HL Deb 28 February 1968 vol 289 cc811-89

4.14 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, we come back to a subject which, although not without its solemnities, is at any rate a happier one than the sordid story to which we have just been listening. We are, as usual, grateful to the noble Earl for giving us a big subject to discuss. I am particularly grateful because it has compelled me to read a number of Reports more carefully than I probably should have done otherwise. I certainly have increased my vocabulary very considerably. I find I am able to preach a good many sermons without referring to things like the 28 GeV. proton synchrotron. One has also come across new uses of familiar words. I have never before come across the use of the word "spend" as a noun; this is something fresh for me—"the annual spend per research scientist". No doubt it will come in handy at diocesan conferences or some similar occasion.

I am going to concentrate mostly upon the brain-drain aspect of this matter, and I begin with a quotation from Dr. F. E. Jones's letter at the beginning of the Report on Migration: We find there is a brain-drain of qualified manpower from the United Kingdom and that it is harmful to the interests of our economy. I want first of all to examine that statement and to remind your Lordships of some of the evidence brought forward in support of it, and then to set it against what I think is perhaps a rather wider background in which it may appear in rather different proportions. I want first of all to show that I fully understand the facts that give rise to this rather serious statement in the Report. We learn that two-fifths of each new year's output of engineers does in fact go abroad. We find that most of this emigration is to the United States of America, and that it is that emigration that is increasing most rapidly; so we find that the engineers and technologists exported rose in number from 500 in 1961 to 2,000 in 1966, whereas the export of those persons to other countries rose only by one-third from 1,400 to 2,200.

In the case of the scientists the increase was by three-eighths to the United States of America but by four-fifths to other countries, so it is clear that other countries are reaping a relatively larger harvest from our scientists than from engineers and technologists. I find that on balance—that is to say, when you have taken into account those who have come in and set them against those who have gone out—the engineers registered a loss of 1,900 as against a surplus of 400 at the beginning of the period, while the scientists registered a net loss of 800 at the end of the period as against 400 at the beginning of the period.

We cannot help feeling that behind these quantitative figures there is also a qualitative element to be brought into the picture, because it is difficult to believe that all those coming in would be of the same intellectual calibre as all those going out. The total outflow, adding together the engineers, scientists, technologists, everybody, comes to about one-third of the annual output of these persons. These are very alarming figures if one allows them to make an impact without considering some other things. But we have to get them into proportion. I was very pleased to see Chapter II in this Report, which makes an effort to put this question of migration in its historical context and to show what we all know, that the movement of scholars and scientists across national frontiers is something that has always been inseparable from the progress of learning and science. That is certainly true in realms with which I am more familiar.

I will not worry your Lordships with many histories of theologians, but there was one man in the 13th century, Robert Grosseteste, who happened at one time to be Archdeacon of Leicester, so I take a little interest in him. He was a great scientist for his time, and was probably the main inspiration behind the work of Roger Bacon. But like all scholars of that period, he moved about from one European capital to another. Europe then was one community in matters of culture. We look back on that with a certain amount of nostalgia.

We can take note of the obvious attractions of the United States of America. It is not only a question of money and opportunity, but the vastness of all the national undertakings there clearly opens up possibilities that are bound to be attractive to our young and ambitious people. I remember one occasion when I was near Detroit happening to see a supermarket. It was out in the suburbs. I saw a notice, one of its advertisements, that there was a car park for 10,000 cars. When one takes into account a tiny instance of that sort, one realises that one is dealing there with activities on a scale totally different from those to which we are accustomed; and of course this has its impact in the realms of industry and scientific research.

I think perhaps we ought to make more of the tribute that is paid to our own educational systems by the great demand which is felt in America for our scientists and our technologists. We do not have to put this in the form of any invidious comparisons with their systems of education and our own, because we know that they are different. But it is something that our men and women are in such demand, and I think it is something that we could, if we wished to do so, make a little more of from the positive point of view.

I should like, however, to draw the attention of the House to one or two aspects of this matter that do not appear in any of these Reports, and indeed may seem at first slightly irrelevant to them. But if there is one matter in which we ought to take long-term views surely it is in this matter of science and humanity. I want to ask that in any action that we contemplate in these realms we should try to take the broadest possible views, and not look at it primarily from the point of view of our immediate national economic problems or advantage. I think it would be a good thing if the whole of the English-speaking world—especially am I thinking of ourselves, the United States, Canada and Australia—were thought of as a unit from this point of view. I will not necessarily exclude Europe, although there is a language barrier which to some extent reduces the ease of interchange between Britain and Europe in comparison with the interchange between ourselves and the English-speaking world. But if we can think of this world to some extent as one world, I think it would help us to be less anxious, certainly not hysterical, about a very free interchange of personnel between the various parts.

One of our great needs in industry is the increase of sophistication. We need to go in for more and more sophisticated industries—if for no other reason than that countries which are at an earlier stage in their development can find markets here for the produce of their rather simpler industry. If we are dealing with highly sophisticated countries we are more likely to be stimulated ourselves, and if there is a continual interchange between our countries I believe that we shall ourselves respond to the challenge and we shall find that migration helps rather than hinders the sophistication of our industry. We should notice that the brain-drain to Britain from the developing countries is likely to be most serious to them if their own scientists and engineers stay here when they arrive; and there is just the same likelihood of their staying here as there is of our people staying when they reach America.

I have been interested to see, in a number of writings, a testimony to the importance of this matter. I have in my hand a striking paper delivered by a Professor C. F. Powell, who is Chairman of the Nuclear Physics Board of the Science Research Council and was a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. I do not know whether he was just outside the dates given by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, but in fact he received the Nobel Prize, if I remember rightly, in 1950. He says: Science is tending to be more and more confined to the scientifically advanced States and this tendency is reinforced by the migration of important fractions of the most gifted of the youth from their own countries, where they are indispensable for its advancement, towards the richer countries where alone can be found the means for significant investigations in the subjects of their choice. Then there is a brain-drain from England to the under-developed countries which, on the whole, we ought to welcome. But we can do something to mitigate any harmful effects from this if we make it easy for such people to return to this country after a spell of service in the less developed countries. But we want to see to it that they do not lose too much seniority in whatever realm of life they are working. Here, I think there is something perhaps that might be done in the Civil Service and in the teaching profession, and in universities, to make possible an easier return, and hence an easier departure for periods of service of this kind. On the whole, migration should be planned on a much wider international basis. Both the Dutch and the Spanish are doing this to a considerable extent, and are trying to plan migration in and out of their countries. If we can do more of that with other countries, we shall perhaps avoid some of the more harmful and worrying results of what we call the brain-drain.

I should like to end by mentioning a few points that have struck me on the study of these Reports as worthy of continual attention. The noble Lord the Leader of the House has said that they are already receiving the attention of the Government and the various authorities. These are some of the things that have stood out as I have studied these Papers.

Clearly, there is the importance of salary and taxation, and particularly there is a desire on the part of many people to take opportunities to save capital in a way which our own taxation system makes extremely difficult. I happened to hear a day or two ago from a friend of mine who is a distinguished surgeon. I told him that I was going to try to say something about this matter. He said, "You have pricked my conscience, because I spent last night considering whether or not there were any openings in Canada which would suit me better than living here." I said, "What is the particular trouble?" He said, "I am thinking not about myself, but about my children, and about whether or not this country is going to be the kind of country that will give them the opportunities that I want them to have." This rakes a big question which, obviously, there is no time to discuss in detail to-day.

I am sure that we need more incentive to industry to make gifts to universities, and there should be greater encouragement to them in the matter of taxation. We need more flexibility in the staff of our universities, and we ought to look particularly at the question of the proportion of professors to other lecturers in various faculties. It is our custom normally to have one professor at the head of most departments, but in other countries they are much more liberal in their allocation of professorships within faculties. This perhaps would give our younger men a greater incentive to stay and explore possibilities here.

The question of equipment is vitally important, particularly in the universities. When our students at Leicester University are not having a "sleep-in" some of them study geology. We have at Leicester University some of the very latest equipment in geology, and already it is drawing senior students from Cambridge and other universities who are attracted by this latest piece of equipment. The professor concerned is quite open in admitting that in time this equipment will be out of date, but while it is there it is important. What is true on a small scale is, I am sure, true also on a national scale.

At last I come to the question upon which I am ill-fitted to comment, the 300 GeV Accelerator. The one thing which strikes me is that in these days the public needs to have clear symbols of advance in different roles. The way in which modern publicity works is on the basis that something is "The best", "The biggest", "The latest". It is the superlative that catches the imagination of the people. If it should prove possible for us to take a hand in this, if it should be possible for us to get this Accelerator established, as is suggested, on our own soil, it will be money very well spent—although I would not presume to say that its claims exceed those of all the more immediately rewarding forms of expenditure. I believe that fundamental research is of very great importance and is, on the whole, one of the very best things into which to put money, since its results are so general that they may touch life in all kinds of ways which we cannot easily anticipate.

When I find that only 0.3 per cent. of the gross national product is at present being spent on fundamental research, I think we might ask ourselves whether even in these modern difficult times, that ought not to be increased. But all this needs a firmly planned and well-balanced foundation. We have to begin in the schools, and we have to see whether we have not still a large amount of untapped talent. We go up through the colleges and universities, and already we see the importance of national foundations in which all universities can play a part, such as the Rutherford and Daresbury Laboratories, and we have the opportunities to take our share in European, and even in more widely based, foundations.

The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, opened his speech with a passage which seemed that it might spread over into religious territory. He certainly was sketching a picture of a new heaven and a new earth. I am not going to be drawn into those realms, but he used it in connection with space research and rather suggested, I think, that of all kinds of research this sort of research was perhaps the least likely to bear immediately upon ordinary life. That may well be so—


My Lords, may I interrupt the right reverend Prelate? I used it specifically in the context of the "population explosion", and possibly the ultimate colonisation of planets.


My Lords, I am glad to have that explanation, and I accept that correction. The point I was going to make was that we are only at the very beginning of the exploration of the Universe. It may well be that, when we get telescopes and all sorts of instruments on satellites, and a vast increase in our ways of understanding the Universe, we may find that there are revelations about the sources of energy, and so on, which may have effects far greater than we can imagine.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this debate. I feel a somewhat unusual humility in speaking after him because he speaks, if I may say so, as an amateur but shows a breadth of scope, as well as an intensity of interest in the subject, which I as a professional doubt that I can rival. I am very grateful, as I am sure we are all, for his interesting introduction to this debate.

The subject which we are discussing to-day concerns the whole of planning of science. It takes me back thirty years to the time when the movement in this country to try to get some planning of science was largely initiated and stimulated by a very great scientist, J. D. Bernal, to whom I think we all owe a great deal. Many things which at that time were regarded as very doubtful, and which were often very unpopular, are now taken as commonplace. That is a measure of his achievement in winning the minds of people in this country. Today, we find a number of interesting thoughts. There are few leading scientists to-day who are not prepared to take part in the attempt at planning our science—if not in detail, as to scope of what we want to do; and, in particular, in trying to see where it will lead us and in trying to plan any applications.

Looking at the whole matter, one wants to remember that there are at least three main sectors with which we are concerned. They are of varying importance and have a varying cash requirement in relation to the community. One has the field of basic pure science, as I might term it, which I think is characterised mainly by the fact that time is not important in that field. One is concerned essentially with problems which are of such scope that it is impossible to define when the solution should be obtained; and, in fact, very often we do not know whether a definite solution can be obtained. Then one has the field of what I would term basic applied work. There one has medium-term work going on. This should always be on a bigger scale, and is necessarily concerned with projects. One is trying to define certain main projects which ought to be tackled.

Finally, one comes to the field of development, and here it is highly important that the work should be done quickly. If it is not done quickly, then I believe it is usually a waste of time and money to do it at all. Consequently, it becomes extremely important in this last field to put enough resources into any particular project which is being tackled. If one can get a satisfactory result in two or three years by spending £10 million a year, then it is right to do that, because if you spend only £2 million a year it will take you a century to get the same answer and by that time the answer is not worth obtaining. That is something which I think we have often forgotten in this country.

Taking these different things in turn, but putting them in the context of our whole scientific policy, I think one should notice that if one is spending a certain amount of money on all our scientific and technological work, then the greater part of it should necessarily go into the last field of urgent development. This is highly important. No one knows what the right figure is, but if one looks around the world one sees that, roughly speaking, people seem to have arrived in different countries at a ratio of approximately ten to one between the development and the basic work. This may or may not be right—we do not know—and it may change with time. All we can do is to look at the present and decide how we should be going ahead.

It is interesting to notice that in this country we have not done too badly in the last few years. If the noble Earl will forgive me, he made his legitimate minor crack at the Government. But I would say that if one looks at the figures in the Second Report on Science Policy, one sees that from 1963 and up to the projected figure for 1969–70 there has been a linear increase in the expenditure on science and development; and that, in a period when there have been considerable economic pressures, is not too bad. I must say that I should have been highly disappointed, and frankly surprised, if that had not been done. But at the same time I think one must give credit to the Government for having achieved this increase over a period when many other things have had to go by the board.

I should like to say a word with regard to the expenditure in different countries, just to put our own figure in the context of world expenditure. I may say that these figures are necessarily approximate, and one finds that the figures are given differently in almost every text that one gets hold of. Still, for what they are worth, I give them, and probably they are relatively and approximately right. In the United States the expenditure two years ago on research and development was of the order of £8,000 million, which amounted to 3 per cent. of their gross national product. In the U.S.S.R. the figure given is of the order of £2,000 million. One cannot express it in terms of the gross national product, but in terms of their Budget, which is much bigger than our Budget but is certainly less than the gross national product, it is 4 per cent.

In Europe as a whole the figure was £2,500 million, which is only a little more than in the U.S.S.R. and very much less than in the U.S.A., and it was only 1.9 per cent. of the gross national product. In this country the corresponding figure was £800 million, which was 2.6 per cent. of our gross national product, and I believe that is exactly what it is to-day. It has remained at that figure for, I think, the last three or four years. So we see that, on the whole, our expenditure on science and technology, although not as high relatively as that of the United States, and probably not as high relatively as that of the U.S.S.R., is certainly higher than that of Europe taken as a whole. So on the basis of the total amount that we are spending we could say that our effort is probably not bad.

The question is: How do we spend it? Do we spend it correctly? If we are going to consider this, we must look at the three fields which I have mentioned and ask ourselves whether we pick the right sort of expenditure in those different fields. Let me take the first field—basic research. Here I am convinced that, having decided what is the total sum, one must leave the actual allocation of money to any body which represents the main scientists of the day. I think there is no other way of doing it. I do not believe that it is right and proper for any purely Government body to decide how the allocation is made within the field of basic pure science, and it is interesting to note that the Russians think the same.

