HC Deb 19 December 1961 vol 651 cc146-8W
Sir H. Legge-Bourke

asked the Minister of Defence when the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the management of research carried out by Government Departments will be available; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Watkinson

This Report, which has been presented to my noble Friend, the Minister for Science, is published today and is available in the Vote Office.

The Committee was appointed in 1958, by the Lord President of the Council "to enquire into the techniques employed by Government Departments and other bodies wholly financed by the Exchequer for the management and control of research and development carried out by them or on their behalf, and to make recommendations."

The late Sir Claude Gibb was its Chairman until his death in 1959, and the Committee pay tribute to the value of his leadership in the early stages of their work. I should like on behalf of the Government to endorse this expression of appreciation. My noble Friend then appointed Sir Solly Zuckerman, who was already a member of the Committee, to be its Chairman, and Sir George Edwards joined the Committee as a member. The other members of the Committee were Sir Willis Jackson, Sir Patrick Linstead and Mr. A. A. Part.

The Report reviews comprehensively the problems of control and management throughout the whole field of Government research and development, both civil and military.

In the civil field the recommendations in the Report can, broadly, be regarded as setting standards of good practice. The extent to which these practices can be applied in detail will depend on the circumstances of the particular Departments and other organisations concerned, and of the laboratories which they control. These organisations are now considering the Report in detail. It will obviously take them some time to assess its implications. In general, however, the Government hope that the practices recommended in the Report will prove widely applicable in the field of Government civil research and development.

The Committee has also performed a most useful task in the defence field, by examining both the problems of management and control of defence research and development within the Departments concerned, and the machinery for central co-ordination and decision. As the Report recognises, much had already been done to apply the lessons of previous experience and the departmental procedures that the Committee recommends are, to a considerable extent, already current practice. This is not, however, to detract in any way from the value of this comprehensive review. The Government welcomes the Committee's general conclusions and will carefully consider what further changes may be desirable in the light of them.

There is a chapter in the final section of the Report, on Organisation and Staff Management, which deals with the Scientific Civil Service on which the success of Government research largely depends. The Committee's conclusions on recruitment, grading and career prospects, are being examined with great care. Active consideration is also being given to the recommendation that a general review of the Scientific Civil Service should be undertaken. The scope and functions of any such review will, of course, need to be looked at very thoroughly.

To sum up the Government are grateful to the Committee for its work on this important and intricate problem; they are confident that the Report will prove of great value; and they will consider carefully the recommendations made and what further action should be taken on them.

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