because the application of research results in industry as judged by our economic performance appears to be only mediocre, many people have suggested that we should divert some of those resources given to basic science to applied research and development. This is rather like suggesting replacing Barrington and Graveney by two bowlers in order to improve our bowling performance. I believe that, despite the rather strange lack of return on some of the admirable scientific work, it is argued —indeed, it is argued by Mr. Austen Albu in The Times to-day—that we may shortly be going to receive the benefits. What we have to do is to go on approaching this problem with energy, with enthusiasm and, above all, with a lack of dogmatism. That will enable the machine to develop, to find its own opening for growth. And we must be aware that science will go its way provided it is not too trammelled by bureaucracy. We have attempted to find the right combination which ensures that difficult and essential decisions are taken by the Government while allowing the necessary freedom and giving the necessary support for science and technology in this country.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to thank my noble friend Lord Bessborough for putting this Motion before us to-day because, of course, it touches on a number of points which are of very considerable national importance. What I propose to do, if I may, is to make a few general comments, first about the position of science and technology in the structure of Government, and secondly on some matters arising from the Report of the Working Party under the chairmanship of Sir Gordon Sutherland, to whom I, like other speakers, am very much indebted. Of course, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that this is an extremely complex subject; and that neither we nor any other country, for that matter, have found the real way to handle this whole complicated thing; although I hope the noble Lord will pardon me if I say that when he explained the complex interrelationship of these various committees I began to think the matter was perhaps even more complex than I had thought before. That is, of course, a purely personal opinion.

I think the first thing one has to recognise is that, whether we like it or not, science and technology (and the latter, after all, to-day means essentially the application of the results of scientific research to industry, agriculture, medicine, administration and defence) dominate everything that we do. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton himself said, they permeate even politics and public affairs. And so the plain fact is that to-day it is to my mind impossible to reach any sensible decision on broad matters of policy without scientific and technological factors being involved either consciously or unconsciously. It follows, therefore, that to think of a science policy as a kind of entity, as something which is distinct and separate from general Government policy, is just nonsense. Science and technology must be looked at simply as component parts of national policy; in fact in many areas they form the very basis of national policy. I think that sometimes when people are discussing this subject there is confusion between what I would call the administration of Government scientific activities—I mean who looks after "hiring and firing" in the National Physical Laboratory, and so on—and what I would call the place of scientific and technological information or advice in the formulation of policy. It is really this latter aspect on which I should like to touch mainly.

The first public recognition of the need for scientific and technological advice in the formulation of policy at Cabinet level in this country came, I think, in 1947, when the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy was set up under the Lord President of the Council. During the period when I had the honour to be Chairman of that body, from 1952 until its demise in 1964, a further formal step in this recognition was taken when the office of Minister of Science was created, although in actual practice the office of Minister of Science was occupied by the then Lord President of the Council. The arrangement at that time had the great merit that there was a powerful Minister advised by the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and he could, in theory at least, ensure that scientific and technological factors were given proper weight when national policy was being determined in the Cabinet.

This is not the occasion to discuss the structural weaknesses of Government scientific organisation at that time; but weaknesses there were, and it was because of this that the Trend Committee on the Organisation of Civil Service was set up. The Report of that Committee, of which I was myself a member, has been implemented in part, but only in part, by the present Government. The real essence of the Trend proposals was that there should be a senior Minister who would not have normal departmental responsibillity but would carry responsibility for the various Research Councils and for a body which it was suggested might be called the Industrial Research and Development Authority, a body which was to be concerned primarily with the promotion of technological innovation in industry. And this is, of course, one function of the present Ministry of Technology. This Minister was to have an Advisory Council on Scientific Policy which would advise him on scientific and technological aspects of overall policy for which the Minister would be responsible.

When the present Government came to power they took a rather different line. As we all know, they separated science from technology, putting science, at least as represented by the Research Councils and university science, in the Department of Education and Science with a Minister of State in charge, advised by a Council for Scientific Policy, with a correspondingly restricted remit as compared with the Council suggested by the Trend Committee, and they created a Ministry of Technology with an Advisory Council on Technology to advise the Minister on policy questions. I am not going to go into the question of exactly how this was done, because the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has fully detailed this. I confess that this division seemed to me at the time, and still seems to me, a wrong decision.

I do not believe that it is reasonable, even if it were possible, to separate science and technology; and to go further and put them under different Ministers, each with a separate Council to advise on policy matters, seems to me equally wrong. The problems of science and technology, of manpower and resources, and of priorities, are so interwoven with one another and with economic policy that to my mind there is room for one policy only, not two or three, and one should avoid at all costs the risks of getting two or three policies. Incidentally, I believe that my point of view has come to be accepted by the present Government, because, frankly, I can draw no other conclusion from the recent creation by the Prime Minister of the Advisory Committee under Sir Solly Zuckerman, which appears to take on the function that was intended, I believe, originally for the old Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and that was to advise the Government on the broad strategy of science and technology in Government and over the whole field of national policy. That move I welcome, because it makes obvious sense. It may cause some modification in the breadth of the remit of the Council for Scientific Policy or the Advisory Council on Technology.

But it is quite clear that one must have a Committee of the type which has been formed. Whether it is wise to put this responsibility for science, as apparently it is being put under our present system of Government, with the Prime Minister is something that remains to be seen. For my part—I give a personal view only—I should have thought it would be better to place the responsibility on a Minister not "of" but "for" Science and Technology without departmental responsibility who would be a member of the Cabinet and who would have a policy function. One could have in addition a Ministry of Trade and Industry, instead of a Ministry of Technology. I do not like the term "Ministry of Technology": it is a funny expression. Neither do I like "Ministry of Science" for that part. But there could be a Ministry of Industry whose Minister need not be a member of the Cabinet.

It may be said that here I am getting into the realms of political nomenclature. This is something in which I am not too experienced, so I will not press it. But I will say this: that although, as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough said, the Ministry of Technology looks a little overblown these days it has, after a rather slow and uncertain start, undoubtedly taken a valuable initiative in some matters. But I feel, frankly, that the governmental separation of science and technology has shown up in what I think is the rather fumbling and muddled approach there has been to the problem of priorities in science, and the establishment of a closer relationship between academic and industrial science.

This brings me to Sir Gordon Sutherland's Report on Liaison between Universities and Government Research Establishments. Given that the present situation is to continue, I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusions reached in this Report. But several of these conclusions, and a good deal of the evidence given by members of the staff of government research establishments—for example, the desire to take part in teaching, to have university status and to take Ph.D. students—to me suggests that we ought perhaps to be a little bolder in our approach to these problems.

I have always held that there are only two sets of circumstances in which research can be relied on to be pursued successfully over a long period. One is when the research is directed to clear-cut economic, and preferably changing, objectives. This is the sort of situation which obtains in industry. There you can carry out research for a long period with a more or less permanent staff. The other way in which you can do it, and where you do not need to have economic objectives, is where you give effect to it by the simple device of having it depend on a continuous through-put of transient young research workers who do not remain in the group doing research for any long period—where, indeed, there is a training function involved for the small permanent staff and the whole thing is kept alive by the continued flow of young and fresh minds. That is the sort of thing that obtains only in the universities.

The trouble is that Government establishments which do not have a clear-cut economic objective (and there are many such) operating as they do with a largely permanent staff, do not fall into either of these categories. As a result, they tend to be ineffective, except perhaps in the initial phase of their development when the staff is new, young and enthusiastic. The desire expressed by those members of the staff from the Government research establishments to teach and to have Ph.D. students is, to my mind, merely a manifestation of this situation.

Some Government establishments we must of course have. There are those which concern what I may call in a general way public services: the Road Research Laboratory laboratories dealing with standards, like the National Physical Laboratory and certain others. But, for the rest, apart from those dealing with specialised defence problems, I think that, in the main, these Government establishments should be more directly associated in some cases with universities and in other cases with industry.

I greatly welcome moves which have recently been made to develop the links between some establishments and the universities: for example, between the National Engineering Research Laboratory and the University of Strathclyde, of which I have the honour to be Chancellor. I think this is a good type of move. But I consider that the greatly desired increase in contact between the universities and industry is not going to be achieved by merely appointing a few industrial or Government scientists and technologists as honorary professors, setting up one or two joint projects and allowing a few young men to take external Ph.Ds. You need something much more direct than this if you are to get anywhere.

Why cannot we be bold for once and, for example, take the National Engineering Research Laboratory right out of the Ministry of Technology and put it slap under the control of the University of Strathclyde? Not only do I believe that this would be more effective so far as research is concerned, but I believe that if this kind of thing were done the development of applied science in universities and, what is more, the recruitment of their graduates into industry would be greatly simplified. After all, this kind of thing has been quite successful in the United States, and I do not see why it should not be successful here.

If you turn to the other side, I do not see much future for places like Harwell or the National Gas Turbine Research Establishment if they carry on as Government research establishments. Why should not the National Gas Turbine Research Establishment be put slap in the aero-engine industry? After all, that is where it really belongs and where it ought to have been developed in the first place. I find it rather hard to see the need for a Government station to provide research requirements for modern industry. If there is a need for this kind of thing, then we should stimulate the industry concerned to put its house in order. If we did, I think we should hear a great deal less about "brain drains" and the difficulty of recruiting young scientists into industry.

I know that I can be accused of prejudice when I say this because I am a chemist. But I would remind your Lordships that the chemical industry does not complain about or suffer so much as other industries in regard to these particular things. For instance, if you look at the findings in the Report of Professor Swann's Working Party you will see that the chemical industry recruits a large proportion of people from the universities, many more than most other sciences. If ever there was a research-based industry it is the chemical industry.

This makes me think. I wonder whether any of these other industries in trouble, and perhaps the Government, too, should not look at what has happened in the chemical industry, an industry where, so far as I am aware, they have never shown either the need or the desire for Government research stations to aid them, but in effect have done their own research and co-operated fully with universities all the way through. Action in the Government research establishments along lines of the kind I have just mentioned will certainly present administrative difficulties, but I do not think they are insurmountable; far from it. Certainly they should not be allowed to prevent action, because I believe that the idea of Government research establishments in areas outside the public services may have been a good one in its day, but that day has passed.

Finally, it seems to me that if the newly formed Advisory Committee on Science and Technological resources can establish priorities and can help set out a general policy in Government in which these can be implemented, and if it can promote the kind of change that I have suggested in Government research organisation, our present structure may evolve into something which is really workable. If it does not, I do not think we should hesitate to change the whole of our administrative set-up.

5.0 p.m.


I, too, should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this subject to us this afternoon and for giving us an opportunity to discuss a very important document which was presented to the country by Sir Gordon Sutherland and his Committee a short time ago. They concerned themselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has said, with some aspects of what, in my view—and I think in Lord Todd's view—is a grave national administrative weakness.

We are, as we well know, spending on pure research and development in this country as much as, if not more than any other of the great Western industrialised Powers. At the same time, as we know to our cost, the rate of growth in gross national product and the rate of growth of our industry are lagging sadly behind the performance of many of our prime industrial competitors. There can be no doubt, as we have many times said in a rather self-congratulatory manner, of the quality of our science. There is every misgiving and doubt about the way in which it is being used, about the interaction of our scientists with industry, and particularly about the efficiency of the whole of that part of the machine over which the Government exercise control.

