HL Deb 02 March 1977 vol 380 cc624-41

2.45 p.m.

Lord KENNET rose to call attention to the organisation of research and development since the Rothschild Report (Cmnd. 4814); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion speaks of the organisation of research and development since the Rothschild Report. That is simply for the sake of convenience because of course that organisation develops organically over the decades and the appearance of one or other report—the Haldane Report, the Rothschild Report and so on—merely punctuates this organic development. However, it seemed to many people that, the Rothschild Report having been published and debated in this House four years ago, and its broad outlines having been adopted and put into operation three years ago, this might be a convenient moment for what I should like to think of as a mid-term discussion.

I shall conclude my remarks today by asking the Government whether they will, about three years from now, have some further inquiry of a wide-ranging nature into the whole matter. If they were to agree that about six years is the right time to allow a new principle to run before examining its effect on the economy and on the world of science, then we could look on today's debate as a half-term discussion, not in depth. The House is fortunate in being about to hear two distinguished maiden speakers this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and the noble Viscount, Lord Sidmouth. Lord Baker's past experience will be of particular and obvious appositeness to the matter in hand.

If one pots the Haldane principle as I have heard it potted, it is easy to trace the history of what has happened since. The Haldane principle one could say was that, since in 1916, at the time of its formulation, scientists were poor, vulnerable little creatures, few in number and liable to instant suppression when their results were inconvenient to the policies of their masters, it was expedient that for self-protection they should be gathered together in huddles, where they could defend one another and grow strong while feeding on their own scientific values, and that after a time they should then be strong enough to sally forth and take up a more independent position in the world and act as prime movers instead of vulnerable centres of wisdom in their burrows.

That is, I think, more or less what has happened. During a great part of the history of the Haldane era, the principal huddle was of course in the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research; and then the scientists were allowed to break out of that into the Ministries and Departments, though it is not so long ago—in fact, in my days as a junior Minister; only six years ago—that the chief scientists in Departments were commonly not allowed to see the Minister unless they took with them and had beside them an administrator as a nanny. If one looks at it in that way one can see that the Rothschild Report and the customer-contractor principle were not a negation of everything that had gone before, but a natural development. It was time by then, so held Lord Rothschild in his report, to allow the scientists to stand entirely on their own feet and to be placed at the very top of every Ministry in the form of a chief scientist, and to allow those chief scientists, under the Minister alone, to act as direct customers with the contractors who had actually been doing the research around the place for the Government.

It came at the right moment. We must of course remember that all the fuss at the time of the Rothschild Report was about a very small proportion of the money concerned; it was about research council money. We must remember that Government research and development money, including all military research, is only half that spent in the country; we must remember that only 12 per cent. of that half at that time went to the research councils, and we must remember that only one quarter of that 12 per cent., 1½ per cent., of all the money spent in the country, was to be "customerised" according to the Rothschild principle.

I should now like to ask the Government whether this has happened. Has it been done? Has what Lord Rothschild recommended taken place?—namely, that a quarter of 12 per cent. of Government expenditure should be switched from the Department of Education and Science to the executive Ministers. Are they satisfied with the way it has happened where it has happened in the case of the three research councils? I shall finish with the research councils soon. We only talk about them so much because the Rothschild Report itself and the Dainton Report gave so much space (to them, and because they are so very visible and so glamorous in a way. Of course, the great bulk of things, both in the Rothschild Report and in life, have been continuing to develop without criticism and without bumps.

There is a common opinion that within the "Rothschilded" sector, as it were, things have worked best with the Agricultural Research Council and least well with the Natural Environment Research Council. I should like to ask the Government whether that is correct. If so, I feel that the reason is obvious: the Agricultural Research Council has only one customer in Whitehall—the Ministry of Agriculture—whereas the Natural Environment Research Council has, I believe, six Ministries as customers. This causes an inevitable increase in paper work, in committee work and in general bureaucracy. As an example; I have heard of a small ten-man research unit with one computer at a provincial university that suffers from no fewer than five Government customers, four Ministries and one research council. No doubt that is an extreme case, but am I right in sensing that it may have been the experience of the Government that the success of "Rothschildisation" has depended on the presence of a single customer or a small number of customers, and that it has been less than a success with a large number of customers?

I should like to leave this part of my discourse with one thought. It is that the industry of Britain which tends to be regarded as a failure story, is not a failure story in general. Only one sector does badly, and that is the engineering-based industry. For instance, the food and drink industry and the petrochemical industry do rather well. Why is it that our old friends the automobile, shipbuilding and aircraft industries, the engineering-based industries generally, do badly? Is there any connection between their relatively poor performance and the way R and D is organised and, if so, I wonder what it is? Perhaps the Government can help us to form thoughts on this.

