HC Deb 28 October 1980 vol 991 cc266-8W
Mrs. Faith

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether changes are planned in the arrangements under which the Health Departments Commission biomedical research is to be undertaken by the Medical Research Council; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, and I, with the concurrence of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, have agreed with the Medical Research Council on revised arrangements for co-operation between the Health Departments and the council. The new arrangements take effect on 1 April 1981. They will replace the arrangements that were introduced on 1 April 1973, designed to implement those parts of Cmnd. 5046, "Framework for "Government Research and Development" under which a proportion of the funds provided by the Government for biomedical research undertaken by the MRC was transferred to the Health Departments from the DES science budget.

The new agreement stems from a fundamental review of the present arrangements for commissioning biomedical research. It takes account of the previous Government's White Paper (Cmnd. 7499) which briefly reviewed the impact of Cmnd. 5046 on the biomedical research field; and of a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC First Report, Session 1979–80). It carries no implications for other fields of research undertaken by research councils in which the customer/contractor principle generally continues to apply.

Copies of the new agreement have been placed in the Library. The main features are:

  1. 1. The transferred funds will be returned from the DHSS and SHHD votes to the DES science budget.
  2. 2. The MRC will continue to meet the needs and priorities of the health Departments in the council's programme of biomedical research.
  3. 3. The MRC has also undertaken to mount and manage, in partnership with the DHSS, additional health services research on the basis of agreed administrative and financial arrangements.
  4. 4. The chief medical officers of DHSS and SHHD and the chief scientist, DHSS, will continue their membership of the Medical Research Council and, with the chief scientist SHHD, will be full members of the MRC boards. The interests of the Welsh Office will be represented as at present by the DHSS.

The new arrangements are designed to consolidate, in a more economical and effective way than the previous arrangements, the closer interaction in the sphere of biomedical research which has been achieved in recent years. They will also be an important step towards establishing a working partnership with the MRC in relation to health services research. Commissions placed with the MRC for health services research will be undertaken in the customer/contractor relationship. The Health Departments will also continue to commission health services research directly with other contractors.

We propose to review the new arrangements at the end of five years.