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Aids

Volume 129: debated on Tuesday 15 March 1988

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10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what support he is giving to the Medical Research Council for research into AIDS-related dementia.

The Medical Research Council has two sources of Government funds for AIDS research. It receives earmarked funding, starting with £3·5 million in 1987–88 and rising to £8 million in 1989–90. It supports additional AIDS research from its general grant.

The Minister's answer means not a lot. Does he realise that advances in areas such as this would be less likely to be made were it not for pure research, which the Government are curtailing? Does he realise that this is the unglamorous end of the research market, which is less likely to receive funds from voluntary bodies? The Government must therefore do much more about it.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right about the importance of pure research as the basis for the good work that is being done by our scientists in this and other fields. As she will know, the matter was debated in the House last week, and I am sorry that she was not able to participate in that debate. If she reads it she will find the answer to her question contained in the speeches made by my right hon. Friend and myself.

Developing the point on basic pure research, will the Minister inquire into the three-year project grants of the Medical Research Council? Why is the number of such grants that are approved but not funded increasing over the years, despite the fact that the level for approval is also rising? Will the Minister inquire into that? As he realises, this is the seedcorn of basic scientific research and it is being hampered under this Government, so may we have an inquiry into this issue within the Medical Research Council?

I shall certainly write to the hon. Gentleman after having inquired, but the administration of its funds is a matter for the Medical Research Council. It cannot be a principle that all projects for which funding is requested will be funded. The council must make some judgment and exercise discrimination.