There was an interview given last November by Kirillin, who is the Chairman of the Russian State Committee on Science and Technology to the editor of an American publication, Scientific Research. In that interview Kirillin said: As to basic research, the situation is a little different. There are no basic research projects in the five-year plan, but there are main directions and trends of research. And it is along these lines that the research institutes of the Academy of Sciences and of the Ministry of Education are to concentrate their main attention. In other words, having decided that a certain amount of money is available for basic research, it is given to the Academy of Sciences, to the universities, to decide how they spend it. Evidently, this is what the Russians, after considerable experience of planning have decided is the right and sensible thing to do; and my own personal belief is that all who understand pure science would agree that this is the sensible way.

When one comes to applied work, one has the two fields which I have mentioned—the basic applied research and the development work. The basic applied research is something which is intermediate between basic pure research and development. I ask your Lordships not to imagine that I am trying to draw a distinction in intellectual achievement or intellectual difficulty between what I have called basic pure and basic applied research. I do not believe there is this difference at all. I think that the problems of applied research are as challenging and as fascinating and as difficult as the problems of pure research. But one has to distinguish between those which have certain clearly defined objectives and those which are freer.

When one is discussing the basis of applied research, one is necessarily concerned with projects, and these projects should, as I have said, be medium-term. It is highly important that they should not be made indefinite. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, is in the Chamber, because he will recollect only too well that back in the period between the two wars there was an immense amount of work done, in my opinion—and I hope he will agree with me—for an unduly long time, upon the problem of low temperature carbonisation. It went on and on, and a complete Government station worked for heaven knows how long on that subject, long after it was well-known to most people who knew anything about it that the idea was stone dead. It is an extremely dangerous thing to allow something which ought to be medium term to go on indefinitely merely because you have set up an organisation to do it. Therefore, whilst one is concerned necessarily with the birth of projects, the death of projects—and, indeed, the summary execution of them—is perhaps even more important. Unless one can get them out of the way, one is cluttered up with things which are not merely consuming money but, what is far more important, are taking up the time and energies of people who could be better devoted to more interesting and vital things.

It is interesting to think, too, of how many such projects one can undertake. I believe that it has been one of our major troubles in this country that we have tried to carry too many interesting projects. We go on trying to carry a large number of them, and we even console ourselves with such remarks as, "Well, the original idea was, after all, a British idea, and would it not be shocking if the development were not done in this country?". So we go on developing things quite unnecessarily. To take a particular case, I myself wonder whether the effort which is now going into the hovercraft is worth anything at all. I have a shrewd suspicion myself that we are devoting a lot of effort and energy, but not enough to make it successful, and that what we are probably doing is throwing money straight down the drain. I may be wrong, but I have a suspicion that if this project were really something that could be developed rapidly the Americans would have done it already in a quarter of the time that we have taken to get to the stage we have reached.

On this particular point I would quote the remarks of two people, first of all, again, Kirillin in the Soviet Union, who, in this same interview, said: The main difficulty is that the number of proposals is far greater than those that can he supported. But it is important that there should not be too many—the problem is what to include and what to exclude. I think that that applies just as powerfully in this country—perhaps more so—as in the Soviet Union. Professor Blackett, in the address that he made a year ago to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: It is partly, I think, due to gross underestimate of the total cost of the whole innovation chain that one often finds, both in firms and in Government laboratories, far too many projects in progress". So what we are really concerned with today is not, fortunately at the moment, how much money we are putting into the whole field of research and development, but how effectively we are directing it; and I believe it is in this field, in the direction of the applications, that we are still being far too credulous and not ruthless enough in pruning things down.

If I may refer back to the point which the noble Lord the Leader of the House challenged me to take up—that is, the question of the 300 GeV Accelerator—I feel sure that I know too little technically about it to say whether or not it should go ahead with our support. I sympathise with the comments made by Sir Ewart Jones and Sir Ronald Nyholm criticising it, because their point is that if we put £10 million a year or so into this project we are going to cut away the support for a whole lot of things, including their subject. That is also mine, so naturally, from this point of view, I might be prepared to agree with them. But I must admit that when I looked at their comments I was not quite so satisfied that they were arguing it on the right ground. They say: We cannot reconcile embarking upon this massive new commitment with our present unsatisfactory and worsening situation. Can high energy nuclear physics justly claim to be of such overwhelming merit and importance? We should urgently be seeking opportunities of investing comparable, and if possible larger, sums in projects which offer some prospect of material advantage to the community …". My Lords, I think that this is where they have mixed up two totally different arguments. They would be quite right in making that argument if one were dealing with technological development, but if one is dealing with basic scientific work they have no right to put it forward. So I would say that they may be right in their feeling that the money is not being wisely spent, but they are arguing it on the wrong grounds, and I am not qualified to argue it on the grounds which would be pertinent to this particular paper that has been put forward. It seems to me that in scientific work, especially work of this order of magnitude and expenditure, you have to decide whether you do it or not. If you cannot afford to do it, you do not do it; if you can afford to do it and it is worth doing, then you do it, and that is about all there is to it.

I think I am right in saying that it was in the early 1930's that the first of these accelerators was built. It was built by Lawrence, not of Arabia but of California. There are noble Lords who can correct me on this matter, but my recollection is that it was a 2 million electron-volt accelerator. Now we are talking about a 300,000 million electron-volt accelerator, which shows the development which has taken place. But the point is that to-day it would be useless to build Lawrence's accelerator. One has here an elaboration which you cannot avoid. You either do this or you do not. Whether you should do this or not is a matter for the technically-qualified people to say, and I am not competent to say it.

My Lords, there is finally a matter to which I feel I must refer, and that is that behind the whole question of our science policy, behind all our technological developments, there is the supply of people. The right reverend Prelate has already referred to the brain-drain, to what we should do to try to keep people in this country and to what we should do by way of exchanging people among countries. I would go back to the point of training and say that in our whole educational system we still have not understood what is the proper place for science. I believe that science has to be taught as a humanity all the way through our educational system. It is something which is essential for an understanding of modern life. It is not simply a technical training: it is something which enables you to understand how the modern world works, just as in the old days a knowledge of Latin and Greek enabled you to understand how the world of that day worked. Today, without science you are as illiterate as you would have been 200 years ago without Latin and Greek. It is an important thing for us to realise, my Lords, that in our educational system we are failing to give people the real essence of education for modern society.

This, as your Lordships know, is no accident. We are almost deliberately planning it. I believe I am right in saying that only 10 per cent. of elementary school-teachers have learnt any science at all. It is not that they are not specialists, but that they have not learnt any science at all. To go beyond that, if one moves to the secondary schools, I have some figures here. In a debate of this sort I assume that most noble Lords are inured to having figures hurled at them. I must give these figures. Among graduate teachers in our secondary schools (these figures refer to 1963) there were 3,150 teachers in chemistry; 2,645 in physics; 5,519 in mathematics. In modern languages, there were 9,270; in English, 9,800; in history, 7,800 and in geography, 4,600. It is not really surprising, when one sees the disparity here, that, running over the period from 1962 onwards, there has been a steady fall in the percentage of those taking science in the upper levels of the schools. In 1962, 40.4 per cent. of those taking "A" levels were taking them in science; two years later the proportion was 35.6 per cent. It has now dropped further still; and it is no longer a drop in percentage but is a drop in absolute numbers.

My Lords, I believe that this is almost a planned thing, planned in the sense that we have deliberately ignored what is essential in order to get for to-day an educated community. So my final comment is simply this. We may have a good policy for science overall, we may have excellent ways—and I hope that we shall have them—of deciding how we apportion our money over new projects. But if we do not provide the people to do the work, then no amount of planning will be of any use to us at all.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude, along with other noble Lords, to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for having initiated this debate to-day on subjects which are of such vital importance to the future of this country. I propose to be brief and to confine my remarks to specific practical issues of which I have some personal knowledge, taking advantage of the latitude that this debate offers. First, the situation in the universities as a continuing cause of the emigration of scientific academic staff; and, secondly, certain aspects of educational policy in relation to science which I feel to be of the utmost importance. In the universities, as I can testify as a working professor, there has been no let-up in the feelings of frustration that have been such a marked feature over the last ten years, the reasons for which I went into in some detail in the debate an the Brain-Drain in your Lordships' House a little over a year ago. As your Lordships will appreciate, these feelings have only been intensified by the prospect of even leaner years ahead, and I make no apology for returning to the subject.

The increases that have been made in recurrent university grants have completely failed to take into account the erosive effect of inflation, which is all the more difficult to rectify owing to the quinquennial system of making grants. It has been estimated that the actual value of the grants the universities received for the years 1962–67 was decreased by over £10 million owing to inflation. Furthermore, the block grant for the year 1966–67—the all-important year. as it formed the base-line for grants for the present quinquennium—was at least £3 million too low. The seriousness of the situation facing the universities is evident when one realises that the grants put at the disposal of the University Grants Committee for the last four years of the present quinquennium represent an annual increase of less than 4 per cent.

Devaluation, which came almost immediately after the announcement of the recurrent grant for 1967–72, must also have a seriously adverse effect. Expenditure in certain fields must rise very considerably and, in the absence of compensating increases in grants, this must place an intolerable strain on the universities in trying to meet their commitments. This is particularly the case in so far as the libraries are concerned. Nearly half of the books purchased come from abroad and, quite apart from the rise in ordinary costs in this and other countries, devaluation will add at least a further 8 per cent. to the book bill. It will, therefore, be impossible to maintain the former scale of purchases. This situation must surely be regarded as of extreme gravity in view of the key position the library holds in any university, not least for the scientific worker.

A further reason for the strain on university resources is the increasing complexity of equipment used for teaching and research. An outstanding example is the introduction of computers—to which the noble Earl referred—for which quite inadequate financial provision has been made. One university has estimated that by 1971–72 it may well be spending over £800,000 per annum to provide computing facilities, of which only about one-half is covered by earmarked grants. But, of course, the main reason for the financial difficulties in which the universities find themselves has been the unprecedented expansion that has been called for following the Robbins Report, the cost of which has clearly been underestimated.

However desirable a policy of "a university education for everyone who wishes for one and is fitted for one" may be, it must be modified in the light of what is economically feasible. Without a system of priorities, the results of such a policy could be disastrous. Priority must obviously be given to the training and needs of those most able to contribute to the country's welfare, including the pure scientist, technologist, doctor, medical and veterinary research worker and, of course, the teacher. In this connection the much publicised swing away from science to the arts, to which the noble Lord the Leader of the House referred and to which I shall be referring later, is justifiably giving rise to the greatest concern. Modifications in the curriculum of the sixth forms in our schools, as I understand from the Press, proposed in the Dainton Report, hardly get to the root of the matter, which must be to stimulate in the student a more basic interest in a scientific career.

My Lords, here I should like to make a suggestion. It seems to me that, in general, much more might be done than at present to give instruction to those at school on the subject of careers. Without wishing to detract in any way from the excellent work done by many of the careers masters and mistresses at our schools, theirs is an impossible task if they are to give anywhere near a complete picture of all the possibilities that lie ahead for those who have not yet made up their minds. For this purpose I feel that much more use should be made of films. I have in mind a series of films, produced under the guidance of official bodies, portraying factually and without undue glamorisation what lies ahead in student days and after for those choosing any particular profession or calling. Every student in the country would see these films as part of his or her education and at the most suitable stage. The impact made by the films would be all the greater if the students were required to write essays on them. They could be distributed to the schools or, more economically, shown as a permanent regular feature in the television programmes to the schools.

The benefit of this in helping the student to choose the right career could hardly be overestimated, resulting as it would in a greater sense of purpose among the young and a greater efficiency in all walks of life, in that it would help to eliminate the square peg from the round hole. Among the films would be a few portraying the career of the scientist in various fields of technology, giving the students some idea not only as to the work involved and the prospects, but also the contribution he might make to the industrial future of the country. Others might be concerned with the career of the biological scientist in medical, veterinary and agricultural research, more of whom are urgently needed to meet world problems of disease and famine.

Another calling to which it is to be hoped they will be attracted is the teaching profession. Indeed, the fostering of interest in young people in a scientific career must largely depend upon the ability and enthusiasm of the science teacher. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to this suggestion. Such a series of films, if they were to cover careers comprehensively, would cost a considerable sum of money to produce, and of course they would have to be brought up to date from time to time. The amount involved, though, could be spread over a number of years and would represent only a minute fraction of that spent annually on education and science. I am sure that it could not be used to better advantage.

While it is most essential that the young should be attracted in adequate numbers into the scientific professions, it is equally important to ensure that if this is done they are given the fullest opportunity, both as students and subsequently, to pursue their calling. Here it is disturbing, to say the least, to read in the Memorandum of General Guidance, published as an Appendix to the Annual Report for 1966–67 of the University Grants Committee, two pronouncements about the suggested break-up of the proposed new student totals. "Genuine priority", it is said, must be given to the expansion of undergraduate numbers and: The major increase must be in the number of arts-based, rather than science-based, students". This statement is justified on the grounds that the universities have consistently failed to fill over 1,000 available places in science and technology in recent years and the number of applicants clamouring for admission to arts-based courses, which include the social sciences, is mounting rapidly. But it seems to me sheer madness, in view of the country's urgent need for technological development, particularly at the highest level.

The effect of this directive on the morale of those engaged in post-graduate education and science can easily be imagined. With resources as scarce as they are at present there seems to be a very real competition between the arts and the sciences, and also between education at the undergraduate and at the postgraduate levels. To take an extreme example (though I am well aware that I am on very delicate ground in making this comparison), the professor engaged on important research and post-graduate teaching, and requiring funds for equipment and staff, is in competition with the young lady, perhaps with little thought of a career, who would like to obtain an arts degree before getting married.

The letter of protest over grants for equipment, signed by eight distinguished professors, which appeared in The Times last July and to which the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, drew our Lordships' attention at the time, undoubtedly expressed, even if to some it appeared to be couched in somewhat exaggerated terms, the feeling of frustration of university scientists throughout the country, not only over that particular matter but also over the financing of university research in general. That particular issue provided the flashpoint for the explosion. Lack of funds for scientific equipment and inadequate grants for recurrent expenditure are particularly galling when this means that brand-new laboratories urgently required for teaching purposes stand empty month after month, and perhaps year after year. I personally know of several instances of this. At a time when the building programme for the universities has had to be cut it seems a scandalous waste of resources that where laboratories are available they should not be used to the full.

Another very real cause of frustration has been the time that academic staff have to give to obtaining funds from industry, grant-giving bodies and philanthropists. Indeed, they are now being actively encouraged in this by the University Grants Committee, who see it as the only solution to the problem. This preoccupation with the raising of money seriously interferes with research and teaching. When interviewing candidates for higher scientific posts in the universities, selection boards are asked to assess an applicant's suitability in terms of his ability as a teacher, his record in research and his general standing in his subject. To this it would appear must now be added, perhaps in first place, his ability as a fund-raiser.

