§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY rose to call attention to the Report of the Industrial and Scientific Research Committee; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it does not require any apology for calling the attention of your Lordships to this most interesting Report and asking that it be laid before Parliament. It is, I understand, the tenth Report of the operations of this Committee. Though I was not able to peruse the earlier Reports I have read this one with great interest and with no desire, I can assure your Lordships, to pick unnecessary, or even necessary, holes in it. I wish to call the attention of the House, and through the House the attention of the country, to the admirable work which is being done by the Committee over which the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, presides.
§ It is unnecessary and would not be in accordance with your Lordships' desires that I should refer clause by clause, or even page by page, to the contents of this Report which, with its additions and annexes, runs to some 170 pages. A large part of the Report deals with technical subjects with which only a very small minority even of this House of experts would be able to deal. There are reports of work carried out in many fields of 229 scientific and industrial research, interesting and important but to some extent incomprehensible to the layman. There is much in the Report, however, which any ordinary layman can easily follow so as to enable him to offer his most humble congratulations to the noble Earl on the work which his Committee have done, congratulations not merely on the scientific work but on the system which he and his Committee have adopted in the encouragement of scientific research.
§ It will be noted by those who read the Report that it opens with a brief statement signed by the noble Earl giving an account of the methods and, in broadest outline, of the achievements of the Committee, followed by an account which gets more elaborate as the Report proceeds from the Advisory Committee of the actual work done. In the preliminary Report one notices that the system adopted has been that which I am quite sure is the wise one of encouraging individuals and associations not to depend upon the Government for support but to help themselves. The method adopted has been to give to those who are prepared to give and to withhold from those who are indifferent to or negligent of their own interest. The system, as I understand it, is, broadly, that a grant—begining as a rule as a pound for pound grant and tapering off as the organisation becomes established—is given to those organisations which show that they are willing out of their own resources to help themselves.
§ I do not wish to refer for more than a moment to one or two instances of those who have been proved unworthy of continued support, but it is perhaps a matter which may be animadverted upon that the beet sugar producers, who, I imagine, have received in the past in one form or another from this and previous Governments, at least as much assistance as and probably more than other organisations, are pointed out as being themselves unable or unwilling to assist themselves by maintaining to any considerable extent their own scientific investigation department. One may, perhaps, say that the more a Government helps an organisation of trade the less that trade is prepared to help itself, but that would be departing somewhat far from the subject under discussion and might be introducing something of a controversial nature which I do not wish to introduce. 230 The Report then, in brief, touches on the various methods of investigation in various trades which have formed scientific organisations and the subject is developed in the Report of the Advisory Committee. If I pass over the individual trades without saying very much about them, it is not because I do not wish to offer to those concerned my congratulations on the excellent work they have done, but because I do not wish to weary the House by paraphrasing what can be easily discovered from the Report itself. The Report is full, it is lucid, it is comprehensible and therefore it would be a work of supererogation on my part to attempt to call attention to what is already in print.
§ There is, however, one point which I should like to make on the Lord President's Report and it is the first question I wish to ask. In his Report there is a reference to forestry investigations—there may be a supplementary reference in the Advisory Committee's Report—to the effect that the assistance of the Imperial Institute in the matter of forestry investigations has been fully made use of. That is the only reference to the Imperial Institute which I can find in the course of the Report and I shall revert presently to the wider question of the connection between Empire research and home research. I should like to have some information regarding the function of the Imperial Institute. There was a time when it was supposed that the function of the Imperial Institute was to maintain laboratories in the broadest sense for the investigation of a large number of economic and scientific problems which related in particular to the Empire.
§ I remember when I was in Australia receiving a Report—I do not know whether it was from the Imperial Institute, it may have been sent to me by a member of your Lordships' House whose name for the moment I have forgotten—calling attention to the fact that the Institute did offer facilities for close scientific investigation into Imperial problems, particularly those of an economic, scientific description. I called the attention of my Ministers to this Report and invited their sympathetic interest in the work. It was during the War, and people's interests were then centred on the War and War matters, 231 but I got from my Ministers at the time an undertaking that if they were invited to give assistance to the Imperial Institute they would readily accede to any request that might come from His Majesty's Government. There was no definite offer of a contribution, but there was an undertaking of benevolent interest if the matter was pursued. As I say, the matter did not come from His Majesty's Government, it came, I think, from a private individual, and there was nothing on which one could make any definite request to the Ministers of the State of Victoria to give assistance, but I did get an undertaking that they would give consideration to any request which might be made.
§ I reported that matter in the course of one of my Despatches, but in War time minor matters receive less attention than they do in peace time. The Despatch was acknowledged, but no more than acknowledged, and the matter there rested. If, however, the Imperial Institute is still an integral part of the scientific organisation of His Majesty's Government it might be desirable to reopen the question and see whether the Imperial Institute, as an Imperial scientific investigating authority, might be made more use of than is apparently the case at the present moment. I confess to some little interest as to how far the Imperial Institute as a scientific organisation is actually used. It is only referred to in two lines in this Report and is only there referred to in regard to the matter of timber testing. I venture to ask the noble Earl whether he can give us any information on the subject of the methods, past, present or future, of the Imperial Institute.
§ The Report deals, as I have said, with a variety of subjects. It deals with problems relating to food, with problems relating to textiles and in that connection it alludes to the problems relating to wool. Many of these problems have no doubt an important domestic aspect, but problems relating to great trades—particularly the trade in foodstuffs, in imported meats and dairy products, and The textile trade, including the wool trade—also have an extremely important Imperial aspect. It is highly desirable that we should not put into watertight compartments the question of scientific investigation into such things as food preservation, confining it to the investi- 232 gation of the problem as it arises here in this country. It is desirable, and I admit that the Committee have recognised that desirability, that the question of the preservation and the maintenance of the quality of imported foodstuffs and other articles from our Dominions should be investigated even more thoroughly than the easier problem of maintaining the purity and the freshness of the foodstuffs produced in this country. I have no doubt that the noble Earl will refer me to the Report of the work at Cambridge in the low temperature preservation of meats and other foodstuffs, which has a very close relation to the necessities of Imperial as well as domestic trade. The work of the experimental station at East Malling, dealing with fruits, has no doubt a very wide and important bearing upon the question of the importation of fruits from South Africa, Canada or Australia, and accordingly, while the investigations carried on by this Department are initiated by the domestic Government in this country, their results have been of far greater importance and of far wider use than merely to inform the taxpayers of this country as to what has been done and what can be done in the way of maintaining and developing their 'own domestic industries.
