Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1971 May 3 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

HC Select Committee [Science and Technology]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Second Report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1970-71, Research Councils [Parliamentary Papers vol.47 pp.1-34]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1600 onwards.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 21551
Themes: Parliament, Higher & further education, Environment, Science & technology

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE TAKEN BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

MONDAY, 3RD MAY, 1971.

Members present:

Mr. Airey Neave, in the Chair.

Mr. Ronald Brown.

Mr. David Ginsburg.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Mr. John Osborn.

Mr. Arthur Palmer.

Mr. Keith Stainton.

Dr. Gavin Strang.

Mr. Tebbit.

THE RESEARCH COUNCILS

Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Education and Science

A. Department of Education and Science

1. Following the Report by the Trend Committee of Enquiry into the Organisation of Civil Science (Cmnd. 2171: October 1963) the Agricultural Research Council and the Medical Research Council and later the newly created Science Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Social Science Research Council became the concern of the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Under Section 2(1) of the Science and Technology Act, 1965, the Secretary of State may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, pay to a Research Council “such sums in respect of the expenses of the Council as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine” . In the exercise of her powers under the Act, the Secretary of State is advised by the Council for Scientific Policy.

2. The Secretary of State has responsibility to Parliament for the Votes for the grants to the Research Councils. The Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education and Science is the Accounting Officer for the grants, while the Chairman of the Science Research Council and the Secretaries of each of the other Councils are the Accounting Officers for the detailed expenditure of the grants.

3. The Vote of the British Museum (Natural History) (with the exception of the Works Services which continue to be provided on the Department of the Environment's Vote) and the Vote for Science: Grants and Services also became the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education and Science on 1st April, 1965, when the latter Vote was extended to cover research and development in scientific documentation and research in science policy. The advice of the Council for Scientific Policy also extends to these Votes.

4. The functions of the Department's Science Branch include responsibility for advice on matters of general policy, and for matters requiring specific approval, in the fields covered by the Research Councils and the Natural History Museum. It also deals with the Royal Societies (London and Edinburgh). It provides Secretariat services to the Council for Scientific Policy and the Mineral Resources Consultative Committee.

5. The Branch has certain delegated financial authority from the Treasury in respect of the Research Councils and in turn, each of these bodies has somewhat lesser delegated financial powers.

B. The Research Councils

6. The Research Councils are bodies of non-Civil Servants established by Royal Charter. The Chairman of each is appointed by the Secretary of State, as are most of the members. Before appointing any member on account of his qualifications in science the Secretary of State consults the President of the Royal Society. [end p1]

7. The Chief Officers are appointed by the Councils themselves. The staff of the Councils are not Civil Servants but their salaries and conditions of services are similar to those in the Civil Service (but see paragraph 22 below).

8. The Research Councils present annual reports under the provisions of Schedule I to the Science and Technology Act 1965. These reports give details of their activities and their expenditure in each year.

C. Individual Councils

ARC

9. A Privy Council Committee for Agricultural Research was created by Order in Council dated 28th July, 1930, and the Agricultural Research Council was incorporated by Royal Charter on 23rd July, 1931. State aid to independent research institutes continued to be given from the Development Fund, through the Agricultural Departments, but the Council were recognised as scientific advisers to the Development Commission and the Agricultural Departments.

10. The Council's Royal Charter provides for the Council to consist of not more than 17 nor less than 14 members together with a Chairman. Of these the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is a member ex-officio; the Secretary of State for Scotland may appoint one, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food not more than two. The remainder, and the Chairman, are appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, not more than five on account of their general interest in or experience of agriculture, and the others on account of their qualifications in one of the sciences relating to agriculture. The Secretary of the Council is its chief executive and accounting officer.

11. Under the Agricultural Research Act 1956, the Council were statutorily charged with the organisation and development of agricultural research, and there was established an Agricultural Research Fund into which were paid Parliamentary grants and other sums received by the Council, and out of which the expenses of the Council were met. From 1st April, 1956, also, the Council took over from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food responsibility for administration and financing of the state-aided institutes in England and Wales. Responsibility for state-aided institutes in Scotland is retained by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, advised by the Agricultural Research Council on programmes, scientific staffing and estimates. At the same time the membership of Council was amended by a Supplemental Charter, later superseded by a new Charter.

12. Under the Science and Technology Act 1965, the Privy Council Committee for Agricultural Research was disbanded, the Agricultural Research Fund ceased to exist, and the present arrangements introduced.

13. The state-aided research institutes, of which there are 14 in England and Wales and eight in Scotland, are now with a few exceptions almost wholly dependent on grant funds for both capital and maintenance expenditure. The Council supervise not only their research programmes, but also numbers, salaries and conditions of staff (research staff only at the Scottish institutes). They are administered by Governing Bodies, to which certain appointments are made by the Secretary of State for Education and Science or the Secretary of State for Scotland. In addition to the state-aided research institutes, there are eight institutes and eleven units under the Council's direct control.

14. The Council promotes agricultural, horticultural and food research in the following ways:——

(a) By means of research carried out in its own institutes and units and in the state-aided institutes.

(b) By short-term grants to universities and other recognised research institutions (and, occasionally, to individuals) for the initiation or development of research on subjects of interest to the Council. [end p2]

(c) By special equipment grants to University Departments.

(d) By providing postgraduate training for veterinary graduates and a limited number of awards for advanced courses of training in fundamental science in specific fields. Up to six such awards are offered annually.

(e) By financing visits or scientists from United Kingdom research institutes to conferences and laboratories overseas.

15. The Council has four Standing Committees and a number of Technical and Advisory Committees, as well as less formal groups, to provide advice on the various aspects of its very wide field of interest. In addition, both the state-aided institutes and those under the direct control of the Council are visited regularly by visiting groups of eminent scientists appointed specifically on each occasion. These assess the programme of work, the results achieved and the work of the individual scientists at the institute and report to the Council.

MRC

16. The Medical Research Council was established on 1st April, 1920, by Order in Council to act under the direction of a Committee of Privy Council for Medical Research. It was incorporated by Charter from the same date. The reasons for putting the Medical Research Council under a Committee of the Privy Council, and not under the Ministry of Health, were set out in a White Paper (Cmnd. 69). It was considered that the Council's sphere of action in promoting medical research should not be restricted to England and Wales or to the subjects within the scope of any one department's administrative functions, and that it should be given the greatest possible freedom in framing its scientific policy; moreover, it was the intention that the Council's independence from the executive departments of government should enable it to be accepted as a source of independent opinion in which both the government and the public could have confidence.

17. The Council consists of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman and not less than 10 or more than 14 other members, all of whom are appointed by the Secretary of State, not less than three-quarters on account of their qualifications in science. The Secretary of the Council is its chief executive and accounting officer. Assessors to the Council are provided by the Health Departments, the University Grants Committee and the Royal Society. Three main Boards have responsibility under the Council for the oversight of particular fields of research, namely the Biological Research Board, the Clinical Research Board and the Tropical Medicine Research Board. The members of the Biological Research Board are appointed solely by the Council; those of the Clinical Research Board in consultation with the Health Departments; and those of the Tropical Medicine Research Board in consultation with the Overseas Development Administration. The Biological and Clinical Research Boards in turn are assisted by Grants Committees whose major function is to consider and advise upon applications for research grants provided by the Council. The Council is also advised by some 60 Committees or Working Parties concerned with more specialised research fields.

18. The Council seeks to keep the whole field of the medical and biological sciences under review, and its objects embrace all research which may have a bearing on physical or mental health or its impairment. The Council promotes research in seven main ways, through:

(a) directly employed research staff, most of whom work in the Council's own establishments as follows:

Institutes. The National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill undertakes work in all fields of fundamental biology. A Clinical Research Centre, which will be its counterpart in clinical medicine is being built in association with a new District General Hospital at Northwick Park; it opened in 1970.

Research Units. There are about 70 of these at home and overseas. A Unit is usually linked with a department of a university or teaching [end p3] hospital and is frequently under the honorary direction of a senior member of the university staff. Its function is to provide long-term support and facilities for a “team” of researchers led by a senior worker of proven research ability.

Other members of the Council's staff work as individually attached members (External Scientific Staff) in departments in universities, hospitals and other institutions;

(b) the support of Research Groups at universities. These provide, within university departments, medium-term support (five years or so) for new developments of timeliness and promise which cannot be immediately included in the normal university programme and budget. An undertaking is required from the university that the activity will be absorbed into the normal academic structure at an agreed date;

(c) the award of block-grants of a semi-permanent nature to selected institutions; examples are the Institute of Cancer Research in London and the Strangeways Research Laboratory at Cambridge;

(d) short-term research grants to individuals for approved research projects;

(e) the provision of special grants for major items of research equipment required for general use in university departments;

(f) special project grants for major schemes initiated or stimulated by the Council;

(g) the award of Fellowships and Scholarships to enable young graduates to widen their research experience and to receive special training in research method.

19. The Council advises the Government on matters within the field of bio-medical research on which its assistance may be sought. The Council provides scientific advice to the United Kingdom Delegation to the International Agency for Research on Cancer which was set up under the aegis of the World Health Organisation in Lyons in 1965. The Council provides, out of its grant in aid, the United Kingdom's financial contribution to the Agency.

20. The Council's grant in aid is augmented, although in relatively small degree by payments from other official sources for particular purposes. These include payments from the Ministry of Defence for the investigation of personnel problems and from the Department of Health and Social Security for repayment services. Certain payments are also received from the World Health Organisation in respect of international obligations fulfilled by the Council.

21. The Council is empowered to receive and administer funds of private origin from grants, donations or bequests, either for the general purposes of medical research or for special objects within that field. Many small and also some substantial benefactions have been received in this way from private individuals as well as from charitable trusts and similar organisations. Private funds are not used to provide benefits to staff greater than are authorised as a charge on public funds without the concurrence of the Department and the Treasury.

22. With the exception of pay and superannuation the conditions of service of the staff of the Council broadly follow those of the Civil Service. On pay matters the Council has adopted for its staff various models, the main ones being: For clinical scientific staff—NHS hospital doctors. For non-clinical scientific staff—university pre-clinical academic staff. For technical staff—NHS medical laboratory technicians. For administrative staff—Civil Service. For industrial grades—NHS ancillary staff and the appropriate outside trade rates. [end p4]

NERC

23. The Natural Environment Research Council was incorporated by Royal Charter on 1st June 1965. In it were brought together a number of previously existing organisations active in one or other branch of environmental sciences.

24. The Royal Charter provides for a Council of not more than 16 and not less than 11 members, to be appointed by the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Council delegates many of the duties and functions laid upon it by its Charter to its component bodies, but the Council retains the general oversight of the policy, programmes and finances of all its component bodies and carries responsibility for their activities. The Chairmanship is a half-time appointment and the Secretary is the Council's chief executive.

25. Several of the bodies and grant-aided Institutions formerly the responsibility of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Development Commission were transferred to the Council in 1965. The history of the component bodies of the Council is set out briefly below.

26. The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy was set up by Royal Charter in 1949 and functioned as a Research Council, responsible to the Committee of Privy Council responsible for Nature Conservation until 1965 when it surrendered its Charter and was reconstituted as a committee under the NERC Charter. In addition to duties under its Charter it had duties and powers under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which have now passed to the Council.

