I was sad to see the Government withdraw funding from the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, which was set up when the Labour party was in government to encourage more women into STEM subjects. If the Government scrap something and replace it with something else, I guess

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that they have an argument that they are still committed to the agenda, but there is no plan B when it comes to scrapping the UKRC’s funding. I would therefore like to hear a bit more from the Minister about his plans regarding women in science and how he sees things developing. How will he ensure that we meet the challenge of not only getting women into science, but retaining them?

The hon. Gentleman made a broader point about inspiring our young people and children into careers in science and about making science fun. One of my best visits since becoming a Member of Parliament was the morning I spent at the Big Bang science fair a few months ago. Tens of thousands of children were part of the fair and experienced it. It was incredible to see the energy in the Docklands arena, as those young people were exposed to science and scientific ideas. One thing that really struck me was a project that had been entered in one of the many competitions being run at the fair. A group of young girls had done a study of the science behind hair straightening. Some of the women reading or listening to the debate will recognise that hair straightening is a big industry, and it is certainly something a lot of women grapple with—it might not affect the Minister or the hon. Gentleman quite so much, but I know a lot about it. It was really interesting that the young girls could take something that mattered to them—they talked about the protective qualities of the different serums that they can put on their hair to protect it from the intense heat that they apply when they use a hair straightener—and understand that there is a lot of science behind it. They were able to study, understand and relate that to their own lives. That was a powerful way to show them that science is all around them and that it is not a scary, dry, arid, austere thing that only geeky boys do when they are at school, but an exciting, challenging thing that they use every day, often without realising it. Lots of good work is therefore being done to make science fun for our young people, although we can always do more.

I sympathise greatly with the hon. Gentleman’s point about specialist science teaching in our primary schools. The Campaign for Science and Engineering has spoken to me a number of times about the issue, which is part of a campaign that it is running. I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion, and I am involved in discussions with the shadow education team about how we might make it happen. However, I absolutely agree with the broad principle, because we need people who understand science and who are passionate about it to be there right from the beginning of the educational journey that our young children make if we are to make sure that they do not drop science as soon as they turn 14, when they have to decide which options to take.

The hon. Gentleman also touched on the impact of the Government’s immigration policies on science and the wider higher education sector. When I was promoted to the position of shadow Higher Education Minister, I had no idea that my previous experience as a shadow Minister in the Home Office team would be quite so relevant, but somebody will talk to me about the impact of the Government’s immigration policies almost every week. The Minister and the Business Secretary are very sympathetic regarding the problems that have been visited on the higher education sector and the science community as a result of the Government’s immigration

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policy, and I suspect that we are often on the same side when we talk about the fact that the impact has been negative and that we need to change things. Unfortunately, to date, we have been unable to persuade the Home Office and Downing street to change course.

Why is that important? Because the Government’s pledge to reduce net migration to tens of thousands can be achieved only if they dramatically reduce the number of legitimate international students who come to our country, and only if they sit back and pray that lots of British people leave this country, while lots of Brits living abroad do not come back. We cannot get away from that fact. On the other things that impact on net migration figures, such as family migration, the Government have limited rights of appeal and so on, but they cannot do any more without falling foul of human rights law; they cannot outlaw people from having any kind of family life whatever or from marrying spouses from abroad. That leaves international students as the one group the Government can decrease significantly to meet their target.

We are in the bizarre position that the Government are holding up as a sign of success the fact that net migration has dropped, but missing out the fact that that is entirely down to Brits not coming home, Brits leaving and legitimate international students not coming to our country to study. Our competitors are absolutely rubbing their hands with glee over this. I met some colleagues from Australia a couple of weeks ago. The first thing that they said was, “Thank you; you have done such a great job. We made a huge mistake by trying to reduce the number of our legitimate international foreign students. We were starting to pay the price, but then you guys did the same thing, and now they are all coming back to us.” That is a problem.

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): Will the hon. Lady confirm that the most recent set of Home Office statistics, in the past couple of weeks, showed net migration falling, and, within that, a rise in the number of overseas students coming to study in Britain?

Shabana Mahmood: There has been a drop in net migration and there is a flux backwards in relation to international students; the overall picture of what has happened in the past three years, since the policy was introduced, has been to create a perception that Britain does not want to educate international students and does not draw a distinction between legitimate international students and those who are here illegitimately or illegally. The London Metropolitan university affair did great damage to our standing in the world. Our competitors have picked up on that, and marketing departments in universities in Canada, Australia and America are homing in on it. It is the one thing that every higher education institution in this country—whether a leading Russell Group institution, a million-plus institution, part of the University Alliance or something else—has said is a big problem. Every part of the sector has been affected by the immigration policy; and it affects scientific talent as well.

Dr Huppert: Does the hon. Lady agree with the suggestion that the easiest route would be to take international students out of the migration figures that are reported in the standard way? People who come here, study and leave are not part of the migration pool.

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Shabana Mahmood: To focus on how we measure the net migration target is to miss the point about what has happened. The Government have picked a target; it does not particularly matter what goes into the target, as long as the sole immigration policy is not just to set an arbitrary target limit. Net migration is a useful measure of influxes into a country and outflows, and a useful way for public bodies, for example, to try to work out the future pattern and shape of public services. I am not too fixated on how net migration is measured. There is merit in universities that want to increase the number of their legitimate international students engaging in a numbers-based conversation with their local authorities, so that bus routes and housing need can be planned. There is merit, therefore, in the way net migration is measured for that purpose, but there is a problem if the measure of success is whether it is reduced to tens of thousands. That pledge was made in the knowledge that the only way to get net migration down would be by significantly affecting the number of legitimate international students coming to the country. The Minister must recognise that if the number of such students continues to rise, the net migration pledge will not be met. We must stop sending out the message that the country is not open for business.

As I was saying before I took the intervention, that point is important for science as well. When some of the world’s best scientists and their research teams decide where they may spend the next 10 to 20 years of their careers, it is important that the country should attract scientific talent and be an easy and welcoming place to come to, with an atmosphere of celebration of the contribution made by people who come. If the overall offer from Britain is a bit mealy-mouthed and negative—or, rather, a lot negative, given some of the rhetoric of the past months—and if the immense contribution made by those who come legitimately from abroad to study or work in our country is not valued in words and actions, we face a significant problem.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing the debate and apologise for not catching the early part of his speech.

Stoke-on-Trent is well served by Keele university and Staffordshire university. They have had to work even harder at attracting students because of the rhetoric. Potential overseas students were telling them that Britain is no longer a welcoming place to come to. Does my hon. Friend recognise that that situation affects not only the universities and other higher education institutions, but the wider community: the landlords who would let properties to the students, the local authorities that might perhaps collect rates from them and the shops that would sell to them? There are big implications, and not just for the universities.