§ In addition to the direct work that has been carried out, there has been other work that was not directly undertaken by the Committee. I will allude only in passing to the work of fuel research, which is of enormous importance and is, I think, the most expensive and certainly the widest of the functions carried out by the Committee over which the noble Earl presides. But in addition to the direct work of the Committee, a considerable amount of work has been assisted by grants from the Committee. Industries are encouraged to set up their own investigating committees, individuals are encouraged by grants in suitable cases to make investigations of their own and a very large part, perhaps the larger part, of the expenditure in the past year has been devoted, not to direct investigation by Government organisations, but to grants towards investigating bodies that are controlled by the industries which create them and are very largely financed by those industries. I should be the last to complain of this method being adopted by the noble Earl's Committee. On the 233 contrary, I wish to congratulate them on having adopted an extremely wise and productive method of encouraging investigation.
§ When I come to the more detailed part of the Report, I have, as I have said, fewer comments to make, but there are one or two rather important, general remarks that I should wish to make. On page 17 there is an extremely important reference, which I am sure the noble Earl will be willing and able to elaborate, to the Committee of Civil Research, which was, I understand, set up last year. At least it is a recent entrant in the world of scientific investigation, and is not as old a member of the Governmental system as the Committee whose Report is now before the House. The author of the Report merely refers in passing to the fact that a Committee of Civil Research has been set up by the Government. When this subject was before your Lordships' House last year I ventured with somewhat intrepid rashness to call your Lordships' attention to this Civil Research Committee without having made myself acquainted with the whole of the passages in the OFFICIAL REPORT relevant to the subject. I hope that I can avoid committing a similar offence again, for I have taken the precaution of reading the debate that I had not real at that time. Indeed, one of my first duties after the debate was over was to make for the Library of your Lordships' House and to become acquainted with the debate which at that moment I had omitted to master. I trust that on this occasion I have not missed any Command Paper, any part of the OFFICIAL REPORT or any other public means of information that ought to have been at my disposal, and of which I ought to have taken advantage.
§ I should be glad of an opportunity to learn, if it is permissible, something of the operations of this Committee of Civil Research. It was compared in debate with the Committee of Imperial Defence, and in certain aspects it is, no doubt, similar. It is, as I understand, a Committee of which there is but one permanent member—I believe it is the Lord President in this case—and to which, after the analogy of the Committee of Imperial Defence, individuals may be summoned, but it is not a Standing Committee composed of permanent members, it is not a Committee with executive 234 functions nor does it own laboratories or experimental farms or any material of scientific investigation. It is rather a Committee—I speak subject to correction—to advise His Majesty's Government where they can best obtain scientific information, and who are the best people to whom to refer particular problems of importance to the domestic state of the United Kingdom or of interest to the British Empire. It is an organisation loose in character and, if I may say so, it does the thinking—perhaps unnecessarily in the case of the noble Earl—for the Government, instead of forcing the Government to do its thinking for itself. That is perhaps an incomplete or even erroneous way of putting it, but I think that I understand the nature of this Committee.
§ There is, however, this great difference between this Committee and the Committee of Imperial Defence. The Committee of Imperial Defence, as a result of the character of the subjects that it takes into consideration, must be completely secret, must conduct its investigations in privacy and must not even allow the subject that it is investigating to leak out in more than the most general terms. The results of its investigations must remain wrapped in the minds of those who are responsible for the defence of this country and the Empire. In that respect, at least, I venture to suppose that the Committee of Civil Research must be of an entirely opposite nature. The Committee of Civil Research does not require to keep its subjects of inquiry secret, it does not have to conduct its investigations in privacy, and the results that it obtains would, I suppose, in accordance with the old and well-established scientific tradition, be broadcast to the world so that the whole world may take advantage of them. There is clearly a difference, therefore, in the systems adopted by the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Committee of Civil Research. It was, of course, made perfectly clear in the debate last year that the Committee of Civil Research is a link between the Dominions and the Mother Country, and we shall in the course of this afternoon's debate hear how far that Committee of Civil Research has acted as a link between the Mother Country and the Dominions because, as I have said, there are many points where the Dominions are as closely 235 interested in research, though perhaps from a somewhat different angle, as the Mother Country.
§ May I allude to one subject which is familiar to me? I only take it as an example for the questions might be multiplied ten-, twenty-, or even fifty-fold as far as I know. May I refer to the question of the wool industry of this country and the wool industry of the Empire? It will be noted in the Report that the cotton industry of this country, by means of a voluntary levy of, I think, approximately 1d. per bale upon every bale imported into this country, has set up a fund for the investigation of cotton problems in the broadest possible sense. I am not quite certain, though perhaps the noble Earl will be able to tell us, whether the problems of cotton investigation financed by this 1d. per bale levy include the problems of the growing of cotton—entomology, botany and the chemistry of cotton-growing, as well as the extremely wide questions of the use of the cotton lint when it arrives here. I am not quite clear upon that point, but if the investigation does not contain these problems there may be some excuse for it in view of the fact that the majority of cotton used in this country does not come from the Empire. Our cotton users, those who founded this fund, may see no particular reason why they should confine their investigation to the Empire. If that is so I, for my part, think that they show a broad-minded interest in the subject and I do not blame them for using their funds for advancing the interests of men who, although not directly part of the British Empire, are yet men who by their work contribute largely to the prosperity of the Empire.
§ On the basis of cotton it is possible, I think, to found something similar with regard to wool, and you could in regard to wool do even more in view of the fact that in contradistinction to cotton 90 per cent. and more of the wool used in this country is produced within the Empire. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all produce a large volume of wool and so do our own sheep-growers in this country. The wool we use here is an Empire product from the time the lamb is dropped to the time the coat is put on your back, and it is, I think, highly desirable that those concerned in 236 the industry should combine to create an organisation which shall carry on the whole scientific inquiries required in order to promote the wool industry of this country. No doubt organisations of that sort already exist. The woollen textile manufacturers of this country have an organisation, which is, however, not in intimate touch with the growers. Their organisation investigates all the problems of manufacture but is not concerned with the problems of production.
§ In Australia there have been various attempts, and more than attempts, to set up a scientific organisation which will investigate wool production. It may be within the recollection of some of your Lordships that about a couple of years ago, on the suggestion, I think, of the late Governor-General of Australia, Lord Forster, a proposition was made by the Chairman of the British Australian Wool Realisation Association, generally spoken of as Bawra amongst those connected with it, that when Bawra wound up its affairs the shareholders should vote a substantial sum of money for wool investigation. At that moment the proposition, as then made, was not accepted. At the present moment, however, Bawra is on the point of concluding operations, and will make an interim distribution, preparatory to a final distribution, in July, and there is a strong desire that when distribution is made some part of the funds should be voluntarily given for the purpose of investigating wool problems. That proposition had the support of very influential persons in Australia, and, if I may say so, also in England, for there are large pastoral companies operating in Australia with headquarters in England as much interested as any Australian company in the production of wool.