27. The Institute of Geological Sciences. The Institute consists of the Geological Survey and Museum (which was under the Board of Education until 1919 when it transferred to the DSIR) and the Overseas Geological Survey (formerly the responsibility of the Ministry of Overseas Development). The title reflects the integration and extension of the activities of the new organisation

28. The Institute of Hydrology. This was set up in 1962 as the Hydrological Research Unit, and was from then until the establishment of the Natural Environment Research Council the responsibility of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

29. The National Institute of Oceanography. This Institute was set up in 1949 and its Governing Body, the National Oceanographic Council, was granted a Royal Charter in 1950, surrendered in 1965. The Institute derived most of its income from the Navy Department and the Development Commission, with a small contribution from the Department of Technical Co-operation.

30. The British Antarctic Survey. Responsibility for the Survey passed to the Council (from the Commonwealth Office) on 1st April 1967. The Survey, which was founded in 1943, is the organisation responsible for the United Kingdom contribution to international scientific work being undertaken by 13 nations in the Antarctic; it has six stations in the Antarctic, employs two supply ships and has units working at four British universities.

31. The Research Vessel Management Unit. This unit was set up by the Council in 1966 to maintain and crew existing and future research vessels, programme research cruises and provide and maintain a centralised pool of scientific equipment.

32. The Institute of Coastal Oceanography and Tides. This Institute, which became a component body of the NERC on 1st April 1969, was previously known as the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It deals with tidal predictions, observations and analysis of tidal phenomena, and research in coastal oceanography.

33. The objects of the NERC are:

(a) to encourage and support by any means research by any person or body in the earth sciences and in ecology and in particular (but without pre-judice to the foregoing) in geology, meteorology, seismology, geomagnetism, [end p5] hydrology, oceanography, forestry, nature conservation, fisheries or marine and freshwater biology;

(b) To carry out research in any field aforesaid;

(c) Without prejudice to paragraph (a) above, to provide and operate ships, equipment or other facilities for common use in research in any field aforesaid by universities, technical colleges or other institutions or persons engaged in research;

(d) To provide advice and disseminate knowledge in any field aforesaid;

(e) To establish, maintain and manage nature reserves, including reserves for the maintenance of physical or geological features, in Great Britain

(f) To make grants for postgraduate instruction in subjects related to the Council's activities.

34. The NERC promotes research in the following ways:

(a) By means of research carried out by its component bodies;

(b) By grants to independent research bodies such as the Freshwater Biological Association, the Marine Biological Association, the Scottish Marine Biological Association;

(c) By grants to individuals for specific research projects or programmes in the environmental sciences;

(d) By awarding Research Studentships, Advanced Course Studentships, post-doctoral Research Fellowships and Industrial Fellowships;

(e) By providing and managing research facilities, e.g. research vessels.

SRC

35. The Science Research Council was established by Royal Charter on 1st April 1965. It consists of not less than 11 and not more than 16 members, appointed by the Secretary of State. Not less than two-thirds of the members are appointed after consultation with the President of the Royal Society on account of their qualifications in science or technology. The Chairman is a full-time appointment and he is the accounting officer.

36. The Council's functions are:

(a) to carry out research and development in science and technology;

(b) to encourage and support by any means research and development in science and technology by any other person or body;

(c) to provide and operate equipment or other facilities for common use in research and development in science and technology by universities, technical colleges or other institutions or persons engaged in research;

(d) to make grants for postgraduate instruction in science and technology;

(e) to disseminate knowledge concerning science and technology.

37. The Council may pursue these objectives in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. In consultation with the Department of Education and Science and other Departments concerned, it is responsible for United Kingdom participation in the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the NATO Scientific Research and Training Programme and for supervision of the United Kingdom scientific space programme including collaboration with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Four specialist Boards of the Council, each with a Staff Division, have the responsibilities described below.

Science Board

38. This Board is responsible for the support of research and postgraduate training in biology, chemistry, enzyme chemistry and technology, mathematics and physics [end p6] (other than astronomy, nuclear physics, radio and space research). It is also responsible for the operation of the Atlas Laboratory and for the arrangements for University use of neutron beam facilities and for the services of the Physico-Chemical Measurements Unit. The Atlas Computer Laboratory (Chilton, Berks.) set up in 1961, provides a computing service primarily for universities, research councils and government departments, as well as undertaking research in computer techniques and development of versatile software.

The Engineering Board

39. This Board is responsible for the support of research and postgraduate training in aeronautical and civil engineering, chemical engineering and technology, electrical and systems engineering, mechanical and production engineering, control engineering, metallurgy and materials, computing science, and polymer science. In addition it is responsible for advising the Council on the function of SRC related to the non-research and development activities of industry.

The Astronomy, Space and Radio Board

40. This Board is responsible for astronomy and space and radio research, including grants to Universities and United Kingdom participation in ESRO and for the Royal Greenwich Observatory, the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, the Radio and Space Research Station and the Astrophysics Research Unit at Culham Laboratory. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, founded in 1675, has been sited since 1946 at Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. The Director is the Astronomer Royal who also controls the two observatories in South Africa, viz. the Cape Observatory which is an SRC establishment, and the Radcliffe Observatory, Pretoria, which is supported and managed by SRC under an agreement with the Radcliffe trustees. The Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, works closely with Edinburgh University, Department of Astronomy. The Director, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, is also the Regius Professor of Astronomy in the University. The Radio and Space Research Station (Slough, Bucks.) in addition to its own programme provides space services including the operation of tracking and satellite telemetry facilities, comprising those at the NASA Satellite Tracking Station at Winkfield, Berks., and its own sub-stations in the Falkland Islands and Singapore.

The Nuclear Physics Board

41. This Board is responsible for support of research into the physics of nuclear structure and elementary particles, including grants to universities and United Kingdom participation in CERN, and for operating the Rutherford and Daresbury Laboratories.

SSRC

42. The Social Science Research Council was granted a Royal Charter and began to function in 1965. The Council was established as the result of acceptance by the Government of the main recommendation of the Committee on Social Studies under Lord Heyworth (the “Heyworth Committee” ), whose report (Cmnd. 2660) was presented to Parliament in June, 1965. The Committee wrote: “Our chief recommendation is for the establishment of a Social Science Research Council, to provide support for research, to keep under review the state of research, to advise the Government on the needs of social science research, to keep under review the supply of trained research workers, to disseminate information and to give advice on research in the social sciences and its application” . The Council consists of a part-time chairman and not more than 16 nor less than 10 other members. Its Secretary is its chief executive and accounting officer.

43. Certain responsibilities were inherited by the Council. It assumed responsibility for postgraduate training awards in the social sciences, some of which had previously been made by the Human Sciences Committee of the Science Research Council and others by the Department of Education and Science and the Scottish [end p7] Education Department. The Council also took over responsibility from the Science Research Council for certain grants made by that Council for research in the social sciences to university departments and independent institutions, and for the Automation Panel, which had been set up by the Human Sciences Committee to advise on the immediate needs of research into specific problems concerned with social and human aspects of automation and technological change.

44. The functions of the Council are laid down in their Charter as follows:

(a) to encourage and support by any means research in the social sciences by any other person or body;

(b) without prejudice to the foregoing paragraph, to provide and operate services for common use in carrying on such research;

(c) to carry out research in the social sciences;

(d) to make grants to students for postgraduate instruction in the social sciences;

(e) to provide advice and to disseminate knowledge concerning the social sciences.

45. To assist them in carrying out their responsibility for making awards and grants and to obtain expert advice on their policies, the Council have set up 11 committees, each chaired by a member of Council and made up of Council members and outside experts, to cover economics; economic and social history; educational research; human geography, planning; political science; psychology; social anthropology; sociology and social administration; statistics.

46. The Council maintain close contact with the University Grants Committee and the other Research Councils. Liaison with Government activities in the field of social science research is effected by exchange of assessors between the Council and the official Interdepartmental Committees on Social Science Research and Economic Research and a number of government assessors have been appointed to various Council Committees. In addition most government departments have appointed an Academic Liaison Officer to the Council.

47. The Government decided that the Council should not at first come within the purview of the Council for Scientific Policy; but, as indicated in Cmnd. 4578 (see paragraph 50 below), the S.S.R.C. will come within its purview from this year.

D. Financial Provision

48. The Estimates of the Research Councils and the other bodies financed from what is known as the “Science Budget” are in Class VIII, Votes 6 to 12 of the Civil Estimates for 1971–72. These give detailed figures of the components of each Council's estimated expenditure.

49. Table 1 following gives the Estimates, excluding Supplementary Estimates, from 1965–66 to 1971–72.

Table omitted [end p8]

50. The following extract from Cmnd. 4578 “Public Expendture 1969–70 to 1974–75” indicates the prospective growth of the science budget. Extract omitted. [end p9]

50A. Other data on expenditure by the Research Councils is published in Tables 13–18 Statistics of Science Technology 1970.

Council for Scientific Policy

51. The Council for Scientific Policy is a non-statutory body appointed by the Secretary of State to advise her on her responsibilities for civil science. It consists of a chairman (Professor Sir. Frederick Dainton, F.R.S.) and 14 members drawn from the universities, industry and research. The Council meets monthly and, in addition to advising the Secretary of State on the budgetary provision for the Research Councils and the other bodies such as the Royal Society and the Natural History Museum which derive their funds from the science budget, advises her on a number of other scientific policy matters, frequently as a result of setting up working groups to study particular aspects of science policy.

52. Some of the topics with which the Council is concerned are as follows

(a) The implications for scientific research of the declining growth rate in the science budget. It has declined from around 12 per cent. in real terms in 1966–67 to just over 4 per cent. in the current financial year with the prospect of further reductions although continuing growth.

(b) The inter-dependence of scientific research has drawn the Councils closer together. One example of their collaboration was the publication in March of “Pollution Research and the Research Councils” , but there are many other instances of research which crosses the boundaries of particular Research Councils. Biological research is one example.

(c) The difficulty of defining with accuracy the concepts of pure research, applied research and development which merge one into the other. The Council is studying the possibility of trying to quantify the benefits of scientific research in economic terms.

(d) The need to define priorities and establish criteria for this purpose in determining how best to dispose of the funds in the science budget

(e) The implications for scientific research of the likely growth in higher education combined with a reducing rate of growth in the science budget will lead to greater selectivity and concentration of support by the Research Councils in their relations with the universities. [end p10]

53. These are all matters of great concern to the individual Research Councils and to the Council for Scientific Policy. The support which the Research Councils give to university research and the work of their own institutes and units provides the basis for the applied research and development undertaken by government departments and industry. The substantial change in the rate of growth over the past decade makes it more important than ever for the increasing collaboration among the Councils to continue and for their research to be undertaken with the needs of the economy and of the advance of science in mind.

Department of Education and Science,

Curzon Street,

London, W.1.

April, 1971.

Examination of Witness

The Rt. Hon. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, a Member of the House, and Secretary of State for Education and Science, examined.