Shabana Mahmood: That is an important point. Higher education is our seventh largest export—a fact that shocked me when I took on the brief. I did not know that at the time. It is worth billions of pounds to the country. At a time when we are desperate for economic growth, the deliberate shutting down of one of our largest export industries is a big problem. Part of the issue is our reputation: we have been a destination of choice, because of not just the excellence of our institutions, which are world leaders, but what the country is and has

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stood for in the world. The English language means that there is already an affinity between our country and many others. Our offer contains something bigger, beyond the brilliance of our higher education and science sector, to do with what we stand for.

The rhetoric of the past few months has failed to draw a distinction between legitimate concerns about public services, the pace of change, the nature of identity and community and the things that are important for our continued economic standing. Also, there is a soft power that comes from having educated people who will be the leading business men and women of future and growing economies. We are missing out.

I implore the Government, as I have many times, to change course and bring some sense back to the immigration debate. I urge them to focus on things that people in Ladywood tell me they are bothered about: illegal immigration, which seems to have dropped off the radar. If everything is about net migration, the Government appear not to be particularly focused on enforcing rules that would clamp down on illegal immigration, or on making sure, when people are found to be here illegally, that they are quickly deported. I have for months been telling the UK Border Agency about some constituency cases in which people are here illegally, and nothing has been done; yet international students are being put off coming to study in this country. It is a bizarre state of affairs, and I wish that the Government would bring some sense back to that policy area.

The hon. Member for Cambridge referred to postgraduates and their funding. Universities have for months been telling me that early indications of the impact of the Government’s new £9,000 fees regime are that there is upward pressure on the postgraduate student market, as additional study now seems much less affordable for a generation of students that will graduate with a large debt. That is a problem that universities have been flagging up for a while.

By 2015, the first cohort of students under the new regime will graduate. There is a danger that their future decisions about whether to pursue postgraduate study will be inhibited by the view that it will be unaffordable. Many people have therefore talked, as the hon. Member for Cambridge did, about an income-contingent loan system for postgraduate study. The Minister and I have debated postgraduate funding before in Westminster Hall and recognised that it poses a significant challenge at a time of economic difficulty. However, we need to grapple with the supply of graduates into postgraduate study. If we fall behind, that will affect our future research base.

Dr Huppert: I am sure that the hon. Lady did not mean to imply that people who go on to do postgraduate courses do so straight after undergraduate courses. I am sure that she is well aware that a lot of mature people go on to do postgraduate study. People do part-time postgraduate courses as well. Lots of people already have concerns about postgraduate funding, and a number of those cases are nothing to do with the cost of undergraduate education.

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Shabana Mahmood: The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that postgraduate study is not only something that people take on immediately after their first degree. The conversations that I have had with universities in the past few months have been particularly about the additional pressure from the new fees regime and how they think that it will inhibit future student behaviour. So the universities are thinking five to 10 years ahead as they consider the overall health of the UK research base, which they are right to do.

Robert Flello: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again; she is being most generous with her time. I am also hearing from a lot of graduates—either recent graduates or, indeed, people who are looking again at studying—who are finding the general labour market so difficult that they perhaps see university as an alternative way either to further their own skills or to move their career on, when they are having difficulty moving it on in work; but they cannot actually afford to go to university as an alternative. Is that something she has encountered?

Shabana Mahmood: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention; he is right to make that point. One of the things that lots of business leaders in particular have been talking to me about in the last few months has been that in previous recessions some of our biggest companies would have sent some of their work force back into additional study to expand their skills, in the hope that by the time those workers finished their studies the companies might be on an upswing again and benefit from having refreshed and re-energised workers who would have had the opportunity to go out there and explore new ideas. That has been missing from the behaviour of big companies in this recession, so there are changes in how people are reacting to the current recession, the squeeze on living standards and the way in which they are making decisions about study and improving their qualifications.

People from all parties have to grapple with that issue, because it is in all our interests to ensure that the UK has a properly qualified labour market that can meet our future needs. That is not just an investment for now; it involves thinking about what people will be doing years from now. I often say to young people I meet that the jobs they will be doing in 20 years’ time probably have not yet been invented. The pace of change is very quick, and the ability of our work force to refresh and renew their skills quickly is becoming ever more urgent.

I will finish my remarks by returning to money, given that the comprehensive spending review is looming in just a couple of weeks’ time. I hope that the Minister is able to continue to make the argument for science. He is a supporter of science and his work supporting science has been much appreciated by people in the science community. I hope that he is able to continue to make the case for science, but I also hope that he is able to argue for something that looks like a much longer-term approach, so that we get away from a piecemeal, “let’s just survive this year or this Parliament” approach and consider having a bigger and bolder statement about how this country truly thinks it will win the global race.

The time has come for rhetoric to start to match reality, if not to match reality completely; the Minister would not expect me to say that it would completely

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match reality because we are, after all, the Opposition. Nevertheless, I hope that we can get to a place where rhetoric starts to match reality and that we will be truly able to say in the middle of this century that we still hope to be a global power, punching above our weight and doing science well.

3.32 pm

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): I appreciate the opportunity to respond to this very important debate, Mr Caton, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on his excellent introduction of it. As he said, if we were not able to have this debate at a Campaign for Science and Engineering event, at least we can have it in Westminster Hall. I also enjoyed the contribution to the debate by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood).

There were many points in my hon. Friend’s speech that I agreed with, but I just want to mention a couple of them to start with. First, he rightly said that although this debate is called a debate about science, we are actually talking about the wide range of research activities across all disciplines. Indeed, within the science ring fence I was very keen, on the advice of the experts, that we should not do some dramatic rebalancing away from the arts and humanities or whatever. Within that ring fence, we have broadly maintained the cash funding going to the Arts and Humanities Research Council and to the Economic and Social Research Council. In fact, one of Britain’s strengths—we face challenges, but we should not forget our strengths—is that for a medium-sized economy we have an extraordinary range of scientific and research activities, and as every major challenge facing the world will be tackled by harnessing a range of different disciplines it is very important that we maintain that breadth.

I also very much liked and strongly agreed with my hon. Friend’s point that, unlike conventional fears about “crowding out”, this is an area where we “crowd in” spending. Indeed, there is a theme running through a lot of the new initiatives that the Government have been able to introduce of actively trying to encourage industry, business and charities to come in and invest with us. That was part of the logic, for example, of the competition for the investment in new research and development facilities on university campuses, the research partnership innovation fund. With £300 million of public money, we have attracted more than £700 million of private investment. There has therefore been £1 billion of new investment in R and D on university campuses, but with only £300 million of that £1 billion counting as public expenditure. My hon. Friend made a lot of other good points, but the two that I have mentioned particularly caught my attention.

Let me briefly touch on the nitty-gritty of spending, because underneath the fine words it is obvious that Members want to focus on where we are on spending. There is a powerful logic for the science ring fence as we have constructed it for this Parliament, because for the first time it brings together all the main areas of current spending. It is deliberately and explicitly a current spending pledge for this Parliament, which means it brings together the quality-related research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, running at about £1.6 billion a year, and the spending of Research

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Councils UK, running at approximately £2.8 billion a year. In addition, there are specific items such as the funding for the learned societies and the Higher Education Innovation Funding programme, which get us to the £4.6 billion ring fence. I think that this is the first time we have had a ring fence that has included all those items, so that even in a time of austerity we have been able to say that we are maintaining the cash going into current activity.