§ I have here letters which have passed between the Prime Minister of Australia and Mr. Aitken, who, besides being manager of Dalgetty's, in Melbourne, is Chairman of the Wool Brokers Association. I cannot say that he is speaking for every individual house or grower, but he represents a very important and influential element in the wool industry of Australia. In those letters he sends a proposition to Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister, and Mr. Bruce replies, giving him great encouragement 237 to his proposition that it is desirable to set up an organisation dealing with the wool industry of Australia. The problem will, of course, be of the widest possible character and involve questions of botany, the influence of foodstuffs upon sheep, the resisting power of sheep to various diseases as affected by the foodstuffs they eat, and the question of the blow-fly—how it can be got rid of and what foodstuffs are inimical to the spread of the blow-fly. There is information which indicates that certain foods, known in Australia as pig-face, although botanists call them mesembryanthemum, may control the development of the blow-fly. If that be so, and if scientific investigation can pursue that point, then great advantage will be gained for the wool industry of Australia. Obviously, it is not necessary for me to detail the points on which such a scientific committee could work.
§ Mr. Bruce, in his letter to Mr. Aitkin agreeing with the system largely employed in this country, suggests that this scientific investigation should be financed mainly by the wool industry of Australia. He points out in his letter that if the wool industry supplies the finance of such an investigation the wool industry will desire substantially to control the lines of the investigation. But he holds out hopes that, as the British Government here has assisted those who are willing to assist themselves, so his Committee of scientific research in Australia (I do not know its name, but that is immaterial) will be prepared, if this Committee of investigation is established, to give substantial assistance towards setting the most important industry of Australia firmly on its legs in respect to scientific investigation.
§ But if it is of primary interest to the wool grower that wool should be better and more cheaply produced, that the sheep should be saved from the drought—aye, and that measures should be taken in time of plenty, for the time of plenty has its dangers as well as the time of drought—it is at least equally in the interests of the wool consumer that these things should be done, for a plentiful, constant and regular supply of wool is as of great importance to the manufacturer in this country as it is to the grower of wool in Australia. And therefore I suggest that it might be possible, 238 as one of the functions of the Civil Research Committee, to take this sort of question into their consideration, and see whether it is possible for them to link up the wool user in this country with the wool producer in Australia and bring them together, so that they may, in their own joint interests, combine to finance and maintain, not an investigation of one end only, but an investigation right through the industry. It is at least as useful to the wool grower that there should be investigations into the methods of manufacture here, so that his wool may find ample outlets, as it is to the wool manufacturer here that the method of growing should be scientifically controlled and looked after. It will take different men to investigate textile problems from those who investigate botanical, zoological and entomological problems, but the whole thing would be brought under one roof, so to speak. The Committee who have charge of the scientific investigation of wool should be charged with the whole of it from beginning to end, and should distribute the investigations into a large number of departments. That, I suggest, would be of advantage to the wool industry.
§ And if to do that in the wool industry would be an advantage, I imagine that similar advantages might be derived by many of the large trades in this country which depend on overseas for their supplies. I am not quite clear whether that would fall within the ambit of this Civil Research Committee. No doubt the noble Earl will answer that question and tell us whether the Civil Research Committee is capable of performing those functions, or whether it is desirable that it should perform them. There was a Scientific Research Committee set up during the Imperial Conference of last year, and it made certain definite recommendations with a view to bringing together, and harmonising and co-ordinating, research in all parts of the Empire. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether that Committee has left any permanent organisation behind it to carry on the suggestions and the Resolutions which were carried at the Imperial Conference, and what that permanent organisation is.
§ We all know that scientific men intercommunicate with one another, and no doubt the scientists of Australia have 239 communicated and are communicating with the scientists in this country. But it may be desirable that there should be a co-ordinating committee in existence, with a secretariat, to facilitate collaboration between the various Government scientific departments, such as the Committee over which the noble Earl presides, and the Committee in Australia which was created by Mr. Hughes, which I think rather fell into abeyance subsequently, but which has been recently revived by Mr. Bruce. It is desirable that there should be close co-operation between all forms of science, because you can never tell where one science will not help some other science, where one scientific investigation will not be of advantage to some industry entirely separate from that for which that investigation was taken up.
§ The Motion which is on the Paper was placed there in time-honoured fashion, not with a desire of moving it, except in the extremely unlikely event of the Lord President declining to give any information at all—I understand he is prepared to give a very considerable amount of information. But these debates are of importance, not merely to your Lordships' House but to the country at large. They give an opportunity of calling attention to work well done, they give an opportunity of providing the best sort of advertisement for those who are not willing to advertise themselves—the men of science, those who are working in the laboratories, in the experimental field, those who are giving up their lives, not for self-aggrandisement, but for the benefit of humanity. Here is the forum where such things can be done.
§ At the other end of the passage time is so much occupied with the necessary functions of government, with the necessary or unnecessary criticism of administrative and legislative acts, that no opportunity, or but small opportunity, remains for the occasion when one can turn aside and say to those who are working for the country: "Well done. Continue the good work; we see it, we appreciate it." Here your Lordships work in a perhaps more placid atmosphere, but there is an advantage in the placidity of our atmosphere, because we can from time to time occupy some part of our attention in saving to Government Departments and others that public 240 life is not entirely made up of controversy and broils, but is partly made up of the quiet, steady progress which goes with a progressive nation, and to those who are concerned in the work we have an opportunity now of saying, "Thank you." I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF BALFOUR)
Lords, I think you have reason to be grateful to the noble Lord for having called the attention of the House to one of the most important movements of the present day. It is a movement in which in its inception the noble and learned Viscount opposite has played an important part. It is a movement which has grown steadily for many years. It is a movement which is growing steadily at the present moment, and already the subject of science and industry, of science and agriculture—the two together—is far too large to be dealt with adequately in any single debate in your Lordships' House. But I will do my best to give the House the information at my disposal upon those aspects of this immense question on which the noble Lord who has just sat down so ably and so courteously insisted. To begin with, if he will allow me, I will put on one side the subject of the Imperial Institute, not at all because that subject is unworthy of your Lordships' attention, not at all because the Imperial Institute is not doing admirable work, but because, as I think the noble Lord will see in a moment, it is not really germane to the general subject of his speech. I do not know how recent the information of the noble Lord is upon the subject of the Imperial Institute.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
A good deal has happened to the Imperial Institute since 1916. Among other things an Act of Parliament was passed quite recently in which the whole subject was dealt with and the Imperial Institute was put upon a new and very sound basis. It is now, I believe, a most admirable wheel in the general administrative machine; but it is not an institution whose business is research. It is more in the nature of a clearing house of information between the Dominions and Colonies and the Mother Country upon all subjects of 241 Common commercial interest to all those various communities. It has been reconstituted and I am sure it would be well worth the noble Lord's time, if he had time to give to it, to make a personal visit to the Institute in its new form. But I will say nothing more of it at the present moment because it is quite formally excluded from the great work of industrial and other research connected with our economic life to which the greater part of the noble Lord's speech was devoted.
