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Minister's Office (Staff)

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1962

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23.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether it is now proposed to include in the staff of his Office any scientific officer above the grade of a prinicpal scientific officer; and whether he is satisfied that sufficient scientific knowledge is available in his office to enable a proper evaluation to be made of the advice received from the councils for which his Office is responsible.

It is the function of the various Research Councils, the Atomic Energy Authority, the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy and other advisory bodies, to give properly evaluated scientific advice, and they are equipped to do so.

Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman's Office has no responsibility whatever for weighing up advice or acting on it? If it has, is it in a position to do it with no scientific officer above the comparatively junior grade, with all respect to them, of principal scientific officer?

No. I do not think that it is the function of my noble Friend's Office to evaluate scientific advice scientifically. Its function is to assist in the consideration of the advice by the Government and the implementation of it where this affects the interests of other Government Departments or has international or political aspects for which my noble Friend is responsible.

In such cases my noble Friend has to seek the particular sources of information appropriate to the occasion and test them the one against the other. In certain suitable circumstances he has not hesitated to do so.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain what his last answer means if it does not mean evaluation?

It does not mean evaluating scientifically, because if we had an Office of the Minister for Science which was entirely composed of high-grade scientists it would either completely duplicate the advice given by the scientific advisers or alternatively would be of no value.