Chairman

Neave

1. Secretary of State, we are very grateful to see you here this afternoon to discuss the position of the research Councils which are your responsibility. I would like to say we have received representations from a number of bodies to make some inquiries and hear your views. One of them is the Parliamentary Scientific Committee of which Sir Harry Legge-Bourke is Chairman and other officers and Members are on this Committee. But we have also received some letters from other bodies about this. I think I ought to declare that I have a very considerable constituency interest in having a number of research councils establishments in my constituency, and I have no doubt possibly other Members may have the same. This obviously is a matter of very major interest in the scientific world and we are very glad that you are able to come here and answer our questions today. I thought we would take first some general questions and ask you about the role of the research councils. I begin by asking you what value you place on the work of the research councils at the present time?——

MT

It is a very difficult question, Airey NeaveChairman, I think I can only answer it in this way. I think they have prime duties as follows. First, to retain a research capacity in each and every one of the essential scientific disciplines, that is to say in the various aspects of chemistry, physics, biology, geology, etc., because when you get problems requiring solution you do not know where those problems will arise in future. They can all of a sudden come up. But you can do nothing to solve them quickly unless throughout each and every discipline you retain an essential scientific capacity in each subject. So they have to retain that, which means retaining the subjects and the number of people in them. Secondly, I think it is partly the duty of Government to support some fundamental aspects of research that would not otherwise be supported, particularly where you have scientists of very, very great promise. I think there is an argument about whether you support projects or support specific scientists. I think you do a bit of both. Thirdly, I think by the research council system you do get the combined advice of a wide range of scientists which can affect Government policy, and you get the kind of combination of advice which you would not get elsewhere.

Neave

2. So you do regard their work as valuable?——

MT

Vital.

Neave

3. Could you tell us in that event how closely the research councils should be linked to Government in your view?——

MT

Personally I have very, very few comments at present to make on the existing system. You have obviously to retain two things. One, the independence of advice from the research councils about what sort of scientific work you need to solve a particular problem. But I think there is another aspect of it: I think more and more there are departments who wish to have speci [end p11] fic problems considered. We have to do this within a limited budget and we have to try to get a balance between Government and the research councils in what several departments ask them to do, and the advice which they give as to which work can go forward at the present time with the present people against he background of our existing equipment, etc. in the universities.

Neave

4. Thank you very much. What precisely is the relationship between the councils and your Department at the present time?——

MT

We are answerable for the Councils. We do most of our work with the aid of the central Scientific Policy Committee. We do not interfere in any way with the judgments of the separate councils as to what work they shall pursue. I consult with the Sir Frederick DaintonChairman of the CSP about the amount of grant which each of the councils shall have. In theory we have powers within the charter of the research councils to give them directions. It is obviously a power which one would use sparingly, bearing in mind that one would thereby be overriding their scientific judgment, which one would think twice about doing.

Neave

5. How far do the research councils decide their own policy?——

MT

They decide it to quite a considerable extent but subject, of course, to having to justify it to the CSP. This is one of the great advantages of the CSP where you have brought before the CSP the demands of the several research councils for their future budget. They have a restricted total budget and their recommendations have to be accepted within that total. So here the several research councils have to come before a forum of a very wide range and group of scientists and argue for their own particular subjects and their own particular case for more money.

Neave

6. Thank you very much. We are grateful to you for letting us have this memorandum on the work of the research councils. I would like to refer my colleagues and yourself to paragraph 4 in which you say, “The functions of the Department's Science Branch include responsibility for advice on matters of general policy, and for matters requiring specific approval …” . What sort of matters require specific approval of your Department's Science Branch? I am rather interested in that statement?——

MT

There are some items of capital expenditure over a certain amount which do require our specific approval. For example, I well remember having to give approval for a new hydrogen bubble chamber; that is one which occurs to me very readily. If the capital outlay is above a certain amount it does require a specific approval. Also, with some of the international organisations to which we subscribe, it would be a continuing subscription and therefore would require approval because the obligation would continue longer than we can foretell the precise budget of the research councils.

Neave

7. I am going to leave these general questions to my colleagues in a minute but I would like to ask one final question. Are you satisfied with the way the councils are going about their work?——

MT

I am satisfied at the moment. I think they are steadily working more closely together. I think this is inevitable from the underlying demands of the scientific disciplines. It is not the application of the scientific knowledge which really is so desperately important to the science research councils; it is the underlying disciplines themselves and securing close and closer co-operation between those to ensure that the particular problem which is in hand is solved.

Neave

Thank you very much. Now Members would like to ask questions. Will they stick to the general line of questions on the role of research councils?

Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

8. I would like to ask the Secretary of State this question. The Council for Scientific Policy has to range over a very wide field in the exercise of its duty to advise you as the responsible Minister, and scientific policy these days is very broad indeed. What is the competence of the Council for Scientific Policy to give advice on matters in which they cannot possibly be expert in every field? Presumably somebody has to do it but I am just wondering who?——

MT

They consist of people from a wide range of the sciences and they are all distinguished in their own sphere. However difficult it may be for them I think it would be even more difficult for me without their advice.

[end p12]

9. Yes, I see that. As I say, someone presumably has to do it. But what staff have they?——

MT

A comparatively small staff. But they do in fact do a lot of work in separate working groups. They meet in small groups to sort out particular aspects of policy upon which they will give advice.

Palmer

10. Would you say that they are looking at the quality of a particular proposal to be pursued by an individual research council, as to whether this is work of a sufficiently high standard; or are they alternatively looking at the cash and deciding that there are certain priorities, and trying to make up their minds as to which particular things should come first?——

MT

I think part of both. They do look at new proposals, not only within the limitation of resources but whether they should prefer a new proposal to continuing an old proposal. This inevitably means a consideration of the staff available to do that particular work. I think most of their judgments are composed of compound factors rather than of single isolated factors.

Palmer

11. This information is perhaps available and I should know it anyhow, but how independent is this Council of the research councils themselves? Obviously in principle they must be independent but would you say that any lobbying goes on for particular projects to get attention one against the other?——

MT

The secretaries or chairmen of the research councils sit on CSP as assessors and not as members, so I doubt very much whether there is individual lobbying.

Palmer

12. What is their duty then in the field of assessment? It would be difficult for a medical man to assess perhaps the advisability of doing something which was in the engineering field. Exactly how do they assess?——

MT

The advice would be given to me by the CSP after they had heard all of the cases of the separate councils. Then the CSP comes along and gives advice as to the precise proportion of the science budget for the following year should be allocated to each research council. So the argument has to be put up by the separate research councils to the CSP who considers all the arguments one against another and decides how the allocation of money should go. Within that allocation the specific projects are for the decision of the separate research council.

Palmer

13. The system in its latest form has not been working so very long. Could the Secretary of State tell us if she is reviewing the system or is she prepared to have a longer period of experience with it?——

MT

The system is being reviewed. Dr. Dainton is working on this. There are two tendencies. One is to work more closely together for the reasons I have given, that the scientific disciplines tend to be more closely inter-linked. But the other tendency is that some of the departments want specific developmental work done. It is trying to find the best compromise between these two things which is the problem. So Dr. Dainton has a working party reviewing the system. It will make recommendations; I do not expect them to be in before June or so.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

14. I am sure the Secretary of State will realise that we have only so far in the predecessor of this Committee in the previous session managed to look at one of the research councils, namely the Natural Environment one. But in our Report on that we did make some general observations which I think are relevant right across the board of research councils. I am wondering whether the Secretary of State would like to let us into her own thinking on the subject of how she sees the need to adapt what used to be called the old Haldane principle where there was virtually no interference by Ministers in the selection of scientific projects or in the control of those projects once they had been undertaken. We have had evidence from such distinguished people as Sir Solly Zuckerman in particular, who has suggested to us that the time has come when we ought to re-think the whole approach and not confine ourselves necessarily to the Haldane doctrine in view of the increasing need for getting some more palatable value from the expenditure involved in the work hitherto carried out by research councils. Would the Secretary of State like to say something about that?——

MT

I think it is the old fundamental debate again. You must retain a capacity for research in [end p13] each of the disciplines. In order to do this I would think that you had to rely heavily on the technical advice of the scientists in their sphere. But then there is the other thing as to why you retain this fundamental capacity, and undoubtedly one of the reasons why you retain it is to be able to solve certain specific problems. Some of the departments obviously would have views about which of the problems should have priority. Of course, a number of the departments do from time to time consult with the research councils about the advice they need and it is part of the role of the research councils to provide that advice. But I think it important in retaining the fundamental capacity that one should accept the advice of the scientist about how to retain that. The other matter is a matter of some kind of compromise as to which of the objectives of the departments which should be fed into the research council should have priority.

Legge-Bourke

15. Would you visualise then, when it comes to a question of selecting which ought to have the priority, that that is a matter about which you as Secretary of State for Education and Science should be the final arbiter at ministerial level?——

MT

The vast majority of our work is really on the fundamental side. There is only a small amount of development work which goes on in the research councils and that is part of the training capacity in order to give your trained scientists experience in applying their science to developmental projects. So once it gets to development, on the whole it leaves our sphere and goes into another department.

Legge-Bourke

16. If I may say so, with respect, that is not an answer to the question; it is not quite the way in which I put it. It may be that what I am trying to find out is who is the final arbiter at ministerial level in giving priority to any form of scientific research, whether it be pure fundamental or in the more applied field. I accept the fact that there has been a tendency to load the work of the research councils a little more towards the applied than was the case in the earlier days, but there is still somebody who has got to be responsible both at official and ministerial level for finally deciding and advising on the priority which should be given to any of them. Do you see yourself as being the most appropriate Secretary of State to make that decision?——

MT

I do not think, if I may say so, that that is technically quite right. I am answerable for the budget. If I did not particularly like the direction in which one of the science research councils was deciding to use its budget, then technically I could withhold supply from that research council; or use one's power over the budget to argue with them about the way in which they were using their moneys. But that is the only form of indirect control which one has. I think it is an ultimate one and on the whole they have been very ready to respond to the idea of co-operation with departments.

Legge-Bourke

17. Insofar as your power as Secretary of State is involved at all, are you happy about your present reliance upon, for example, the Council for Scientific Policy and those two other bodies which very rarely get mentioned, namely the Advisory Committee on Technology and the Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology?——

MT

The Central Advisory Council has nothing whatsoever to do with me. The CSP does of course. I think the structure of the CSP is such that I have every confidence in it at the moment in the way in which it does its work. We have not yet used our powers to the full extent to which they could be used; that is to say, we have never I think attempted to use the budgetary power to direct the councils to do one thing or another. We could direct the separate research councils under the charter. As far as I am aware, this is not a direction that has been used, but it could be used.

Chairman.

Neave

18. Can I be quite clear about it? The power to direct the research councils has never been used, as far as you know?——

MT

As far as I am aware. It certainly has not in my time and I think it is a power that a politician would use sparingly, though of course many discussions take place and usually I would not think that any problem would get beyond the stage of discussion. I doubt very much the power of direction would need to be used.

Neave

Thank you very much. [end p14]

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

19. Could I ask the Secretary of State whether she is satisfied that the equipment in her own Department to cope with this is adequate? When we were taking evidence on one of the research councils we did become somewhat anxious that whatever the good intentions the actual equipment of that part of the Secretary of State's own Department which is responsible for this was so weak—not in calibre of people but in strength—when compared with the other parts of the Department that really it was inadequate to cope with what has to be coped with now so far as the work of research councils is concerned. Would you care to comment on that?——

MT

We are not running a highly interventionist policy. This would be contrary to some of the basic fundamental principles of the research council system. The separate research councils have their own administrative machinery. I think we have about the right size of department to cope with it. As far as the science policy is concerned now, I deal with it myself, having a certain professional interest in it and do take possibly as much interest in it as has previously been taken by any other Minister, I would hope perhaps in some cases a little more. Dr. Strang.