Putting the Imperial Institute on one side, I come to that part of the noble Lord's speech in which he dealt with the Committee of Civil Research. That new institution is already doing, as far as I am able to judge, an immense amount of very valuable and useful work, the nature of which I shall indicate in a moment. Though the noble Lord was perfectly right in saying that there were not the same grounds for secrecy in connection with the Committee of Civil Research as there are in connection with the Committee of Imperial Defence, he still must remember that the very essence of that Committee is to act in an advisory capacity to the Cabinet, and I think it would be most unfortunate if your Lordships' House or the public at large were to consider that, as it were, they had an inherent right to be present at all the preliminary discussions which lead up to the conclusions for the advice which is given to the Cabinet and which the Cabinet may reject or accept. The noble Lord may rest perfectly assured that no result of economic or industrial importance, no result which the inquiries of the Committee of Civil Research arrive at, will be kept secret as such, but the proceedings of the Committees need not and I think ought not to be made the subject of public criticism or comment, though the results of their deliberations when they are of any use to the public, will certainly not be kept private.
I need hardly say after those observations that I am not going to dilate to your Lordships upon the subject of the labours of the Civil Research Committee, but a certain amount of publicity has already been given to the results of some of their researches, and your Lordships may like to hear an enumeration or recapitulation of what I think is already public property, but which may with 242 advantage be brought under one category. Let me just mention some of the subjects. The House will remember, and I am sure the noble Lord has it in his mind, that one of the reasons for bringing into existence the Committee of Civil Research is that there are subjects which do not fall within the purview of any individual Department. It is not the intention of this institution to interfere with what is the business of Department A or Department B or Department C, but there are questions of very great importance which were neglected, or comparatively neglected, before this Committee came into existence because they were not the business of this Department or of that Department and because they required a wider view, a view in which more than one Department was concerned, in which sometimes several Departments were concerned. There was need of some elasticity by means of which all competent authorities should be brought together in consultation. The informality combined with the regularity of this institution makes it extremely valuable for this purpose.
Let me merely as illustrations give the noble Lord one or two of the subjects which are at this moment, or have been quite recently, under consideration. I am not sure that any of the inquiries are completed. The first I have on my list is the tsetse fly which, as everyone knows, is one of the most embarrassing scourges of Africa. And it is not one which merely embarrasses agriculture and destroys animal life, but is one which also destroys, as we all know, human life. It affects many of our Dependencies, it blasts with its unhappy curse huge areas, and it does not fall naturally under the purview of any single Department. For that reason it is exactly one of the subjects with which it is most desirable to deal and it is accordingly the subject of inquiry by the Civil Research Committee.
Another inquiry relates to one of the subjects dwelt on by the noble Lord towards the end of his speech because it touches quite distinctly the subject of pasture. I can best describe it by saying the mineral content of pasture. The noble Lord is probably acquainted, although it is a very recent discovery, with the fact that pasture may have an appearance of being rich and flourishing, that it may have suffered no apparent deterioration and yet may gradually lose its power of 243 sustaining in healthy life the same stock which it easily has supported for a number of years. I do not say that is always the result, but it is certainly often the result of the quite new discovery of what is called the mineral content of pastures. Perhaps the expression "discovery" is not quite appropriate. It would be more accurate to say that the importance of this mineral constituent has became a subject of study and that it affects not merely the pastures in Scotland but the pastures in Africa and the pastures in all parts of the Empire. There is one of our Colonies, the Falkland Islands, where it has really produced disastrous results. The whole subject is now under the investigation of the Civil Research Committee.
Another subject is that of native diet in Africa and another—the noble Lord will see how great is the variety of topics dealt with—is the Empire supply of quinine. Hitherto quinine has been almost entirely derived, I think, from certain of the Dutch Colonies. There is no reason that we know of why that absolutely essential drug should not be cultivated elsewhere and that is being made the subject of inquiry by the Civil Research Committee. The British Pharmacopœia, of which a new edition is urgently required and which ought to be framed and is being framed, as far as possible, upon lines suitable to the Empire, is also a subject which has come before the Civil Research Committee. I do not want to detain your Lordships too long, and the subject I have to deal with is a big one, so that the last thing I shall mention is that of the Severn Barrage.
The Severn Barrage is rather interesting as an illustration of the value of the Civil Research Committee. That was under what is now my Department, the Scientific and Industrial Research Department, and they did a great deal of very valuable work upon it. It has now, however, got beyond a single Department. Other Departments are required to give their assistance and advice and it has been handed over by my Department to the Civil Research Committee, who now have it in hand. It involves the Admiralty, it involves a large number of questions, geological and sociological, and it has now been handed from the specialisation of my Department to the 244 more general treatment with which the Civil Research Committee was intended to cope.
I hope that answers the noble Lord's general questions about the Civil Research Committee. He will see that while we talk of the Committee of Civil Research the work is done by Sub-Committees and those Sub-Committees are infinitely various in their composition. Their composition entirely depends upon the subject that comes under their notice, and from the imperfect enumeration which I have just given to the noble Lord he will see that the variety of subjects can hardly be exceeded by anything that is likely to arise in the future. When we go from the Severn Barrage to the tsetse fly and the mineral content of pasture we traverse a vast area, and that is characteristic of the work which is performed by the very elastic Committee of Civil Research.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
May I ask the noble Earl a question? The subjects which he has enumerated are of extraordinary variety and interest and investigation of some of them at any rate may involve certain expenditure. You cannot investigate the tsetse fly in Downing Street or in the noble Earl's drawing-room. The Sub-Committee dealing with it will probably have to carry on investigations in the country in which it is found. It would be of interest to know who is responsible for the cost of such investigation. I understood him to say that the Committee was advisory and not executive, but I rather fancy that while the Committee itself may not have executive functions the Sub-Committees appointed under it may have.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
I think I have explained, not to-day but on previous occasions, to your Lordships that the Civil Research Committee have no executive powers and no power to spend money. Advice both in public and private is notoriously cheap, and advice is what the Committee of Civil Research give the Government. Any expenditure which their advice suggests is made on the responsibility of the Government as a whole with the assent of the Treasury and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
Then are the investigations conducted by the 245 Government? Is it the position that when any investigation is required the Committee advises that investigation and the Government carries it out?
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
Let me take the Severn Barrage as an example. The Admiralty have a good deal to do with the Severn Barrage. They advise upon certain aspects of that question and their advice is given gratuitously of course. As will become more and more evident the longer I speak on this subject, we depend more and more upon the gratuitous assistance of the men of science in this country, assistance which they give with the most lavish generosity. Before I go on to the other topic to which the noble Lord referred—a fairly big one, namely the Committee of Scientific and Industrial Research—let me say incidentally, that of course the House must not think, and those who may do me the honour of reading any report of what I say must not for a moment suppose, that the activities of this country in the way of scientific research are exhausted either by the Committee of Industrial Research or by the Committee of Civil Research.