Although sometimes people have set alongside that what has happened in the retail prices index and said, “Well, that is a real-terms cut”, if they look at the advice that we have received from the experts about the efficiency of the science base’s performance, they will see that there clearly was, and still is, scope for efficiency savings. In so far as any group of scientists and researchers can save money by working more efficiently, they can be confident that that money is extra resource that can go into real activity instead, because it is within the ring fence.

To give one example of how we are generating efficiency savings, there is now far better sharing of scientific kit than there used to be. If we consider some of the initiatives, for example, in the N8 group of northern universities, we see that for the first time—it is rather shocking that it is happening for the first time—those universities are preparing registers so that they know all the equipment that is available in all their science labs. Consequently, before one of them buys some expensive new piece of kit, they can work out whether they can share a piece of kit that one of the other universities has. If they do need new equipment, they can purchase it collectively so that it can be shared among them. I do not buy the argument that performance and efficiency are fixed, and that the cash ring fence therefore equals real-terms cuts.

I am pleased with what both the previous speakers have said about the scientific community, and I greatly appreciate and salute the community myself. However, one of my challenges to the community is to turn the cash-protected ring fence into a real resource-protected ring fence by delivering efficiency savings to offset the rate of inflation.

It is indeed the case that capital is outside the ring fence. Again, that was a deliberate decision. The aim in the time of austerity was at least to keep the activity going. However, more discretionary decisions about capital investment can of course be taken. I must say that we inherited some stark discretionary decisions from the previous Government. There had been an artificial surge in science capital spend in 2009-10, but we then inherited plans for significant reductions in science capital spend, as part of a wider reduction. People should remember that the 40% reduction in capital spend was simply the overall plan for capital that we inherited from the previous Government. We did not add any further cuts.

Let me get back to the figures. Initially, about £1.9 billion of science capital was expected in the five years of this Parliament. We have been able to add approximately another £1.5 billion to that so that we have ended up with science capital spending, over the life of this Parliament, that is not out of line with the level that it was running at before the exceptional year of 2009-10. With great support from the Chancellor, who completely understands

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the value of science, I have taken decisions that have enabled us to have imaginative investments in new science capital. I will not go through the details of that now.

We have heard criticism about those being ad hoc decisions. My hon. Friend made an eloquent plea, asking, “Can we have a long-term plan?” Last autumn, Research Councils UK published a strategic framework containing its plans. In fact, it was launched in the most favourable circumstances possible, as part of a speech by the Chancellor in august surroundings in the Royal Society. I cannot think of a better way for a capital plan to be launched than via a speech by the Chancellor.

We did not commit ourselves, there and then, to all the capital spending that has been set out, but we provided a framework and recognised the uncertainties of politics and finance. We cannot always be sure exactly what we will be able to afford at what moment. Nevertheless, we have a clear, consistent, long-term vision. Drawing on the expertise of the scientific community, we tried to identify where the need for new capital was most intense and where there were strong arguments for extra capital investment. We published that document, and in the autumn statement the Chancellor made a further £600 million of investment that helped deliver on some of those aims. Even with capital, our record and our plans show that we have achieved a lot.

I do not want to get into specifics at this rather delicate moment in the plans for public spending in 2015-16, but the coalition stands by its pledge. We are aiming to make Britain the best place in the world to do science. That is partly a matter of financing and partly about the wider context and culture. For example, our lead in the global debate on open access and open data ensures that we are seen as serious players in the science debate. Indeed, I look forward to putting on the agenda for discussions with G8 Science Ministers in London, just over a week from now, what we can do to agree on further progress towards open access to research findings internationally and—even trickier, probably—how we can ensure greater access to the data behind the research findings. In that respect, there are a host of rather tricky technical questions about standards for the storing, and hence the mining, of data. We can be proud of what we are trying to do to support Britain’s excellent reputation on science.

Let me touch on two or three specific questions. First, my hon. Friend asked about postgraduates. I understand the anxiety about postgraduates. I have to say that the Government have not been deliberately reducing funding for postgraduates; the funding through research councils and HEFCE has been broadly maintained. There has been some shift in some of the research councils’ policies on larger centres for doctoral training, reflecting a view that it is probably better for people studying for doctorates to be in centres alongside other people doing so. That has also enabled us to make stronger connections between people doing doctorates and their opportunities for business and industrial experience.

We have to understand what is happening with postgraduates. Some universities increased their postgraduate fees in line with what was happening on student fees, but, of course, the latter was being done as part of a policy and was matched by access to loans

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only to be repaid when the graduates were earning more than £21,000. There is not the same kind of programme for postgrads, so the decision by universities to raise their fees, even though there had not necessarily been any reductions in funding, has had some impact on demand.

Arguments are being made for postgraduate loans. I welcome the debate about options for postgraduate student funding, but my experience with part-time students suggests that if we went down that route, there would have to be some controls over numbers and some regulation of postgraduates, which would change the postgraduate scene from the relatively open, unregulated one that exists at the moment. Pros and cons need to be carefully assessed.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood asked about women in science. I understand where she is coming from, and I agree that the science community needs to do more to deliver diversity. I tracked down some depressing statistics, showing how many people with good As and A*s in GCSE physics and maths converted those into a decision to carry on at A-level. That brings home the challenge that she is concerned about. Some 52% of boys who get an A* at GCSE physics carry on to do A-level physics, but only 25% of girls who get an A* at GCSE physics do so. That is a real challenge. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note—sadly, we are talking about gender stereotypes—that 41% of boys with an A* in GCSE biology go on to do A-level biology and 56% of girls with that grade go on to do so. Some decisions are being taken that we need to tackle. I will be at the Cheltenham science festival later this week, which is a great event, and among the many things that I will celebrate there, I look forward to meeting our STEMNET ambassadors—now 40% female, which helps—who go round schools and colleges encouraging young people to get into science. There is obviously far more that we can do.

We have made progress and we strongly support the Athena SWAN principles, aimed at diversity. In the past year, the Department of Health has required clinical medical schools to have a silver award for Athena SWAN principles. Research Councils UK, in a statement earlier this year, which I welcomed, said that it expected institutions in receipt of RCUK funding to provide evidence of commitment to equality and diversity. Participation in Athena SWAN was the kind of evidence that they were looking for. We are trying, without getting too directive, to use our nudge powers—the fashionable doctrine that we in the coalition signed up to—to get research councils to use their clear financial clout to nudge institutions towards those important Athena SWAN principles.

