HC Deb 28 April 1988 vol 132 cc220-2W
Dr. Thomas

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on progress evaluated on the EC fusion and Eureka programmes arising from the Research Council of the European Council of Ministers meeting on 11 April.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I represented Her Majesty's Government at the meeting of the Community's Council of Ministers (Research) in Luxembourg on 11 April. I should like to take the opportunity to give a brief account of the progress achieved on each of the main agenda items as well as the two specifically raised in the question.

On fusion, there was a general exchange of views on the Community's programme of research but no decisions were taken. The general hope was, however, that there would be further progress at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers (Research) at the end of June.

The Council discussed the relationship between the Community's research programmes and Eureka. There was agreement that the relationship needed to be clearly defined so as to ensure the two complemented each other and to avoid duplication of effort wherever possible. The Commission will prepare further ideas on this for the Council to consider at its next meeting.

The Council adopted a common position on DRIVE, a Community programme of research in the fields of IT and telecommunications applied to road transport. The programme, which will provide Community funding of 60 mecu (£40 million) over a period of three years, should help improve road transport efficiency and safety, and reduce its environmental impact.

On the Community Bureau of Reference, BCR, the Council adopted a common position on an R and D programme costing some 59 mecu (£39 million) over five years in the fields of applied metrology and chemical analysis. This will be important in the context of the completion of the single market, and will assist in the elimination of certain technical barriers to trade.

The Council also took a major step forward in unanimously adopting ESPRIT II, the largest single programme in the Community's 1987–1991 framework programme for R and D. It will over five years provide 1600 mecu (£1,056 million) of Community funding, with matching contributions from industrial partners and other contractors, for projects in micro electronics and peripheral technologies, information processing systems and some "applied" fields, namely, computer-integrated manufacture and integrated information systems. British companies and research institutes will undoubtedly make a major contribution to this programme and will benefit substantially from it. It is important to note that this major programme has a management structure modelled on that already successfully used in the earlier programme, ESPRIT I.

A common position was also adopted on DELTA, an exploratory programme of research extending over a maximum period of two years to apply new technologies including IT to open and distance learning. Community funding will amount to 20 mecu (£13 million).

The science programme, on which the Council adopted a common position, will promote co-operation and exchanges between scientists and laboratories in the Community: the funds will amount to 167 mecu (£110 million) over five years. The programme offers grants for travel, to fund research projects involving laboratories in more than one country and larger grants for specific projects of scientific promise, usually bringing together many laboratories in different Community countries.

In the field of biotechnology, the Council adopted a common position on the revision of the current multiannual research programme (1985–1989) which will increase Community funding from 55 mecu (£36 million) to 75 mecu (£50 million). More generally, it was agreed that the Community should develop a strategy in the area of biological research, taking account of wider international developments in this field. There was also an informal exchange of views on bioethical issues.

The Council had a further useful exchange of views on the joint research centre (JRC). Agreement was reached on the overall financial framework for the JRC's work and the Council gave further directions for the reforms which are needed to make the JRC successful and viable. We hope that it will be possible for the Council to reach agreement in June on improvements which will give scientific and technological value for money for the considerable Community investment there.

The Commission was also invited to prepare ideas for the Council on the relationship of technical norms and standards to technological developments in Europe, an issue which also has a bearing on the development of the single market.