§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Debate continued on the Motion introduced yesterday by the Earl of Bess-borough—namely, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the Green Paper, A Framework for Government Research and Development (Cmnd. 4814).
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I understand that it may be of interest if we start the second day of this debate with some comments from the point of view of a Government Department as a generator of research, a customer for research and a user of research. I believe that what I am about to say, which will be quite factual, will continue the process of reassurance which my right honourable friend gave to your Lordships' House yesterday. Incidentally, I shall not attempt in what I say to deal with many of the questions raised by your Lordships in the first day of this debate, though I would confirm that they will all of course be taken and considered with the utmost care.
My Lords, from reading in the papers about cyanide drums in brickyards in Nuneaton, or inflammable chemicals on the Cornish coast, or from Questions I am asked—say, last week, about traffic congestion in Berwick-on-Tweed or inflation in house prices—it is all too easy to get the impression subconsciously that the Department of the Environment is like a lire brigade or a casualty ward in a hospital, grappling with all its problems as best it can on a day-to-day basis; and of course it does have to do this, and a democracy judges its Government very much on its day-to-day performance. But we all know that this is an absurdly superficial view of central Government activity, and underneath all the day-to-day action and comment and debate that occupy the headlines the great bulk of the Department's work is proceeding on a long-term, comprehensive basis. Wide and distant horizons are being earnestly scanned in the quest for long-term policies.
I should like to illustrate that point with three examples from the range of our responsibilities. Take, first of all, planning. Besides taking planning responsibility 940 for day-to-day decisions—and about 5,000 planning inquiries are held each year—my right honourable friend is at present also involved in establishing an entirely new system of planning throughout the country and ensuring that regional strategies are formulated to provide a basis for it. Those strategies look right into the 21st century. Special planning studies have been prepared—they were started by our predecessors—for Humberside and Severnside, looking ahead to the long-term national growth of population up to the year 2000. This planning is no longer confined to land and to the control of building development, but embraces forecasts and estimates of every kind of economic growth and social change. It is wide-ranging, long-term, and clearly needs research of that character to sustain it. But to take an even more specific example, water planning, my right honourable friend is currently engaged on consultation with all concerned on the future shape of the entire water industry, nationwide, so as to get the best pattern for the solution of water conservation problems, water distribution problems and river pollution problems—problems that the Water Resources Board have identified and analysed up to the turn of the century. Or take a third area. While my right honourable friend takes urgent steps to deal with urgent problems such as cyanide at Nuneaton, he is also formulating legislation to provide an up-to-date legislative framework for the effective discharge of all his responsibilities across the whole field of pollution, covering clean air, pure water, disposal of toxic wastes and so on.
I hope that those three examples only from the total range of my right honourable friend's responsibilities, which of course are far wider than that, serve to show that, whatever may have been true in the days of Haldane, my right honourable friend's needs for research to-day are not in the least likely to lie mainly in narrow sectors or mainly for solutions to short-term problems. That is not to say that there are not immediate problems that need to be studied, and it may be of interest if I were to give some examples and to show how research in them is being done.
Within the Department of the Environment there are at present more than 60 941 separate policy directorates responsible for varying fields of policy that require to he backed by research. Those 60 directorates are in the markets as customers for research; and the following examples show some of the wide variety of sources that are at present being tapped by us to provide for our diverse needs. The Report of the Water Resources Board on the Morecambe Bay scheme, which appears in the Press to-day, is an excellent example of the need to draw on a wide range of expertise in resolving the major problems affecting the environment and the conservation of scarce resources. In this particular case, those making a major contribution to the underlying research included a consultant engineer, my Department's Hydraulics Research Station, the Natural Environment Research Council and, in the Council, the Nature Conservancy and the Fresh Water Biological Research Laboratory. Incidentally, may I take this opportunity of saying how much we welcome the contributions of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook on the problems facing the Nature Conservancy in any organisation of Government research, and to confirm that these have been noted? I know he will understand if I do not comment or dwell on them now. The point I am making here—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? That was a slightly ominous comment. This is an area where it will be helpful soon to have a Government Statement, because there are very strong feelings about this, and I share the view held by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, it is for those very reasons that I do not pause and attempt to deal with them at this moment, because this is a debate in which, as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said, we are learning and listening. The point I am making is that problems such as the Morecambe Bay Estuary, and the research needed to deal with them, do not fit easily into any neat organisational provisions, and other examples to which I now come will point the same lesson.
In the planning of transportation, we have among our various research contracts at the moment one looking into the environmental effects of the motorways. 942 That is placed with Reading University's Department of Geography. Another planning issue is research underlying the problems that need to be decided upon when it comes to locating shopping facilities. That one is currently placed with our building research establishment. In the field of road safety there is the experimental safety vehicle—a development of a vehicle with improved safety characteristics drawing on the results of research into factors that cause accidents and influence their severity. The research involved there has been placed by our own Transport and Road Research Laboratory with sub-contractors, including the Motor Industry Research Association, British Leyland and Automotive Products. Incidentally, while on the subject of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory I should like to deal with a point made yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and assure him that, far from withering, the Road Research Laboratory has flourished abundantly, increasing from 560 to 720 personnel since coming to us from the D.S.I.R.
Continuing with transport, on the rail ways side the advanced passenger train and research related to it has been placed by us with British Rail in a contract amounting to £15 million spread over the next six years. On road maintenance, the Marshall Committee identified a number of fields requiring research and that is being undertaken in our own Transport and Road Research Laboratory. Then there are the problems of district heating. The study of the performance in use of a number of district heating schemes to provide design data and to guide their installation in future schemes is being undertaken for us by the Heating and Ventilating Research Association.
There is an interesting and topical study in research into the fire hazard flowing from the extensive use of plastic materials. These cause a particularly serious hazard resulting from the smoke and toxic gases which they cause when they catch fire. This is a research project which has been placed by us as to one part with the Fire Research Station (our own station); as to another part with the Rubber and Plastics Research Association, and as to another part with Queen Mary College, University of London, indicating the different contributions that the different bodies have to make.
943 The next example I should like to quote will be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. So far from Departments being unwilling to commission research that may be troublesome for the industries with which they are associated, the Department of the Environment, one of whose Ministers is Minister for Transport Industries, has placed with the Warren Spring Laboratory at Stevenage—which is a laboratory belonging to the Department of Trade and Industry and responsible for the motor industry—a research project to measure the dispersion of exhaust components from motor vehicles in five particular towns. I think that is the kind of project which the noble Lord suggested we would be rather reluctant to commission—that either Department would be reluctant to commission. I can assure him that that is not so, as that example shows.
Turning to another rather more complex example, the Trent River Study consists of research to form a model of the water quality in the Trent area and to show the best means of improving it. In this the Water Resources Board are the customers and the work is being undertaken by the Water Pollution Research Laboratory at Stevenage. Incidentally, here I might mention, in answer to another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, that although this is one of our own laboratories dealing primarily with applied research, they could hardly be more interested in advances and developments in microbiology, and they are closely in touch with other scientists working ing that field. So the Water Pollution Research Laboratory is one establishment working in this field on the Trent River Study. Then there are the Local Government Operational Research Unit, the University of Birmingham and the Water Research Association. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, will notice that I have already mentioned no fewer than four research associations in the course of this brief selection of examples.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, if the noble Lord has finished his selection of examples I wonder whether he will agree that so far every single one of them is in the field of strategic research? They do not lead to a product or a process or a method, as defined by Lord Rothschild.
§ LORD SANDFORD
No, my Lords, I would not agree with that at all. I think they illustrate a whole range of outputs. The one on air pollution which I mentioned just now will lead straight to changes in the design of motor car engines.
There is one more example which I should like to mention because it illustrates another approach. This is research to study the groundwater resources of the Bunter sandstone in the Severn Valley. Again this is research for the Water Resources Board. For this we have gone to the Institute of Geological Sciences, one of the units of the Natural Environment Research Council.
Here I should like to make a point which has struck me as I have been round various establishments in preparation for this debate and which runs counter to what the noble Lord, Lord Snow, was saying yesterday. I found considerable enthusiasm among scientists who perhaps were spending most of their time on long-term pure research—and there is a lot of pure research going on in the I.G.S. There is enthusiastic response to requests for particular short-term items of work such as they have received from the new town of Milton Keynes, who wanted a special geological study undertaken on the land on which they are going to build their new city. Again, while we are on these ideas I should like to make a point in response to the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton. If the geological mapping survey of the British Isles had not already been going on for 100 or 130 years and was not still going on, this is something which the Department of the Environment would have to commission for its own needs, and the needs of our planners. It is an absolutely indispensable piece of work for planning purposes, to say nothing of the needs of our highway engineers or the needs of the industries that produce aggregates for the building industry.
That is the end of my brief list of examples. I think your Lordships will agree that this complex, if not labyrinthine state of affairs shows two things. It shows that no broad organisation of research can provide a neat, tidy, uniform pattern capable of meeting in any standardised way the needs of even a single Department, let alone of Her 945 Majesty's Government. Secondly, it shows that whatever organisation or range of organisations is adopted it must be one in which the users, the customers for research and the contractors for research can be brought together in really close, fruitful dialogue. Here I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Bessborough was saying at the outset of this debate. But even if this is successfully done and these close working relationships are built up across that whole complex pattern—and I confirm that the customer/contractor principle has a big part to play in securing that it is done—I would also confirm that in our view the customer/contractor principle alone is not enough.
The separate demands of our 60 policy directorates would in themselves, if left to themselves, generate not so much a research programme but a series of fragmented research projects, and for this reason we do not feel that we can follow the prescription of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton, for placing research within the policy organisation. Work at the building research establishment, for instance, on sound insulation, is of interest to five or six of our separate policy directorates, and also finds application in the work of at least three other different Departments. To co-ordinate the research needs of these policy directorates and to form a coherent research programme, we have our chief scientist organisation under our Director General of Research, who is also concerned with the scale and the balance of the whole programme and with ensuring that provision is made for the long-term interests of the Department.
A number of noble Lords yesterday queried how this chief scientist is to be found, and my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford was one of those. May I make it clear that the chief scientist's function is one which must be discharged not so much by an individual person but by an organisation which he embodies, personifies and represents. In the case of my own Department, this organisation which we call the chief scientist has a staff of 40 scientists, who are engaged full-time in working with the policy directorates on the one hand and the contractors on the other, to decide how the research needs of the whole Department can best be satisfied. It is the job of this organisation, as we see it, to ensure that 946 in one way or another not only is research applied to these specific problems of which I have just given some examples which from time to time face particular parts of our large Departments, but more important, that thorough research is also being undertaken into the basic and long-term problems that the Secretary of State for the Environment has a clear responsibility in his own right to see are tackled.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a simple question? To whom is the chief scientist of this chief scientist body accountable?
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, we call him the Director General of Research, and he is responsible to the Permanent Secretary and my right honourable friend.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, before he sits down may I ask him one question following upon the noble Lord, Lord Avebury's question? Do I understand that some of the projects that the Department has been commissioning, as he mentioned in his very interesting speech, fall in what one might call the strategic field as opposed to the strictly applied short-term field? I am not trying to catch him, but this is very crucial to the examination of this problem. If the noble Lord would prefer to leave it to his noble friend to answer later, that will do.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I think I would rather leave it to your Lordships' own judgment. Without trying to draw any particular lessons, I think those examples show that our research needs fall all over the place: some are short-term problems properly called applied research, and others involve pure basic strategic research. This attempt to arrive at precise definitions is not particularly helpful.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, one lesson which the noble Lord has learned from yesterday, and on which I congratulate him, is that brevity is something for which we should all strive, and I will endeavour to follow his example. In more than one sense the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, brought us back to earth, and in this he renders us a much-needed lesson. May I also say that we owe an especial debt to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for injecting a rational, constructive, mollifying element into a controversy which, before it reached this House, had seemed at times undignified, unuseful and certainly unscientific.
I share Lord Todd's view of the somewhat unusual technique of presentation employed by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. Indeed, after my first two or three readings of his Report I thought of nothing more than that exciting pre-war film Hellzapoppin, but after the fourth and fifth reading I began to realise that he had a good deal to say. Apart from the initial Government requirement, however, that comments on the Paper should be received by January 15 of this year in writing, nothing in this affair has startled me more than Lord Rothschild's statement that he adopted his special style—and I quote from The Guardian "in the interest of readability". But even allowing for this style, plus the challenging substance, surely sections of the scientific establishment could have reacted a little less stridently. I have been in public life sufficiently long as to be sensitive to the taint of vested interests, and there has been more than a trace of that in recent weeks.
My mind went back to a story told by the late Aneurin Bevan at a time when he had collided with the medical establishment. Apparently someone had questioned the value of the contribution that psychiatrists were making to the war effort. Nye said that a committee was established to assess their work; it was composed entirely of eminent psychiatrists. After prolonged and due consideration they came solemnly to the conclusion that they were absolutely indispensable.
For myself, this recent display of scientific indignation has been overdone, and I was most interested to find that 948 one of the freshest and most interesting speeches that were made yesterday, the last speech of the night by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, shared this view. In the first place, as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, and my noble friend Lord Kennet, said yesterday, the critics exaggerate the financial scope of Lord Rothschild's recommendations. To make arrangements for Government Departments in a democratic country to have some say in the deployment of £28 million out of Research Council budgets of £109 million, which is only part of a total "645 million Government spend, which in turn is only part of a total national investment of £1,000 million in R. and D., really cannot have the devastating consequences to scientific morale which some critics suggest. Moreover, though Lord Rothschild does not detail evidence to support his case I, for one, am impressed by some of the support which the controversy has disclosed. For example, there was the letter to The Times from a Dr. Macleod, whose practical experience led him to the view that medical research wasbecoming too remote from the advancement of patient care",and, as he said,Present M.R.C. projects have almost totally ignored half the practising doctors in this country".Or again, Nature, on December 3, was saying that the M.R.C. has been:much less interested in more humdrum matters, such as the efficient use of hospitals for the treatment of patients—the operational use of hospitals for the treatment of patients.And then there were, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, the reservations of Professor Swann. How could it possibly be said that if £5.6 million of the M.R.C.'s £22.4 million was devoted to more humdrum but immediately useful research as the result of civilised adult discussions between the Department of Health on the one hand and the Council on the other, this would undermine the Council's work on molecular biology? I refuse to accept this kind of criticism.
Then, if one considers the painstaking attack on Rothschild made by the Royal Society, one finds inconsistencies which make me, for one, less ready to accept their opposition to Rothschild at their own valuation. For example, in their 949 defence of the NERC they pay tribute to that Council's efficiency but add:It is right that there should be increased Government expenditure in fields such as pollution research, land use and planning, conservation, fisheries, exploration of water resources and in the search for useful minerals.That is a formidable list of things left inadequately done. The commendation by the Royal Society of work done in other fields by the NERC may well add up to a case for a bigger total allocation of funds, but it is scarcely disproof of Rothschild's approach. It may well have been better tactics, indeed, in order to secure Lord Rothschild's objective—and I think it might well have been approached this way—to have planned for Departmental responsibility for additional sums to be vested in this work. In an expanding economy, with our national investment in R. and D. below that of other countries, the Royal Society might well have spent their time much more usefully if they had concentrated on a campaign for an overall increase of total funds. Such a campaign in the long run might well have been much more productive and in the interests of us all.
I was especially interested in the paper of the Industrial Activities Committee of the Royal Society. With peculiar modesty, in the first paragraph of their Paper they assert that "special attention should be paid" to their views. They claim that Rothschildignores the country's need to produce a healthy competitive industry".This Committee make probably the most incontinent of all the attacks made on Rothschild; they say that his proposals appear as "an exercise in theoretical management". One would have thought that all the twenty-three gentlemen in this Committee had been actively engaged in industry, but this is not really the case at all. If I want to turn to what the industrialists really think I would go to the C.B.I. Report, and I find that so far as they are concerned they "strongly favour", as they put it, the Rothschild approach. It is not without interest that one of the most eminent of the practising industrialists on that Committee of twenty-three, Dr. Jones, the Managing Director of Mullards, refused to sign the Report that was published.
950 I suggest, therefore, that we can discount much of the destructive criticisms that have been made, and that we ought to follow the lead of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, supported by his noble friend the Leader of the House and by the very persuasive speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Todd and Lord Snow, and concentrate on areas of agreement. The Dainton Report says at paragraph 35 that it isof paramount importance that public needs should be taken into consideration at all levelswhen determining policies for both strategic and basic science. The Royal Society, in their conclusions, say at paragraph 52 of their Report:We recognise that the welfare of the nation, in short and long term, must be the major factor in determining the allocation of substantial public funds for science and technology.This surely then is an area of agreement from which discussions really should start. Rothschild's recommendations, as they seem to me at any rate, make it possible for "public needs" and "the welfare of the nation" to be taken into account.
Of course, from this one could argue that the Research Councils should be placed firmly under Departmental control, but Dainton argues, and I think convincingly, that:allocation of Research Councils to different executive bodies would mean loss of efficiency, scientific and financial.The Rothschild formula would avoid that loss of efficiency. Dainton also stated, and in the modern world one would hope that it is a statement of the obvious, thatGovernment Departments need scientific knowledge if they are to carry out their functions.That is the burden of what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, says has been accepted to a certain extent. But if we apply that statement over a wider field, then either we set up duplicated organisations in each Government Department or we evolve the kind of partnership which Rothschild allows. And, like the noble Lord, Lord Todd, I stress the word "partnership". What is now needed, it seems to me, is much more research in depth on the extent of that partnership and the nuts and bolts of its operation. It is conceivable that the fractions of 951 spend by Departments, under the recommended system, might with advantage, after more research, be varied in particular cases.
Much more consideration, and sympathy, needs to be given to the proposal for a 10 per cent. surcharge on the customer's bill to be used on untargeted research. I am surprised that not more attention has been given to this proposal. This provision, properly implemented, could, at the same time, act as a discipline upon the customer department and an incentive to the contracting scientist. It could of itself be of decisive importance in ensuring a friendly and fruitful relationship between Department and Research Council, and could dispel all the fears which some of the scientists have conjured up. If, on examination, the 10 per cent. could be increased to 15 per cent. or 20 per cent., I can imagine its proving a very satisfying sugar to the pill.
One other paragraph in Rothschild's Report, No. 21, headed "Dialogues", could have been expanded into a booklet. The paragraph says that no system of administration of applied R. and D will work successfully without a continuing dialogue between human beings concerned in the Departments and those concerned with the actual prosecution of R. and D. Of course this is true, and of course, if we are to get true partnership, much more than the creation of a new scientist post is needed. This really brings in the whole question of the more speedy implementation of Fulton. We have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that much has been done—that "new structures are being devised" was what he said yesterday—and this surely is the essence of the whole problem.
There are two other points I would make. I have heard plaintively from those concerned with research at the universities that independence is all very well, but it is an unsatisfactory thing if their independently found discoveries remain unused. I am told that too much remains unused, and in part because it is difficult or impossible to contact or canvass potential users, industrial or otherwise. There is at the university possibly an industrial liaison officer, but one man, even with a secretary, cannot easily cover 952 the whole industrial field. Little has been said about this. Could there be research into this matter? Is there scope for more centralised liaison to facilitate the industrial exploitation of the results of research? Nothing seems to have been said about the N.R.D.C., and I would ask the noble Earl whether its scope could be widened. Could some inquiry be made into the N.R.D.C. and the part that it plays?
Finally, my Lords, on the question of accountability, whilst Rothschild is right in asking for proper accountability, have not his critics also truth on their side when they say that the change he proposes will not necessarily help in this particular result? Is there not here scope for a refinement in our own Parliamentary procedures? Could we not develop the Select Committee on Science and Technology, to which so much praise was given, very properly, yesterday? Is this not eminently an area in which a Joint Select Committee of both Houses could play a very helpful part? Could a joint body of this kind provide continual oversight and ensure the kind of balance between one Council and another which Dainton considers is necessary? Could the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, say that this possibility will at least be examined?
The noble Earl yesterday made a most conciliatory speech. He appeared to lean in a most athletic fashion to meet the fears of the established Councils. Without in any way stirring up their fears again, I hope that to-night he will do a little more to assure us that the conception of partnership which the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, implied between Government and scientist, which I understood the Government had accepted, is one which he accepts very seriously, and that practical consideration is being given to the implementation of that part of the Report?
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I like the noble Lord's reference to the film Hellzapoppin, because I think it is appropriate in the sense that if one saw that film several times one began to understand to an extent what the producer was driving at; and if one reads the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, a number of times one gets a closer idea of his meaning. Some people have rushed into criticism rather too early, 953 before he had a chance on other occasions to amplify the rather terse statements that appear in some sections of that Report. But I cannot agree with the noble Lord when he said that the general research surcharge at 10 per cent. was going to be a useful contribution. He hinted that he would like this increased to 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. when he thought that everybody would be satisfied. I do not see how it is possible for anyone to say at this stage what is the appropriate level for the research surcharge to be placed at. All we can say quite definitely is that it is most unlikely on the face of it that the same percentage of 10 to 15 per cent. or whatever it may be, is appropriate for every Department. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, said. He said that 10 per cent. should be the average for each Department, whether it is the Department of the Environment, the Department of Health and Social Security, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and so on. It is quite on the cards that you would find that 5 per cent. would be an appropriate level for one Department, 10 per cent. for another and 15 per cent. for a third, and I hope that we shall not start by agreeing to this straitjacket of 10 per cent. applying to every Department right across the board.
If I may make one comment about the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that the examples he gave were extremely interesting. But it struck me—and I will go through them more thoroughly later on—that nearly all of them were in the field of strategic research, although Lord Sandford was not prepared to answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this subject. If it is not possible for him to identify those sections of the Department's work which are applied in Rothschild's terms and those sections which are strategic, then how can he make any decision on the amount of funds to be transferred or the proportion of strategic research which is appropriate for his particular Department?
I think it is true to say that the views of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, are a reflection of public anxiety and unease about the control of scientific developments which found expression in the report of the ad hoc group to the 954 O.E.C.D. Science Ministers in May last year, when they said:Science and technology arc an integral part in social and economic development, and we believe that this implies a much closer relationship between policies for science and technology and all socio-economic concerns and Government responsibilities than has existed in the past.That in a nutshell is the justification for something along the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, is proposing. There is a general feeling that research and development progress should be more closely related to social and political objectives and to the solution of problems that are being created by the unrestricted application of technology even where they may have some undesirable side effects. I think there is also a feeling among the general public—this would not be popular among the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate so far—that research and development budgets cannot be allowed to continue to grow indefinitely at the rate of recent years. We came up against this problem not so long ago when the Science Research Council was trying to persuade the then Government that enormous sums of money should be spent on the 300 GeV accelerator at CERN, and it was found impossible to contain this additional burden within the 8 per cent. increase that had been allocated to the physics budget over a number of years.
These are priorities which we have to face. Painful choices have to be made between work that has an identifiable practical application and work that has a more indirect bearing on the needs of the community. Further. I think there is no disposition, even among Rothschild's bitterest critics, to say that the present system of allocating money to research and development is the ideal for the 1970s and should be left exactly as it stands. It is worth remembering that Addison himself, when asked to amplify the meaning of the Haldane principle, said that, "the connection between the administrative departments … and the research bodies whose work touches on the same subjects" should be "as elastic as possible", and far-reaching changes in these connections have been made over the years.
Now we have to consider what further adjustments are needed not only in the 955 relationships between user Departments and the Research Councils, but also in the administration of directly funded R. and D. I think that if there had been any advocates of the status quo they would not have been taken very seriously in this debate. At the same time it is unfortunate that when the need for change is so widely accepted, the Green Paper has antagonised violently, by its defects of style and presentation, so many of the scientists whose co-operation will be essential to the working of any new system. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, has had to take the unusual step for a civil servant of replying to criticisms which have deluged The Times. The letters there, the observations of the Royal Society and the Research Councils themselves cannot be attributed entirely to the fear of a threat to vested interests. Some criticisms rest on genuine differences of opinion, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, will accept. An appreciable number reflect misunderstandings for which he must take his share of the responsibility.
To be fair to him, Lord Rothschild has attempted to clear up these misunderstandings and it would not be useful to rehearse them again at this stage. Some of them have been referred to in the course of this debate. What is needed is a thorough examination of the central recommendation in the Green Paper, so that the Government, having already decided to accept it, as mentioned in the preface, can now solve the important problems of timing and extent.
Like my noble friend Lord Byers who spoke yesterday, I accept the customer/contractor principle—the C.C.P.—as defined by Rothschild, and I have noted that practically all the commentators, even those who may disagree with him violently in some respects, have said that they do not quarrel with the concept itself. I read again the account of the meeting at Strathclyde sponsored by the Council for Scientific Policy, and it was noteworthy that all except one of the speakers approved the C.C.P., in its right place. Among those who approved were Sir Brian Flowers and Sir Frederick Dainton, who have not been very pleased by some of the other sections of the Report. It therefore seemed to me that we ought to be concentrating on the 956 timing, extent and detailed application of the C.C.P. and not on the merits of the principle as such.
Perhaps I should here interpolate my agreement with John Lyons, of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, who said that we are not really talking about a principle at all; we are talking about a method. The underlying principle is that it is the "customer" who decides what is to be done, and the arrangement with the "contractor" (using those words in inverted commas, because they obviously cause some antipathy), is the method of doing it. The word is "arrangement", because, as Lord Rothschild explained when he appeared before the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, he regrets the inference which was drawn that some kind of legal document is required. To the extent that it is possible for the C.C.M.—the customer/contractor method—to be applied, it should be adopted. But it is necessary to make certain reservations which I shall do, though not in order of their importance.
One of the most essential is the ability of the customer Departments to define their needs sensibly—that is to say, they should be able to say not only what they need ideally, but also whether it can be achieved within the technological and budgetary constraints that they have to consider—and that is dependent very much on the organisational changes which have been proposed. The Rothschild section of the Green Paper states that only the Ministry of Defence already have the Chief Scientist and Controller R. and D. organisations. The Chief Scientist organisation at the Department of the Environment is "broadly satisfactory", according to Lord Rothschild. But that Department and the D.T.I. "will need time to become adjusted to this proposal", while the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to which the largest slice of Research Council expenditure is being transferred, have to face really major changes at top scientific level.
I had thought the danger might be that the Government would lay down an unrealistic timetable for implementing the transfer of budgetary and executive responsibility to the Departments, one that did not allow for a proper build-up of customer expertise. I was much reassured by the remarks of the noble Earl, 957 Lord Jellicoe, yesterday on this subject, particularly when he said that no final decision would be made in respect of the Research Councils until the Select Committee had been able to report, which he told us would be this side of Easter. The recommendations as regards the financing of the Research Councils laid down in Table 4 obviously could not be implemented from the beginning of the forthcoming financial year, and I believe that it would be sensible not to make any definite commitment as to the timing at this stage, following the Government's consideration of the Select Committee's Report.
I am not at all happy about the supposed justification for Table 4 which appears in the Appendix to Rothschild. The Institution of Professional Civil Servants, in their memorandum which I think is about to be published and of which I have seen a proof copy, states that the Councils were not consulted about their existing research programmes. In his memorandum to the Select Committee on Science and Technology Lord Rothschild made it clear that his original figures were not based on any calculation of the amount of applied research which these Research Councils are conducting at the moment. It was his considered judgment that those amounts were the figures that ought to be transferred. In other words, his second attempt at justification of Table 4 made it appear even more arbitrary than in the original document.
