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Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

17. When she next plans to meet the Engineering and Technology Board to discuss the promotion of science, engineering and technology as a career choice for women. (95021)

The promotion of science, engineering and technology comes under the Office of Science and Innovation. The Minister for Science and Innovation meets the chair of the ETB regularly. I am pleased to report that the board and the UK resource centre for women in science, engineering and technology are developing a memorandum of understanding to promote the role of women in science, engineering and technology. I met Annette Williams, the director of the UK resource centre, this week to discuss progress.

I am grateful to the Minister for that comprehensive answer. She will have heard her right hon. Friend the Minister for Women say that she has frequent meetings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. She will also know that the Department of Trade and Industry is a sponsor of the ETB. Will she or her right hon. Friend be saying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that funding continues to be needed in this valuable area to promote science, engineering and technology?

Of course. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s role in the engineering board. It is important that we continue not only to get more women into the sector, but to get back into it some of the 70 per cent. of women who have qualifications in the area. The funding that has gone into the UK resource centre has been enormously important and we will of course continue to press for more.

For 13 years, Aberdeen has hosted a science festival called Techfest at the beginning of each September. The festival is aimed predominantly at schoolchildren, although events are also held for adults. May I invite my hon. Friend to come up next September to see what is happening in Aberdeen, the excitement on the children’s faces—boys and girls—and the way in which all businesses have been supportive of the festival and engaged with young people to get them interested in science in the first place?

I congratulate Aberdeen on its efforts. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is enormously important that children are enthused at an early age. Great work is going on in this area, and, subject to diary commitments, I would certainly love to look at the opportunity of going to Aberdeen next year.