Both my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, asked about overseas students and student visas. I have to say to the latter that, not for the first time, Labour’s figures do not add up. The evidence that I cited in my intervention shows that it is possible to reduce the total net migration number, as measured by the United Nations, and maintain the flow of university students. I was intrigued and encouraged when she did not follow my hon. Friend into the issue of the measurement of migration. There are different ways of constructing the statistics.

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There are two crucial issues for higher education institutions. First, they fear that, in response to bad figures on net migration, there would be a crackdown on legitimate overseas students as the only way of meeting the target, but we made it absolutely clear in the coalition’s mid-term review:

“We will place no cap on the number of genuine students coming from across the world to study in this country”.

We have no plans to introduce any such cap, so there should be no kind of planning blight with people saying, “We are okay at the moment, but they are going to do something nasty to introduce number controls.” There are no such plans, and we made that clear in the coalition’s mid-term agreement.

The second anxiety—I noticed how the hon. Lady shifted her ground to this position—is about bad public relations and bad publicity. There has been very bad publicity, with hostile and often misleading media coverage, in India in particular. That is why the Prime Minister made it one of the priorities of his most recent trade mission to India, on which I accompanied him with representatives of higher education, to get the message across in India that legitimate students are welcome, with no cap on numbers. I heard him say that in interview after interview, and I took the opportunity to say so, too. We all need to do everything we can to get that message across, which appears to be a particular challenge on the Indian subcontinent; the growth in the number of students coming here from China is healthy and being maintained. Our commitment on not planning to introduce number controls in the future should help.

Dr Huppert: The Minister is absolutely right. There is no cap, but there are issues with perception. There are also problems with administration, and there are cases of students being badly dealt with by the UK Border Agency, as it was. Will he try to ensure that problems that do not fit with the policy are corrected?

Mr Willetts: Yes. I accept that there are problems with administration, and the UKBA, HEFCE and Universities UK are now working together in a more co-operative spirit than we have seen for a long time to try to address those problems.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration is now visiting universities. We have heard about his visit to Cambridge, and I went with him to the London School of Economics a month or two ago. It was an interesting visit, and it began with LSE officials saying, “One of our female students came back into the country yesterday to sit her exams. She wasn’t able to take them earlier because she had been ill, but, sadly, she was detained at Heathrow”, or wherever it was. They asked, “Could you perhaps ensure that she is released so that she can come and do her exams?” My hon. Friend undertook to sort that out, and I am pleased to report that she was released. My hon. Friend is actively visiting universities. He has already visited Cambridge and LSE, and I think he plans to visit others. I accompany him when possible, and he is trying to ensure that the systems work well and effectively so that universities know where they stand.

I will conclude this very useful debate by referring to some other initiatives, because I do not see what we have been doing on science as simply a defensive operation for maintaining the cash spend. The coalition can also

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be proud of the initiatives we have taken to drive forward the agenda, and I will end with some brief examples of those initiatives.

First, I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge does not like the name, but I think “Catapult centre” is a great name—although admittedly it is a bit unfortunate for the space Catapult centre. [Laughter.] Britain withdrew from having its own launch vehicle 30 years ago, but the space Catapult centre is not an attempt at bringing back a new, cheap option for a launch vehicle.

The space Catapult centre is a bit tricky, but the rest are excellent. Of course, the Catapult centres are our attempt to catch up with the German Fraunhofer institutes, and it is interesting that, in his report for the outgoing Labour Government, Hermann Hauser proposed something similar. When my party was in opposition, I was involved in commissioning a report from James Dyson, and he also proposed something very similar. The Catapult centres are proving to be a great success. We started with the high-value manufacturing Catapult centres, which drew on a lot of facilities that already existed. We inherited those facilities, but we spread them into exciting new areas such as regenerative medicines, applications of satellite data and renewable energy.

Another initiative is the catalyst fund, which tries to provide rather greater cohesion between research council spending and Technology Strategy Board spending. The £180 million catalyst fund in life sciences comprises £90 million of Medical Research Council funding and £90 million of TSB funding working together so that researchers in the life sciences may have a grant—it is non-dilutive finance—to fund their work all the way from the lab to commercialisation. The reaction to that scheme from researchers and industry has been very positive, and we have been able to repeat it on a smaller scale in one or two other areas such as biotechnology.

At the beginning of my speech, I think I referred to the research partnership investment fund and the co-funding of higher education R and D capital. That has now leveraged £1 billion. As well as those types of innovative policies, we continue to play a full role in the development of science globally. Later this week, we will be celebrating the topping out ceremony for the Francis Crick Institute in London. There is fantastic, massive investment in the life sciences in London. Last week, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge mentioned, Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the new buildings for the laboratory of molecular biology in Cambridge. Sadly, I was not able to be there, but it has a claim to be the post-war world’s most productive science lab, and it is up there as one of the greats.

In Britain, we have also been able to play a leading role in the square kilometre array, which is a massive radio-astronomy project that will involve 3,000 satellite dishes spread across the deserts of Australia and South Africa. The massive data flow from those dishes will be coming to and managed out of Jodrell Bank, where there are the finest traditions of radio-astronomy. We are keen to use the square kilometre array to drive the development of scientific capability in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa, because it will be one of the biggest single science investments that southern Africa has ever had. We can be pleased with the initiatives we are taking, and I will discuss open data and open access at the G8 summit.

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As I believe there is about to be a Division in the House, I will conclude by welcoming the high level of shared recognition, across all three parties represented today, of the importance of science and of supporting it. In a way, the fact that our three parties approach science in that vein is our best single guarantee of long-term stability for scientific activity in this country.

3.58 pm

Sitting suspended.

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A120 (Colchester)

4.15 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to debate this issue and I thank the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), for being present to reply.

The A120 is a major economic artery in north Essex. Its route follows the old Roman road of Stane street from Standon in Hertfordshire, through Colchester and on to Harwich. Today, it is the vital trunk route from the M11 and Stansted airport to the port of Harwich. Its importance nationally, regionally and locally was recognised when the Department for Transport published a route-based strategy for the A12 and the A120 earlier this year. The route supports the national and regional economy by providing the link from London and the south-east to the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe and on to Europe. Locally, it is used as a commuter route, serving the growing towns of Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich.

The road will be functioning above capacity by 2021, and will struggle to keep up with demand if the large amount of growth proposed for the towns and cities along it is built. A significant level of growth is planned along the route in terms of jobs and houses. The key areas are around Chelmsford and Colchester, but the port of Harwich is also expected to expand.

Despite all that, the A120 is not designated as part of the core network, which prevents the road from qualifying for access to the £13 billion pot of funding in the European Union’s trans-European network fund—if we are going to pay into it, we may as well get our money out of it. There is no excuse for that; it is the only road in the UK connecting a major port to a major airport.

Improvements to the road were the subject of a section 106 agreement that was included in the Bathside bay planning application for the development of a five-berth container port at the Harwich International port. The development, however, is on hold due to the downturn in world trade, so the improvements suggested in the section 106 agreement, which would have addressed the failings I am about to discuss, will not happen in the foreseeable future. Improvements cannot be left any longer, and certainly cannot remain dependent on future developments and planning applications.

