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Science Funding

Volume 534: debated on Thursday 27 October 2011

3. What recent assessment he has made of the level of science funding over the comprehensive spending review period. (76853)

Funding for science and research programmes has been protected with a flat cash ring-fenced settlement of £4.6 billion for each of the next four years. We can be proud of our scientific research, and that is why the coalition is backing it.

Although I welcome the investment in the technology and innovation centres, one of which is in my constituency, will the Minister explain to the House why the Government have continued to cut the science budget by 12% overall when Germany, one of our main competitors, has increased its budget by 8%?

No party at the last election promised complete protection for the BIS budget. In fact, in its last economic statement in December 2009, the hon. Gentleman’s party committed itself to cutting £600 million from the higher education and science and research budgets. We, by contrast, are offering complete cash protection for that budget.

The scientists to whom I speak are concerned not only about the amount of money available now but about the levels of capital funding and the long-term security of funding running many years into the future. While I welcome the announcement of funding for companies such as Babraham, what assurances can the Minister provide that he will try to get more capital funding from the Treasury and to ensure good, long-term security so that scientists will know how much funding there will be for the next decade?

Of course, we have been able in the past year to fund six of the eight capital projects that the science community identified as the most important. We think that that has been a considerable achievement in tough times, and we will continue to try to secure financing for other capital programmes in the future.

The Secretary of State recently said that all long-term economic growth was linked to innovation, yet one year after he claimed to have protected the science budget, the independent Campaign for Science and Engineering has revealed that its budget has been slashed by 12%, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) mentioned. The Minister’s own Department says that cuts to science will damage our world-leading position, yet businesses up and down the country are being denied the innovation support that they need, and the shambles in university funding makes it harder for universities to provide science places. If innovation is the engine of growth, why is the Secretary of State doing so much damage to it?

We in the coalition are absolutely committed to the importance of science and research, and we are strengthening the links between science and research and the business community. We are also offering cash protection for the science budget across all main current expenditure, which the hon. Lady’s party never did in government. The very source that she has just cited, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, only a fortnight ago

“welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that £195m of new investment will be spent on science and engineering.”