I think that the right way to determine what volume of work ought to be transferred is to go through the existing programmes of the Research Councils, item by item, finding out which projects a Department is willing to pay for; and whatever is left over must obviously be financed, as now, through the Department of Education and Science or by means of the general research surcharge, at whatever level it may ultimately be decided to set it, or it must be dropped. Those are the only remaining alternatives.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him for one moment? Is he seriously suggesting that Government Departments are mysteriously going to he able to decide what sort of work a Research Council may or may not do? 958 He is suggesting that it should be gone through item by item—not in general terms, which one could understand. Surely this item by item approach would be absolutely devastating for a Research Council.
§ LORD AVEBURY
No, my Lords. I do not think I agree with the noble Lord, because what the examination would be designed to achieve is approval by the Department concerned for the expenditure already being undertaken by the Research Council, and the assumption of responsibility for that on its own Vote instead of going through the D.E.S. vote.
§ LORD AVEBURY
If it is an applied R. and D. project, yes. That is what I am suggesting is the way to do it. As I continue, I think the noble Lord will see that some steps have already been taken which go in this direction. There are a couple of examples which I shall give him.
If this approach were adopted, there would be no argument for excluding the S.R.C. or the S.S.R.C. from the new system. Indeed, the S.R.C., in their memorandum of comment on Rothschild, states that they have already embarked on a proper examination of each coherent area of research with which both Department and Council are concerned and that this will take six months. Any transfer of responsibility found to be desirable should be made programme by programme, as soon as the necessary machinery is working. Thus I think the noble Lord will see that, so far as the S.R.C. are concerned—and they were not even brought into Rothschild—they are quite prepared to sit down at a table with representatives of the D.T.I. and the D.O.E., and to find out which of the programmes of work they have already undertaken can be financed in the way recommended by Lord Rothschild.
If, on the other hand, the Government insist on laying down in advance what sums are to be paid by each Department, that will be a breach of the Rothschild principle that it is for the customer to decide what he wants. The customer does not know that in the case of the Medical Research Council he needs £5.6 million worth of what is going on there already, 959 and he cannot find out unless he follows the procedure that I have suggested. I think it is quite possible that the Department of Health and Social Security and the S.H.H.D. may ultimately be prepared to pay for more of the M.R.C.'s work than is suggested in the Appendix The Report does not mention that the D.H.S.S. has already in 1970–71. contributed £1 million towards the M.R.C.'s expenditure, and that the O.D.A. has contributed £250,000. Those figures have gone up considerably in the current year. They are £1.5 million in the case of the Department of Health and, I think, £660,000 in the case of the O.D.A.; which, as I mentioned yesterday in an intervention, finances two-thirds of the Tropical Medicine Research Board's work in this current year.
I think it is remarkable (if I may say this as a digression) that Lord Rothschild has omitted any reference to the work already being undertaken by the Research Councils on reimbursement, or partial reimbursement, by the Departments, because this in fact supports his argument. Nor does he say anything about the reasons why Departments find it more convenient sometimes to have their R. and D. done by the Research Councils and sometimes to do it themselves. It might be useful if the Research Councils, in preparing their annual reports for this year, were to highlight the projects which are already covered by the customer/contractor principle; because Table 4 in Rothschild would appear to indicate, if one did not know any better, that all the Research Council expenditure was funded by the D.E.S.; and the discussion has so far proceeded on the basis that C.C.P. is a radical and unheard of innovation, which of course is not true at all. If I may just mention two examples of the sort of work which is going on, there is first the joint work by the M.R.C. and the D.H.S.S., which finances the unit of epidemiology and medical care at Northwick Park. Secondly, to take another example, the Institute of Geological Sciences is undertaking a uranium reconnaissance research contract with the United Kingdon Atomic Energy Authority, the value of which is £84,000 in 1971–72. Noble Lords can pick out many more examples which are available if they ask 960 the Research Councils to give them the information.
As to the division of work between the Departments themselves and the Research Councils acting as their agents, surely the corollary of the C.C.P. is that all applied R. and D. should be brought within the same unified administrative framework. If I may illustrate this from the case of the D.H.S.S., I think this means not that a separate Health Service Research Council is required, as has been suggested in some quarters, in order to conduct research on practical problems in connection with the delivery of health care (and there was some mention of this yesterday) but that under the M.R.C. a fourth Board should be established for organising the research now carried out by the Department of Health on the functions of the Health Service and taking over the administration of this work. This new Board would act as an advisory body to the Chief Scientist, and would aim to avoid the situation which has been described by Dr. Cohen, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the Department, when he said that the Department'sprogramme in its first few years has been frankly opportunistic"—in other words, unplanned. Then there is the problem of research of interest to more than one customer, which I think Lord Rothschild glosses over. There is merely a statement that if several Departments are involved they should get together and decide between themselves who foots the Bill; and there is a bland assurance that very little difficulty should be experienced in most cases in deciding which of them is most interested. I think this underestimates the difficulty to which Sir Frederick Dainton drew attention when he said:… the number of Government Departments and other organisations whose work is assisted by particular research programmes is surprisingly large …",and he quotes as an example the M.R.C.'s applied phychology unit, which does work of considerable value to the Post Office, the Ministry of Defence, the D.T.I. and industry. He might also have added to this list British Rail and B.O.A.C., both of whom are extremely interested in that work. I foresee a risk here that in deciding how to apportion 961 the bill for multi-customer research a bureaucracy rivalling that of the C.S.P. and the Research Councils might need to be created to settle the payments which should he properly made by each of the customers; and the best solution to this, in the first instance, might be to leave all these cases where argument arises to be financed out of the D.E.S. budget and to review them later on, once the single cases have been dealt with.
Then, nothing is said about the right of establishments to seek contracts from private industry or from public corporations, perhaps for the reason that Lord Rothschild did not see this as coming within his terms of reference. I think it needs to be reaffirmed that establishments like Harwell or the National Physical Laboratory can undertake work for or in co-operation with private firms without requiring them to achieve any specified proportion of their income from these sources, as was done in the previous Green Paper in the case of the B.R.D.C. This is also important for the Research Councils. The A.R.C., for instance, has mentioned the work that it does for the O.D.A., the Meat and Livestock Commission, the Sugar Beet Research and Education Committee, the Potato Marketing Board, the Home Grown Cereals Authority and so on. It is already receiving work from these customers, and it should be entitled to continue to do so. I hope that we may have from the Minister who is to wind up this evening confirmation that this will be so.
On the definition of applied research, some of Lord Rothschild's critics have said that it severely narrows the scope of the Research Councils and implies a reduction in the funds available to them; and the same would obviously apply to research establishments such as the N.P.L. Taking the limited question of what Lord Rothschild calls the taxonomy of research, I think there can be no question of his right to choose his own definitions, provided of course, as he adds, that they are internally self-consistent. Where he went wrong originally, it seems to me, was in making it appear that Departments would not be entitled to commission basic or strategic research. He did correct this impression in the replies given in The Times on, I think it was, January 19, when he said that basic or strategic research could be included in an applied 962 R. and D. programme, provided that it was necessary to achieve the specified objectives. It is clear that these misunderstandings were attributable to the wording of the Report. It says, in paragraph 37:Strategic science refers to work in a field of general practical interest, but where there is no precise objective specified by a customer, user, or representative of a customer or user.There is then a reference back to the Note to paragraph 9(a), which says that unspecific or unduly general objectives often imply commitments of an open-ended nature which arerarely justifiable in an applied R. and D. programme ".My Lords, if that attitude is taken literally, it means that many worthwhile R. and D. projects will never be undertaken at all because of gaps in the underlying technologies. The development of advanced jet engines, for instance, depended on prior knowledge of the properties of titanium alloys and their methods of fabrication, and it is certain that, in spite of the setbacks on the development of the RB.211, further progress will be made as a result of better understanding of the technology of carbon fibre composites, which I would take it is strategic research within the Rothschild terminology.
What really matters, however, is not the wording of the definitions in the Green Paper but the practical interpretation that will be applied by the spending Departments when they assume responsibility for choosing new projects. The whole tenor of Chapter II, until the final seven lines, is that the working scientists and engineers have a purely passive role, merely accepting the instructions of the customer, who decides that an R. and D. programme is necessary, how much can be spent on it and what capital expenditure is required. I admit that right at the end we have this platitudinous afterthought about "the need for a continuing dialogue" and the need for all those concerned to act and behave as a team. But Lord Rothschild's real attitude to the working scientist is illustrated by his witty remarks, in his lecture to the Royal Society of Arts, about the accelerator being constructed near Chicago. He said that the physicists in the United States extracted 250 million dollars from Congress for this project and, apart from the machine itself, they have allocated money 963 for a recruitment office for black workers (which they are obliged to do, as I understand it, under the American law), three artificial lakes for fishermen and two herds of buffalo. The implication of this story, and of the hypothetical reactions of scientists to the suggestion that the taxpayer should have some say in what they are doing, was that the scientific establishment—a very useful term of opprobrium—is utterly unmindful of the needs of the community, and extravagant as the proverbial drunken sailor.
When it comes to prestige spending on things of no immediate or even conceivable practical value, like particle accelerators, supersonic airliners and manned spacecraft, it is nearly always the political customer and not the scientist who forces the pace. It was the politicians and not the scientists who gave the go-ahead to Concorde some ten years ago. It was President Kennedy who gave the go-ahead to the manned Moon programme in the U.S.A. I think that repeated criticisms of scientists, even if they are expressed with what has been called an unfair degree of elegance and wit in the case of Lord Rothschild's R.S.A. lecture, are likely to undermine the co-operation between the laboratories and the customer departments which is essential to making any administrative framework operate satisfactorily. I do not believe that in the bitter atmosphere generated by these proposals and the way they have been put across, it would be possible to implement them exactly as they stand without a tremendous blow to the morale of the Research Council workers. I have been confirmed in this by reading the memorandum submitted by the Institution of Professional Civil Servants.
As an interim measure while consultations proceed in a less highly charged atmosphere, the spending Departments should be given a more active role on the Councils and their boards by allowing them increased representation and by allowing them to take over responsibility for the funding of projects identified by them as immediately related to their own needs. The Research Councils are evidently prepared to accept and to welcome this change; but if there is a block transfer of funds without regard to the considerations I have tried to outline the 964 effect would be disastrous. The NERC observations, for instance, makethe strongest objections for the transfer of funds from the Council without first identifying the projects to which they relate ".This is unprecedentedly vigorous language for a public body to use in relation to a question of Government policy.
I conclude, therefore, by advising, with respect, that we should proceed step by step, beginning with the measures necessary to see that customers are intelligent, and continuing with a comprehensive review of the work now in progress or in contemplation by the Departments. This is the only way of getting the C.C.P. properly tested under the right conditions and ensuring its widespread adoption without risking the destruction of good working procedures that have evolved over half a century.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD ZUCKERMAN
My Lords, the issues we are debating seemed to be fairly simple when the Green Paper first came into my hands. Leaving aside all the fine print, the commentaries and the footnotes, I visualised any layman saying that here was a vigorous Paper written by R. and D. on R. and D. with the "R" in the person of Lord Rothschild espousing the cause of "D"—that is to say, of development, of value for money and accountability—and with "D" in the shape of Dainton protesting the sanctity and integrity of the Research Councils. It seemed a nice clean fight, just designed for the free-for-all that we have been enjoying.
But now I am not so sure. Rothschild, whose so-called customer/contractor principle the Government have endorsed in their preface, has since published four or five commentaries, exegeses, shall I say, of his doctrine. Unlike the previous speaker, the noble Lord. Lord Avebury, I did not find that they had clarified the issue. I saw them as blurring what was clear and turning grey what had been black and white. At the same time Lord Rothschild is no longer as scathing as he was about categories of research. May I here pay tribute to the noble Earl the Leader of the House for refusing yesterday to be drawn into a "theological" discussion of the presumed distinction between scientific activity, science and research? When he does engage in that 965 controversy I should like to be present. Next, Lord Rothschild no longer proposes that the Councils should be shot if they refuse to act as contractors in a particular case. Finally, and in a way most confusingly, the contractor can even become part of the customer process through an extension of the process of dialogue which Lord Rothschild describes. I shall return to that later.
What then is this customer/contractor principle which the Government endorse in the preface and which the noble Earl the Leader of the House re-endorsed yesterday? Let me say straight away that I do not mind the commercial overtones of the phrase. I merely think, as I shall try to show, that it is somewhat misleading in its present context. But let me add immediately that I think it would have been extraordinary, almost a rejection of responsibility, if this Government or any Government had declined to endorse a "principle" which clearly reflected the fact that Government institutes for research and development, for science and technology, are established with public money to serve Governmental or public needs. The Royal Observatory, which was founded in 1675; the Geological Survey, now the Institute of Geological Sciences, in 1835, and the office of Government Chemist, in 1842, like every other research and development establishment set up since then with public money, were founded to provide the Government and people with answers to questions, or with new knowledge or techniques to satisfy public needs.
The customer/contractor principle, as it is now called, but a term to which neither Lord Rothschild, I understand, nor I was glad to hear yesterday from the noble Earl the Leader of the House, the Government are wedded, is built into the very structure of Government science. The Research Councils, as Lord Kennet explained, represent only a small part in volume of the resources provided for R. and D. But even they are affected by this principle. To my mind this principle, whatever one may call it, had to be endorsed.
What then has gone wrong? How is it that Lord Rothschild, whose essays into logic have perhaps not always been as subtle as they might have been, has succeeded in demonstrating to the more prestigious section of the British scientific public that "a rose by any other name" 966 does not smell as sweet? I do not think that his ex cathedra, assertive and highhanded exposition is responsible. I believe, like the noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Snow, that there are deeper reasons. I do not think he has really thought the whole thing through. I do not mind his having changed his mind about the relation of the Department of Agriculture to the Agricultural Research Council since he was its chairman, and that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, who nearly 20 years ago fought him about the transfer of some institutes front the Ministry of Agriculture to the Agricultural Research Council, has now changed sides in the argument. I was a member of the Council at the time and I was among those who urged Lord Rothschild on. We all learn.
My main reason for disquiet is that I do not see how what Lord Rothschild proposes for the Research Councils—and I am not talking now about the establishments under executive Departments of State—can work, particularly in the light of the many qualifications since the Green Paper appeared. In the Green Paper he says precisely: the customer says what he wants, the contractor does it if he can and the customer pays. He next recommended, ex cathedra, that the Government should reject the view that there is no logical division between pure and applied research. His third proposition (which as Lord Kennet said yesterday has worried the Research Councils a lot) is that the Councils would not have the right to reject a contract without good reasons agreed with the sponsoring executive Departments, who should themselves ensure that they get what they want from their own Research Councils. The fourth bone of contention which he has provided relates to the change in financing of the Research Councils, which in the celebrated Table 4 would mean that 50 per cent. of the present vote of the M.R.C. and of NERC would be transferred to the related executive Department of State to be used on a contract basis. Correspondingly, if these Departments did not get what they wanted from the Research Councils, they would be able, after the first year, to reduce their payments to the Councils by an amount which did not exceed 10 per cent. a year for three years; but Lord Rothschild did also suggest that if the Departments so wished 967 they could also increase their payments to the Councils.
Since this Green Paper appeared Lord Rothschild has explained that what he meant by the statement that Research Councils would not have the right to reject contracts was that they could not expect a sponsoring Department to pay for work that was not going to be done. That is clear enough. But how exactly is all this going to work? I hardly imagine that the Research Councils are allowed by the Department of Education and Science to pay competent research workers to stand by, like a scientific fire brigade, to respond to requests for commissioned work. Men employed in one of the laboratories of a Council, or whose work they subsidise in some university department, are already fully occupied in their tasks. Are they to abandon their work in order to respond to some urgent request? And who commands them? How indeed does Lord Rothschild see this proposal working out in practice?
Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, told a Hungarian story. If it is in order to do so in your Lordships' House, I should like to tell an apocryphal story about a successful, but idle, English stockbroker who had a farm "on the side". One morning he came to his office at his usual hour of 11 a.m., and as he flicked through the newspapers he noticed that wool prices were rising. He pressed a button and instructed his secretary to send the following telegram to his farm manager: "Wool prices rising, start shearing immediately." He then went to his club, from which he returned, let us say, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. A telegram from his farm manager was waiting for him. It said, "Lambing in process. Cannot start shearing." He again summoned his secretary and said, "Send another telegram. 'Obey orders. Stop lambing, start shearing'." Is this the principle on which Research Councils would have to operate on this contractor basis?
My Lords, it is very easy to understand why the Research Councils are concerned about the possible adverse effects on them of Lord Rothschild's proposals, however commendable their purpose—and I believe that their purpose is commendable. Lord Rothschild recognises 968 that the Councils are prestigious bodies, compared with research establishments run by executive Departments. As he puts it somewhere, they are "autonomous 'haves' as compared with departmental or industrial 'have-nots'." But were it to come to pass that his present proposals became the basis of practice, the Councils could be further split into two, with one lot of prestigious workers permitted to carry on with their continuing fundamental researches—which might get them into the Royal Society—and another used, to the best of their abilities, as contract men. I cannot believe that this is what he intended.
I agree very much with what was said yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Snow, about the breakdown in confidence in Research Councils which the implementation of Lord Rothschild's proposals might bring in its train. Here I find myself in disagreement with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, about the morale and confidence of scientists. It does not matter what small percentage you are talking about; it does not matter if it is 10 per cent. or 5 per cent. What matters is that nobody knows from where the £5 million of money is going to be taken; where the axe is going to fall; whose work is going to be stopped; who is going to be kicked out. That is what is disturbing people in the Research Councils now. We shall all agree, I think, that anything that threatens the effectiveness of the Councils is a bad thing. My criticism of the Councils is not on this score but on the question of sponsorship—not the way they are run, but to whom they are answerable. I shall return to this point later.
I believe that Lord Rothschild was in error in refusing to acknowledge the continuity of the scientific process, and the difference between fundamental research which is carried out with no possible utilitarian motive in mind, and the equally fundamental research which is carried out in fields of potential economic or social importance. And I believe that if he had not asserted this distinction most of the subsequent debate would never have occurred.
In the address which he delivered to the Royal Society of Arts Lord Rothschild poured gentle scorn on the definitions of basic research which my 1961 969 Committee adopted, pretending that he did not understand what they were all about, and suggesting that those who wished to know should consult me, since Sir Claud Gibb, who had been Chairman of the Committee for six months, was no longer with us. In fact, there were three other scientific members of the Committee and also a distinguished civil servant, now Permanent Secretary in a major Department. Two of those three other scientists are also no longer with us; Sir Patrick Linstead, head of the National Chemical Laboratory and Rector of Imperial College, and Lord Jackson. But there is another member of the Committee, who is still, happily, with us—Sir George Edwards, who, as head of the British Aircraft Corporation must be one of the Government's largest contractors for R. and D. He had no difficulty in recognising the need to carry out fundamental research in fields which were defined a priori as having potential utilitarian importance.
The Research Councils are engaged in both varieties of basic research, and, frankly, I do not see how people in the biomedical sciences could be otherwise. Every working scientist will recognise the distinction. And, like many other scientists, I find it difficult to accept Lord Rothschild's statement, which I think he made in a lecture given to the Royal Society of Arts, that no basic research worker should try to justify his activities on the grounds that they may help mankind. That is not the message that I would like to see put around.
In his evidence to the Select Committee, Lord Rothschild now says that he is prepared to be happy with what he called the Gibb/Zuckerman definition of different sorts of research, in the same way as he is ready to accept Sir Frederick Dainton's formulations. But here we are talking about matters which are more than purely semantic issues; we are, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said yesterday, concerned with a major issue of principle and policy. Throughout their existence the Research Councils have always recognised the difference between two kinds of basic research. The scientific process is a continuous one. Unless we have new knowledge to apply, nothing will be applied. Unless we search for new knowledge to apply in specific fields—for example, in fields of medicine—there will be no innovation. Unless we 970 work on carbon fibres there will be no carbon fibre blades for new engines. The Research Councils are not engaged in a game of scientific roulette. And this goes, I need hardly say, for all Government research establishments run by executive Departments.
My Lords, there are three other points which I hope you will allow me to make. The first I shall deal with briefly. It concerns Lord Rothschild's paragraph in which he refers to a 10 per cent. surcharge for general research which, somewhere or other, he says is called for in order "to gratify" the wishes of some of the people in research establishments, but which he recognises as what he calls "a good thing". I should say it is more than that. If there is any Government establishment which could not spend 10 per cent. of its resources on general research that is not directly concerned with programmes commissioned by customers, it should be shut down. This kind of work, coupled with apparently non-utilitarian basic research, is the feedstock of all else. Inhibit it in any way, and you stop the scientific process.
But where did Lord Rothschild get the figure of 10 per cent. and the implication that if his advice had been accepted, and we had excluded D.E.S. payments, something like £50 million of what some assume to be additional money would have become available for general research in 1971? I ask these questions because I recall that when I was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence, and the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was my Minister for one period, we assumed that as much as 20 per cent. went to this kind of work in the major defence research establishments.
But there is another point here. Lord Rothschild correctly says that any organisation for R. and D. should be humane and decentralised as well as logical and flexible. Yet the money which is going to become available as a general research surcharge he declares will be wholly at the discretion of the Controller R. and D. Wholly at the discretion of a man in Whitehall! The work in research establishments is done by the men at the bench. It is bad enough to be pushed around by the directors of their establishments, but for some unknown figure in Whitehall to decide what 971 can or cannot be done in the way of research which does not fit into a contract would surely militate against morale in the sense that the noble Lord, Lord Snow, implied yesterday. This is really the way to threaten the independence of the scientific worker. What is wrong, anyhow, with the directors of our research establishments?
Let me now turn to the customer/contractor principle. In its original formulation this matter was quite clear: Government Departments were the customers and they contracted for R. and D. wherever they found it appropriate to do so. On the other hand, Lord Rothschild clearly recognised from the start that those concerned with the actual prosecution of R. and D. would have to engage in a dialogue with the customer Department, its chief scientist and its Controller. Since then, in his memorandum to the Select Committee in another place he has watered down this principle. For example, he said:It would be unhealthy if a substantial part of research commissionedfrom a Research Council:did not arise from the initiative of the Research Council …and there are several other quotations that one could make to the same effect. I am glad that Lord Rothschild has changed his formulation on this point. The customer must surely lean on the knowledge of the contractor, whether the latter is in a Government establishment or in industry, whether it is in industrial research or in agriculture.
But, at the same time, how does this change affect his concept of scientific accountability—not political accountability, as some noble Lord called it yesterday—of the programmes of the Research Councils? The programmes of executive Departments are not in question here. But to the extent that the customer calls only part of the tune, we are back where we started with the Research Councils. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Earl Halsbury, warned us that the servants—by which I understood him to mean those scientists who man the R. and D. establishments of executive Departments—would in fact be dictating to their non-scientific masters, their administrative colleagues and finally the Minister. This, to a certain extent, they have always 972 done, and I suppose they always will do. And I certainly see nothing wrong with this—if I may so call it—principle. Scientific ideas worthy of exploitation spring up only in the minds of those who are informed about those ideas, and it is only natural that the scientific members of Departments and the people carrying out research should let their ideas be known.
But where does this get us? Lord Rothschild's Report is concerned essentially with what he calls applied R. and D., which he treats as a single category. On the other hand, he says—and I think the noble Lord. Lord Avebury, had this in mind—that developments should very rarely be started until and unless there is a better than 90 per cent. chancethat the objective of the R. and D. programme will be realised".My Lords, I was a main cog in the customer machinery of defence R. and D. for some seven years, and our organisation was a model of the set-up of Scientific Adviser and Controller which is referred to in Lord Rothschild's Report. But I should hate to think how much of the money that we spent was in effect wasted when one considers that the end product was intended to be some kind of military hardware. I should hate to speculate whether the present programme military R. and D.—now, I understand, running at about £300 million a year—is going to be more successfully spent.
But what I do know is that if one did not embark upon a programme of applied R. and D. unless one was assured of a better than 90 per cent. chance of success, nothing would be started. I can think of no programme of applied R. and D. with which I have been concerned which has not been based upon an element of faith that, with objective basic research, one can fill in the gaps of essential knowledge on which the programme depends. If Government do not do this, industry cannot—somebody made that point yesterday. And there can never be any guarantee that those gaps in knowledge will be filled. Hence the cancellation of vast projects when we discover that we no longer have the millions to pour into them to bring them to fruition. I will not weary your Lordships with examples. They are far too numerous, not only here but in the United States where, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, indicated yesterday, they spend many more dollars or pounds per 973 head of population than we do in this country on R. and D.
This is true not only of Government R. and D. I know that industrial firms constantly find themselves in the same position as do Governments, of having bitten off more than they can chew in R. and D. And, on the other side of the coin, I also know that the boards of companies—the customer—may also slip up in not accepting the arguments of their R. and D. people that they have hit upon something which is really worth exploiting. One of the finest examples in recent years is the laser and the maser.
I come now to the final point that I wish to make. I believe that what Sir Frederick Dainton's Committee have proposed in order to make the Research Councils more responsive to the requirements of the executive Departments is not sufficient. After nearly thirty years of uninterrupted experience with the problem we are discussing, I am not persuaded that Departmental members of Research Councils are the answer to our problem, or that there is any particular significance in the appeal to the unity of science. On the other hand, and in spite of my apparent criticisms, I believe that what Lord Rothschild is proposing is a step in the right direction. But he has kicked up so much dust that, if he is closely followed by the Government, I fear that when the dust settles they may find themselves either in front of a brick wall or with one foot in a pit.
This brings me to the second principle the noble Earl the Leader of the House enunciated yesterday. I will not read it. It is in column 827 of yesterday's Hansard, where he refers to certain safeguards about the Research Councils. The important words are that transfers of funds will be subject to the degree held to be correct in the application of the customer/contractor principle and subject to the need that the Councils should remain viable and able to maintain their scientific integrity. My Lords, the noble Earl enunciated a dilemma here. If the Councils find themselves unable to respond to requests from Departments, their budgets will be cut to whatever extent the Government decide in their modification of the famous Table 4. From what I have heard, I am convinced that this will affect their morale, if not 974 their viability. But at the same time. it is absolutely essential that in this scientific, technological age Government Departments should have the best of scientific advice at all levels.
Now the Research Councils represent only a small part of total Government expenditure on R. and D., but a very vital part from the point of view of prestige and quality. Instead of taking the half step, which Lord Rothschild proposes, why do the Government not consider moving, say, one Research Council in its entirety to the relevant Department? Do not let us make the name of Haldane synonymous with the concept of scientific independence and integrity. As a noble Lord pointed out yesterday, those institutions which come under the Department of Scotland are no less independent than are the A.R.C. organisations with which they are linked.
My noble friend Lord Todd asked why, in the interests of efficiency of applied research, one should not seek in the longer term to put Government laboratories engaged specifically on applied research under the control of the executive Departments rather than the control of Research Councils. These latter, he suggested, should be left to encourage pure background or strategic research in the way they have shown themselves supremely capable of doing, in association with training functions of universities. But why did he say in the long term? My Lords, my views on this matter are unfortunately well known. In the recent publicity about the Green Paper I was accused in an editorial in Nature of wishing to abolish the Research Councils. This was corrected in a later editorial in the statement that I had advocated that the Agricultural Research Council should be financed from the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Let me say straight away that the last thing I would do would be to destroy the effectiveness of any Research Council. But if it is the case that the A.R.C. is the most competent body there is in the field of agricultural research, I cannot help asking why it is not sponsored directly by the Agriculture Departments and why its chief executive should not become the chief scientific adviser, in Lord Rothschild's sense, as he has advised, to the relevant Ministries. If by "the Haldane principle" one means the 975 integrity of the Research Councils, as they were in 1945/6 when the matter was debated by the Barlow Committee, that principle has been blown sky high with the disappearance of D.S.I.R. and with the reallocation of its various laboratories. I hope, therefore, that the Government's interpretation of the second principle, enunciated by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, will not be so rigid as to exclude the possibility of getting the A.R.C. sponsored by the relevant Departments.