Still on the research council question, one hears it said that there are staff difficulties and that, with the shifting round of the source of funds and the inevitable imposition of cuts due to the end of the age of rapid economic expansion, there has been a certain amount of difficulty in keeping staff. That is natural enough, but the new customers, and especially the advisory board on the research councils, are accused in some quarters of a simplistic approach to the art of cutting. It is alleged that they simply say, "Well, a cut is a cut", without realising that to impose a cut on a going concern automatically redistributes all the overheads, and that it is not as simple as it looks simply to lop a few million off a flow of money.

Would it be possible to overcome the difficulties that some of the research councils and their dependent institutions are suffering by allowing the research councils to maintain a bank account so that, if they make a saving they can keep it in the bank and if they overdraw they may be allowed to do so without being shot? Is it true that some research councils are allowed to do this and others are not and, if so, why? Would it not also be a help to them in the era of the sharply falling or, to use a euphemism, the sharply fluctuating pound? They send some of their money abroad, for instance, to CERN. The value of what they send abroad and of what it will buy varies. They get money from abroad; the value of what can be bought with the foreign currency in this country in the way of research rises sharply. If they were allowed to bank in an ordinary way, and with moderate freedom, would not this make their life altogether easier? Lastly, would the Government agree with the judgment of one research council boss who said to me that, "Though the present set-up of research councils is not perfect, it is a damned sight better than we had any reason to hope when we saw the Rothschild Report"?

It is said on all sides that everything depends on the merit of the Chief Scientists in the Ministries and on the fact that they must be respected outside the Ministries in the major world of science. One hears it said that the best are excellent, but that a more sensitive definition of need is the principal requisite for an improvement in the whole system at the moment. The examples are given of MITI—the Ministry of Trade and Industry—in Japan, and ENA—the École Nationale d' Administration—in France, as the kind of place that can produce even better Chief Scientists than we have now. I endorse the idea that MITI is a good model. I have had the opportunity of looking at it in recent years and it appears to be a miracle of common sense and success.

I am not so sure about ENA. I believe that we should copy the enthusiasm and wholeheartedness of the French in their approach to these matters, but one needs a very thorough knowledge of another country before deciding to translate, word for word, any of its institutions on to our own soil. I agree that we should do something that fits the fabric of our life as well as ENA fits the fabric of French life. But it is very easy—and I would caution the Government against any temptation in this direction—to think that simply because a country is one's nearest neighbour, as France is ours, one can understand it more easily than more distant countries. France is an opaque country, and I myself do not believe that its economy is in for a spectacularly good time in the near future.

Is it true that some Ministries still allow their Chief Scientist to be the executive head of some of their in-house laboratories? If so, does this not annul the whole contractor/customer principle and should it be allowed to continue? Another thing that Lord Rothschild and everybody else have always recommended is the "aeration" of personnel by change, the transfer of people. I believe that this is very good and that we should do more of it. We often think of bringing people from industry and from labs into Whitehall, but I understand that British Oxygen took six officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries temporarily and that two of them stayed for life. This is very good, too. People should flow both ways quite uninhibitedly. There should be more of it. However, what I think is wrong and should be distinguished from this is the possibly excessive movement within the Civil Service, especially among administrators. It sometimes seems to me that as soon as an administrator has found out about his new job he is instantly moved on in the interests of a "rounded personality" and "broad career experience". That can be catastrophic—for instance, when the man in charge of the fisheries negotiations is appointed on the day when the negotiations with the Community begin. Such accidents should be avoided.

This debate is of particular interest to this House, I believe, because my noble friend the Leader of the House has among the many hats that he wears two of particular interest. One is that he is the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Applied Research and Development—ACARD—which I shall come to in a moment, and the other is that he is the Minister responsible for the co-ordination of all maritime policy, which is heavily dependent on research.

That brings me to another general point which is a little hard to make and, indeed, I am not sure that I shall succeed in making it. However, I should like to ask whether he is thereby also the chief customer for maritime research. Was it, for instance, any concern of his that accidentally the Government nearly decapitated the hydrographer a few months ago? He was reprieved at the last moment, but because he was no longer of such service to the Ministry of Defence as he had been and because nobody else came to his rescue, he was nearly lost. Is it the duty of my noble friend to see that there are no gaps in research as such, and no gaps in maritime research in particular? If so, could he tell us how he fulfils this function?