The key safety concerns must be addressed. In particular, the stretch spanning the three junctions of Harwich Road, Pellens Corner and Park Road is extremely dangerous. At each of the junctions, traffic turning right must cross the central reservation and oncoming traffic, which is travelling at the national speed limit of 70 mph. The geography—the ground rises, and there is a bend towards the Pellens Corner junction—makes it extremely difficult to judge the speed of oncoming traffic. Derek Hambling, the manager of local bus company Cedric Coaches, whose drivers use the junction every day, comments:

“I have seen many near misses where cars have been edging out to see past my bus as I wait to turn right towards Elmstead and have made traffic on the A120 swerve to miss them.”

Following a spate of accidents, works were carried out in February and April 2012 with the aim of making

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those junctions safe—I am grateful to the Highways Agency for its efforts. The overwhelming response from members of the public who use the junctions, however, was that the changes did not make the junctions any safer. In fact, drivers found that the new road markings made the junctions harder to navigate and even more dangerous. I speak from my own experience, because it is possible to lose the sense of where one is in the junction on a dark and rainy night, even if only driving down the A120.

Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am listening to my hon. Friend with great interest, in particular as he discusses accidents that can happen. The focus of his interest is the eastern section of the A120, but, west of there and still on the A120, between Braintree and Marks Tey, there are two other accident points. One is at the turning of Bradwell village, where I live, where numerous accidents happen, and a bit further along at the junction between—

Martin Caton (in the Chair): Order. The intervention is rather long.

Mr Newmark: Does my hon. Friend agree that more investment is needed on the A120 west of Colchester as well as east of it?

Mr Jenkin: The three junctions I mentioned raise questions about the safety management of many similar junctions on the trunk road and motorway network: are they given sufficient priority? If as many injuries occurred on the railways or in the aviation industry as occur on our roads, far more money would be spent on that, and a far higher priority would be given to it than is given to these accident black spots. That is the point that I think my hon. Friend wants me to make about the junctions he discussed.

Fortunately, we have not had any fatalities at the three junctions since the works were completed—perhaps that is a benefit of the changes—but there has been a steady stream of serious collisions, often resulting in severe injuries, proving that that stretch of road remains extremely unsafe. We have been lucky. During the 12 months since the junctions were improved, there have been 10 incidents, nearly seven times the accident rate that would be expected statistically speaking. Prior to the junction improvements, the accident rate was 6.3 per 12 months, or 4.6 times the average expected statistically. The junctions were already dangerous, and may now be even more dangerous. Those figures again bear out Derek Hambling’s observation:

“It is much more dangerous than it was before the changes.”

The Highways Agency accepts that more needs to be done to improve safety on this stretch of the A120, and I am extremely grateful for its responsiveness. However, it carried out a further safety audit which gave rise to its proposal to close the gaps in the central reservation so that drivers would no longer be able to turn right off the A120 across the path of the oncoming traffic. That will stop accidents at the location, but it is not a practical or safe solution.

First, it will significantly increase many local journey times, including those for emergency vehicles responding to call-outs. Scheduled public bus services will be affected, and adding half an hour to a local bus journey is not

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unforeseen. There is no doubt that it will damage the local economy. Nigel Dyson, vice-chairman of Little Bentley parish council, commented:

“Since 2005 we have been fighting to stop the deaths on the A120 and get a solution”


“we are really no closer to doing this, and just to plunge our villages into chaos is not the solution.”

We must be mindful of the problems that that would cause for local businesses. Steve Wilcox, chairman of Little Bromley parish council, pointed out:

“The impact on local businesses will be significant. There are a number of businesses in Little Bromley”—

and in other villages—

“which operate on small margins, relying on deliveries or visiting trade. The pub trade, which is already struggling, would be dealt a serious blow putting them at risk in the village and the surrounding areas…The closure of these crossovers will affect a great many communities within Tendring, particularly the small rural ones struggling to thrive. Communities as far away as Clacton, Walton, Frinton and Harwich will also be affected.”

A local pub landlord told me:

“The closure of the access from the A120 to Little Bromley from Harwich, Clacton and surrounding villages will have a devastating effect on the future of the pub. As well as being a locals’ pub over 50% of our customers currently travel from these areas.”

That closure will put traffic back on to local back roads, with the attendant safety risks, and this is the point I want to concentrate on. One local couple said:

“There have been too many injuries and too many deaths over the past ten years, please do not relocate these accident black spots on to our country lanes.”

Many of the back roads and country lanes are very narrow and totally unsuited to a volume of commuter or bus traffic.

A long-term solution is needed. Ideally, it will include a roundabout to cater for two junctions, and closure of the third junction. This proposal is supported by Cedric Coaches, and the Highways Agency describes it as

“a viable long term option”.

However, the money must be found. There is an economic case for it at local and regional levels, given the importance of the road and the junctions to the local economy; but most importantly there is a strong case based on the improved safety that it would bring to the junctions, which they have lacked for so long.

In the meantime, interim measures are needed. The preservation of life and avoidance of more accidents is paramount. I recognise the pressure on the Highways Agency to act, but I share the overwhelming view expressed by local residents that closing the gaps in the central reservation cannot be the long-term solution. Peter Halliday, leader of Tendring district council, states:

“Whilst we acknowledge the safety issues that present themselves to road users at these junctions, the compounding of rural isolation their closure would cause is unacceptable for our district. In particular those residents and businesses that rely on two way access onto the A120 and those that simply need to cross the road to go about their daily routine. We simply cannot understand why, as is the case in other locations, speed reduction measures can’t be put in place to reduce the regularity and severity of collisions and free unfettered access to the major trunk road be maintained.”

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Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he agree that, central to his premise regarding the required safety improvements to the east of the A120, is the need for much more strategic and long-term thinking, and to explore making that part of the A120 an economic corridor that will bring substantial benefits to all, including many of the rural villages along that stretch of the road?

Mr Jenkin: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention because she reinforces my earlier point about the huge economic importance of this route and emphasises its potential. However, the burden of my point today is what needs to be done now. The issue cannot wait for the long term and a strategic decision to be worked out and implemented: it must be addressed now, particularly given that it has been brought to a head by the threat of closing the junctions.

Steve Wilcox of Little Bromley parish council agrees that in this case:

“The correct, immediate, action is to impose a 40mph speed limit, enforced by speed cameras, and to rectify the dangerously misleading road markings which fail to indicate the correct priorities and the poorly marked traffic islands. The junctions should be then dealt with by providing a suitable designed traffic roundabout as a matter of utmost priority.”