I need not stress further the increasing strain under which university scientists are working, and the temptation there is for them to feel that they have had enough. The situation will have to be rectified if the brain-drain from our universities is not to increase still further. The remedy is not easily to be found at this time of extreme national financial stringency. It must involve a reallocation of our resources. The policy favouring the arts rather than the sciences, and the undergraduate rather than the postgraduate, will have to be reassessed and "genuine priority" given to those whom the country cannot do without.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, in keeping with our usual custom, I must declare an interest in some aspects of this debate. We have had many debates on science and technology and this one looks as though it is going to be as useful as all of them have been, and we are grateful to the noble Earl for having introduced it. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, is not in the Chamber, because I would like to take up one point he made. He referred to the hovercraft and I am doubtful of his logic on this point. He seemed to be arguing that since the hovercraft was going ahead satisfactorily and we were ahead of the Americans, this showed that the Americans would have done the job much better if they had thought it worth doing, and therefore the project was of doubtful value. I wonder whether he would have applied the same argument to the gas turbine engine or the magnetron development. If so we should be in a much worse position than we are.

May I refer to one point that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made about the Accelerator. I know little about this machine, but I should like to make this point. I realise the tremendous expense involved, but I hope that the Government will take fully into account the European aspect of this matter. It is a fact that we cannot do everything efficiently in the scientific field, much as we should like to, because of lack of resources, but I think there is equally some danger over the next fifteen or twenty years that Europe will become a technological backwater relative to the United States, and this is a future which none of us can regard happily. It is a situation which would contribute to the brain-drain of our young scientists to the United States. I hope that the aspect of European technology as a whole will be fully taken into consideration by the Government in coming to a decision on this project.

Scientific knowledge, like all knowledge, has a value in itself. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that by increasing our basic scientific knowledge we were adding to the cultural value of our lives, and this is true. It also can be used in the long term for the development of technology, but I think that it would be generally agreed that at the present time we cannot afford too much of this kind of basic scientific effort. We cannot invest too much in the future or present cultural life. We have more sordid practical problems to deal with at the moment.

There is one aspect of the Report of the Council for Scientific Policy on which I should like to touch. It refers briefly to the work of the Natural Environment Research Council. One might think that this Council is concerned with the use of science in improving our environment, but I understand that it is mainly concerned with making sure that we make full use of our natural resources—coal, gas, water and the like. I would suggest that it would be valuable if the Council could give more attention to maintaining the beauty of our natural resources. All too often advances in technology produce unpleasant noise, pollution or ugliness. We can all think of examples—power lines, river pollution and the like. I suggest that some thought should be given by the Government to whether we should not devote more of our scientific research resources in maintaining the beauty of this country as a place in which to live.

I turn now to the application of science to industry, on the importance of which we are all agreed. We certainly cannot afford a brain-drain of any kind. Those who work in industry know only too well that many of our problems are due to not having enough qualified scientists and engineers to take advantage of the knowledge available to-day and applying it for the purpose of more efficient manufacture. An internal waste of scientific and technological resources is surely just as bad as an external brain-drain. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to recommendation 20 of Cmnd. 3417 on the brain-drain, which reads: Universities should reverse the current tendency to train scientists towards academic achievement as an end in itself and should direct the emphasis of their education more towards the needs of manufacturing industries. With that I am wholeheartedly in agreement. Unfortunately, in the past the outlook of far too many teachers at universities has been that industry is a somewhat sordid occupation, and very little has been done to encourage their students to go into careers in industry. This, I know, is changing rapidly, but still we are far behind many other countries. For instance, in Holland I believe the universities regard it as one of their prime objectives to supply engineers and scientists to such great organisations as the Philips Company. So I think we should accept the fact that one of the prime objectives of universities, particularly in the teaching of science and technology, is to turn out students who will be interested and enthusiastic in the problems of industry.

If I may strike perhaps a rather controversial note, I believe sincerely that too much money is still being spent on young men staying at universities to do research, to take Ph.Ds. and similar advanced degrees. Of course we must have a good flow of competent research scientists trained in our universities. Of course we want to make the best possible use of those whose talents lie in that direction. But in my belief there are too many young men who at the end of three or four years at a university go to their professors and say: "I should like to do research. What should I research on? Can you give me any suggestions?" I am afraid that in many cases this is partly because they are not yet ready to face what they regard as the more rigorous life in industry.

What can the Government do about this? I believe that in this case the answer is very simple. The Government have only to reduce the amount of money available for these research grants, so that the selection process shall be more rigorously applied and only the best of those who can really benefit from training in research stay at universities at the country's expense, and fewer good men are lost to industry for too long.

Finally, my Lords, I am sure that another aspect of the brain-drain, as indeed has been indicated in Dr. Jones's Report, is the vital importance of providing challenging exciting jobs for the young; jobs in which they feel they can make a real contribution to their own lives and to the national life. A great deal has been written about industry providing proper opportunities for competent young men of this kind, those who have good scientific and technological degrees. There is no doubt that industry still has a long way to go in making sure that when these enthusiastic young men come to us they are given jobs which will stretch them to the full, and make them feel that within a few years they will get jobs of real responsibility, where they can use the knowledge and experience that they have obtained through their training.

In this respect, I should like to mention again space research and space development, in which I have been closely interested for several years. In my humble opinion, the organisation for dealing with space research in this country, and indeed space development, is extremely messy and inefficient. The success of the Ariel 3 scientific satellite was, I believe, achieved in spite of the organisational arrangements. There were Government establishments, universities and contractors all put together in not at all an efficient way, and it is greatly to the credit of those who actually did the job that they managed to overcome the difficulties of a totally incompetent organisational set-up. We have the Ministry of Technology, the Ministry of Education and Science, universities, the Post Office and the Ministry of Defence, all involved in space research and development. There is no one Minister responsible for research. I am not making any Party political point here. I remember taking part in meetings between the previous Government and the aerospace industry when we implored them to appoint someone in charge of space. The failure to do so has resulted in our getting far behind in the spheres of space development and research, which we could perfectly well undertake, such as, for instance, communication satellites.

May I make one more plea? I have made pleas on other occasions, and so have many more eminent people than myself. Can we not have a Minister in this country who is responsible for space? It is no answer to say that this is impossible because of the defence aspects of space development. There are those aspects in almost every part of engineering. Let us have one Minister to whom we can go and get decisions on space research and development.

I should like to end on this theme. Surely we must do all we can to ensure that we get better value for money for the resources that we devote to science and technology. We need to do so in the application of science to industry and defence, to improving our living conditions (I have made one or two suggestions in that connection), and to providing a more satisfying and exciting life for those whose talents are in this direction. As the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has said, we certainly cannot do everything. It is as important to decide what to stop as it is to decide what to start. But I am sure we must give more thought and consideration to our priorities, and make sure that when we embark on a project we go flat out to make a success of it; and if something goes wrong in the process we should stop it quickly and divert the resources to something else which will be more useful and important. In that way, I suggest that we shall better allocate our limited resources to where they can be most usefully employed, and we shall avoid waste in all its forms.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, who introduced this debate and presented us with three Papers to consider, Papers which I think cover about the widest collection of subjects that I have ever heard dealt with in a single debate. They remind me of a distinguished scientific relative of mine who was asked by an American paper to write an article on the future, "highlights only, 400 words". I will do my best to keep this speech short, and I speak with some diffidence because there are many learned Lords about.


Perhaps I may say one word to the noble Lord. The reason I put down all these subjects was that I did not quite see how we should have time to debate them all separately. I think the Government agree with me.


I welcome the proposition that has been put before us, but I must say that it is no easy one. However, I will keep my speech as short as I can. I think that one aspect of this matter is a very serious and urgent one; and though it has been mentioned a little, it has not perhaps had the weight that it deserves. I am no anti-American, nor is the Prime Minister. On November 13 last year, he made an important speech at Guildhall about the particular subject of technical co-operation with Germany. He began by saying that this ought not to depend on the progress of negotiations for admission to the Six, because the "technological gap", as he called it, was already widening to an alarming extent. He said, too—and I am disposed respectfully to agree with him—that such was the growing domination of American industry because of the scale of research development and production which they can deploy that we and other European nations should be left as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water". He used the phrase "industrial helotry". That kind of warning from the Prime Minister of the country must, I suggest, have proper attention. When one looks at the facts, I think there is very serious ground for it.

First of all, I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Shackleton, whose excursions into scientific exploration I warmly welcome, what progress is being made with the implementation of the proposals made at Guildhall, especially the one for a multilateral European Institute of Technology. I may tell him, I hope in a friendly and respectful spirit, that I guess the answer will be that the matter is still under consideration or deliberation. But there it is. I have asked the question, and, like another Question I have on the Order Paper, I shall try to go on asking it until I get an answer.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I have already answered this question once when it was put on the Order Paper, and the answer is that it is not just under consideration: various things are moving.


It is not still under consideration?


Not just under consideration.


Not just under consideration. Perhaps we shall hear what more is being done. Meanwhile, I submit to the House that we really do spend far too little on scientific research and development. I do not entirely agree with some of the figures that were given by my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones, with most of whose speech I heartily and warmly agreed. I thought we were doing rather worse than that. He pointed out, quite rightly, that the proportion of our gross national product has stayed stationary for several years past. That in itself is unfortunate. I think the usual figure is a 2.7 per cent. rise. Meanwhile, the proportion of the gross national product of the United States has been rising. It has risen, between 1961 and 1964, from 3 per cent. to 3.2 per cent., and the last available figure, for the following year, is 3.6 per cent.

These quite small sounding figures, of course, represent very large sums of money, and the real nub of the trouble is not merely that the percentage of the gross national product in the United States is rising while ours is stationary: it is also that the gross national product in the United States is about eight times ours. And we are, after all, investigating the same subject matter: the world around us, the material environment in which we live, and no less than that. It seems to me that, if that is the position, it is quite hopeless to attempt to catch up with the vast development that has been going on in America by spending more money. We cannot do it that way. If we go on increasing the percentage, as my noble friend Lord Bowden has pointed out once or twice, we shall simply be taking up a wholly undue proportion of our comparatively small gross national product. Looked at another way, the task we have to perform, if we increase all along the line, is going to be an impossible one in terms of men and materials required.

It seems to me to follow, therefore—and I notice that the Second Report, which I am particularly considering at the moment, is in general agreement with this—that we must select the lines which we want science to follow or which science itself wants to follow. Be that as it may, there has to be selection, and I do not think it is sufficient, in a matter of such national importance, that the selection should be made simply by scientists. They know about science, but when it comes to a question—as it does here, very largely—of reconciling the irreconcilable, and comparing the incomparable, then what is requited in a democracy is an elected Minister for the purpose. He may not from some points of view be the best person, but that is the nature of democracy. Therefore, I should like to see, not a body of scientists alone, nor a body of statesmen alone—let us be polite to them—but some mixed body, certainly containing both those elements, and I should like them to consider then what is to be done by way of development.

This is a very difficult question, and for this reason. What you are doing is not to select suitable subjects in a stationary, standing world, but to select suitable subjects in a world that all the time is rapidly changing. Each advance in knowledge itself brings changes in its train, and it is therefore a shifting picture the whole time, a kaleidoscopic one, which you have to face, and not, which might be far easier, a stationary one. This means that you have to stop people. And how I agree with what one noble Lord said about that! It is like the story of the man who knew enough Italian to say to a gondolier, "Sing!", but unfortunately did not know the word for "Stop". That is the continual difficulty.

I see the situation from the Point of view of scientists. They become passionately interested in their own subject. They tend to give it more than an objective importance—a subjective one—and they have to be redeployed. After all, if we can redeploy miners, we can redeploy scientists, too; and it has got to be done. The answer, if we do not do it, is, as I see it, the industrial helotry which the Prime Minister foresaw when speaking at Guildhall. I do not want to be too gloomy. I hope that the matter is not hopeless; I do not believe that the propositions, intellectual or adventurous, which seem to many to be hopeless, are so. I believe that we have great courage as a nation, and great intellectual courage; but in the world as it is at present I feel convinced that this is a major problem. It is a major problem which the country is facing, and the world with it.

There are one or two points in this connection which I should like just to mention. I am frightened, I must say, by the figures that are given about the proportion of the 20–24 age group who go into universities in different countries. I take these figures from a French book, published I think last year, called The American Challenge. They are taken by the author, a very well known French journalist and editor, from some work that is being done in America. These are the proportions, which I will give roundly. There are about 43 per cent. of that age group going into universities in America; in the Soviet Union the figure is 24 per cent.; and in Europe figures vary from 7 per cent., in Italy, to 16 per cent., in France.

I know perfectly well that these figures have to be used with a good deal of caution, but the discrepancy with what is happening in this country is too great to be explained by any difference in practice—for instance, in sending students away after a year—between European countries and this country. For our figure is under 5 per cent. The fact of the matter is that we are not getting the proportion of people trained in universities and comparable institutions (because those figures include such institutions) that we ought to get.

The figures can be put another way round. In the United States of America 45 per cent. of people over school age continue with their studies. In this country the figure is 20 per cent. It is much too small a figure, and we must do something about it. If we do not do something about it we shall not be discharging our responsibility—and when I say that I speak for everyone engaged in public life—to coming generations. The fact of the matter is they are not interested in science, and they are not interested in university education. I will not go into the whole picture, but one point is perfectly obvious. I was given a standard Greek and Latin education—Greats and all that—when I was younger and I derived half the benefit of it from one man who was killed in the 1914–18 war and who taught me marvellously. It is good teaching—superlative teaching— that can make the difference; it is tolerably good teaching that can attract enough, and it is that sort of teaching we lack at present.

When one looks at the problem I believe the significant point is to be found in another of these Reports; namely, the one about the Working Parameters—also a group headed by Professor Swann. That Report pointed out that in a short time higher education and government would have got what they required by way of demand for scientists, but there would be a continual shortage in schools. There certainly is a continued shortage of science teachers in schools. For all I know there may be a shortage of cookery teachers, too, but it is science teachers I am talking about, and they are much more important. Until something can be done to remedy this situation I think we shall have the difficulty of an insufficient number of the young becoming interested in science at school, and an insufficient number going on to fill the places in universities. I should like to know what is the position about vacant science places in universities which, at the end of the day, will cause a certain shortage of new vigour in science. What we have to aim at (and there is no doubt that the Second Report was right in this) is to vitalise science in this country. We have a magnificent record, we have produced some fine scientific work, and I hope we shall continue to do so.

With respect, I should like to say one thing about the speech which the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, has just made. I respect the noble Viscount highly. I should like to point out that there is much science which has no connection at all with industry. For instance, there are all the medical and biological discoveries which are going on at the moment and which have taken place over the past years, and I do not know how one compares the profits of a certain company for a certain product as a result of scientific work, with the 70,000 lives that were saved from tuberculosis by changes in the treatment. It is like the old question of whether, when fire breaks out, you save the baby or the masterpiece.


My Lords, I hope I did not say anything to decry the work of medical scientists. I entirely agree with the noble Lord. I was speaking, perhaps, from a particular point of view.