I should like to begin by saying that the proposals which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, for East Kilbride, have been great favourites of mine for many years. In fact, I have urged them for at least ten or fifteen years; but so far to very little purpose. But I think that before one contemplates dramatic changes such as those of which he spoke, perhaps to save Harwell from the fate which is apparently impending, we should turn to consider as first steps some of the recommendations made by Sir Gordon Sutherland and his Committee. They have discussed certain matters which come under the control of the Government. They have discussed the organisation of the research laboratories for which the Government are responsible and their association with the universities.

The Sutherland Committee have shown beyond any doubt that in this particular matter we are less efficient in all the countries with which the Committee have been concerned. I myself know something of the collaboration between Government research establishments and universities in America, in Germany, in Russia, and I can confirm from my own observations the relatively much greater efficiency which these other countries have achieved than anything we know in this country. The reason is part of a great English malaise, which may be due in part to our refusal to admit that anything that is useful and profitable is at the same time worthy of study by serious-minded gentlemen who find themselves, at least temporarily, in universities. The American universities model themselves on German practice, and have been copied in turn by Russia, and I believe, by China. They all accept that they have three fundamentally important tasks of equal significance, the lack of any one of which is enough to ruin them. These tasks I will enumerate, for they are fundamental to our topic this afternoon.

The Americans believe that a university must be prepared to concern itself with any or all of the problems of contemporary society in so far as it is able to do so. This is true whether or not the topic under discussion forms a part of one of the traditional, conventional or classical academic disciplines. The second proposition is that a university must be prepared to convey any information it has come by to any human being in the community who is capable of profiting by it, whatever the age of the individual concerned. My third proposition is that universities must teach undergraduates—and I put them in that order perhaps deliberately to shock.

These three tasks are inseparable and of equal importance. We know in England that we must teach undergraduates in our universities, but our own universities have never conceded that they have an obligation to concern themselves with any problems other than those in which they happen to be interested at the time. They have never accepted the fact that change is taking place so rapidly, that people become out of date so quickly, and that universities must re-educate the professional man throughout the whole of his life.

One may ask how this influences their relationship with Government science. The answer is fundamental. Government laboratories have been set up in this country to undertake research work which in America would as a matter of course be entrusted to the universities themselves. The idea that we should have to associate, by some specific administrative action, the work of an organisation like Harwell or East Kilbride with a university would never arise at all in either Russia or America—for two quite different administrative reasons. In America the task would be entrusted to a university. In Russia a different organisation would be set up to tackle it, but the staff of the research centre and the staff of the university would be the same people. So the tasks would be intimately associated both in Russia and in America.

So the problems with which the Sutherland Committee were concerned do not arise by the very nature of the organisation with which other countries have succeeded in solving their problems. We seem deliberately to create them for ourselves and to do so by attempting to set up research establishments concerned specifically with particular problems. We find that, although they are equipped at enormous expense, have apparatus which is unrivalled, perhaps, in the world, and have every opportunity for their work, nevertheless in the end they tend to wither on the vine. The reason they do this, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said, is that they are dissociated from the opportunity of experiencing either the urgent problems of an industrial firm, anxious all the time to preserve its products from competition; or, on the other hand, the continuing stimulus of young men who go through, bringing new ideas and giving a new impetus. They may leave behind a major contribution to knowledge, but certainly they take with them the experience of seeing science in progress with the best apparatus in the world and under conditions of extreme urgency. It is the experience of working under these conditions which converts a college graduate into an engineer or scientist. Nothing else can do it.

We have created enormous difficulties for ourselves in setting up a machinery which almost automatically and instinctively separates these two components of what should be one indivisible whole. One of my oldest friends was in charge of the Solid State Department in Malvern, which was better equipped at the time than any other such establishment in England. He decided to leave R.R.E., Malvern, to go to a university because he wanted to teach undergraduates. When he got there he found himself wholly unable to equip his laboratory as he wished, and so in sheer desperation he went to America to work in M.I.T. where, as a matter of course, the two tasks were associated because it had never occurred to anybody that they could be separated.

Our problem is peculiarly British and insoluble within the framework of the administration which we have created for ourselves. I cannot over-emphasise the extreme importance of realising that in a university research and teaching are inseparable once the first degree is passed; a man can learn what science is only by doing it, and to do it he has to work on real, genuine problems with good apparatus, under good conditions, under an able man.

It is quite intolerable that the universities in this country should be put into a position in which they are almost forced to use the Ph.D. degree as a bribe to persuade people to go and work, sometimes with inadequate apparatus and under very poor conditions, on problems of insignificant economic importance, problems which have been chosen simply because they can form the subject of a three-year dissertation. They are deprived of the opportunities which they would have in any other country of the world of working, with the best facilities in the country, on real, urgent problems under good conditions. I sincerely hope that the Government will take seriously the problem of reorganisation, which will make the Sutherland Report irrelevant by demolishing the administrative process which has led to the difficulties to which Sir Gordon Sutherland has drawn our attention in this most valuable document.

This is a problem which I think transcends in importance almost any other with which the universities are confronted. It is not enough merely to create more undergraduate places. It is not enough to set up small research schools in universities, isolated all over the country, each competing desperately for men, apparatus and ideas, and to hope that as a result of this we shall create a lively, flourishing science, and a prosperous industry. Our competitors ensure at all times that their young people are part of the real world; the world in which urgent problems are solved with good apparatus under ideal conditions.

These are problems which demand solution, and it will not be enough merely to endorse Sir Gordon Sutherland's recommendations which, I am glad to say, have been accepted by the Vice-Chancellors. Nor will it be enough to point out that it will be of immense help to Harwell; that it should have a closer association with the university. This, of course, is true. I have made speeches in Harwell and in Oxford, at great length on many occasions, pointing this out. People pay lip service to it but always complain that the administrative processes are such as to make closer association almost impossible.

I should like at this moment to pay tribute to some of the work which has been done at Harwell, and particularly at Culham. There are very few centres of excellence in this country or, in fact, in the world. There are, however, a few places in which work of very great sophistication is being done under extraordinarily good conditions, and under the most imaginative direction. I think that Culham is probably the best of its kind which we have in this country, and it ranks with any institution of its kind to be found anywhere in the world.

It is little less than tragic that such a magnificent establishment as Culham should now be suffering, as it is, from grave doubts and uncertainty about its future, which are having a most deplorable effect on the morale of the staff; and that such an establishment should not as a matter of course be regarded as a wonderful place for young people to go and learn the technique of science by doing it. In other words, I say that Culham should be a component of a university institution. I would not presume to describe this afternoon precisely how this could be done, but it should be done and it could be done. It would transform the education of physicists and it would transform the future of Culham, which, as I have said, is one of our greatest single national assets though it is likely, if we are not careful, to be wantonly destroyed through neglect, and it is suffering terribly at this moment from grave doubts as to its future.

If I may just mention another, simpler example of what I mean, Aldermaston has at this minute a magnificent tandem generator; a splendid machine which they built themselves to the design of the High Voltage Electronics Corporation in Burlington, Massachusetts. This is probably the best of its kind in the country. It is the kind of machine which universities all over the world are buying and installing. But the Ministry of Technology are trying to find a university, anywhere in America, which will take it off their hands on the grounds that they cannot afford to maintain it. This is folly. The cost of transporting the thing, of taking it out of its very elaborate mounting and from the building which houses it, is almost half the value of the machine. Here we have an opportunity to provide facilities for a research school, unrivalled perhaps in this country, which is being wantonly destroyed because of the failure to appreciate the opportunities which exist, or could exist, for collaboration between universities and Government research establishments of various kinds. The fence at Aldermaston will have to be moved, but this is not an intolerably difficult exercise.

For a long time Harwell cost us every year almost as much as all the universities in England put together. This is incredible but true. I do not think the universities started to cost more every year than Harwell did until ten years ago. Despite this, and despite the extraordinary opportunities which the creation of new machinery provided, it was not used as it should have been, as an educational media.

There are many things which I could mention; for example, the manufacture of these enormous nuclear machines in the Rutherford Laboratory. The actual manufacture and creation and design of such pieces of machinery represents the most sophisticated modern engineering which the world can offer. It could and should have been used as a method of instructing young men in the techniques of modern engineering. It was not so used. The consequence is that our industrial firms have little or no understanding of the problems, because they do not have engineers who know them. It means that when, for example, CERN goes out to contract for new apparatus the British manufacturers rarely succeed in getting any of the contracts. It means, furthermore, that a vast opportunity, unrivalled so far in my lifetime, was totally ignored and neglected. These are most tragic examples of the failure of this country to understand and to solve years ago some of the problems to which Sir Gordon Sutherland's Committee has drawn our attention.

I should like, since my time is short, to draw the attention of the Government to one particular problem to which the Committee referred; one which could be resolved almost overnight, and for the lack of which we still suffer greatly. I refer to the problem of the transferability of pension rights. Your Lordships may think this a relatively trivial matter to which to refer after what I have already said, but it is in fact important, if only because it could be solved so easily. It is extremely difficult for people to move from the scientific Civil Service—the Atomic Energy Authority—to university, to industry and back again. This is a problem which simply does not exist in many countries, because for years there has been an almost universal opportunity for people to move without loss of pension rights from any part of the economy to any other. We, uniquely, make it difficult, and we do so as a result of a curious set of Treasury regulations concerned with such trivia as the conditions under which an employer's contribution to a pension fund may be taken away without incurring a liability to tax. The regulations which govern the interchange of pensions between different components of the body politic are more complicated in this country than anywhere else in this world: they cause more confusion, they are more frustrating. and the final result is less satisfactory than in any other Western country of which I know.

I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I illustrate the absurdity of the situation, and the bizarre results which sometimes follow, by describing the circumstances which confronted me when I left an industrial firm to go into the academic world. The pension fund to which I subscribed was one of those in which, if the holder of a pension leaves voluntarily, he has to forfeit all the contributions which the employer has made on his behalf. If, on the other hand, he leaves under duress, he takes it with him. So after I had decided to leave I was under a tremendous temptation to go and smite the chairman of my firm on the nose in order to be fired, because then I should have taken with me several hun- dreds of pounds—less, of course, any sum awarded against me as damages for common assault. I resisted the temptation, which was great at the time, but I cannot understand what Treasury genius it was who, deliberately or accidentally, produced a regulation which imposes such strain on people anxious to move.

My Lords, to my certain knowledge there has been a Committee sitting to consider this problem of transferability of pension rights for three or four years. So far, it has produced no results of any kind, and I would beg the Government to believe that the simple resolution of this quite simple administrative problem, which could be resolved by the Treasury very simply, would do so much to ensure the freedom of movement of people from one part to another of what is in fact the same enterprise; namely, the complete, composite body of the industry, of the research and the universities teaching. It would do more to improve the mobility of labour and increase the flexibility of British industry than anything else that could be devised. In another place about a year and a half ago my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer remarked that he hoped to be remembered as the Chancellor who had introduced an entirely new type of tax, the selective employment tax, which would, he said, improve the mobility of labour and make it easier for the Government to send people from one part of the industrial organisation to another. I should like to assure my noble friend who is to reply to this debate that if the Chancellor could solve the problem of pension transferability he would do more to render his name blessed and to increase the mobility of high-quality labour within the British economy than all the selective employment tax he will ever think of.