Strang

20. Could I come back to the Haldane principle, because I think it is very important. The point was of course that the Haldane Committee took the view that the department which administered, for example, health or agriculture should not be the department to direct its research in these fields. This was endorsed wholeheartedly by the Trend Committee. Does the Minister support that view?——

MT

May I go in a slightly round about way to answer your question but I will try to answer it. I do not believe that many research projects are necessarily research projects in health or in agriculture. May I give an example? Supposing you have a question about how a certain pesticide or fertilizer is absorbed, how it is absorbed into the leaf, into the root, into the soil system, into the alimentary tract of cattle, into the human tract, what is the effect on ecology? You might call that agricultural research but in fact it affects agriculture; medical research, because it is ultimately the nutrition of the human being; ecology, therefore the Natural Environment Research Council; and of course you will require physicists and chemists and bio-chemists, etc. to solve the problem. The objective may be an agricultural one, also in health, the Medical Research Council. All of these cross the several research councils and if you regarded that only as an agricultural question you would probably find duplication of facilities in the other research councils about the same problem as it affected them. Now it may be that each of your departments would like the research council to consider a specific topic. As far as I am concerned, I obviously take a keen interest in the effect of drugs in schools and universities, so does the Home Office, so does Health. So there are three of us all interested in drugs. Now it crosses rather more than one research council, it crosses of course the Medical Research Council. You still need your scientists, your physicists, your chemists and your doctors to do the fundamental research. So each and every topic that you could mention really would be of interest to more than one department and would possible have an effect upon more than one research council. This is I think part of the need for the research councils doing their fundamental work to draw more closely together. Have I answered your question?

Strang

21. Yes. You say that that is an argument for not putting agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and the Medical Research Council under Health——

MT

Yes, because it is continually fundamental. It is not research only on leaves and wheat and barley. Your genetics research goes far wider, for example, than your agricultural aspect. Provided you have independent councils it can be used for far wider application.

Strang

22. I ask the question because I was formerly an employee of the Agricultural Research Council and I heard the rumour that the last Government were considering moving research councils to their respective Ministries. In fact there is no foundation?——

MT

Dr. Dainton is considering the future of the research council system and there has of course been argument about the future, in particular of the Agricultural Research [end p15] Council. When I heard about that I was most anxious that it should be considered as part of a whole. Again I hope I have made clear in my separate answers why I would take that view. So Dr. Dainton is looking at it. I was also very anxious that if there is to be any change in the system it should only be after consultation with the scientific community because they would have to work any new system. They undoubtedly would have valuable advice to give and that is one of the reasons Dr. Dainton is doing it.

Strang

23. There is a real danger in giving the Agricultural Research Council to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. If I can give you a small example: take the bull licence. The Agricultural Research Council has been in favour of abolition of boar and bull licensing for a great number of years. There is a strong element of opinion in the Agriculture Department of Scotland against it. There is a danger here, if the Research Council became the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, that you might get research in certain fields—after all, the Research Council do some operational research—being inhibited by the policy in that field?——

MT

Well now, there is a boundary point here which I think it is essential to retain. The fundamental research I think crosses disciplines. There comes a point when you have to apply your fundamental research to specific development problems. Now, to a tiny extent that is done within each of the research councils as part of the capacity and training exercise. But when it is done on a larger scale it may be that the department as such should have a say in which of the problems it regards as most urgent for development as distinct from research. It is in this area that the argument has arisen particularly.

Neave

We shall be asking questions about individual research councils and future plans for them in a moment. Mr. Ginsburg.

Ginsburg

24. I had, Chairman, intended asking the Secretary of State at a later point a question about the review of expenditure with regard to the research councils but as she has mentioned Dr. Dainton 's inquiry I think it would be appropriate if I asked it forthwith. I take it there are two reviews going on, a financial review and Dr. Dainton 's review. Could the Secretary of State say something about the timing aspects of the two?——

MT

I have mentioned I do not expect to receive Dr. Dainton 's report before June now at the earliest and of course it may be later. Then you would have to consider it and obviously there would be a good deal of consultation with the scientific community. I think to some extent the financial review would depend upon any recommendations which he put up. So at the moment of course the research budget is a tiny proportion comparatively of the total research and development budget of the whole of the United Kingdom, private and public. We are about £100 million; the total budget is about £1,000 million.

Ginsburg

25. This short reference in Cmnd. 4578, Public Expenditure, page 21, paragraph 4, “As announced in Cmnd. 4515 the programme of expenditure of the Research Councils is being reviewed” , means this will be done?——

MT

It is under continuous review, but at the moment we are very anxious to know whether any changes would be recommended and what those changes should be. It is very difficult to try to decide upon the future financial provision if the structure is in doubt. Chairman.

Neave

26. Do you expect to publish the Dainton Report?——

MT

I expect that ultimately the results of it will be published. I do not know whether I can publish it or not until I have it. Mr. Brown.

Brown

27. Arising from that, what terms of reference is Dr. Dainton working on? Did you prescribe the terms of reference for him, and what occasioned it if you did do so?——

MT

He is reviewing the research council system as it at present operates, with a view to making recommendations.

Brown

28. That is a very wide remit for Dr. Dainton; he is but a scientist and there are many like him. What occasioned such a review? Is it not working correctly now? Is there any evidence of [end p16] a breakdown in the system? It has not been going all that long. Why would one want to have this rather long-ranging review so early in the day?——

MT

In part it arose from the Agricultural Research Council and the proposal which had been ventilated to some extent before I took responsibility of office that that should go to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I felt very much that you could not remove one of the research councils without it having quite a fundamental effect upon the whole research council system and therefore you had to look at your objectives with the research council system, how far you were going to provide for fundamental research and what would happen if the proposal to put the Agricultural Research Council to one department were followed by demands from other departments. I feared that if such a proposal were followed by demands from other departments we should be very soon in a position where we were not properly looking after our fundamental research capacity. To some extent we do it through the universities but only partially so. Therefore I did ask Dr. Dainton—he was most anxious to do it—that he should have a look at the whole system to see if it can be improved. I know it has not been working very long, but I do find that things in the political and Parliamentary scene do often change quite rapidly after a period of five or six years, and systems which you start out with do need adapting. Therefore he is looking at it to see what adaptations are needed.

Brown

29. You have allowed him to have consultations with departments and also councils and persons outside those bodies? Can he take evidence from persons of his own choice or is he circumscribed in the area in which he can operate? Does he have to think it out himself or is he permitted to take evidence from the department wanting such a review? Can he interview the Minister of Agriculture, for instance, as to why he feels he would be anxious to have the appropriate research council in his Department?——

MT

No. As far as I am aware it is an internal working party of the CSP. They do, I think, have informal consultations with people they know will be interested but I do not think he is consulting with the separate departments.

Brown

30. So he would not necessarily get the political thinking of why the Department wished to take over the Research Council in dealing with agricultural matters?——

MT

No. I think that he and the CSP are most anxious that the system should be seen to be responding to modern day requirements. Again we come back to the fundamental dichotomy—you must keep the basic research capacity going but you must also be able to respond to important questions of the day. For example, pollution is one, and it cuts across the disciplines of all of the councils.

Brown

31. What are the criteria, do you think, for the Council for Scientific Policy in selection? In taking evidence in various other fields I have been a little confused as to what I believe was their reason for selecting or for passing through projects submitted to them. When we saw the budget for which you are responsible I did put a question to a previous witness that the amount of money spent on what I called then the software was very small and he agreed that it was extremely small. Therefore, from that one wondered exactly how the Council for Scientific Policy actually selected projects to go through for fundamental research. I wondered whether you yourself had given any thought to this matter and whether you feel that there are certain criteria, whether you believe in the theory that any research at the end of the day should have a spin-off which the public in general in the country can examine for expenditure of the many millions of your Department?——

MT

The CSP does not select the projects. The projects are selected by the several research councils. The CSP advises me on the allocation of the total budget between the research councils. In advising me on that allocation it obviously takes into account the several demands of the research councils and the work which they want to continue. But the CSP as such does not select the projects. The separate councils do that.

Brown

32. But do you not consider that there is a possible argument for yourself to be considering the direction in which the fundamental research is taking place? There is an argument—I am not supporting such an argument—which says that fundamental research ought to be geared to a practical application at the [end p17] earliest opportunity, for exploitation in the world markets outside?——

MT

Yes, there is an argument for saying that. But equally may I put the other side? I do not know what sudden demands will come. I am only eternally grateful that someone had the wit to back physics and chemistry research so that we could provide radar when the demand came very quickly at the beginning of the war. I suspect had that judgment been left to the politicians of the day to adapt all scientific research to urgent immediate requirements we should never have retained that capacity. So we come back to the two things: the fundamental research capacity, that we must retain to solve problems which may suddenly arise and which we cannot foretell; and then there is the other aspect in which the departments can always make demands of the research councils—and the departments usually have assessors or representatives on the research councils—about the immediate problems which they consider are important. But in fact many of the immediate problems, you know, are dealt with as well by the research councils. The Medical Research Council has a large programme on drugs, for example, as well as on cancer. I think we would find that they are very well aware of the urgent problems as well as being aware of the capacity to retain the fundamental research, and I cannot emphasise the last too strongly. It is in finding the balance between these that the argument has arisen. I am not quite certain that it is so difficult in practice when one knows full well that the several departments can put and do put suggestions to the research councils. Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

33. I would like to pick up something the Secretary of State said just now in answer to Mr. Brown. You said that the Council of Scientific Policy do not select projects. But in fact if one looks back over the years when the predecessor of the Council, the Advisory Committee on Scientific Policy, and the Haldane Committee on Scientific Policy, both those bodies from time to time have given very firm recommendations about what Government should not spend money on. In fact very often whether a project goes ahead or not depends upon whether money should be provided for it. Therefore would you not agree that you should perhaps slightly qualify your earlier answer by saying that in fact the advice which you get from the Council of Scientific Policy can prevent projects which within their own disciplines may have very great importance from ever being undertaken?——

MT

I am not quite certain I have got the full impact of your question. If it came to a very expensive nuclear science project which absorbed a large amount of money on the part of the Science Research Council, then I have no doubt that the CSP would say to them, “Can you do this within your existing budget?” . Now, if they cannot do it within their existing budget and have to go to CSP for more, then to that extent the CSP in advising me does have an influence in the projects that are selected. If it can do it within its existing budget, doubtless there would still be some argument about what had to be dropped in order to take that extra project on to their annual budget. But I accept that in advising me on how to allocate the money, if the projects are very large, then the view which the CSP took could in fact be a very decisive factor. But the CSP's terms of reference are advisory and not decisive. Ultimately they come to oneself and oneself makes the decision.

