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Science and Innovation

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 15 June 2006

13. What assessment he has made of the contribution of expenditure on science to the performance of the economy; and if he will make a statement. (77554)

A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2001 found that a 1 per cent. increase in public research and development spending leads to a productivity rise of 0.17 per cent. There is also growing evidence of a link between effective use of information and communications technology and higher productivity.

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. I believe that it is important to invest in science to help the UK economy grow and for us to compete in an ever increasing global economy. I draw his attention to the semi-conductor company, Pure Wafer, in my constituency. It is the only company outside Japan with the technology and capability to recycle 300 mm silicon wafers on a global scale. It has received grant assistance and brought jobs to Swansea, and it was recently awarded the title of Welsh company of the year. Will he ensure that the Government continue to invest in science to provide local jobs and help us to compete on a global scale?

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. I congratulate the company in her constituency and pay tribute to the support that she gives it and other firms in her area. The 10-year strategy for science that we launched two years ago set out the ambition that public and private investment in research and development should reach 2.5 per cent. of GDP by 2014. Thanks to the new stability that we have achieved in the British economy plus the extra support for science, we can look forward to many more examples, such as that to which my hon. Friend drew the House’s attention.

Given the Chief Secretary’s comments about the link between science expenditure and economic development, why does Wales, with 5 per cent. of the UK population, receive only 2 per cent. of the science budget, which is about a third of what the Government spent last year on science overseas?

The science budget will reach £3.4 billion by the next financial year—more than twice the 1997 level in cash terms. Of course, many decisions about money that is committed in Wales are now for the Welsh Assembly. However, there are many outstanding examples in Wales of science-based companies thriving, thanks to what the Government have done.