My Lords, I have wandered far from my main theme, but I would beg your Lordships to believe that the document we have in front of us is one of the great State documents of this generation. The problems it poses should never have been allowed to arise; but as a result of the solution of them, I hope we may see some alleviation of our difficulties, and may arrive at a position in which we no longer spend more on research and get less for it than any other country in Western Europe.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for the fact that my larynx is partially out of order and that the resources of science and technology have not yet been able to effect a cure. But if my remarks are inaudible, they will also inevitably be brief. I will say only a few words about the first part of the Motion. I was not one of those in favour of setting up a Ministry of Technology. I supported the recommendations of the Trend Committee, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Todd. I remain of the opinion that the present arrangement is not the best one; but, fortunately, even the wrong system can be worked by the right people, and it is clearly not very useful or profitable to discuss or press for fundamental changes at the present time.

There is, however, just one point that I would make. I know that it is highly debatable where the line of responsibility should be drawn between basic scientific research and development; and, of course, there is now a complex of committees, to which reference has been made by previous speakers. I simply want to express my own opinion that the present division is not the best one. I should like the first opportunity of reorganisation to be taken to transfer scientific research from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Technology, and a Minister of Science and Technology should take over the responsibility for the Research Councils.

My Lords, the Report we are discussing deals with the relations between universities and Government research establishments, and I have nothing new to add to what has already been said about its recommendations. But I should, like to take the discussion a little further, to a closely-related problem of equal, if not greater, importance; namely, the relationship between the universities and industry in scientific and technological matters. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to this question, and I shall approach it from a slightly different angle from that taken by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. I think it is a commonplace, and, on the whole, a valid criticism of our national performance in the last twenty or thirty years, that in spite of the excellence of our scientific research and development we have failed to exploit the commercial possibilities of our scientific achievements.

This is a field in which the United States has been outstandingly successful. It is true, of course, that in the United States Government support for science-based industries, through the defence and aerospace programmes, is on a very much larger scale than in this country. Nevertheless, what is often called the "spin-off" from this expenditure—that is to say, the application of innovations thrown up by defence and other Governmental research and development to ordinary commercial purposes—has been much more successfully developed there than in this country; and it is in this question of the relationship between scientific research and development and industrial applications that we have found perhaps our weakest point.

The classic example of the development of "spin-off" is the relationship between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the science-based industries—many, but not all of them, small—which have grown up on the perimeter of Boston. There is cross-fertilisation here which has led to remarkable results. Something very similar exists in Southern California, around the California Institute of Science and Technology, around the University of Stanford and in other places. Virtually nothing of the kind exists in this country. There seems to be a different climate in the United States: the academic world seems more alert to the commercial possibilities of their research work; industrialists seem to be more aware of the help they can get from the academic world. The attitude of mind on both sides appears to be more alert and receptive than it is in this country.

Recently, there has been some stirring over here. The National Research Development Corporation can, of course, do a great deal more than it used to do with the increased funds which have now been placed at its disposal. There has been some discussion in the Press about science parks on the lines of a development which has been successfully carried out in Canada, and generally there is a much greater awareness of the problem. There is the project at the University of Lancaster, to which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred. But relatively little seems to have happened in practical terms.

There are various ways in which the problem can be tackled. The practice that has already been adopted in some institutions of appointing from industry qualified individuals as professors for one or more years to lecture and teach could be expanded. In the opposite direction, all reasonable facilities could be given to members of academic staffs to act as consultants to, or part-time directors of, industrial firms. Of course, a proviso has to be made that this work must not interfere with the academic teaching, but if the process is properly controlled it can be of mutual value, as the United States experience has shown; and perhaps there is room in this country for more positive encouragement and less reluctant approval.

Such investigation as I have been able to make shows that there are one or two specific examples of "spin-off" from Oxford and from Cambridge, but they seem to be confined to the field of the manufacture and sale of high-grade scientific instruments. I cannot help thinking that there is scope for greater activity and achievement here. Proposals have also been discussed from the side of the Universities for the formation, in conjunction with the engineering department of a university, of an industrial development unit or company to promote the commercial aspects of the work of the department. Some financial subvention would be needed to start the unit off but thereafter it is thought that the unit could be self-supporting on royalties, consultancy and development contracts. There is also the problem of patents. The question here is whether full use is made of all the patented information or whether many patents, once taken out, are left to moulder in the files. I have no preconceived notion as to the best way of making progress but I am sure there is a need for greater awareness of the problem and closer study of it.

It is often said that the obstacle to the successful exploitation of a technical innovation is lack of finance. I doubt whether much that has a genuinely commercial prospect suffers in this way. There is the National Research and Development Corporation. In the private sector there is technical development capital; and there are the clearing banks, who I do not think are as backward as is sometimes thought in lending for such purposes. Of course, there is bound to be disappointment from time to time. But this, I think, is due to different evaluations of a project rather than to lack of finance.

It may be that the scope for action in this country is less than it is in the United States, but I find it difficult to believe that it is as small as the practical achievements up to date have suggested. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, may have put his finger on the fundamental defect in the earlier part of what he has just said. In any case, the conclusion seems to be that the main problem is not so much lack of finance as lack of organisation and initiative, and the failure of mutual communication between the industrial and academic worlds. I hope that the Government, through the Ministry of Technology, and by encouraging the National Research and Development Corporation, will do everything they can to stimulate interest in this subject. I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the action contemplated in this field; but I hope that initiatives will increasingly come both from the universities themselves and from industrial firms.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, may I, too, thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for his wide-ranging speech in support of his Motion on a subject of such vital importance to the economy. I should like also to take this opportunity of apologising to the noble Lord who is to wind up this debate, in that I may be prevented by a long-standing engagement from being here when he comes to speak.

At the outset, I should like to comment briefly on some particular remarks made by the noble Earl and to add one more question to his list. He said that it would be advantageous if Ph.Ds. were awarded for research done jointly in university and industry. Under the Council for National Academic Awards this is possible, and Ph.Ds have been awarded for work done jointly in the colleges of technology and industry. The pioneer work in this field was done by the predecessor of the Council, the National Council for Technological Awards, and holders of the M.C.T. of that body can now exchange their degree for a Ph.D.

My question to the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate is whether, in the present organisation of Government science, there is satisfactory provision for the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the Ministry of Power to obtain the resources which, I suppose, will be rather beyond the resources of their own research establishments. Is there a system of liaison which enables the Ministry of Technology to put some of its resources at their disposal? The noble Earl's questions were critical of the current govern mental administrative structure for science. I, too, am rather critical of the present arrangements, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will believe that my criticisms are intended to be constructive.

My Lords, I should like to approach the difficult and complex problem of the organisation of the country's research and development work in a rather old-fashioned and simple-minded way. I should like to make it clear at the outset that I shall confine myself to research and development in the industrial context, particularly in the areas covered by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, of which I was the last chairman. I suppose it is too late to make our terminology logical. I sometimes think that if we use words more accurately we should make fewer organisational errors.

The great division, which we all recognise, whether we like it or not, is between the arts and the sciences. On which side of the division do the technologies lie? Not, I think, on the arts side. It follows then that the technologies are among the sciences. So when we speak of science and technology, as we habitually do, we introduce an element not only of tautology, but of confusion. I believe that we should understand quite clearly that technology is part of applied science, and that the natural sub-division on the science side is between pure science and applied science. To me it follows that if, administratively, we must make a division it should be one in which pure science, with all its pure research, lies in one compartment, and applied science, with all its research and development, lies in another.

If your Lordships will forgive me mentioning in a brief moment what you already know, pure research is the search for new knowledge for its own sake. From the administrative point of view, it requires the maximum of finance and the minimum of direction. The dividends on the investment come but rarely, but when they come they can be enormous. The great dividend of nuclear power is the direct consequence of the probing for new knowledge of the structure of the atom. The chief problem in the support, by Government or otherwise, of pure research, is identifying the people capable of doing it, who are much less numerous than the people who think they are so capable. In this connection, the administration of pure research, the Government function, I suggest, is identifying the people and financing them; and, so long as the Department responsible can get the collaboration of proven fundamental scientists and the Treasury, it does not matter very much which Department it is. I would suppose that the Department of Education and Science is appropriate; the Ministry of Technology could be more so, particularly if its title were amended.

It is when we come to applied science that the administrative problem becomes so difficult. I believe that applied science is, or should be, concerned with the achievement of recognisable utilitarian objectives, preferably those likely to be of profit to the economy. A new objective, which almost inevitably is to do something better or faster later on than we do it now, involves those responsible in new research investigations in building upon the knowledge that the fundamental scientists have put on record, in arranging for new investigations to fill gaps in the relevant spectrum of knowledge, in building models, in building prototypes, in testing, in modifying.

Somewhere in the spectrum of effort there is a changeover from what we popularly call "research" to what we think of as "development". But—and this, my Lords, is my excuse for this lecture—the whole spectrum is one and indivisible. It resembles the seamless robe of the noble Earl but whereas he contemplated the division of his robe, I think my spectrum should remain in one piece. In the pracadministered on the assumption that it tical fields of industrial endeavour it does so. In the industries I know it is does so. I believe that in Government it would best be administered similarly.

That is why, my Lords, I believe that the Trend Committee were wrong— eminent and knowledgeable as were its members, among them my noble friend Lord Todd, from whom I always hesitate to differ, but with whom I find myself this afternoon in almost complete sympathy. They wanted: A Science Research Council for the support of research projects on pure and applied science on the one hand, and an Industrial Research and Development Authority on the other. They divided my spectrum, which should remain whole. They cut the noble Earl's broadloom robe in the wrong place.

The present Government did not accept the Trend Report, but they accepted the Science Research Council. Instead of the Industrial Research and Development Authority, they created the Ministry of Technology, and I think that represents an improvement. But because the spectrum of applied science has been divided, it has been necessary to create a complex system of liaison between the Ministry and the Science Research Council. Some people believe it works; some people believe it does not, and I confess that I have my doubts about it.

My Lords, I think that our administrative machinery, and in consequence our national achievement, has been bedevilled by this belief that there is one thing called applied science and another called technology. Our achievement, according to a paper at present before the Prime Minister's National Productivity Conference, suggests that the economic consequences of our research and development expenditure are bitterly disappointing. In other words, it supports with figures what the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, told us this afternoon. Economic growth is faster in all the other European countries considered, though their R and D expenditures are smaller proportions of their gross national products.

Admittedly, they had further to climb in the post-war years than we had, and it is difficult to allow for this factor. But also, according to the paper I referred to, the United States of America, admittedly spending an even higher proportion of their gross national product than the United Kingdom, has achieved a greater increase in output per capita than we have, and they certainly started from a higher base line. I consider that if our efforts in research had been more closely linked, as has already been suggested this afternoon, to probably profitable objectives, as I believe they are in these other countries, the growth of the economy in return for our very great research expenditure would have been vastly greater.

How might this have been achieved? How may better performance in the future be achieved? I believe we need not only an administrative machine capable of identifying the dividend-making projects, the projects likely to profit the economy, but a machine which ensures the harnessing of the maximum resources to achieving them. Whatever industry does for itself in selecting projects of probable profit, I believe we need machinery for co-ordinating these efforts and, still more important, for determining the more ambitious ones which single firms, through limited resources, cannot be expected to embrace.

I should think that the complex of Neddies is the machinery for this coordination and selection. Perhaps, if these duties are not at present prominent in their terms of reference, their composition as well as their terms of reference may need adjustment. For the achievement of the objectives we need the closely co-ordinated efforts of industry, the research associations, the Government research establishments and the university and the College of Technology applied research departments. It is for this coordination that we look to the Ministry of Technology. The Ministry, of course, assumes this duty, but in one direction at least I want it to do more.

