MPs hit out at science funding

August 18, 2000

The government's defence of its research and development expenditure is "wholly inadequate", the House of Commons science and technology committee has said.

MPs reiterated their call this week for an end to the long-term decline of science spending by government departments outside the Department of Trade and Industry and demanded better cross-departmental coordination.

The government's official response to the select committee's report defended current practices.

The government said: "Departments must invest in R&D at a level which they judge best meets their policy, regulatory, procurement and service delivery needs. The science budget has not been augmented through reductions in civil departments' R&D budgets."

The committee said that, while the government agreed on statements of general principle, it did little to take on the MPs' specific recommendations. "The government, while thanking us for our report, has not in general been persuaded that the measures we proposed are either necessary or expedient. We find the government's reply to be wholly inadequate," it concluded.

Peter Cotgreave, secretary of Save British Science, said the cuts in R&D in other departments, notably the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, undermined the increases in the OST's science budget.

"The science base is in good hands at the DTI but other departments do not take science as seriously, and there are no mechanisms for the OST or the chief scientific adviser to do anything about it," he said.

Letters, page 13

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