asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement on his decision regarding the corporate plan of the Natural Environment Research Council.
Both the Department and the Advisory Board for the Research Councils have encouraged the research councils to produce corporate plans. Beyond that it is not for my right hon. Friend to make a decision on a corporate plan in the way implied.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the distinguished scientists of the British Geological Survey are concerned that this corporate plan will mean less geology and more administration? Will my hon. Friend set up an independent inquiry to ascertain whether the BGS should leave the research council altogether?
I understand my hon. Friend's concern, although I cannot go all the way with him on the precise subject of an inquiry. I agree that there is a case for a study into the national needs of geological surveying activities, and I shall ensure that that suggestion is sympathetically considered.
Does the hon. Gentleman understand how important it is for the Government to be seen to support our scientific institutions of international repute? If these institutions fail, we shall lose to our competitors even more of our distinguished scientists than we have lost already.
I am delighted to tell the hon. Lady that, since 1979, the science budget has increased in real terms by 8 per cent.