§ 27. Mr. John Marshall
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement about preparations for National Science Week.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. Robert G. Hughes)
Preparations are well advanced for the second science week, starting on 17 March 1995. It will be bigger and more comprehensive than this year's.
§ Mr. Marshall
Does my hon. Friend agree that, as part of National Science Week, it will be necessary to emphasise the quality of science teaching? Does he agree that science teaching has improved since the introduction of the national curriculum, especially in grant-maintained schools.
Indeed, science teaching is improving. The fact that the national curriculum requires pupils to learn about science for so many years is a big improvement. Improvements in facilities are also important, but so is the excitement of science. Therefore, schools' participation in science week—I urge all schools to do so—is an important part of the public's understanding of the science curriculum.
§ Mr. Battle
While I welcome the Government's National Science Week initiatives, we cannot let the Minister get away with trying to con us into believing that that is all that is needed. Can he confirm that, although the Office of Science and Technology budget was riot cut last week, the budgets of every other Department—the Department for Education and the Departments of Trade and Industry, Health, Transport and the Environment—all had their research and development spending reduced in the recent Budget. Is it not a classic case of a teaspoon of aid for National Science Week while, with the other hand, the Treasury is firmly grasping the windpipe of every other Department's science spending? It was not a Budget for science, was it?
It was a Budget for science. The Labour party apparently finds it impossible to welcome good news. Labour Members do not understand good news when it gets up and hits them. The science budget is at a record level and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy protected and increased it, which has been warmly welcomed in the science community.
§ Mr. Dykes
I wish my hon. Friend well because at the end of March he will be the Minister in charge of that programme for schools throughout the country. Can he confirm that we shall have a major programme throughout the borough of Harrow and that, although it is early days, schools are already responding well to that initiative?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I know from the work which my hon. Friend and I have been doing that there will be a large programine in Harrow. Indeed, our work has been mirrored by other hon. Members of all parties who have responded warmly to the letter that I sent all hon. Members. They have been 608 contacting their schools and companies in their constituencies, so that everyone concerned in the subject will make a large input to National Science Week.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes
We welcome contributions to the week from any bona fide organisation that seeks to promote greater public understanding and appreciation of science, engineering and technology. No area of research, including medical research, is excluded.
§ Mr. Cohen
Surely the Minister does not pretend to be neutral on the issue of animal experiments. Millions of animals are destroyed unnecessarily each year in the so-called interests of science. Why do not the Government take the opportunity provided by the week to listen to the public's views on unreliable, unethical and inhumane treatment of animals in experiments, and to promote the genuinely scientific alternatives to those awful experiments?
I know that the hon. Gentleman is seriously concerned about the issue and pursues it with equal seriousness. I am sure that he accepts that my voting record in the House indicates that I also take a serious view of it. The Government share public concern that animals should not suffer unnecessarily. We are committed to finding alternatives and the Home Office funds research to that end. The British Association's declaration on the use of animals in medical research is an important contribution, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that thousands of eminent doctors and scientists, including 31 Nobel prize winners, signed that declaration.