Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Colin S J McCarthy

  In general and without going into detail the Strategy for Science Engineering and Technology, particularly Technology Foresight, has made very good progress, but, it is important when conducting an inquiry such as this to ask the correct questions to the best people able to give an impartial and considered view. It is increasingly apparent that objectivity has been lost in a lot of Government surveys and the influence of the "London in crowd" seems to be too strong. This can best be exemplified using eg unemployment statistics, in regions outside London large numbers of people (approximately three million looking for paid employment) many who still want to work have been encouraged to take early retirement or unpaid voluntary work, etc because they are over 50 years old. Similary the under 50 year olds (again approximately another three million looking for paid employment) are hidden in training schemes, are in and out of short term contracts, or just do not show up on any government statistics. The fact that official Government figures show approximately one million claiming benefits is contrary to the majority of the populations experience, they therefore distrust all Government statistics—this is very serious as large parts of the population lose trust in the democratic process and it becomes difficult to conduct reasoned scientific debate.

  At the same time the dumbing down of the majority of the British economy means that vacancies are often filled by relatively less able people (often young people replacing older more experienced workers who have been forced out) who are good at boring repetitive tasks and also do not "rock the boat". There is no place in an asset stripping short term share price driven economy for innovators and companies that look to long-term product development. Please do not consider the "dotcom" company success? as a reason for optimism as the funds taken by these, mostly unsustainable companies, are partly responsible for the failures of more established companies (along with the Pound and Euro problems).

  I believe it is difficult to comment on the many successes that came from "Realising our Potential" such as "Foresight" because macroeconomic trends at present seem so damaging to such processes. Why did the Government give in to what to most people seems to be undue pressure by the Welcome Trust to site the DIAMOND synchrotron radiation source at the Rutherton Appleton Laboratory, Oxford. It is obvious to most in the scientific community that DIAMOND should have been sited at the Daresbury Laboratory near Manchester. The technical arguments have been covered well by the media but the decision gives the impression of big problems in Government. The decision reinforces the impression of a North/South divide and will go against plans to reduce housing demand and reduce traffic congestion problems in the south. These negative factors may well cause losses in excess of the £100 million to be provided by the Welcome Trust.

  There are lots of good things that could be included in the "Call for Evidence" but unless the Science and Technology Committee sorts out the issues I have highlighted I believe these good points will be sidelined.

  I have applied for paid employment, in the past, at the Government Office of the West Midlands and other Government organisations in Staffordshire and the West Midlands because the problems are so complex and can not be solved just by consultation exercises, but I have been unsuccessful in gaining paid employment.

  Why is it so difficult to get paid employment in the Staffordshire area, I am only 44 years old? Why do members of the Government find it so hard to employ people who are resident outside London?

  Why do so many residents from the South East have to commute to work in the North when there are very large numbers having to commute from the North to work in the South East? Why is London becoming a place where only people from highly paid professions eg stockbrokers can afford to live?

  Do the Science and Technology Committee accept that undemocratic global companies have more influence on the Government than is reasonable?

8 May 2000

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