There is, for example, within the ambit of the Privy Council the whole immense sphere of medical research. Of that I mean to say nothing to-day. That alone, if the House wanted to hear anything about it, would require a debate to itself. I say nothing, again, about the agricultural research carried on by the Agricultural Departments of England and Scotland, for that is not within the terms of the Motion of the noble Lord and I have nothing to do with it directly from an administrative point of view. But I want the country to realise that the work of the Committee of Civil Research and of the Scientific and Industrial Research Department is but a portion of the Government activities devoted to the great subject of applying scientific discovery to the amelioration of the lot of mankind, and perhaps I ought to add to the power of one set of men to destroy another, which is also a subject of Government research, unfortunately, in all countries of the world at this moment.
With that brief interpolation I turn to the question the noble Lord asked me with regard to the Scientific and Industrial Research Department. That is a very remarkable 246 and, I think, in its working a very successful institution. There is a Department under the President of the Council of the day and there is this Advisory Committee of scientific men who are doing work the value of which I really cannot exaggerate to all the special Departments that come within the purview of industrial investigation. In addition there are a large number of decentralised bodies which, subject to the Advisory Committee and the Department, are carrying on, as it were, on their own. The programmes which are allotted to them are decentralised and they are not interfered with in the details of their labours, but they are the very backbone of all the work that is being done by the Department as a whole.
Let me tell the House what these decentralised bodies are. First there is the National Physical Laboratory, an institution with which I am glad to think that I had something to do in its very earliest inception, which was more than a quarter of a century ago. It is concerned with physical standards and a large number of other questions, and it has steadily and rapidly grown from that day to this. It is still growing and is asked more and more to carry on fundamental scientific researches that are of the utmost value and may be said from some points of view to lie at the root of the whole system of industrial research. Then there is the Geological Survey. This is, of course, a purely scientific study in which industry to all appearances is but little concerned, but it is being brought more and more into prominence by all the controversies arising out of coal—the use of coal, the position of coal, the way of getting coal, the qualities of coal, the constitution of coal as displayed by the microscope, and all the collateral subjects. It is, of course, as I shall point out again in a moment, able to give advice to all competent people who seek it with regard to the advantage or disadvantage of investigating for mineral products in this or that area, and it helps those who are looking, as unfortunately we are all looking with increasing anxiety, to our water supply for the means of satisfying the increasing needs of the community in that connection. That is the second of these decentralised bodies.
Then there is the Fuel Research Board, to which so much attention has been 247 directed in connection with the treatment of coal, there is the branch concerned with food, there is the chemical branch, dealing largely with metallurgy, and there are branches dealing with forest products, with buildings and with wireless. All these are decentralised bodies under the general direction of the Advisory Board and the Department, and they are carrying on researches of the utmost interest and of the utmost value in the eight departments that I have just enumerated to your Lordships. The House will see how immense is the area that they cover. Let me add that, while these eight departments are already in existence and are actively carrying on the work entrusted to them, there will have to be, unless I am greatly mistaken, another decentralised body, created to deal with river pollution. As your Lordships may be aware, this is a subject that is rapidly beginning to cause considerable anxiety to the community from many points of view—from the point of view of lovers of scenery and lovers of sport and from The point of view of health and the water-user. That is a problem of great difficulty and importance, and according to my belief—I do not wish to commit anybody else to it—it will never be adequately solved without scientific investigation.
There are those people who are happy enough to imagine that by re-constituting, revivifying or manipulating your local authorities and by passing very stringent laws the problem can be solved. I hope it can, because it is comparatively easy to legislate and to appoint river boards or corresponding bodies. These are questions that are being actively investigated by the Departments concerned and I am not competent to speak upon them. But when all has been done that, can be done by legislation and by re-arranging, revivifying or stimulating local authorities, unless you accompany that improvement of machinery and organisation with an increased knowledge of how you are going to deal with the effluence of factories—of the new sugar factories, for instance—and of sewage, without destroying those industries, von will not satisfactorily solve the problem. If you had unlimited money and it did not matter how much it cost to purify the effluence of these factories it could be done to-morrow, but you would destroy the industries in the 248 process and that is a contingency that cannot be contemplated. You have to keep your industries and you have to make the necessary scientific discoveries that will enable you to keep them and, while keeping them, to purify the water from the point of view both of the water-drinker and of the fisherman. That is a biggish problem, and I suspect that before it is satisfactorily solved it may well be that to the eight decentralised departments which I have enumerated you will add a ninth, to whom will be entrusted the special difficulties of the problem which I have ventured to sketch.
I do not know that there is anything else that I need say to your Lordships upon the question raised by the noble Lord, but before I sit down I feel disposed, merely by way of illustration, to give one or two specimens of the kind of work which has been done. The amount of money spent on research is very large and there are people wholly ignorant of what science has done, is doing and can do, who are very much inclined to say that these are impracticable suggestions, the offspring of professors' brains, and that all that is required to maintain the industrial position of this country is to encourage the practical instincts of the ordinary Englishman, and to let him follow, like his forefathers, in the obvious path of plain, uninstructed progress. I not only disagree with that, but I believe that if that view got widely diffused among our people it would really mean the ruin of British industry. Nobody who has the smallest and most superficial acquaintance with the sort of things done in Germany, with the sort of things done in France and in America, with the number of scientific men who are brought in to help in the solution of these problems, can possibly entertain so absurd, as I think, a view of the needs of this country and of the proper way to meet those needs.
I quite agree that when you are discussing this question with the Philistine he says: "Well, show me the financial result of your scientific research." It is quite easy to do it, but it takes a long time to do it, and some of the most important financial results cannot be simply and easily extracted from the facts. They are part of the general development of the industry, and as such cannot be brought out by any simple actuarial 249 analysis. Nevertheless, I am perfectly certain that any industry in this country, which conceives that it can get on in competition with foreign factories, where there is not a single element in the problem in which we have an advantage over them—neither in the way of raw material, nor in the way of power, nor in the way of fuel or skill, nor any superiority in any of the elements of successful industry—is greatly mistaken. We have, I hope, some superiority in the character of our people, if only they will use their capacity to the best of their abilities and in accordance with true and far-seeing wisdom. If they do not do that then I do not think that in the competition of nation with nation we have much hope of maintaining the ancient position of this country.
Beyond those generalities I do not quite know by what arguments the obstinate believer in the old methods is to be convinced, but it is not difficult to give specimens of the kind of work which is done under the inspiration and by the help of science, which could not possibly be done in any other way. I mentioned as amongst the first and greatest of the decentralised institutions the National Physical Laboratory. The work of the National Physical Laboratory was originally confined to dealing with minute measurements—with standards of extreme accuracy—accuracy of certainly invisible and almost inconceivable degrees of precision. I dare say that the advocates of the old uninstructed system to whom I have alluded would say: What is the use of that? we do not live in a world of minute measurements. They may satisfy the theoretical man of science, and be even desirable from a purely speculative point of view, but for mere practical day-to-day work they are mere over-refinements?
