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UK Research and Development

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 9 February 2021

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

We announced at the spending review an investment of £14.6 billion in R&D for 2021-22. This will no doubt cement our status as a science superpower here in the UK. We are taking forward the ambitious commitments in the R&D road map, which was published only last year, and we are of course continuing co-operation with the EU through association with the Horizon Europe programme.

Apprentices have played a key role throughout this pandemic, including working on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is helping the country overcome this virus. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, in National Apprenticeship Week, he will be working with and encouraging more R&D-based businesses to provide apprenticeship opportunities so that more young people can gain the skills they need to progress in this field?

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for the great work he is doing as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on apprenticeships. He will know that apprenticeships are a key part of this Government’s plan for jobs as we build back better from the pandemic, and that is why we are offering employers cash payments of up to £2,000 when they hire a new apprentice, until 31 March this year.

We are all grateful to Britain’s world-leading scientists for blazing a trail of hope in this terrible pandemic, but how are Government protecting science’s future? Medical charity research is predicted to fall by over £4 billion after Government refused support. University research has only been offered loans to cover losses from international students, while 90% of UK researchers are excluded from support, even though the virus prevents them from finishing their research. Postgraduate research students from the nine doctoral training programmes have written to demand action, given the escalating scale of the crisis, and there is a massive reduction in funding for early career researchers. Why are Government not protecting the future of the science that is protecting us?

The hon. Lady seems to be living in a parallel universe. If we look at the vaccine roll-out—we have seen 12.3 million, or nearly 12.3 million, people vaccinated as of this morning—we can see that the strength of the UK science base is really impressive. It is looked on throughout the world as something to aspire to. We are a world-leading science power—a science superpower. I have already mentioned the £14.6 billion that we have committed to R&D, and this is an area where we are confident and world-beating.