§ 31. Mr. John Marshall
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last met the Institute of Civil Engineers to discuss the role of engineering in the economy.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. David Davis)
My right hon. Friend last met the institute for discussions of that kind in September 1993.
§ Mr. Marshall
Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the success of the civil engineering industry in winning contracts abroad? Is not that good for jobs in Britain and for the balance of payments?
§ Mr. Davis
I certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to that industry. He referred to its success abroad, but on our doorstep we have an even bigger symbol of that success—the channel tunnel, which is the largest civil engineering project this century. The lion's share of the work was won by the British construction industry. It is because of the success of that industry that we have one of the Foresight panels on construction, with three members of the institute that he mentioned on it.
§ Dr. Moonie
Can—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] Can the Minister confirm that it is not the role of the science budget to cover up for deficiencies in spending in the Department of Trade and Industry? Will he confirm, as the Secretary of State did a few weeks ago, that peer review will remain the sole criterion for allocation of resources within the research councils?
§ Mr. Davis
In light of the rather desultory cheering from the Benches behind the hon. Gentleman, I am surprised that he is keen on peer review. The answer to his question is certainly yes. The Department of Trade and Industry is changing its emphasis from the generation of new ideas to the exploitation of technology and technology transfer, which is as it should be.