Let this be the first major experimental trial of any new system. I am quite certain that the right assurances could be given to the people concerned, and I am equally certain that if sponsorship—I am talking only about sponsorship—were to be transferred in the way that I have suggested, there would be far less dislocation of the A.R.C. than if it were subdivided in the way the full implementation of the Rothschild proposals would bring about. In any event, looking at whatever table it is, if 75 per cent. of the financing of the A.R.C. is to be transferred to the relevant executive Departments, what is the point of keeping a parallel organisation to look after the remaining 25? Let us hand the remaining 25 per cent., if it concerns only basic research, to the Science Research Council.
It is not the way that our Government scientists are managed that matters most to the wellbeing of our industry, our agriculture, our Defence and social services: it is the choice of the major projects on which they are engaged. This situation will not be put right unless scientists become an effective part of the policy-making machinery. It is one thing to ask scientists to answer questions: it is another thing to get them to anticipate the questions when they are aware of the issues which are worrying executive Departments. Let us start by making the Councils into the advisory bodies which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, defined in his remarks of yesterday.
In conclusion, let me say that the publicity which has been associated with this Green Paper would easily swallow all that which has been accorded to corresponding papers since and including the Haldane Report which, your Lordships will be interested to know, received only a two-page notice in the columns of Nature 976 and one following letter. Practically nothing that Lord Rothschild proposed is not to be found in other Government Reports. He has not made preposterous revolutionary proposals. Indeed, he has not gone far enough, in my view. Making the Research Councils responsive to the needs of Government and providing Departments of State with scientific staff and advisers, increasing the mobility of scientists—even the suggestion that an administrative civil servant might one day become the head of a Government Research Establishment—all these things are to be found in previous Reports. The most important of these Reports, in my view, is the Fulton Report. the implementation of which is proceeding very well, as we learned yesterday. It is the implementation of that Report which will bring scientists as fully as they should be into the determination of Government policy.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House has assured us that, within the limits of freedom which his words of yesterday implied, the Government have an open mind. We were all heartened by his statement. Let me conclude by suggesting, if I may, that in drafting the White Paper to which we all look forward, we let no new "principles" be defined on which to impale our successors. Let us be on our guard lest new arrangements and practices become codified and sanctified. The Government cannot do without science and technology, and scientists and engineers cannot divorce themselves from the affairs of Government. Let this new phase in the evolution of their mutual relationship be more fruitful than some preceding phases, in the knowledge that the world is changing faster than ever before because of a variety of factors, of which the pace of scientific change is a major one.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I should like to apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for not being in my place yesterday to hear the excellent speech with which he introduced this important debate. I have studied the columns of Hansard as ear as time has allowed, and I should like 977 to comment on two points which were made yesterday. First of all, I wish to support what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, is surely much better taken Royal Society's Report. I think it was particularly unfortunate that the noble Lord, Lord Blackett, in quoting from the report of the Royal Society's Industrial Activities Committee, did not make it clear that three eminent industrialists on that Committee did not support that report at all. The view of industry, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said is surely much better taken from the C.B.I., who do in fact support the proposals of Lord Rothschild in principle, although they have made comments on the detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, yesterday mentioned the virtual absence of any reference to development in the Green Paper. I should like to follow up that point. First of all, why do we continue to talk about "R. and D." as though they were one thing? Research and Development are quite different things. We see that Chapter 2 is headed "Applied R. & D.". We can have applied research, basic research, strategic research, or tactical research—whichever you like. But can we have pure development? We might as well talk about a wooden tree as talk about "applied development". Therefore I should like to spend just a few minutes on trying to get this point clear. The objective of research is an increase in knowledge. The use to which that knowledge is put determines the kind of research that it is—whether pure, basic, applied, et cetera. The object of development is the production of a piece of hardware or software, with a specified performance and cost within a defined time scale. They are two very different activities requiring different outlooks, and it is not a matter of semantics.
Research can usefully be done on its own without development. Development cannot usefully be done in the absence of marketing—that is of customer information—or in the absence of contact with manufacture. Development will usually fail in the absence of supporting applied research; so why confuse the issue and spoil a valuable paper by implying that research and development are inseparable and should be done in the same organisation? I must say that 978 I entirely disagree with the statement made in paragraph 6 of Lord Rothschild's Report where he is discussing the relationship between research and development. He says:It is sometimes said, for example, that development should be done by different people, in a different place, and with a different administrative system from research. The reverse is the case whenever possible.I totally disagree with that point of view. For the development of hardware, of a product, this statement seems to me to suggest a serious misunderstanding of the real position.
It is true that applied research is essential to development, whether it is governmental or commercial. If you want to make a better turbine working at higher temperatures, you would be well advised to do some applied research on the behaviour of materials at high temperatures. If you want to build good ships you will be well advised to do a great deal of research on hull form in advance. If you want to make a high definition radar set you will be well advised to have undertaken a great deal of research in the propagation of high frequency radiation. If development is to be successful, there should be a continuous programme of applied research going the whole time. That is what the Royal Society means, I think, when it talks about strategic applied research. But the end product of research is far less precisely defined than in development, where time, cost and performance are all indissolubly linked. More important, in research the relationship to manufacture is minimal, whereas in development it is paramount. So it seems to me that in development an entirely different outlook is needed from that required to do good research. The success of the end product of development is dependent on successful manufacture to follow it. That applies as much in Government development as to industrial development, so the closest possible connection with the production team and the methods of production is essential.
It is not difficult to pass knowledge from applied research to development, but it is very difficult to achieve a successful end product of development if the development is divorced from production. As regards Government requirements for end 979 products, I understand that it is the Government's current policy that the manufacture should in almost all cases, except in very exceptional circumstances, be done by industry, for that will give the best value for money for the research and development expenditure. Thus if there is to be a break—and it is inevitable that there should be a break in the spectrum of research, development and production—for practical and psychological reasons I have no doubt at all that the break should be between research and development and not between development and manufacture. The failure of the Rothschild Report to make this clear is a serious shortcoming.
If research effort is not to be wasted, we must accept that one of the Government research establishments' most important tasks is to provide back-up research for development to be done in industry in the closest possible touch with manufacture. I should like to ask the noble Earl who is to reply to the debate what the Government's policy is on this matter. Is it quite clear that development should not be done in Government establishments and that it should be done in industry, where it will be done in the closest possible contact with production and manufacture?
I turn to the customer/contractor principle and the general research surcharge. It seems to me that this is an unexceptional, excellent principle and I support it. But we must follow it through and face its implications. What happens if the 90 per cent. balance of available cost is only partially—say, half—taken up by the customers? You cannot run a research establishment, Government or industrial, on a "Stop—Go" basis; you must have stability and continuity—even more so, perhaps, in Government establishments. Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Snow, referred to the importance of the morale of scientists in research establishments, and this is also of crucial importance, which strengthens the argument for continuity of effort. I appreciate that in paragraph 16 the Rothschild Report makes it clear that 10 per cent. is to be the average general research surcharge in each Department; some establishments will have more and some less. I seriously doubt whether any independent research establishment can run effectively on a basis of 90 per cent. of 980 the cost covered by sponsored work. This is the same point as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, was making just now.
I hope that the Government will accept the customer/contractor principle because it is most likely to encourage good value for money. I would urge the Government that the general research surcharge should be much more flexible than 10 per cent.; it should be within a range of between 10 per cent. and 30 per cent., so that when there is plenty of sponsored work the surcharge could be reduced to nearer 10 per cent. and when there is less sponsored work it could be increased to nearer 30 per cent. In this way we should obtain flexibility and continuity and maintain the enthusiasm and morale of the scientists.
Finally on Research Councils I am not at all well-informed of the details of their working so I will deal only with principles. Certainly a large measure of independence is essential. Overall direction of the work is surely best done by the experts in each Council's field of work. I fully support paragraph 45 of Sir Frederick Dainton's Report where he rejects the idea of an overall National Research Council. I do not believe that the concept of a Board of Research Councils is any more desirable. If the Board is to be really different from the Council for Scientific Policy it will be executive, like the U.G.C. and perhaps like the National Research Council, which was rejected. This is implied in paragraph 56, where the Report talks of devolution of authority from the Department of Education and Science. This concept would surely only introduce an additional link in the chain between the source of funds and the Research Councils; either the Government hand over the funds to the Board and stand back—and I believe that is a wrong concept, although it may be right for a body like the University Grants Committee—or the Government retain authority over allocations to Research Councils and the Board becomes advisory, similar to the present Council for Scientific Policy. That simply adds to bureaucracy in the chain of command.
I prefer the present organisation with the C.S.P. advising the Minister on the allocation to independent Research Councils. A danger exists in this concept, and this is the danger that the noble 981 Lord, Lord Rothschild, was trying to get over in his Report. It is the danger of any independent research organisation with an independent source of funds: the danger of becoming isolated from external requirements; of slowness to react; of becoming a cosy, self-directing body where work expands to employ the resources available. That is not a criticism of any kind of the work of Research Councils—I am not qualified to make such criticism. It is rather a criticism of human nature. Therefore I support the Rothschild principle that a small proportion of work should be sponsored in the Research Councils, and the details of how it should be done will have to be worked out. I believe that it would be unwise for scientists to regard this idea as a slur on their competence or an interference with their work; rather they should welcome it as a recognition that their work is of real importance to the community and as a means of encouraging greater support. I support the principle of the customer/contractor, sensibly applied with adequate flexibility to give stability and initiative and for encouraging the enthusiasm of the scientist.
I urge Her Majesty's Government to consider seriously making clear in the White Paper that they are going to issue the difference between research and development. Let us have no more of "R. and D."; let us never talk of "R. and D." again. Let us talk of research or development, so that we make clear what we mean. I hope the Government will also reaffirm their policy that the development of products that they require should be done in industry where it is in close touch with manufacture and where we obtain the best value for money. Is it too much to hope that the White Paper that will be issued will be simply entitled, A Framework for Government Research?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, I wonder whether he would make more clear what he said about the general research surcharge and that he was not supporting the misconception on which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, spent so much time: that the 10 per cent. was to be the limit of the amount of money spent on basic research in a given Department.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I was trying to make the point that I thought 10 per cent. was too low and is certainly the lowest possible limit to which the general research surcharge should be allowed to run. No independent research establishment can work adequately if it is required to have 90 per cent. of its work sponsored by outside bodies. This is my experience, and I should have thought that it was generally recognised by those who run research establishments.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I ask your Lordships' indulgence for addressing you from a seated position. I assure my noble friends on the Opposition Benches that my defection from my usual place is only temporary. It would have taken more than a broken leg to keep me from this debate since I have concerned myself for 40 years with the social functions of science. I thought that we were trying during that time to get science into politics, but it seems that we have succeeded only in getting politics into science. Having followed the heated arguments in the Press and in the professional journals, and having realised of course for a long time that scientists are as temperamental as Hollywood film stars, I feel that only Dean Swift and Gulliver could do justice to these arguments. After all, his political issue was over the "egg-heads" and his Big Enders and Little Enders are matched by big science and little science mentioned in Dainton; and of course in the voyage to Laputa he had that chap who spent eight years extracting sunlight from cucumbers as a form of stored heat. I should like to know where that chap would fit into the Rothschild scheme of things. Would his consumer be the Ministry of "Ag. and Fish" or of Fuel and Power?
Like so many of your Lordships, I came rarin' to have a go at Rothschild; but, like my noble friends Lord Blackett and Lord Snow, I was mollified by the accommodating speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House. On one point, however, I would agree with the noble Earl, and with similar statements made here. Terms, when they are loaded, do matter. With bell, book and candle I would exorcise the terms "customer" and "contractor", which the Government have accepted in the Green Paper 983 and which, as a principle, they are proceeding to implement. This is not just a playing with words; it discloses an attitude towards science which can only be harmful, not just because it implies huckstering but because, as my noble friend Lord Snow so impressively pointed out yesterday, it will further discourage a younger generation, already disenchanted by the abuses of science, into thinking that research will be dominated even more by expediency. Furthermore, when they look at Table 2 and see that the biggest customer is in fact the Ministry of Defence, with £259 million, they will have further misgivings in looking at the "shopping list".
I am not quarrelling with the idea that Departments should have their own Chief Scientists or, indeed, Controllers of R. and D. I have been advocating that sort of thing ever since I can remember, not least because it would help to educate Ministers and civil servants. And I do not question the need for the Departments to have their own research facilities or their right to buy advice and research from the Research Councils. But, like other noble Lords, I should very much like to know of any instances where the existing Research Councils have failed to meet the requirements of Departments.
My main quarrel with the Green Paper, and with Rothschild, is the quite arbitrary partitioning of science and the idea that you can constitutionalise it by shifting desks and chairs and manning tables. I insist—and many other noble Lords have equally insisted—that there is a spectrum all the way from pure science to technology. I do not even except Dainton's "strategic" and "tactical". Maybe I am just allergic to military analogies. First of all, we do need an overall, flexible science policy—not just in sharing the financial cake or in increasing productivity, but to create a proper sense of values so that we do not go on having cults and crash programmes which distort the whole framework and corrupt the social functions of science.
Let us see whether we can get our nomenclature right. There is pure or academic science, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and with no foreseeable pay-off. This pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is a fundamental 984 right, the right of natural curiosity which goes back to the childhood of mankind when our inquisitive ancestors first asked "Why?". This was, and still is, a kind of self-indulgence which the gifted amateurs such as Henry Cavendish could indulge if they had the means to do so; and, indeed, so could the professional like Faraday if he had his sponsor. This was the kind of indulgence, almost intellectual hedonism, which Lord Rutherford encouraged and which produced 12 Nobel Prizewinners. This was the kind of uninhibited curiosity which the Medical Research Council helped to finance, again at Cambridge, and which produced the Double Helix, the chemical information code which embodies the secret of life, and set the foundations of molecular biology, and won the Nobel Prize, again, for Crick, Wilkins, Watson, Kendrew and Perutz. This is the area in which scientific revolutions take place—not just spectacular discoveries, not just exciting innovations (applied science and technology can produce these, and produce them very effectively) but the breakthroughs which change the course of science and the course of human history. This is unpredictable; this is unprogrammable (if I may use that word); this is the well-springs of all applied science and technology. This is something the Treasury cannot price, nor any department direct.
All that a country concerned with its standing in the world can do is to make the means available, and this we now do in a way which is envied throughout the world through the University Grants Committee and the Research Councils by financing universities and centres of excellence and gifted individuals, and protecting them from any kind of political or other pressure. It is true that private foundations inject a great deal of money into pure research, but in the end it is only enlighted Government financing which can encourage and sustain this type of inquiry consistently and at the same time inspire and produce the kind of scientist who will maintain Britain's scientific pre-eminence; and I would reinforce what my noble friend Lord Snow said yesterday, that we are still certainly in the top three.
There is also basic science or what the French call "oriented research". This 985 is research within a frame of reference not seeking immediate results but utilitarian, and providing experimental knowledge for a whole area of applied research and for a whole lot of what Rothschild would call customers, known or unknown. I suppose this is what Dainton would call "strategic research". I should have thought this was a job that was done extremely well by Government research stations. Then there is applied science or programme science, which is research with a practical or a manipulative purpose; and then there is technology, which is the transfer of scientific knowledge to the factory floor. Within such a spectrum the practitioners might be distinguished as the makers possible, the makers to happen, and the makers to pay. But I should have thought that the whole tendency over the whole field nowadays is more and more to minimise such distinctions, which I point out are being reaffirmed in this Green Paper. Indeed, there is an inter-relationship so pervasive that it amounts to what the cyberneticists call "feed back": stimulation, response and adjustment, and it is not just a closed system. Results are more and more inter-disciplinary through co-operation, including, certainly, things like the environment, where this inter-disciplinary co-operation is imperative, an increasing association of the natural sciences and the special sciences.
I am glad that the Dainton Report mentions polythene as one of the examples of basic science, which was not a Government financed discovery but which I think teaches the lesson of basic research in a very dramatic way. During the depression of the 'thirties the customer/contractor relationship broke down. Firms began to regard research as a luxury they could not afford and were prepared to settle for and trade with what they had. In the Alkali Division of I.C.I. the directors were enlightened enough to see that if their scientists once got scattered it might be difficult to get them back again. So as a holding operation they took research workers who had been engaged on product—that is to say, saleable research—and put them on to four programmes of basic research, just to find out what chemical reactions took place in the extremes: the extremes of high temperature, low temperature, high vacuum and 986 high pressure. In their high pressure experiments they tried to work with ethylene with, literally, shattering results. The containers in fact exploded; but in the debris of one explosion they found a wax-like substance which was novel and had interesting properties. They managed to get control of the experiment and, as a result, to obtain measurable quantities of what we now call "polythene". Among its properties are exceptional insulation. Almost by accident, the Post Office found out about this discovery and gave them an order which justified the production stage. This property of ethylene made possible, with centimetric radar, the possibilities of airborne radar which became blind bombing. Now we know polythene in all its manifestations, domestic and otherwise.
At one time I happened to have access to the cost of this discovery, and, while I am speaking from memory, I think that it was of the order of £19,340 19s. 3d.—the 19s. 3d. included the postage stamps. It was of the order, therefore, of below £20,000 for the entire work done up to the point of the first order. Apart from direct production and sale, the royalties accruing to I.C.I. from this alkali investment in good intentions in the middle 'thirties must now run into hundreds of millions of pounds. I could quote—because I am rather historically obsessed on these occasions—many other cases to illustrate what I have been saying, but I will leave it there because it seems to me that the point we have to bear in mind and to be quite clear about is that anything which interrupts or interferes with the real relationship between the various areas of science (and I do not even admit that they are areas) must produce only bad results. One could go on quoting innumerable instances of the interplay between pure research, basic research, applied research and technology. Technology is what A. N. Whitehead has described asthe greatest invention of the 19th century, the invention of a method of invention".As a method, it was an extension of science into the arts and crafts of history.
When, in the 1930s, we were prising our scientists out of their ivory tower and making them aware that they were part of the social and economic complex, 987 and when we were haranguing Government and industry to make more use of science, we were then dealing with Government commitments to science in terms of tens of millions of pounds. To-day we are discussing in terms of Government expenditure something amounting to £645½ million. That does not include what industry spends on R. and D., which I should have thought might somehow have been indicated in the Green Paper, if only to show how far the pump priming by Government is reflected in industry. When we are making invidious comparisons between the performances of the various countries and remembering the acknowledged brilliance of our own scientific achievements, we might take a hard look at how far industry is failing to absorb and make use of the results of research; how far, even when you call it R. and D., the research in fact is getting into development. It seems to me that only the Royal Society Memorandum has recognised this relationship as of paramount importance. I would emphasise that this is one of the great difficulties of trying to assess where we stand in the world in relation to science, because original science is brilliant and we are always hearing that our productivity—that is to say, the transfer of technology to the shop floor—is completely inadequate.
The role of Government may be to see that the bookkeeping is kept straight and that in the practical sense we are getting value for money in our departmental science and indeed in productivity. But I think that the Government, in their relation to science, have another function. Their job is to see that we use science wisely and not just in the economic sense. I always distrust comparisons between ourselves and the United States of America, where I have had considerable and direct insight into the effects of the manipulation of science, and particularly into the U.S. application of the Rothschild consumer/contractor function. Some of us know very well what this has meant when American universities and institutes of learning have become the contractors of Government research and have found themselves involved—heavily committed. "bandwaggoning" as they say—on crash programmes of commission-oriented 988 research. Some of the most august institutions in the United States of America, some of the greatest universities, have found themselves hostages to the system and are now in a parlous predicament. They have found themselves on the bandwaggon, for example, of the space programme and when the space programme was restricted they found that whole departments closed down. At this moment in time in the United States something like 47,000 Ph.D.s and graduate scientists are unemployed as a result of the contraction of the crash programme in space.
This is something that I find disquieting. I find that it is disturbing to the younger generation, and is one of the factors discouraging them from going into science—the fact that one can have these frantic excesses simply by misdirection of Government expenditure. Therefore it is one of the jobs of Government, and I hope in pursuing this Green Paper it will be recognised by the Government that it is necessary to give a nudge to science in the right direction: away from the cost, away from the extravaganza and into the predictable future in which we shall have to give far more attention to what in fact is the grace of living than simply being obsessed by productivity. We are talking here about something which has become fashionable; it is the science of science—S squared. This is the inter-relationships we are discussing; this is the kind of thing that we have been in the science of science discussing for quite a number of years. But it is two-dimensional; it is S squared. What we are looking for and what we ought to get from all our reexaminations—and this is where the Rothschild provocation will come in very useful—is the recognition that we need something else, and that is the science of the science of science, S cubed; something which will ask and go on asking what it is all for and not just what we can get out of it.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, by the end of this debate I expect to be a case for medical research; I expect to be a ripe specimen of split personality. If I came here as a delegate I have no doubt at all what I should say. My scientific colleagues at University College are almost 989 to a man opposed to the Government's Green Paper. Lord Stamp was quite right when he said that if Lord Rothschild's proposals were implemented—if I may coin a phrase—at a stroke, scientific departments in an elite institution such as University College could not operate as they do to-day; they could not even take the students they take to-day; for one good reason, that research teams financed by Research Councils also very properly help in teaching students, undergraduates as well as graduates. My gratitude to the Research Councils for their help in keeping so many of the scientific departments in University College as centres of excellence is boundless. Again, if I came as a delegate from the University of London, I should have to say that the official view of the University is that the Rothschild proposals will harm medical research and education in that university irreparably, because in that field the consumer/contractor principle is inapplicable. Again, if I came as a delegate from the Vice-Chancellor's Committee, I should have to argue that the transfer of funds from the Research Councils which Lord Rothschild advocates are too arbitrary and too high.
I do not come as a delegate to your Lordships' House. I would be wrong not to report my scientific colleagues' genuine fears and opposition, but I would he far more wrong if I abandoned my own freedom of judgment. For what it is worth, I must declare that I find myself more in sympathy with the views expressed by Lord Todd and Lord Beswick than with those of other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I believe that, whether or not the consumer/contractor principle is correct, Lord Rothschild has done a great service in asking whether scientists should be the sole judge in their own cause, and it is no answer to reply, as Sir Frederick Dainton did, when he argued that the Research Councils are accountable for their programmes because they lay an annual report before Parliament. What matters is whether someone can question the programme they propose to put into operation. There is no social accountability at all if all Governments can do is to comment about the programme when it is already under way.
990 Lord Rothschild has also, I think, done a service by asking how much scientific research should continue to go on year in and year out simply because scientists want it to go on. During the last twenty years Research Councils have operated what is known in universities as the takeover principle; they finance the research in universities and then induce the universities to take over their groups and units. This distorts the balance of studies in universities, and it will distort it until the end of this century, sometimes in favour of branches of science which cannot any longer attract students in the numbers they once did. The take-over principle has built into universities vested interests against change through the operation of inflation, because through the operation of inflation it squeezes the sums available for the Humanities. If the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, were here I would say that I have considerable sympathy for that stockbroker friend of his who sent the telegram saying, "Stop lambing, start shearing," because units which come into the university financed by the Research Councils keep on lambing and it is impossible to shear them; and this is why Vice-Chancellors have such difficulties in allocating and re-allocating sums within the universities. That is why I have a split personality.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is being a little unfair to the Medical Research Council, at any rate, which says in its comments on the Green Paper that in the last six years 20 of its units have been closed, and there are only 70 altogether. I should have thought that this was a fairly high rate of turnover of units sponsored by the M.R.C.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord realises the difference between a unit and a group. Here, if I may make a criticism of the critics, we have a very good custom in your Lordships' House that if personally one is involved in some issue one should declare an interest. How many of the scientists who bombarded the Press with letters declared that they had an interest in maintaining the present system unchanged? I must say that I was a bit taken aback when at one of the committees which discussed the comments on the Green Paper that London 991 University should make to the Department of Education and Science, the view was expressed, and it seemed to prevail among the majority—not all, but among the majority—of my colleagues, that the university should take no account whatsoever of the public interest or concern itself with some notion of the needs of the community in framing their reply. They thought that it was the duty of the university solely to put its own interest before the Secretary of State. I think the noble Earl may well wish to note that. Again, may I take up a point that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, made, when he spoke of the dismay scientists would feel because of the proposals in the Green Paper? I feel that he was giving the impression to your Lordships' House that no research takes place in universities except that financed by Research Councils.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, in universities as a whole the vast majority of research is of course financed by the University Grants Committee, and I therefore think that the younger scientists would still feel that they have a good chance of making a career by the normal operation of departmental grants within the university framework.
One of the problems the Green Paper discusses is how much should be spent on fundamental research commissioned by scientists and how much Research Councils should spend on research which may not at first sight be of great interest to the best scientists, but which those who are meant to identify the needs of the public consider should be undertaken. Those like myself who ask that even greater attention be given to applied science are not Philistines hostile to fundamental research. What little I know about the problems of biological research I learned from my friendship at Cambridge with Sir Alan Hodgkin, now President of the Royal Society, and with the brilliant group of my near contemporaries, the scientists in the physiology and zoology laboratories there. And I yield to no one in my admiration of the great molecular biology team there in Cambridge, financed by the M.R.C., all of whose leaders were my personal friends, 992 so much so that I think with nostalgia of one evening when I went to a party given by the Nobel prizeman, Dr. Francis Crick; I dressed as a Cardinal and my wife as a South Sea Islander. But it was, I hasten to assure your Lordships, one of Dr. Crick's more restrained parties.
Let me re-emphasise a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. Consider these figures in the Dainton Report. In 1968–69, £867,000 was spent on molecular biology and only £57,000 on dental research. When I quoted these figures in committee in London University I was rebuked by a much respected former member of the Medical Research Council. "We could not give more to dental research", he said, "No good ideas came up to us". Exactly. But is it not the duty of the M.R.C. to go to scientists and implore them to identify dental problems and stimulate them to research on them?
No one for a moment denies that the M.R.C. has commissioned work of immense practical value. Dr. Perutz has pointed out that it was the M.R.C. dental research unit that established the relationship between tooth decay and the eating of sweets, once and for all, irrevocably. But has not the M.R.C. as great a duty to investigate ways of making the aged more comfortable and the mentally deranged better cared for? In other words, ought it not to concern itself with social as well as scientific research?
We want many more units, such as the Social Psychology, Applied Psychology and Neurological Prostheses units. I go absolutely all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Snow, in praising the brilliance of our scientific achievement. It is something that is a landmark in the cultural life of the nation, something that makes us proud to be the contemporaries of the geniuses in the scientific world. Scientific genius is like reproduction: for every million spermatozoa you are very lucky if you get one genius. We cannot all be geniuses, but if you are not one you can try perhaps to be useful. I ask: is there too much fundamental research of secondary importance—I do not want to call it trivial, but of secondary importance—done by competent but not world-beating scientists? Could they not be doing useful applied research? If fewer scientists worked on such open-ended eternal problems as the physiology 993 of the cow, or the search for more particles, if more were organised to tackle certain specific problems in the vast field of pollution, or the vast field of transport, motorways and the environment, would not the nation be better served? I know it to be the view of a distinguished non-scientist at present deeply engaged in the study of pollution problems that a large amount of the scientific work in this field, though it may be of extraordinary interest to scientists, is quite inapplicable, and that the money spent, in his view, would be better spent on a contractor/consumer principle.
