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Horizon Europe

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 2 May 2023

1. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on association to the EU’s Horizon Europe programme. (904711)

We are in discussions with the EU on the UK’s involvement in EU research programmes. We are doing this in good faith, and we hope that the discussions will be successful. We are determined to secure a fair deal for researchers, businesses and taxpayers.

Owen Jackson, the director of policy at Cancer Research UK, has said that Pioneer, the Government’s proposed replacement for the EU’s science programme, does not “match up” to association to Horizon Europe. He has warned that if we do not rejoin, we

“will be at the margins, rather than at the centre, of these important opportunities”

to win funding. Now that the Windsor framework is in place, will the Minister update the House on recent meetings between the UK Government and the European Commissioner responsible for Horizon Europe?

We have always been at the centre of scientific innovation. I will not give the House a running commentary on the negotiations, but we do have optimism. We are confident that we will be able to secure that fair deal for researchers, businesses and taxpayers, with the kind of important research that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Britain’s outstanding contribution to Arctic and, indeed, Antarctic science has been greatly aided over the years by Horizon Europe. Can the Minister reassure me that our huge contribution to the High North will be replicated, and soon, and can he tell me when the negotiations will finally end?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the High North will be at the centre of all our scientific work, and I acknowledge and praise his important role in that region.

Thousands of jobs in some of our key technological and scientific research institutions throughout the UK are now at risk. We are leaching talent and competitive advantage, and the Government have been dragging their heels. The Minister says that negotiations are ongoing. How long will those key institutions have to wait for an answer—days, months, or yet more years?

As I have said, I am not going to give a running commentary, but we are negotiating in good faith, we have optimism, and we are determined to secure a fair deal that recognises the researchers whom the hon. Gentleman has described. We are expectant that the negotiation will conclude in good order.

I am puzzled by the UK Government’s approach. There is cross-party unity in the House, and the Minister is missing an opportunity for a great deal of support. We all want to see our universities back in Horizon Europe, and we all want to see the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds guaranteed. Just a couple of weeks ago, Professor Iain Gillespie of the University of Dundee was in Brussels drawing attention to the £900 million that Scotland’s universities secured from the last funding programme. There is a willingness in Brussels, and there is a willingness in Scotland; when will the UK Government match that ambition?

We are willing, and we are negotiating in good faith. Scotland’s scientific future will, of course, be a part of that, which is another reminder of why Scotland is better, and will flourish, within the Union.