Skip to main content

Life Sciences

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 16 November 2021

The “Life Sciences Vision” outlined our bold ambition to bring scientific excellence and the dynamism of industry together to solve the most pressing health challenges. I am delighted to say that since the strategy was published we have already launched a £200 million life sciences investment programme and established the life sciences scale-up taskforce.

I welcome the record research and development settlement for my right hon. Friend’s Department that was delivered during the spending review, a good chunk of which will, I hope, support investment in health and life sciences. Does he agree that our world-class life sciences base has been and will be our defence against future pandemics? Will he comment on his Department’s plans to locate more life sciences manufacturing facilities in the UK, so that we are less reliant on a global supply chain?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend that world-class life sciences are vital, and I am pleased to confirm that we have already allocated £354 million in the spending review to strengthen the UK’s life sciences manufacturing base, with particular emphasis on preparing for future pandemics.

It has been reported that the Prime Minister is minded to split up the Secretary of State’s Department so that he can better deliver on the Department’s priorities. Does the Secretary of State agree on that?

I think it is absolutely vital that the net zero agenda—the climate change action agenda—is situated firmly in a Business Department, and I am delighted to head that Department.

I have two questions for the Secretary of State. What role can life sciences play in the Advanced Research and Invention Agency? What role can Bolton play in ARIA?

My hon. Friend smuggled a leading question into his first question. He knows that ARIA is a key part of our strategy to become a science superpower, and he and I can discuss the role that Bolton will play in that exciting future.

The “Life Sciences Vision” has dementia as its first mission. The Conservative manifesto committed to doubling research funding in a dementia moonshot, but the Budget ignored it. The UK Dementia Research Institute called this

“a major blow to UK neuroscientists racing to find cures for these devastating diseases”.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said that this

“lets down the nearly one million people in the UK affected by this devastating condition.”

So will the Secretary of State now set out a clear timetable for doubling dementia research funding, as Labour has? Or is the “Life Sciences Vision”, like the R&D road map, the industrial strategy, the innovation strategy, the grand challenges and Northern Powerhouse Rail, all talk and no action?

I completely refute the hon. Lady’s allegation that those things are all words. The innovation strategy is the first of its kind. It has been broadly welcomed across the sector, and she will know that dementia is one of the seven technologies in engineering and biology that we are pursuing in the innovation strategy.