As I have never been a member of a Research Council I do not think my opinion on the effectiveness of the consumer/contractor principle is of much value. However, I was a member of the Heyworth Committee, and that Committee recommended that a Social Science Research Council should be set up: mid in that field I certainly think that the consumer/contractor principle is applicable. I am puzzled, frankly, by the Council for Scientific Policy's hostility to the transfer of any funds on the consumer/contractor principle from the Social Science Research Council. They say that research in that particular field must be beyond the control of the Government of the day. I think this is nonsense. Considerable quantities of research have for years been commissioned by Government Departments in all branches of social sciences, and no one has suggested improper influence. For if that line were to be taken by the Council for Scientific Policy, there would then be a case for reducing the grant to the Social Science Research Council—which I very much hope will not be cut, because it is insufficient at the moment.
I am certainly not going to raise a cheap laugh by quoting some of the titles of the research projects which can be seen in the Annual Report of the Social Science Research Council. After all, there has to be fundamental research in the social, as well as in the natural, sciences. But I do ask whether this Council was set up to finance research into the social and economic structure of Eastern Europe before 1949 or to commission work on the principles—note, the principles—of price and income determination, on which there are already innumerable textbooks. I should very much like to see the S.S.R.C. 994 asked to classify all their projects into three categories: those that they claim to be of direct value to policy makers; those of indirect value to them; and those that are of no value at all, but of intrinsic value. We could then draw appropriate conclusions from the relative numbers and total expenditure.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and others, have pointed out that Sir Frederick Dainton has had second thoughts about the Rothschild principles, as many of us have. Sir Frederick now agrees that some Research Council funds should be diverted for customer/consumer financed research. All he asks is that Departments should be manned with the Chief Scientists that Lord Rothschild recommends before the transfer of funds takes place. Well, no one more warmly supports this view than Lord Rothschild. As the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has confirmed, it is central to his ideas.
But, my Lords, may I here issue a warning? Whitehall is like the maquis; it is inhabited by bandits. The chief bandits are the Permanent Secretaries at the Ministries. Many of them I admire, but since I am myself by profession a petty, insignificant bandit, I mistrust all of them. The reason is simple; the first ploy of the Permanent Secretaries will be to see that the consumer/customer principle does not work. They will declare that it is unworkable, and then they will move in for the kill and declare that since the Rothschild principle is unworkable the money should be handed over to them to administer and should not be administered through the Research Councils. You can almost hear the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries licking its chops at the thought of getting the A.R.C. under its direct control. And when it comes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, I am going to call a spade a spade and not an agricultural implement. That Ministry is the most scientifically illiterate Ministry in Whitehall, and it would be disastrous if our Agricultural Research Council lost its own identity. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will reassure us on this point.
There is another point on which we need clarification—the role of the Council for Scientific Policy. Who is to advise 995 the Secretary of State whether the present amount spent on supporting physics should be reduced—or increased—and more—or less—given to biology? Surely the base lines of the Research Councils are not to remain in a state of Byzantine immobility. I am talking not of my own institution but of research in the country as a whole when I say that, in my judgment, too much research money has been invested in physics and chemistry and too little in applied biology and in the simpler forms of engineering. Sir Frederick Dainton wants the Council for Scientific Policy to be given executive powers over the Research Councils. But the President of the Royal Society wants the Council for Scientific Policy only to be given advisory powers. It may well be that this is another of these disputes over semantics of which we have heard so much during this debate. But I hope that we are not going to repeat the mistakes made in defence expenditure when for 25 years the Ministry of Defence was never given the powers it needed effectively to co-ordinate expenditure by the three Armed Services.
There is another semantic point with which some noble Lords have made play. Lord Rothschild's proposals left the Scientific Research Council untouched, for the good reason, I imagine, that he hoped that some of the fundamental research at present funded by the Medical Research Council, such as molecular biology, would pass to the Scientific Research Council, and thus funds would be freed for medical research of more immediate practical application. Many biologists say they do not like this. In that case, the Scientific Research Council could come under the same scrutiny as the Medical Research Council, and a corresponding adjustment could be made in Table 4 of the Green Paper.
I mention this technical point, my Lords, to bring home the point that we are here discussing ways of inducing scientists to spend more of their funds on applied research, whether that applied research is long-term or short-term. I have heard much criticism of Lord Rothschild's proposals. They may be good criticisms. But I have not heard many counter-proposals for bringing about the state of affairs which he argues 996 is desirable. This debate is really about whether anyone but a scientist can have views about scientific priorities. My old and valued friend Lord Bowden tells us that only physicists can tell us how much money should be invested in nuclear and how much in atmospheric physics. He says that civil servants cannot know which men are able and what ideas they have, and hence what opportunities are in fact available at the moment. The late Sir Frederick Bawden was quoted yesterday, and he and a posse of distinguished biologists wrote a letter to The Times in which they said:Ideas for new research don't arise in Whitehall offices or in committee meetings: they arise in the laboratory or in the field.The ideas, yes; but not the problems. At any rate, it is not as simple as that. The political decisions certainly do not arise in the laboratory. Left to themselves, scientists invent the problems that seem most important to them. But these ideas need not necessarily be the most important to the public. Can the scientist discover the extrinsic purposes of science? Or should this be left to the customer—to the Government Department or some other institution?
Throughout this debate, and in the columns of newspapers and learned journals, Lord Rothschild has been subjected to searing criticism. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, who is an authority of course on the legendary conflict between Lindemann and Tizard, said that we did not want one-man direction of science. I thought that a bit hard when one considers that Lord Rothschild's Report recommended introducing a posse of scientists into Whitehall. Again, some people say, "Has he the authority to speak as he does?" Let us recollect that Lord Rothschild is not only a Fellow of the Royal Society but was Chairman of the Agricultural Research Council for 10 years. He then went to Shell and became not only the scientific adviser for Shell operations in this country but for the whole international concern of that immense enterprise. You do not get that sort of post in one of the toughest managerial outfits in the world for being woolly-minded or, for that matter, for being a Peer.
No one has ever doubted Lord Rothschild's physical courage. The George 997 Medal for his secret work in war is testimony to that. But it required a particular form of moral courage to put forward proposals which he knew would antagonise some of his dearest friends and the scientific community in which he always held an honoured place; and when the noble Lord, Lord Snow, and the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, spoke of the concern he has caused in the scientific community we should bear that moral courage in mind.
Let me conclude by saying that, right or wrong, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, deserves praise. How very few of us there are who can look at our profession and at the activities of our closest friends and say, "These things in the public interest ought to be changed"? We have always needed men of such character, and in the present economic state of our country we need them as never before.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down may I ask him one question? Can he give us an assurance—and he knows a great deal about this and I know nothing—that under the Rothschild proposals there can be no possibility of the establishment of one-man rule in the scientific field, such as was established under Lindemann during the war and which might have had disastrous, even fatal, results for this country?
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, that is a question for the noble Earl to reply to. My reading of the Rothschild Report is that under his proposals this should not happen, that the number of chief scientists in Government would be increased and we should not merely have one chief scientist for the Ministry of Defence.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD COTTESLOE
My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I, an ignorant layman, intervene in a debate that bristles with a most impressive galaxy of scientists and experts of the highest distinction. I shall confine my remarks, and they will be very brief, to one narrow though important point, the bearing of Lord Rothschild's proposals on the field of medical research, a field on which the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and the noble Lords, Lord Brock, Lord Rosenheim and Lord Stamp among others have expressed 998 expert professional views. My view is that of a layman and a pragmatist.
This is a field of which I have had some little experience over the last quarter of a century, having been for a decade of years Chairman of the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith and subsequently for more than a decade of the Postgraduate Medical Federation, bodies that are the source of a vast output of medical research, basic and applied; schools of the University of London closely and, I may say, happily associated both with the Medical Research Council and with the Department of Health.
No one can question the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild's experience and expertise in the field—I suppose the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, would say "the fields"—of modern technological research and development. His views may indeed be expressed in this Green Paper in a somewhat dogmatic and unreadable form, but his authority in this field is without question. His proposals may well be right, even though they are not universally acceptable, in relation to research as affecting modern technological development. Of that I am not well qualified to judge. But when it comes to medical research, to the field of clinical research and post-graduate medical education with which it is so closely bound up, then it seems to me that somewhat different considerations apply. It is a point that the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, developed quite admirably yesterday.
My Lords, it has always seemed to me that, to be fully effective, research must be essentially untidy—untidy in the sense that the overlapping that is anathema to tidy-minded bureaucratic administrators is in research desirable and necessary—and that research on a project cannot effectively be carried through in blinkers; that knowledge of what is going on in other fields and cross-fertilisation are of vital importance. Untidy, too, in the sense that the distinction that has often been drawn between pure and applied research, which I myself prefer to call basic and fundamental research, is, as many speakers have already said, very far from being clear cut. It is a distinction between two fields joined together by a broad hand of overlap, a broad area that is a bit of both: what the noble Lord, Lord Rosenheim, and the noble 999 Lord, Lord Platt, have referred to as the "grey area". It may indeed be convenient to think of the Medical Research Council as being concerned with basic research and the Department of Health with applied research—research on a customer/contractor basis, as the Report so elegantly describes it. It may be convenient, but it does not represent, in the sharp distinction that it draws, the realities of the situation.
Whatever those realities, the fact is—and I speak, though a layman, as one who is in the hospitals and schools with which I am concerned no expert but very much a "customer"—that the M.R.C. is a most valuable body doing a superb job. It has its failures, no doubt, but the successes immeasurably outweigh those. That that is so is due partly to its independence, to the fact that its admirable direction is not under bureaucratic control, and partly to its close and happy co-operation on the one hand with the universities (who conduct in their medical schools a great volume of medical research), and on the other, despite what is suggested in the Green Paper—and the noble Lord, Lord Brock, was right about this—with the Department of Health.
It is not, of course, perfect. What human institution is? But it is so very good that we should be exceedingly careful how we interfere with it. Whatever may be the requirement for more funds for the functional research that is generated by the Department of Health beyond the £5½ million now made available for that purpose—and in passing I may say that I sometimes wonder whether the Department has any clear idea how that sum can best be applied—whatever their requirement for more funds for research (and there is certainly a case for that) it should not be met by starving the more basic research generated by the M.R.C. itself. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild's proposals to provide a further £5½ million for research for the Department of Health on a customer/contractor basis—research to be carried out by the M.R.C. but at the Department's behest—and to reduce by that amount the £22.4 million available for the M.R.C. to apply to research at their own discretion would do exactly that—it would starve the M.R.C.
1000 My Lords, from all the enormous and quite unprecedented volume of correspondence that the publication of the Rothschild Report has produced in The Times and in Nature and elsewhere, some of it rather unworthy special pleading, but much of it deeply thoughtful and informed, the greater part of it critical of these proposals, I should like to quote one short letter written by an outside observer, a German professor of medicine in the Free University of Berlin. What he wrote was this:As a German research worker I read with dismay Lord Rothschild's proposal to reorganise clinical research in Britain.Much as I like the British, I think it is fair to say that there are not many things at present you do more efficiently than us. One notable exception is in the organisation of clinical research, particularly that sponsored by the Medical Research Council. I have some personal experience of this, having worked in a clinical unit of the Medical Research Council until recently and in university hospitals in my own country. I also have the impression that the British public gets a good deal more value for money invested in clinical research than other countries. I am sure that the application of the mercantile customer/contractor principle will influence this gap, but in the wrong direction.You have a proverb of a goose which lays golden eggs (in the German proverb it is a hen). Your clinical research is such a goose. Lord Rothschild plans to shoot the goose and substitute another bird, but there are few bigger than geese.My Lords, that is what Professor Oelkers wrote, from his detached but informed and experienced position. The Medical Research Council has done, and is doing, a magnificent job; it would be madness to interfere with its independence and to emasculate its work.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ LORD HILL OF LUTON
My Lords, I shall in my remarks confine myself solely to the impact of the Green Paper on medical research, and on the Medical Research Council in particular. Let me say at the outset—indeed, I need hardly say it—that I speak for no vested interest in research bodies or learned societies. After a few years in medicine I have since spent many years in other vagabond trades. What I say represents my own reaction to the Green Paper as published, and I want to argue that the results on medical research of the adoption of the Rothschild proposals in their present form would be threefold: first, 1001 a dangerous division between basic and applied research; second, a reduction in the money available for original research; and, third, loss of independence by the Medical Research Council. I shall, if I may, concentrate on those three points; and one's desire to be brief has been greatly facilitated by the remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.
First, there is the distinction between basic and applied research. Clearly, it is possible to separate development—the practical application of already established knowledge to particular situations and problems—from pure or basic research aimed at the getting of new knowledge. Development, as so defined, is appropriate to the customer/contractor principle; indeed, it is being applied to-day. There is nothing new or wrong about it and the customer/contractor principle has, in relation to development, been here for a long time. Ten per cent. of the Medical Research Council's expenditure in the fields concerned is financed in this way. Indeed, more could be done under this heading now that the Health Department has some £11 million a year for this purpose. Development contracted for by Government Departments apart, the rest is research, basic and applied, and, as many noble Lords have said in this debate, between basic research and applied research there is a wide and continuous spectrum. It is all research, all part of a coherent whole comprehending pure or curiosity research and the search for new knowledge aimed at particular diseases. For my part, I believe it to be wrong to divide research into parts, basic and applied, to link applied research to development and to finance this separately by the customer/contractor method. This is the nub of my first criticism.
None, after all, will deny that the getting of new knowledge is clearly and inevitably a function of the Medical Research Council and of the medical and scientific researchers inside it and outside it, but I would argue that it is virtually impossible, and certainly undesirable, to separate the research which is gaining the new basic knowledge from the research into new applications of this new knowledge to the human body; to separate research in the laboratory from research at the bedside; to separate the pre-clinical 1002 from the clinical. Yet, this, as it seems to me, is what Rothschild involves by combining applied research with development and divorcing this from its basic roots. To-day, medical progress depends on the co-ordination of all research, from the pure to the clinical. Destroy this principle and, in my belief, you pay the price in a diminished flow of new knowledge and new methods of treatment. Secondly, as I see it, the pre-empting of a quarter, and possibly later of a half, of the Government's grant to the M.R.C. for the customer/contractor system will result in a substantial and absolute reduction in the money available to support basic or pure research in universities, research laboratories and M.R.C. establishments all over the country, and a reduction in the number of trained researchers that the money supports.
This is how I interpret Rothschild. I have not found it easy reading. I may be wrong, but this is my honest interpretation of Rothschild after many readings of that document. I am led to it particularly by two considerations. After all, at one end of the spectrum there is pure research; at the other end there is development; and, in between—and this is the bulk of the research—is the finding of new knowledge for a practical purpose, new knowledge aimed at particular diseases. What Rothschild proposes, on my interpretation, is to cut off this middle area, to call it applied, to link it with development for the customer/contractor method, and to leave the basic area to the independent responsibility of the Medical Research Council. I am advised that 90 per cent. of the present resources of the M.R.C. are spent in the search for new knowledge. Reduce it to 75 per cent. or, worse still, to 50 per cent., and the search for new knowledge is correspondingly hampered. If I am right in my interpretation, there would be a damaging reduction in the amount of money spent on the gaining of new knowledge, in the mistaken belief that you can compensate for this loss by increasing the amount of money available for promoting variations in the new knowledge that it will actually yield: in simpler form, less new knowledge and more application and development of what we get. Now this may not have been intended, but it seems to me that it is what it means.
1003 Incidentally, my Lords, I am not really sure whether the Health Department are the customers in this matter. I should have thought that those who were caring for patients—doctors, nurses and others—would be better described as the customers; and, perhaps ultimately, the patients, yes. Nor should we take (I tread delicately now) an exaggerated view of the wisdom of Government Departments as customers. Their record in acting on the basis of established knowledge is not a universally attractive one. It is 22 years since Bradford, Hill and Doll first reported the relationship between cigarette smoking and cancer of the lung. It is 15 years since the M.R.C. reached the conclusion that smoking was the principal cause of the disease; to say nothing of the reports of the Royal College of Physicians. Who can say that fiscal and other factors of great Departmental importance have not played a commanding part in the tardiness in the official application of that knowledge?
But, setting aside these lower thoughts, let no one underestimate the immense role in human welfare of the gaining of knowledge for knowledge's sake, of research for curiosity's sake. It was the genius of Alexander Fleming that he interpreted an everyday happening in every bacteriological laboratory. A whole long chain of new drugs which have saved literally millions from death began with the almost accidental discovery of a new analine dye in 1934; and, believe it or not, it was a study of the mimicry of butterflies which led to the saving of lives by preventing rhesus immunisation in mothers. It was basic research at the M.R.C. which produced, quite unexpectedly, a new drug for the reduction of blood pressure, and which established the relationship between ionising radiations and leukæmia; and it was one of the unplanned side results of that research which led to a simple method of making chromosomes visible for the first time—the springboard for tremendous advances in genetics. And so one could go on. It is self-evident, my Lords, that the customer/contractor process cannot begin until the researchers gain the knowledge. Starve the researcher of new knowledge, and the raw material for the whole process will dwindle. Whatever else is done, whatever enlargement there may be of the customer-commissioned research, 1004 it would be an injury to public welfare to reduce the amount of money devoted to research proper.
As I interpret Rothschild, whether he intends it or not, it does just this. Forgive me, my Lords, if I seem to dwell overmuch on this point, but customers can only contract for the possibilities they know exist. Where new knowledge has been established, of course contracting makes sense. Without involvement in the research for new knowledge, pure and applied, one just cannot know the possibilities, cannot know how to go about getting the knowledge the customer does not have. Of course, everyone wants to see a cure for cancer, but, in my view, without a continued vigilance and informed assessment over the whole range of relevant research, research policy will remain but wishful thinking—and this takes me to the fundamental point that the authority for policy in the search for new knowledge should be independent of the customer.
My Lords, I come to my third point. To make a quarter, and possibly a half, of the work of a Research Council subject to the customer/contractor principle, or that customer/contractor relationship with Government, is inevitably correspondingly to reduce that Council's freedom. In respect of a quarter of its activity, or may be more later, the customer will dominate. To this extent the Council—and I am thinking particularly of the Medical Research Council—will become less independent, more dependent. I submit, despite what has been said in this House, that the public interest requires the existence of a really independent Medical Research Council—and I will say why. Faced as we are with new developments on all sides—new technologies, new fears, new environmental problems, and, yes, pollution and population problems included—the interest of the public requires the existence of a wholly and visibly independent medical research body which, ignoring political considerations, can pronounce its opinion on purely scientific and medical grounds and which can be, and be seen to be, an independent source of investigation and assessment.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Rosenheim, made reference to Wind-scale. Your Lordships will remember 1005 that the atomic reactor went amok. Parliament refused, and the public refused, to accept the assurance from the Prime Minister of the day that the findings of the Atomic Energy Authority showed that no harm had been done to health in the surrounding area. It insisted on reference to the M.R.C. Happily, the M.R.C. was able to endorse the verdict of the Atomic Energy Authority, but had it not been so able it would have said so all the same. Research, my Lords, does not always support official policies. At present, Research Councils are free: Departments are not. Of course the work of the M.R.C. should be closely co-ordinated with that of the Health Department; but they are pretty close to-day. On its clinical research board, five of its twelve members are nominated by the Health Departments. In addition, others are Health Department assessors. Of the forty-three committees advising the Council, three are joint with the Department of Health and Social Security and on nearly two-thirds of them the Health Departments are represented by members and observers. The co-ordinating apparatus is there; and, if it needs strengthening, let it be strengthened.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one second? Is there not a contradiction buried in what he is saying, when he says that the M.R.C. is free—whatever he may mean by that—and, in the next sentence, that they are co-ordinated?
§ LORD HILL OF LUTON
My Lords, freedom does not require as an essential feature of its character that there should be no contact with other persons or bodies, or no co-ordination between its work and that of others. But let me just develop the point. Of course, if the Rothschild plan were to be implemented, substantial machinery for scientific advice will be needed at the Health Department; and I hope it will be agreed that scientists long since turned administrators will not do. The scientific staffs have to be so specialised and yet so comprehensive as to know what is going on in the whole research field. A proportion of them will need to be recent research workers; and, as the time grows since they worked as a bencher at the bedside, they will be less and less knowledgeable about what is being discovered 1006 and less and less competent to advise on subjects for contract. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, hinted at the possibility of active researchers being able to put in spells in the Department in an advisory capacity; and, of course, they could keep in close touch with the Medical Research Council. But why duplicate what already exists? How much better that the M.R.C. should remain the body to promote research as a whole; to collaborate with the medical profession and Goverment Departments in the process of translating the results of research into practice; to collaborate with industry; to obtain new knowledge, and to act as an independent source of scientific investigation and assessment for Parliament and the public alike.
That is the present position. I see no reason to change it in its essential features. Indeed, I see great harm to the public which may not become evident for years but which I believe will surely happen if these proposals as applied to medical research are adopted. It seems to me that Lord Rothschild has been more concerned to advocate a general idea, upon which I make no comment, than to assess the needs of the actual situation in various areas of human activity, and in particular that concerning medical research. I do not dispute the customer/contractor principle in its application to development, but I honestly believe that these proposals as set out in the Green Paper would do much damage to medical research. I ask the Government to think again about their application in their present form to so crucial a field of human activity.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
My Lords, one of the biggest research and development budgets borne by the Government is that of the Department of Trade and Industry which is estimated at the moment to be just over £200 million. This is second only to that of the Ministry of Defence, which is approximately £250 million. The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, put it at £300 million but I do not know where he gets this figure. One of the reasons for the £250 million figure is clearly the expenditure in civil aerospace, which includes the RB.211 as well as the Concorde programme. But if one adds to this atomic energy research and development, well over three-quarters of 1007 the budget goes on these two areas. The rest, £25 million, is spread over the other items for which the Department of Trade and Industry are responsible; industrial research establishments; grants to research associations; civil research and development contracts, and grants to industry; grants to I.C.L and to N.R.D.C.
I think it is clear from this that the technologies in which international stakes are high require considerable investment in management resources, technical manpower and facilities. These are the things which matter in technology today and which industry by itself cannot always finance on a success course. In both these Departments, the D.T.I. and the M.O.D., industry is closely involved in the development phase and is therefore concerned not only in what is spent by the Government but also in how research and development as a whole is organised in the public sector. The functioning and well-being of Government research establishments is important, but it is also necessary for them to maintain a level of expertise for fulfilling their specific needs and promoting new ideas in the fields in which they work without trying to usurp the functions of industry in development.
I am myself associated with a firm which carries on business in the contract research and development field, mainly concerned with the physical sciences and engineering application. Consequently I am very much involved in the promotion of R. and D. as an effective activity in industry. In saying this, I naturally declare an interest as the Government have sponsored work with the company both of a speculative nature and programme-related. It has involved major development projects as well as fundamental research related to more limited objectives and the solving of special problems. The functioning of an independent contract research institute is sustained very much on the customer/contractor relationship which has become normal practice, and I am glad to see that the Government endorses the principle because I believe that it is one of the most important factors of all in conducting operations.
I should like for one moment to refer back to yesterday's speeches, and in particular to that of the noble Lord, Lord 1008 Kennet, who I see is not in his place at the moment. I have read Hansard and what he said. I know that the noble Lord is very good in using words and that his English is impeccable, and I am therefore rather surprised that he was not able to find the phraseology to suit this particular customer/contractor relationship. It seems to me that he has taken this relationship in too literal a sense. He also questioned the commercial style of the relationship; and I am rather surprised at this, too, because the previous Green Paper certainly brought out the very commercial style of the British Development Corporation which was proposed. I read with interest the exchanges between the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this matter and I did not quite understand from Hansard what Lord Shackleton was driving at. I do not want to labour this point because I think the previous Green Paper has been given a decent burial and I think we should not resurrect any of the arguments in it.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord should not tempt me to interrupt by saying that he did not understand what I was driving at. If he will stick it out to the end I will explain when I come to wind up.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
I am obliged to the noble Lord. I am afraid I was not here when he spoke. I read the speech in Hansard and I thought that possibly it might have been misreported.
My Lords, the word I use in referring to R. and D. is the word "sponsorship". Clearly, this is a word that can be used instead of "customer" and I may say that in the contract R. and D. business the professional term for the customer is "sponsor". A special form of contract exists between the two parties when they reach a contract, and this is in order to give flexibility and the opportunity for a continuing dialogue and to take into account the degree of technical success or failure which has been reached. It also allows for a change in the direction of work. I hope that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe will accept that this word "sponsor" is an alternative and that it is not something which will leave him "high and dry" or "nailed to the mast" in the way the noble Lord Kennet thought. Also, as my noble friend knows, there is in the Department of Trade and 1009 Industry a sponsor branch whose function is to arrange the placing of contracts of an R. and D. character in industry.
In the almost ten years that I have been associated with this area of industry I have seen the growth of independent contract research and development and technical consultancy taking place which has provided much experience in support of the principle. It provides the special relationship that is needed in order to keep the work relative to meeting objectives and to give value for money. Referring to the British Development Corporation envisaged by the last Administration I believe that this was proposed without due regard to whether it could be profitable or not, and without really trying to answer the big problem of how to organise Government R. and D. to meet the national needs and the growing force of scientific change which we face to day. My Lords, this is the real point. The proper organisation of Government R. and D. is crucial to the scene. If a Department wishes to engage in any business and to undertake services for industry from time to time on a repayment basis, as opposed to R. and D. commitments which require considerable management resources, then I am sure there is nothing in Lord Rothschild's Report which will stop it from doing so, if it is not to the detriment of its mainstream activities. A set of priorities and accountability will surely provide the control in this respect.
The Rothschild Report is noteworthy as much for what it does not say as for what it does say. It matches research establishments to departments. It proposes the customer/contractor principle. It defines the division of responsibility between chief scientist and Controller R. and D. It proposes a general research surcharge on customers' money which may be spent internally at the discretion of the Controller R. and D. Here I should have thought that it should be spent at the discretion of the director of the particular research establishment concerned. I might add that in this case work sponsored in this way has often led to successful exploitation, and it has the major advantage of being able to fire the minds of the staff into conceiving new ideas in the knowledge that they may attract internal support. Incidentally, this principle 1010 is operated in my own company with good effect.
I am surprised that the whole spectrum of R. and D. support is not dealt with in the Report. The extramural support seems to be dismissed in the following words:Controller R. and D., like the customer, may commission work at universities or other extramural organisations when his 'in house' organisation has not got the facilities or expertise needed to implement the customers' requirements.In fact he has the responsibility of providing his customers with an efficient R. and D. service. But Lord Rothschild clearly regards this as a matter of function rather than principle, and I believe that the placing of contracts extramurally, and particularly the funding of R. and D. in industry, should be regarded as a matter of principle, as the work can be done closer to the market place with a stronger likelihood of commercial exploitation of worthwhile developments.
This should not be restricted to programme-related research but should include the speculative type of research which, in the past, was supported by the Ministry of Technology, and is to some extent now supported by the Department of Trade and Industry. I think at the moment it has been reduced to a trickle. In the circumstances, it would surely be equitable for industry to claim the 10 per cent. surcharge or added value for discretionary purposes when undertaking genuine Government R. and D. work. The arguments that apply to the conduct of work "in house" surely apply to the extramural activities if Government are to obtain the same benefits from industrially placed R. and D. that they hope to achieve from their own establishments.