I have argued that, instead of closing the gaps, there should be a reduced speed limit, coupled with enforcement using average-speed cameras. Speed is part of the safety problem. A seven-day speed audit in 2011 showed that between the Park road and Bentley road junctions more than 40% of vehicles were exceeding the speed limit, and that did not include heavy vehicles, which are subject to a lower speed limit and may well have been exceeding their own speed limit, but not 70 mph. Needless to say, that makes the junctions more dangerous and accidents far more serious. In four of the six accidents at the Harwich road junction since the works on the junction,

“failure to judge the other person’s path or speed”

was cited as a likely contributory factor. Correcting excessive speed would make it easier for drivers to make those judgments. The Highways Agency safety audit report recognised that a reduction in the severity of collisions

“could be achieved through reducing the speeds on the A120 by implementing a reduced speed limit and enforcing with speed cameras to ensure compliance.”

Reducing traffic speed would reduce the severity of accidents. Fortunately, the decision to close the gaps has been put off for a month or so, so that alternatives can be considered following public opposition to the proposal. I am grateful for that. We cannot have further delay while we wait for yet another safety audit to determine which is the best way to resolve this ongoing problem. Funding must be found for a roundabout at Pellens Corner, and in the meantime more immediate short-term measures must be taken, preferably an enforced speed limit reduction.

The only argument against average speed cameras appears to be the cost, but I am afraid that that is not good enough. A 40 mph speed limit would undoubtedly save lives and money. The same cannot be said for the proposed gap closures. Some lanes around the A120 are hardly wide enough for a school bus, and there are blind

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corners, blind driveways, no footpaths and there is no speed limit enforcement. That is not a practical or safe solution, which closing the gaps would require us to adopt.

We need a roundabout as soon as possible. In the interim, the only practical solution is average-speed cameras. In a letter to me today, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), who has responsibility for roads, makes no reference to a lower speed limit and enforcement measures. I am disappointed by that. Please will the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes, who is at least the Minister for traffic management, take that very clear message back to his colleague in the Department.

4.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) on securing this debate on safety on the A120 east of Colchester. I know that he has rightly been campaigning for a long time on the issue and that he is concerned about the safety record of the road. I recognise his continuing concern, hence his raising the importance of the subject for his constituents, local businesses and the local economy this afternoon.

I am aware that my hon. Friend has written to the Highways Agency and has asked parliamentary questions on the subject, and that he recently met my ministerial colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), to discuss modifications to the road layout at Harwich Road, Park Road and Pellens Corner junctions completed in April 2012, as well as the continuing safety problems, which he referred to, and what might be done to tackle them. I understand that my ministerial colleague wrote to my hon. Friend recently to provide an update, as he confirmed.

Before I respond to the specific points that my hon. Friend raised, it is perhaps worth taking the opportunity to set out the Government’s position on road safety. It remains a top priority for the Department. We have a good record, but we are not complacent, and we are determined to improve on it. The Secretary of State has made that a priority since assuming office at the Department. We are determined to improve by training and testing drivers more effectively, by raising awareness of road safety generally, by enforcing the law, and by investing in our roads to make alterations to improve safety when the road itself is a problem.

The Government’s strategic framework for road safety sets out our vision for achieving that objective. It is supported by the Highways Agency’s commitment to make further safety improvements to reduce casualties on the strategic road network. The network is the Government’s largest single asset, currently valued at about £100 billion and comprising approximately 4,350 miles of motorways and all-purpose trunk roads. The Government recognises the importance of transport infrastructure to support the economy, and we have already announced increased levels of Government funding to deliver improvements targeted at supporting economic growth. At the 2010 spending review, we began investing £1.4 billion in

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starting 14 major road schemes over the spending review period, with another £900 million to complete existing schemes.

About £1 billion of new investment was allocated in the 2011 autumn statement to tackling areas of congestion and improving the national road network. In the 2012 autumn statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced additional capital investment in this Parliament that would enable construction to begin on further schemes and others to be accelerated. Those proposals will make an early contribution to stimulating economic growth.

The Chancellor also announced in his 2012 autumn statement the provision of a further £100 million of capital expenditure in this spending review period to undertake further pinch point schemes, bringing the total fund to £317 million in that period. That includes a £0.28 million pinch point scheme to widen Galleys Corner roundabout south of Braintree. Two other schemes were suggested for pinch point funding by the local enterprise partnership. One was at Earls Colne, which unfortunately did not, in our estimation, offer value for money. The other was at the junctions that are the subject of this debate, but it was unable to be taken forward from that funding source, as it was considered unlikely to be delivered by March 2015 because of deliverability risks that were due to land requirements. I will perhaps come back to that point.

I want to skip to the main points that my hon. Friend raised, and if I have time, I will come back to the comments that I have been invited to make about route-based strategies. Although they are interesting, they are perhaps less germane to my hon. Friend and the matters that he has raised directly this afternoon, which I take very seriously.

I have said that the Government recognises safety as a top priority. I share my hon. Friend’s deep concern and recognise his continued campaign for improvements at the junctions. Although the overall average accident rate for the A120 east of Colchester is less than the national average, the rate varies, with that for junctions generally higher than on the rest of the route. The collision risk at those particular junctions is significantly higher than one would expect. That is not acceptable, and I fully acknowledge that improvements are necessary.

It is regrettable that the modifications completed in April 2012, although generally delivering a small reduction in speeds and an improvement in speed limit observation, have not been successful, based on current evidence, in reducing the number and severity of collisions, as one might have expected. The Highways Agency is, as a priority, investigating options to try and make those junctions safer for the public.

The Highways Agency’s road safety audit concluded that further measures to improve safety at those junctions should be investigated and that the most effective way to improve safety would be to close the gaps in the central reservation. That was because the recent accident history suggested that motorists commonly find it difficult to judge the distance and speed of approaching vehicles when undertaking right turn movements at the junctions. If, following surveys, the Highways Agency concludes that it is not feasible to close the gaps, the severity of collisions could be reduced by implementing a reduced speed limit, as my hon. Friend advocates, enforced with speed cameras to ensure compliance. However, the

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Highways Agency, at the moment, has concluded that a reduced speed limit would not significantly reduce the frequency of accidents. It favours gap closures as a preferred short-term option, and it is continuing to investigate a longer-term solution.

Mr Jenkin: Is there any reason why there cannot be a temporary speed camera trial to test that assertion? Closing the gaps without testing that assertion seems extremely irresponsible to me.

Norman Baker: I understand that point entirely. I fully recognise that simply closing the gaps will have an adverse affect on local residents and businesses, as my hon. Friend has eloquently described today. Indeed, diversions could be several miles long, depending on the journeys to be taken. Therefore, prior to deciding on the most appropriate method to improve road safety, traffic surveys will be undertaken to provide information on that and the likely impact on the local roads. He was concerned about rat-running as an unintended consequence of any changes.

I am advised that the surveys will be carried out in June. The Highways Agency, working with Essex county council, because clearly, it is responsible for the side roads, and the police, will use the results of those surveys to determine how best to improve road safety in both the short and long terms. I can confirm that consideration of the use of a speed limit will inform the decision, and that that is not intended simply to move the problem elsewhere.

