Labour lashes research policy

November 3, 1995

The Labour Party has warned that quality research is suffering under short-term policies.

Speaking in a recent Parliamentary debate on science and technology, John Battle, then shadow science spokesman but now energy spokesman, said that alpha-rated research projects "are being passed over because resources have been diverted to the less rigorous Realising Our Potential Awards".

He said that under Labour "the Ropas can stay; we welcome them. But quality shall become the criterion. We shall restore a long-term horizon and ensure that funding structures do not channel research projects that are short term and purely near market".

Mr Battle, who is succeeded as shadow science spokesman by Adam Ingram, criticised the recent transfer of the Office of Science and Technology to the Department of Trade and Industry. He said that the transfer was the result of "back-of-the-envelope plan" by Michael Heseltine, the deputy prime minister, on how the Government should be run.

"Mr Heseltine was to leave the DTI and move to Cabinet Office in his new role, but he kicked science behind him. He pushed the OST back in the opposite direction," he said.

But science minister Ian Taylor fought back, reminding Mr Battle that Sir William Stewart, former chief scientific adviser, had made "very positive" remarks about the transfer of the OST to the DTI. Mr Taylor said that new chief scientific adviser Robert May, had specifically told him that "the transdepartmental responsibilities of the adviser have been preserved entirely".

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