I should like to dwell on ACARD for a moment. I believe that it is an intensely useful addition to the battery of committees in the structure. It could indeed be a great white national hope. I hope that my noble friend will tell us his aims with this Committee, of which he is the Sunday go-to-meeting chairman, while the week-day chairman is Sir James Menter of Queen Elizabeth College in London. It is a remarkable body. The chairman of the advisory board on research councils is a member; so is absolutely everybody who ought to be. It is a correctly formed body, though large. Its job is precisely what it says: it brings us closer to the grass-roots of industry in the dissemination of applied research results and the getting done of really practical research. There are various questions about it. How is it going to fit with the National Economic Development Organisation and its 40 Working Parties on this and that? How is it going to fit with the National Research and Development Corporation? How is it going to fit with the Central Policy Review Staff? All these frontier questions are interesting. Perhaps we could be told something about them. But it certainly has the potentiality of bringing this country more into line with Japanese and German industrial performance. If it is able to do that, it is worthy of all possible cheers.

It has been put to me—and I quote: That the concentration of a good deal of scientific and technological effort on the use of existing plants and assets would be a useful thing. This ACARD can help to do. "Rather curiously, science can perhaps play a bigger part in this than in total innovation, which is sometimes almost an artistic activity. The big science based companies devote well over half of their technical effort to this matter of constructive improvement. Quite commonly it can raise the output of a given plant to three times its rated level and can have a major effect on the acceptability of products, and indeed this kind of activity has been the main spring of much of the Japanese success." This is the reason for which I wish ACARD such success. Why not give it a journalistic title—call it "Operation Boot Strap", the "Boot Strap Committee"?

Could one go even further? We have a National Physical Laboratory and a National Engineering Laboratory, which everybody knows about. Is that detailed enough? Why do we not get really down close to the coal face at that level also and have a National Car Laboratory, a National Camera Laboratory, a National Watch Laboratory and, of course, a National Ship Laboratory. We could have the other two if we decided that we wanted to go into new fields and beat the Japanese and the Swiss at their own games. I do not see why it should not be done.

My Lords, the national interest in general is sometimes itself a customer, and it may not always be possible to arrive at a true statement of the national interest by listing the many ad hoc departmental requirements and needs for research. Whose job it is to scrutinise the entire shopping list of the chief scientific officers and their requirements boards in every Ministry, to make sure that the national interest is truly served by the distribution of demands there, and that the important things are not being left out? There is in the world now an increasing interest in instruments of future oriented research which can serve two purposes. I avoid the word "forecasting" because people too often think that it means extrapolation; of course it means nothing of the kind. As I say, this future oriented research can serve two purposes. First, there is precisely this of research requirement definition. They could help the community of requirements boards of departments in this job, and they could help the corresponding community of requirement boards within industry to do their side of the job.

The second need that such bodies can fulfil is that of what has been called anticipatory democracy, to distinguish it from participatory democracy which we all understand and hope that we have; everybody has a say in what is to be done tomorrow. Anticipatory democracy means that everybody has a say in what is to be done in 30 years' time. In order to give everybody that say, there must be laid before them a spread of possibilities of what might be done in 30 years' time. The technical, scientific and intellectual activity needed to provide the raw materials both for improved requirement choices for research and for improved anticipatory democracy is very often precisely the same. This was what the organs of the European Community had in mind when they asked me three years ago to produce a report called Europe plus Thirty. I was very glad that my late right honourable friend Mr. Crosland in his first and, sadly last, speech to the European Parliament as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, called for immediate action from the Commission on the putting into effect of precisely this type of activity.

There are various projects going on at the moment in this country which one might put under the headline "Britain plus Thirty"; sometimes they are called the "British Brookings Institute"; though I am not sure that Brookings is an exactly appropriate model for this country. There are others going forward, consisting of various networks of future oriented studies which might be mounted among interested people and financed by industry, both private and public, but not by the Government, the results of which would be available for political discussion, thereby making for the kind of anticipatory democracy which only research can produce.

I turn now to the international scene. First, let us look at the European Commission because that is the first thing that we see when we look abroad these days, I suppose. Its research programme, pitifully small, is 2 per cent. of all the public civilian money spent on research in the nine countries. If we look at it we see that it consists of JET—the Joint European Torus—we hope, if we get it. Then there is a whole mass of rather small, £10,000 projects, the criteria for the choice of which are not clear.