At this stage, I want to make a point about localism and devolution. Across both coalition parties, the Government has been very keen on championing that and on paying more attention to what is said locally. I feel that we should be listening to local MPs, who know their patches very carefully, before final decisions are taken on any alterations to road schemes in their areas. Therefore, I confirm that I will feed back the comments my hon. Friend has made this afternoon to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, and ensure that the Highways Agency is aware of his views. He has asked whether there could be a speed limit trial, enforced by cameras. Clearly, that is something that will need to be considered. It is not my responsibility, but I will at least undertake to ask that that is properly considered before decisions are taken to close any gaps, which I know is of concern to my hon. Friend.

My view is that we need to look at all the options. Obviously, costs will be a factor, as will an assessment by the Highways Agency of the likely success rate of any particular action it takes, both in terms of the positive upsides in reducing accidents and the negative downsides in consequences for local residents.

Mr Jenkin: I am waiting for the Minister to raise the land acquisition issue, which I will want to intervene on him about, but will he explain why he thinks the police might be objecting to average speed cameras? Do they bear any cost for the cameras’ installation and maintenance? I should have thought that the cameras might make quite a bit of money for the speed camera authority. Do they involve any additional labour for the police that would incur cost? Why would the police be objecting to it?

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Norman Baker: I hope I did not say that the police were objecting. I think I said that the police would be consulted, and we are working with the Highways Agency and Essex county council to determine the best way forward. If the police are objecting, my hon. Friend will have to pursue the matter with them. I suppose that, if I were to speculate, it would be that the police are concerned that speed cameras are put in places where they believe they would be most effective, and not in places where they believe the value of a speed camera would be diminished. However, that is pure speculation on my part. Their views will be sought as part of the activity in June involving the Highways Agency and Essex county council.

Mr Jenkin: I have yet to have a coherent explanation from Essex police as to why it is objecting to the speed cameras. There are other places on the road network where very similar problems occur, such as on the A14 and on an A road in Nottinghamshire, between Nottingham and Ollerton, where speed cameras have recently been installed at similar junctions and have dramatically reduced accident rates. I do not see what the problem is in principle about speed cameras on this stretch of road. The police seem to be objecting to that and have not given an explanation.

Norman Baker: The hon. Gentleman has put it on the record that the police have not given him an explanation. I am disappointed if that is the case. No doubt they will avidly follow this debate and will want to give him, as the local Member of Parliament, an explanation as to their views. I would hope that they would do so on the back of this debate, and that will help to inform future decision making about the road.

I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that the long-term solution might be a roundabout. Roundabouts are proven to be safe constructions on the trunk road network. They also, of

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course, enable U-turns to be made without people having to travel long distances to alternative points on the network. There is an issue, I understand, about land acquisition, because clearly it has to be determined whether a roundabout could be constructed entirely within Highways Agency land or whether that would require the acquisition of other land, either voluntarily or through compulsory purchase.

Mr Jenkin: I can certainly confirm that any likely roundabout would involve the acquisition of private land, but I can also speak with reasonable authority on behalf of the landowners. They would be only too willing to contribute to a safe and practical solution to this junction, because they are local farmers and it affects the movement of their farm vehicles.

Norman Baker: That is also a helpful intervention, and again I will ensure that it is fed back to my ministerial colleague.

We expect an initial analysis of survey results to be available in July and we would want potential measures to be introduced as soon as possible later this summer. I share the view that if there is an accident problem in this area, which there is, and if the measures taken so far have not dealt with it, we do have a responsibility to try to find a way of dealing with the matter, because obviously people’s lives are at risk.

I conclude by again congratulating the hon. Gentleman on raising this important issue for his constituents. I confirm again that the Highways Agency is developing proposals to improve road safety at these junctions in both the short and the long term, taking account of the impact on local residents and businesses. I will specifically ask to make sure that his suggestions are factored in and properly evaluated as part of that process, and I hope very much that the steps that the Highways Agency ends up taking will benefit him and his constituents.

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Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (Developing Countries)

4.43 pm

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to see you presiding in the Chair, Mr Caton. I will try to get through my remarks as quickly as possible, as a couple of other hon. Members would like to make a contribution and the Minister, whom it is good to see in her place, has very kindly indicated that she would be happy to hear them.

After making a few brief comments on tuberculosis and drug-resistant TB globally and in the UK, I will raise three important points that I hope the Minister will be able to address: support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; investing in innovation; and the need for a national strategy in the UK to include an international target. However, before raising those issues, I would like to make a few observations.

The Minister recently met the all-party group on global tuberculosis to discuss its report, “Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: Old Disease—New Threat”. Much of what I will speak about today is focused on the conclusion and recommendations of that report, which makes constructive recommendations that are evidence-based. I thank Mr Simon Logan, co-ordinator for the all-party group, for his assistance in preparing my remarks for today’s debate.

Tuberculosis in the UK reflects the global reality. TB is one of the world’s most common deadly infectious diseases. In the 1970s, my wife was a junior hospital doctor. Her consultant told her that by the time she became a consultant, TB would have disappeared, like polio, due to BCG, mass X-ray and drug treatment. How wrong can you be?

One third of the world’s population has latent TB, but only a small percentage goes on to develop the active form of the disease, which makes them sick and can kill if not treated. Unfortunately, little progress has been made towards eliminating TB in the UK—there are about 9,000 new cases each year—and global progress is painfully slow. The disease remains an urgent public health problem around the world, and we now face a new threat—drug-resistant strains that are significantly more expensive and difficult to treat. It should be said that both are curable, albeit with a long course of antibiotics. TB does not get the profile that the death and destruction it causes warrant. This is a serious issue, and we must do more to tackle it. It is not only a moral obligation; it is in our national interest.

The first line of defence against drug resistance is appropriate management of TB and the strengthening of the World Health Organisation’s standard treatment, called directly observed therapy, to prevent resistant strains from developing. However, we also need to take steps to tackle this threat head-on, as it is often airborne and can be passed from person to person in the same way as normal TB.

Rates of drug-resistant TB appear small in terms of the global burden of the disease, accounting for 440,000 of the almost 9 million new cases each year, but only about 10% have access to diagnosis, and the financial and treatment burden is substantial. The number of people affected is increasing and so is the cost. Patients

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have to take 15 to 20 tablets a day for up to two years to be cured of this more extreme form of the disease and they often experience horrible physical and psychological side effects as a result. It is also on the rise in the WHO European region, particularly in eastern Europe. Almost 80,000 cases occurred in the European region in 2011, accounting for nearly one quarter of all DR-TB cases worldwide.

The UK is not immune to this problem. London has the highest TB rate of any capital city in western Europe, and resistant strains of the disease have gradually but significantly increased since 2000. In my constituency, there are 61 cases of TB per 100,000 people. That is in Tower Hamlets. Neighbouring Newham, which I used to represent before the boundary changes in 2010, has double that amount, giving it the highest rate of TB in the UK. It is comparable to that in some high-TB-burden developing countries. To put that into context, the UK average is 14 cases per 100,000 people.