My Lords, I quite understood the noble Viscount. He was speaking on a slightly different subject, and I know exactly what he meant. I agree with quite a lot of what he said, but I do not agree that scientific research is unimportant. I do not agree that its value is to be measured in relation to industry and for the purposes of industry only, or indeed primarily. I am glad to see the noble Viscount shaking his head; I am sure I must have misunderstood a little of what he said.

In short, the future of this country and of the world depends on an advance in these matters more than it depends on any other single thing. At Scarborough, before the last Labour Government came into power, the present Prime Minister made a magnificent speech. I am sure lie meant every word of it. He gave me the feeling that the Labour Party alone in this country—and here I am being frankly political, but only for a short period, and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, will allow me—was the right instrument for appreciating what was required and for leading the advance. Perhaps we got the "egghead" vote. I hope we shall keep it. Whether we do or not depends on what we do about the advance of science and technology.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, the main point on which I wish to concentrate in this debate is the project for the European 300 GeV Accelerator. I suppose it could be said that only fools rush in where 22 (I think it is 22) Fellows of the Royal Society have already trod, and the somewhat Agag-like tread of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, should, I suppose, give me further pause. But this is a decision of enormous difficulty, which will ultimately have to be taken by laymen—that is, by the Cabinet.

Since the construction of this machine involves the discovery of new information about the nature of matter, it is certainly too much to expect of any physicist, and perhaps of any scientist, that he will come down against the project, although two of the 22—both professors of chemistry—have done so, and one has expressed reservations on the practicability of achieving the safeguards which are regarded as indispensable. So, as a layman—a sort of cross-bencher in relation to the various scientific disciplines—but as one who has been concerned in the past with one or two international scientific projects, especially on the political and negotiating side, I will stick my neck out and dare to venture a personal opinion. I am encouraged to do so by what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, because sooner or later the Government will have to stick their necks out and take a decision.

The various elements needed to form a judgment, the balance between national and international considerations, between the claims of other competing disciplines, and so on, are clearly and exhaustively set out in the White Paper, Cmnd. 3417. Indeed, the very reiteration of the arguments in favour of the project perhaps betrays a certain uneasiness about their validity. There is one point in the Paper which I think it is important to emphasise. It is that this is basic science and, therefore, all the information which is derived from particle accelerators, wherever situated, whether at Serpukhov or Weston, will be available to nuclear physicists everywhere. There is nothing secret or exclusive about such information. For example, an agreement was concluded last July for collaboration between Soviet and European scientists en the Serpukhov Accelerator, which has now come into operation. This agreement provides for access to the machine by scientists from CERN and its member States.

It is, of course, the case that only a proportion of British and European nuclear scientists will have direct access to the American and Soviet machines, and that, if a 300 GeV machine is not built, then the information would be available only from a 70, a 200, and, eventually, perhaps, a 400 GeV machine in the Soviet Union or the United States. But against this must be set the huge expenditure of resources involved and the fact that if the 300 GeV machine is built the number of nuclear physicists in the project from each country will still be quite small.

An argument often adduced in favour of these large capital expenditures on scientific installations is that the industrial "spin off", direct or indirect, in terms of subsidiary commercial and industrial advantage, would be substantial. I find the case made for advantage of this kind from the 300 GeV project, which I think is based on existing technology, very weak. Indeed, there is not much attempt to make a case at all. As regards the development of unusual technical and managerial skills, it is said with slight qualification that: the benefit from this source either to European industry in general or British industry in particular will be small"; and the same is thought to be probably true in the industrial sphere.

Perhaps fortunately, in this case the prestige argument for having the facility in this country is negative. I say "fortunately" because, while there are undoubtedly some tangible and intangible advantages, the tangible advantages are, I believe, somewhat over-stated in the Working Group's Report and are discounted by the two economic advisers. As regards industrial benefits, the host country almost inevitably gets the contracts for the infrastructure, while the more interesting technological work goes elsewhere. This was true of the Dragon nuclear reactor project, and I believe would probably be true again. Then there is the difficult question of the balance of the international and national programmes. In this case the idea seems to be that, in order to match the performance of the big machine, it would be desirable in due course to withdraw from CERN—which might not be easy when the time came—and construct new facilities to take the place of Nimrod and Nina, involving further capital expenditure, though it is hoped limited expenditure, in further capital projects.

However, all this is debatable, and the point of decision will, I suppose, turn on the conditions on which it is recommended that we should participate; that is, certain assumptions, assurances and safeguards which are regarded as indispensable to a decision to proceed since—and I quote; … it is clear that even with these conditions we could only just afford to participate". The main assumption is that sufficient countries participate. A definition of sufficiency is not given, but presumably the participation of France, Germany and Italy would be essential. The assurances and safeguards are of a kind which all previous experience tells us will not and cannot be secured.

The Report says, after referring to the cost of the CERN programme in recent years, that so great an escalation in operating and experimental costs might not (one hopes) apply to the 300 GeV proposals". Well, my Lords, "if hopes were dupes, fears may be liars", but all past experience is against the hopes and on the side of the fears. It is true that international collaboration is closest in basic science, and that the history of CERN has borne this out; but that this machine will be exempt from national rivalries, expensive delays, design changes, and all the rest of the problems which beset such ambitious projects, is surely against all probability. Perhaps with this 300 GeV project The golden age begins anew". But, my Lords, I doubt it.

To delay a decision in this matter means standing up to all kinds of pressure and criticism; for example, of preventing the acquisition of basic scientific knowledge, of not being a good European, or frustrating scientific research on a European scale. But the political and other pressures generated by these machines are about as intense as the beams they generate. That it would be right to delay a decision I personally, after reading the Report with care, have little doubt. The very fact that the purpose of the 300 GeV machine is pure basic research, with no obvious industrial or commercial applications, even in the long term, alone makes the case dubious at the present time, when there is so much to be done in accelerating the development of technology in our industry. I fear that the project would, in spite of every condition and good intention, become a Moloch, consuming as it proceeds many other important projects, some probably with more immediate and substantial benefit to British industry, and more likely, in the words of the Report of the Working Group on Migration, to increase the national wealth.

This issue raises from its own special angle the question of the so-called gap between American and European technology. This is a very wide issue on which I do not propose to speak this afternoon, except to say that in my view the nature of this gap—if gap is the right word—is often incorrectly identified and described. And perhaps I might say, in passing, that I am far from sure that the establishment of a multilateral Technological Institute in Europe is the right way to deal with it. Specifically, I am not convinced either that the best method of closing this gap is to incur heavy expenditure on basic research in Europe. If this view has any substance in it, then Europe collectively should not embark at this stage on an expensive project in basic research, which is indeed of extreme scientific interest, but which also has a high prestige content.

I suggest that much more attention should be paid, and more resources made available, to the application of existing scientific and technological knowledge and to the acquisition of the techniques of management and production which have been developed with such outstanding success in the United States. For these techniques, I believe, have contributed more to the technological gap than the disparities, which are often exaggerated, in scientific knowledge, research and development between the United States and Europe.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, before he concludes, whether he means that money spent on basic research should be switched to development?


My Lords, what I mean is that there is only a certain amount of resources available. I think that the amount which would be allocated to this project in the field of basic research, and which is already at a very high figure, would not in fact, for the reasons I have given, be able to be contained, and that it would suck in much larger resources than are estimated in the Report.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I speak as a reluctant member of the "jet set". I left here at midnight on Friday and I came back this morning from California—I had not been surf bathing; I was in much deeper water, the deep water to which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and others, have addressed their attention; that is one form of research of tremendous importance, research into the ocean depths and into inner space. At this period of history that is much more important than research into outer space, and is going to be the more rewarding. I say this with great emphasis, as I shall hive certain things to say, following the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, because I found that the Americans were concentrating enormously on this subject. They have a whole series of committees. That does not necessarily mean that they are doing effective work; but at least they are producing committees to produce the effective work.

So far as I can judge from the Report, apart from passing references we in this country are not seriously embarking on this study of the deep sea to which we, as a maritime nation, should have paid far more attention in recent years. This is the great new break-through. This is one of the new frontiers, and it is in fact the last frontier. In this country, apart from maritime biology and oceanography in the sense that we usually apply it, we should be co-ordinating the many disciplines in tackling the basic research and fundamental research of the deep sea.

But I have a message for you which I bring from the far yonder, from the "Edge of Beyond", where to-morrow is already there. These are the words of a distinguished American to me yesterday, when I was telling him I was coming back to speak here. He said: "Tell them not to be suckers". He was not referring to your Lordships, but to the scientific lemmings of the brain-drain who keep migrating westwards until they come to the Pacific palisades and topple over the cliffs. We had been discussing American science, as we here to-day have been discussing British science; and he saw it quite clearly, as some of us here even in this country may see it, being distorted by cults and pressures of crash programmes. He saw talented scientists from American universities and from our universities, and from the new universities of the developing countries. being trapped into dead ends.

One would scarcely think of space as a dead end, but for many of the scientists hired for it it is a dead end. The Council for Scientific Policy makes a distinction between scientific space research and the technological achievements governing space propulsion and space exploration. You will find that at page 26 of the Council's paper. Scientists now in this crash programme find themselves being recruited, and actively recruited here, for high salaries and with all the offers of attractive facilities, and presently, having sampled both the take home pay and the glamour of the better facilities, they quickly, in many cases, find themselves as overpaid laboratory technicians, project directed.

The Jones' Report, which I regard as an excellent and certainly a refreshingly frank document, spells out the inducements for which such people are prepared to go. What about the counter-inducements? My American friend had no doubt at all. He said: "If only you get among the people—not only the disappointed expatriates from your country, but among American scientists at this moment—you would be able to recruit for Britain the scientists who would accept the counter-inducements which are not theirs, of the high pay or, in this case, the attractive facilities." Indeed, I think that is true. We have a great opportunity at this moment when American science and scientists are enormously and sensitively aware of the misdirection of their science that is to say, the thing is now becoming cult-ridden and crash programmed.

There is one consideration which I did not find in the brain-drain Report, but I have heard it from many British expatriates in America. As the Report points out, young scientists and engineers are offered high salaries and glittering jobs, but when they get homesick, or disillusioned, or disaffected, how can they go back without losing face? That is what they say. After all, they were offered a great job at an early age, and now they have to crawl back. We ought to devise some means by which we can save the face of these younger people who have gone out to descriptively good jobs and who may have to come back, appearing to have lost status in the process.

I always dislike the term "brain-drain". I do not accept it. I much prefer "brain circulation". What we are talking about in this case is how we can make that circulation more rapid and get them back to base. I am associated with the Weitzmann Institute in Israel. There you have a wonderful example of what can be done. I think the Weitzmann Institute has lost by brain-drain only two Fellows in the last 20 years. The reason is that the Fellows there are given ample facilities for travel; it is regarded as essential to their jobs. In fact they are Francis Bacon's "Merchants of Light", going out into the wide world and bringing back the new information. Not only do they bring it back, but it is ensured that when they get back they will have the facilities to continue the work which they have undertaken and have "topped up" abroad; and they will also have recruited in their way the staff to do it. This flow in and out of people, which is giving them the advantage of travel and new insights is one method which I think we should encourage in every sense of the word.

Now I turn to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield. I want to address myself to the 300 GeV Accelerator. Even if there were no financial stringency, I should still question the validity of this project, although I have never, never, grudged the scientists their tools and I still think, with Lord Wynne-Jones, that science is under-financed. May I add that I am also a great admirer of CERN and what it stands for in the way of international co-operation, and for what it has actually achieved. But I insist that we must have a sense of values, and not just money values. I do not entirely accept the argument that scientists must be the judges in their own case. Here there is a great deal of conflict of interest, and I sometimes say to myself in my quiet moments, with a great deal of bitterness, that I have spent thirty years of my life trying to get science into politics, and I finish up by getting politics into science.

The politics here are manifest and plain. No matter how many distinguished Fellows of the Royal Society, and so on, are involved, one must recognise the tremendous, powerful lobby which, either actually or implicitly, is represented by the nuclear physicists. They are asking us, or the community, through the Science Policy Council, to provide a scientific instrument which will cost as much as a naval dockyard, and we are closing naval dockyards because we cannot afford them. That is what it represents. We have talked in the past about instruments costing as much as so-and-so. We were talking in the past in terms of warships. I got up as far as battleships. We have come now to a naval dockyard. At this point we really must stop and think. I would just say to Lord Wynne-Jones that it is difficult in these things to get comparable values. But there is a level of comparable values. I insist that there is.

I am sorry once again to refer in this House to the subject of the World Health Biomedical Research Centre, but I vowed, and I repeat my vow here, that I would raise this on every relevant occasion. I may say that this occasion is strangely relevant. Professor Swann, the Chairman of the Committee which reported on the 300 GeV Accelerator, was the Chairman of the Medical Research Council which considered the World Health Organisation project and reported on it to the Advisory Council of Science, the predecessor to the present Council.

But there is a marked difference in the procedures. Here we have the arguments on the 300 GeV Accelerator spelled out to the extent of 84 pages, all highly commendable, and I welcome it, as I am sure do your Lordships. But the other Swann Committee, the previous one, which considered a proposal for a centre for biological research to study the fundamental problems affecting living things, not nuclear particles, never disclosed the facts which were considered, the arguments deployed or the motivation. What we had was a summary rejection endorsed by the Advisory Council. That project was not to embrace thirteen European countries, as will be the case with the 300 GeV project, but was to embrace the entire world—not only in regard to its results, but by providing the facilities for a front of research (which has now implicitly been disparaged in the Report and to some extent by the Council) into the areas in which we are now moving in regard to DNA microbiology, et cetera, the fundamental units of life, into the bigger issues of biology and medicine.

I believe that this is one of the biggest areas for the future. We all talk about it in a tentative way and we see the headlines "The secret of life", and so on; but I am quite positive that before very long we must move into what is called the "big machine" phase of biology. Therefore, this is why I insist on comparative values. I will not tread the grapes of wrath again about what has happened to this centre, but I would point out that it was to cost 140 million dollars over ten years, whereas this GeV project is to cost £140 million. I merely want to suggest that in scientific policy there ought to be some sense of values. I repeat that atoms of life are just as important, if not more important, than atoms of matter.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that there is a question of the ripeness of a project at a particular time? It is no good comparing the cost of two projects unless one also compares the appropriateness of doing the work at the time.


My Lords, I entirely accept my noble friend's intervention, and I agree with him, but I am about to proceed to treat this project as an over-ripe one. What are we being asked to provide these means for? We are going hunting the "quark". What is a "quark"? All these Reports and Papers have been properly Coma ended as being lucid, explanatory and self-evident. Let us ask ourselves what is a "quark". Your Lordships will find it on page 64 of the Swann Report The Proposed 300 GeV Accelerator. Three such bricks, the so-called single 'quarks', have been postulated which could, in principle, be sufficient to build up the strongly inter-acting particles. An argument based on the accuracy of the mass formulae suggests that the quarks would be very heavy, … If such quarks do indeed exist they must inter-act with one another through forces immensely stronger … et cetera.