The role of Government in strengthening industry can be achieved in a number of ways and Lord Rothschild has drawn attention to the lack of mobility of staff within the Civil Service. But I would go further, and say that there is a lack of mobility between the staff on Government establishments and industry. I think that this movement should be encouraged. I venture to mention the European Space Research Organisation where there is a flux of people through the R. and D. function and staff are able to return to their countries after a period of service with the Organisation, designed to 1011 strengthen the technical capability of industry and Government working in the field of space technology and what it involves.
On a national basis, to provide young scientists and engineers in the public sector with the opportunity to cross into industry and to create an attractive alternative future needs careful consideration, particularly of the principle of funding by Government of applied R. and D. in industry. If as much consideration were given to the industrial base in civil R. and D. as in defence R. and D. we should have a healthier picture altogether. In the civil field we often lose out because initiatives in R. and D. are not taken as early as they are in the defence field. Risks there are in the civil field, but if investment is left until the risks have been eliminated, and you get to the point where there is a 90 per cent. chance of success, we shall never get the rewards of technical advance. This point was referred to with some force by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, and I entirely agree with him. A policy for investment in civil R. and D. may do much to encourage transfers.
I turn, my Lords, to one final point, that of science expenditure in the international field. The Table 4 on page 39 in the Dainton appendix C shows £5 million for space per annum and £6¾ million for high energy physics as being part of the Science Research Council expenditure which ultimately the Secretary of State is responsible for providing. This international support is related, certainly in the case of high energy physics, to science, but not wholly so in the case of space as the ESRO programmes are shifting across to application. In my mind there is a grave danger, therefore, that under the proposed organisation both these activities could suffer for different reasons at the time when the future of the European collaborative efforts in these fields has been assured for a number of years ahead, after a period of procrastination.
As noble Lords know, there is a national as well as an international programme in both these fields and in the case of space the D.T.I. has a responsibility for technology programmes. There is therefore a necessity for inter-departmental 1012 co-ordination. The suggestion is that the Chief Scientific Adviser, at his discretion, may set up an ad hoc committee to deal with such situations. The Select Committee on Science and Technology goes further by proposing a single responsibility for space, but in view of the application emphasis on space endeavour in air traffic control, weather forecasting and telecommunications, I think it important to see that this field of activity is properly administered within the new framework. One has only to look at the considerable efforts of the French Government agency C.N.E.S. at Toulouse to see the impact that France is having, with comparatively small budgets and what is regarded as less sophisticated endeavour than the United Kingdom. They have secured a position in the weather forecasting satellite work which I would like to see the United Kingdom have in the telecommunications field, as it already appears that the United States has cornered a position in air traffic control.
In high energy physics, as I have said before, the CERN charter caters for knowledge, and we should not be surprised if we do not have a return in the form of contracts to develop sophisticated equipment needed for the accelerator systems. But I believe that these contracts are important and I hope that the new framework will not let this consideration go by default through a lack of co-ordination mechanism between Departments.
Finally, my Lords, I think that the proposals in the Green Paper, particularly those in the Rothschild section, offer the Government an excellent basis for the organisation and support of Government R. and D., and I would only say that where work is intended to be of direct benefit to industry it should be done in industry. The immobility of scientific effort in the Civil Service makes it extremely difficult to adjust the size of laboratories to suit the demands made upon them, which it is recognised do vary from time to time. With long-term forecasts of Government R. and D. expenditure and programmes it should be possible to look ahead in this respect and to anticipate the needs in advance. Analysis of major areas of Government activity carried out by Select Committees invariably looks back, but one of the chief purposes of the Select Committee on 1013 Science and Technology is to look forward. I am very glad to see that they are looking at the Green Paper as a subject at this very moment, and that Lord Rothschild himself acknowledges the work of this Committee in highlighting many of the issues. I think that at last we are getting very close to putting Government R. and D. interests on to a firm footing, and I hope that the Government are able to implement the proposals along the lines of the Rothschild Report.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD BOWDEN
My Lords, I gather from looking at the list of speakers that mine is to be the 25th speech in this extremely interesting debate; it is difficult at this stage to know to what I should address myself. But I must say that I was elated that the last speaker made some reference for the first time that I can remember to Government responsibility for research in the civilian field. I should like to come back to that point in a moment. May I try, however briefly, to put the matter in perspective? We are concerned with many types of research. There is first of all the type of research done in ordinary factories which leads to commodities that can be sold on world markets. In general, I think that many people regard this as important, but strangely it is hardly referred to in the Rothschild Report or in the Green Paper; until the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, referred to it, I do not think it had been mentioned this afternoon.
Then we come to research work done, for example, for the Defence Ministry. I think we can fairly say that we are neither better nor worse than most people at this, although if we look at the figures in the Green Paper it is quite evident that we intend to defend Europe, while the French and the Germans intend to trade with Europe. Then we come to the small components of research, in which I think it can fairly be said that this country has a lead; namely, the pure research which has been so much discussed. It is this component which is under attack; it is this component which it is proposed to change. It would be impertinent for me to say anything about the work of the Medical Research Council, but I think it is sufficiently ominous that every speaker in your Lordships' House, many of them 1014 with great experience in this field, has criticised Rothschild as likely to destroy this immensely effective organisation. And finally I have to remind your Lordships that there is one industry in this country which has over many years been the most effective and rapidly growing industry in Europe. This is agriculture, and it is the Agricultural Research Council which has been singled out for total destruction. This is a very odd proposal.
I should like to address myself to some of the problems posed by Rothschild, and particularly this customer/contractor principle which has been referred to so much in this debate. It so happens that some six or seven years ago I had much to do with the establishment of the original Council for Scientific Policy. I still think this body has little to be ashamed of. It has in fact done an extremely valuable service for the community. Before we set it up we made inquiries of the other Western countries, and most notably of America, of the methods by which science was run, research was run, development was done and industry and industrial research were subsidised. We found that there was an almost infinite number of different systems, no one of which could be said to be very good; and all of which were criticised, some more than others.
The first thing that I did was to talk to the directors of the American National Institute of Health about the way in which medical research was then being funded in America. I discovered that it was almost all funded on what I can best describe as the customer/contractor basis. It was very effective research, but there could be no doubt in anybody's mind that it was extravagant, inefficient and wasteful beyond imagination. The only conclusion one could come to was that any system can be made to work if only you have enough money to spend. Medical research workers in America have been bedevilled for years by demands from elderly Senators that they should concentrate their efforts on relieving those particular diseases to which elderly men are peculiarly subject. For this reason, the director told me that his whole programme had become completely unbalanced, and he was quite unable to do the fundamental work that he wanted 1015 to do because he had to put everything into curing prostates and cancers of the kind which Senators felt that they might themselves have to endure.
The same thing of course has happened again. President Nixon has recently announced the proposed expenditure of several hundreds of millions of dollars on the cure of cancer, in the confident expectation that if you can send a man to the Moon for several thousand millions of dollars you can certainly cure tumours in the same way. This has yet to be proved. My own experience in talking to the Americans led me to believe that they were acutely embarrassed at the magnitude of the funds they had to spend on certain limited objectives, and equally embarrassed by the lack of funds which they wanted to spend in other ways. The budget became so large that the principal concern of the director was to prevent it from being regarded as a pork barrel into which all universities, all medical men and all hospitals wished to dip. Our own system was obviously incomparably better than that. So I conclude that there are some spheres of activity in which the customer/contractor principle is not necessarily applicable.
I therefore turn to the funding of research in many universities in America where the customer/contractor principle was applied. When one came to look into it in detail, it was evident that although lip service was paid to the principle, it was hedged about with such elaborate conventions as to be almost unrecognisable. In fact the conventions which govern the application of the customer/contractor principle in American universities are at least as elaborate as those which govern the behaviour of a constitutional monarch in this country—all-powerful in theory, but totally powerless, although decorative, in practice, if I may say it without offence in this House. I found that when a university wished to undertake some programme of research they wrote it up and went to visit someone in the Pentagon and persuaded him to give them a research contract to do the work that they wanted to do on the grounds—and this is the curious part about it—that it was in the opinion of the particular individual in the Pentagon necessary for the defence of the continental United States. 1016 Extraordinary pieces of research were done on this pretext: and the pretext was used because of the curious laws which made it impossible for the Federal Government to put money into universities for any other reason. Everyone knew that the thing was a constitutional anomaly; nobody liked it, and people paid tributes to the greater efficiency of our system which produced much the same results without all this extremely elaborate and nonsensical administrative folly.
Almost exactly a year ago Senator Mansfield in the United States Senate decided that this particular system had gone on for far too long and introduced his famous Amendment. In future all university research must in effect be tied to a particular military objective. This would be a tidying-up operation entirely comprehensible to anyone who follows the Rothschild proposals. But this amendment almost at one stroke destroyed almost irrevocably and for ever the most important system of financing university research that the Americans have ever had. They are now desperately trying to create in America a system something like the one that we are now so critically analysing and are so anxious to reform.
I can find hardly any case in which the customer/contractor principle as used in the universities to subsidise research was anything other than a sham or anything other than a curiously complicated administrative mechanism by which the ordinary process of proposals from someone with a few good ideas could be introduced to someone who had money to invest. This, after all, is how any research programme has to be organised, and to that extent Rothschild is pure tautology, in the sense that someone does the work and someone else pays for it.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House at the beginning of this debate quoted from a little red book which is obviously one of his favourite sources of information. I too, have been reading the same book, and I find that the Chairman said that:The fundamental causes of the development of any subject are not external, but internal. The interrelations with other things are only secondary causes. External causes in fact are the condition of changes, but internal causes are the basis of change.1017 In other words, one must emphasise yet again the fact that the Rothschild principle postulates that there exist people who have problems to solve which they can identify—and in my experience such men do not exist except in a very circumscribed set of conditions—and that there are men available who will undertake work of a very precisely defined type. It is my experience that, except for men of little originality, men whose functions are not fundamentally to develop science, such men do not exist.
Finally, it postulates that it is possible to define a contract in which one can identify the cost of the work to be done. In my experience this is impossible, too. The three postulates upon which the whole system depends are, in my view, wholly untenable. What then are we to say to Rothschild? I think the first thing is that, as has been said by other noble Lords, the Rothschild principle would have a devastating impact on the Medical Research Council and probably an equally devastating impact on the Agricultural Research Council.
Fundamentally the whole of this debate is concerned not really with Rothschild: it is concerned with money. For more than forty years the price of science in this country rose in geometric progression at about 16 per cent. per annum, compound interest, extremely regularly in spite of wars, crises and slumps. It rose at about the same rate in most of the other countries in the world. This was tolerable so long as the total amount spent was small, but it ceased to be tolerable as soon as the amount became noticeable, worrying, and a source of embarrassment to the Chancellor. At this point, the rate of expansion had to be cut, and it is only now that we have started arguing about the way in which funds shall be made available, as distinct from the total amount of money. We have also cut down our rate of expansion from 16 per cent., which it was for forty years until 1965, to about 4½ per cent., which it is at this moment. If the expenditure could be increased again I do not think anybody would mind if a certain amount came from sources other than those from which it comes to-day; but people are desperately worried that the work now being done might be destroyed were the system of financing to be changed. Those who say this 1018 most vehemently are those most closely concerned—the men who do the work, the men whose morale is indispensable to the success of the work and the men whose ingenuity has made the work possible. We cannot ignore their view, in spite of any metaphysical view we may have that in some mysterious way the customer is always right.
We tried when we set up the C.S.P. to discover whether there was any part of the work which the M.R.C. was doing which could be more closely associated than it was with the officials of the Ministries for whom in the end much of it was done. I am afraid we failed; and the reason was that we were assured then—as we have since been assured by Mrs. Thatcher—that no case could be found of any significant piece of research requested by the Ministries which had not been done by the M.R.C. Secondly, we found ourselves dismayed by the fact that the Ministry itself was so incurious about its own operations. I mean by that that they were so incurious about the way in which hospitals are run, by the ratio of technicians to medical men, by the way in which stores should be organised, and things of that kind. Perhaps one might describe this as operational research only indirectly linked with medicine; nevertheless it is of immense importance because of the large sums of public money at stake. We found that the Ministry had been strikingly incurious about its own affairs at that time. We found also that neither the National Farmers' Union nor the Ministry of Agriculture was interested in launching experiments on, let us say, the organisation of farming as distinct from the growing of crops. We found in fact a lack on the part of all the Ministries we approached of any insight or anxiety about their own operations—operations which in fact account for very large sums of money. It seemed entirely reasonable that we should leave them out of the system and allow the Research Councils to carry on as before. This is what we did.
It seems strange to believe that people can still think that the Research Councils dispose of money in a manner which is in some way less efficient than could be devised if someone else was spending it. After all, if we cannot think of such a reason, why bother to change? There 1019 cannot exist in Government Departments men of the scientific ability and understanding of those now at the disposal of the Councils and the various research bodies, who themselves have to be the best judges of the programmes to be undertaken, because they and they alone realise whether the work has timeliness and promise. Things may be desirable socially; they may be extremely important from every possible point of view; but if the work is not timely and lacks promise it is not worth starting. The only people who can make this fundamental decision are the scientists themselves, those most closely acquainted with the work being done in the lab.
The scientific world is most peculiar in that there is a constant counter-flow of information upwards from the lab, where the work is being done, from the men concerned and the workers on the spot, and then there is a corresponding flow of funds, information and authority downwards; and the problem of organising any research laboratory anywhere in the world involves interaction between those two streams. We had, I think, an extraordinarily interesting example of the difference between our own system—which I think is very good—and some of the Continental systems in some of the research which was done for the Armed Services during the war. The noble Lord, Lord Blackett, was a very prominent member of the groups which helped the Armed Services to develop devices which vastly improved their efficiency in the field. Our system for research and development was totally informal. At all stages it is true to say that the research scientists worked almost casually with the people concerned with the building and using of the apparatus.
I have myself been at conferences round a laboratory bench, and I remember an Air Marshal telling me, in a state of great disgust, "This wretched lab. boy won't solder my aerial until I tell him how we are going to invade Algeria!" That was the cry of a man obviously brought near to despair; but the fact remains that our system worked very well. The Germans, on the other hand, had a very elaborate, hierarchical structure of command. The Services defined their specifications and requirements, they submitted them to be processed, 1020 and in due course the apparatus was built by engineers who knew nothing at all from first hand about the actual problems of the men in the field. My Lords, I would go so far as to say this: had we used the German system I suspect we should have lost the war, and had the Germans used ours, they might have won it. We can pay far too much attention to hierarchical structures in scientific work and development, and the thing which I fear about Rothschild is that it would put a straitjacket on what must be an extremely informal operation which we have managed supremely well in this country.
Now I should like to pass briefly to the problems of research and development in the civil component of our industry, because here I believe that our national achievement is proportionately worse than it is in any other field we have discussed. There are great industrial laboratories at this moment in decay, some of them almost on the verge of collapse. The policy of the Central Electricity Generating Board in buying large turbo-alternators, if I may take this as a particular case, has brought ruin to a great industry, and in a curious way this is because they have not used the Rothschild principle. They have insisted that they shall specify the product, that the contractor shall build it and that the contractor shall pay for it. It is not possible to build these enormous machines and assume that an ordinary firm can afford to do it, if it is required to make a machine of a new type, unproven, untested and unknown in its properties. Of the 40 500-megawatt sets which have been ordered I do not think more than an insignificant number have ever run at more than half, or at the most two-thirds, of the nominally rated output. They have been late on delivery and the C.E.G.B., in the supposed interests of the taxpayer, has demanded of British industry quite impossible terms in the contracts it has imposed upon them. The consequence has been that many of the great firms have lost all of what ought to have been their risk capital by introducing machines which they did not really understand how to make, and in selling them at a loss for twenty years.
This is the kind of situation which the Government can influence directly and 1021 immediately. It is true to say that going back over many years our policy for encouraging civilian research in factories has been less effective than that in any other country that I know of. For example, before the war American firms were allowed to write off the total cost of their research and development in the year in which they did it. Our own firms in those days had to write it off over a period of five years. The consequence was that at the beginning of the war many of the American firms, particularly the oil and heavy chemical factories, had an enormously more advanced technology than we had. Fortunately (I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, who did it) the policy was changed and English firms now can write off their research and development in a year, as the Americans always could.
But the Americans were not to be defeated by this. They improved their system further, as the Canadians have done; and we are still left behind. The Canadians last year introduced legislation which in effect gives to any large commercial enterprise engaged in in-house research of the type which leads in the end to commodities that can be sold in world markets a dollar for every dollar invested by a firm. If you are doing 100,000 dollars worth of research this year, the Government will give you 50,000 dollars towards it. If you decide to double that and spend 200,000 dollars next year, the Government will give you 100,000 dollars, which is a statutory half, plus 25 per cent. more because you are increasing it this year. This provides an enormous incentive for Canadian firms to embark on in-house research and development.
If one studies the way in which the big American firms and the American Government have ordered such things as feed pumps for boilers one finds that they have placed research contracts which have allowed people to test them properly before installing them. Our own people have not been able to do this, and the consequence has been that much of what should have been development undertaken before manufacture has had to be carried out after installation, at the great expense of the customer—in this case the C.E.G.B.—and ultimately the British public, and also of the contracting firm.
1022 Our system is extravagant and inefficient, and the inefficiencies and extravagances are both due entirely to the fiscal system adopted in this country, which does not give the privileges and possibilities for civilian research in-house which are to be found in almost all the other Western countries. When we complain, as we often do, of the failure of British industry to exploit new ideas, let us always remember that exploitation is possible only if research and development are done in the factory where the job is ultimately to be manufactured.
I suggest to the Government that they should leave the Research Councils alone: they are doing very well, and basically they are the best part of the whole Governmental and national system of research. But the Government should look carefully at the nature of defence procurement, and particularly at the amount as compared with civilian expenditure and as compared with the rates in France and Germany. We may discover how many specifications had been met, or could be met, were the Rothschild principle applied to defence spending. Finally, the Government should attach great importance to an urgent reform of the fiscal system which has done so much damage over so many years to a vital component of research; namely, the research and development carried out by manufacturers trying to make technological advances in the face of all the odds.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD HAYTER
My Lords, thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, I have been feeling like Daniel in the lions' den for the past two days. Encouraged as I am by the absence of some of the lions, I should like to put forward the views of the common man. It occurs to me that I should be less than honest if I did not say that I received an unfortunate impression from some of our scientists who have spoken both yesterday and to-day. I hope that I shall not be considered impolite if I say that I detected an air of complacency which conies frequently in relation to the Medical Research Council. If it is the wonderful organisation that everybody says it is, all I can say is that it has kept its light hidden under a bushel, and that is part of Lord Rothschild's point.
1023 Then we had another scientist who implied that nothing should stop the scientist's progress once he had involved himself in the care of sheep (I forget what the technical term for it was), and that he must be able to pursue that for his life's work. This seemed to me to lead on to the thoughts of Bernard Shaw's play, The Doctor's Dilemma and the stimulating of the phagocytes. Then we had the emphasis on the confidence and the morale of the scientist; how important it was that this should be maintained. I entirely agree. But it is not just the scientist whose morale has to be maintained: there are engineers, accountants, businessmen, and civil servants; and none of these deserves to have any less morale than the scientists themselves. Mention was made to-day by one of our scientist noble Lords about where the axe will fall. This was going to be the reason for leading the scientist's morale down the road. But that argument applies to everybody in industry; we never know what is going to happen. I keep on telling my children that life is not fair—and that goes for scientists as well as for the rest of us.
Lastly on this point, there was the point which was quoted in Lord Rothschild's Report that the director of a laboratory or institute should spend one year in a Department's headquarters. We heard yesterday that this was supposed to be almost an insult. But what is wrong with the idea? Most industrialists have had to engage for a year or so in activity which they did not like but which they thought, long-term, would be for the good of themselves and the company they served.
Passing from those rather distressing points, the argument is not necessary; the whole point about Lord Rothschild's Report is that it is a dual approach. Some of us seem to have forgotten that when advocating transfers of money from Research Councils we also had the emphasis on improved departmental organisation, this prime condition of the chief scientist's organisation. That is very different from saying that the Government know best. What the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, was saying—rather delicately, I think—was that he who pays the piper calls the tune. However, in doing so he emphasised the need for this continuous dialogue with all concerned with research or development. There 1024 must be a team. The parallel is with industry in precisely the same emphasis. Technical feasibility goes hand in hand with production and marketing; and. as the C.B.I. Report said, what is technically interesting can be commercially senseless—and, I would add, can also be not viable economically. In a group of companies, fundamental research is usually carried out at headquarters. Applied research can go on right the way through the group, and the problems that affect a company are the problems that affect the industry in almost exactly the same way, though in the latter case, of course, on a much larger scale.
There is the need for information. Work can be done in one company, only for it to be found that it has been done elsewhere and is useless. Work can be done in one company, only for it to be found that the work has been duplicated elsewhere. I find that people in industry have a habit of keeping their cards close to their chest. This is true also in the Civil Service and scientific worlds. Lip service is paid to communication, but it is often countered by an unspoken phrase: "… so long as it doesn't apply to me." I remember this very clearly at the Sunningdale conference at the end of last year on the supply of medical equipment. As chairman of that conference I had to listen to complaints from the scientists, doctors, manufacturers and civil servants that they had not known what the other was doing. Indeed, it was a surprise to me, and I think to them, to find that for the first time they were meeting people with whom they had to deal. There is criticism as well among most of the civil servants in relation to their own information. I certainly know, so far as the Department of Health is concerned, what a surprise it was to all of us on the fringe of that enormous and important Department when the Portfolio for Health was published for the first time—and it was not published by them; it was published by an outside body. I maintain that Parliament has a right to know, a right to advise and a right to approve. I also maintain that industry, in so far as it is going to be asked to do something for the Government, has an equal right to know. As has been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, research or development is not an end in itself; 1025 there is a product at the end of it all, and industry must be brought into consultation at the earliest possible time.
May I add just one other problem for industry as well as for the Government? That is that when you start this development work and get on to prototypes there are the endless qualifications. Somebody must draw the line, and in my humble experience it is never the scientist; it is always somebody else. I am not going to become involved in this customer/contractor relationship or phraseology, but I would make just one point which I think has twice been referred to in this debate. First, in the Ministry of Health, with which through the King's Fund I am indirectly concerned, the customer is the patient; and he looks to his doctors, his nurses, and the Department, to know what products it wants and what services it should provide. I want to make that point because it has not come out very often to-day. It is not just a question of a new instrument or new medical equipment; it is often a new system of management, what the Americans call, "the delivery of health care". This is primarily the work that the King's Fund has been doing. It is work which ultimately, I feel certain, the Department itself will be doing, for itself.
May I make a point which may sound slightly romantic, but I will correct that impression in a moment? In the Department of Health and Social Security, one has to remember, there is a staff of 700,000 people, and they have a contribution to make on this research side. The cooks in the kitchen and the nurses in the operating theatre may be able to give the best advice of all in relation to the equipment which they are using. Do not get me wrong, my Lords. I am not suggesting we should set up a department that would have consultations with those people; but I do suggest that it is sometimes wise to find out what the operating personnel think of the equipment provided for the service that has been arranged. It would be a foolish businessman indeed who did not listen to his own service departments, the persons who are nearest the customer.
I make three quick points on the universities. When it comes to cutting back the funds, I am quite sure the Government 1026 will make certain that they do nothing that in any way encourages the brain-drain, which has been going on for some time but has been slowing down. They will also ensure that the Medical Research Council continues to confer great distinction on the organisations which are selected; and they will ensure that the universities train research workers of the next generation. On organisation I have just one point to make. There is no particular merit in being consistent, but when we had our debate on the National Health Service reorganisation r advocated that there should be set up anidentifiable and publicly accountable body charged with three purposes: one, the overall strategy for health and welfare services research; two, to review the progress and priorities of research; and three, to co-ordinate the efforts of Government, voluntary organisations, hospitals, universities and industry.This is really, of course, the equivalent of the development committee in any business company to-day. There was no intention in this Report that the Research Councils should be transferred en bloc. We are after unification rather than fragmentation, and here we have the opportunity for discussion and rational argument concerned not only with the present but with the development of future policies. I have seen a suggestion, made by that wise man, Dr. Hunter, of Birmingham University, that there is much to be said for a reorganisation of the Research Councils to form two Councils: one for the natural sciences and engineering, and the other for the social and medical sciences. The separation of social sciences from the medical sciences or from environmental research has created an unnecessary compartmentalisation of knowledge in a situation where the skills and methods developed in medical research require to be rationally applied in the field of social service. I think there is particular merit in this suggestion at a time when the integration of the Health Service is so much to the fore.
So I see Government Departments drawn into field operations, and therefore they have an important claim to promote research where they see its need. Equally, I see that too much control of research funds should not rest with the civil servants. What is sauce for the 1027 goose is sauce for the gander; particularly as there is more danger there of political pressures influencing research in Government Departments than in Research Councils themselves. Any adjustment to give effect to Lord Rothschild's recommendations should ensure that the system must demand willing co-operation of science and research workers in the field. Secondly, there is a fund of knowledge and experience in industry which has a contribution to make. Thirdly, let research activity be out in the open. So many things have come to light in this debate of which I, for one, have never heard. Let is be out in the open for ever, and let it be reported regularly for these publicly-appointed bodies to be answerable for. And, fourthly, if I may suggest it to the Government, I certainly would in this context start small: have no rigid time scale; perhaps move a whole section over one at a time, and see how it goes. Given those factors—as, in effect, the Green Paper does—there is much to gain from these very far-reaching proposals.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord who has just sat down in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for initiating this debate and also for what he has said, especially about freedom for research; and also for having evoked illuminating, and some not-so-illuminating, speeches from some of the most distinguished scientists of the nation. At the outset may I as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, say how much we all hope that the Government will implement the recommendation of Lord Rothschild that the payment of the grant to the Royal Society of Edinburgh should be made by the Scottish Office? This is sound sense, for the Society can, and is anxious to, perform a function for Scotland similar to that of the Royal Society. I must add that we would still expect the Royal Society to continue to act for the United Kingdom, and that we in Scotland will continue to give them all assistance and help. The relations between the two Societies are excellent, and so far as I know in the 190 years of the existence of the Royal Society of Edinburgh there has never been a matter of substantial 1028 difference with the sister Society. I must, however, admit that our views on the Green Paper do not exactly coincide with those of the Royal Society of London. As your Lordships are well aware, we in Scotland have our own peculiar problems: problems of personnel; problems of application; problems of national development, and we also have our amour propre.
The dominant question posed by the Rothschild Report is of course the customer/contractor point. I think it is really for debate as to whether Lord Rothschild in his Paper has really made his case. We must admit that he has made his impact very forcefully and briefly. With his lightning intellect he appears to many to be jumping to his conclusions. Others would consider that he has had a "hunch" as to what should be done and is trying to justify it by means of what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has described as his "abrasive candour". My own view is that Lord Rothschild is learning. He is learning from his ten years' experience as Chairman of the Agricultural Research Council. During his term of office there was a tendency to centralise, a tendency to empire build in the creation of more independent research institutes, as witness Babraham. There was also an authoritarianism that the Research Council always knew better what the farmer should get; and certainly there was a lack of flexibility.