I believe that most of the research associations and Government Departments are reasonably close to their associated industry, but I believe that there is a wealth of talent of immense economic potential in the applied science departments of universities and colleges which has not become sufficiently involved in the drive for profitable objectives. This, I think, was what the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, was saying in slightly different language. I suggest that to involve this talent to the utmost should be an objective of Government scientific policy, an objective of industry's scientific policy, and an objective of the Ministry of Technology. Government can achieve this in more than one way—by direct contract to the academies and, among others, by developing liaison between the academies and Government research establishments; the latter being, of course, the subject of an admirable Report by Sir Gordon Sutherland's Working Party which has already been referred to this afternoon.

That Report discloses a somewhat disquieting situation to which the noble Earl briefly referred and on which the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has commented so wisely. In their conclusions the Working Party say that they were left in no doubt that nearly all Government research establishments would welcome a much closer relationship with universities and are keen to take action to effect it. They go on to say that only a minority of universities appear to them to be willing to take a strong initiative to the same end. One would guess that this would include the new technological universities. The Working Party find the attitude understandable, and they mention the fear in some university departments that their research activities might be weakened by some of the proposals for closer liaison. I find this puzzling. There are many departments in universities and colleges of technology in which the work going on is manifestly of an applied—a technological—character. Its broad object must be intended to benefit the associated industry. The closer it gets to the establishments concerned with the same technology, to the industry concerned with that technology, to the relevant research association, the more likely the academic effort is to be of value.

A lifetime of experience of applied research in Government, university and industry has not suggested to me that research aimed at practical objectives is of less interest than research done without such objectives. On the contrary. And no one is suggesting that the universities should do work which they do not want to do. My hope is that the attitude the Sutherland Committee discovered in the Government establishments will be matched by a desire for collaboration of the same character, sweeping not only through the universities and through the colleges of technology but through industry which, while I believe it takes in most fields advantage of the facilities offered by Government research estab- lishments, does not try hard enough to involve in its projects the wealth of talent in academic applied research.

Like others who have spoken this afternoon, I should like to see a much more intimate partnership between industry, Government establishments, research associations and academic research departments, with combined teams on industrial projects, and with liberal interchange of staff, such as was discussed by the Sutherland Working Party, for Government Departments and universities. This interchange, so valuable for the intense collaborative effort which I am sure we need, would be facilitated enormously by a national pension scheme for all professional people. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, referred to this subject in such emphatic terms, and one would hope very sincerely that the Government will try to bring it about.

My Lords, may I briefly summarise the views I have expressed? I believe that the Government administration of applied research, in which I include technology, should not be divided between two Departments. I suggest that all that is clone in applied science should flow from the setting of objectives which, if achieved, would be likely to profit the economy. I suggest, further, that the definition of these objectives is a duty of the N.E.D.C. organisation; that in trying to achieve them the Government and industry ought to seek the full collaboration of the relevant university and college of technology departments. Perhaps there is nothing very novel in these suggestions—and some of them have been said in different and more emphatic terms already this afternoon; but if the necessary changes are to be accepted by all involved, great changes of mind, as well as changes in organisation, will be necessary.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and other noble Lords will forgive me for saying that, much as I have appreciated their speeches, I think that the most important contribution to-day has come from the noble Lord, Lord Todd. I thought that he put his finger on the most important matter in connection with these Government establishments.

I spent two years of the war at the Royal Air Force Establishment, Farnborough. I was asked to go there to look after the Chemistry Department, and I found (it is now so long ago that I can say this without fear of offending people) that this department was still working, in the year 1943, upon the projects on which they had been engaged in the year 1920. It was still working upon the problems of camouflaging aircraft, because in the First World War camouflaging aircraft was of high importance. It was still working upon dopes to be applied to fabric-covered aircraft. At that time, there was only one, the Wellington, still flying. It was still working upon paints, in spite of the fact that by then there was a well-established paint industry in this country. I could go on enumerating the problems upon which it was working, scarcely one of which was relevant to the Second World War.

This was not entirely the fault of the people who were working there, because they themselves had put forward certain schemes. They had put forward before the war the whole of the FIDO scheme, but it was disregarded and put away in a file. In the first year of the war, a high-level committee was formed and at the end of a whole year this high-powered committee produced FIDO, exactly the scheme which the small Chemistry Department at Farnborough had produced before the war and which had been ignored.

Further, they spent a long time during the early stages of the war investigating explosions in fuel tanks. They pointed out that probably the biggest single risk for a bomber flying over Germany arose from incendiary bullets hitting a fuel tank, because when a fuel tank was at a height of, say, 20,000 feet and the aeroplane had been flying for a time, the temperature dropped so low that it no longer had in the tank a non-explosive mixture, but a highly explosive petrol-air mixture, and this was more dangerous than when the temperature was high. They were not believed, and they argued with the Air Ministry for a year before protection for fuel tanks was brought in, and it was not until just after Christmas, 1943, that we had protection of all fuel tanks, though it could have been done earlier.

It was things like that which made the people working in that laboratory feel extremely discouraged and disheartened. And we have to realise that practically all Government establishments, except when there is the impetus of a war, tend to go down into a peaceful state of quiet study of the problems with which they were dealing in the previous war. This applies not only to defence establishments but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said very strongly, to all research establishments if they are divorced from industry or from the universities.

A man has to have a purpose to do research. He just does not go and sit down and do research. He does it because he is compelled by the need to solve a real problem. Like the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, I do not distinguish between pure and applied science. Both are equally important. The important thing is what is urging the research. We shall get the impetus to do pure science, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said, only when there are young men doing research. It is not old people who make discoveries—I am old enough now to say that: it is young people who make discoveries; and it is our job to see that their vitality is unleashed. In my opinion we can do this only by linking basic research to the universities, not by doing it in research establishments, and by having technological research closely linked with industry.

I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Bowden has returned, because at this point I shall be slightly critical of him. He made what I thought was a somewhat unfair attack on the whole organisation of science in this country. I do not agree with him. I believe that a great deal of what we have done has been extremely good. I think, for instance, that our research associations have been very good. I do not say that all of them have; but in the main they have worked well, and I would say that if we had not had these research associations set up jointly by the Government and industry, there is many an industry in which no research at all would have been done. These associations have played a valuable part, and it is important that we should continue them. We may have to prune them. Probably some have outlived their day; and there are others which require reform.

The noble Lord, Lord Todd, made a wise remark when he said that we cannot plan science apart from planning industry. Science is not an isolated activity. I hope your Lordships will believe that those of us who have practised science all our lives have done so because we have regarded it as part of a communal activity, with the hope all the time that what we are doing is playing a part in the development of community and industry. When people say that we in the universities do not want contact with industry, I reply frankly that that is nonsense. It may be that we do not want every type of contact. It may be that we do not want to be asked to do something which we are not qualified to do. But in my experience we all want to feel that the things which we are producing in research are going to play a valuable part in industry. What we complain about is that industry is not interested and will not respond to it.

Remarks have been made about the difference between this country and the United States. I know a little about the United States. Both my daughters are married and living out there, and all the grandchildren I have are Americans. Every time I go there and visit universities and industries—and I have been frequently in both—I have been struck by the fact that industry is waiting to find out new ideas. Mention has been made this afternoon of consultants. Every American industry is bribing people the whole time for consultants. If any one of us visits the United States, he is asked immediately by a dozen firms to go and give a lecture, and they will pay all one's expenses for going. I am rarely asked to give a lecture for any industry in this country, but in America I should be asked continuously. I have even had work which we have done in Newcastle known and appreciated by an American firm, who have written to their British associates and said: "Who are those people working in Newcastle on this problem? I suppose you are supporting them." But the British firm had never heard of us.

It seems to me strange that even to-day in this country we are failing to get the proper collaboration between industry and the universities, between Government establishments and universities. I think that, so far as the Government establishment is concerned, the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Todd, is the right one: associate them entirely with universities, or wipe them out, or put them with industry. If your Lordships look at this map which is put at the back of the Sutherland Report, you will see quite simply why the association between Government research institutes and universities is not so good as it should be. If you take the area North of a line from the Wash to the Severn you will find scarcely a single Government establishment, until you get to Scotland. The whole of the Northern part of England is devoid of these Government research institutes.

One asks: "Why are there no associations?". In order to come down to your Lordships' House I travel overnight, and I shall be catching a sleeper back at one o'clock to-morrow morning in order to get back to do my day's work. This can be done, and I do it; but it does not encourage when these institutions are all sited in the London area. We ought to have a number of these research institutes close to every university of this country. People cannot be expected to travel 270 miles. It is an easy journey from Newcastle to London, but if I want to go from Newcastle to Cardiff it is a very different story, and it would probably take me a day and a half. One has to realise that we have partly created the problem by putting all the Government institutions in the London area.

There are a great many things that are wrong, and a great many things that we do well; but there is nothing we are doing to-day that we could not vastly improve upon. I think we could take three simple steps. One is to follow the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and associate all the Government institutions with the universities. Secondly, we should scatter them around the country where there are universities; and thirdly, we should get all our industry to begin to appreciate that there must be a close contact and a reciprocal contact.

I should have liked to quote to your Lordships a letter, but perhaps I can recollect just one sentence from it. The letter was written by the director of research of one of the large electrical companies in this country to a lecturer in my own laboratory, who had written to him, knowing that they were doing a certain type of work which was related to work that we were doing. He wrote that he was most interested in pursuing work along these lines. He asked whether he could discuss it with them, and suggested that perhaps the company might be prepared to give some support for a research student. The reply that came back—and this is almost verbatim—was: "Industry pays the University Grants Committee and the Science Research Council to support research in universities, and we are not prepared to do anything about it."

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend for introducing this Motion which ranges broadly across the field of science. The points raised by my noble friend are, I think, most relevant to the whole problem of strengthening the technological base of this country, and I should like to draw attention to some of the areas which are affected by the division of responsibility between the Ministry of Technology and the Department of Education and Science, which is referred to in the Motion. If the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, could find a bus large enough to put the Government's advisers in, I have the impression from what he said that it would probably be a double-decker.

To start with, I want to refer to that important area which one might say is at the very heart of things; that is, scientific and technical information and all its facets of collection, storage, retrieval and dissemination. One comes to the point of the name here. It is difficult. No prizes are being offered for finding a new name, but we now have such names as "datamation" and "automation" with us; and if the word "information" did not already exist in the English language, this might well be the one that would be chosen.


May I say that the French have a word "informatique". I wonder whether that might be considered suitable for use generally for data processing. It might be the answer. I do not know what we call it.


I do not believe there is a similar word in the English language to "informatique", and I think we need to have further thought about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to OSTI and its activities, and particularly the point that it is there to promote and co-ordinate improvements in the existing information services and stimulate the development of new systems and techniques which are likely to be worth introducing into the information network, the budget for which is now around £370,000. This is certainly an increase over the previous year. This expenditure is to be welcomed, as there is a growing recognition of the information problem in the world, and we must ensure in this country that we have the information network that is needed by scientists. I think it is clear that, like others, we have only just started to scratch the surface of this problem, but the overall object is directed finally to finding ways and means of manipulating information by machinery (in this case by computer), with the minimum amount of human intervention.

As the computer industry is sponsored by the Ministry of Technology, in addition to its other sponsorships, one can immediately identify a division of responsibility in a field which needs close coordination if the country is to derive the maximum benefit from the total amount of work which is being done in various places towards developing the necessary techniques. This is an important point, because it is impossible to copyright the software or language of a computer, although the hardware designs can be protected in the usual commercial manner, and I can see a possible situation arising where computer software technique language will strongly influence computer design. The divisions of responsibility of this kind can at times, I think, be a good thing and can be made to work, but very often they arise through natural circumstances and as a result the best is not achieved.