On behalf of your Lordships and others who do not know what "quarks" are, I have asked people who are very much concerned in this field, and indeed people who are concerned in this Report, "What is a quark?". I got from one of them a reply which I would commend in relation to this project. He said: "If we knew what it was we would not be asking for £140 million to find it". There is an element of truth in what he said; but the point is that a hundred years ago a distinguished scientist, Charles Dodgson, wrote a very impressive paper on particles. As the same time, in his other capacity as Lewis Carroll, he wrote Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. He would have recognised where the terminology comes from; namely, "The Hunting of the Quark". There was another satirist, Dean Swift, who sent Gulliver on a voyage to Lilliput. Your Lordships will recall that in his voyage to Lilliput he encountered a scientist who was putting sunlight into cucumbers, a solar battery in the age of Queen Anne—or was it William of Orange? If it had been William of Orange it would have been an orange, not a cucumber. This was a solar battery, but he was doing the fundamental research, and, like all good scientists, he complained about the price of cucumbers and asked for some more money. We are now faced with the same proposition of putting the sunshine into cucumbers—the 300 GeV.

I get rather heated about this, and I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, does too. I believe that in many instances, as here, research is becoming a substitute for thinking. I honestly do not think that knowledge must necessarily move through a linear progression of machines. We can extend this, and we are doing so now. We accept the argument that you could move from a 20,000-million electron volts to 300,000-million electron volts to million-million electron volts, which is the next step forward; and then we should be sending someone to the heart of the sun to take its temperature. It is an absurdity to think that you must go on simply in the progression of thinking on which it is based. It is what I call the prison of paradigm—that you are bound by what you have been doing and by the ripening of a success, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, pointed out.

I am not suggesting a return to string and sealing wax. I never saw any virtue in an artist suffering from T.B. starving in a garret, or in a scientist starved of research in a laboratory; but we have to take this to another scale of thinking. What we are looking for is the breach of the paradigm. At the moment we are looking at the atom as an aggregation of particles, or wavicles, or what Sir Cyril Hinshelwood properly called manifestations. We have now accumulated hundreds of them. What is needed is to try to bring some order out of chaos, to look at the matter as one would have done—without the massive resources of an affluent society—on the lines of Max Planck's Quantum Theory. He did not need £140 million.

But what we are talking about here is the fact that the safebreakers got at the lock of the atom in 1945, before the locksmiths knew how it worked. But in the process the safebreakers turned the locksmiths into the aristocracy of science. What they ask for they get, and I very much sympathise with Sir Ewart Jones and Sir Ronald Nyholm. Looking at the frontiers of science and at all the possible developments, and indeed at the ripening points, I doubt very much whether, in the year 1968, the emphasis on nuclear science rates 40 per cent. of the British research budget.

In another place they have a Select Committee on Science and Technology. It seems to be doing a commendable job, but it is looking at the "how" of science, and the relation of science and technology to Government structures, et cetera. It is a two-dimensional blueprint. It is, in fact, what we are now calling "the science of science", and what I call "S"-squared. I want "S"-cubed, the science of the science of science—the "why" of science. I suggest that in your Lordships' House, in a reformed House, with all the talent and insight and experience displayed in this debate, there should be a Committee which in the future would deal not with the "how" of science, as we are being asked to deal now, but with the "why"—why do we want it?

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, dealt with matters of great importance arising from the Reports mentioned in the Motion before us, and I should like to add, to those of other noble Lords, my thanks to him for initiating this debate. The Second Report on Science Policy is devoted primarily to research of fundamental character, to understanding natural phenomena, to the gaining of new knowledge. But the Report clearly recognises—and I do not recall having previously seen from the Council for Scientific Policy or its predecessor so clear a statement on the matter—that an additional objective is the application of this knowledge to the benefit a man.

In the short term, application is the job of the technologist or the applied scientist—the terms are interchangeable. As has already been made very evident this afternoon, the long term is illustrated by the 300 GeV Accelerator, the results from which—and I quote from Cmnd. 3420—are likely slowly to permeate the whole of physics … over the next generation. Given the efficient use in the short term of our great resources in technological facilities and technological talent, we may, by the effective marketing of the results, find ourselves better able to afford giant Accelerators if we want them, and other expensive instruments if we think they are likely to be of use to us to ensure our competitiveness in the long term.

At present I believe, with the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, that we do not use these great technological resources efficiently. They exist in industry, they exist in Government establishments, they exist in university postgraduate departments. But it is not sufficient to continue, as we do, to try to develop liaison between the organisations which possess them. Liaison is not enough. I believe that potentially profitable technological objectives, selected, as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, said, with great care by a spectrum of intelligent people, should be the aims of teams made up of people drawn from industry, from the postgraduate applied science departments in universities, and from the Government establishments. I believe that the people in these teams should move freely between the organisations involved, and that the result would be not only an immense acceleration in the achievement of profitable objectives, but a vitalising of educational methods and a source of strength to all the organisations concerned.

I am aware that I have said this sort of thing before in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, but the matter is of such importance that, while I realise I need not elaborate it again, I believe I am right in urging the theme once more. I think it is highly relevant to the remarks on medium term and development work, which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, made in his wise and very eloquent speech, though like the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, I could not agree with him in his views on hovercraft.

In the matter of the 300 GeV Accelerator, I find myself in a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, but my approach is more like that of the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield. I feel that we cannot afford to contribute to the 300 GeV machine until the marshalling of our technological resources, and the other measures which we need to restore our prosperity, have been undertaken. There are also other reasons against the machine at the present time, and some of those reasons could apply equally to other "big science" projects. To support this great Accelerator means supporting its construction over eight years, and over a lifetime of twenty, and once committed we could not withdraw. Experience with other large projects, not necessarily only nuclear energy ones, suggests, as the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, said, that the expense involved would be greater than the estimates. In other words, to use the fashionable word, the costs would escalate.

In the earlier part of our participation in the European nuclear energy programme, at a time when science budgets were rising, it was perhaps not wrong to accept this kind of situation. But it would be very wrong to do so to-day. Science budgets have to be tapered off to meet the need for reasonable economy, and the inroads on rigidly fixed budgets by very large installations such as accelerators could be to the detriment of science, as a whole. The number of physicists, concerned with these large installations is relatively small, but the number of scientists dependent on grants from the Research Councils is great. Should the proper support of these large numbers be significantly diminished, then the whole of science in this country, pure and applied, could be very seriously affected.

In the field of high energy nuclear physics, to which this 300 GeV project belongs, there is already being constructed at Geneva a new machine—the so-called Intersecting Storage Rings—costing about £35 million in capital and several millions a year in running expenses. We are committed to this machine and to its running. It is not so versatile a machine as the proposed 300 GeV machine, but it will enable physicists to explore with energies equivalent to 1,500 GeV. The Americans have begun to build a 200 GeV machine near Chicago similar to, though smaller than, the proposed 300 GeV machine. The point I want strongly to make, my Lords, is this. We have demonstrated in Europe the practicability of collaboration in nuclear energy research, and I ask: Has not the time come for world collaboration? One step towards this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield. Could not the process be accelerated by arranging for American physicists to have access to the Intersecting Storage Rings, and for European physicists to have access to the Chicago 200 GeV accelerator?

In his opening speech the noble Earl drew attention, as indeed did the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, to the comments of the Council for Scientific Policy on long-term policies and long-term planning. In this connection, I believe there is one general area which is receiving insufficient attention. I have in mind a world problem, part of which has been referred to, but I want to speak of it just in relation to our own country. The way things are going, we shall shortly have too little room in these islands and too much leisure. Population and automation both grow apace. Either growth alone would be extremely serious, but together it seems they could be catastrophic. At present, Government, of whatever complexion, can deal with the problems of population and automation only on an ad hoc basis. So far as I know—I realise that there may be work going on of which I am ignorant—there are no theories, no models, to guide policy and action, and no objective as long in term as the 300 GeV accelerator. I want to ask, my Lords, whether we are examining scientifically the practicability of a more even distribution of the population of these islands. Are we examining the problems of bringing industry to the thinly populated parts? Are we considering ideas for doing this in such a way as not to impair, of possibly even to enhance, their beauties? These long-term matters could have important influences on developments in engineering, in transport and in communications.

And in the matter of increased leisure, which is a consequence of increased automation, are we trying to understand how to educate people so that the fruits of their leisure will give pleasure not only to themselves but to others, so that they will prefer to create rather than destroy? If work is, indeed, being done on any or all of these matters, I am sure we should be interested to hear about it. One would like to feel that there are enough scientists, economists, engineers, ecologists, artists—enough people of high ability—researching into these problems, which I submit have more obvious relevance to our future wellbeing than the 300 GeV accelerator, and the merit, at this stage at any rate, of being cheaper to handle.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for initiating this debate, and for expending so much of his insight and time upon these problems, even though he has a bee in his amiable mind to which I shall have to refer a little later. He has made us study—and that is very good for us—two Command Papers of extreme interest. I am talking now of Cmnd. 3417, which is the brain-drain Paper, and Cmnd. 3420, which is the Report of the Council for Scientific Policy. I myself felt very much encouraged in particular by the second of these Papers, the C.S.P. Paper, for a number of reasons: partly because I think it is the best statement of the problem that I have yet seen—deeper, wiser, more imaginative—and partly because the persons contributing to it, the Council itself, represent a new generation of what one might call scientific statesmen.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said, the great weight of scientific thinking—scientific thinking in relation to affairs—followed that great man J. D. Bernal and a whole group of his approximate contemporaries, who were enormously valuable to us in the war and to whom we in fact owe a debt that has never been sufficiently realised. But it was high time that we had a new generation of scientists interested in public life, interested in affairs—interested, in fact, in the effects of science—and we now see them, people in their forties, taking a very active part in all our concerns. This is admirable. I wish that they were public figures in the same sense that the scientists of the thirties were public figures, but I am afraid that the whole communications industry has made that much more difficult.

So we have two Papers which can give us a good deal of hope, and we have a new line of young men, a new stratum of young men, really taking sensible steps about our whole scientific policy. I have only one grumble about the C.S.P. Paper, and that is that, unfortunately, it appears to be written in a language known only to its authors. It is certainly not in the English language. The brain-drain Paper is well written, but the C.S.P. Paper contains more extraordinary jargon than I have seen for a very long time. We learn about something called a "viable potential", though what a "viable potential" could possibly be I have been wondering ever since I read it. We also have some very curious kinds of programmes. We have "forward programmes", and we even have "rolling programmes". What can a "rolling programme" be? I hate to mention this in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, but he would find some very pleasing examples suitable for his particular brand of wit.

That said, my Lords, I think the Paper has almost everything to commend it. In particular, the Council has been genuinely concerned with the scientific environment—that is, the environment in which science can really take place. They, and all persons who are now going to try to control or decide our scientific policies, have to deal with an environment which is very curious, which in some ways is unique in this country, and which has presented a problem the answer to which none of us has ever seen. It is this: that for a very long time—certainly for a hundred years—we have produced an environment in this country for the pursuit of real science which is at least as good as, and probably better than, has ever existed in the world up to now; and, so far as one can see, it will be a long time before as good an environment is produced in the future. That is one part of our environment.

The other part is that we have been singularly bad at applying the results of the climate of this pure science to our actual technological affairs. It may conceivably be that there is a relation between these two odd features of our environment. If you get remarkably good at doing pure science, you get remarkably bad at thinking about practical things. This seems to be not impossible. Anyway, that is our condition, and all the scientific statesmen of the future will have to cope with this very strange set of circumstances. No other country knows it. It is utterly unlike America; it is utterly unlike the Soviet Union; it is utterly unlike Germany. Our record in pure science has been astonishingly good: our record in application has been lamentable.

The authors of the Council's Paper say one thing with which I disagree. They are dealing with this particular point, "Environment for Scientific Vitality", paragraph 18. They say: … little is known of the nature of the interchange of stimulus between the advance of knowledge on the one hand and the challenge of society and the environment on the other. It seems clear that no centre of excellence can survive for long without this interchange, and to provide it is one of the basic reasons for increasing flexibility in our organisations". It seems to me that there they have forgotten their scientific history; they have forgotten the history of a university of which some of them must have heard, a university called Cambridge. From about 1880 to something like 1937, Cambridge became the greatest centre for most kinds of fundamental research in a wide variety of subjects that the world has yet seen. It produced J. J. Thomson, Rutherford, and all the Cavendish successes; it produced the best pure mathematics in Europe; it produced the whole foundations for modern philosophy; it produced the deepest part of modern economics, and so on.

The curious feature of this, however, was that no university, no kind of thinking, has ever been more removed from the stimulus of the outside environment. In fact, it was science for science's sake. That was true even of Rutherford. They had absolutely no interest in technological development. It was true of the mathematicians. Read Mathematician's Apologia, by my old friend and mentor, G. H. Hardy, which is the most complete statement of this purely æsthetic attitude to the intellectual life. The only person of the great Cambridge figures who broke from this extremely remote attitude, this deliberately remote attitude, was, curiously enough, Maynard Keynes, the economist, who was in any case a very odd and independent person: he departed from this heritage. That is part of our problem. It is the classical feature of the English environment. How we break it down, none of us knows, to be honest. No one knows how you determine scientific policy. All you can do is hack away at the problems nearest to your hand. But it is going to be a deep problem to resolve.

That leads us, of course, very directly, to the problem of the brain-drain. We, again, can offer a good deal. Our scientists go to the U.S.A. in fairly large numbers. A good many of them come back, and we have not lost many of the really top-line scientists. In fact, I think you would find—and here I am running my mind round persons I know to be in high academic jobs in the U.S.A.—that our loss in arts subjects at the top level is rather higher than our loss in purely scientific subjects. But I would not be certain of that.

In engineering, however, our loss is really serious. That is because, owing to the truly astonishing split between pure science and applied science, we have never produced an environment—at least not for a long time—in which the best engineers feel themselves happy and can flourish. There the Americans have it over us every day of the week. I quarrel with just one feature of the brain-drain Paper, where the tendency is to suggest that poor old industry has been overtaken by the Civil Service and that the Civil Service are always trying to keep up with industry. This I believe to be historically untrue. I think I was the first person to try to inject some sense into this part of the problem when I discovered that people worked in the Civil Service for money and in industry for love. I think it is true that the median salary for engineers in industry—not in all branches of engineering perhaps, but in most—is appreciably less than it is in the Civil Service. It is an odd fact; it makes no sense; it is a complete reversal of all that classical economics should teach; but it is true. Mechanical engineers, for instance, who are the most desperately needed persons in the whole technological world, are by and large paid rather less than electrical engineers. Again, it makes no sense. There has never been an attempt to perform any of the obvious steps which are necessary to keep not only our best engineers but very large numbers of pretty good ones who will go where the money and the opportunities are.