What is the fact? The fact is that so far from ministering merely to the unnecessary refinement of the speculative man of science, so far from satisfying a craving for complete but unnecessary accuracy, it is on these very minute accuracies of measurement that mass production is made possible. I am informed that if, for example, in the motor industry, you want to have mass production, it is quite obvious there must be no time spent in fitting. The fitting must be automatic. All the parts must 250 be ready to fit in their proper places without further manipulation. When assembled they must be put together without difficulty. Only on that condition can you get mass production. I am informed that if you wish to do that you must have an accuracy of measurement in the parts which are assembled of between a thousandth of an inch and a ten-thousandth of an inch, and I am informed that if you want to get the parts accurate, say, to a ten-thousandth of an inch you must be accurate up to a hundred-thousandth of an inch, and that then, and then only, will you be able to carry out these miraculous mass productions which are the essential conditions of producing for vast populations cheaply, effectually and with no ill-results. I cannot imagine a more striking practical example. I dare say there are many others far more interesting than this example of the power of minute measurements, but there is a practical example which even the dullest and most prosaic user of a motor-car may well take to heart.
Let me give another instance. This is the result of investigation made, not by the National Physical Laboratory but by another of those decentralised bodies of which I have spoken—the one which is concerned with food. The problem of the perishing of apples on their way from Australia to this country involved in one year—I am not aware that it was an exceptional year, and I rather think it was not exceptional—a loss of £250,000, and the cause of the destruction of the apples in transit was a source of great anxiety and quite unexplained. The problem was laid before the Food Commission. They investigated it, and they discovered what, I think, is a cause which is very interesting in itself. They discovered that when you are dealing with picked apples in transit you are not dealing with the dead, but with the living. These apples are alive, are breathing—are breathing exactly like the noble Lords whom I am addressing. They are breathing in oxygen, they are breathing out carbon-dioxide. And these apples were dying of suffocation. It was the old problem of the Black Hole of Calcutta. I consider that very interesting in itself, and not only interesting in itself, but it is going to save £250,000 a year to the apple-growers. And that is purely the result of scientific research, and could never have been dis- 251 covered by any man who was not accustomed to look at these problems from the biological as well as from the ordinary every day point of view.
Let me take another case, the case of water which the Geological Survey had been asked about. It seems that the town of Norwich was in want of water, and that it set to work to bore, and bored, I think, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 700 or 800 feet into the earth without success. They were about to abandon the search. Then they consulted the Geological Survey. The Geological Survey in their turn examined the lie of the strata, and they advised them to go on. And Norwich went on; I think it went to 1,100 feet or thereabouts; it got an ample supply; and Norwich, I am informed, is now a seller of water, and not a buyer of it.
A very similar case, even more obviously depending upon scientific knowledge, obtained with no thought of gain or profit, occurred in connection, with Portland. There was a want of water at Portland. A great many attempts were made by boring to obtain it, but those concerned were assured, or came to the conclusion, that the boring had reached the Kimmeridge clay, and they rightly thought that if it had reached the Kimmeridge clay there was no use in boring further into that impermeable stratum, and that they must give up the hope of obtaining the water of which they were so much in need. They called in the Geological Survey, which examined the strata through which the boring had gone, and, by examining some of the fossils in those strata, they came to the conclusion that, as a matter of fact, the borings had not reached the Kimmeridge clay. They said, "Go on." They went on, and I believe they have, got a magnificent supply. That turned upon a knowledge of the fossil-bearing qualities of certain strata. Fossils were not examined by the fathers of geology with a view to supplying anybody with water: they wanted to know how the strata of the world were constructed, and what the order of biological development was. That was their object; but the scientific knowledge which they obtained in pursuit of that object at this moment causes this admirable supply to Portland which I have endeavoured to describe to your Lordships. I think that is very interesting, too.
252 Perhaps the House would expect me to say a few words about another direct application of industrial methods scientifically to a practical problem, because it is one which has created a great deal of public agitation and was the subject, as a matter of fact, of a debate in another place last night, when the Duchess of Atholl, speaking for the Department, made a very admirable exposition of the present position of affairs. The low temperature carbonisation of coal, a most valuable process if it can be made commercially successful, was undertaken by one of these decentralised sections of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. They and many public companies worked with great energy at the problem and it seems that the Gas Light and Coke Company, after investigating all the apparatus open to them in this country and abroad, came to the conclusion that, for their purpose—I do not say for all purposes, I do not say absolutely, but for their purpose—the investigations of the Fuel Research Board had produced the best plant at the moment available. An arrangement has been come to by which we shall have what we so sadly need, a full-scale, working commercial plant. That is going to be erected by the Gas Light and Coke Company in their works, and they have engaged to run it for three years. By the end of three years we shall know, at all events, whether that process is really one which can be successfully pursued.
I need hardly say that our results are open to anybody. They have not been obtained by our Department with a view to departmental profit, nor are they in any sense of the word secrets. Any of your Lordships may go down and examine the matter for Yourselves, and form what conclusions you care to on the subject. But that again is a subject of congratulation—not of special congratulation, but of real genuine congratulation to the Department. And I am glad to hear that our particular method is not the only one which is going to be put into operation on a full commercial scale, but that money has been found for at least one other. I hope, therefore, that we shall in a year or two be fully equipped with all the knowledge required to form a judgment as to the value of this particular pro- 253 cess. I will not go into the process itself; that would be very unfitting at the present moment.
I will only give one other illustration, that is, of an investigation under the Chairmanship of Sir Alfred Ewing, a gentleman known to many of you, head of the University of Edinburgh, and himself an engineer of the very greatest distinction. This Committee, with the help and largely at the cost of the railway companies, are investigating the effect upon steel bridges of train traffic over them. It is a problem most important to railway companies and, in a secondary sense, most important to the public at large. They have taken a great deal of trouble. They have invented some admirable instruments for testing the strain and stresses which happen when trains go over bridges, and they have arrived at a very interesting and a very important practical conclusion. I suppose I am not misrepresenting the older practice, perhaps I ought to say the existing practice, when I say that an engineer in dealing with a bridge is content if he knows the maximum load which that bridge would ever have to sustain. If, for instance, it is a double line, the load would be two trains; if it is a single line, it would be one train. Then, having discovered the maximum load, he adds whatever he thinks proper in the way of a large margin of safety above that which is required to sustain the load. That is a good rough and ready method, but it is extremely unscientific.