In the case of scientific and technological information handling, new ground is being trodden by the Department of Education and Science through OSTI which may cause the computer technologist to rethink his techniques. This in turn may call for a change of emphasis by the Ministry of Technology in sponsoring the computer industry and ensuring that national requirements are recognised early and that needs can be met at the right time by British companies—an all-important factor in this field, where United States companies are very often setting the pace in Europe. The problems of information handling are immense, and I believe that a good example should be set by the Government in coordinating the work in this area, if not actually bringing it under one umbrella in order to obtain more of a concerted effort—something similar to the Action Concerté in France.

Information is not the only area in which there is a division of responsibility. Another one is space science and technology, where the Ministry of Technology has inherited a responsibility, which is a somewhat fragmented one, involving space activities at the R.A.E., Farnborough, and other establishments, with extensions into industry, as well as other places. This covers satellites, satellite communications and launching vehicles. However, the pure science interest in space can, I think, be said to lie with the Department of Education and Science through the Science Research Council and the University interests, but in practice our long-term involvement in space science and technology is expressed largely in terms of support for ESRO and ELDO where the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology, respectively, have responsibility for managing our interests. Hence, we have a two channelled arrangement in this field with two Ministries and two European links.

The management of British space interests under a single head has been considered before and rejected, but I am glad to see from an Answer given by the Prime Minister in another place to a Question that the division of responsibilities on the British National Space Programme is a matter to be looked at by the Central Advisory Council of Science as a step towards better co-ordination of our space activities. I feel that there is a real need for greater co-ordination of activities in support of space and of the space programme, in which science and technology generally are being drawn closer together.

ESRO is about to consider its first major scientific project, the large astronomical satellite; the French and German Governments are considering implementing the SAROS project to put up a communication satellite over Europe; and I gather that no decision has yet been made about the British Government's participation in this project. One way and another, a great deal of money is being invested in space in Europe, and this is bound to have some beneficial impact on industry. But I believe that a nationally coordinated effort is necessary to stimulate the best results and to recognise, on a limited budget, what will be the most productive ventures in the space field.

It is interesting to look back at what was said by the Technical Director of ESRO some years ago, speaking about the organisation. He said that, although the aims of ESRO are the furtherance of space science, the method of achievement of these aims is almost wholly technological". My Lords, history has shown that developments required in particular fields of engineering have always resulted in inventions and the development of new materials and techniques which become available elsewhere. I think that coordinated national effort is vital in addition to support of the European ventures.

Dealing more specifically with the matter of the two European scientific organisations, ESRO and CERN—and here I declare an interest—to which we devote part of our scientific budget, they are briefly referred to in the context of liaison between universities and Government research establishments in the Sutherland Report, at the bottom of page 4. However, I feel that they are largely swept under the carpet in the Report by its saying that they are both operated largely for the benefit of university research workers. This is possibly fairly true for CERN, but certainly not, in my opinion, for ESRO, in whose 1964–65 Report the participation of industry is specifically mentioned.

At this point I should like to draw attention to certain differences in these two organisations which both contribute to the aims of science and, in particular, to the likely future investments by them which will have some effect on our own technological position. Both these organisations are large spenders and are about to seek approval for expenditure of further substantial sums on new projects which involve procurement of equipment: at CERN the giant particle accelerator, for example, which will cost, as my noble friend said, something like £150 million overall; and at ESRO the new large astronomical satellite, which will cost something like £25 million—that is to say, if these projects are approved. The United Kingdom contributions to ESRO and CERN are themselves significant, and it is important that, if we wish to continue to obtain benefit from our investments in support of these two organisations, we should seek to ensure that the returns are not only in the form of scientific and technological information and brain gain, but also in terms of technological and industrial know-how and experience. This can surely happen only if industry is able to participate in projects of the organisations through contract work.

As I said before, I think it is recognised by ESRO that industry has its part to play, and British firms have had a fair degree of success in obtaining significant contracts—in fact, around £2 million out of the total contribution to date of £7 million to £8 million. However, the same is not true of CERN, as this country has had only about £2 million worth of contracts, out of a total of £48 million worth placed. This compares with a total contribution, over the period of CERN'S life, of £20 million. This £20 million is three times the contribution to ESRO to date over a much shorter period.

I do not think this is the occasion to debate ESRO and CERN affairs in detail. but one may perhaps draw attention to them in general terms as a significant part of our investment in these particular fields of science, which, if it is to bear fruit, must include the benefits to technology and industry. For example, no attention at all is given in the CERN Annual Report for 1965 to the part played by European industry, and this factor leads one to think that the attitude of the organisation to industry has not encouraged a number of firms to compete for the significant contracts which are opening up new ground.

Here I should like to refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said about the value to engineers of being able to participate in the construction and design, and so forth, of the equipment which has gone into the Rutherford Laboratory. I think that here he may have hit the nail on the head. This might point directly to one of the reasons why we have been so unsuccessful at CERN. As CERN is on the Franco-Swiss border, this may be more true for firms who have the advantage of being on the spot. One of the criticisms which I have heard levelled at CERN is that they expect participating firms to forgo their profits in exchange for the benefits to be obtained. I am sure that British industry is ready to do business with CERN, but not necessarily if it means entering into it with the knowledge of sustaining a loss in competition with Continental firms, who, incidentally, it is thought, may have a number of advantages over British firms in purely nontechnical ways, not only because they are better placed perhaps geographically, but through fiscal benefits of one sort or another.

The Government have been invited by Marks and Spencer to look at its procurement techniques, and although it looks as though the result of this may be that St. George may possibly star with St. Michael, I am sure that the purchaser expects to see the supplier make profits in order to encourage the best performance. The Government, with enlightened purchasing methods and various direct and indirect fundings procedures, may be able to do a lot indirectly to help British industry compete more successfuly for CERN and like business with their Continental competitors, and to obtain, for example, some of the £100 million worth of CERN equipment business which is confidently expected to be placed by them during the next five years. Part of this would include the money to be spent on the large accelerator.

However, in view of the United Kingdom's poor performance on CERN business I feel that a deeper probe should be made by the Government to find the real reasons for this, as the loss of business is a technological loss as much as anything. This is most important as the English site in Norfolk may be selected by the end of the year to house the large accelerator, on which £65 million of the overall £100 million will be spent—that is, assuming that approval is given by the Treaty countries—and in those circumstances a great deal more will surely be expected of industry in the way of participation, with the customer on the spot.

Whether we like it or not, my Lords, I believe that the big sciences of space and high-energy physics are here to stay, and are potent forces in bringing science and technology, in general, closer together, and that it is essential for the Government to co-ordinate these activities closely, and, where necessary, bring them together under the responsibility of one authority.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, it is expedient to be short, but not, I think, to omit to thank the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity of having this debate, and to thank, too, those very distinguished noble Lords—distinguished in the field of science—from whom I, at any rate, have learned much to-day and derived much interest. This is, perhaps, a rather narrow Motion, but in fact it raises the 64.000 dollar question whether we can so organise our affairs as to deal with the discoveries we are making, in this instance in the field of natural science. I understand the complexity of it, the difficulty of it. Science itself leads to unpredictable results the field of it is constantly increasing in diversity, so I should expect there to be some considerable confusion.

That is quite common, I understand, in revolutions, and on October 1, 1953, the present Prime Minister introduced a paper called Labour and the Scientific Revolution at the Party Congress at Scarborough. He made an extremely eloquent speech, which I heard: but in the manner of eloquent speeches it has in some respects not been fully carried out, and one of those respects was the introduction of a Minister of Science. A great deal of the speech turned on that. Well, there is not yet a Minister of Science. On the contrary, science has been hitched on to the Ministry of Education.

I know my own Party quite well, and I think that the Ministry of Education tends to be a trifle teacher-dominated. Anybody who takes the trouble to look through the debates in another place on the subject of education will find that the speakers include a disproportionate number of professional teachers, and often there is no one else. I suggest that we do not want to do that with science, and I agree with those who have said that the distinction between science and applied science or technology—or whatever words one uses—must be one of degree and not of fundamental substance. After all, if we think about medicine and the relations of medicine with science the shallowness of the distinction becomes apparent. I think it has arisen really from the way in which things have grown in this country and the form of the organisations which have had to deal with it. But, be that as it may, I suggest that the weight of opinion to-day in favour of handing science over to a Ministry which will also cover technology—call it what you like—has been overwhelming, and that opinion should not be disregarded because it is, unlike my own, that of people who are competent and know what they are talking about.

Then it is said, what about the universities? I see no objection to one Ministry looking after science in the universities while another Ministry looks after other aspects of the work of universities, including, perhaps, a great deal of the teaching work. New forms of educational institutes are growing up which I think show us the possibility of that being done. In Oxford, for instance, quite lately a school has been started for post-graduate students—scientists, as it happens. It has no undergraduates at all. In that respect it resembles a rather odd institution called All Souls. But there it is. If one is talking in terms of Ministries, that body belongs to the Ministry of Science and it does not belong to the Ministry of Education.

I want to go no further on those lines but I do wish to say one other thing. I know a good number of young scientists and a good number of young university people, and I think they feel that the wave of enthusiasm on which the Labour Party was returned to power was largely based on an appeal to scientific knowledge and the possibilities of scientific knowledge, and that the Government have fallen rather short in the provision of money and resources.

We cannot derive any comfort from the Tory Party about this. They got out of any difficulty by doing nothing, and at the time when Mr. Quintin Hogg (as he now is) was Minister of Science there was the story about the 'bus that would contain all his staff. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Todd, will forgive me if I tell a short story. I went to that Ministry to try to find out what they were doing. I must say I was a bit staggered by the size of the staff and the fact that they did not have any highly qualified scientists or anyone of scientific standing there. I said, "What do you do if, in the course of the government of this country, a rather difficult scientific problem suddenly occurs?" "Oh," they said, "we ask Lord Todd". I said, "What happens if Lord Todd is not here?" "Oh", they said, "we wait until he comes".

It is all very well, but the noble Lord, Lord Todd, would be the first person to agree that that is hardly the right way to discharge the duties of the Government. So if I am critical of my own Party I am equally critical of the Party opposite in this matter. But when one looks at the money provision, one finds there has been, as I see it, not so much a slowing-down of the whole programme but a failure to increase it in accordance with the hopes which so many of us, including myself, entertained at the time.

I think we have an arrangement for a quinquennial grant for the universities which covers a substantial part of their expenditure, which certainly has its advantages. I believe that some people thought it necessary. It tends to increase with no more than a regular small increase, roughly parallel with the increase in the cost of living. It is not only that. If you look at the recurrent expenditure in universities you find there has been an increase, but in regard to the capital expenditure there has actually been a decrease between the estimates this year and last year. Obviously, on matters of capital expenditure one cannot build too much on a single year but, without going into figures in detail, the general impression is that during the "freeze" one of the preferred subjects has not on the whole been science and the universities generally. It ought to have been, I suggest, if in fact we are to cope with the problems that beset every growing industrial country, every modern country, at the present time.