The solution of this problem seems to be absolutely in industry's court. If they want the men, they must make the climate tolerable and must be able to give them some practical reward. There can be no other answer. We must not whitewash this. We underpay our technological people. Why? What reasons except passionate patriotism would keep such men when they have the opportunities that are offered in the U.S.A.? Most of us in their place would be seriously tempted to choose the other country. When that is said, I do not personally take much of the brain-drain as seriously as do some of my colleagues. I believe that, scientifically, we shall lose relatively little. I think we can make our own scientific environment in the pure sense attractive enough to be a real national centre of excellence for the next generation. As for the engineers, some of this good climate from pure science will make the country more tolerable; and, in addition, we shall have to make the technologists' position far more attractive than it is now.

On the other detailed point which has been raised during this afternoon's discussion I find myself unable to be as positive as either the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, or the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder. I do not think this is easy. In particular, I believe that unless you take part in some of the things which the scientists themselves believe to be of vital importance, then the scientific attraction of the environment is going to get less. It is not for us, I say with respect—and certainly not for me—to say that we know better than the scientists what are the exciting things and what may produce dramatic results in the next twenty years. I am unable to do that. If they feel there is a strong case for this particular kind of particle physics, then I should have to be guided on that side by their judgment. On the practical side, of course, we have our own judgments to form.


My Lords, I was not questioning either the scientific merit or the judgment of the scientists on this. I was pointing out that in my opinion the conditions which they regard as indispensible for carrying out this project are not realistic.


That seems to be a much more serious point. But there has been some discussion, some criticism, of the actual intrinsic value of the scientific possibilities. That is not for us to say. I should think that this will have to be settled really by scientific opinion in the light of practical circumstances. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that this is where some sensible politician should step in. Here we shall have to be guided much more by scientists than we are usually. There is a statement in the Report of the C.S.P. which says very emphatically what they feel is the right method to reach such a judgment. So that there, at least, we are going to be in something of a dilemma. It is not a particularly terrible dilemma. Although the money is serious, it is not going to ruin us completely. It is not going to ruin us completely scientifically if we do not do it.

I should like to suggest that it is very dangerous for this country not to be close to the major points of real scientific interest, the points where the scientific enthusiasm is greatest. We have been very lucky to have started such an enormous initiative in molecular biology on the magnificent sum, to begin with, of £250 a year. That was the first contribution to the study of molecular biology in this country—and we made the best of it. We cannot, without great danger of losing our scientific nerve, be too far from the really exciting things to come. If I had to make a choice myself, I would rather back the 300 GeV Accelerator than spend a lot of money on space research. But that is a personal judgment.

My Lords, I have one last thing to say. We are making a fairly sensible job of our scientific administration, which is one of the things that this Government have been good at and to which they have devoted much attention. It was, in my view, quite right to split off the Ministry of Technology from pure science. This is the bee which buzzes in the otherwise amiable bonnet of the noble Earl. The reason why I think it was a good idea—and why my colleagues think so also—is precisely because of the gap, the dichotomy which I first mentioned, the fact that we are so good at pure science and relatively so bad at applied science that it was as well to give applied science its head. For that simple and explicit reason it was thought wise to make this sharp division. No one in the Ministry of Technology believes that it was other than right. That belief is now held and will go on being held. It may not be right for ever; but for the next ten years, to give us a chance to get our technology really going, it was a good decision. I believe that in a modest way it is now paying dividends.

We always underestimate the results of any piece of legislative machinery We usually underestimate the time it takes to get any practical results. I remember speaking in this House when the Ministry of Technology was started and saying that we should not get much for three years. I am not a specially optimistic man, but I should have said five. Some of these results are already beginning to appear and that is good. As I read these Reports, I feel confident that our local scientific affairs are in good hands. But there is something else which is much more important than our local scientific affairs or even our local economic affairs. By the side of the shadow which is behind us, a shadow which is both due to science and curable only by science, our local affairs and American local affairs matter very little.

The shadow which is behind us is the shadow of starvation. Even people who have been optimistic all their lives see extraordinarily little hope of evading large-scale starvation, not in 50 years' time but possibly in 20 years' time, certainly by the end of the century. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death unless action is taken fairly promptly. That is the one pressing fact which no one interested in scientific policy ought ever to forget. It is the reason why we in the advanced countries often feel, without realising it, that we are living in a state of siege. I believe this to be true of all the advanced countries in the world, including at times the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the advanced countries are also the white countries, so that we feel even more that we are living in a state of siege. The only exception to the advanced countries being the white countries is, of course, Japan and perhaps the Asian parts of the Soviet Union.

Unless we can get to grips with this problem, which means that unless the Soviet Union and the United States can reach some détente, this feeling of siege will grow upon us. It will make life intolerable for our descendants—not our remote descendants but those now born and becoming young men and women. It is a terrible legacy we are leaving. It is not entirely our fault, but there it is. Science has brought this about to a large extent by making it easier for people to live longer and by reducing the death rate, but not at the same time producing enough food. Science alone is the instrument which we can use to handle this, once the political settlement can be made. Unless we do this, all our debates and all our talk this afternoon, which has been good and sensible talk, is like singing while the house is burning.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, I rise with considerable diffidence after the moving and interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Snow. I trust that he will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow him, for I have neither his breadth of knowledge nor his vision in science, nor, may I add somewhat enviously, his wit. I would add my thanks to those of other noble Lords to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for his clear exposition, for which we are all much in his debt. Without such an exposition at the start we might have got off rather badly. I am not qualified to follow him or the noble Lords, Lord Wynne-Jones and Lord Sherfield and others, in discussing the strategy of the development of the application of science in this country. I shall confine myself to two points of tactics or, perhaps one might say, logistics of science in this country.

The first point has already been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Stamp. It relates to libraries in universi- ties. I regard scientific libraries as one of the most important aspects of the whole infrastructure for science and technology—the provision of quick and easy access to papers and scientific journals. As science expands so do costs of journals and periodicals. Some of these go more and more deeply into a relatively restricted field while others are produced in response to a need for a current conspectus of developments over a much wider area of science. But all of them serve a purpose in advancing science and technology, and the efficient abstracting services which have now been developed put on demand a far wider range of scientific journals from all over the world.

This is not a problem in a centre such as London, with our biggest university, with its Royal Society as well as the British Museum and in the future its offshoot, the new Science Library. It is beyond the South East of England that we have once again major concern over what might appear to be in these parts minor deficiencies. True there are the libraries of the older universities, but the purchase of scientific journals is competitive with books and journals covering the whole field of human knowledge, and in many universities the use of these journals is restricted to consultation in the library. With good reason they may not be borrowed. Thus they are virtually denied to scientists in this way, nor are they easily available for the newer universities.

When a research worker is hot on the scent he must get immediate access to the paper in which he is interested, for it is only by a detailed study, taking several days, perhaps, that he will be able to determine its significance to his own work. There is a very real need for the establishment of a few such centres or for the enlargement of existing ones. My own knowledge of this problem derives from being an Office Bearer in the Royal Society of Edinburgh, where for nearly two centuries the Society has existed to serve science and scientists in this way. Because volumes of the journals can be borrowed, this library is in continual use, not only by the staff and by post-graduate students of all the Scottish universities but nowadays even more so by the industrial scientists.

May I give your Lordships some examples of the quite extraordinary rise in costs? Mathematical Reviews, published in America, last year cost £55 for the year. For the current year the cost has escalated to £120. Only one other set of this work exists in the East of Scotland, and that is in the library of the University of Edinburgh, whence volumes may not be removed. The Royal Society of Edinburgh is the only library in Scotland from which it can be borrowed. Two more examples: the American Mathematical Monthly last year cost £3 12s. 6d. This year it costs £6 5s.: the International Geology Review for 1966 cost £5 15s.; it now costs us £27 15s. The essence of a science library service must be its comprehensiveness, to make available as wide a range of scientific journals as possible, and this must include both scientific and technological journals. One cannot make a valid distinction between them. These few libraries must expand, both to take new journals and to pay the increased costs of those they already take.

I hope your Lordships will permit me to return to the case of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. While the Government have been not unsympathetic to the Society, the annual grant of £11,000 is now woefully insufficient. The Government of Ireland takes better care of its counterpart in Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy, which gets £1,800 a year. To keep any of this essential part of the infrastructure of our science-based industry will not cost big money—only a few thousand more per year—and I venture to suggest that if these services did not already exist, the Government would have to create them. And how much more would they then cost!

The second point I wish to make has already been touched on by several of your Lordships in this debate. It relates to scientific manpower. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, in his rejection of financial controls over intending emigrants and in the importance of maintaining the freedom of individual scientists. As there has been in the past, so there certainly will always be, as the noble Earl has stated, some North American, some Australian and some New Zealand scientists who prefer to live and work in this country, in spite of the lower financial rewards; and these are especially disparate to those in the 30 age group. But I very much doubt whether these will come anywhere near to putting a plug in the net drain of scientific manpower away from the United Kingdom. With a steadily expanding need for scientists and technologists in industry—a need equally acute in North America—it is certain that the limiting factor to the expansion of our technological industry is going to be the shortage of scientific manpower.

The present rate of boys and girls leaving school and entering the science and engineering faculties of our universities comes nowhere near to meeting the steadily increasing demands of the next decade. I understand that last October several of the English universities were not able to fill all the vacancies they had for science students. The U.G.C. put it at somewhere about 1,000 unfilled science places. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has referred to the Report by Dr. Dainton on this subject which is to be published to-morrow. I am no expert on this matter, but I would put forward for your Lordships' consideration two causes of this shortage, which is, I think, more acute in England than it is in Scotland.

The first cause is the shortage of teachers of mathematics. This is accompanied by a certain failure to teach maths imaginatively, and particularly at the 14year-old stage. Another lies in the entrance requirements of the universities, which mean that many pupils in their final year at school have to study merely to get better grades in their Higher or Advanced subjects. The schools are thus driven to diverting their sixth-form resources into preparation for repeating "A" level, and unless the maths master is quite outstanding, this will, so far as maths is concerned, be a great bore to the pupil. The final year should be used in the application of mathematics to the problems of that particular science which requires the imagination of the boy or girl. There must be more flexibility in the final year's school, and much less domination by the requirements of the university.

To help to remedy these difficulties I have only one action to suggest; that is, to use money properly, in the manner in which it was intended it should be used. It is now many years since the Committee presided over by the late Sir Edward Appleton reported that the surest way of getting a supply of mathematics teachers was to pay them better than the others. Had his advice been taken then, the shortage of to-day would almost certainly not exist. I know that the Education Department and the Ministry of Education have done their best to provide more mathematics teachers, and I believe with a greater measure of success, as I have said, in Scotland than in England or Wales. But even that is far from enough.

Despite what the teachers' trade unions may say, the national interest demands that maths. teachers receive a bonus of some kind, to continue for so long as they are teaching maths. When it was the classicist who was required for the Indian Civil Service, the classical masters were, in relation to other subjects, regarded as the élite of the profession and more likely to get the rewards of promotion. What has happened in the past with classics can happen again with mathematics; and in this more strident age the rewards must be more blatant.

Putting money to its proper use, once again I would put forward, though with some diffidence, the idea of differential awards in the student grants according to their subject. Generally speaking, most school pupils regard the sciences as much stiffer courses to take at the university. They are more likely to achieve a university degree if they do something like social science or anthropology; and certainly in so doing they will have more time for activities not strictly academic—more time for playing games, more time for drinking coffee—and the nation will end up with more anthropologists than it knows what to do with. Inevitably, the science student has to spend long hours in a laboratory. A differential of, say, £50 to £100 a year for students approved for science or for medicine would, I submit, be a quite magical "carrot". After all, many students now speak of their grant as their salary. Hence, as the science or medical student puts in more actual hours in the university, surely his fellow students have no cause to deny him his right to overtime.

These suggestions, my Lords, are not meant to be too frivolous. Unless we can ensure substantially more scientists from our schools and universities, then all our plans for a great technology will collapse. There can be no technological advance without sufficient manpower. By and large, industry is likely to offer scientists rewards greater than can be obtained in most professions. But this must be extended to the scientists employed by the State. There always seem to be plenty of people anxious to get into the Civil Service, but there is no like competition by scientists to go into the Government service. I submit that, so long as scientists in Government employ are kept in a position of inferiority of status and inferiority of pay, so long will there be a shortage of scientists. We can discuss the strategy of British science until the cows come home, but we dare not omit the logistics, the most important of which is the provision of properly qualified men and women. I would end by repeating my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for giving me a chance to get these two points off my chest.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is late, but I must begin by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for giving us this opportunity to discuss so many matters of great importance. For what we have been talking about (and it is an unfamiliar description) is one of the greatest of all the world's industries, the knowledge industry.

If one defines in this omnibus phrase those people who are concerned with the discovery, the dissemination and the application of information, the knowledge industry is probably the most rapidly growing in the world, and it is very probable that in the last part of the century it will be as significant in the world's economy as, for example, the motor car and aerospace industries put together. Or, put another way, it will be as important as the railway industry in the last century. In other words, it will be the key upon which the whole of the rest of society will come to depend. So it is extremely important that from time to time we should discuss in your Lordships' House some of the more acute and chronic problems of this great industry. It is an international industry and we are affected by it to a remarkable degree, not only by reason of its impact on our own society but because it is one of the most important ways through which we in this community interact with the rest of the world.

So many points have been made this evening that it is difficult to know how at this stage I can best contribute to your Lordships' debate, but there are one or two points I want to make which I regard as of crucial importance. The first is this. Science is not only making our community; it has become an extremely important component of our community. The funds at its disposal are enormous, and they are put at its disposal almost invariably by people who begin by hoping that, as a result, the wealth of the community and their own standard of living will rise. It is always as a result of a very sophisticated piece of argument that people are taught that this is not the right reason for supporting science, but that it should be supported as an intrinsically beautiful concept, comparable, for example, to the opera or to the National Gallery. Science is indeed of great intellectual importance. It has indeed made our world, but it is not to be assumed of necessity that, if it goes on just as it pleases in its own way, it will continue inevitably and for ever to increase either the standard of living or the welfare of the world.

Far too many scientists have been persuaded by their own eloquence to believe in the theory that science is only an intellectually beautiful object, and have come to regard the support they demand as their right and an inevitable tribute which is paid by the rest of the world to them because of the great intellectual beauty of their subject. This has now become so evident that the Chairman of the University Grants Committee, which is, as your Lordships will remember, still the principal source of funds for university science in this country, once likened the operation of this Committee to that of a cesspit. Into one end of the cesspit flows filthy, contaminated money derived, he said, from the general funds of taxation and from industrial profits, and from the other end emerges beautiful, uncontaminated, pure, undefiled cash which scientists can use at their own pleasure. This is perhaps rather an extreme view, but it contains a very considerable measure of truth. I should like, if I may, to apply it in particular to the 300 GeV machine, which has already been discussed so intensively this afternoon.

