HL Deb 24 September 2002 vol 638 cc230-1WA
Lord Marlesford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Who allocates government expenditure on different forms of medical research and on what basis it was decided that the present annual expenditure of taxpayers' money into research on HIV/AIDS should be £21 million and that into prostate cancer £2 million. [HL5752]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The main agency through which the Government support medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC) which receives its grant-in-aid from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology. The MRC's funding decisions are set largely by scientific considerations, that is the quality of the scientific opportunity and the likelihood of significant development. But health needs are also important in terms of, for example, the burden of disease and the potential for health gain.

The MRC does not, as a rule, earmark funds for particular topics. Research proposals in all areas compete for the funding available. When appropriate, high-quality research in the areas the MRC is promoting may be given priority, but research excellence and importance to health will continue to be the primary considerations in funding decisions.

The same considerations are used by other government providers of support for medical research, which include the other research councils and the devolved administrations as well as the Department of Health. The Department is committed to increasing its expenditure on directly commissioned research into prostate cancer to £4.2 million a year by 2003–04. In addition, an unquantifiable proportion of government expenditure on cancer research is spent on research that is relevant to many types of cancer, including prostate.