These are dealt with in different ways. There was a ministerial meeting recently under the auspices of the O.E.C.D. which pointed out that there were substantial differences. I think there is a great deal to be said for the method adopted by some countries—the meeting instanced France and Belgium—by which all the research and development expenditure in various departmental budgets is put together and then passed to a committee of, I think, a dozen scientists, from them to an inter-ministerial committee, and it then becomes part of the total budget. Our provision in our annual budgets is not really a forward provision at all. It is what has been spent in the year before with some small additions to it, and it certainly does not get what I think it ought to have in this case, the comments and criticism of a number of people with special scientific knowledge. I am always a little distrustful of people who say that such and such a profession ought entirely to run its own affairs. But that really is not the position here. Science is something so much larger, so much more fundamental, so much a part of our own lives, that it is at our own peril that we neglect making proper provision for it.

I suggest that there are two criteria, one of which is obviously a matter for scientists and is sometimes called "what is good science"—that is to say, what, regarding science in the abstract, are fruitful fields of advance—and another is in connection with the social effect of scientific discovery, which is very much more a matter for Government. Government is guesswork in many respects, and if you have got two irreconcilables nowadays there are two things only you can do with them: one is to let Parliament or the Minister of the day decide, and the other is to toss up. You have got to face that possibility. But you need not be driven to it if you find them irreconcilable only because you do not know sufficiently what you are talking about. I suggest that that gives us some sort of line on which to deal with this very baffling question of the role of Government and the role of experts with science.

I have little more to add, except this. One noble Lord said something about getting the right thing by doing it in the wrong way but with the right people. I understand that. But I believe that one of the great problems in getting science applied nowadays lies with the British businessman. That does not apply to all of them of course, but there are a terrible lot of them who are so narrow-minded and so reluctant to adopt new ideas that they failed, for instance, to get their fair share of the CERN contract, as the noble Lord pointed out. And they fail in other respects to keep up with the advance of the times. One says this, and of course as a loyal member of the Labour Party I would not mind saying that it would necessarily involve the abolition of the Tory Party, too. But at this late hour we cannot really go into that. I think that noble Lords opposite would agree with me that there are elements of fault, or shall we say inertia, in the British businessman, and sometimes in Tory politicians, which are really of very great hindrance to advance in this country. This is, after all, a challenge to us on this side. Cannot we do any better than that? If we say this is a scientific revolution it is up to us, as revolutionary experts, to cope with it. I see my noble friend is really shocked by that.




I am glad he approves. Seriously, this is a matter which cannot be approached on conventional lines and by methods which have served in the past for other purposes. It is something fundamental to advance in this country. It is something which all of us as good citizens ought to be prepared to face up to, and to say to ourselves, as I am saying to myself and and to no-one else: "You stupid old man; you really ought to try to shake up your ideas and your thoughts and see if you understand something at any rate, of what your children are doing about science".

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, I want to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for opening this debate, and to apologise to him and other noble Lords who have taken part earlier because I was not here. I was very much involved in the general context of our discussion because I was applying the good old Dr. Squeers Dotheboys Hall principle of "W-i-n-d-e-r-s. spells winders"; now go and clean them". I and several of my noble friends in this House have been hewing coal in the middle of Nottinghamshire, which is not inappropriate, because there we were seeing the end results or the culmination of science and technology in the latest most automated pit in Britain. When I think that noble Lords on the morning shift produced something like 100 tons of coal each at the coalface, it seems to me another example of something that is implicit in this debate.

I noticed that in the Report of the Sutherland Working Party on Liaison between Universities and Government Research Establishments it was apparently excluded from their remit that they should consider the nationalised industries in terms of the universities and research establishments. After our experience this morning, I think this is a great pity, because it seems to me that in fact we have in Bevercotes, as was described to us this morning, a laboratory. It is an attempt to establish a prototype of the kind of completely advanced and completely automated collieries that this country ought to have. It is significant and true that we have there a laboratory—and it is a laboratory. It is the Winfrith, if you like, of the National Coal Board, and should be regarded as such when your Lordships begin looking at the £20 million capital investment that it cost. It is a research establishment. It is carrying out the kind of work on which a great deal more will be built.

But in terms of our present debate it seems to me—and I am sure to some of my noble friends—that this is another example where there should be a much closer identification between the universities and, in this case, the research establishment of a nationalised industry; that the liaison should in fact be far, far closer. It is not simply, as was suggested in some private discussion to-day, a question of the National Coal Board giving research plans to a university or college of advanced technology. It is that in the great development of a colliery life at Bevercotes we are discovering other end problems which have got to be referred back for fundamental research. It is not merely tidying up the end results. Therefore, we have to recognise (and I gather, certainly from the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, and from my noble friend Lord Mitchison, that there is general agreement, which I certainly share) that it is a great mistake to separate science and technology, or to regard them as separate. I never have.

I believed, with the Prime Minister, at least at one time, that we should have a Minister of Science; and indeed it should have been so. It is impossible, in this day and age, to separate and distinguish, except departmentally, in the sense of where we put the people who are to work it, the philosophy of science and technology. There is no distinction now. Science and technology are part of the same spectrum. We have something we call pure science, academic science. We have have something which we call fundamental or basic science, which the French more intelligently called oriented science. We have applied science, we have technology and we have the results. I suggest that in point of fact we should think of it quite differently. We should think of the makers possible, who are the people doing pure or fundamental research who make possible; we should think in terms of the makers to happen who are in fact the applied scientists; and we should think of the makers to work, who are the technologists; and we should think of the makers to pay, who are the people who produce the goods. This is the point.

I want here to say that we need something else in these definitions that I am offering your Lordships. We need makers to think. At this moment not nearly enough thought is going into what is really needed in science—and indeed into what the end and object of science or technology really is. We are not doing it. We are not doing it because we are beginning to lay a great deal of stress on certain things which may appear to be self-evident at the moment. We may be in a national crisis of trying to catch up on something which puts an enormous push behind one form of development, and we shall find ourselves presently being carried along in what I can only regard, in the circumstances, as a current, something which we have financed to the point where it is carrying us along in its momentum. This is not helping science. It cannot be. We must get back to the point where we are really taking account of the directions in which we are trying to strive.

As my noble friend Lord Mitchison said, we are caught up in a revolution, and we have to man the barricades of that revolution. The fact is that we are slacking now. Something has gone wrong in our thinking about this. I, like my noble friend Lord Mitchison, have almost great resentment about what seems to me to be a misdirection. I do not mean now merely setting up the Ministry of Technology and the splitting off of science into the Ministry of Education. Something else has happened. And I ask my Front Bench seriously how, in fact, we are going to get to a re-integration of the ideas which impelled many of us before the last Election. I do not think I need do this, but I assure my own Front Bench that it was, as Lord Mitchison said, the inspiration, or the temptation, the illumination, which was given by the promises of scientifically orientated policies that inspired the younger generation to support the Labour Party.

At this point I would suggest that we have seriously to re-examine our scientific policies. We cannot merely go on creating committees, and then creating committees to overlook the committees. I admire no one more than my friend Sir Solly Zuckerman, but in the case of setting up his Committee I would ask, "Who takes care of the caretaker's daughter when the caretaker is busy taking care?" What is happening that makes it necessary to supervise the supervisor? This does not seem to be right, and in my opinion cannot be right.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, for giving us in this House the opportunity to discuss this matter, because at least the other place has made its mark by demanding and succeeding in getting a Select Committee—not a Committee to "look after the caretaker's daughter." I hope that from this point forward we (and your Lordships have demonstrated your deep and real concern about what is in fact the scientific future of this country) shall take care of the science, and the technology will take care of itself. That is not always true, but it is basically true now that the feed-back between science and technology will produce the interlocking, at least in the results. But we must, I seriously feel, take a hard look at where we are, and where we are going. We have had the excuse of the freeze. Let us ask ourselves what will happen when the icepack breaks.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, from this Bench I should like to add my own personal thanks, and I am sure those of all noble Lords on this side of the House, to my noble friend Lord Bess-borough for initiating this debate to-day. The Motion is a wide one, and had to be if it was to allow a comprehensive debate. In his most authoritative speech my noble friend has shown both his familiarity with the full range of issues involved and how carefully he has thought about them. This evening at the end of the debate I shall not follow him or other noble Lords into the labyrinthine committee structure concerned with the administration of Government science and technology, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has also just referred.

It seemed to me that my noble friend raised a number of pertinent questions in opening this debate, and the self-stated humility of the reply by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, turned out to be exceptionally well-judged, in view of the critical speeches that came afterwards. However, as I say, I do not intend to pursue the committee structure any further now. The relationship between Government on the one hand and science and technology on the other is one that can bear a great deal of scrutiny and deserves informed discussion of the sort which has taken place this afternoon. In this way our debate has been both useful and constructive.

I would make only two general comments. The first is that it is a relationship that should be kept as flexible as possible. What we are discussing is not a static relationship between fixed assemblies of people and things, but rather how they stand in relation to one another at a particular moment of observation. Second, I believe it is shortsighted to evaluate science and technology only, or even mainly, in terms of the essential contribution they make to economic growth. This is of course of great importance, but none the less it is true that science is already transforming the whole nature and character of society. As the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said in his speech, there is hardly any political decision that can sensibly be taken without scientific or technological considerations being consciously or unconsciously involved. Science is chang- ing our understanding of the world and, as it does so, it may, if we are fortunate, help us to understand ourselves. Since a substantial amount of scientific and technological activity is taking place under Government auspices—the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, gave some indication of the number of scientists and technologists in Government employment—and since further activity is financed by public funds, although not actually carried out by people in the public service, it is worth considering the role of Government.

As I see it, the Government's function is twofold. First, it must decide on the allocation of resources of money and manpower; and, second, it should encourage the creation of an environment that is not only sympathetic towards the scientist and technologist but appreciative of his efforts and determined to see that 'they are properly rewarded, both in terms of money and esteem. In carrying out the first of these functions the Government have to call on the aid of the scientist himself, because responsible decisions cannot be made on the amount of money to be spent on scientific research, or on the distribution of this money between different sciences, without taking professional advice. But, at the same time, the Government have to keep in mind what they want. This is difficult for the non-specialist because it is hard for him to know what he wants until he knows what is available, what is capable of achievement in the future, and how far in the future, and the risk element. All these matters require professional assessment. At the same time he has to take care not to compromise the independence of the scientific judgments involved. Therefore, if the Government is to be enabled to draw up its own scale of priorities and make decisions based on them, there has to be some form of consultative machinery.

There have been many interesting comments on the consultative machinery as at present organised, and on the recommendations made in the Trend Report and elsewhere as to the most desirable shape of consultation, and I do not want to pursue them at this stage in the debate. The only point I will make—and I think it is a new point—is that there is a direct connection between the decision-taking process in Government, with the advice of the consultative bodies, and the climate of opinion among the scientists and technologists who are in Government service or who depend on essential Government support.

Inventiveness and genuinely original work depend very much on the right atmosphere. This must be particularly true of the greater part of modern scientific research, where solitary intellectual effort has been replaced by team work. Although there is a limit on the extent to which a really fertile environment can be induced from the outside, there is a boundless and destructive quality to the harm that can be done by the wrong sort of external administration and control. If there seems to be a great grey blanket of officialdom hanging over everything, even if it is a friendly and benevolent officialdom, discouragement and lack of enterprise can result. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, in speaking of his own past experience at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, gave an instance of the sort of lack of enthusiasm and wasted work on the wrong projects which results, not necessarily from a hostile bureaucracy, but from one which may be trying to do its best, but is just not functioning in a very efficient manner.