I have been told the following story about one of the sectoral sub-committees of CREST, the Committee on European Science and Technology Research, which is the inter-Governmental body that agrees on joint programmes.

A form was sent out to member Governments, saying: Will you kindly set out in order of preference your priorities for joint research to be conducted under or by the European Commission? Of course the British Government official concerned did so, and he expected his reply to be collated with those of other countries, and to be weighted, and some work to be done upon it. He expected to receive the weighted collation of everybody's wishes, and then for there to be a meeting and negotiation based on that worked-out paper. On the contrary, there was no such thing; no paper was received. He went to the meeting, and he found the delegation of another member country—I need not say which—going round saying to everybody: "If you will back our first choice, I will promise to back your second choice. So everybody asked: "What is your first choice?" They said: "We couldn't possibly tell you that until you have given us the undertaking for which we ask."

This is the way that things are too often done. The operations of CREST, the relevant Committee of the European Community, are intelligent in theory, distinguishing between the three degrees of Community control over research projects, but they are defective in practice. There is a gap problem. There are many things that are uncovered. There is a duplication problem. It is said that the same type of steel is sometimes tested five times in five different countries They are unable to prevent this. The operations of Directorate General 13, whose job it is not to get the research done but to disseminate the results of the research around the industries of member countries, leave much to be desired. The operations of the advisory committees on programme management of each of the joint research projects are very much hampered by nationalism and by defects in structure.

I wonder whether the Government, instead of yielding to the temptation which I fear they sometimes do—of sitting back and saying, "Oh well, the Commission is hopeless. Let's get on with our own, or let's do it bilaterally. Let's approach some other advanced country, such as Germany or France, and do it separately"—could not help the Commission more in this. Could they not adopt an attitude of offering help in advance so as to prevent the production of policies based on insufficient research, and to prevent, indeed, research proposals based on insufficient preparation? I have in mind, obviously, the recent Common Fisheries Policy, the first drafts of which were beyond belief impracticable. This was based on lack of research, and I think also partly because the member countries, including this one—because we are in a very powerful position on fishing—approached the matter with all our powerful cards close to our chests, hoping to gain advantage thereby only by degrees, rather than helping the Commission immediately to put out a sensible proposal which could be adopted.

May I ask the Government another question. There are many questions, and of course I do not expect answers here and now, but perhaps letters or discussions later. If there is a piece of research which we in this country want to do internationally and it is too big for us to do alone—and there are plenty of such things these days—how do we choose with whom to do it? How do we choose whether to do it with the Community in due form and order; or to do it with Germany and France, perhaps opening up through one of the three-times-yearly meetings which the chairman of the Advisory Board on Research Councils has with his French and German (and French and German only) opposite numbers; or to do it with the Americans; or to do it with the Americans and the Russians jointly at the International Institute for Advanced Systems Analysis at Laxenburg, in Austria? Are there criteria for judging this? If so, are the criteria classified? If not, can we hear them? If there are no criteria, ought there not to be criteria? Again, what about the European Science Foundation? Are its laments justified, that it has been set up by all the Governments but not used by them? Do we intend to use it? Does it face the prospect of increased use, or not? There are indeed many questions on the international front. I imagine that the field is moving pretty fast here, and I hope that many noble Lords present will address themselves to the international aspect of these matters.

My Lords, that is all I have to say. I hope that the Government will institute a formal review—I have no suggestions as to its form—in about three years from now. This will be the right moment because by then the transitional fathers, as it were—those who have set up the post-Rothschild system in Whitehall and in the research councils—will have retired, a new generation will be in, and this will be the moment to inquire how things are going. In the meantime, I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing our Leader good luck with ACARD, the Advisory Committee on Applied Research and Development, which could indeed turn out to be A trump CARD. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, when I started to do the research necessary to address myself to this problem I began to realise what Lord Rothschild meant about customers and contractors, and I found myself in the unhappy position of being a customer with no obvious contractor to do the necessary research through the amount of paper that I felt I ought to read. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has asked a number of questions. He has asked, I suppose, about a tenth of the number of questions which one might legitimately raise on this whole subject and on the Rothschild Report in particular. The noble Lord the Leader of the House will be very relieved that he has not asked them all, and he will be even more relieved to know that I do not intend to ask a great many others, simply because once you begin you do not know where to stop.

My Lords, this seems to be a good moment to initiate a debate of this kind, for two reasons. First, it particularly behoves us in times of financial stringency to make certain that we really are making the best use of those slender resources that we have available to us for matters like research and development. It is also true, of course, that the Rothschild Report suggests that it would take something like four years for the proposals that he advocated to become effective, and he also suggested that, in any case, very many projects take something like seven years to reach maturity. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was quite right in saying that we are at the point whereat we can have a look to see to what extent the proposals have indeed been implemented.

