Skip to main content

British Geological Survey

Volume 83: debated on Friday 19 July 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for the City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) has made to the letter to him dated 13 June from Professor D. M. Kürsten of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources in Hanover, criticising the inclusion within the scope of the Natural Environment Research Council of the British geological survey.

I have replied as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 13 June about the British Geological Survey (BGS).
I understand that it is generally true that in other countries the equivalent of the geological survey is organised differently than in this country. The present chain from central Government to BGS may seem long but it has parallels in other parts of publicly funded research and allied activities. It is only recently that the arrangement has been questioned and many believe that it has worked well over the years.
Much of the unease within BGS stems from the publication of NERC's corporate plan on 14 February 1985. All the research
councils have been encouraged to produce corporate plans by both this Department and the Advisory Board for the Research Councils. I have given my full support to these moves as the production of a corporate plan is a valuable tool in the Government's financial management initiative and the development of greater efficiency and value for money in the public sector. The plan is essentially a document prepared by management explaining how a council intends to pursue its objectives with the resources available.
The NERC and the ABRC are well aware of the problems relating to the funding of the BGS and they are paying particular attention to them.
Your offer to evaluate and review the work of the BGS has been noted.
Thank you for your interest.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response he has made to the letter to him dated 24 June from Dr. V. S. Colter of Plascom Ltd. regarding the surveying work of the British geological survey.

The Department's reply made the following points:

  • 1. A few years ago some 80 per cent. of British Geological Survey (BGS) expenditure had been met by commissioned receipts. By the 1983–84 financial year this had fallen to 61 per cent. and is continuing to decline.
  • 2. Over a similar period, following advice from the advisory Board for the Research Councils, the NERC share of the science budget had gone down slightly apart from a specific increase for Antarctic research. This decrease, though slight, had compounded the effects of the reduction in commissioned research income.
  • 3. There was little potential for making good the shortfall in commissioned funds for geology by an increase in the science Vote contribution though this had been done by NERC in 1982–83 and 1983–84.
  • 4. The reduction in commissioned funds had particularly affected those programmes of a strategic nature such as the systematic regional geological survey of the United Kingdom landmass, which had been funded by a consortium of customer departments until that consortium had been disbanded in 1981. Since then, regional geological surveying had been supported primarily from the science budget.
  • 5. The letter repeated an assurance given by Mr. Hugh Fish, chairman of NERC, that a geological survey will remain an essential part of the council's programme.
  • asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will invite the chairmen of the Advisory Board for Research Councils and the Natural Environment Research Council to an early meeting with him to discuss the report by the Royal Society's working party on geophysics research, with a view to remedial action; and whether he will make a statement.

    No. I understand, however that the chairman of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils has agreed with the Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council that the issues raised in the report of the Royal Society's working party on the support of geophysics in the United Kingdom should be discussed by the advisory board in October this year.

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will invite the chairmen of the Advisory Board for Research Councils and the Natural Environment Research Council to an early meeting with him to discuss the independence of the proposed inquiry into geological surveying and its terms of reference; and if he will make a statement.

    While my right hon. Friend is aware that the Advisory Board for the Research Councils (ABRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) are proposing to set up a study into geological surveying work, the composition of the study team is a matter for the ABRC and the NERC. This also applies to the terms of reference, though my right hon. Friend is broadly aware that the group will consider the need for, the resources required to provide for the appropriate responsibilities for paying for geological surveying in the United Kingdom.