From my personal experience I can tell of two pregnant proposals that were turned down. The first concerned the composition of the blood of domestic animals; the second concerned the ultrasonic measurement of the flesh of live animals. With the first, some twenty years later and after the Pig Industry Development Authority had developed and applied it to pigs, the A.R.C. eventually supported the work in cattle—largely under pressure from the Milk Marketing Board. On the second proposal, ultrasonic measurement of the live animal, the A.R.C. did a little work in 1952 and pulled out. Here again, it was left to the British Oil Cake Mill Company and the Pig Industry Development Authority to do all the research and development. Some eight years later both these techniques have become very important in the improvement of our livestock to enable them to meet modern market requirements. Another instance was the 1029 setting up of the Hill Farming Research Organisation. This was put forward by the Scottish Department of Agriculture, who had to wear down the opposition of the A.R.C. to the project. Now hill farmers in Scotland and in England make continuous and fruitful use of its findings. These are just three examples of the ripe fruit that was waiting to be plucked, and the A.R.C. did nothing to help it to be plucked.
Looking back, it seems to me that in Lord Rothschild's day there was a complete absence of customer/contractor relationship, and therefore it is greatly to his credit that he has learnt from his own experience. But with all respect to Lord Rothschild I think he has missed an important point in his customer/contractor policy. He has over-simplified it to, first, the customer specifies an R. and D. programme; second, the contractor does it. So far all right; but he misses the fact that often the working scientist with his ear to the ground is the vital spark. To my mind, a second sequence is of equal importance—this is the one which was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman: first, the contractor puts forward an R. and D.; second, the customer considers it and commissions it; third, the contractor does it. This sequence is the one which most largely operates in applied research. This is where the chief scientist could be useful in promoting these ideas which are the basis of innovation and flow upward in the research structure. They are curiously absent in the Rothschild concept.
Flowing from this I question the view that practising scientists are never qualified to decide priorities. There are exceptions, though of course the customer should determine the proportional expenditure in the different broad sectors. A recent misapplication of the customer/ contractor principle is to be found in the setting up of the Meat Research Institute near Bristol, a very long delayed piece of research and development. It is in part financed by the A.R.C, and the balance of 50 per cent. comes from the Meat and Livestock Commission to the tune of about £200,000 per annum. The Commission report that they have found they are unable to exercise any effective influence on either the content or the cost 1030 of the Institute's programme, although they are paying for one-half of it. I think that as the customer the Meat and Livestock Commission should have a larger say in its work and affairs, and on a proper customer/contractor basis.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will give way for a moment I should like to say that I sit as Chairman of a Joint Committee of the Meat and Livestock Commission and the A.R.C, and it is our strong endeavour that the Meat and Livestock Commission (who are, as the noble Lord has said, producing 50 per cent. of the funds of the Meat Research Institute) should have—not control, but an influence and should be able to put their point of view; and they do that at very great length in our meetings.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I am quoting from the report of the Meat and Livestock Commission, which they have submitted in connection with the Rothschild Report. Their words are quoted verbatim and I rely on what the Meat and Livestock Commission have themselves said.
On the first page of his Paper Lord Rothschild sets out the prerequisites of the efficient organisation and management of a research and development system, and these are that it must be logical, flexible, humane and decentralised. Without something like a customer/contractor set-up I question whether it is possible to fulfil the essentials of flexibility and decentralisation. Certainly they will be better developed under the proposals of? this Report. But I do have qualms about "humane". Customers can be ruthless. In fact, efficient customers must be firm when they realise that the contractor is unlikely to produce the goods or that by the time they are produced the requirements of the market will have changed.
My Lords, scientists used to be born and not made, and they entered into research for the zest of discovery, willing to sacrifice other opportunities. Nowadays, scientists are made by the hundred, and they fit into the national structure of salaries, pensions with offices, typists and laboratory assistants. They enter a career structure. While the not-so-good scientist gets not so much promotion, 1031 his job is regarded by himself and by his wife as being as safe as if he were an established civil servant. I think the justified apprehension of the scientist can be got over and I hope that the Government will spell this out. As I see it, scientists must be willing to be redirected in their work. But when redirected means going to another place they must receive adequate reimbursement of their expenses. I welcome what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said, that the proposals would ensure greater mobility of the scientist and that there would be considerable upgrading. I would like to underline the remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Snow, yesterday, and particularly when he said that scientists live by doing science.
I rather think that in Scotland we have an excellent example of the success of the consumer/contractor principle in R. and D. Certain of the Scottish agricultural institutes are advised by the Agricultural Research Council, but they are financed by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. An excellent example of the customer/contractor basis is the development of the red deer for meat. The Department of Agriculture, along with the Highland and Islands Development Board, have contracted the Rowett Institute to do this work. The results are very promising, but it took four years' pressure to get this through the A.R.C. I hope that in Scotland we shall have no substantial alteration in the present arrangements, which are very definitely contractor/consumer and are applied in a manner only slightly different from that adumbrated by Lord Rothschild, but we think in a somewhat better manner. We think it would be quite wrong to break up the highly successful Scottish method simply to accord with some new structure in England. I should like to inform the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that his vigorous criticism of the English Ministry of Agriculture does not apply to Scotland.
The scientific representation and authority in the Ministries must be strengthened. Special attention should be given to the status and the calibre of the chief scientist, to his tenure of office and to his supporting staff. I would emphasise how desirable it is that they should be short-term, rotating appoint ments of working scientists, and certainly 1032 not scientists who got their Ph.D. twenty years ago and who have safely and slowly progressed up the ranks of the Civil Service. I regard this as of fundamental importance. Otherwise it would be better to be without a chief scientist, and I question whether we in Scotland really need one at all. Anyhow, save us from the science Panjandrum!
Flexibility and decentralisation can be in large measure achieved by greater use of the universities. Flexibility comes from the fact that here you can exploit success, and if success eludes you, you can fade it out as the personnel transfer to teaching. They can also be locked up in an ivory tower. Bright ideas crop up sometimes in the most unexpected quarter. A student questioning can provoke a bright idea in his teacher. Bright ideas are not the prerogative of chief scientists and directors of research institutes. I plead for more R. and D. to be channelled into universities, both basic and applied.
Finally, I would remind your Lordships of the wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who told us how far as a nation we fall behind other countries in the application of research and development. That was in his maiden speech, and I expected him to return to it in his speech to-day, but he did not. I therefore make another plea for more finance for the establishment of centres of innovation and of research parks. In agriculture we have machinery for this, though apparently in England it is requiring some readjustment. For industry and engineering this is imperative. There need not be many such places, but they must be there as a salesman of the scientist with the bright idea. Selling scientific development is not a matter of going round knocking on doors. The scientist and his team have to show that the idea works in practice and with due economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, has just stressed. Hence in industry research parks are integral to research and development. My advice to Her Majesty's Government is that they should implement Rothschild and take heed of Dainton, because there is much wisdom in this appendix: implement Rothschild, not slavishly, but sensibly and with the greatest humanity.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, in so far as the Rothschild Report advocates more 1033 scientists in Government and more status for them, and in so far as it advocates clearer accountability by scientists for the national resources which they spend, I think he has done the nation a service. But when one comes to consider his proposals for ensuring that this degree of accountability exists, I part company with him. If a board of directors become anxious about the manner in which their chief executive chooses his priorities and spends the company's resources, they do not proceed to take a part of those resources and instruct that chief executive how he should spend them. They instead review the performance of the chief executive, and if necessary replace him with someone else. In short, one does not ensure right choice of priorities by manipulation of the resources but by being in control of appointments.
I have used that analogy here, but analogies are extremely dangerous, and nowhere is this clearer than in the Rothschild reference to the customer/contractor basis. Enough has been said on this matter already. Suffice it for me merely to make a single point. My noble friend Lord Kennet dismissed the analogy as a useful model, using quite clear logical argument, and it is a great pity that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and others, in accepting the analogy, seemed to me to be flying in the face of logic, particularly that set out by Lord Kennet. The Report which we are debating is almost totally concerned with the subject of organisation, and this is a subject which merits just as much disciplined thinking and attempts at objectivity as science itself, but instead of that we have had the rather unedifying spectacle of some scientists—not all—rushing into the fray and giving a display of emotion and special pleading which is contrary to their own disciplines. We have to be grateful for the fact that clearly they do not indulge in this sort of indisciplined thinking in the scientific work they do themselves in their own disciplines.
Take, for example, the debate over the classification of scientific work. We had a lot about it to-day and yesterday, and the attempt to classify it into pure or applied research or what not. In fact we are dealing with a continuum stretching from untrammelled research at one end to the making of a very precise 1034 attack on an identifiable problem at the other end. It is impossible to divide this continuum into bits, because it is impossible to define the boundaries. What on earth are so many scientists at when they attempt to classify the unclassifiable? None of them would relapse into this form of Aristotelian thinking in the course of their own scientific work. I otice frowns at this Aristotelian reference of mine, but this was the great fault of Greek thinking, in attempting to classify things when they could not really be classified at all. I recall one eminent scientist giving a lecture at Kingston University on the administration of a university. He introduced his subject by saying that administration was a necessary evil.
I recollect a past chairman of the University Grants Commission describing the function of the U.G.C. as:A septic tank which decontaminates the flow of money from the Treasury to the universities from all influence.I noted the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, to the effect that the Medical Research Council was free but had to be co-ordinated. I looked up the exact meaning of the word "co-ordination" and it means, "to bring parts into a proper relationship". How something can be free if it is also to be brought by some higher authority into proper relationship with something else I do not know. My argument is that when scientists turn aside from their own branch of learning and consider subjects outside the physical sciences, they sometimes show a regrettable tendency to indulge in undisciplined cerebration, if that is not a contradiction in terms in itself.
One rule which I try to observe—I certainly do not always do so—is that if I object to one course of action I think it is my duty to try to propose an alternative. I am going to set about the task right now, and I shall not take long. All human work involves the making of decisions within an area bounded by policies set by those to whom the individual is accountable. Government itself is accountable to Parliament for every penny which it spends in the last analysis. Every institution which spends Government money must, in the last analysis, be accountable to Government for its spending of that money. 1035 Some scientists seem to be challenging this platitude—for that is what it is, a platitude. Perhaps they seek a partial technocracy, but they have not had it in the past and they will not get it in the future so long as we remain a democratic society. Their arguments strike me, if one can use a parallel, as if one proposed that the lawyers should dispense with Parliament and make the law for us. I think that quite possibly they might do very well indeed, but it would not do for a democratic society. It is for this reason that the proposals (from particularly the "medics"), that they must be free to make whatever decisions they like without being accountable to Government or anybody else for them, strike me as stretching the whole matter much too far.
We require what I call an organisational analysis of where we stand now in this matter of the relationship of science and the science councils to Government. It should state clearly the highly complex and often inconsistent mechanisms through which Government currently holds those scientific institutions which spend Government money accountable for the decisions which they make. Some of the comments from our medical scientists seem to be claiming that currently scientists do whatever they choose with Government resources, that the Medical Research Council are accountable to nobody, and that they want it to remain like that. They fail to think this thing through. Who appoints the M.R.C.? If the M.R.C. make a hash of things, are the Government to stand aside and say that it is not their responsibility to change the members of the Council or to criticise them? If the M.R.C. want to test the validity of what I have said, let them make a daring and inadequate plan to involve themselves in some way-out piece of research, and let it be known that they are doing so, and they will soon find out that they are accountable to the Government, who will no doubt descend upon them and stop it.
No, my Lords, accountability currently exists, but it is exceedingly complex and is not available in an explicit, written form. The objective of the analysis which I propose is to describe its current complexity in clear terms. Here, I do not think I am very far from the view of 1036 the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. When Government have a clear description they can then look at it and decide what changes are in fact required.
There is a very large school of thinking, stemming particularly from the American business schools, which holds that informal, indescribable organisation is good because it is flexible. That is the argument which could be used against my proposal. But let me remind noble Lords that that theory is the precise inverse of the truth. If you want to change something you first have to have an accurate description of what it is; otherwise you may find yourself attempting to change something that does not exist. In short, informality is the enemy of flexibility, and precise description the essential prerequisite of change. Current accountability of science to Government is very unclear. My own experience of analysing organisation is first that the final description of who is accountable to whom for what is usually substantially different from the original assumptions before the analysis. My second finding is that you can get accurate description only by talking to people right down through the organisation. Those people know how the organisation works. If you talk to those at the top, you get the de jure description instead of the de facto description. Thirdly, that by the time the analysis has been completed, the existing faults tend to stick out like a sore thumb, and the changes required become pretty obvious.
A team from Brunel University, under the leadership of my old friend Professor Jacques, is currently conducting an organisational analysis of the Health Service. I am quite sure that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is well aware of this. I would plead with him to exert his influence to get the Government to adopt the same approach to the organisation of Government sponsored scientific work, or rather, I should say, Government financed scientific work, because it is not, in the view of many, sponsored at this moment. May I suggest to Lord Rothschild himself that he might dig out an organisational analysis done by the same Professor Jacques for that part of the Board of Trade for which I held some responsibility some three years ago, to enlighten himself on just how helpful such an approach can be.
1037 The future organisation of national research is vital. It may need changes, but it must be looked at "wholistically". The Rothschild Report is very sound when it places emphasis on the need for clear accountability—but this accountability must be made explicit over the whole field of Government sponsored scientific effort. To give effect to the principle of accountability by switching discretion over £27 million from Research Councils to Government Departments is little more than a token shot in the dark. In fact, if accountability is clear, the whole issue of switching sums of money may be proved to be completely irrelevant, and with it will disappear the extraordinary anxieties of the scientists.
I am not advocating great changes. Indeed, an accurate analysis might show that all is well as it is. Alternatively, it might disclose the necessity for changes which all would endorse (including the scientists and the Medical Research Council) in the light of the analysis. What I am advocating is that we should adopt a disciplined, scientific attitude to the task of exploring and deciding if changes to the organisation of scientific effort are required, instead of allowing the subject to become one ridden by emotion and special pleading and, in a description in highly non-scientific terms, non-applicable analogies.
The Rothschild Report has certainly stirred interest. It is certainly right in its emphasis on accountability, but it is certainly, in my view, wrong in advocating control of some priorities by manipulation of resources. The essential means of such control is to make people individually and collectively accountable for their decisions to those who control their appointments.
There is a quaint irony with which I will finish. I have spoken several times in this House on matters relating to organisation. Most of my knowledge, or my experience, of organisation comes from research done in a company of which I used to be chief executive, and that research was initiated on a grant from the Medical Research Council.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD HELSBY
My Lords, the problem of getting research and development into its right place in the machinery of 1038 Government has exercised a great deal of thinking over the last half century, and I think it is true to say that over the last twenty years there has hardly been any time when some changes have not been going on in the organisation of Government research and development. Some are being followed through even now. In the particular field with which we are dealing in this debate no major changes of organisation have been proposed. None the less, it is quite clear that the proposals are creating a good deal of doubt and difficulty in some minds. This I think is characteristic of nearly all the changes in this particular area of Government. The problem is often not so much to find the right organisation as to persuade those affected that it is fair and reasonable.
I hope that the kind of proposals we have been considering to-day and yesterday will eventually gain acceptance, but I realise that there are sincerely held doubts and difficulties about them. The first point to notice about the Rothschild Report is that it does not really concentrate criticism on the Research Councils. Quite as much criticism is expressed of the organisation of science in Government Departments, and the changes which are proposed there are far-reaching and substantial. I am glad that no changes are proposed in the Research Council system which has only recently been set up—it has been in existence only since 1965—because I think that on the whole the Research Councils have done well in that lime and have shown that it is a viable system.
On the other hand, it has always seemed to me that one key part of the system was the position of the Council for Scientific Policies, and about that I confess that I have some doubts on my reading of the Dainton Report. It seems to me that that Council has taken a much more detached view than some of us hoped. There was, I think, some reason to hope that the Council would endeavour to pull together the various threads of work which were being done in the Research Councils and would be prepared to give advice, particularly to the Secretary of State for Education, on the priorities as between the work which was being done by these Councils. In fact, the Dainton Report shows that the Council has 1039 been surprisingly neutral and non-interventional, and indeed has regarded it as its duty not to take a view about the programmes of individual Councils. I am bound to say that I think that is a pity. But if one looks at the two Reports which comprise the Green Paper together, there seems to be one common element, and that is a feeling that something needs to be done to bring the decision-making of the Research Councils about the work that they will do and the priorities that are to obtain in their field rather closer to the Departments that carry responsibility for defining needs and ensuring that they are met.
In short, the problem, as both the Dainton Report and the Rothschild Report see it, is one of communication. There has not been, I think, enough communication between the Research Councils and the Departments, who at the end of the day are responsible to Parliament, for seeing that the nation's interests are best served. I do not think, my Lords, that any of us is well qualified to decide the precise value of his own job, and the research scientist is probably no exception. In the nature of things, he must concentrate on a pretty narrow field and cannot be aware of all the considerations which are developing around him. At least he should not be ashamed to be in discussion and consultation with others who see the problem and are concerned with it but are not necessarily looking at it from the same point of view.
In these days social priorities and economic priorities are important and significant and ought to have a bearing, and be seen to have a bearing, on what work is done in the field of the physical scientist. When it comes to the methods that are proposed in the two Reports for ensuring this rather closer working between Government Departments and the Councils, some approach to the sort of collaboration or even partnership that was spoken of in the debate yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, probably the customer/contractor relationship proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, is a salutary principle—in fact there has been very little dissent from it as a useful principle. But, my Lords, let us not think that its use is primarily in seeing that the money comes out of the right pocket. I do not think its importance 1040 is primarily in accounting in that sense at all. The real point about the customer/contractor relationship is that the two parties have to sit down together and their dialogue has to continue until they reach some sort of agreement, even if in the end it is only an agreement to disagree. At least they must have a dialogue and pursue it as far as they can, and I see no harm at all in creating such dialogue in some fields where there is a real doubt whether the contractor principle can be applied. Let it be discussed and in the end let reason prevail. It may well be that in the particular instance the principle will not apply; but the discussion can do no harm, and it may do a great deal of good.
Let us notice, too, that this discussion is salutary not only in its influence on the researchers. It is by no means a one-way traffic. It is just as salutary in its influence on the customer, by showing him that he has to define what he wants if it is to be turned into a workable scheme, or on occasion showing him that what he wants is not practicable at all. This last point brings one up against the limits of the customer/contractor principle. It is a principle that can work only when objectives can be precisely defined. I suspect, in the light of the discussion in this House over the past two days, that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, may have proposed rather more in the way of the customer/contractor relationship than in fact is practicable. But surely there is no harm in that if, as I see it, the result is to ensure that there is a full discussion; and if it turns out that the subject matter is not amenable to a contractual relationship that, as I see it, will be the end of it. The House will not wish to judge in detail just how far the principle can be taken in this matter, but there is bound to be a residue, anyway. As we all know, there is bound to be a field in which the principle will not apply. What is to be done there? The Dainton Report proposes further measures for bringing the work of the Research Councils rather closer to that of the Government Departments concerned.
The first proposal is that the Council for Scientific Policy should be developed into a Board, with fuller representation of the Departments. I see no objection 1041 to that. I see no objection to its being a chartered body if that would help. But let it not have as its first objective, as I think is suggested, the preservation of the independence of the Research Councils. I see no need for the Board to fight for that; it is recognised by all. The Board should be there to build bridges, not to dig moats. Let the individual Councils also create rather better conditions in which dialogue can be continued between the Departments and themselves. All these proposals are complementary to the Rothschild proposals, and in no sense to be preferred to them or rejected if the Rothschild proposals are accepted.
In the long run, the closer integration of scientific and administrative work is surely the kernel of the matter. The Rothschild Report has a good deal to say about this in the light of what is now being done to implement the recommendations of the Fulton Commission. I was very glad to see the stress which the Report put upon the importance of better understanding and more interchange of experience between scientists and administrators. The fact is that there has been a serious gap in communication in that field for many years, and efforts at persuading administrators to learn a little more about science, or at persuading scientists to learn more about administration, have not been altogether effective. I myself was directly concerned with several efforts to persuade practising scientists to move into administrative departments for the sake of gaining experience of administration, because that would be valuable to them later if they rose to higher positions in the scientific sense. But it was always difficult. No scientist worth his salt would willingly leave his own line of research, or his own field of science, until he felt he had to.
I think that Lord Rothschild is probably right in suggesting that the time has come when it would be in the interests of both sides of the Civil Service to apply some degree of moral pressure, by saying to scientists that unless they acquire professional administrative experience at some stage—preferably, at some early stage in their careers—they must not be too sanguine about their chances of being appointed to the headship of large scientific establishments where administrative competence is really very important. I 1042 do not suggest that such appointments should never be made unless that experience has been obtained, because there have been exceptional cases where the headships of research establishments have been filled most admirably by people from university chairs or the like, even though the professional administrative experience has not been there. But, in general, for the career scientist in the Civil Service what the Rothschild Report proposes is surely right, and very much in line with the kind of developments which the Fulton Commission so strongly recommended. I commend it strongly to the Government and suggest that this part of the Rothschild Report is one which we can support without any reservations at all.
I should like to say one last word about the application of the Rothschild proposals to particular Research Councils. I do not wish to become involved in the arguments about which of them can most easily bear the application of the Rothschild formula. I confess that at the end of this debate I am slightly less sympathetic to the Medical Research Council than I was at the outset, because I think that a great deal of powerful special pleading has worn me down. I noticed that it is claimed that the Medical Research Council devotes about 90 per cent. of its efforts to basic research, not applied. This is partly because we have in this country a very powerful pharmaceutical industry which, in the field of development of and research into drugs has surely, at considerable cost, taken on a good deal of what would otherwise have been the burden of the Medical Research Council. Similarly, the work of the Agricultural Research Council—and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, told us last night that his estimate of the present form is that 80 per cent. of its work is basic research—has been greatly helped by the existence of a pretty strong industry which is prepared to do research into fertilisers, pesticides, feedingstuffs and the like. In other words, a good deal of applied research has been taken off its shoulders. I think we ought to bear this in mind when dealing with the position of the other Councils.
I personally begin to feel that perhaps Rothschild has been rather severe in his approach to the NERC which is, 1043 after all, a pretty young Council, working in a field in which there is no private sector expenditure at all. There are no industries to help very much in its field. Moreover, it is a new field in which much basic research has still to be done. Our national anxiety about pollution, about the spoiling of our natural resources, is only just beginning to reach its proper vigour, and I strongly believe that the NERC, which is not a big spender anyway, ought possibly to be left alone for a bit. I am less sure that the S.S.R.C. deserves the immunity from intervention which is suggested in the Report. By and large, the social sciences lend themselves to applied work more easily than the physical sciences do. There is less scope in the social sciences for pure research, unapplied, and I am not sure that it is right to let it go. But, here again, we are dealing with a very new Council, and something must be taken into account there.
Finally, my Lords, I do not dissent at all from the suggestion, made from various quarters of the House, that whatever is done about this problem should be started rather slowly and put into operation gradually and flexibly. I do not think it would be wise to reach a conclusion about certain proportions of work which are to be handed over and that they should then be laid down as things that have to be done from a certain date.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I owe an apology to the House for not having been present at the initial stages of the debate yesterday and for having missed half a dozen, at any rate, highly important and interesting speeches. I owe a special apology to my noble friend Lord Bessborough, who initiated what to me has been one of the most fascinating debates I have ever listened to in either House in a speech which, as it read, at any rate, was packed with knowledge and experience and was extremely moderate in the case which it was putting forward—more moderate, perhaps, than the, Rothschild Report itself. I am sorry, too, that I missed the emollient speech of my noble friend the Leader of the House. In my experience he is always emollient, but I gather that on this occasion he was rather especially so. We shall see when he speaks later just how far 1044 he is open-minded on this question of the customer/contractor principle, and on the Report generally.
The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, reminded us that we must declare our interests, and certainly I have a vested interest in the subject-matter of the debate, even though I am not a scientist or an administrator. Nor am I specially knowledgeable on the subjects which we have been discussing. But a long time ago I was Parliamentary member of the Medical Research Council—something more than 35 years ago—and I succeeded my noble friend Lord Cottesloe as chairman of the Postgraduate Medical School of Hammersmith 12 years ago, I think it was, and I retired from the chair only a month or two back. That means that I was brought into fairly close contact with medical science, at any rate; with medical scientists, and with members of the Medical Research Council; and I formed the very highest opinion of them, of their ability, of their devotion, of their integrity and, above all, I think, of their intellectual humility. It always seems to me that the medical scientist, however wide the field of his knowledge, understands that it is still nothing like the depth of his ignorance; and I do not think the same kind of intellectual humility is reflected in the Rothschild Report. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, has left. I had one or two comments to make on his speech, but as time is short I will spare the House.
As a result of my experience with the M.R.C., I most earnestly hope, with the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, that its independence will be preserved, and that the customer/contractor principle will not apply to that particular Research Council. I have some slight hope of that from what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said yesterday. At the foot of column 827 and at the top of column 828 of Hansard he said:I therefore wish to take this opportunity of making it crystal clear that if we were persuaded that the transfer from the Department of Education and Science to an executive Department of a given proportion of the present allocation of funds to a Research Council was likely to render that Research Council incapable of maintaining its viability, or of maintaining its scientific integrity, then that transfer would not take place.I am not quite clear what one can read into that, but I hope very much that, if 1045 it can be shown that the application of the customer/contractor principle to the M.R.C. can be only harmful, then it will be spared. After all, all that the Government have done is to accept the principle of the customer/contractor relationship, leaving their hands free to apply that principle as and where they like. But I certainly think that if the Government consider the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hill of Luton and Lord Zuckerman, to mention only two, they must be persuaded that the application of the principle to the M.R.C. would do very great harm.
I think there is a good deal of misapprehension about the work that is being done by the M.R.C. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that it should be more responsive to social demands—and he instanced, in particular, mental health. He said that it was not doing enough in the field of mental health, and I think rather indicated that it was doing very little indeed. How does he know that, I wonder? The fact is that for the past four or five years mental health has, I understand, been the first priority of the Medical Research Council. Why, then, has not further progress been made? The reason is not very difficult to understand. First of all, you do not get results in five years. Lord Rothschild himself says that you do not get results before seven years have elapsed. There is in this field of mental health a lack of trained personnel, of trained researchers; and there is a lack of clinical experience. All this has to be built up, and it takes time to do it. But more than that, critics like the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I think overlook the fact altogether that nearly 10 per cent. of the budget of the Medical Research Council, £2 million, is devoted to the investigation of the nervous system, which is of course closely connected, obviously, with mental health.
I suppose that the key of the Rothschild Report, certainly to me the most important part of it, is the famous paragraph 6, where the customer/contractor relationship is defined. When I read that paragraph, I cannot get away from the feeling that Lord Rothschild really regards medical research, at any rate, as being something you find in a sales catalogue: you have only to get down the 1046 catalogue from the shelf and write out your order in triplicate and then you have what you want. But of course it is not that at all. As more than one noble Lord has pointed out, you simply do not know what you want, and you cannot know because it is in the womb of the future. If you had had this customer/contractor relationship in existence in the past, I would suppose that very few of the discoveries which have brought such immense benefit to humanity could have been ordered, and probably very few of them would have been made.
We have heard a lot about Sir Alexander Fleming. Supposing that in the 'twenties the Ministry of Health had ordered research into a cure for pneumonia. They might have spent tens of millions of pounds on that and never found a cure. The chances are that Sir Alexander Fleming's more or less accidental discovery, even if it had been made—because he might have been sent chasing up some blind alley at the behest of the Ministry of Health—would perhaps never have been noticed. There was some debate last night as to whether penicillin should have been handed over to private industry to develop or whether it was rightly handed over to the Ministry of Supply in the War, and so on. One of the reasons for the discovery of penicillin, so I am told, was that Sir Alexander Fleming was not a man whose standards of hygiene would have been acceptable to-day—and certainly would not have been acceptable to the Ministry of Health. The fact is that he allowed some dirt to accumulate on a plate; that dirt began to breed and he noticed that bacteria in the neighbourhood of the mould were destroyed; although, as we know, he could not isolate it. I am quite sure from what I heard from the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, that if he had had anything to do with that particular research project Sir Alexander Fleming would not have been allowed inside the laboratory; that the whole thing would have been better organised, and most of us in this Chamber would have been dead of pneumonia by now.