I turn now to the Report of the Working Party on Liaison Between Universities and Government Research Establishments, Command 3222, which has been the subject of a number of comments. To me, the case is established beyond any doubt for closer collaboration between universities and the research establishments. If I can summarise five of the principal reasons that come out of a reading of the Report they are these. First, that in certain fields of research the joint use of expensive capital equipment can save public money. Second, facilities which exist for post-graduate work, both in terms of equipment and also skilled supervising staffs in Government research establishments, should be more fully utilised. The Report says in paragraph 94 that there is room for 400 to 450 research students now, and no doubt with a little effort this figure could be increased.

The third reason is that some of the staffs of the Government research establishments would benefit from part-time lecturing or advanced university teaching. The Working Party remarks in paragraph 12 of the Report that there is a discipline in preparing and delivering a systematic course of lectures on one's general field of research and that this can be a useful stimulus. The fourth reason is that there is a danger—which was also mentioned in our debate to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Todd—that Government research establishments may become ingrown and stale because they lack the influx of fresh young minds. In university laboratories there is a continuous influx—an annual turnover of about 30 per cent was quoted in the Report—which leads to a more stimulating atmosphere. Lastly some research establishments are recognised as national centres of excellence which university departments concerned with similar interests could greatly benefit from. In this connection in paragraph 56 of the Report some rather disquieting things are said about the length of time it took for universities to make full and enthusiastic use of the central facilities in high energy nuclear physics at the Rutherford Laboratory.

Therefore, although the case for closer co-operation is very clearly argued in the Report, it seems that the courtship is still a one-sided one. The research establishments are almost unanimously in favour of a closer relationship with the universities and are keen to effect it. That is stated in three different places in the Report. But, with some notable exceptions, the universities seem far less keen. Although there is already a wide range of contacts, both formal and informal, between universities and Government research establishments, the reluctance on the part of the universities to see them further extended seems to be rooted in an understandable attachment to the corporate nature of a university and its responsibilities towards its students. This was spelt out clearly by the Vice-Chancellors' Committee in 1964, in a statement set out in paragraph 110 of the Report: … a university cannot delegate to an outside institution its fundamental responsibility for designing the training of Ph.D. students, for promoting research of a kind appropriate to their training, and for supervising them during training; The Report also identifies residential qualifications for higher degrees as a stumbling block, although London and Cambridge have both recently made some changes which seem to have worked out satisfactorily. The Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham University went further, perhaps, than anybody else in expressing his concern lest research establishments might be able to offer the recruitment bait of a Ph.D. in addition to the drawing power of a substantial salary, and attract university students, thus prejudicing the future of research within universities.

If I underline one final point from the Report, it is that contained in paragraph 198(c) on page 57, which is as follows: … where new Government research establishments are created, these should be sited as close as possible to an appropriate University. This is a particularly important recommendation. In a number of instances, fruitful relationships have developed between research institutes and universities where a research centre or science based industrial plant was either adjacent or very close to the university. The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, remarked on this in his speech earlier. M.I.T. and the spin-off development around it in Boston, the Stanford Research Park adjacent to Stanford University, in California, are two examples he gave, and there are others as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Todd. referred to the constructive collaboration at East Kilbride between the National Engineering Research Laboratory and Strathclyde University, and it was also praised in the Report. It was this association which led the noble Lord, Lord Todd, into his "bolder" (I believe that was the word he used) line of argument, that the National Engineering Research Laboratory might be put squarely under the control of the University of Strathclyde. The fact that he is Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde has, I am sure, nothing whatever to do with this proposal.

The noble Lord went on to propose that other research stations might be transferred to the appropriate industry, and that others might become part of universities. This is a general line of argument on which I am looking forward—and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough is also—to hearing the Government's reply to-night, particularly since it has behind it the authority of the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. If I can add a gloss to what has already been said, it is that the Report indicates that it is the Medical Research Council's units which have the closest relationship with the universities. If we look at this, what do we see? First of all, that M.R.C. units tend to be very close in location to teaching hospitals and universities. And, secondly, that in general there is interchangeability of pension arrangements between the M.R.C. academic staff and the Federated Superannuation System for Universities. There is also, incidentally, a far higher average of Ph.D.s among M.R.C. employees than there is among any other Government research body referred to in the Report. This suggests that the experience of the M.R.C. supports what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, have suggested.

In conclusion, therefore, I would say that the Report of Sir Gordon Sutherland and his colleagues is very welcome to us on this side of the House. It is a definitive analysis. What is necessary now is to keep up the pressure, both on the universities and on the research establishments. The existence of the Working Party, the questionnaires they sent out, the visits they made, the hearing of evidence and, finally, the publication of the Report—all these things kept the subject in the forefront.

But it would clearly be disastrous to relax the pressure now, in the interests both of making more efficient utilisation of scarce and expensive facilities, and also of helping to realise the full educational potential which exists in the research establishments. The Government must see to it that progress is made. This may mean a structural reorganisation, to re-align as many of the research establishments as possible with the universities or with the appropriate industries. I hope that in his reply the Minister will be able to tell us something of the Government's attitude towards the Report of the Working Party, and also what action has already been taken, or is planned, to implement the specific recommendations contained in the Report.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, wound-up for the Opposition in what I thought was a typically soundly-reasoned contribution and it fitted in well with the general spirit which has been manifest throughout this debate to-day. As he said, we are immensely indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing the discussion, and, speaking for the Government, I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have taken part, not only for what they have said but, again, for the basically constructive spirit in which they have chosen to put forward their comments and, in some cases, criticisms.

It would be quite presumptuous for anyone—and certainly for myself, with no departmental responsibility in this field —to purport to answer this discussion adequately. I hope we shall all agree that if we take away and each consider more carefully the written words which have been said by the others, the greatest value can be extracted from this afternoon's deliberations. For my part, I undertake to ensure that the complex of Departments and committees which we call the Government will consider extra carefully—I hope I have the support of my noble friends here—what has been said in this informed and interesting discusssion.

I doubt if I can add anything more about the dividing lines which the Government have chosen to draw between one Government Department and another, and which, together with the supporting organisations, have been the subject of so much of what has been said. My noble friend Lord Shackleton put before us what I thought was a very clear exposition of the thinking behind the present arrangements, but, as he said, and I emphasise, this structure is not necessarily immutable. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, himself referred to changes, or at least one change for the better, which has taken place recently, and I was particularly gratified to hear the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, about recent improvements. No doubt if experience, or noble Lords' arguments, eventually show the desirability of further refining or improving of this structure, then further changes will be possible.

The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, asked me a number of questions about our effort in atomic energy. So far as the future structure of the Atomic Energy Authority is concerned, I cannot add more to what I said in answer to the noble Earl's question some two or three weeks ago. The future structure of the Authority is, as he knows, a matter of discussion at the moment between the Minister of Technology and the Authority, and I cannot usefully speculate on the outcome. But the issues involved have been defined, and he has helped to define them.


My Lords, on the point about the Atomic Energy Authority, may I ask whether I am right in thinking that what I believe they call the techno-economic analysis unit has been set up to consider these matters with the A.E.A. and the C.E.G.B., and shall we get a report from that unit, or shall we hear what the results are? I am a little worried about this matter. Would it not be better to set up an independent committee of people who were not employed within either Department, the Ministry of Power or the Ministry of Technology, or the C.E.G.B. or the A.E.A.? It was a point I had hoped to make in my speech and I think it is extremely important. I should much rather see an independent committee looking at this matter.


I think it was the noble Earl himself who, earlier in the day, spoke rather sadly about the plethora of committees. I am surprised he now wants to set up another one for this particular purpose—


A committee to take decisions.


—especially as the field which we are considering has been the subject of a good deal of investigation by the Select Committee. Although I will certainly consider the point the noble Earl has made, I cannot give him any encouragement that decisions will have to await the appointment of another committee.

I was asked by the noble Earl another specific question about the rental of research facilities from the A.E.A. by the S.R.C. The noble Earl asked whether the arrangement was a satisfactory one. The answer is, Yes, it is. The A.E.A. have facilities which are not being used to the full, and the S.R.C. are able to put them to very good use. For example, the S.R.C. rent time on the Harwell Cyclatron, the Tandem Generator, the Electron Linear Accelerator; and they also use instruments on the Dido and Pluto Research Reactors. At Aldermaston, they rent time on the Herald Research Reactor, and the irradiation facilities. In the case of the Tandem Generator, about which my noble friend Lord Bowden had some acid comments to-day, my understanding is that the decision about the future of this instrument is in line with advice tendered by the S.R.C., on which, as he knows, the universities, which he was complimenting, are represented.


Could my noble friend assure me that when the decision on this matter was referred to them they were given any assurance that, supposing they were to take it over, they would have funds to use it?


That particular point I shall certainly have to consider, but it is a fact that even the best of machines in this field, no matter how expensively they are installed, do come to an end of their useful time.


If I may interrupt again, this makes it even odder that at this minute exactly similar machines are being sold by the firm to which I referred, whose director told me this story last week. He is selling them all over the world at this minute to be installed to start up work of a type that is now being stopped.


I think it would be inadvisable for me to go further in this matter. I simply say that, although the noble Lord assures me that the facts are as he says, all the factors, I would have thought, were taken into consideration by the S.R.C. when the matter was considered by them.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, in his most valuable speech a specific question about the availability of research resources for the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the Ministry of Power. Both the Building Research Institute and the Road Research Laboratory were, as he knows, formerly under one administration, and the interchange of information goes on. The scientific collaboration betwen former colleagues is there, and there is no difficulty at all so far as the machinery of exchange of information is concerned. Whether the availability of resources is adequate is of course another matter, and this problem is one which is now being considered.

I was asked by the noble Earl about the possibility that there was a duplication as between the C.S.P. and the A.C.T. I should not have thought that this was a real problem. Whereas the C.S.P. is an Advisory Council, chaired by an independent scientist, Sir Harrie Massey, and reporting formally to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, the A.C.T. is chaired by the Minister himself and is a forum where advice and opinions are exchanged, informally and in confidence, on the general development of the Ministry's work and policies. It must also be remembered that much of the Ministry's work is in the industrial and economic field, and that its research responsibilities are only part of a much wider remit. I have no doubt that the noble Earl will agree that this involves a substantial difference between the work of the C.S.P. and the A.C.T.

The noble Earl asked me about relations between the Science Research Council and the A.E.A. Here we are moving into the field of what I understand current jargon apparently calls "big science". In this field programme planning needs to look many years ahead, probably a decade in the case of nuclear physics. At the present time the S.C.P. and the Research Councils are discussing future programmes. Over the years, the A.E.A. have built up activities in power and applied science of a very high quality, and it is a matter for discussion as to how far they will be willing to go on doing this, as opposed to relying on the improved facilities in the universities and the Research Councils. I think we shall all agree that decisions are needed, and quite quickly, for projects such as the major facilities for solid-state physics (the high-flux-beam reactor and the high magnetic field laboratory), and these, of course, can be planned only on a clear understanding of the functions of each.

I have a note here which says that "big science" is a mixture of science and technology of a peculiarly pregnant kind. By that, I suppose it is meant that there is a lot of "fall-out"—always provided, of course, that the initial collaboration between scientific and technological factors was a wise one. I agree with those noble Lords who have emphasised that the Americans have shown, in their data processing, electronics, aeronautical and communications industries, how their very heavy scientific and technological investments for other purposes can be exploited for commercial gain. I am sure this means that in this country, too, industry must be prepared to accept more apparently unremunerative prototype and experimental work, on the fringes of existing technologies, in order to secure incidental but probably quite important advantages.

