Lobby sees crumbs, not cake, in science recipes

June 1, 2001

Science has been disappointingly omitted from the three main parties' election manifestos, according to Peter Cotgreave, director of the lobby group, Save British Science.

The main Conservative Party manifesto does not mention science and there is one mention given in its Scottish manifesto.

The Liberal Democrats refer to science four times in theirs and Labour ten times.

The Labour Party called a press conference last week to outline its "Ambitions for Science". It announced the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for Science Teaching.

The centre would provide continuing professional training and would be hosted by an unnamed "major" university, according to the announcement.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury and trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers went on to describe what Labour had done for science over the past four years but did not describe further new policies.

They released a letter, signed by seven leading scientists including Lord Winston, Sir Tom Blundell and Kumar Battacharyya, supporting the government's record in science.

Dr Cotgreave said: "The fact that Labour had a science press conference says something. But I don't think any party has enough science on their manifestoes."

He said salaries would be the biggest issue facing the next government. But despite a manifesto pledge to encourage the best scientists in the world to work in the United Kingdom, Lord Sainsbury said there were no new funds planned to achieve this.

Save British Science also questioned party leaders directly about science issues in a booklet that will be sent to scientists and engineers.

Prime minister Tony Blair said: "The salaries of scientists is an area where we will need to make further progress in a second term."

He added that Labour would offer golden handshakes of £5,000 to lecturers in shortage subjects.

Conservative leader William Hague said that endowing universities would remove the complexity of having to compete for government funding initiatives as the universities would be autonomous.

Charles Kennedy said a Liberal Democrat government would encourage international scientific research, increasing the funding and importance given to British science.

  Election 2001 index page

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