One of the observations made in the Command Paper is that it is agreed that European scientists can go to America and use the machine over there in return for opportunities for American scientists to use the storage rings in Geneva This is dismissed in a very summary manner as a wholly inadequate substitute for a machine of our own. I was responsible for negotiating that agreement, and I felt at the time, and still feel, it is an extremely good arrangement which provides people with a very great deal of what they need. It is evident that if you have a machine of your very own, and you can command resources adequate to exploit it completely, you will get more out of it than if you have to go to the other side of the Atlantic and make partial use of a very much larger machine, the operation of which is beyond your means. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the opportunities for people in Europe to use machines all over the world, and the opportunities provided by Europeans for other physicists to come to Europe and use their machines, is the very international collaboration which we are always told is the greatest glory of science—it is the opportunity to make it truly international. It seems to me to be welcome and, furthermore, this proposal should be weighed much more heavily than it has been in the assessment of the merits of the 300 GeV machine in Geneva. For let us remember that when this has been made to work and has been finished, there will undoubtedly be a case for an even larger machine; and there can be no end to this process, except the unwillingness of society at large to continue indefinitely to pour contaminated money into the cesspit.

There comes a time in the development of any subject when the community as a whole decides it has had enough of it. No one has ever built a larger palace than the palace of Diocletian in Split. No one has ever built a larger wall than the great wall of China. No one has ever built, or is ever likely to build, a larger cathedral than the Cathedral of St. Peters in Rome. Each of these, of its time, in its day and generation, was the greatest technological achievement of which mankind could boast. Each of them was, in a curious sort of way, an almost spiritual exercise in that it was built for motives which were not wholly material, and in a curious sort of way it embodied the spirit of the age. The great machines all over the world, in a similar sort of way, may be said to embody the spirit of this century.

It was Michelangelo's greatest achievement to put the dome on the hills in Rome; one might liken his work to the work of the great engineers who build the sychro-cyclotrons all over the world. They are men of genius; their triumphs are those in which we can all share. The beauty of their engineering is as great as that of any of the great engineers of the past. But it does not necessarily follow that for this reason we must always and for ever go on making more, bigger and better machines. The time is bound to come sooner or later when we have to call a halt, and I think at this particular moment in time, for the reasons so eloquently urged upon us by other noble Lords this afternoon, we should very seriously consider that perhaps the time for stopping has come, and that international collaboration will suffice for the next generation of machines, and that this will be the last generation of such machines this world will ever see. So much, my Lords, for the 300 GeV machine. I felt obliged to say this because it seems to me important, as it is to other noble Lords who have already raised the matter.

I must now pass to this other component upon which so much care has been lavished, which is the general question of the extent to which the growth of science can improve the lot of mankind; because it is not enough to lavish vast resources for the pure intellectual delectation of people beyond a certain reasonable point. It is an essential component of civilisation that it has non-material goals; that we lavish funds upon our opera, our music, and our paintings. Without these, a society can hardly claim to be civilised. Without science, no society is civilised to-day. But this, although it has always been one of the principal attractions of the subject, is no longer enough, and we must consider how our scientific work can in fact improve the lot of ordinary people, people like ourselves, and more particularly people like those poor souls all over the rest of the world who are much more conscious, because of their proximity to them, of the dangers to which my noble friend Lord Snow has just referred: the dangers of starvation and of overpopulation. What are these people thinking of science? How are they hoping to benefit from it?

Many of them, with the best will in the world, and guided by people who are some of the most enlightened and liberal-minded people of this generation, have created educational systems which seem to me to be unbelievably ill-adapted to the problems which really confront them. They have created a class of learned and almost unemployable graduates. At the same time, they have failed, very often, to establish industries which can help them and from which they would be able to pay, they hope, for the cost of the universities they have already constructed.

One finds very often that the societies cannot accept their graduates when they have produced them. This, of course, is the primary source of the brain drain, which, as I have told your Lordships before, is not a single migration from England to America, but is a vast migration from the poorer countries of the world, which most need help and have fewest graduates, to those parts of the world which need them least and have most. One finds this to an extraordinary degree in the medical profession. The last time I spoke to your Lordships I said that of all the doctors in the North-West hospitals in this country, all the interns, the house men, the men who actually treat the patients in the hospitals, more than 60 per cent. were born and educated in India. Since that time I have had access to a record of all the new men who have been appointed to these hospitals in these same positions as interns. More than 80 per cent. of the 140 appointments made in the last couple of years to the North-West hospitals are of men born and educated in India.


My Lords, is the noble Lord referring to India and Pakistan?


Yes, my Lords; I mean the Indian Continent. At the same time, from this country there is a mass migration of doctors to the United States of America. The single Canadian province of Alberta has this year launched a medicaire programme based on our own system of "socialised medicine", as they so derisively call it. In one year they have taken doctors from English medical schools in number equivalent to the total output of the largest single medical school in this country. The doctors in America who are licensed to practise medicine are divided into two classes, the native born and educated and the foreign born and educated. This year for the first time the foreign born and educated outnumber the native born and educated American doctors. This is in part owing to the fact that most American medical schools are hardly any larger now than they were thirty years ago; and the argument that the medical school can never accept more than eighty men at a time is only just beginning to lose its overwhelming force with the medical profession.

Hospitals in America are closing down for lack of nurses. Six months ago, a large hospital in Newark, New Jersey, had to close half its wards for this reason; and at the same time it closed down its nursing school because American girls could not be persuaded to become nurses in American hospitals. So they rely on English and foreign-born nurses in large numbers, from Jamaica, India and all over the world; and so one finds that in America and in England most of the doctors and almost all the nurses are foreign born and educated. This means that countries such as India, Malaya, Malaysia, the West Indies and Africa—countries whose condition, medically speaking, is dreadful almost beyond our powers of imagining—are losing the few people they have, who are going to countries where their prospects are better.

The same sort of thing is happening in engineering, though on a lesser and not quite so dramatic a scale. So the first thing I must impress upon your Lordships is that this matter of the brain-drain is no longer a minor variant of the system with which we are familiar. It is almost the most important single thing which is happening in the whole of the world of education, and it is making a complete nonsense of any attempt on the part of individual countries to establish manpower policies of their own. It is no use creating a university system at enormous expense if all the graduates leave as soon as they have graduated and go elsewhere. It is not enough merely to say that the brain-drain is a nuisance; it can be a catastrophe and, as I have said, it is the greatest divisive force between the countries which are rich and those which are poor. Since most of the attraction of America, particularly for engineers, comes about as a result of the American defence vote, and since it is true to say that it is this drain which more than anything else is maintaining the division between rich and poor, it is true to say that the original Marxist theory, that it is in the nature of the capitalist system that the rich shall become richer and the poor shall become poorer, is being validated primarily because of the American defence against Communism.

I have said that the brain-drain is serious. I have also said that it is due to two causes. One is the inadequacy of the industry and of the medical health services in many countries to accept the people who are being educated in those countries. It is also often due to the fact that the scientific world has become to an extraordinary degree an international world—one like the mediæval Church, whose members believe they are primarily members of an international organisation and have only a secondary allegiance to the country of their birth. One can find most moving stories of the way in which mediæval monks wandered about all over Europe and found wherever they went the same tradition; they worshipped at the same kind of altar and used the same sacred texts. The successors to these people to day are the scientists and engineers who wander from place to place, applying their education wherever it is most profitable for them to do so.

This is a gloomy story and it is one of the primary reasons for my own fears that the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Snow, about the fear of famine are almost certainly going to be validated. There are a few things which I think we could and should do in this country, bearing in mind that unless we ourselves are reasonably well-to-do we can hardly afford to give advice to other people worse off than ourselves.

The first thing I believe is that our system of financing science in this country has been such as to destroy any connection it may have had with the ordinary harsher realities of life. It has been nice for the scientists, but it seems to me that we should seriously reconsider it. The American universities nearly always finance their bigger research projects by what they call "research contracts". Mostly they call them "mission oriented research contracts". We never seem to do that in this country. Our research workers rejoice in the fact that it has no purpose. There is no mission, there is no aim, except the pleasure of the search and the glory of the subject. I believe that the Americans and ourselves must each move towards the position of the other.

The Americans have established a National Research Council and a National Academy of Sciences. They have endowed them both lavishly with funds to endow pure research, as we have always done it here. They do this because they realise, very properly, that if all research has to be paid for out of specific contracts it is unsafe and the system is unstable. But our own system is equally deficient, because we have none of the drive and impetus towards the practical results which can bring appreciation of the prospects of industry and of the pleasures of working on problems of real economic significance. I hope that we shall be able to do more of this sort of thing in our universities; and, furthermore, I hope that the general concept of contract research can be increased, not only in the universities but in all those places where research is done. In fact I believe that a principal role of the Ministry of Technology in future should be the organisation of research contracts among universities and other places where research can be done. If they did this, it would be the most important single contribution towards the development both of pure science and of applied science in this country.

There are many establishments in the United States, for example in Stanford, in Massachusetts (some new, some old) where this sort of thing is being done—and I think that we might very properly do more of it here. But the most important single thing which I believe we must learn and remember is that the English educational system is fundamen- tally unstable. As soon as a subject starts to become important it ceases to be taught in the schools. As soon as mathematics became important mathematics masters vanished from the schools and earned much more in industry. As the obverse, it is true to say that as soon as a subject ceases to have any importance whatsoever and its practitioners have no careers in front of them, it starts to be superbly taught in the schools and more and more students study it. How otherwise can one explain the situation which exists in this country, where there are 30 professors of theology and only one of machine tools?

We have to interfere deliberately in this curiously democratic and very remarkable system which we call the scientific world. The body politic is directly concerned in it; its future depends upon it. It must interfere with it; it must guide it. And I accept these three documents which we are discussing this afternoon as evidence of the fact that information upon which political decisions can be based is now forthcoming from the scientists themselves. I should once more like to thank the noble Earl who initiated this debate for giving us this opportunity to discuss some of the most important matters that will ever be of concern to this House.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, I would thank the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, for introducing this debate, as other speakers have done. It has been a wonderful debate and I do not think I have said "Hear, Hear!" so many times in your Lordships' House before, because all the speeches have been so good. Now it comes down to brass tacks with me, because I am speaking about invention, which is my subject as I am a sort of "ham" inventor myself. I must start by saying—and although it is coming down from the high level we have been discussing, I do not want to rub it in—that as our Empire fades away, as it is doing pretty fast, our trade also fades away as it is no longer being supported by our Empire; and unfortunately we have to support our ideals, which means we lose valuable contracts which we could have and which would do us good from certain countries. I am afraid our natural resources are gradually dwindling away; we do not produce enough food to feed ourselves; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, said, it is not really encouraging. We must go out and get something.

I think it shows great confidence to spend so much money on science and research and technology, but unfortunately all our competitors spend a lot of money on science and research. What our machine depends upon is new, fresh ideas from the inventors, new inventions coming into the system. Without those new ideas, which must be better than those of our competitors, I do not see how we can go on very long as a reasonable country at all. I hope I am wrong. We must have those ideas. Therefore, invention to-day is of vital importance to us.

The inventor is a funny person, a strange creature, in that he is born an inventor; he is never anything else. He is like the musician, who has a particular ear for music and melody, who is born that way and who composes songs; and nobody can stop him from composing songs. An inventor cannot be stopped from inventing; he goes on like that. The inventor does it because he has to. But all inventions that have ever been in this world come from one mind—that is the important point: from one mind. They do not come from groups but from one person thinking up an idea. I spoke on this subject about three years ago in your Lordships' House, and I should not like to be the broken groove in an L.P. record and say what I said again. But your Lordships may take it that that is true. Therefore you are dealing with individuals, and peculiar individuals.

While the musician is accepted as being more or less desirable in the community, I am not sure the inventor is. I have an acquaintance who is an inventor. Actually, he started more or less in a "legitimate" way; his father made him go to university and get a degree. But when his father died he went on inventing on his own. One of the things he invented was quite a neat idea, a sort of incinerator which you put in your drawing-room and throw into it everything you do not want. Then you light a fire and it heats the house but does not smell. He was so inspired that he started to manufacture it with a couple of boys whom he paid, and he sold a good many of these things. The customers were pleased, and more customers came. But then he thought of something else and just gave in. It so happened that a lady who worked for me lived in the cottage next to the inventor. Without being asked she said one day, "Do you know, he walks down the street and some days he speaks to you and some days walks straight on as if you were not there. He has a traction engine in his garden, and in his wood shed he has something horrible sticking out that he messes about with from time to time. If you ask my opinion"—which I had not—"I would say he was 'nuts'".

If you are an inventor you have to be fairly careful not to tell everybody what you are thinking. I have developed a method of talking to people and I do not necessarily say what is in my mild. If they say, "Is it not a lovely sunny day?", I say, "Yes, marvellous!, fabulous!; look at the shadows, are they not clear and clean?". But I am not thinking about that; I am thinking about the perpetual hydrogen bomb and I am wondering whether we are going the right way. Obviously it was a thing to copy, to get a really good explosion to blow up everyone. Then we go on to say it will be of some use; that it need not necessarily blow up people; it could create power.

I am not sure that we are on the: right track. I am not sure we are not on the wrong track in creating nuclear power. We are coming to the point—I am breaking it to your Lordships gently. I am trying to show you the mind of the inventor. Even in this House I look at the lights and I see that for every £100 we spend on electricity bills we spend only £8, probably not more than £6, on light, and less when the lights are old. Think of all the power and energy going to waste. When I look at the sun, I think that instead of trying nuclear ways we should try to get power the natural way. We have always relied on it in the past; we have had our rain and our wind and our sunlight, and all these fossil fuels which we dig up. There might be better ways of getting power than by creating oil bubbles in the North Sea. There may be other ways we can use the power of the sun, the natural way; but I would not tell everybody that because they think you are "nuts".

When I look at the sea I think, "We have to get at you one day and take you out into pipes, and take the salt out of you and put it into stockpiles, and take out the trace minerals, and finally get a safe with files in it with things like gold trickling into it. We have to take you into all the towns in the country. We have to take out the sewage, the sludge, and make it into fertiliser, and have clear water going back to the sea; because there is a potential of energy between salt water and fresh water and I believe in future our lives might be on small plants joined together to produce more permanent energy than before. I think this has to happen in the future. These terrible reservoirs we have, with sludge and stagnation, should be dried up and the old steeples should come up in the old villages and the grass grow green again. I dare not tell everybody what I think. I tell your Lordships because you are so kind. We all think in little ways.

I was looking at the Red Arrow buses which block up the whole street outside the window of my Club. You look down and down and never come to the end of them. I was thinking, could not we have kept our old double-deckers? It is quite simple. They could put a switch on each step of the stairs and connect it to a dial on the dashboard in front of the driver, so that as people climb them he will know how many people are on the top deck. That is all he wants to know. And there would be a ticket collecting machine and a change-giving machine beside him. We need never have done away with our double-deckers.