I do not know how many Members of your Lordships' House heard what I thought was the delightful speech—I hope I may say this without seeming patronising—of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan; but he seemed to me on this 1047 point to be expressing a fallacy. He said that to him, as the man in the street, the Peer in the corridor", the customer/contractor principle was something like this: that he had recently engaged an architect, that he had an approximate budget and a fairly specific objective in mind; that he did not knowwhat makes walls stand up or fall down … or what makes good or bad foundations";but that he did have expert advice and everything went well. But in the field of scientific research, or, at any rate, in medical research, he would not have been able to engage an "architect" because he would not have known whether he wanted to build a house or something different; or where he wanted to build, or anything about it—and maybe he would not have wanted a house but a yacht. This idea that you can control that kind of research in the way the noble Lord suggested seems to he the purest fantasy.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, may I intervene in an attempt to justify the fantasy—in a way to substantiate the accusation that it is a fantasy—by saying that the project for which I have engaged an architect is by no means yet complete. It may well be a total failure. But, as I understand it, part of the recommendations in the Rothschild Report, something which is implicit in the extension of the contractor/customer relationship, is a very strong reinforcement of the people who would be able to advise the customer as to the sort of thing he might want. All right; the customer might want a yacht instead of a house; but surely the area of fantasy could be reduced so that there could be some vaguely definable field or area or approach on which the person responsible could start.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. He is perfectly right. That is the argument in the Rothschild Report; that the area of fantasy is reduced by strengthening the scientific ability in the Departments. But this brings us to the question of where this scientific ability is to be found. There is not an unlimited supply of first-class scientific ability in this country. It is clear that if the system is to work at all, the scientists in the Departments must be at least as good, and probably should be better, than the people they are 1048 checking. The noble Lord, Lord Platt. told us an interesting story yesterday. He said:I have myself chaired a Committee on coronary heart disease, for instance, run entirely by the Department. Whom do I find around me on that committee on coronary disease? All the same old faces that I should have seen on a similar Committee on the Medical Research Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 897; 28/2/72.]If the medical staff of the Department of Health and Social Security is to be strengthened to the extent that is necessary I think the result would be something like this. The members of the Research Council will spend as to one-third of their working day at Park Crescent, as to one-third at the Elephant and Castle and as to the other third in the taxi in between.
I cannot believe that this is an efficient way of organising research or of controlling it. I would like to ask my noble friend Lord Jellicoe whether he can give us any idea of the number of scientists who are going to be engaged in this operation recommended by Lord Rothschild. Lord Rothschild himself is a little ambiguous about it. He indicated that there will be a fairly substantial accession of strength to the scientific staff of the Departments. On the other hand, in his Memorandum to the Select Committee, presumably after he had read some of the correspondence in The Times, he is on quite the opposite tack. He says the Departmental organisations will have to be increased in effectiveness and to some extent in numbers but that the chief scientist organisation should be a lean one. That is different from what he says in the Report. I hope very much that my noble friend will be able to tell us just how many scientists will be needed, where they are to be found and whether they will be found without denuding some of the fields of scientific endeavour.
I think that a lot of this discussion about Parliamentary accountability, at any rate in respect of the work of the Medical Research Council, is rather bogus. Why should it be necessary in the case of the Medical Research Council for priorities and programmes to be decided by Government Departments, when it is not at all necessary apparently, and I think rightly, for the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications to decide upon the priorities and programmes of 1049 the B.B.C., which equally spends public money for which ultimately it is accountable? And why is it right for the Coal Board or the Railways Board to have a comparatively autonomous existence, and wrong for the Medical Research Council? Heaven knows!, the Coal Board and the Railways Board cost us far more than all the science in the world put together, and I cannot see the argument for putting this one field under strict Parliamentary accountancy so that Parliament not only has to approve what has been done but also has to decide the programme before it is done. I cannot understand that at all. We have heard a lot, from the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, among others, about special pleading. I still recall the shocked tone of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he discovered that there were sinister vested interests at work in this debate—the special interests of the scientists. I would remind him that politicians, people like us, have a vested interest too. It is in votes. And that is why I say it is important that we should keep science out of it.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ LORD TEDDER
My Lords, I do not know whether, when the Chief Whip's Office arranged the order of debate, they realised that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I made our maiden speeches in the same debate. On that occasion it was a debate on student revolt. He was the innocent student and I the wicked professor who, I suppose, was dominating, or being unsympathetic to, the student community. To-day, my Lords, I am the wicked scientist who, apparently, is "conning" the innocent members of the public, or of your Lordships' House, by my arrogance and my assumption that I, and I alone, know best.
Coming in to bat at No. 11, one knows that everyone is hoping that one will be bowled first ball. In the present situation it is even worse, because I am sure that some of the noble Lords who have come into the Chamber are hoping to hear a Front Bench collision and do not want to listen to a "tail-ender." However, my Lords, I stand my ground because I believe that probably I spend more time actually in the laboratory and more time being directly concerned with the day-to-day management of research than many 1050 of my far more distinguished colleagues who are present. It is true, unfortunately, that my research time is already being eroded by having to decide among other things what effect the Industrial Relations Act will have on universities. However, I speak as a wicked scientist whose major activity is still teaching and research, and who so far has been lucky enough—despite what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Helsby—not to be completely immersed in the morass of administration.
I want to try to give your Lordships some idea of the concern and apprehension felt by an ordinary research scientist working at the laboratory bench. Before discussing the various sections of the Green Paper which cause us concern, I should like to emphasise that there is one section of the first part of the Green Paper which I and most of my colleagues heartily endorse. That is almost the whole of Chapter 4, on pages 15 to 17. We feel that there is a most urgent need for the recruitment into all branches of the Civil Service of men and women with a scientific training. There is one other preliminary point that I should like to make. Some of your Lordships, like some sections of the Press, and apparently the B.B.C.—by calling its programme which was televised the week before last, "Who calls the tune?"—appear, quite mistakenly, to believe that the scientific community resents control by, and accountability to, Government and Parliament. I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say that nothing is further from the truth. I think the greatest wish of all of us is that Government and Parliament would take a little more interest in what we are trying to do. The question, my Lords, is not who calls the tune but what tune is to be called.
Let me turn to why we who work at the bench are bewildered by this document. May I quote once again this famous Chapter 2, page 3, paragraph 6:This report is based on the principle that applied R. and D., that is R. and D. with a practical application as its objective, must be done on a customer/contract basis. The customer says what he wants; the contractor does it (if he can); and the customer pays.I am sorry to quote those words again, but it is the key to the whole thing so far as we are concerned. The memoranda submitted by the Research Councils 1051 clearly indicate why for much of the research they sponsor this principle is unsuitable. I wish to show why, in the view not only of myself but also of my colleagues, the very examples quoted in the Report seem unsuitable to this principle. Paragraph 7 gives examples:The end-product or objective of applied R. and D. is:I take it that Lord Rothschild means an armoured fighting vehicle. I should have thought that the design of a tank was primarily a matter for the military tacticians in consultation with the appropriate engineers. The armoured plate of which the tank is made, however, may well be something to which research scientists can contribute. The size and shape of the crystals making up the metal of the armour plate can undoubtedly have a direct effect on the metal's strength and its tendency to fracture. A study of the effect trace impurities have on the crystallisation of iron may be the kind of information that the metallurgist seeking to produce a new armoured plate may required. The military experts at the Ministry of Defence are clearly the correct people to decide on the capabilities and performance of a new armoured fighting vehicle. They are not, I would suggest, the correct people to decide what areas of research in metallurgy are most likely to produce useful results.
- (a) a product, e.g. a tank…"
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord to ask whether he is implying that the design of an armoured vehicle does not require any research?
§ LORD TEDDER
On the contrary, my Lords, the point I was trying to make is that an armoured fighting vehicle has a great variety of complexities and some aspects of this require scientific research; and that scientific research, in my view, can be assessed only by people who have expert knowledge in the relative field, in this case metallurgy.
§ LORD TEDDER
My Lords, I am sorry; that was to be my next sentence. Having had my joke stolen from me, may I continue. The very next example in 1052 the Green Paper of an end product or objective of applied R. and D. is "an antibiotic". This, my Lords, puzzles me even more. I feel that I need hardly ask assurances of the present Government that they do not intend to nationalise the entire pharmaceutical industry. Surely it is none of the business of the Department of Health and Social Security to be concerned with the development of a new antibiotic; and still less to be concerned with the process of the manufacture of that antibiotic. At present the M.R.C. or the A.R.C. might feel that investigation of a certain class of compounds was justified because of their possible antibiotic properties. Equally they might support research into the study of the mode of action of terramycin with a view that if we once knew how it acted, we might be able to make synthetic compounds that were either cheaper or more effective. If as a result of such work a university laboratory, for example, came across a new substance with antibiotic activity, their correct course, in collaboration with the N.R.D.C., would be to find a pharmaceutical company with the resources to develop it. Cephalosporian is an example of just such a development by the M.R.C. from which I believe the N.R.D.C. have received nearly £9 million in royalties. Nisin, developed by the A.R.C., is another example.
The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, gives us another example of,The end-product or objective of applied R. & D.… is … A Process … for removing nitrogen oxides from exhaust gases.To me this is simply a superb example of why the customer/contract principle is totally inadequate to meet the needs of our nation. The oxides of nitrogen are not produced in sufficient quantity in exhaust gases to be of themselves a particularly dangerous hazard. In the presence of ultra-violet light—that is, in ordinary circumstances, bright sunlight—the nitrogen oxides can react with oxygen in the air to produce ozone. The nitrogen oxides are not removed in this process; they are in fact catalysts, and it is the ozone which is the dangerous chemical produced. Fortunately, this problem has been tackled in the very way that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, objects to on page 4; namely, scientists have tried to find out all they can about the physical chemistry of the formation 1053 of smog. If it had been tackled on the customer/contract basis, we should have been unlikely to know where to begin, and the importance of the oxides of nitrogen would never have been understood.
Let me quote to your Lordships the actual wording in the Report:The end-product or objective of applied R. and D.… is: … A Process … for removing nitrogen oxides from exhaust gases.This sounds to me like the very worst kind of scientific roulette; it conjures up a picture of a group of men in the laboratory passing exhaust gases through a tube to which they add one substance after another, presumably in alphabetical order, and when they fail to get any effect like that they will presumably try two substances in pairs. I think anyone can see that the chances of winning £25,000 (I think it is now £50,000) with a Premium Bond or £250,000 from the foot-ball pools are very much greater than achieving success from this kind of investigation. Yet this is the very kind of investigation that the customer/contract principle is likely to lead us into. I am convinced that the only way of tackling this particular problem is to encourage physical chemists to study the fundamental chemistry, that is, the molecular oxygen and nitrogen on the one hand, and the oxides of nitrogen on the other. It is in fact from just such studies that a possible solution to the problem may be found. Your Lordships will see on page 4, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, regards this type of project as one which should be treated with caution, because these projects may imply financial and scientific commitment of an open-ended nature, and in his view these are rarely justified in an applied R. and D. programme.
My Lords, I have discussed three examples not of my choosing but taken from this document. If I can thus show that the very examples selected to demonstrate the customer/contract principle are unsuited to it, what can we make of paragraph 31, which presumes to evaluate the extent to which this principle must be applied. Can you wonder, my Lords that we are bewildered? The straight-forward customer/contract principle as defined by Rothschild can only be applied when there is sufficient scientfiic understanding of the problems involved and 1054 sufficient scientific and technical know-how in order to tackle the problem when once understood. I understand that the prime function of the Research Councils is to ensure that the necessary scientific knowledge is available to be able to cope with partciular problems when they arise. I am an organic chemist, and perhaps by some might be referred to as a "pure scientist"—although I do not personally believe that there is such a thing as "pure science". I have had financial support from the Agricultural Research Council—my Lords, I am coming absolutely clean. The project which the Agricultural Research Council supported is the kind of project that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, would particularly abhor, and yet it is the kind of project which I feel is absolutely essential for our nation's wellbeing.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me at this late hour if I spend a little time telling your Lordships what this project is about. When I took up the Chair of Chemistry in Dundee I quickly became aware that the primary industry of that city was at that time the jute industry. I was very anxious that if possible the chemistry department should in some way be involved with the major industry of the city in which we were situated. Contrary to what many people, and perhaps many of your Lordships, seem to believe, most of us so-called pure scientists are very anxious to find immediate as well as long-term applications of our research work. Anyhow, to continue my story, I consulted the now disbanded Jute Research Association and was advised by the director and his staff that an important problem was: Why does jute, when bleached, quickly discolour again? I do not wish to go into the technicalities of the problem, but I quickly became convinced that the discoloration was due to a particular class of chemical compounds called ortho-quinones. On searching the scientific literature I found that there was surprisingly little known about the chemistry of these compounds. In other words, I felt that the necessary background knowledge in order to tackle the purely practical one was not yet available.
After two years work on the problem, we discovered that other people were interested in the chemistry of these compounds for practical reasons, too, and 1055 these included laboratories run by the Agricultural Research Council. Their interest arose because they believed that discoloration and despoliation of vegetable protein was sometimes due to reactions involving this very class of compound. They therefore gave us support for three years to investigate a particular class of reactions undergone by these ortho-quinones. We were not in the time we had available able to get as far as doing a model experiment with the kind of compounds that occur in leaves. We did, however, complete a very successful investigation, and provided information which will produce a building stone on which further investigations into the applied problem can be built. If it had not been for the A.R.C. we would not have tackled this problem, and the fundamental chemistry required for the solution of the practical problem would not have been done.
§ LORD RHODES
For all carpet backings now only 25 per cent. is jute. What good does it do to have all this research?
§ LORD TEDDER
—but I hope that it may be of value to those scientists who are trying to use vegetable protein for us in the future. I have also received much support from industry, particularly the petroleum industry, because one of my major research interests is in the chemistry of aliphatic hydrocarbons; that is, the kind of compounds that occur in petroleum. The petroleum companies have clearly felt that it was worth while to support open-ended research in this field. We believe that the prime function of Research Councils is to provide the necessary support and background information in the fields of medical research, agricultural research and research into the environment.
In the second part of this document all these ideas are set out with, as has been pointed out, some verbosity. The assertion that it is possible to distinguish between pure and applied research (see the Rothschild Report) is adequately rebutted in paragraph 8 of the C.S.P. Report. The division of scientific work into "tactical", "strategic", and "basic" has been covered so many times 1056 that I do not think I need discuss it again, but I wish to emphasise that to those of us who are working in laboratories this is a very real issue. This division of research into two categories is something that we do not understand and do not feel sympathetic to. I am not now speaking at all from my script; it is getting so late and I realise I must not go on. But this is something over which we feel very bewildered indeed. We do not understand how anyone can believe that it is possible to divide science into just two categories.
Turning back to Lord Rothschild's Report, we find at paragraph 27 on page 13:Strategic research refers to work in a field of general practical interest but there is no precise objective specified by a customer. Given that the very names of the Research Councils—the Medical, Agricultural and Natural Environment Councils obviously imply this, this philosophy or outlook should be rejected.I and most of my colleagues firmly believe that the noble Lord is completely mistaken and that if his advice are taken the Government and the country will quickly find themselves unable to deal with the new scientific problems which will arise in future. From the public point of view, it is essential that a sufficient proportion of Britain's best scientific endeavours should be related to medicine, agriculture and the environment so that where research which is sponsored by industry is unlikely to be extensive we shall have sufficient knowledge to enable us to make new discoveries and to cope with the new problems that already await us. The Research Councils appear to provide the best way of doing this. There is nothing in this document to suggest that the transfer of funds from the Research Councils to the Departments would have anything but a disastrous effect on our ability to cope with the future.
When I started preparing for this debate early in January I sought advice from many of my senior colleagues and collected a very great deal of information. Frankly, had I used half the information that I was given, this already overlong speech would have been extended tenfold. But with the slightly longer time which has been made available for written comment, and knowing that most of what I planned to say had already been submitted to the Government in a written 1057 memorandum, I felt it would be more useful to your Lordships if I gave you the purely personal reaction of a working scientist. While accepting that the customer/contractor principle has undoubted application in certain circumstances, I believe that these are usually in projects which could more suitably be done by British industry than by Government Departments. I hope and believe that the Government will not adopt a rigid approach and force the application of the customer/contractor principle into areas to which it is totally unsuited.
I was tremendously relieved—more than I can say—by the assurance of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, that if funds were transferred it would not be on a scale which would emasculate the Research Councils. At the present time the quality of British research is preeminent in the world. I and many others believe that this is due in no small part to the Research Councils. We have evolved a system which is the envy of other nations and which has repaid the country in manifold ways. Therefore, do not let us destroy this for a doctrinaire scheme which is in many cases demonstrably unsuitable.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, who is a distinguished professor, on his determination—despite the sudden assault upon him by my noble friend Lord Rhodes. I think it was only his second speech, and he stood up to it well. It is, if I may say so, a measure of the debate that right at the very end we have a professor of chemistry among the many other professors speaking in this debate. I do not think that any other assembly could have such a unique make-up. I do not know of any other assembly which would have in it the former President of the Royal Society and so many professors that if I were to say that they were two a penny it would be no reflection on them. Their speeches—and I think I heard most of them except that of the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, and his speech I read with great interest—have been notable. I am only sorry that the newspapers, which have given such vast coverage to all the letters, have done so little reporting of a debate which 1058 must be unique in any assembly in the world. I think it will certainly call for the qualities which are expected from the noble Earl the Leader of the House. To judge from the Financial Times, I see that not only is he greatly underrated but that he is in fact considerably more clever and more complex than even we have suspected. He will need to be complex to deal with the subjects that we have been debating to-day.
This is the moment at which we test the stamina or the fidelity of noble Lords. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has already apologised for his absence and I know that several noble Lords will be going to Cambridge. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, who described himself as a "bandit" and made the most extraordinarily stimulating speech, is not here. For some reason he took it upon himself—and I am told that there is this strong Cambridge loyalty—to defend the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. But in the process he used language about the civil servants and the Ministry of Agriculture that no one has used about Lord Rothschild. However, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Annan, will reappear at some stage. He described himself, as I say, as a "bandit", and it may be that "money for bandits" is what he is really seeking. It is not possible at this late hour to discuss the whole wide subject. Inevitably, our debate has been somewhat distorted as a result of the nature of the particular controversial proposals contained in the Rothschild Report. I do not know whether I ought to declare an interest, but in fact I have no interest really because as President of the Royal Geographical Society I am unpaid. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, is President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, but he actually has a vested interest because he is a distinguished animal geneticist.
I think we ought to be careful not to cast Lord Rothschild in the role of Socrates and the entire scientific establishment, including such people as Lord Zuckerman and many others, as mere Sophists. Quite frankly, when it comes to the argument I think a great deal of truth is emerging. I will not therefore repeat the figures given so clearly by my noble friend Lord Kennet in his tightly-argued 1059 speech, which were also very clearly expressed in the leader column of yesterday's Times, referring to the size of the problem. While we are in a sense arguing about £28 million out of a total of between £1,000 million and £1,500 million which is spent on research and development, and while in fact the M.R.C. expenditure of £22 million is 1 per cent. of what is spent on the National Health Service—and I do not therefore quite see why the Ministry of Health cannot find some money for research if it wants to, because it does in fact find £6 million for operational research—we are discussing principles which are quite fundamental not just to the progress of science but to the organisation of our society and its democratic institutions. I know these may sound rather solemn and ponderous words, but I believe they really affect our confidence in our Parliamentary institutions.
I think the House as a whole has felt a little embarrassed—though, I am happy to say, on the whole uninhibited—by the fact that the author of the Rothschild Report is one of its own members yet at the same time a civil servant unable to take part but certainly not unable or incapable of defending himself in a thoroughly un-Civil-Service-like way, which none the less we are all for. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, and other noble Lords have indicated, the personality of Lord Rothschild is very much a factor in this controversy, just as the personality of Professor Lindemann was in earlier controversial days. While I am not suggesting that there is a resemblance, there is an analogy. Lord Rothschild is a man of immense distinction: he is a man—and here I believe the analogy is valid and at this point I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Annan, because at one moment I thought there was going to be a sort of epitaph rather than an encomium upon Lord Rothschild—is that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, is a man who has served his country not just with distinction but with very great courage. The name of Rothschild—and this is a factor in weighing this—carries a certain magic with it, not least in the scientific field. I am not quite sure whether it was Lord Rotherschild's uncle or grandfather who was the great entomologist. I am told that he once offered my father £1 million if he could find a flea in the Antarctic.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
No, regrettably not. It was a fairly safe bet. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild has stuck his neck out, and a few sharp karate chops do not come amiss even if some of them are more easily parried than others. A great deal of the complications that face us and the Government, and all those who are involved in this matter, have arisen owing to the nature of the Report. It is quite unfair to say that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, was writing in his Whitehall style. Incidentally, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, that I regard the best Whitehall English to have a clarity and style which is unequalled. It has been necessary to interpret, and no one has helped more manfully to reinterpret the noble Lord, Lord Rothshcild than the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. Nobody appears to be more conscious of the need to do so than himself.
The remarks I hope to make will. I trust, be constructive, because provided that the results of this controversy are not counter-productive—and here it is necessary to bear in mind the words of the noble Lord, Lord Rosenheim, and others, with regard to the possible damage to morale—and provided the Government keep an open mind (and here again it is this open mind as well as the complex mind that we want from the noble Earl), I believe that the Rothschild Paper, associated also with the Dainton Report, will have rendered a most signal service, some of it perhaps not entirely intended, in raising in a rather over-stark form issues of the greatest importance and ones which sooner or later will have to be faced by any Government.
I therefore propose to confine my remarks mainly to the aspect of the functioning of Government in this field. There was a danger that this controversy would be debated in too simpliste terms. It raises the most complex issues impinging on sociological matters, on individual behaviour, on organisation and, not least, on the meaning of language. As the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, points out, we need to have a terminology which is reasonably precise and also reasonably comprehensive to cover what we are talking about. Here I should like to make my first request to the Government. 1061 I have several jobs for the Social Sciences Research Council, who somehow seem to be aside and impartial in these matters. I suggest that they should be asked to investigate the language and agree with the different bodies which form of language should be adopted.
I do not believe that the division into basic and applied research is adequate. With the greatest respect, this is where I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Byers. I do not believe that they are adequate as a framework, as a medium for discussing these problems, just as two dimensions flatly expressed on a chart are not capable of revealing the nature of an organism whether a business or a living organism. Even three dimensions are not adequate for this purpose. Yet we have to use the English language; we cannot meaningfully discuss governmental organisation, in this House anyway, in mathematical symbols or in formulae. Therefore, we have to use certain expressions and here we have the contractor/customer relationship. This also conceals as much as it reveals. Since much of the debate has revolved around this point I should like to try to get it into perspective. It may be an ugly expression but, properly used, it is a convenient one. As the noble Lord, Lord Todd, pointed out (and I remember the 1948 Report of whatever the advisory council on scientific policy was called in those days, calling for an increase in contract work in the field of research) it is perfectly reasonable to apply the contractor/customer relationship to research. It has to be considered very carefully and be used in appropriate fields.
It is perfectly true, as the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, said, that the previous Government's Green Paper Industrial Research and Development in Government Laboratories made wide proposals for a contractual relationship. Where the noble Earl missed the point was that first of all it was concerned primarily with industrial research. One of the striking points is that the Rothschild proposals have less to do with industrial research than any of the other aspects, and talk mainly about medical, environmental and agricultural research. What may apply and be valid in one field may not be as appropriate or to the same 1062 extent valid in another. Furthermore, the previous Government's proposals, the previous Green Paper—and I think it was a Labour Government that invented Green Papers—said that experience in this country and abroad suggested that no Government Department could decide centrally what research programmes were best designed to serve the needs of industry. This is the opposite end, in a sense, of what the Government are proposing. I am sorry; I withdraw my remark that it is the Government who are proposing, because we do not know what the Government are proposing. What is implicit in the Rothschild proposals is that it shall be the Government Departments who shall decide in this matter.
The Rothschild proposals, for reasons that are not apparent to me, as I have said, focus mainly on medical, environmental and agricultural research and scarcely touch on industrial research where the customer/contractor principle has been most usefully established. Furthermore, he proposes to establish a multiplicity of contractors. I should like to quote from a letter from a very distinguished industrialist who is a well known engineer. He said:I think Rothschild's approach is much too much that of the engineer".I admit he is a biochemist, but we all branch into other people's fields. He went on:In this field such an approach is efficient and economic because the physical sciences have reached a point where a great deal is known about the properties of the raw materials with which the research worker is concerned but this is much less true of medical research.I have consulted a number of people involed in industry—engineers and others—who, like the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, are critical of certain of the Rothschild proposals.
There is one question which has still to be answered satisfactorily—and this is particularly true in the field of medical research as of agricultural research. Who are the real customers? The customer/contractor is a simple concept valuable for looking at something and for trading. A slogan is valuable, but is it really meaningful when we come to medical research? Here, the exchanges between the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, late the other 1063 night on penicillin—in which the noble Lord, Lord Platt, played a sort of unwilling, pig-in-the-middle part, in the rather unusual debate we had suddenly in the middle of a debate—left who the customer was very much up in the air. I do not think we can ignore or reject the powerful arguments, which are practical and which are not theoretical, which have come from the Medical Research Council and so many noble Lords in brilliant speeches such as that of the noble Lord, Lord Rosenheim. Is the "customer" the doctor, the clinician, the general public; or can the Government genuinely be said to be the customer? I am still not rejecting this principle, but I am saying that there are great dangers in implying it in too simple a language.
Here perhaps it is worth while noting that everybody else seems to be tearing themselves to pieces on this subject. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, there is this interesting Report, Science Growth and Society, which I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, also will read when he takes time off from getting the electricity of the country running again. It is an O.E.C.D. Report which again goes at great length into this complex issue and, among other things, makes the statement that:all scientific and technological activities, from pure research to the development of prototypes, can be regarded as a continuum within which meaningful lines of demarcation cannot be drawn, even though different policies are appropriate at different times along the continuumHere it seems to me, listening to the extremely interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that the Government in the field of the environment are regarding research as a continuum and are not being led off into this rather narrow definition of applied research, whether it be about a tank or a "think tank". They are in fact taking the wider role. This begins to make more sense in appropriate areas.
I would sum up this part of my argument by saying that the customer/contractor description is useful, but it is not adequate to describe complex theories of the inter-relationships, which again I say have profound sociological and human aspects, any more than the customer/ contractor relationship can usefully apply to other human institutions such as marriage. It is dangerous if you take an 1064 expression from one field of activity and transport it to the other, if you carry all the connotations with it. Therefore I hope the Government will think this matter through, as I am sure they are doing, very hard, and I would echo the appeal of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his interesting speech, that a great deal more mental effort should be made in the whole subject.
When we were talking about terms we had the benefit of the explanation of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman. I am bound Ito say that I prefer the explanation from the Gibbs/Zuckerman Report, and the only criticism I would have made in personal terms of Lord Rothschild was his rather crude reference in his lecture that since Gibbs is no longer with us, it is up to Zuckerman to explain what he meant. Well, Zuckerman has, I think, explained what he meant, and if there is any doubt perhaps we can also ask Sir George Edwards. But we are in a difficult area and one which is a real area, and the meaning of words is fundamental to the consideration of this problem. That is why I was particularly interested in the very attractive speech last night of the noble Lord, Lord Hinton of Bankside, when he again explained the interplay between curiosity-oriented research and project research.
