The Labour Party began the election campaign this week by promising more political clout but no more money for education and employment. The Department for Education and Employment will become the second ministry, alongside the Treasury, to have two cabinet ministers if Labour wins the general election.
The new minister, subordinate to the secretary of state for education and employment, will be responsible for the proposed windfall tax-funded Welfare to Work programme - intended to take 250,000 young people off the unemployment register - and for European programmes such as the Social Chapter.
Labour also plans a cabinet subcommittee, chaired by the chancellor of the exchequer, to coordinate the different departments involved in Welfare to Work. A task force headed by a businessman will include representatives of further and higher education, training and enterprise councils, voluntary groups and other bodies concerned with delivery of the programme.
A Labour government would increase the pressure on universities to "match the needs of the economy" via a new emphasis on technology foresight, according to shadow science minister Adam Ingram. He told a Science Week meeting organised by the Science Alliance of trade unions and The THES that the intention is "to focus the mind of the sector."
Among ideas he intends to pursue is an expansion of Faraday centres to pursue applied research of interest to industry. He said that the United Kingdom has "no future without a strong industrial base" which universities must help provide.
Labour intends to have a science minister and a chief scientific adviser with a direct line of communication to the prime minister and the Cabinet Office.
Mr Ingram also said that Labour would "base quick decisions" on the report of Sir Ron Dearing's higher education inquiry. But he warned that problems cannot be solved "by throwing money at them".