They have now, I understand, found that you must examine not merely the load the bridge carries but the effect of the passage of the engine over the bridge. Henceforth no wise man will build a steel bridge over a railway without knowing what kind of engine is going to traverse that bridge. Formerly the idea of saying to an engineer, "Well, your bridge may be good enough for this engine, but it is not good enough for that," would have seemed an absurd statement to make, but now we know that on the contrary it appears to be the literal truth. Therefore when you build your bridges to suit your engines and build your engines to suit your bridges, you will be able to get at less cost and with less material the same margin of safety. I think that interconnection, 254 fairly obvious when stated but never thought of before, between the character of the engine which goes over the line and the stresses on the bridge which sustain the line, is very interesting scientifically and mechanically, and it is going to be, I believe, very important from an industrial point of view.
I am ashamed of the length at which I have spoken to your Lordships and I am not going to trespass any longer upon your patience, but I cannot sit down without asking your Lordships to realise the enormous value of the practically unpaid work given by these great men of science to the problems which are put before them. The members of my Council have a small honorarium, nothing that deserves to be called pay or that is intended to look like payment for their services, but is payment for their travelling expenses and the incidental cost of the work they do. But the work itself is done for nothing; the work itself is done for the public, and it is admirably done. I do not believe we could have got on in the degree in which we have got on had we not the command of these great men. They really are great men. They are some of the most eminent men of science in the world and to us they devote without grudging, in a perfectly impartial spirit wholly unconnected with personal profit, direct or indirect, the whole wealth of their genius and their accomplishments. I am glad to have an opportunity, which does not occur I need hardly say in the ordinary course of administrative life, of making this public statement of the great debt which, in my opinion, the whole community owes to their labours, and I am sure I am not wrong in associating your Lordships with that expression of opinion.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I think that my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley may congratulate himself on the speech which he has evoked from the noble Earl who has just concluded. We have had an account from one who knows it at first hand of the great work that is being done to-day in certain of the Departments of Government in applying knowledge to industry. But we have had something more than that. I do not mean merely the tribute, and the thoroughly well deserved tribute, which the noble Earl paid to the eminent men of science who put their personal know- 255 ledge and great capacities at the disposal of the State; I do not mean merely the record of things that have grown up and are now a great deal more than they were even a short time ago; but I do mean the exposition that the noble Earl gave to the House, with convincing illustrations, of the necessity of invoking the highest knowledge before you can hope to make progress.
He took one very remarkable example. This is the age of mass production. In the old days we used to have spendid British workmen who, individually, produced a watch or a gun, and there was no such watch and no such gun to be got anywhere else. But that is not what we want now. What we want now are masses of watches and masses of guns, and the only way we can get them of a high quality is by gauging the work to an extreme of accuracy of which our forefathers did not dream in the days when it was left to the workman to adjust the article individually. A great deal of it has been done in the National Physical Laboratory and it has been done in various Departments of the State. I think that we may congratulate ourselves on having as President of the Council and superintendent of those things more than a Minister—a statesman who, like the noble Earl, has a real passion for science and puts that passion into his work when-ever he deals with those things which we have been discussing.
The noble Earl spoke of a number of things that are comparatively familiar today, but which took a very long time to grow up. I remember one in particular to which he alluded. I knew the early history of it very well. I refer to fuel research. There was a Coal Conservation Committee in 1918, which came to the clear conclusion that no progress would be made with low temperature distillation or with any of the problems of that kind unless there was a really competent and continuous inquiry into them. A recommendation was made and it resulted in the foundation of the Fuel Research Board, of which the late Sir George Beilby, a great expert not only in scientific things but in practical things, was the head. Well, that was a child which had great difficulty in finding a parent. Where was this new research body to be put, and where were other things of which we were just beginning to be aware to be 256 put? At last there came a happy thought that they might be put under the Board of Education. But there presently arose a difficulty because there were two countries, Ireland and Scotland, neither of which had anything to do with the Board of Education and who would very promptly have repudiated the new Department if it had been put under the Board of Education. So, by a happy accident, the new body was transferred to the Department over which the noble Earl now presides.
I do not think we are a very scientific nation, but we do produce extraordinarily capable men when the opportunity is given to them. The noble Lord has the services of those men and also the services of an admirable staff, which works at these problems and which has been a source of great convenience in dealing with them. It is fortunate that it has been so because otherwise there are a variety of things that would have been neglected. The noble Earl has referred to the Severn Barrage. In the time of the late Government to which I belonged—we were not a very scientific Government, but there were one or two things we did to correct that—we came across the Severn Barrage scheme and discussed the question of how to produce power for electrical purposes most cheaply. We had then, as the Government has now, the advice of Sir John Snell, Mr. Merz and others. There was the Severn, a vast volume of water, potential power, but it presently became apparent that if what looked like very-obvious works were undertaken to convert this power into electrical power so many mistakes might be made, there was so much uncertainty about the soil, about the angles of the banks and about a multitude of other things, that without a real scientific investigation nothing could be done.
It was an expensive investigation to undertake, as the noble Earl knows. A great many people thought that we might utilise the waters of the Severn to produce power at once. Nothing of the kind. A very expensive investigation has got to be pursued to the last point before you can safely embark on any scheme. If, after that investigation, the scheme can be embarked upon I have no doubt it would bring back a large profit to the State and a great supply of elec- 257 tricity for the South of Wales and even for Birmingham. That is just one of the cases which illustrate what the noble Earl impressed upon us, that it is worth spending anything on research if it is to save you from blunders which may cost you a thousandfold.
Then there are the things which are done at the National Physical Laboratory. I am not sure where the estimates for the National Physical Laboratory rest now. I think it is with the noble Earl himself, but it was not always so. I had a great deal to do with the National Physical Laboratory at a time when we were groping about over the aeroplane and the airship. We wanted to find out how to make them and it was pressed upon us that we ought to find men to make them. Fortunately, we realised that that was a very expensive process and when we consulted eminent scientific advisers they pointed out what varied problems had to be solved before we could begin constructing. The late Lord Rayleigh took the Chairmanship of the Committee which ultimately solved most of those problems in the Laboratory at Teddington and in a small construction factory set up at Farnborough. That factory is now the Farnborough Station of the Air Ministry and the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington works under the noble Earl. All these things show that the noble Earl is justified abundantly in what he said to us that if you take industry after industry, process after process, you will make little of them unless you go into the work of preliminary research and do it with the very best assistance you can command.