I have already dealt briefly with the question of dividing lines, but there is then the question as to who is to do the applied research; and here I by chance only to-day have an example of some research done, interestingly enough, by an R.A.F. air commodore who also happens to be a professor, studying the presence of standing waves with differing modes of resonance to the pulse wave. In the process it was decided to take this study on into studies of the eye, and they created a parametric model based on the avian egg. At the end of the day they think they may have found potentially a cure for migraine. Although this is a jolly example, it indicates once again the nature of the continuum and the problem as to who in fact is to do the applied research.
My Lords, let me turn now briefly to the famous, not to say notorious, Table 4. Here, and in the Rothschild Report, we have a number of financial comparisons—for example, ageing versus molecular biology; I cannot remember 1065 the particular one—which are so positively misleading that it is really dangerous to bandy them around. We have not yet reached the stage—and nobody knows this better than the noble Lords, Lord Zuckerman and Lord Helsby—of sophistication in our accounting methods in a field as complex as this to allocate, other than for simple accounting purposes, resources of this kind in a meaningful way. A few years ago programme planning and budgeting systems were all the rage. They were introduced into the Ministry of Defence and I am bound to say they were very valuable as a tool of management, but they were not necessarily valuable as a revealer of objective truth. P.P.B.S. is an extremely valuable technique—and I hope the present Government are pushing on with it. After all, it was the Conservative Government, before we came into office, who introduced it into the Ministry of Defence, and it certainly makes discussion on resource utilisation more meaningful. But, so far as I know, we have hardly begun to introduce it into the health and social security fields. We should be very ill advised to use such primitive accounting devices as a guide to policy decisions.
This leads me to the question of accountability. We are all agreed that there must be as much accountability as possible, and in theory I should like the Government to allocate resources of all kinds much more precisely and with a much greater social purpose if necessary —indeed that underlies the whole Socialist principle. The language of priorities sums it up as well as anything. But I regret to say, as a social democrat and a liberal (with a small "1", and I am not saying that Liberals with a large "L" are not also liberals with a small "1") who belives in freedom, that I think human competence and technique, as the Communist societies have found, has not yet reached the stage where this sort of thing can be done effectively in many vital areas of human activity. Nor, in a free society—and this is where we have to be careful not to carry this contractor/customer principle too far—would it be wise to accept the enormous bureaucratic conclusions, the ill effects of which were one of the main reasons for the recent Chinese cultural revolution.
1066 I do not wish to leave important decisions affecting human welfare and happiness to a form of roulette, whether it is scientific roulette or any other kind of roulette, any more than I wish to leave them to crude market decisions, and indeed I do not believe any of us would. Therefore, my Lords, I am nervous at this time and I doubt the competence of a Government, one of whose main declarations was that they were going to cut down the Civil Service and were going to hive off this, that and the other, to move fast at this stage of our development and to take on, on theoretical grounds, responsibilities which may be being discharged—and indeed there is every reason to believe (except in Scotland) are being discharged—adequately by existing institutions. It would seem to me to be going contrary to Government policy to do so and to attract to themselves more responsibilties than are necessary.
In fact the present Government will have to take on new responsibilities; and again I was most impressed by the breadth of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. It is obvious that in certain areas the Government will have to spend a great deal more money on research, without adopting a device which, in the form in which it has been apparently presented to us, appears to be a bit gimmicky and irrelevant. Much of what Lord Rothschild has said is valid; the question is whether it is wise to introduce a type of arbitrary, surgical change in the relations between the Research Councils and the Government. By all means strengthen the influence of the Government, and by all means, even at this stage, let us consider other ways of doing so. Some are mentioned in the Rothschild Report. I was personally attracted by the proposal (although I can see that there are arguments against it) mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, that the Agricultural Research Council should come to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Lord Rothschild speaks a great deal about logic and this would appear to be logic; it may be dangerous logic but there is a whole gamut of organised steps that can be taken.
The Government must play a bigger part in the allocation of resources to science. Where I think Lord Rothschild 1067 goes wrong is that he is ahead of his time, and it is dangerous to destroy, without good reasons, institutions which are working and which I believe are socially responsible in their attitude. Lord Rothschild said that the recommended changes in the new system of financing the Research Councils should be implemented in principle (I am not quite sure how one implements something "in principle") on April 5, 1972. The key, however, to what he was saying was the need for setting up the chief scientist organisations as quickly as possible. Previous Governments have been too slow—and I must lake my share of the responsibility in this matter—in developing the role of the scientist in Government Departments. It is not enough: one Zuckerman and one Rothschild do not make a scientific summer. If this Report strengthens the hand of the noble Earl in setting up chief scientist organisations in principal Departments I am all for it; but until the machinery is working it would be dangerous to make too radical changes.
Another criticism, which I hope is not offensive to the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, is that he has tried to lay the egg before we have succeeded in creating the right sort of hen, and I think it is up to the noble Earl to see to that. I have no doubt that this is an area where Government and Parliament ought to play a much bigger part. But there is yet another obstacle, and that is the question whether Parliament or Government are possessed of the competence to operate in this area. That they ought to do so is not logically open to doubt, and I am wholly with Lord Rothschild on that point, but we need to advance much further if we are democratically to be able to order our affairs in the field of science and technology. This raises such wider questions as education and the need for Parliament itself to create new institutions, as in fact it is slowly beginning to do in the public expenditure field. If any noble Lord wishes to consider this matter further I would only refer him to the Clarke Lectures which bear on this point. At the moment we have one admirable institution, to which noble Lords have referred, and that is the Select Committee on Science and Technology.
1068 I should like to suggest, as my noble friend Lord Beswick has suggested (and I think this debate bears justification for it) that either we ought to consider proposing to another place that we make our own contribution in a Joint Select Committee—and there is no doubt the ability is in this House—or the Government might consider the possibility of the House of Lords setting up their own Select Committee in this field, with perhaps a co-ordinating Committee with another place so that there was not unnecessary overlapping. I have no doubt that this is an area where Parliament has to start evolving institutions to achieve the type of relevant accountability that we want to see.
In conclusion, I would make two other brief points. One is that there has been a certain frivolity about this discussion, in the sense that it has focused on particular issues that were arguable. I should like to endorse what my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder said—and my noble friend Lord Beswick touched on this, and so particularly did my noble friend Lord Brown—that this area of human activity is particularly appropriate for research, and it is surprising how little research has been done in this matter. In particular, I have in mind books like Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolution, a profound work combining both science and the approach of the historian. If anyone studies this, and the significance of the role of the paradigm in this matter of the development of scientific progress, he will see that it calls for a more serious and deeper approach than is possible to be done by Reports that are written in a great hurry. I believe, as my noble friend Lord Balogh said, that the Social Sciences Research Council ought perhaps to be asked to consider the whole matter. There ought to be more research done here, and I would urge the Government to give consideration to this point.
I would end by saying that I hope the Government will listen carefully to the overwhelming arguments that have been used and that they will take the Report back. I hope that they will consider it again in the light of the arguments and representations that have been made to them and that they will come out with a very careful proposal which does not go too fast too quickly, while at the same 1069 time initiating the sort of research which I think the whole vast problem calls for.
§ 9.20 p.m.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Snow—I apologise for mentioning his name, I thought he was on the wing—who suggested yesterday that we might be facing something of a crisis of confidence among our scientific community. I do not wish to exaggerate these matters. Nevertheless, the disquiet, and indeed the somewhat over-heated reaction which the Green Paper has excited, does at least suggest that we should be paying very careful attention to these factors of morale and malaise, which I do not think can be entirely attributed to the virtues or vices of Lord Rothschild's particularly pungent prose style. Having said that, I should like to say that I did not entirely agree with all of Lord Snow's interesting diagnosis here, because I think he was suggesting that it was a threat to the charms of pure science, which some of our scientists had read into the Rothschild Report, which was perhaps at the root of this malaise in the scientific community.
I believe that opinion down the ages has been fairly evenly divided between those who feel that the chief aim of science is the sheer joy of finding something out, and that practical discoveries can, and indeed should, he no more than the by-product of knowledge for its own sake, and those who consider that the reverse is a great deal nearer the truth. I personally believe that there is a great deal of truth in both these two theses. I accept the fact that for many scientists it is the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, the charms of pure science, which leads them to devote perhaps their whole life to a laboratory. I accept that there are those who agree with G. H. Hardy's famous aphorism, "Here's to pure mathematics, and may it never find an application".
I accept, with many noble Lords, the value of knowledge just for the sake of knowledge, and I also accept the fact that there are many instances where purely curiosity-oriented research has unexpectedly resulted in a practical application of immense value. We have heard some of them itemised in the course of 1070 the last two days' debate. In accepting to this degree what I think the noble Lord had in mind, I should like to offer a few crumbs of comfort. Nowhere, so far as I know, has Lord Rothschild suggested—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Platt, pointed this out very fairly in his speech last night—that the acceptance of his Report would necessarily involve a cutback in pure or basic research. By the same token, there is nothing in his Report, as I read it, which need lead to a cutback in university sponsored research.
Again I should have thought it inconceivable, speaking personally, that the type of pure research work which I have recently seen, such as by that marvellous team at the Molecular Biology Laboratory in Cambridge, for example. or the S.R.C.'s support for the five kilometre radiotelescope at Lord's Bridge under Sir Martin Ryle, or the A.R.C. support for the Institute of Animal Physiology at Babraham—the Institute which I know the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. had in mind—just to quote three of them, would be adversely affected by anything in Rothschild. Therefore, I really do not believe that there is reality in the threat to pure research which some have read into the Rothschild thesis.
So much for the traditional charms of pure research which I, for one, by no means underestimate. But I wonder whether it is fear of the departure of these charms which really underlies the malaise, the self-questioning, which I think is genuinely evident in the scientific community today, and which I think there was before the Green Paper, too. I think many scientists are genuinely worried at the latent divorce of science from social responsibility. I had read the O.E.C.D. report to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred before I helped in turning on half the electric lights in your Lordships' House. That Report stresses, among many other things, the profound relationship between science and social policy. I believe that there is common ground, not least among scientists, that the social, indeed the political relevance of science, is more than many have recognised in the past.
In my view, many more scientists today wish to be more directly involved than perhaps they are in a more direct and a 1071 more frontal attack on the industrial, economic and social problems which confront the country. It could be that they share the view which many of us feel about the disproportion which has existed in this country for so long between our percentage spend on research and development and the increase in our G.N.P. which we manage to achieve. I will not go into the argument about the value of the increase in G.N.P. and the extent to which this is related, but there may be a relationship. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, in what he said yesterday, that in certain respects we can count ourselves unlucky as a nation with the way many of our programmes of applied research have worked out in the post-war decade. If this is what we need, this surely demands a far closer relation between our scientists and our research establishments, be they extra-mural or intra-mural so far as Government is concerned, and those who are commissioning the research and are responsible ultimately for national policy.
I agree with the general thesis which a great many noble Lords have developed in the course of this long two-day discussion. I am thinking about what the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, said and the noble Lords, Lord Byers, Lord Shannon and Lord Courtown yesterday and the noble Lords, Lord Bowden, Lord Caldecote and my noble friend Lord Ironside to-day, that as part of our review we require to give very close attention indeed to how better we can feed back the results of our research, be it pure or be it applied—that research which is almost invariably first rate—into our total national effort in the industrial sphere which is almost invariably a bit laggard. If we succeed in doing this—and this is an area to which I believe we as a nation must be giving much more close attention—and the Government are doing it in the light of this review, I believe we shall be doing something to reduce that malaise which exists in the scientific community.
My Lords, I was very struck by a graphic phrase which fell from the lips of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave yesterday in the course of a telling speech, suggesting that in all this the theologians of each faith have fought for the conversion of their opponents and, failing that, have sought to consign them, wearing 1072 the tall pointed hat of the unrepentant heretic, to the flames. Nevertheless, I ask myself the question now, as we come to the conclusion of this discussion, whether this dispute which we have been on the fringes of for the last two days is in fact so mediæval, so fundamental so theological, so violent as some have suggested. I am inclined to think not, because I believe that there have been a number of common threads running through our discussion. First, I think we are all agreed on the underlying importance which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, very rightly stressed, of the issues raised in the Green Paper.
Science is of vital importance to our society and it would seem that we have not been making the best use of it and of some of the best minds in our community, and whatever else we do this does suggest that we should be looking at the way in which we order things. We are all agreed that we should look at this in the widest possible seting, and I was touching on this point just now. I believe that much of the debate this last three months has been a bit off the rails in this respect. Some have claimed that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild switched the points a bit here—that the Report concentrated unduly on the Research Councils. I touched on this yesterday and I will not elaborate, but it is true that the Royal Society, for example, have not confined their criticisms of Rothschild to the Research Councils.
The noble Lord, Lord Blackett, yesterday referred to the strictures of their Industrial Activities Committee on the Rothschild Report. I do not wish to get into a dispute at this hour with the noble Lord about who is most able to represent the views of industry on these matters. But I suggest to the noble Lord, as I think others have done, that the views on this matter of the Confederation of British Industry should not be neglected. The C.B.I. have made it clear in the comments which they recently submitted to the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government that from the widest standpoint of industry and in the light of the answer to the question whether policy and priorities for applied research—these are their words—should be decided by scientists on scientific, grounds, or by scientist-administrators on the basis of much wider consideration ",1073 they are prepared to plump, with only a few reservations, for Rothschild's general approach.
That said, I would not dissent from those noble Lords who have stressed that, while only a relatively small proportion of our research goes into the science budget and through that budget to the Research Councils, and while only a relatively small proportion of that would be subject to the Rothschild principle, nevertheless the implications of all this are peculiarly important because the work of the Research Councils lies at the root of much of our scientific endeavour in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for example, asked why it was necessary to tear up the Research Councils by the root in order to achieve the social relevance to which I have referred, at a time when no evidence had been produced to show how and where the present system was falling down. I do not think there is any proposal to tear anything up by the roots; and let me repeat that the Government are, for their part, fully and appreciatively aware of the value and quality of the work which is done within the present system. My personal feeling is not to quibble about what possible failings there may have been in the past. But if we require closer articulation—and I think we do—and if we require closer mutual responsiveness between Departments and Research Councils, I should have thought that with good management we could get even better results in the future. I am fortified in my belief that the responsiveness factor can be got right because the Research Councils themselves, off their own bat, have suggested that the Departmental assessors at the present time should be full members of their own Councils.
I think there are other points on which there has been general agreement throughout this debate. The first is that almost all of us feel that if we are to get these matters right it is essential to improve the organisation of scientific advice to and within Departments. A lot of scientists seem to have thought that Lord Rothschild was pointing a pretty blunt finger at the Research Councils. My reading of Rothschild, like, I think, the reading of the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, is rather different. I personally have felt that if he was pointing 1074 a blunt finger anywhere the target was Government itself. In fact, in his Report he made it absolutely clear that the transfers which he envisages in that famous Table 4 should be carried out only as and when Government Departments, as consumer Departments, are sufficiently enlightened to be able properly to discharge their added responsibilities. My noble friend Lord Sandford—and I am grateful to the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, for his recognition of this fact—gave an extra-ordinarily interesting example of how one customer Department was approaching the whole problem of research across a very wide area and on a deep, long-term basis.
We have heard strictures, not least from my old noble friend—if I may so call him—and former boss Lord Hill of Luton, about the lack of omniscience of certain Government Departments. I do not dissent from that; but if one accepts what is said—and I do—what is essential is to equip those Departments with the right scientists and the right scientific organisation, so that they should be able better to evaluate the options open to them. In fact, I would entirely go along with what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said, speaking with all his great experience. What we really must do is so to order things that the scientists are really part of the policy-making machine, far more so than they have been in the past. My answer to my noble friend Lord Coleraine, who was asking what this would mean in quantity, is that I cannot possibly say. This must be taken case by case. But what I can say is that it is quality which is required here, not quantity. Again, I think there has been absolute agreement on the principle of mobility, of following through Fulton—a point again on which the noble Lord, Lord Helsby, dwelt far better than I am able to do. Thirdly, I do not think there has been any dissent from the proposition in Rothschild that the annual grant to the Royal Society of Edinburgh should be paid by the Scottish Office.
I emphasised yesterday, and I wish again to stress to-night, that at the present time the Government, in their introductory memorandum to the Green Paper, have gone firm on three points, and three points only; and now, as we near the conclusion of our marathon—as I see, 1075 with a sigh of relief, that I am coming close to the stadium—I should like to comment briefly on some of the things which have been said on those three particular points. In the first place, your Lordships know that the Government have endorsed the customer/contractor principle as such so far as applied research is concerned, and I note that in this debate the principle, or at least the phrase, has had something of a mixed reception. Some noble Lords feel that it smacks too much of the market place. Others, like the noble Lord, Lord Byers, seemed able to accommodate themselves to it quite easily. I personally believe that the phrase is entirely applicable in certain of the situations envisaged in the Rothschild Report. But I also feel that in others one might find a better phraseology; and, if we can, I should not be averse from that. But I wish to dwell on one point, and that is that in certain of the criticisms which I have seen some people seem to fear that the customer/contractor relationship means all the formality and detail of a contract in commercial terms—seals, fine print and all. I would take the opportunity of this debate to say that this is not how we believe this principle will be translated into practice in most cases.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I make just this comment? The feature of the customer/contractor relationship is the legality—the fine print and all the rest of it. That is what signifies that sort of relationship; and if you do not have it, you do not have a customer/contractor relationship.
My Lords, in certain cases I think that is so, but in other cases I should myself prefer the term "sponsorship", which I think meets the case more accurately. I would not dissent from the noble Lord. Lord Brown, in certain instances, but I do not think one should be absolutely flat in one's statements as to how this will work out in practice. Again, it will be a case by case approach. That said, my Lords, I do not—
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, would the noble Earl forgive me for one moment? I have had some experience of these relationships in my own work in the university, and in every case where 1076 there has been a contract with a Government Department it has taken a long time to negotiate. Frequently the negotiations have not been concluded until several months after the research has begun; and this raises serious problems. So if the noble Earl says that the machinery is going to be changed, it will have to be changed radically within the Departments.
My Lords, I think we must invoke the aid of the noble Lord, Lord Brown, then, in seeking how best to resolve this particular problem of mechanics. In any event, I do not think that I have heard any noble Lord in this debate (save, perhaps, the noble Lord, Lord Tedder) dissent from the principle that it is appropriate that in many cases the user should pay for the research he needs to carry out his objectives. Nor, as I have interpreted this debate, has any noble Lord suggested that a percentage of the research at present carried out by the Research Councils should not be susceptible to this approach. Where there has been disagreement, where there is disagreement, is about how far this principle should be extended and to whom it should be extended. The noble Lord, Lord Helsby (who must be getting bored of hearing me refer to him), suggested that some of the Research Councils which have been excluded by Rothschild should be included, and vice versa. In any event let me make it clear that at this moment the Government have no closed mind on this. Nor do they have a closed mind on the size of possible transfers. Further, they have a completely open mind on the timing of these transfers. Where they have a closed mind is on the principle that no transfer should take place unless and until the Government Departments concerned are properly equipped and capable of managing the funds entrusted to them.
The second principle which the Government accept is the maintenance of the Research Councils as an integral part of our national research and development scene. Here I should like to repeat that we are committed to maintaining their viability and scientific integrity; and I have already emphasised that I see no threat in the Green Paper to the quantity or quality, scale or excellence, of pure research carried out in this country. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Snow, 1077 that it is desirable, if only for the magnetism it can exercise on the minds of some of the best of our scientists, that we should continue to attract excellence in this field. That is why I made it clear that the Government would not be prepared to transfer responsibility for any Research Council funds to an executive Department if they felt that that course would constitute a threat to the viability or the scientific integrity of such Councils.
My Lords, I feel that if only we can tackle this matter calmly there will be no great dispute over what I think Dainton calls the "tactical area". Where I think the difficulties are likely to come is in the area that he has termed "strategic", the area which a number of noble Lords—and I am thinking of the Earl of Halsbury, Lord Rosenheim and Lord Hinton of Bankside—have termed the "grey areas". It is certainly the Government's interpretation of Rothschild that a Department should not be precluded from commissioning work in the strategic or basic areas if they deem this work essential to the discharge of their departmental functions and objectives.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, the noble Earl said that the Government will not transfer anything if it looks like harming the scientific integrity of any of the Research Councils. is he in a position to say who would be the judge of that question? Will the Research Councils themselves be allowed to judge whether their scientific integrity would be harmed by a proposed transfer? if not, who would judge?
My Lords, I do not think that I should be prepared to give a flat answer to that question. This is just the sort of thing which will be worked out in the kind of sensible dialogue which I believe should be encouraged, in the partnership which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, called for between the Research Councils and the Government—a partnership that I should have thought could be obtained easily. If we can get that sensible working relationship I do not think that the sort of theoretical question that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has put to me need necessarily arise.
1078 My Lords, it seems to me that there is everything to play for here. My own plea is that this particular play should be conducted sensibly, and I think that this debate has helped to contribute towards the importation of some common sense into this whole discussion. I see no reason why there should be a confrontation here between opposing forces. I should like to give Lord Beswick the assurance he asks for as to the concept of partnership. I endorse that. Certainly the way in which we can work towards establishing such a partnership will be very much in the minds of the Government as we come to our decisions in this respect. Partnership I believe involves the two-way flow of ideas from top down and bottom up for which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has called.
My Lords, I could deal, but I will not at this stage, with certain detailed criticisms made of certain of the detailed proposals of Lord Rothschild. I should like, even though it may be improper for me at this stage to do so, to single out one Research Council, the Medical Research Council, of which so many noble Lords have spoken. All I should like to say is that I would wish, and I know the Government would wish, to study carefully what has been said by a number of noble Lords, many of whom are sitting on the Cross Benches, about the impact which they fear the Rothschild proposals would have if carried out on the Table 4 basis. I would not wish to go beyond that at this stage, but I commit myself and the Government to a very careful study of the remarks that they have made. I believe that this has been a helpful debate. There has been a tremendous amount of expertise and very special knowledge brought to bear in it. I can only again assure noble Lords that I hope those who have contributed to it will not feel that their advice will be falling upon deaf ears. My Lords, in this respect the ears of the Government are very much open.
I should just like to say four things in conclusion. May I express once again deep appreciation to Lord Rothschild and to Sir Frederick Dainton for their Reports. Lord Rothschild has taken a number of hard knocks up and down the country recently and some quite severe ones in this debate, but he is well able to look after himself. I should only like 1079 to say with what pleasure I heard the words—and no doubt Lord Rothschild will read them with pleasure—which fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Annan. Whatever we may feel about the Rothschild Report we may all agree that it has made a considerable impact on the scene that we have been discussing.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl—only because I feel that he is working up to his peroration—to ask whether, among the four points, there are the two points which I put to him? Or would he extend his four points to six and deal with the suggestion of either a joint or a separate Select Committee and further research in this area?
My Lords, I will extend my four points to six. The second one will be to say that I shall be glad to look at the suggestion about research which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has put to me. The third point will be to deal very quickly with his interesting suggestion about a Joint Select Committee or some possible variant on that. My Lords, I paid a tribute yesterday, and it was a sincere one, to the work of the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. But I believe that in this House—this debate has demonstrated it if demonstration were needed—we have a pool of expertise and knowledge on these matters which is perhaps unrivalled in any Parliamentary Assembly in the Western World. I do not think that this is too big a claim and, in principle, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition knows, I favour the development of the Joint Select Committee system. Sneaking personally, I would have nothing in principle against the establishment of such a Joint Select Committee. But in such a matter—and this is a matter for those in another place just as it is for us—it takes two to make a marriage of this kind; and if a proposal were to come from or these words were to fall upon receptive ears in another place, I think that that place would probably find willing "brides" and "bride-grooms" from here to join such a Joint Select Committee.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that, to-day being Leap Year Day, it would be possible for a proposal to come from this House?
My Lords, I am sure that the suggestions which have been made in this debate will be duly noted in another place. There was, of course, the other variant of the noble Lord's proposal which again I think merits study and which might be followed up through the usual channels.
The fourth point I wish to make is once again to underline that the Government fully recognise the essential contribution which research and development and those who conduct research and development can make to our society. The fifth point is that we do not accept that all is necessarily at present for the best in the best of all possible worlds in this respect. I think it would be unwise for us to fall into the state of complacency of the last Empress Dowager of China, who issued a decree:That by the accumulated wisdom of six successive sovereigns our dynasty has succeeded in establishing a system based on absolute justice and benevolence which approaches very near to perfection.My Lords, I am quoting the Empress Dowager since some of your Lordships may remember that I quoted from a more recent Chinese potentate in my remarks yesterday, and I thought it was just as well for my political future if I were to redress the balance straightaway.
Finally, I wish to make one further point. I would not wish to prejudge the decisions to be announced in the White Paper when it comes out; it would be foolish for me to attempt to do so. But I can assure your Lordships of one thing: if we propose certain changes in that White Paper—and it would be rather surprising if we were not to do so—we shall not be proposing changes just for the sake of change. In our deliberations on this matter—and this debate will be very much in our minds when we do so deliberate—we shall have in the forefront of our minds the need to build on what is best in our present system; and the path that we shall follow—and here I think I can predict this with some confidence—will be the evolutionary path which I think many noble Lords have suggested we should tread in this particular matter.
§ 9.53 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, we have had a fascinating two-day debate. I have heard every single 1081 noble Lord, except, I may say, the noble bandit Lord Annan: I regret not having heard him. The debate has been completely non-Party political. There have been speakers pro and anti Rothschild on all sides of the House, and of course many grey areas. All that remains for me to do is to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. Curiously enough, they have not been so very repetitive. I was rather dreading that, thinking that noble Lords would repeat over and over again what we had already heard yesterday. However, they have not done so. I should like to thank particularly my noble friend the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for their profound interest in this subject, and above all for promising a White Paper in the early summer. We all await that with great interest. I thank all other noble Lords. They are not all Nobel Prizewinners, nor yet, in the words of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, canonised. But I thank them for their contributions to the debate. I cannot mention them all by name; my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has mentioned many.
Perhaps I should say one thing about accountability. I believe that a good case has been made out for looking at this again so far as Research Councils are concerned. I am sorry that we have not been able to debate at greater length the C.B.I. document. I am glad that the noble Lords, Lord Beswick and Lord Hayter, mentioned the document, as also at the end did my noble friend the Leader of the House. This is a document that I consider extremely valuable. The noble Lord, Lord Blackett, referred to the Royal Society's Industrial Activities Committee, which certainly has some distinguished industrialists among its members. But that Committee does not represent British industry in the sense that the C.B.I. does. I commend their Paper to any noble Lords who have not seen it.
I recognise that there are different types of science, and not all can be funded in the same way. I agree that some discoveries may be made quite by chance; but I hope, as I said at the beginning, that we may achieve some kind of happy mean in suporting both basic and applied research, both project 1082 research and "curiosity-oriented" research. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Snow, stressed, as Lord Beswick did, that there was common ground in the two Reports. Let us build on that!
As my noble friend Lord Ironside has said, to-day is February 29, Leap Year day. Even if no noble Baroness has spoken in this debate, I hope that the Government will accept some of the proposals that have been made. I understand, incidentally, that the daughter of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, has accepted the proposal of the son of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, who happens to be working in the "Think tank". I am sure that we all wish them both very good fortune in the future.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, as I think that we have probably received a superfluity of Papers on this subject, I would beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.