HC Deb 08 December 1953 vol 521 cc209-11W
82. Mr. Lee

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, whether he will make a statement as to the Government's future policies in respect of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

83. Sir W. Wakefield

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works, as representing the Lord President of the Council, what decisions have been reached with regard to the representations made to him last year by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee with regard to the need to increase the financial resources of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and, in particular, to enable that Department to base its plans on firm budgetary expectations for several years; and when it is proposed to submit these decisions to Parliament for approval.

Mr. Bevins

As stated on 12th November by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), a general understanding has been reached between the Department and the Treasury. This agreement provides for the gradual expansion of the Department's activities over the next five years, subject, of course, to necessary reservations, in particular to this House voting the necessary funds.

Plans for the development of the work of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and for the expansion of its resources were described in the Annual Report of the Department for 1947–48 (Cmd. 7761). For a variety of reasons the expansion which has so far taken place is less than was then envisaged.

The recent understanding provides for a programme for the next five years on the basis of which the total resources of the Department should by 1959 be adequate to cover some 95 per cent. of the activities projected in the plans covered by its 1947–48 Report, together with some additional responsibilities which it has since taken over from other Departments. Its principal provisions are for an increase of staff over five years of 1,000 (bringing the total in 1959 to about 5,100); for an increase of about £900,000, or about 20 per cent., in the annual net Vote of the Department over that period (exclusive of provisions now made or to be made for certain services which are not a permanent part of the Department's activities or which may be added thereto as additional liabilities); and for a building programme (the cost of which will be borne on the Vote of the Ministry of Works) of about £6 million.

The financial provisions are, of course, subject to the necessary funds being voted annually by Parliament and must be subject, also, to review in the event of a marked change in the economic situation or of major changes in costs. Moreover, since the incidence of expenditure on many projects cannot be forecast with precision as between one financial year and another regard will be had to the finance of the arrangement as a whole. Ways and means will be sought for making good in later years of the plan any deficiencies in expenditure in its earlier years which may have resulted from unforseeable delays in the fulfilment of planned development. The new arrangement does not involve any change in Parliamentary practice and the Estimates of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research will accordingly be presented to Parliament in the usual way.