Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-236)|
1 NOVEMBER 2006
Q220 Dr Turner: That is interesting.
Professor Dalton: There is a big
difference between the level of funding that Defra puts into the
system and the level of funding that the research councils have
historically, and currently, put into the system. At the moment
the BBSRC and other research councils are funding to the tune
of 80% of full economic costs and Defra fund 100%.
Q221 Dr Turner: There are currently
plans to redevelop the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in relation
to your policy needs in addressing climate change. Are you closely
involved in that restructuring programme?
Professor Dalton: Yes, I have
been involved through my role as council member of NERC's council
in restructuring and considering the needs that the Natural Environment
Research's council has of its research council institutes, principally
CEH, so the answer is yes.
Q222 Dr Turner: Looking to the future,
you obviously have a science strategy, albeit one which is constantly
evolving. Have you any view, as a department, about the sort of
strategic research institutions and facilities which are going
to be needed for the future on which you will be able to draw?
Professor Dalton: That is a good
question. Yes, we have been thinking about it to some extent,
although we had not thought in terms of specifically what research
council institutes or what research institutes we would need.
There is little doubt, as Lord Rooker has indicated, that our
priorities have been changing and changing quite a bit over the
last few years. We have to respond to a whole number of changes
that are occurring within society. We heard yesterday of the Stern
Report and the implications that climate change is having on the
globe. That is going to become a very important issue for us.
We fund, for example, the Hadley Centre. The Hadley Centre were
a very important part of the evidence base for the Stern Review.
Our funding to the Hadley Centre incidentally has increased by
40% over five years, so it is not all, as you might like to think,
gloom and doom in terms of what we do.
Q223 Chairman: We have never suggested
Professor Dalton: We do fund research
which is necessary for societal needs and for policy needs and,
therefore, things will probably be changing in the next few years.
For example, we are responding very much to the agenda on new
technologies. Nano-technology is emerging as a new technology.
We would be quite interested in being able to support research
in that area if it is necessary in order to be able to fulfil
our policy needs. The rural agenda is still very important and
we do engage, and have been engaging, with the research councils
to try and inform research in that area. There will be changes.
Exactly which ones they are going to be, I do not know, but certainly
climate change and energy are going to be very high up on our
agenda. We know, for example, that the Energy Research Partnership
has been established already, we know that BP, Shell and Branson
even are putting money into biofuels and bioenergy. There is going
to be a great demand for that sort of work in the future as well,
so I think those are areas that we are indeed responding to, and
have to respond to, really quite quickly.
Q224 Dr Turner: Are you able to play
any co-ordinating, levering role in getting those sorts of resources
into the research areas that are important? Perhaps I could first
ask you, the Hadley Centre which is a world leader in its field
which we are all, I think, very proud of, the cost of the Hadley
Centre work, is that coming out of your £150 million research
Professor Dalton: We fund the
Hadley Centre, yes.
Lord Rooker: It is £12 million.
Q225 Dr Turner: It is part of the
Lord Rooker: It is part of the
£150 million, yes.
Q226 Dr Turner: So can you tell us
a little bit about the sort of value that you think you are getting
from your research budget which, given its wide coverage, may
well be rather impressive and something that you might want to
Professor Dalton: Well, we would
love to crow about it. We do not necessarily always sing it from
the rooftops. Jeff Rooker mentioned earlier on, for example, the
science that goes on at Kew and we fund them to the tune of £20-odd
million a year. It is seriously important. In fact I had a meeting
the night before last with Lord Selborne and Steve Hopper, the
new Director of Kew Gardens, about how Defra might get much more
actively engaged in the sort of things they are doing in terms
of publicity. Very few people at Kew realise that all the science
activities that are coming out of Kew Gardens are sponsored and
funded by Defra. Very few people understand that the Hadley Centre
is also a Defra-funded operation. Maybe we ought to be raising
it a little bit more and crowing a bit more about it.
Q227 Chairman: They know about it
Lord Rooker: You asked a question
about the Met Office and the Hadley Centre, that £12 million
is out of the £150 million, but the £20 million for
Kew is not out of the £150 million and it is a separate grant
in aid. In other words, our effort into science is much greater
than the narrow budget, I suppose, that Howard is responsible
for in that sense because there are other activities which Defra
fund, but the publicity point is a fair one because, frankly,
when I was at MAFF earlier on, I did not know about MAFF funding
Kew and I had the MAFF logo put on all the leaflets there which
is why the Defra logo is on them now, but no one takes a blind
bit of notice about it.
Chairman: They do. They talk about nothing
Q228 Mr Newmark: What do you see
as the role of Defra in actually co-ordinating a strategy and
would you rather the OSI give a clear lead in ensuring a joined-up
approach across government?