I think it is worth reminding ourselves that for 200 years this country has thrived on the skill and the technical ingenuity of our people. This is really what the Industrial Revolution was about. I believe that, as a nation, we still have a belief—and it may be rather a naive belief—that we have a certain special native ability to produce ideas and to develop them through some intuitive inspiration which we are fortunate enough to possess, and that we do this more effectively, or at any rate more economically, on a more cost-effective basis, than some of our competitors. I suspect that this belief does not really make adequate allowance for the enormous, added complexity which is inherent in any contemporary development of a new idea; and I think that if we have learned one thing in recent years it is that we have a lamentable weakness at developing and applying the ideas that we seem to be very good at producing. Indeed, later on this afternoon we shall possibly address ourselves to quite a good example of that.

My Lords, the matter of Government research and development is a big enough subject itself. But, of course, it is only a part of the whole picture, and I think I am right in saying that it represents only a half of the country's effort. We ought at some time to consider whether the arrangements are adequate for assisting industry and individuals themselves to develop and to market their own ideas. But if we go back to the dreaded word "science", I believe one of our fundamental problems throughout all of this is the difficulty of communications between scientists and those whose main experience may be confined to what is very often called "the school of hard knocks". Partly because of this difficulty of communications it is sometimes rather easier to pinpoint the symptoms of malaise in our efforts than it is to define the fundamental nature of the illness and to suggest a cure.

I should like to give one example of the kind of thing that can so easily happen. What I am going to say is over-simplified and possibly biased, and I hope it will merely illustrate a point. This is a story of our attitude to hovercraft and hydrofoils. The Government, or a quasi-Government organisation, the NRDC, were asked to evaluate and support the hovercraft concept. On the advice of a Government laboratory they took the decision that the hovercraft had great attractions for vessels in rough water, and as a result some kind of a tacit understanding grew up whereby we in this country would concentrate on hovercraft development and would leave hydrofoil development mainly to other nations. The Russians, the Italians and the Germans had already been doing it for some time, and the Americans concentrated on this particular side of this type of development.

There then appeared on the scene a different type of hydrofoil, known as a hydrofin, which claimed that it had particularly useful applications for high-speed vessels in rough water, which was obviously of special interest to this country. Strathclyde University reported favourably on this concept, and the Government, or their agencies, were again asked to support it. They then referred for an assessment back to the same laboratory as had already reported on the hovercraft. This is where the difficulty arises and where politics—not in the sense of Houses of Parliament type politics—unfortunately creep in to what ought to be a scientific assessment; because those who were supporting the hydrofin concept are persuaded that the laboratory in question was very unlikely to give a fair trial to this hydrofin concept because they were already wedded to the notion of the hovercraft as being the right route for this country to follow. I do not know whether this is so, but it clearly is undesirable and an unhappy situation that an inventor can get into a kind of "Catch 22" situation where all the references go back to the same group of assessors, or the same individual assessor, already committed to an alternative technology.

I am not trying here to advocate a particular concept at all; I am merely trying to illustrate a danger which is with us. We can see where it could happen again. We are now putting a great deal of our research effort in the renewable sources of energy field into what are commonly known as Salter's Ducks, which is the wave power concept being developed at the University of Edinburgh and mooring a great line of rafts off the West coast of Scotland which would generate large quantities of power. But the difficulty is that once you commit yourself to something like this, there is the temptation to say that no other form of technology is worthy of investigation because this is the line you have decided to pursue.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned the JET project—the Joint European Taurus. Here you are in very large figures on an international basis, but there is also the possibility that you could arrive at fusion power by, I understand, some concentration of lasers, and I should have thought there was a possibility here again that the same assessor might be asked to pass comment on this as had already committed us to the other technology. It is very embarrasing if this person has to make this kind of choice.


My Lords, the noble Lord has raised an interesting point. I should like to ask him this. If the Government do not refer the two different alternative methods to one laboratory to test, how do they resolve the different reports from two laboratories?


