Following the Science and Technology Committee’s recent inquiry into the science budget, Nicola, as Chair, opened a debate on science funding in the House of Commons.
Nicola welcomed the Government’s recent commitment to science funding: following her continued discussions with HM Treasury prior to the Autumn Spending Review, the Chancellor announced that the science budget is to be increased, in real terms, by up to £4.7 billion over the course of this parliament.
Nicola then pressed ministers on the additional action that is needed to safeguard the UK science sector, ahead of the important March Budget, where spending decisions for the year ahead will be finalised.
Opening the debate, Nicola says:
Clearly, spending on science and innovation is not a state subsidy – it is a strategic investment which creates high value jobs, boosts productivity and attracts inwards investment.
We hold a position of great responsibility in the global scientific community; as a science powerhouse, not only do we set the bar for the quality of research, but we have a duty to take care that our spending and structural decisions do more than merely maintain the status quo. As we face down a century that is filled with infinitely complex societal challenges—ageing, chronic and complex illnesses and climate change—we have to acknowledge that we are in the hot seat.
If we get our spending priorities, regulatory frameworks and immigration policy wrong, we will be on the wrong side of history. For that reason, the Science and Technology Committee chose spending on science and innovation as our first inquiry and ensured that we reported in time to make recommendations ahead of the spending review. It is also why we asked for this debate today, ahead of the Budget, to press on recommendations that have not yet been taken up, although we are grateful for the Government’s response.
At the end of the debate, the Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, responded by saying:
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon for her Select Committee’s important work.
Science and research very much sit at the very heart of this Government’s economic plan. This autumn’s spending review settlement was an emphatic confirmation of that commitment: an extension of the ring fence around science and innovation until 2020 means a total investment of £30.4 billion during this Parliament.
The ring fence has been a powerful indication of the Government’s commitment to science, and we will continue to protect science resource funding in real terms for the rest of the Parliament. We are building on the safeguards put in place for the science budget in the last Parliament. That will mean a decade of protection and of sustained investment by the Government. All that of course comes in the context of significant savings in other areas of Government expenditure, which is a clear sign of the important place of science in our decision making.
Nicola will be holding further discussions with ministers in the coming months to ensure that funding commitments are met and the UK science sector can go from strength to strength.
The debate, including Nicola’s full speech and the Minister’s response, can be accessed by following this link.
Furthermore, the Science and Technology Committee’s report, The Science Budget (2015), can be accessed by following this link.