My Lords, I come to the point which I have been making: that I am speaking for the Society of Patentees and Inventors. If I could get some money for them I should be glad to do so, but in doing so I should get no money for myself. I want to make a point of that. Nor do any of us benefit out of it, because this is a Society which is worked on a nonprofit basis. I would make that clear before I start. I have a laboratory of my own and a workshop of my own, and I finance my own inventions. So I am not speaking for myself; I am interested only in invention.

Our Society was started in 1919; so we celebrate our 50 glorious years next year. We have been "on the up-and-up" the whole time. It is a Society in which great interest is shown. In September last year we had 52 new members. This is quite interesting when compared with a London club; it is a lot for a small society. In October and November, which is the time when inventors are bent double over their lathes, looking at their test tubes, with their hands so sticky with fibre glass from their mock-ups that they could hardly shake hands with anybody, we had 41 new members. I should have liked to bring a list of members to read to your Lordships. Some of them are important. We have inventors from all parts of the world: from Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa—from all over the place. Not only is this so, but we have firms joining in, wanting to know more about inventions. One such firm is Pilkington's of St. Helens.

Our job is to try to help inventors. I think I can explain it in this way, without going on for too long: that if we had a bit more money, a grant of a little more money than we have now, we could help more. We could take some of our inventors who have likely ideas and subsidise them to make their mock-ups, because a mock-up takes a lot of making and you must have a mockup. When you have your mock-up and your idea, and the mock-up works, you can then give it to science or to industry and they will take it to bits and make it much better than you yourself have made it; but you cannot go on without the mock-up. At present I am not talking in terms of, or asking for, the figures we have seen to-day. I am not talking in terms of the 1,776 million Swiss francs, or that sort of figure. I am thinking of just a few thousand pounds which will put us right for a bit and help us on.

But we are not a society standing with our cap on the pavement. We have meetings at the Royal Society of Arts, and our members, like myself, are nice people. But that would help to put a number of inventions into the pool. If we do not have new inventions going into science in the future, if we do not have new ideas, I do not think we shall have any future at all. We cannot then compete with anybody else and we certainly cannot live in the state to which we think we ought to be accustomed.

7.54 p.m.


My Lords, may I say how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for allowing me to speak. I rather hesitate to do so at this late hour, but there are one or two things that I feel I ought to say. The first is that I am glad that the division of responsibility for science and technology between the Department of Education and Science and the Ministry of Technology has not occupied a prominent place in the discussion this evening, though I know that there are some present, and there are more outside this House, who remain anxious about this arrangement.

It is for their benefit that I should like to say that the Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology, of which the Jones Committee was one of several working parties, in my opinion affords a quite excellent example of co-operation between the Department and the Ministry. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, himself said, the Committee reports jointly to the Department of Education and Science and to the Ministry of Technology. The secretarial assistance is drawn jointly from these two establishments. I would also say that I cannot find words to express adequately my personal appreciation, and I am sure that of my colleagues on the Committee, for the help we have received from the secretariat, not only for the corporate way in which they have dealt with the problems of the Committee, but also, in spite of what Lord Snow said, for their skill in drafting.

I would also mention that there has been overlapping membership, and overlapping secretarial assistance, between the Committee on Manpower Resources and the Council for Scientific Policy and several of the working parties. The Jones, the Dainton and the Swann Committees have, in effect, been sponsored jointly by the Committee and the Council. Both of these bodies, and the Committee on Man-power Resources particularly, have afforded quite exceptional opportunities for discussion between senior representatives of higher education, of industry and of Government establishments. I myself, and I am sure all these people, have thought it a great privilege to have this opportunity, and have regarded it as an outstanding educational experience.

The second point I want to make is one which Sir Harry Massey, the Chairman of the Council for Scientific Policy, is of course not able to make himself. It is that the Council has a particularly difficult job to do. I think that that has perhaps not been brought out so clearly this afternoon as it might have been The Council has the responsibility for fostering basic scientific research in this country, a field of activity in which we as a country have acquired an international reputation over a long period, and in which we have exercised international leadership. This is something which, if at all possible, we must not lose. Yet we must retain it in circumstances where the resources are scarce. I am not sure that all scientists appreciate this particular point. Nevertheless, one must have some sympathy for them.

In its two Reports the Council has tried to outline the steps it is taking to establish criteria for taking decisions as between different sectors of pure science against a background of limited resources. It is not easy for its recommendations to be justified on grounds of possible economic or sociological benefit. This makes its problem particularly difficult but, in so far as the Council has made a public statement of its attempt, I would express the hope that we may soon receive a similar statement from the Advisory Council for Technology, which was set up by the Minister of Technology at the same time as the Council for Scientific Policy was set up by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I appreciate, of course, that; the Ministry of Technology recently published an outline of its activities; but the Advisory Council received no more than a mention, and many of us would be pleased if we could soon receive a statement the nature of its discussions and the likely outcome of them.

Finally, may I say that it will give me great pleasure to convey to my colleagues on the Committee on Manpower Resources and the Council for Scientific Policy the appreciation that has been expressed this afternoon of their work. I am sure they will be most pleased to hear it.

7.50 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour, which may in fact be a forerunner of an even later hour tomorrow night, I propose to speak very briefly indeed, especially since there is some further business before the House. I think the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, can be well pleased with his debate. I began by congratulating him on his speech, and now I am able to say, I hope in no patronising sense, that this has certainly been an outstanding debate. We have had some great debates on scientific subjects before, but I know of no better than the one which we have had to-day. For me to attempt to reply in detail to all the interesting points which have been made would only prolong the proceedings, without adding to our total wisdom. I propose, therefore, only to touch briefly on a number of particular points.

In the course of the debate I have conducted my own small brand of operational analysis into the list of speakers. Unfortunately, my calculations have been interrupted by a random element; namely, the very welcome intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, and I have now had to recalculate. I find that we have had taking part in the debate 10 academics, 3 professors, and 8 scientists, of whom the physicists clearly have the majority, which is represented by their lion's share of national resources.

We had the idiosyncratic figure of the noble Lord, Lord Strange, farmer, author, inventor. I hope that he will continue to survive in his own environment. I do not know whether he himself talks to the N.R.D.C., but he made his rather touching plea quite seriously, with that rather special winning charm which we heard when he was explaining fatal boxing matches at Eton on a previous occasion. I forgot to mention one professor, because my noble friend Professor Ritchie-Calder falls into a special category. I think that one noble Lord referred to the transcendental, and we were well looked after in that respect by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester.

So many important points were raised of an isolated kind that it is better I should leave them now, and possibly, where appropriate, write to noble Lords. As I have said on other occasions, I do mean "write", since we will see that these points are considered. But the main debate focused on some of the bigger issues, the big science questions. I will not say that your Lordships have given the Government a clear indication on these matters, because if we were to take a vote on the 300 GeV Accelerator I am not sure which way it would go. The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, my noble friend Lord Bowden, and other noble Lords, pointed rather authoritatively to the doubts, and these perhaps balance the views which are so overwhelmingly in favour of it, except for those of the chemical colleagues of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones.

This is an exceedingly difficult problem, which is likely to remain with us for some while. I was not quite clear whether my noble friend Lord Bowden was indicating that this would be the last machine of any kind. When he was speaking I saw certain noble Lords look up with hopefulness at this remark, which seemed to be suggestive of a wonderful world free of machines. I do not know whether he is thinking that the 300 GeV Accelerator will have the effect of teaching us the basic secrets of life and of matter and that all the more unattractive aspects of our civilisation will disappear when we move into this new and more fundamental era. None the less, I shall read his speech with a good deal of interest.

My noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones and other noble Lords boldly took the view that we should now kill projects which had outlasted, I will not say their usefulness, but their potential. He referred to the low temperature carbonisation research station and other activities. There is no doubt that this sort of decision must be taken. We are moving gradually and rather peacefully—which is the attractive feature—into a new form of science planning. This will provide us with a much wider key to planning generally. Whereas long-term forecasting, and even short-term forecasting, is extremely risky, the fact that we may begin to have rather more specific views and a real correlation between scientific thinking and government is at least capable of offering us some hope. Of course, the final big decisions must be taken by Government. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, in his fascinating speech, talked about the responsibility of scientists and Government. It is important that the scientists should be intelligible to Government, but equally it is important for Government to be capable, even if classically educated, of understanding scientists. My noble friend Lord Snow, and the members of the various science bodies, are contributing significantly towards that end.

I found myself in disagreement with some of the particular points which were raised. I think that my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones, in picking one example to be killed, picked on the very one which most of your Lordships concerned with this subject would have picked out as something which ought not to be killed; namely, hovercraft. I would only relieve the mind of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who shares my interest in these matters. Indeed, I detected a certain defeatism in my noble friend's speech. I do not know whether chemical engineers are really suffering from the apparent financial dominance of the physicist. I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones is here at the moment, but if he is not, then I will talk to him again and tell him that we are proceeding on the right lines. I think that he supported the general line of progress. He raised the most interesting question of how science should be introduced into the curriculum. He said that we had deliberately planned not to have science. The one thing that is clear is that we have not planned it. We may have planned to have other things, but science and mathematics have not been specifically planned (or perhaps "programmed" is the right word) into the syllabus. I will not at this time put forward my own particular theories on the matter.

The other great subject which we discussed—and it was a matter on which the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, my noble friend Lord Bowden and others spoke at considerable length, as I think did my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder—was the brain-drain. I do not think that at this stage I can say anything useful on that matter. I would only repeat that I agree that it is a serious social problem, and one that I hope we shall learn more about in the course of time. But, of course, it is not the British who are primarily suffering; it is other countries to whom the brain-drain is so disastrous—the undeveloped countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, also referred, as he has done on previous occasions, to the problems of quinquennial grants. I do not know whether bacteriologists are particularly badly treated, but I appreciate that there is an obvious folly in having fine laboratories and well paid—or perhaps not so well paid—able men and then denying them some elementary piece of equipment. He was not entirety fair in talking about the effect of inflation on the University Grants Committee. I have no doubt that inflation has affected the resources of the universities, especially in view of the increased number of undergraduates; but the noble Lord made no reference to the financial assistance given to science and technological faculties by the Research Councils, or indeed to the grants given by the Science Research Councils. I am not saying this to destroy his case generally, but I would say that a little more has been done than he implied.

Since I am on the subject of money, I must point out to my noble friend Lord Mitchison that when he compares the level of United States expenditure on research and development with what we do he is not comparing like with like. I must say that these G.N.P. figures, which now bewilder and mesmerise us all, serve to conceal a number of detailed and important factors and may not approximate to the truth. I admit that I have been guilty on various occasions of using G.N.P. figures to prove particular points, but I am increasingly inclined to think that very often they prove nothing at all. Of course the United States figures—and this is why they are misleading—contain the very considerable figures of the budgets of the Department of Defence and of the National Aeronautical and Space Agency, which are not included in the figures we have given. So here again the position is not quite so bad.

I had hoped that I should be able to give my noble friend Lord Mitchison something rather more forward-looking and progressive on the subject of the European Technological Institute or Centre. I am never quite sure when a subject stops being considered and moves forward, whether consideration still continues and whether there is no advance when people are talking about it. Of course, there is a great deal of talk and there is quite a lot of enthusiasm, and I can only say that it is very much the intention of the Government to press on with this, despite our failure to enter the Common Market.

I think I have already expressed my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, for his very forthright speech, and this again has been one of the merits of this debate. I should perhaps have mentioned him, in my particular analysis, as the former head of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, which always seems to me a rather strange mixture with diplomacy. None the less, he has clearly operated with great distinction and knowledge there.

My Lords, I have probably said enough. I have noted what my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder has said: that he will continue to press for the World Health Centre in Edinburgh. I know his great devotion to this subject, and I know the extent to which he relates it to a consistent view of the development of the world and of world population, and to the immense social problems with which he is familiar. The noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, had some very interesting remarks with regard to planning and population. Here again I think these Reports show that we are beginning to advance to a position where we can integrate scientific development and produce a synthesis that will be a great deal more effective than the present position.

One noble Lord suggested that the Natural Environment Research Council should concern itself not with preserving the countryside but, possibly, with beautifying industrial development. Of course, there have been interesting ideas in the past that there ought to be a Research Council for the built environment, as opposed to the natural environment. But this again is part of the the developing ideas which are of such interest.

I would end by saying this. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, have emphasised certain fundamental social and ethical matters which we have to bear in mind—the need for a sense of value in regard to this work; a proper understanding of its relationship to society as a whole, and, above all, the fact that it should be related to the problems of the world as a whole. The view was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Snow, and I think also by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, that we may be faced very much sooner than we may expect, but certainly in the next 30 or 40 years, by the most appalling world crisis of famine. This demands not only the development of the right kinds of science and technology, but the application of their methods of thinking to these problems. This is a challenge which I see very little sign of any of us successfully meeting at the moment. It may well be that some of the ideas that will emerge with the help of scientists—although they will not have a monopoly of all the knowledge and wisdom in the world—will help us to understand, and will provide us with some of the techniques to build that rather better and, therefore, very much safer world.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him whether he has noticed that, if I made any mistake about the two G.N.P. figures which I quoted, then so did the Council for Scientific Policy, in paragraph 11 of their Report?


My Lords, I had observed that. I am not sure that I suggested my noble friend had made a mistake. I merely said that we are all inclined—and I confessed to my own weakness—to rely too much on these figures.

8.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for having answered, with remarkable speed, nearly all the questions which were put to him. I am also very grateful to him for speaking twice, and to all the other noble Lords who have spoken today. I think we reached some sort of agreement on oceanography and decided that there should be more of it. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, certainly agrees. On the CERN machine, it appears that informed opinion is moving somewhat against it; at any rate, the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, certainly used powerful arguments. Even the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, said in the end that he felt it was time to stop, even if the noble Lord, Lord Snow, was not so sure. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, said two things. He said that we ought to go on, but he also said that some of the best things are done with very little money. I think we must bear that in mind, and there probably is a limit to this kind of expenditure. I was personally very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, stressed the importance of mission oriented and contract research. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, may be able to write to us a little more about that, because it is important.

We have hunted the quark but not, I think, caught it. We have spoken, I am glad to say, of brain circulation rather than of the brain-drain; and I am glad that my noble friend Lord Caldecote was able to answer the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on the subject of hovercraft. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, finally intervened in the debate. It was most useful that he should do so. I was also glad that the right reverend Prelate was interested in space as well as the heavens, and the transcendental character of space.

I agree that world collaboration is going to be important, especially in these very big projects. I personally believe that we need more than just a European Institute of Technology. We need a kind of Common Market, with the United States as well as with Europe, in technology. I thank noble Lords again for having spoken in what I think has been one of our very best debates on the subject. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.