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Physicists (Emigration)

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1962

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the numbers of senior physicists of British origin who have left the United Kingdom to take up senior appointments in the United States of America during the last ten years.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) on 18th July and to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on 5th December, 1961.

Is the hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that we are not losing too many senior physicists to the United States of America? What is his Department doing to make certain that these important persons are encouraged to stay in this country?

There are two distinct though related problems here. First, there is a problem of why people go to America either for a post-graduate degree or after getting a post-graduate degree, and whether that is a good thing. I am certain that they should not be stopped because they get a wider experience. The second question is whether they come back here to give us the fruits of their enlarged experience. To this end the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Atomic Energy Authority are now running a joint programme of interviews in Canada and America and are offering research fellowships to such as are willing to return.

Is the hon. Gentleman taking any steps to find out what is happening in this matter, which may be rather important?

Yes. I hope that the Social Survey of the Central Office of Information, which is now taking a series of sample interviews at airports asking people why they are going abroad, will produce some more definite information about the motives which lead to emigration.