HL Deb 04 December 2001 vol 629 cc126-7WA
Lord Peston

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the outcome of the second stage of the quinquennial review of the six grant-awarding research councils will be announced and what its principal conclusions are. [HL1831]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

I am pleased today to announce the outcome of the second stage of the quinquennial review of the six grant-awarding research councils. I shall be placing a copy of the stage 2 report in the Libraries of both Houses.

Quinquennial reviews are conducted in two stages. I announced the outcome of stage 1 on 19 July. It concluded that the six grant-awarding research councils should continue to be executive non-departmental public bodies.

I welcome the thrust of the stage 2 report and its recommendations and accept the review's main conclusions that:

the research council system is working reasonably well;

to deal with the increasing pace of scientific change and complexity of national and international arrangements, the councils need to be capable of acting and speaking as one, and of promoting new and increasingly multidisciplinary science;

they also need to do business with their key stakeholders in more convergent ways and in line with Modernising Government principles;

there should be a new strategy group comprising the council chief executives and the Director General of the Research Councils to achieve these aims, and to provide a framework for cross-council working at all levels;

with a clearer identity and mission, the councils as a group will be able to develop closer links with the other major science funders, including the funding councils, government departments and the major charities;

they will also be able to work more closely with other key stakeholders, including the universities and the business and public service organisations which use their research and trained people;

to capitalise on these stronger relationships and closer working, and to ensure delivery of key objectives, the research councils and DTI need to develop a stronger strategic framework for science and a long-term strategic road map towards which the full range of players in science can direct their efforts.

It will be for the research councils, working closely with my department, to implement the review's detailed recommendations. Once this is completed, I am confident that the effectiveness of science budget expenditure will be enhanced.

I am grateful to all those who contributed to this quinquennial review, in particular the members of the review steering group, working groups and research council staff.