Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 157-159)




  157. Welcome, Minister, Professor Richards and Dr Hamilton. Thank you very much for coming to help us with our inquiry, which is really a completion of the work that was put in a few years ago at cancer services which the Government has responded to magnificently. Things are beginning to happen, and really we are trying to find out what has happened and what more might need to be done and how we can support that effort. Do you want to start with a statement or, since we only have 45 minutes, perhaps we can dive ahead. We hope we can prevail on you to answer most of the questions but, if you need your sidekicks to help, then we are quite happy with that too. We are concerned about the Government's commitment to match the charitable funding of cancer research for 2003. Sir John Pattison told the Committee that funding was already about 50/50 and the charities we spoke to, of course, as you have noted, probably, were sceptical about this claim, and the Department of Health has followed up by saying that Government expenditure on research for 2001 was £190 million which represents an increase of about £72 million since 1999, which is welcome. Can you give us a breakdown, please, of the specific areas in which this £72 million has been spent? For example, is the Cancer Cell Unit at Addenbrookes in Cambridge for the MRC included in this particular figure? I know Professor Richards is an expert on finance these days but perhaps, Minister, you have an answer to that for us.

  (Yvette Cooper) Whilst I am very keen to answer as many of your questions as possible, Chairman, I think you are starting at a level of detail that I may defer to the experts on. Could I just say generally that the Committee asked us to look in more detail at the investment in cancer by the various arms of the Government and so we have done that. We have been through every area itemising what the cancer spend is, and that is the information we have set out for you and I am very happy to answer as many further questions on that as you want to put. I think what is important here is to make this very transparent because, as part of the work of the National Cancer Research Institute, which again was one of the recommendations of the Committee, we need to co-ordinate that expenditure on cancer research and so we need to be very explicit about where that money is going and what difference it is making in order to co-ordinate it better, both with the work being done by the charities, but also the work being done by industry as well. That is why we have set it out. Was your specific question on the £72 million?

  158. Yes.
  (Yvette Cooper) This is the NHS support for projects. Perhaps one of my colleagues will answer the exact question.

  159. There is a question about a memorandum you have mentioned that we may not have received yet.
  (Yvette Cooper) We have not replied to the Clerk's letter yet which is asking for detailed information on this. I am very happy to send that to you if you want to come back to that.
  (Dr Hamilton) With respect to the Department of Health, it spent £83.8 million on cancer research in 2000/2001. This includes £73.2 million on NHS support for projects founded by the research councils and the charities. The health departments and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contributed a combined £12.2 million and that figure can be broken down into its components as well. The Wales Office of R&D spent £2.8 million; for Scotland it was £8.6 million and for Northern Ireland £1 million. We have asked the Medical Research Council to estimate their expenditure on cancer research in 2000 and 2001 and their early estimate is £58 million. They should be able to provide a firmer figure on that very soon. The Higher Education Funding Council have estimated that the universities spend £26 million on cancer research. They cannot provide a more accurate figure than that; they produced estimates between £26 and £30 million. We took the lower figure. In total, other research councils contributed £9.9 million. This is made up of £43,000 from the Economic and Medical Research Council, £3.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and £6.34 million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. If you add those figures up using a simple calculation, the figure comes to £191 million.

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