Lord Rooker: Yes. Howard can give
you a perspective that I cannot, but if I could come back, I will
home in on this because it is not an unimportant matter. Defra's
own agencies, which cost nearly £40 million a year, work
across government. The Central Science Laboratory, its name actually
is quite clever, but it is Defra's Central Science Laboratory,
but it should be the Government's as other government departments
use it. I am trying to get a wider customer base for that excellent
facility that is there. It is a huge, complex operation, so it
has to go across government in trying to get other government
ministers, if you like, not to just think aboutI am on
the government team first and I am on the departmental team second
and that is the way I have always approached it and, where we
can, to try and join things up and I am doing this not only in
work on the Foresight Programme but with government chief scientists
across other areas of activity. I do not think Defra can give
a lead, but I think ministers have to give a lead that you want
things joined up across government. There is an argument
Q229 Mr Newmark: My question was
about Defra actually. What role do you see for Defra taking a
lead on this as opposed to government?
Professor Dalton: I will answer
that to some extent and it is almost a bit of déja"-vu
because we have already said it before, but the important point
to bear in mind is that Defra does take a very important lead
on a number of government committees and is responsible for setting
up a number of other government committees, which include research
council representatives as well. What we are trying to do, for
example, we have an Environmental Research Funders' Forum which
engages with everybody in the United Kingdom who funds any sort
of work in terms of environmental research and I chair that. That
was set up between the Chief Executive of NERC, that is the Natural
Environment Research Council, myself and the Chief Scientist at
the Environment Agency many years ago, recognising that we needed
to join forces to understand the issues, so I chair that and many
of the research councils sit on that. We have had the Global Environment
Change Committee which I also chair which involves many of the
research councils as well and we discuss strategy and develop
strategies there and Defra takes the lead on that one too. I also
have my own Science Advisory Council of course which actually
engages very widely with many of the best scientific experts in
the country to try and help formulate policy and scientific research
responding to policy which of course Defra has taken the lead
on as well. I do not take the lead on it, but of course sitting
on the BBSRC and NERC councils helps us to try and understand
a little bit better the joined-up thinking between the research
councils and government departments, so I think Defra is taking
quite a strong lead in many areas.
Q230 Mr Newmark: Is it working?
Professor Dalton: Well, I think
it is working. I think it works extremely well and I think we
are doing extremely well in trying to understand what the real
problems are and where the gaps in our knowledge are. That is
important. We do an incredible amount of work with a relatively
small budget and what we also need to try and do is identify where
the gaps in our understanding emanate from. The Environmental
Research Funders' Forum, for example, has done a very good job
in trying to identify where all those gaps are so that we can
then plug those gaps and do something about them, but of course
we cannot do everything.
Q231 Bob Spink: We have heard from
Lord Rooker that there is concern about climate change and about
maintaining the science base. An employee of IGER who works in
Devonshire and is responsible for the analysis of greenhouse gas
emissions is a very well-qualified postgraduate and he earns just
£14,500 per year. Is the Government concerned about this?
Lord Rooker: Are you asking me
about an individual case?
Q232 Bob Spink: No.
Lord Rooker: The general-principle
argument is that people going into science are underpaid. We all
know what the soft options are, the social sciences, journalism,
the law and accountancy. You go and get kids to do science, engineering
and technology and explain to them that they can change the world
if they do that, it is actually quite exciting, but people
Q233 Mr Newmark: But people do not
want hot air and no money!
Lord Rooker: Because society's
priorities have been, as I have said, on the soft options, they
have actually ended up earning more. You are not trying to lecture
me anyway, but the point about science, technology and engineering
is that actually they should be better paid and better priority
because people's understanding of it is vital.
Q234 Mr Newmark: We cannot do that
if the Government is not putting the funding into science departments.
Lord Rooker: It is not necessarily
down to the Government in the sense that
Mr Newmark: Well, the Government provides
the resources which actually encourages people to go into these.
You start off at university and if the Government is not putting
the money up in universities and giving the support that is necessary
to universities in science and in engineering, there is a problem
Q235 Chairman: Lord Rooker, I would
love to continue with this, but
Lord Rooker: I should declare
an interest, that I was once an engineer, by the way.
Mr Newmark: You were once part of the
Dr Turner: Jeff, an unfair question,
but where did the £200 million black hole in Defra's budget
come from? What caused it?
Q236 Chairman: Farm payments.
Lord Rooker: No. Let us get it
absolutely clear because the myths are out there, of the £200
million, some of it came from holdbacks last year which moved
into this year in terms of funding because we were dealing with
the end of foot and mouth and one or two other issues, so some
projects were held back, so there was a move from one year to
the other. There have been changes in funding rules from the Treasury
which have had an effect. The Rural Payments Agency contribution
to that £200 million is £23 million, so it is about
11%. I do not have the full list. The full list I have disclosed
elsewhere, there is no secret about it and I could send it to
you on a sheet of paper. The fact is that of that £200 million,
as I say, it is peripheral in a way, the Rural Payments Agency
and Single Farm Payments, the contribution, as I say, is £23
million, about 11% of that.
Chairman: Thank you very much for that.
Lord Rooker and Professor Dalton, thank you for a fantastic hour.
We are very grateful to you for the honesty and indeed for the
vociferous way in which you defended your case!