Smith says yes to science ministry

时间:2019-03-02 03:16:01166网络整理admin

By WILLIAM BOWN In his first major speech on science since becoming party leader, John Smith pledged that a future Labour government would create a Ministry of Science. It would be Britain’s first government department devoted to science. The new ministry would be ‘the driving force behind a new commitment to science’, said Smith. Details of the responsibilities of the new ministry will be worked out in the coming months. But Smith, who was speaking at a meeting of the Save British Science Society in London this week, says that action is needed to remedy years of ‘wilful neglect’ of science by the government. ‘While all the other major trading countries have been increasing the amount they spend on research . . . the stark and unavoidable truth is that the UK has been going in the opposite direction. This is a state of affairs which ought, long before now, to have caused genuine alarm to any responsible government.’ Smith says that the creation of such a ministry would ‘open a new chapter in Britain’s history as a great scientific nation’. But the Labour leader left open the all – important question of whether his Minister of Science would continue to have a seat in the Cabinet. At present, government science policy is coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology, which forms part of the Office of Public Service and Science. Science is represented in the Cabinet by the minister in charge of the OPSS, William Waldegrave. Chief among Labour’s priorities, Smith said, is a need to increase industrial research. He identified the short-termism of Britain’s financial markets, and the government’s overreliance on them, as the main reason why companies invest so little in research and development. He promised to look at ways the government could combat short-termism. In contrast to the government’s hands-off approach to the City, Smith said, ‘much can be done to raise industrial R&D’. Tax incentives for research were the most obvious option but he would also consider changing accounting rules so that research spending appears as an investment rather than a cost on the corporate balance sheet. However, there was no promise of new government money for research. A Labour government would not be able to afford to do everything it wanted to immediately. But Smith did say that ‘education and training,