Legge-Bourke

34. You would agree that in addition possibly to nuclear work there is the field of space where over the years the old ACSP were always advising the Government against indulging too much expenditure in that field?——

MT

Space and nuclear science are matters which have to go beyond the research councils because they are commitments which extend over several years. Therefore one has to get separate authorisation for them although they come on to the budget of the research councils. One is taking on a national commitment as well as a research commitment and therefore it is right that it should be a Government decision to take this on but to say it must be met within the science budget. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

35. Could I put this supplementary on the question Mr. Brown asked a moment ago? I may say that I accept your general philosophy that fundamental research is of value in itself; it [end p18] advances the frontiers of knowledge and one can never say in taking the long term what the application might or might not be. In an advanced industrial country like our own, with a great scientific tradition, this is most important. But on the other hand it is often said in criticism of our scientific research policy in this country that we spend a great deal in proportion to our resources, rather more perhaps than many other countries, and yet the return in terms of improvement in industrial efficiency and in productivity seems relatively small. Other countries that do not seem to spend as much money seem to do rather better. This may be a coincidence, it may be due to other factors, but from the point of view of your Ministry have you any comment to make on that?——

MT

It is very difficult. I hold strong views about it. I am not sure I am responsible for answering for all of them. May I put it this way. £100M on research I think is comparatively cheap for what we get for it. I hold the view most strongly it is the development which is very expensive and therefore it is not the amount which you spend on the development which is the relevant factor in international comparisons, it is the direction of the development. If you wish to get better returns what you really want is better selection of projects upon which to spend developmental moneys.

Palmer

36. So the fault is not so much with the researches but what happens afterwards?——

MT

Bearing in mind that most of the work done by the research councils is fundamental research, it is of the order of £100M, a small amount of which goes on administrative costs. I would not think that that was an extravagant sum for a nation of this size and importance, because without this you do not retain your capacity either for research or for development. Chairman.

Neave

37. Can I leave the question on finance until later? I know that Mr. Osborn and Mr. Ginsburg are anxious to ask you questions but we are still on the general area. Would Members look at paragraph 52(a) of your memorandum? We are back again on the responsibilities of the CSP. I find these word rather ominous: “The implications for scientific research of the declining growth rate in the science budget. It has declined from around 12 per cent. in real terms in 1966–67 to just over 4 per cent. in the current financial year with the prospect of further reductions although continuing growth.” First of all, is CSP advising you on that subject?——

MT

The CSP naturally wishes to have as much as possible devoted to scientific research. The growth rates were substantial in the early years of the formation of the councils. Once one has got up to a certain level I think one has also to justify any increase in the amount spent on research with alternative demands upon that same money.

Neave

38. You agree that these would seem rather ominous words to people employed by research councils?——

MT

I am not sure that they are ominous words. The figure there is 4 per cent. If that 4 per cent. is greater than the growth in the nation's GNP they are still getting a preferential allocation of moneys at that percentage.

Neave

39. What do the words actually mean in terms of money for research?——

MT

At the moment I think, as you can see, Mr. Chairman, from the Table which you have earlier (just before you come to paragraph 47) showing the allocations between the research councils, for the year 1971–72 the total expenditure is £117M, for the year 1970–71 it is £103M, for the year 1969–70 it is £92M. It has been going up quite substantially. Mr. Stainton Plus the SSRC. Chairman.

Neave

40. Yes. Thank you very much for directing our attention to that Table. I would like to ask two more questions before I ask Mr. Osborn to intervene. Do you think the research councils will continue to have faith in financial support from the Government?——

MT

I think so, unless there are very considerable recommendations made for altering the whole structure of the research councils. If there are, I do not quite know what they will be. This depends upon Dr. Dainton 's report and what the Government will decide to do about any recommendations he may make. So I am in a very difficult position. I would think on the forecast budget at the moment, bearing in mind that the growth rate as [end p19] this says is about 4 per cent., and at the moment it looks as if that is a slightly higher growth rate than we are achieving in national expansion, that would be a basis for confidence and not of doubt.

Neave

41. Yes. I speak entirely for myself but would you agree that one must avoid the danger of harming the quality of research by reducing financial support for research councils?——

MT

Yes, I would accept that. But whatever the budget, both the research councils and of course the CSP and ourselves could not automatically agree to finance every single project that exists. It is of the essence of the scientific budget that some of your scientists have to consider what new proposals they should take on and what old ones they should drop. If they did not do that they could never underwrite any new proposals for research, even for a limited time. Mr. Osborn.

Osborn

42. Secretary of State, I think what you have said so far is indeed interesting and I am particularly impressed by your emphasis on retaining a research capacity because this point of view may not have occurred to many outside this particular Committee. Am I right in assuming that the forecast, the White Paper on Public Expenditure, going up to 1974–75 of £129m., which is an extension of the figures outlined in the Table presented to us, does mean that those responsible for financing research can be assured of a growth in spite of a diminished growth in money available for research? I think the general impression is that there will be a comeback. Can I assume that in the foreseeable future, up to 1974 or 1975, we can look forward to a real growth of public expenditure even although it is a diminishing figure?——

MT

On those forecasts, yes, that is a growth figure. In all honesty there is one other factor which I cannot ignore, the increasing sophistication of research means probably that the actual growth will be less than reflected in that particular figure. In certain research projects the new capital equipment to carry on the next stage of research is very complex and therefore I would think that that is a figure which does not show quite as much growth in real terms as it would seem to indicate upon the face of it.

Osborn

43. My second question deals with the management of research. You mentioned increased sophistication. We have already discussed particularly in the nuclear and perhaps the space field an increase in scale in research. What is vital is that, having determined a research project—and I accept most of the work is fundamental rather than development work—there is a reasonable follow-up, that the costs are streamlined, that there is effective management. Would this be in Professor Dainton 's terms of reference and is this being loked at now, i.e., getting maximum results from the outlay?——If there is a piece of fundamental research which has high development prospects it tends to be handed over to the appropriate development agency. The one that I have in mind is one drug which the Medical Research Council discovered and which was handed over to the National Research Development Corporation to exploit. It is one of their biggest money-spinners at the moment.

Osborn

44. Yes. What I really meant was that even in pure and fundamental research you can tackle a problem lavishly, you can try to determine some end product for your endeavours. What is vital is that those on our councils are aware of the need to manage whatever project, even in the pure and fundamental field, is carried out as effectively and as efficiently as possible. Is this paramount in our thinking in this country as I believe it is to an increasing extent in the United States of America, for instance?——

MT

Whenever I have discussed with them they are always very anxious about this and very anxious to see that their findings are known where there is a possibility for development. Indeed, my impression has been that sometimes they are as much concerned about the development as about the research. I think once or twice, as I have indicated in the paper, I have said to them “We must retain a fundamental capacity for research and for the steady accumulation of data, which also is a part of research, in each and every sphere whether geological, biological, chemical, nuclear physics, astronomical” . But they are particularly sensitive and anxious to make as much of their information available for development as possible.

Osborn

45. It really means the constitution of our research councils. Have we the right [end p20] balance of scientists, pure scientists, and shall we say applied scientists and perhaps those representing the needs of industry? Have we a sufficient injection of the industrial appreciation amongst those determining our pure science projects? Is this now being looked at?——

MT

We have certainly. When I last went to the Science Research Council we had one or two people on who represent industrial interests or who come from industry. Again, the Science Research Council is very anxious to have the benefit of their advice. As you will know, Mr. Chairman, it is not always easy to get the exact people you want to go on to any research council or to fulfil any job on any council, whether in an advisory or a direct capacity, and we are always looking for people. So if anyone has any particular suggestions we obviously would consider them when a vacancy arose. Mr. Stainton.

Stainton

46. Following on Mr. Osborn 's question, there are one or two aspects that do slightly disturb me. Mr. Osborn has asked about the management of research and one wonders looking at the Agricultural Research Council's Annual Report, when one sees such items as research into the storage life of apples and the utilisation of straw by Friesian steers, whether it be ground or chopped, what is the correspondence between this and what the Secretary of State had to say about essential scientific capacity. I am putting to the Secretary of State, perhaps it is these kinds of situations which have precipitated the inquiry which Professor Dainton is now engaged upon. That is my first question?——

MT

I think it comes back again to the same question to which I keep returning: when does fundamental research cease to be fundamental research and when does it become development? I would not know the two matters which you have in fact drawn to our attention—whether they are tackling the storage life of apples from the point of view of the fundamental changes which take place within the cell when they are subjected to certain gaseous combinations. If they are, I would suggest it is more a matter of physics and chemistry and not only applied to apples. But there is a point where it comes to development and, when that happens, then obviously the advisers from the departments who are also present on the research councils can put their point of view to the research council as to which direction that work should take.

Stainton

47. My second question follows on from your point about whether the research councils can in future be supported. The Secretary of State was far from forthcoming and one understands perhaps why. But this was in contradiction to the general tenor of what she had said, which was most explicit and enthusiastic, about the essential role of the research councils. There is a contradiction here?——

MT

No, I do not think there is any contradiction, other than that which I have already indicated. Let me put it this way once again. The research council system stays as it is unless there are proposals for change. Proposals for change are being considered by Dr. Dainton, and they arose from the position of the Agricultural Research Council. I am particularly anxious that any proposals for change should only be brought about, if there are such proposals, after full consultation with the scientific community. Whatever proposals there are for change in the research council system—and I stress I do not know, it is only that the inquiry under Dr. Dainton is going on—I am most concerned that the fundamental capacity for research should be continued, continued in the universities and I think through a research council system. Finally, there is a line where fundamental research tips over to development. A small part of that I think must come within the research council sphere to train your people to do development, and that I regard as part of the fundamental research capacity. Some work undoubtedly has gone a bit beyond that and this I think is where the demand may have come about the Agricultural Research Council whose links with the universities on fundamental research have not been quite as extensive as the other research councils.

Stainton

48. We have not of course explored the relation with the universities. Perhaps we might come to that in a moment?——

MT

May I just stress I am not ominous in any way, I do not know what proposals will be made.

Stainton

49. With respect, I find this disappointing because you are an advocate in [end p21] your office, one takes it, and one would have liked to look to you for a positive lead. Indeed, I thought this was forthcoming in the general build-up in presentation of the earlier part of your evidence. However, let us leave that on one side?——

MT

May I just ask one thing. I hope you are not asking me to come to conclusions while I have an inquiry still sitting, Airey NeaveMr. Chairman.

Neave

Mr. Stainton is asking the question, not me. Mr. Stainton.

Stainton

50. But I would like to know your predispositions, as you see the situation as of now, that is all?——

MT

I have given very, very definite views, I thought, on the retaining of a fundamental research capacity.

Stainton

51. Well, I was rather nonplussed when we had the reply to the Chairman's question: “Can the councils have faith in future support?” . I would like to finish with a question about the 4 per cent. being more than the growth in the GNP. I think from your own answer in terms of increasing sophistication there is no necessary correlation whatever as between increased expenditure on scientific research—we do not even know the base we are starting from—and the growth of the GNP?—

MT

No, there is not. But if I am asking for more money for one particular sphere than there is in the growth of the GNP, then the chances are that it must be considered alongside other demands, other similar requests for money both from my own and from other departments.

Stainton

52. Yes, one sees that. One also sees disquiet on the other side. Are you aware through the CSP of what has been turned down or do you merely get a choice of positive recommendations?——

MT

No, I am not aware of projects which have been turned down, except insofar as individual scientists contact their Members of Parliament or oneself. That is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the research council. When you pick out specific projects from a research council report, the destination of their grants is a matter for them. If obviously they were flouting every single piece of advice or demand from a Government department or from the Minister of the day, if they were completely in an extreme position, then I have no doubt whatsoever that the CSP would come along to me and say—or if they did not say to me, I should say to them— “We cannot go on in this way; that research council cannot have the same allocation of money as it has been having” . But it is an indirect control.

