Valerie raises scientific advice at BIS Questions

At Business, Innovation and Skills Questions on 11 September 2014, Valerie raised the issue of how scientific advice was being utilised across government departments.

Listed on the order paper at question No 12, Valerie asked “What steps is his Department taking to ensure that scientific advice carries appropriate weight across government?”

Mr. Freeman replied:

“UK leadership in science advice to Government is well recognised internationally. Most Departments have a chief scientific adviser, and many have science advisory councils and specific scientific advisory committees on selected subjects. My Department supports the work of the independent Government Office for Science, which works with Departments across Whitehall to ensure that their advisory systems are fit for purpose. The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport has close contact with both the supply and demand for science advice across government, and the Government Office for Science publishes guidance on the use of scientific and engineering advice in policy making and a code of practice for scientific advisory committees. Science advice is one of the things Britain does best”

Valerie replied:

“I thank the Minister for his response and welcome him to his post, but the fact is that the science budget has been eroded in real terms. The Minister with two brains was removed, and he had the support of the scientific community. Can the Minister explain how the Government Office for Science can be effective when the chief scientific adviser posts in the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Transport—two crucial Departments—remain unfilled?”

Mr. Freeman responded:

“I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome. She talks of cuts in the science budget. Let me put on record again the fact that the Government have protected and ring-fenced the science budget. Let me also take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Willetts), who achieved that success in conjunction with the Chancellor. As for the two Departments that currently do not have scientific advisers, Sir Mark Walport and the Government Office are actively in the process of recruiting and putting in place arrangements to ensure that adequate scientific advice is available”