I think this debate has been a very valuable one because it will bring before the public in a concrete fashion the work that is now being done, the rate at which it is progressing and the way things are moving. The Committee of Civil Research is in its infancy but it is already doing a great many things. That, again, was a Committee we thought of and it actually got to the point of bursting into life. The constitution was framed almost exactly as it stands to-day. It is a purely advisory body. The noble Lord who introduced this debate asked where does the money come from for research. If the Committee of Imperial Defence or the Committee of Civil Research want a specific research and it is 258 within the scope of other bodies—for instance, of the Medical Council in matters of medical research—those bodies are very ready to undertake it. They have the organisation, they do not have to spend new money, they do the work and the Departments help each other. That is one of the great advantages of a body like the Committee of Civil Research, that it brings together the best talent for the purpose of tackling the question that has got to be investigated. When you get these things investigated you get results which the Committee can deal with and bring to life. I think this has, been a very valuable discussion and we are greatly indebted to the noble Earl for the lucid exposition he has given us of the state of things as regards research at the present moment.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I rise to thank the noble Lord for initiating this debate, and also, if I may, to thank the Lord President of the Council and the Government for the interest they have taken in the work of scientific research, and the noble Earl for the interesting address he has given this afternoon on the subject of what is now being done. There are few things in my life in which I take so legitimate a pride as I do in having been the Minister who initiated this Research Department. It was before the War, when I was at the Board of Education, that I secured, with the help of the noble and learned Viscount who has just spoken, a grant of £2,000,000 for research work. I also had the privilege of appointing Sir William McCormick Chairman of the Advisory Committee, and I sought out experts similar to those who are members of the Committee to-day, some of whom, I am glad to say, are still alive and giving us their valuable help. At that moment the value of the work was not fully realised but those scientific experts accepted my invitation to serve on this Research Committee. Although, owing to the War, they did not get into full harness for several months, I feel a legitimate pride in having taken some part, although no scientist myself, in securing a body of most competent experts, presided over by Sir William McCormick, with Sir Frank Heath as secretary, to help forward this most valuable work.
One effect of a debate like this will be to bring home to the public the great 259 value of the research work that is being done, and that can be done, and to create still greater interest in it. There were two branches of the work that is being done to which the noble Earl did not, I think, refer. One was the system of grants that are given to scientific workers to encourage them to pursue their work. The grants inspire them to great efforts which may be of enormous value, not only to a particular industry but to their country and even to the world. Another principle that has been steadily adopted is that the money that is voted year by year for this purpose out of public funds is not given to help individual firms, but to encourage industries to apply the research discoveries of these great scientific men who are giving their work voluntarily for this purpose. Let me take for an illustration the coal industry, which during recent months has been considerably criticised and abused. We have been receiving direct help from this Research Committee year after year in fuel matters, and I see from the Appendix to this Report that the money grant last year for fuel re searches was about £76,000. This year I believe that fuel research will receive out of public funds something like £88,000. At the same time the industry itself is spending almost a similar sum in fuel research, and it has been stimulated to do so by this very expenditure of money for research work under the Advisory Committee of the Privy Council.
There are other masters to which I could refer at length, but do not want to do so, as perhaps some of them are a little on the controversial side. But there are two that have been touched upon which I should like to mention. As regards river pollution, many of us who have taken an interest in securing the freedom of our rivers from pollution have felt that so much work has already been done by scientists in connection with the effluents that damage and destroy fish-life in our streams, as well as polluting the water for domestic purposes, that if advice were given in a right way to the individuals who are polluting our streams as to what steps can be taken it would be accepted in a right way. Much of the pollution which now goes on could at once be removed. There is the ordinary pollution by sewage, which perhaps does more damage than anything to our waterways. Such pollution could in nearly 260 every case be prevented by filtration or so modified as to prevent the absolute destruction of fish-life and fish foods in our rivers. Many towns and corporations do take every possible precaution to see that polluted matter does not reach the streams without having gone through a course of filtration, such as is in most cases quite possible. It is against the delinquents that we have been advocating increased pressure. At the same time I do not want to suggest that scientific investigation should not go on in order to improve the methods by which the effluents from sugar factories and so on may be treated.
Another matter in which I have taken a good deal of interest is low temperature carbonisation. Those of us who are in the industry welcome very warmly the experiments that have been made, not only in this country but in other countries, towards a solution of that difficult problem. Whilst we have been watching it in every part of the world, we realise that up to the present commercial success has not attended any of these efforts. We believe that it is practically solved in the laboratory, but at the present moment, owing to the great expense of apparatus and plant and the prices of the commodities produced, it is impossible to say that it is a commercial success. I do not wish to deter any one from trying to secure this commercial success, but at the same time I do not want other people unnecessarily to lose a lot of money under the belief that the problem has been satisfactorily solved.
There are other matters of great interest that the Research Department has undertaken, in connection with corrosion, with the treatment of rubber, and so on, but I will allude only to the investigation of wireless, which is, of course, a comparatively new interest in this country. I want to thank the Research Committee for the work that they have already done in that connection at Peterborough and elsewhere, and I wish them Godspeed in their labours
My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a moment or two, but there are one or two points that have suggested themselves to me in the course of the debate as being possibly worth mentioning. The noble Lord who brought this Motion forward asked the Lord Presi- 261 dent of the Council how these investigations by scientific men were financed and we learnt that this financing was a separate activity. The noble Earl remarked that advice was cheap, not only in scientific matters but also in ordinary life. I have to remark that what is cheap is often not very much valued. I have even heard it said that, unless people have to pay for the advice that they get, as they do when it comes from their lawyer or their doctor, they are not very much inclined to take it.
I cannot help thinking, partly from personal experience, acting in my own humble way as a scientific adviser to Government bodies, that there is a danger of this happening in the present connection. I was on a Board that was during the noble Earl's tenancy of the Admiralty, under Lord Fisher, called the Board of Invention and Research. After a little time of the working of that Board Lord Fisher, I think, realised the kind of difficulty to which I am referring. He was very fond of quoting from classical writers, and from the Scriptures, and in this instance made what I thought was an extremely happy quotation from Mr. Burke. He hung it up in the room in which the meetings were held, and the quotation substantially was this:—"Mr. Burke remarked that he had little faith in any scheme in which the conception was divorced from the execution." That is the point to which I wish to refer.
Of course where some elaborate research has to be made due advice must be given as to what is to be done, and then the work must be set in hand, but very often there is an intermediate stage to be gone through. The question asked in the first instance raises points which are not necessarily very difficult or expensive to go into, but that kind of work 262 is very apt to be done either not at all or practically for nothing, because it is difficult to organise the preliminary stages when the investigation has not got to the point where it seems reasonable to ask for a Parliamentary grant, and where on the other hand labour and expense are involved in carrying it to the point where it becomes possible to see clearly what is desirable. It is to that transitional stage, if I may so call it, that I think attention should be devoted, and if the existing organisation requires improvement it is that part of it. It is a small contribution to the subject, but I think possibly it is worth making.
LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
My Lords, in asking leave to withdraw my Motion I should like to thank the noble Earl for the very full way in which he has answered my Questions. I should also like to associate myself with the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, and with the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, in thanking the noble Earl for the testimony which he has borne to the work of scientists, carried on without very great material encouragement, and for the encouragement which his speech will give to these men of science, by reason of the assurance that it is recognised that they are doing good and original work. The testimony which the noble Earl has borne will, I am sure, go from this House to the public as representing that the people of this country are not unmindful of the work which is being done. I thank the noble Earl for the reply which he has given to me, but still more for the great encouragement which his speech will give to scientists.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past six o'clock.