Stainton

53. Insofar as you do not negative, there is substance in Sir Harry 's query?——

MT

Only as far as the very big projects are concerned. Once the small projects are well within the research council's budget it is for the separate research council to decide whether A, B or C shall go ahead or X, Y and Z. Mr. Ginsburg.

Ginsburg

54. I want to return to the theme that you brought out, Secretary of State, that this country should have an adequate quantum of fundamental research. You have said it a number of times and the Chairman was rather anxious about the implication of paragraph 52(a). Indeed, you were not too happy even about the growth figure itself. You expressed certain reservations. You may recall that we were both present at a luncheon some weeks back when Mr. Woodroofe, Chairman of Unilever, referred to the effect of inflation on research in the private sector, and his deduction—he speaks for himself but it seems a fairly powerful statement—is that the effect of inflation on research is going to lead to a great big cut back in the private sector on anything which has not got a very quick pay-off. This will undoubtedly mean so far as the fundamental sector is concerned that the big companies will cut back their projects. If he is right in his diagnosis, and one would suspect that he is speaking from experience here, it would seem to me that this means that the responsibilities of Government so far as long term fundamental research is concerned will become even more important if the private sector is going to be cut back. In the light of this does the Secretary of State feel reassured by the sort of growth figures that are set out in the memorandum before us or does she feel that it would be the role of Government, if this came about in the private sector, to redress the balance within the State [end p22] sector? Alternatively, if this is happening, have other methods got to be taken to boost the amount of fundamental research undertaken in industry again?——

MT

Point number one: the figures in the Public Expenditure Survey are at constant prices; they are 1970 Survey prices and therefore are in real terms. Point number two: I would not necessarily think that on the fundamental research side the Government should redress the balance. It is only on the fundamental research side that I am responsible. If we are meeting the two immediate things which I think we must meet, the capacity to retain the fundamental capacity to do research and therefore to train sufficient people to do it, and secondly the steady accumulation of data, then I think there is no necessity to increase it to take into account the fallback in the private sector. I think possibly the fallback would come on the development side which is not mine, except to a very small extent. Mr. Tebbit.

Tebbit

55. I would like to ask the Secretary of State whether, with the increased sophistication leading to greater capital costs of which she spoke, it will become true that scientific freedom of choice in scientific projects is going to be confined more and more to minor projects, and that all the major projects are going to involve decisions virtually at Secretary of State level before very many years are out?——

MT

The major projects such as those in the nuclear physics field, those in space, to some extent those in astronomy, ultimately have to receive Government approval because of the capital expenditure involved. I think perhaps indirectly the question senses some anxiety that there should be enough left after those major projects have been met for a good deal of latitude in the smaller projects that are met.

Tebbit

56. Indeed, and that there will be nothing really between the really inexpensive projects and these major ones, i.e. the medium priced research, so to speak, will go to the wall in the pull between the major projects?——

MT

I do not think that is necessarily so because some of the medium projects cut across the research councils and there is no reason why you should not have increasing co-operation between the research councils to finance some of the medium projects. I suppose molecular biology is really within the sphere of several research councils. I would think that some of the work on drugs is within the sphere of several research councils. So I think that there are quite a number of medium expenditure projects continuing and will continue.

Tebbit

57. I notice that on page 21 of the Public Expenditure White Paper, Cmnd. 4578 there is a reference to the future in that it says, “The Council for Scientific Policy (CSP) advises the Secretary of State on the allocation of money for this block of work (often referred to as the ‘Science Budget’) except in the case of the Social Research Council, but it is intended that the SSRC should in future be more closely associated with the CSP.” More closely, or exactly as all the others?——

MT

Only more closely. Its budget is negotiated separately, quite separately, from the ordinary research council budget. It is a comparatively new research council. It has really two responsibilities, responsibilities for training in the social sciences, including management of course which is quite a big proportion of its money; and also research in some of the social science projects and sociological projects as well. We have hitherto negotiated its budget separately, but again some of the work it does is closely related with some of the work that the Medical Research Council does; for example, the problem of drugs is one in point. The Medical Research Council is considering it from a strictly scientific point of view, the Social Science Research Council is considering it from the behavioural aspect of the project. Again I would await Dr. Dainton 's report. But as far as I am aware, the Social Science Research Council will stay separate, at any rate for the immediate future. Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke.

58. May I say how very grateful I am to Mr. Ginsburg for having raised this question of what Dr. Woodruffe said at the annual luncheon of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee, because no names mentioned, but I did have an opportunity of speaking immediately after he had spoken to a very distinguished figure in one of the research [end p23] councils. I would ask the Secretary of State to bear in mind what the reaction will be in the research councils if there is a major cutting back of industrial long term research and development, namely that if that is going to happen in the private sector, if the Government at the same time does it, where on earth is Britain going to be in another ten years?—

MT

Mr. Chairman, as you can see from the figures, we are not cutting back, and, of course, in addition to the research council budget there is also the university budget which undertakes quite separately from the research council budget a certain amount of fundamental research. So there are the two things to consider.

Legge-Bourke.

59. I accept that. But would the Secretary of State agree with this, that in our Report which I was referring to earlier we did say this: “‘Growth rate’ can sometimes be a misleading term to use in this context. An increasing total expenditure does not necessarily mean that more effective results are being achieved” . Are we not getting too much into the sphere of talking about growth rate without any relation to the value of the work?—

MT

Yes, but I think there, with respect, the argument is “Please don't spend any more because it will not mean necessarily that your results will be more effective” . That ties in with what I said previously—provided we are meeting what I regard as some of the fundamental objectives of the research council system on research capacity, training of people and steady accumulation of data. Then I would not necessarily foresee the need to increase Government money on research if private money on research goes down.

Legge-Bourke

60. May I ask the Secretary of State this? One answer she gave to Mr. Osborn did disturb me a little and that was the subject of what Dr. Dainton may recommend, that she did not foresee the research councils having to worry too much about the future years. Could we at least have the assurance that what is set out on page 26 of Cmnd. 4578 on Public Expenditure does stand for these research councils to plan on?—

MT

Look, I think I might have created a false impression. Dr. Dainton is looking at the structure. Dr. Dainton is not looking at the budget but at the structure.

Legge-Bourke

61. But this is why your answer to Mr. Osborn disturbs me so, because he was asking a question about expenditure and you answered in the way you did which made me feel that if he were to recommend a structure different from that we have today it might well be there will be a very considerable revision of Table 2.6 on page 21 which Mr. Tebbit was referring to just now. It takes us up to the year 1974–75?—

MT

I have nothing sinister in mind. The only thing which I have in the back of my mind is if some of the development work of the research councils which I admit is small—but possibly there is quite a bit in the Agricultural Research Council—were in any way hived off from the research councils system it might have an effect on the look of these figures insofar as these figures have an element of development in them. That was the thinking in the back of my mind.

Legge-Bourke

62. Could I ask one further question on those figures? To what extent does that final total for the year 1974–75 of a forecast of £129m. represent a reduction on what otherwise, on the requests already in for the research councils, they would have expected?—

MT

I do not think they are committed that far ahead on all of their outgoings. Indeed, they are not. Some of them are committed, like the CERN money obviously is committed for 8 years ahead which is why we had to get special permission for it, but they still have a good deal of latitude within the forward budget for those years on that figure.

Legge-Bourke

63. Have you had requests direct from the research councils expressing anxiety about these figures and are you aware of a very, very considerable concern which is running at the present time in the research councils about their future, not only in the light of what Dr. Dainton may recommend but also with regard to your own policy about funds for them?—

MT

Not on the financial future. Obviously, when they know that there is an inquiry going on about the structure of the research councils, then I think there is a good deal of worry about what it will produce. But, after all, Dr. Dainton himself is conducting this inquiry and therefore is in regular contact with the people concerned. I think if there were a further substantial cut in the money devoted to research, [end p24] then obviously people would be very worried in case we could not retain our fundamental research capacity. In that case one would need to ask about how far the work they are doing is strictly relevant to retaining a fundamental research capacity, and the people to do it. Chairman.

Neave

64. We should perhaps move to the individual research councils. Arising out of what you have just said to Sir Harry, you may have seen the last two reports of the Science Research Councils and they both use similar words. That in 1968–69 said that “a chronic uncertainty about the level of future funds placed in jeopardy the future progress of research” . That is a fairly serious statement and it appears in similar form in the report for 1969–70—a chronic uncertainty about future funds. What do you think you, as Secretary of State, can do to make the future of research councils more secure?—

MT

I think this possibly arose from going from a very high growth rate to a less high growth rate. As we all know, you then have to scrutinise each application for research that much more carefully. I have to justify the money for research against demands for other outlets. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

65. Have you had any direct representations from the chairmen of the councils on this matter expressing their concern?—

MT

On the present budget, no. If the budget were cut again, then I would expect representations.

Palmer

66. Although you have got Dr. Dainton looking at the general structure and the general organisation of research councils, you appoint these eminent gentlemen who are the chairmen of the research councils and no doubt they are always free to come to you on these points, are they?—

MT

Please let me be absolutely clear, they do not like any cuts whatsoever, obviously, and did not like the £5M cut, obviously.

Palmer

67. Then I can take it that you did receive very strong representations from them?—

MT

If you mean did I receive long documents from each of them, the answer is no. If you mean am I aware that they do not like cuts and did not like the £5M cut, the answer is yes, I am aware that they did not like it and they did tell me when I went along to see them.

Palmer

68. I do not wish to press you any further on this, but have they come in a body to see you about it?—

MT

No. The chairmen of the four research councils, no. I hope you are not putting ideas into their heads either! Chairman.

Neave

69. We have not said very much about universities yet. Do you think that close links with university concerns are essential for the success of the work of the research councils?—

MT

Oh, very much so, because much of the work of the research councils goes on in university buildings and it is very much to the advantage of the research councils that this work should continue because the bricks and mortar are provided out of the UGC Vote. Some of the equipment is provided out of the research council Vote. Also it is important you should get maximum co-operation between the research work done in the research councils and in the universities, otherwise we might get a great deal of duplication and that would not really make for very economic use of resources.

Neave

70. Are there any plans to make these links closer than they are at the present time?—

MT

No. I am not quite certain how we could make them closer.

Neave

71. Very well. Now I think we might deal with the individual councils. We have heard a certain amount already about the Social Science Research Council. Mr. Stainton has already raised that question. This is of course is being reviewed, is it not?—

MT

It is within Dr. Dainton 's terms of reference. He is considering the future of that one.

Neave

72. Have you had an opportunity of reading their latest report?—

MT

Yes, I have. Incidentally there is someone representing the view of the Social Science Research Council on the CSP, so they come within the general sphere although their budget is not negotiated the same way as the rest of the research councils. It is negotiated separately.

Neave

73. I think Members may find some curious objectives in this report. I note that at page 48 Dundee are studying strategies in the performance of younger and older people, page 78. I hope this [end p25] is nothing to do with Dr. Cole. I suppose this could be said to be important to some people but it is certainly a strange thing on which to spend £14,491, would you agree?—

MT

Mr. Chairman, if you look at the later ones there are some even stranger things.

