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Volume 81: debated on Tuesday 18 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science which laboratories within his Department, or within bodies for which he is responsible, have had their research budgets reduced in the current financial year; what is the financial value of the reduction; what is this figure expressed as a percentage of the total work carried out in the laboratory; and which of the laboratories for which he is responsible are being considered for privatisation.

Although the Department does not directly support any laboratories, my right hon. Friend is responsible for allocating grant-in-aid to the five research councils. Within the sums available to them, it is for the councils to decide on the level of funding for their laboratories, institutes and units, taking into account their overall scientific priorities.I understand that in cash terms the allocations for 1985–86 (including capital as well as recurrent in some cases) fall short of the outturn figures for 1984–85 as shown in the table:

Research councilTotal institutes, units, and laboratoriesNumber where there is a cash shortfall
There is no meaningful way of comparing the cash amounts as between one year and another, or of expressing the reductions as percentages of the work carried out. This is because the figures conceal, variously, the effects of major capital programmes nearing completion, variations in income for commissioned research, and fluctuating foreign currency exchange rates.I am not aware that the councils have any specific plans for privatising any of their laboratories.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will detail the number, percentage and value of alpha grants rejected by each research council responsible to his Department, listing the data for each council separately for the financial year 1984–85.

The information for the Agricultural and Food Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Science and Engineering Research Council is listed for the financial year 1984–85:

Research Council
Number of alpha-rated grants rejected93115517
Number rejected as percentage of all alpha-rated grant applications474724
Value of unfunded alpha-rated grants***
*Not available, because not all the successful alpha-rated grant applications were funded to the extent requested by the applicant.
The Economic and Social Research Council no longer categorises research grant applications into alpha and other categories.The Medical Research Council gears its award years to academic years, and hence its figures for 1984–85 will not be available until August. In the academic year 1983–84, the MRC rejected 199 (29 per cent.) alpha-rated applications.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what allocations have been made under the selective scheme he announced on 12 November 1984 to improve laboratory and equipment provision in university centres of research.

I understand that the University Grants Committee, after taking account of advice from a selection committee chaired by the president of the Royal Society, has decided to allocate the £4 million of additional equipment grant available for the financial year 1985–86 to the following research groups:

Professor E. Ash, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University College, London439,000
Professor A. R. Battersby, Organic Chemistry, Cambridge472,000
Professor T. L. Blundell, Protein Engineering, Birkbeck College545,000
Professor W. J. Brammar, Biochemistry, Leicester366,000
Professor A. Broers, Engineering, Cambridge463,000
Professor R. J. Donovan, Physical Chemistry, Edinburgh326,000
Professor A. R. Fersht, Chemistry, Imperial College, London440,000
Sir Peter Hirsch, Metallurgy, Oxford451,000
Professor R. Parsons, Electrochemistry, Southampton403,000
In addition, an interim grant of £95,000 will be made jointly to Professors M. D. Lilly and P. Dunnill, chemical and biochemical engineering, University College, London.