My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord; and, as I said at the beginning, I wish I could suggest some solution to this. It seems to me that the noble Lord is postulating the endless difficulty that all politicians have experienced where two experts give conflicting advice. Therefore you try to refer to one who will arbitrate between the two. We are arguing in a complete circle. What I suppose is conceivably possible is that one might set up some kind of scientific assessment committee which possibly would have a better chance of not feeling itself too wedded or committed to one piece of technology so that it could not give fair consideration to an alternative or competing one. I do not know, but I believe that is a difficulty to which we should address ourselves, and be aware of. The other day a scientist put it to me very well. When you are trying to make these choices, he said, you are faced with the choice of having an assessor who is dispassionate, and therefore almost certainly not competent, or having one who is competent and therefore committed and probably in an entrenched position, which somewhat vitiates his independence of view.

Having said that, I must say also that I am apprehensive about what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, suggested: that we should proliferate all sorts of specialist laboratories all over this country. I should have preferred not to make our lives more difficult. Let us try to subcontract that kind of work to the universities and other institutions which already exist.

If we look at the Rothschild Report and the results from it, the feed-back that I get is that it is like the curate's egg, good in parts. Lest we should say that it is all good, let me quote from the 10th Report of the Expenditure Committee and their interview of Sir William Pile. He said: I have to say, of course, that the great thing about research is that a part of it is rubbish and another part—and I will not be specific about the proportions—leads nowhere and is really rather indifferent. It is, I am afraid, exceptional to find a piece of research that hits the nail on the head and tells you pretty clearly what is wrong or what is happening or what should be done. From that particular source, this is a discouraging statement. In this large tome there are all sorts of little nuggets. The Committee then went on to say: We would not want to suggest that there should be any direct interference in the academic freedom of individual research workers"— and here the words are in heavy type— We do believe that more positive information from the Department of Education and Science about potentially important areas of research and useful types of project would be welcomed by the research workers". This merely indicates that there is a great disparity of view. The noble Lord has already said that a great deal of the Rothschild Report is, in fact, addressed to a rather small part of the total research effort—about one quarter of one half. This has led many other scientists to suggest that the whole exercise has been a waste of time. I do not believe that this is right. I believe, from the happy position of not having had my operations interfered with by having to address myself to the problems raised by the Rothschild Report, that it is right to have had a mind of that kind focussed on these problems and asking us the questions, even if we find ourselves still asking very much the same questions four years later.

It would be fatal also, following a report like this, to fall into the trap of seeking change for the sake of change. This is a very dangerous exercise. If one can be more specific about experience since the report, the feedback I have is that the Agricultural Research Council has been working better than the Medical Research Council area. It is legitimate to ask why this should be so. I suppose one possibility is that the Agricultural Research Council has only one customer in the shape of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. On the other hand, the Medical Research Council has very many clients spread over a number of the Ministries. I also wonder whether Lord Rothschild was misled by the very high quality of the people he found in these posts at the time when he was writing his report, who were, in fact, perhaps triumphing over a very great and difficult administrative situation, and whether he undervalued, in spite of what he said about individuals, the contributions that these individuals were making.

It is very clear to me that scientific research must be directed by scientists. If you are going to select a project, you must have a concept of what is likely to be possible. I do not believe this is the proper job for someone of a generalised education, the kind of education received by a civil servant. Furthermore, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has already said, it is fatal that somebody in one of these positions should be shifting his job every two or three years, for it takes a couple of years to learn how the machine works and what your department is doing. Just as you are beginning to get a grasp of the work, you are moved on to another field. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us how he feels that the Chief Scientist and the Controller R and D relationship has worked oat in practice.

Throughout the Rothschild Report there is one conspicuous lack, which is accountability. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, was trained in industry and it might be that he assumed that accountability was something that could be accepted as axiomatic. If one is talking about applied research, it implies that there is a product or a definable objective, and it must therefore be possible to monitor the performance against the objective. My understanding is that this is known in the Ministries as Programme Analysis Review, but that they decline to publish the results of their PARs on the grounds of confidentiality.

This leads me to ask the noble Lord whether he agrees that there is perhaps a case for having a chief scientific adviser to the Government—or indeed I might call him the chief scientific auditor—which is advocated in the White Paper. He would advise the Government on whether the inter-departmental balance was right, whether the relationship between one department and another was working out correctly; and he could also monitor the reports received from the individual departments, the PARs which are confidential and cannot be published. He might also publish a report as to the commercial success in developing the results of the R and D which come out of these various departments. A comparison between the commercial success of the Government research establishments and of their industrial counterparts would surely be an excellent discipline for the Government. My Lords, this leads me back and feeds the noble Lord, I hope, with a reply in the sense that if we are not going to have a chief scientific adviser, it may well be that this will be the work of his advisory council, ACARD. We shall look forward to hearing whether he thinks that this can meet the case.