Neave

74. Oh yes?—

MT

There is one for some dimensions of fashion change.

Neave

I have got a whole list here. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

75. “Yugoslav decision-makers—a study in succession in political office” ?—

MT

At the bottom of page 79 there is the “Effects of Methodism on social and political structures of mining communities” . Before we go too far in this, the allocation of moneys to specific projects is a matter for the Social Science Research Council. They decide upon the allocation to research projects. Then of course they also do a good deal of the management of post-graduate grants. They have those two particular aspects of their work and they have to decide precisely how much to allocate to the one and to the other. I have looked through some of their projects and raised exactly the same sort of questions which you are raising, Mr. Chairman. But the specific choice of projects is not for me. If in the end, over a period of years, one thought they were spending rather a lot on certain projects, one could of course cut their budget. Chairman.

Neave

76. But is this the kind of thing in which you could use powers of direction as well?—

MT

Shall we just say I have spoken to one or two of them about some of these projects. They say that some of the titles do not reflect the value of the research which comes out of them, and I think that may be true. They are bearing in mind that part of their research is on behavioural problems and behavioural problems are one of the real difficult problems of today's society, and therefore they get results from pieces of research which to you and me would not seem capable of yielding any valuable results.

Neave

77. Before Members put other questions which I am sure they will, could I deal with the Medical Research Council since there is a considerable amount in your memorandum about the MRC, and in particular paragraph 16. The third sentence of this seems to me to be extremely important and it begins: “It was considered that the Council's sphere of action in promoting medical research should not be restricted to England and Wales or to the subjects within the scope of any one department's administrative functions, and that it should be given the greatest possible freedom in framing its scientific policy; moreover, it was the intention that the Council's independence from the executive departments of government should enable it to be accepted as a source of independent opinion in which both the government and the public could have confidence.” That seemed to me to be, speaking for myself, exactly what the terms of reference of a research council should be. Presumably that is your view, since it is in the memorandum. Is there anything you would like to say about that?—

MT

No. I do accept that view, with the proviso that I have indicated: if we did not like the way in which they were exercising their responsibilities we can always reduce their grant or give it a lesser rate of growth, and that really is the only direct control I have over this. Generally speaking, I think the research councils have exercised their duties with the greatest possible sense of responsibility.

Neave

78. But that states a clear policy for the independence of a research council?——

MT

It does indeed. That is essential in the research council system. Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

79. Would the Secretary of State agree that really you cannot say that there is any such thing as a typical research council, that each of them has its own problems, and each of them has its own loading between basic research and applied research, each of them has its own research implementation, exploitation? They all vary, there is nothing really typical running through all of them?—

MT

The independence tends to run through them all. That is to say, when you ask me about specific projects I cannot defend specific projects because it is not within my responsibility to do so, only to defend the total budget. So the independence is common to them all. When one has said that, one has [end p26] to recognise that the charters of each of the research councils have individual things in each of them which do not apply to the others. Dr. Strang.

Strang

80. I wonder if I could deal with one or two points in the Agricultural Research Council. You made the point earlier that the ARC perhaps more than the other research councils are more mission orientated in the research being done. In the ARC research institutes there is short term operational research going on alongside more fundamental research. Do you agree that this is a good thing, that the mission orientated type of research benefits from being done in these establishments alongside other eminent scientists who are working in other fields?——

MT

I would think that one can certainly argue that it does, that it is beneficial to those on the development research being in fairly close contact with those doing the fundamental research. I would not think this is necessarily universally true.

Strang

81. But there are many short projects going on in the ARC which benefit from this, you would agree?——

MT

Yes. One or two things have been transferred from the Agricultural Research Council to the Ministry because it was felt that they were completely developed.

Strang

82. You used the word “hiving-off” in this context and I wondered if you already have in your mind the feeling that there should be more hiving off of applied research from these research institutes, and, if so, how do you propose to do it?——

MT

It could only be done by discussion with the research councils. But bearing in mind the definition I have given of the objectives of the research councils, those objectives do not include a great deal of developmental work except for the training aspect.

Strang

83. If you look at this research which is going on in the ARC you make the point that this had led the Ministry of Agriculture to suggest that they should either take over ARC or direct this research. Would you agree there is a difference between the Ministry putting up suggestions and putting up projects which some of the ARC people might contribute to, and the Ministry actually running all the operational research done in these research institutes?——

MT

There certainly is a difference. But again, as I made quite clear, some of the fundamental research which happens to have an application in other spheres also has an application in other spheres as well. I am anxious that that fundamental research should remain available to all the other research councils. I think it is more likely that the fundamental research would not be duplicated and would remain available if it stays within the general research council system.

Strang

84. Why do you think the Ministry wants to get this research within its control? You said that the original factor which in a way helped to trigger off this Dainton inquiry was pressure from the Ministry of Agriculture to get hold of this research?——

MT

I cannot possibly answer for the Ministry of Agriculture. What I said was there was a situation which I inherited under which the future of the Agricultural Research Council had come into question and that is the position which I inherited. When I saw that it had come into question and saw the effect it could have on the research council system, I obviously wanted the system to be considered as a whole, and that is what is now happening. Mr. Stainton

Stainton

85. On the Medical Research Council. There is a reference on page 46 of the report of the Medical Research Council to industrial consultancies whereby employees of the council will be provided if fees are paid. It says that “It is believed that this kind of collaboration, for example the development of drugs and instruments, will be beneficial to the national economy, to the individual firm and to the Council's scientific work.” That I would have thought is quite unexceptional as a statement and is probably to be welcomed. One wonders just what benefits are received by individual firms and whether the costings and chargings are properly made?——

MT

The MRC is accountable for its money as are all the other research councils. Accountability is a matter for them to the relevant authority and it would seem to me, providing they are spending their money properly, that in your own words [end p27] the arrangement is unexceptional. I am not responsible for the detailed work of the Medical Research Council or any other council and this is fundamental to the independence of the system. Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

86. Going back again to a question I asked earlier about it being difficult to decide what is a typical research council, I accept the individuality of them all and the independence of them all to some extent, but is it not a fact that the Agricultural Research Council, for example, really is much more concerned with performance of research rather than mission orientated, whereas some of the others, the Social Science Research Council for example, are much more loaded on the universities?——

MT

The Agricultural Research Council has certain links with the agricultural work in some of the universities. I think it possibly has more institutes of its own or, if not of its own, in which its work is undertaken. Quite a lot of the work is fundamental work even though it is undertaken in those institutes.

Legge-BourkeI hope, Minister, I was not under-estimating the value of it either. Chairman.

Neave

87. I would rather like you to underline something you said to me about the Medical Research Council in regard to paragraph 16 of your memorandum and relate that to the Agricultural Research Council, because there have been persistent reports amongst the staff of the Agricultural Research Council that they would be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. To do that as applied to the policy laid down in paragraph 16 would be entirely wrong?——

MT

This is why, when I learnt that there had been a view that the Agricultural Research Council might not continue with the research councils, I tried to ask, and succeeded, that we consider it as part of the research council system. That is one of the reasons why Dr. Dainton is inquiring into the future of the system.

Neave

88. Yes. I do not want to labour the point but my point is that in fact to transfer it to a Government department would be quite inconsistent with paragraph 16?——

MT

Insofar as the work is development. Then I would not have thought the two things would be inconsistent. We come back to the two divisions, the fundamental research which is fundamental to many of the councils, and the development work which may have a departmental destination. Mr. Ginsburg.

Ginsburg

89. I just want to ask a rather simple, naive question?——

MT

Those are most difficult to answer.

Ginsburg

90. Are there any moves from the Ministry of Health to make a bid for the MRC?——

MT

I have heard of none. Dr. Strang.

Strang

91. Could I pick up one point? I was a little concerned. You seemed to say that this Haldane doctrine should only apply to fundamental research. In fact I would make the point that it is very often in the developmental research that you are more likely to get departmental interference, because very often in these operational projects the department might resent the work being done. This is certainly so in the case of agricultural research?——

MT

I think you have made it unduly difficult by calling it “developmental work” and we are up against a great difficulty of definition here. It may be that the department wants some work done on a specific item which is giving it trouble at the time. Now, you might call this developmental research but it would seem to me that the department has a right to ask for certain work to be done if it has an existing problem to be solved. It seems to me that that would probably be applied or developmental research and would not usually be research of a fundamental character concerned with cell structure, the interaction of biochemicals, the genetic structure, etc.

Strang

92. There is a root danger that the department might inhibit the development of perhaps I should say ground research, operational research, which scientists in the research councils would like to do?——

MT

I think the reason we have a research council system is so that you can get scientific judgments on the fundamental research that has to be done to retain a capacity to solve these problems, whether agricultural, medical or in other spheres. [end p28]

Neave

The Natural Environment Research Council. The Committee did actually make a Report on this matter some time ago. Sir Harry was Chairman of that Sub-Committee.

Palmer

Could I raise a point of order? I want to ask some questions about the method of appointment of chairmen of research councils. Shall I leave it till we come to the Science Research Council?

Neave

Yes. Sir Harry, would you go on to that straight away? Sir Harry Legge-Bourke.

Legge-Bourke

93. May I say to the Secretary of State that one of the things which rather dismayed us, certainly those of us who were Members of the Sub-Committee of which I was Chairman, was the fact that having sat on what was virtually a three months' job in getting out the Report, the Third Report of the Select Committee in the Session 1968–69, we waited over a year for the previous Government to comment upon it. It was Mr. Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Local Government and Planning, who told us that the previous Government was just about to publish their White Paper commenting on our Report. Since then we have had no further news whatever from the Government and, if I may say so, it is pretty insulting to the witnesses who appeared before this Select Committee, apart from the Members of the Committee, if Governments are simply going to absolve themselves, because there is a General Election and a change of Government, of any duty to report on these Select Committee Reports and comment on them. Could I ask the Secretary of State to comment on this?——

MT

I am advised that the last Select Committee lapsed at the end of the last Parliament and therefore we do not normally in the new Parliament comment on a Report of a body which has lapsed. As I have in fact indicated, I am quite happy informally to discuss each and every provision of the Report and our comments upon it.

Legge-Bourke

94. May I say I am very grateful indeed to the Secretary of State for saying that. I can only say that whoever advised the Secretary of State seems to have very slender precedence indeed to so advise in view of the fact that there has never been a Select Committee on Science and Technology in being with a change of Government before and therefore they have made this rule up or whoever advised them. I hope she will make them change their minds and let us have their comments as soon as possible. May I say I am very grateful for the comment she has already made on our Report in the course of her evidence this afternoon. But there is one particular one which I would like to ask her and that is the whole question of the relationship for the future between the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Environment Research Council. She will remember the Nature Conservancy before N.E.R.C. was set up and then the Nature Conservancy was incorporated inside N.E.R.C. This has been a somewhat contentious matter. We have made our own recommendations. I would like to know what the Secretary of State now thinks in light of the evidence we took and the observations we made?——

MT

The recommendation was, I believe, that it should continue inside N.E.R.C., on balance. It is within the N.E.R.C. organisation by means of legislation. Therefore if there were any questions about taking it out we should have to come back to Parliament with revised legislation. So we could not possibly alter the position of the Nature Conservancy without coming back to Parliament. So no question arises at the moment of altering it by means of action of the Ministry. It would be impossible to do that. The recommendation was that it should stay in N.E.R.C. I know that there are one or two people who are not very happy about that but I have said if anyone is not very happy about it they must put their recommendations up to the Nature Conservancy direct and then to N.E.R.C. direct before they come to me.