The point was developed by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, particularly, as to whether "big science" was now so big that it could be afforded only on an international basis, and probably I ought to give some indication as to the general thinking about international collaboration in these matters. It seems there are some reservations in Whitehall thinking about the value of international effort, and a disposition to challenge the proposition, which some advance, that an international effort is a good thing for its own sake. Here, I speak especially of the field of research. International organisations have a way of developing their own interests, which may or may not serve the interests of those who support them; and the problems of control of the programme of work have not yet been satisfactorily solved. It is difficult enough, as noble Lords will know, with a national effort, but it is especially difficult when it is an international one. There is always a conflict between those who seek a balance between national and international programmes and those for whom the international facility seems an end in itself.

What I have said here must not be interpreted as decrying in any sense the value of co-operation, but only as doubting the wisdom of setting up expensive organisations—expensive not only in terms of money but in manpower. To the extent that we can facilitate the movement of men and ideas from one country to another, then of course we are wholly in favour of such policies. In concert with the Royal Society, the C.S.P. has been active in encouraging an increase of inter-European mobility of European scientists.

It puts the highest value on such movement, whether by short-term fellowships, visiting academic posts or by research training. On its advice a scheme was discussed in the O.E.C.D. for an international agreement on reserving resources for such movement. The hope and expectation is that this movement across the Channel, unlike some of our experiences across the Atlantic, will more likely be a two-way affair, invaluable both to the receiver and to the sender. At the moment I understand that the number of European scientists now moving either way is small; but I hope that it will increase.

The reservations about research on an international scale do not apply to the projects or, to use the American term, "facilities", many of which are so expensive that they become impossible for a country of our size. One of the projects now under consideration is that of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, or Emso as, inevitably, it becomes. Here the C.S.P. view is that, although development of this field is of outstanding importance, a new laboratory in "a green field" is not at this stage the solution, and what is needed is the encouragement of existing centres. There may well prove to be a case for according a special status to some of the existing European centres, and this is under active consideration.

Mention has been made this afternoon of the proposal which, if implemented, would dwarf all other international projects of this kind. I refer of course to CERN. I thought that it would be of some interest, and would help to answer questions which have been put to me about the way in which decisions are taken in matters of this kind, if I traced the process of decision-making in the case of this particular project. The cost of this machine, as the noble Earl himself indicated, is estimated to be £150 million. That is only the estimate; I imagine that the actual cost would be much more. It provides a test for all the national and international means for arriving at decisions of science policy. The project arose from the recommendation of an international team, responsible for the present facility near Geneva. It had the backing of European nuclear physicists, who have studied the proposal in detail. They believe that unless this project is undertaken Western Europe must surrender the lead in high energy nuclear physics after the present and projected equipment has exhausted its utility, which will be by about 1980. Then, having reached that stage, it came to the individual national members for their national decisions.

In the United Kingdom the stages were as follows. The Nuclear Physics Board made its recommendations to the Science Research Council, of which it is part. The S.R.C. assessed its scientific merits in relation to other projects and advised the Secretary of State accordingly. The Secretary of State consulted the Council for Scientific Policy on the effect on resources for science as a whole. If, as will almost certainly be the case in this instance, the project cannot be met from within expected resources for science without damage to other programmes, and as it raises national and international issues which are part technological and part outside the scientific field altogether, it must be considered by Ministers who are advised collectively by the Central Advisory Council on Science and Technology.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is not true that the whole of this matter was threshed out and precisely these points were taken under the old system? You will find it All in the Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy issued about four years ago. Why do we keep going on and on with exactly the same thing, and doing nothing?


My Lords, I had not quite completed the recital of these events. I was asked how the system is working. Although I know that to the noble Lord it is "old hat", for the sake of the record I was trying to illustrate not necessarily the advantages but some of the problems involved in the present set-up. I agree that it all sounds complicated; but I hope also that the noble Lord will agree that the issues themselves are involved and are not confined to simple scientific ones.

For example, we have to determine how strong are the scientific priorities. Can this project take precedence over other desirable scientific projects? Are the estimates of cost sound? Has an assessment been made of the economic and technological implications? What is the significance for international scientific cooperation and for "Europeanisation", as some would say? What would be the effect of the choice of site? Can resources be made available against other desirable national objectives? The machinery for all these decisions exists, but the taking of decisions inevitably, as the noble Lord himself has said, is a protracted process. The Science Research Council will shortly report to the Secretary of State, and the C.S.P. is already studying the wider issues. The site is unlikely to be selected until August, 1967; and even this may be deferred. The decision on resources, which involves long-range planning, is only beginning to be undertaken in science policy; and I am not able to go on to say when a decision can be anticipated. But I hope, by using this case at any rate, I have answered some of the questions put to me about committees which are involved in a decision-making exercise of this kind.

Many tributes have been paid to-day to the Sutherland Report. I add my own. But none was more generous than that paid by my noble friend Lord Bowden, who said that it was one of the great State documents of our time. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, about the Government attitude. We welcome this Report, and I do not believe there is anything that has been said by any noble Lord on the subject of this Report with which I shall disagree. I was very glad to notice that the noble Lord. Lord Sherfield, with whose physical handicap we sympathise, but who improved as he went on—and I am speaking again of his physical capacity to speak—was able to say that the recommendations contained in the Report were primarily for the universities and not initially for the Government. The recommendations do not, in general, call for specific new decisions by the Government, but they will, we hope, create a climate in which the advantages of further co-operation of types existing already, to a limited extent, might be commended to all concerned, including particularly the universities. I was glad to hear from my noble friend Lord Bowden that the Vice-Chancellors had expressed themselves in such a constructive way on the recommendations of the Report.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the particular point on pensions—which is referred to in extenso by the Sutherland Report, and to which I myself referred and which is a matter solely for the Government—is under consideration, and whether anything is likely to be available for us?


My Lords, a good deal of study has been given to this. It is not, of course, a matter solely for the Government. So far as the public sector is concerned, there is a very wide degree of interchangeability. That is not the problem. The problem is interchangeability from the public to the private sector. This is not a problem about which the Government can take any unilateral decision.


My Lords, if I may say so with great respect, the difficulties to which my noble friend has referred are in fact due to Treasury regulations which could be changed. It is because of the extremely obscure way in which the income tax laws have been drafted that all this trouble has arisen. It is certainly true to say that there are difficulties between the private sector and Government, but they are due to the difficulties under which private industry labours. This particular point is of very great importance indeed, and is one upon which, as I have said, committees have been debating for a very long time. I should like to ask my noble friend whether it is likely that any solution is in sight.


My Lords, I am sure we were all greatly impressed with the experience of my noble friend who came very near, as he put it, to hitting his former "boss" on the nose in order to acquire transferable pension rights. I thought the illustration which he gave was interesting. Beyond that I cannot go, certainly not this afternoon. But the point has been taken, and this is a matter to which I hope further consideration will be given as a result of this debate.

I was particularly glad to hear my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones pay a tribute to what Government establishments have achieved. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, did not intend to decry these Government establishments, but something of what they said could have been construed in that sense. To identify the problem, as they did, is not to solve it. The establishments are there. I should have thought that they were necessary in the pattern of industry which we inherited after the war, and I was particularly interested that the noble Lord, Lord Todd, should have given, as an example, the illustration of the National Gas Turbine Establishment. He was suggesting that that was an organisation which might work more efficiently within the industry. But he could not have said that three years ago or even two years ago. The contribution which that Establishment was making in a fragmented industry was absolutely essential. Surely no one single unit in the aero engine industry could have assumed responsibility for running an institution of that kind. Even to-day it is doubtful whether industry would undertake the amount of expenditure involved in research justified wholly on defence grounds. Nevertheless, I will go on to say that the pace at which universities can, in practice, take over technological operations of this kind is limited.

The problem of how best to organise physical and human resources in Government establishments is now under examination in the light of the problems. both physical and human. I would again correct the impression which may unwittingly have been conveyed by noble Lords that the Government establishments are unprofitable. Many valuable industrial developments have grown out of their work. Industrial collaboration is encouraged, and will be increasingly encouraged. But having said that, I accept that it is important to ensure that the resources in such establishments are used to even better advantage, and this I believe will be facilitated now that most of the establishments are under the responsibility of the one Minister.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will go a little further on this. It is no good just saying that the Government research establishments are doing a useful job and that the noble Lord is sure they will continue to perform valuable and useful work in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Todd, gave us an analysis of the motivations inside research laboratories which are likely to lead to successful results. Because of the experience with which the noble Lord speaks, the Government will obviously give a great deal of thought and study to what he has said. But the fact is that neither of the two motivations he advanced exist in most Governmen research establishments. Of course changes cannot be made over-night. But is the Minister able to go a little further and hold out any hope that some of the research establishments might enter into negotiations and discussions with appropriate universities or industries? Strathclyde University was quoted as an example. The answer that has been given so far does not really meet the problem.


My Lords, what I said, I think, went a little further than the noble Lord has suggested. I said the pace at which universities can in practice take over these technological operations is limited.


My Lords, have they taken over any at all?


My Lords, I said that the pace at which they could take them over is limited. I further said that now we have a Minister with overall responsibility for ensuring that these establishments are used to the utmost, it is more likely to produce a situation in which we might go along in the direction the noble Lord is suggesting, than was the case before. More than that, however, it would be unwise for me to say. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Todd, will not expect me to say that the universities could take over any of these establishments either this week or next.


My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Lord, I expected merely that the Government might pay attention to the view of the situation in such establishments which is very widely held in scientific circles, and perhaps move towards a solution of this type in so far as it is possible to do so.


My Lords, the very fact that the proposal has been put forward by someone with the authority of the noble Lord is of itself a guarantee that it will be considered. I was very interested in what was said, and if after further consideration I can write to the noble Lord and give him a fuller answer, I shall be very happy indeed so to do.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, called for what he described as new thinking in a revolutionary situation. Certainly the speed of physical developments to-day is creating a situation of perpetual revolution. I would certainly on my own intiative go so far as to say that no Government can afford in this revolutionary age to be over-content with its administrative structure relating to science and technology. I hope that all concerned, the Government no less than the academic and industrial world, will find in the discussion which we have had to-day much stimulation and will, I hope, gain some encouragement from what has been said.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and especially to the Government spokesmen for having given such generous answers to our questions. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the last thing I should wish to be is dogmatic, and at the same time I hope that I have no less humility than he. It is, of course, never easy to see exactly what the right pattern should be. Naturally, not all is bad with the Ministry of Technology. I said that they had done some good things, but certainly the present organisation seems to be overcomplexed and unwieldy, leading to serious delays. I agree with what many noble Lords have said, especially the noble Lord, Lord Todd. I hope that the Government will do something about his suggestions, and not merely consider them, because there has been great support for them in the House this afternoon.

I wish that I could thank every other noble Lord personally, but as it is so late I doubt whether the noble Lords themselves would wish me to do so. I must say this, however. Of the twelve speeches I have heard, certainly seven, maybe one more, seem to be against the Ministerial separation of basic and applied science—I will not use the word "technology". On this I might be tempted to divide the House. I do not quite know what happens when one does not withdraw a Motion for Papers. Perhaps all that would happen would be that I should be sent some Papers which the Government would be publishing in any case. Therefore, rather reluctantly, I propose to withdraw my Motion, again thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in a most interesting and valuable debate.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.