Legge-Bourke

95. May I ask whether thought has been given to what we thought would be the continuing need to keep together research and conservation in relation to the work of Nature Conservancy? There was a proposal that they should possibly be separated. We took the view that they should not. There were people inside the old Nature Conservancy who thought they ought to be [end p29] separate. Have you any particular conclusions on that?——

MT

No. Some of the Conservancy research work does march together very well with some of N.E.R.C. research work but some of the Nature Conservancy work has not a research character at all. There are various views about which should predominate, the non-research character of the Nature Conservancy or the research character. I would have thought it was working reasonably well at the moment from the research viewpoint but I repeat that no question about changing it can arise except in the context of fresh legislation.

Legge-Bourke

96. May I ask whether any thought has been given to the delineation between the responsibilities of the Agricultural Research Council and the old Nature Conservancy, that part of it now in N.E.R.C., because it is a somewhat arbitrary division that is made; and especially this, that water affects water pollution and the use of agricultural chemicals?——

MT

Dr. Dainton is most anxious that the work of all the research councils on pollution should be co-ordinated and so long as you keep the research councils together in a research council system it seems to me that the possibilities of co-ordination are infinitely greater than if there were any attempt to disperse them. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

97. I must say I was very disturbed at what the Secretary of State said about the way in which the Department looks on the Reports of Select Committees when a Parliament terminates. Of course, if this were really the case it would mean that any work done by a Select Committee, including this Committee or its predecessor of which I was Chairman, would be a waste of time roughly in the last session. One can never tell which session is going to be the last exactly, but you can roughly guess, we will say. It would really mean that the work would be wasted because the Report would be made just before the election, possibly towards the end of the session, and then the Department would be under no obligation to consider what had been said or to make any comment. Could I ask the Secretary of State if she would not care to reconsider that answer?——

MT

I do not think the work would ever be wasted because what the Select Committee says is taken into account and viewed very seriously by the Departments. This was why I did say in answer to a previous question I am very happy to come along and discuss that Report informally, which would mean that the result would be the same even though the mechanics were slightly different. Therefore it seems to me that if Mr. Palmer is concerned that the work of the Committee should be heeded, this result would certainly be achieved by the method I have suggested.

Palmer

98. But is there anything to prevent the Minister making a comment in writing, sending a report, issuing a paper to the House even on something a Committee has reported in the last Parliament if she wishes to do so?——

MT

I do not know. I am advised that one does not normally issue an official report to a body which technically ceased in the last Parliament.

Palmer

99. It is possible to break foolish precedents, is it not?——

MT

Well, I was going about it another way to achieve the same result, by coming to discuss it informally. I do not quite understand, if it is the result that is of interest, why the debate is on the mechanics. Chairman.

Neave

100. I think Mr. Palmer is querying the existence of such a doctrine that a Government department does not comment on a Report by a Select Committee in a previous Parliament. If there were such a doctrine, and he is suggesting it does not exist, it would cause very great difficulties with regard to this Committee which was left at the end of last Parliament with evidence on computers, on population, on space research, and a number of matters, and will be reporting in this Parliament. If any Government department were to argue that they could not report on something issued in the last Parliament it would give rise to a great inconvenience?——

MT

Am I not right in thinking that some committees were reconstituted to complete their work and that that provided the necessary continuum?

Neave

It does not apply in the case of this Committee. [end p30] Mr. Ginsburg.

Ginsburg

101. I do not think we are quarrelling particularly with the Secretary of State, but I wonder if she would take this back and reconsider her view on this, bearing in mind that we have another precedent before the House at the moment which is of course the Report on Defence Research and the observations of the last Government thereon for which the present Leader of the House has accepted responsibility to take for debate? He has in fact recognised an obligation on the present Government to carry on the consideration of the previous Government of a Report of this Committee?——

MT

I am not quite certain whether we are at odds or not.

Ginsburg

102. I do not think we are?——

MT

I do not think we are. I have said I am quite happy to achieve the result by coming along and discussing with the Committee the results of that Report and the Department's action upon it.

Stainton I think possibly the discretionary note to the Secretary of State's answer rather than the undertaking by the Leader of the House is the contrast there. But we are achieving the same end, I am certain.

Legee-Bourke May I just make this point? I do hope the Secretary of State and her advisers in particular will all recognise that the Reports of these Committees are to the House and not to the Departments. It is the House that has the right to expect Departments' comments. If the Government or anyone else thinks otherwise, I hope they will be enlightened as soon as possible. Mr. Osborn.

Osborn

103. I did indicate that I wanted to go slightly wider than the individual activities of research councils before this, because for nearly two hours we have been discussing 10 per cent. of the national expenditure approximately on research development. The Secretary of State of course has the responsibility for this 10 per cent. There is additional expenditure incurred in the universities and elsewhere for which she is responsible. She is well aware that I as a private Member was trying earlier this year to find out the extent of the scale of our research development effort. A Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry will give us their picture. Does she accept she has a responsibility for assessing the nation's expenditure on research and development in science and technology insofar as assessing the statistics of what the national endeavour is? We have no Minister of Science and Technology, it has been broken. We therefore have no one Minister with a direct responsibility for the overall picture. The Parliamentary Scientific Committee and perhaps this Select Committee and the nation as a whole will want an overall appreciation of our scientific endeavour. She can only give us perhaps 30 per cent. of the whole at the most, but I would be most grateful if, before she comes to this Committee again, she will give some consideration to enable this Committee and the country to have an overall pictures of our effort. At the moment it is divided between two departments and has been for several years?——

MT

I accept that it is divided between two departments and hitherto we have provided the statistics although I have felt some difficulty in answering in the House for things for which technically I am not responsible, and I do not like having to do it merely because we do collect these statistics. Ideally I suppose we should have answers on these subjects from each of the responsible departments. I would be very reluctant to take it over myself because I am really responsible for the smaller proportion.

Osborn

104. Perhaps if I ask the Secretary of State to take it over I am asking too much. But the nation and Parliament have a problem now and I would be very grateful if she would consider it. It is very difficult to get an overall appreciation of the expenditure of the scientific and technological research and development, both civil and defence, in this country because there is no one Minister who has the responsibility of deploying the whole picture before Parliament. As I see it, we shall see one more Minister and we still will not have had the full range of scientific and technical endeavour put before us. I hope, Mr. Chairman, it is in order at the end of this meeting to raise this particular point. I am conscious we have only discussed 10 per cent. of the whole. Will she consider this particular point now we have no one Minister that is able [end p31] to give us the whole picture?——

MT

Mr. Chairman, may I just receive the point and suggest that as there is no one Minister responsible it really is not a matter for me to go outside my responsibility, but there would be other directions in which you could proceed with your inquiries or complaints. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

105. I would like to ask the Secretary of State what she feels about the method of appointment of the members of research councils and in particular perhaps the chairmen. If I may explain what is in my mind, I feel that if you do not use this system for allocating public money for scientific research there will be some other system in its place because this is work in an industrial society which is quite fundamental. But there is a reference here in the memorandum we had from the Department: “Before appointing any member on account of his qualifications in science the Secretary of State consults the President of the Royal Society” . Well, I agree the President of the Royal Society in the life of this country is a most eminent person and I think it is preferable perhaps to consult him than to consult, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Does this not put an enormous responsibility on the mechanism of the Royal Society and their President, that he should be consulted? Or does this not in practice mean a great deal at all?——

MT

I do not think in practice it is unduly difficult. I think we have only had one change since I have been there and it is not only that one consults the President of the Royal Society, one does somehow gather a consensus of opinion that a certain person would be eminently suitable for the job. It is not limited to the President of the Royal Society. Somehow you do collect views. Somehow they usually channel into someone who would be eminently suitable for the job. We cannot always secure the services of that person and then they have to think again. So far I have not really had enough experience to be able to give you the whole answer you would wish to have. But please do not think that the consultations are limited to those laid down in the charters.

Palmer

106. No, I did not think they could possibly have been. But I think this is really a very important question because, as I said just now, I think if there is not one system there will be another. But the quality of people is most important in this field and according to your memorandum, before appointing not only the chairman but any member apparently you consult the President of the Royal Society: “The Chairman of each is appointed by the Secretary of State, as are most of the members. Before appointing any member on account of his qualifications in science the Secretary of State consults the President of the Royal Society.” Perhaps that is a careless sentence, but it does seem a rather curious way of getting members on to these councils?——

MT

This is in the Science Research charter, paragraph 4, subparagraph (3), under which the terms of the charter are as follows: “Before appointing any member on account of his qualifications in science or technology the Secretary of State shall consult the President of the Royal Society. That is right in the charter of the SRC. Mr. Stainton.

Stainton

107. But that is not exclusive, I take it?——

MT

The charters are slightly different. This one happens to be direct from the SRC.

Stainton

108. The obligation to consult the President of the Royal Society does not exclude other consultations?——

MT

Indeed no. Nor indeed is it necessarily decisive. Mr. Palmer.

Palmer

109. I nevertheless would like some more detail. If there is not time perhaps we could have a written memorandum on this point, as to the method used in practice by the Department to obtain the services of eminent experts to serve on these committees. I think the actual way of doing it would be of some value to us?——

MT

I am not sure that even if I wrote a memorandum I could put more in it that would be directly of help than I have already said. We can certainly write quite a lot about it. How much would be precisely relevant I do not know. Through the several means that we have we do know fairly well, through the universities, the C.S.P. and the several research councils, the people in the scientific world. As you have so rightly pointed out, it is not only necessarily their scientific [end p32] abilities but certain other abilities which also come into play if you are ever going to chair a research council. We do undertake the maximum consultation among the very extensive contacts we have and steadily a viewpoint emerges about who should be invited. I do not really think that I could very helpfully add to that even if I sat down to write it out. Chairman.

Neave

110. I do not think I could close these questions without some reference to the work of the Science Research Council. We have not dealt with this at all. May I ask one question in conclusion about the work of the Scientific Research Council? In their report for 1968—69, page 2, they said that in order to sustain viable research groups the Council has concentrated support in any one field on a limited number of universities. What I was going to ask you was whether you thought it led to over-concentration to the detriment of other forms of research. Do you think it is likely to lead to others being left out?——

MT

I think whatever policy they pursued it would be open to criticism from those who held the opposite policy. If they had one of maximum diffusion among all the universities they would be told there were no centres of excellence to support those of talent and ability in that particular sphere. If they had a policy of concentration, then they likewise come under criticism. I think with the cost of certain items of equipment for research they have to pursue a policy of concentration in some spheres of research in duty to that research. I am sure they accept that they would be open to criticism either by doing that or the contrary. But I am satisfied that it is reasonable to support certain centres of excellence in some of the universities.

Neave

111. Well, Secretary of State, it has been a very interesting session for the Committee and we are very grateful indeed to you for coming here and spending two hours and five minutes in answering questions about research councils. I am sure I speak for all my colleagues in saying we are very glad you were able to come. We will follow up some of these matters by correspondence, if we may?——

MT

Thank you very much.