The threat that this public health concern presents to the UK recently led the chief medical officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, to warn that antimicrobial and infectious disease resistance poses a serious threat. One of her key recommendations was for the Government to campaign for it to be given a higher profile and priority internationally. In that regard, financing mechanisms such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria plays a crucial role in funding programmes for diagnosing and treating TB in low and middle-income countries. The global fund accounts for almost 90% of international TB funding. For many countries, there would not be a response to TB without the global fund’s support.

Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): The hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) and I were on a visit to Ethiopia and visited St Peter’s hospital there. I asked what percentage of the funding for the drugs came from the global fund, and it is 100%—without it, people would die.

Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend reinforces the point that I have just made about how important the global fund is. As I am sure the Minister is aware, the global fund is asking donor Governments, such as the UK Government, for new funding in this replenishment year, and the UK Government have a crucial role to play in ensuring that that process is successful.

In the history of the fight against TB, there have been periods of urgency and periods of innovation, but only rarely have urgency and innovation come together. The rise of this new extreme form of the disease has given a new sense of urgency to global TB efforts, and after a decade of focused investment in TB innovation, we have a promising pipeline of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

It is clear that to address rising rates of drug resistance, action is needed at national and international levels. The all-party group recently published its report, which was the culmination of more than six months’ work consulting world-leading experts on steps that the Government could take to help to address the increasing threat of drug-resistant TB. I shall highlight three key recommendations from the report, and I would be grateful if the Minister focused on those in her response.

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Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this important issue to Westminster Hall for debate. A group of children and young people from Swaziland were recently in my constituency. They were a Christian choir, and every one of those children had AIDS. In Swaziland, 40% of people have AIDS. Does he feel that we need to address such issues at the highest level? That choir is an example of what can happen when medication is available; if they can survive AIDS and TB, they can make a contribution to their country and ultimately across the world.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that the Minister will repeat that agreement on the positive outcomes that result from appropriate treatment.

First, the report recommends that we strengthen the global fund by doubling the UK’s contribution. International donor funding, including the majority of the UK’s response to TB in developing countries, comes almost entirely through the global fund. In 22 high-TB-burden countries, six are totally reliant on the fund and in another 15 it accounts for two thirds of their budget. To scale up access and treatment for DR-TB, which remain woefully low, the resources the global fund has at its disposal need to increase. The Government have a key role to play in the replenishment of the fund, having been a key driving force behind the recent reforms it undertook. I commend the Government for that policy. What are their thoughts on our contribution to the fund to address the threat of TB and DR-TB? A lead from the UK should happen as soon as possible, to help leverage more from other donor Governments in this important replenishment year.

Secondly, the report recommends investment in innovation through TB REACH and continued investment in research and development. The Government have already shown leadership in support of developing new, badly needed tools to tackle TB—a policy of successive Governments that I hope will continue. Some of those tools have come to market, specifically new rapid diagnostics, but despite that, 3 million people each year still fail to access diagnosis and treatment for TB, which includes a large portion of people with drug-resistant strains. We need to accelerate our efforts to diagnose TB by rolling out new technologies, and it is clear that we need to think outside the box. TB REACH is one way to do that.

As the Minister knows, TB REACH is a Stop TB Partnership-hosted initiative that gives small grants of up to $1 million to find and treat those who do not have access to TB diagnosis or treatment. It is an incubator for innovation and pushes the frontiers of technology. It works closely with DFID-funded UNITAID. In short, TB REACH goes where others cannot and shows Governments and donors how to reach the unreachable. Critically, it often demonstrates with data what projects could be scaled up. The Minister may wish to express a view on whether she agrees with that assessment. Beyond their contribution of core funding to the Stop TB Partnership, which does not cover TB REACH, I ask that the Government become a donor to TB REACH, to maximise their investments in UNITAID and support the expansion of new diagnostic tools to detect and ultimately treat cases of TB, in addition to the work of the global fund. The funding allocated should be directed

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by the evaluation of the Stop TB Partnership later this year. I will be interested to hear her view on that recommendation.

Thirdly and finally, I want to mention a national strategy for TB in the UK and the importance of a global target within that. A national strategy for TB has never been developed, despite the public health risk the disease presents. The UK has seen rising rates of TB since the 1980s and DR-TB increased by 26% in the past year alone. I welcome that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) indicated that her Department is supporting Public Health England to develop a strategy. I bumped into her before the Division and thanked her for her leadership on the matter, in which I have a constituency as well as a personal interest. I was recently invited to a seminar, organised by the Barts and Royal London TB unit, by Dr Veronica White, the consultant in respiratory medicine. Unsurprisingly, it is the biggest TB team in the UK and does sterling work locally and nationally.

With all that in mind and given the clear link between global and UK rates, will the Government set a specific target on their contribution internationally to tackling DR-TB as part of a comprehensive TB strategy, led by Public Health England?

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the all-party group on global tuberculosis, which it is my privilege to chair—I am not paid. Not only does the work on TB help to deliver the Government’s international development objectives, but it is also in Britain’s interest to get it right.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The hon. Gentleman makes a critical connection between our national interest and the international case, which the Minister and her team acknowledge. I am grateful that she is here. I look forward to her response. I thank her and her officials for the excellent work that they have been doing on this subject. I know that members of the all-party group are also grateful for the engagement that she and her team have had with them, and we look forward to it continuing.

4.55 pm

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): It is a a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on securing this important debate on the evil that is TB. I draw your attention, Mr Caton, to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I want to make a short contribution today.

Earlier in the year, I was fortunate to visit Ethiopia, with my colleague the hon. Member for Workington (Sir Tony Cunningham), to study the changes that it had made to eradicate the scourge of TB, organised by the charity, RESULTS. Although I represent the leafy semi-rural seat of South Derbyshire, I became aware of the consequences of TB when a child at a neighbouring secondary school was diagnosed with it following a trip to see her extended family on the Indian subcontinent. What I saw in Ethiopia was frankly a success story, but a story based on years and years of diligent health care. We met Drs Amara and Abseno from St Peter’s hospital, who, having qualified as doctors 10 years ago, had given their professional life to that TB hospital on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. In other clinics, we saw that ordinary

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TB is being managed and now the next steps are to deal with the rising rates of DR-TB.

Outside of that specialist hospital, we visited the rural area of Awasa, where we saw the integrated Ethiopian Ministry of Health extension programme, which has been successful in delivering primary health care to communities, by training 36,000 health extension workers. That TB REACH programme has already doubled TB detection rates during a two-year period. I sincerely hope that our Government will consider joining the Canadian Government to fund existing and new programmes for case-finding and treatment in hard-to-reach populations. That is desperately needed: 90% of children in Addis Ababa are covered, but only 10% in the region of Afar are. Much has been achieved with our aid packages, but there is so much more to do. I hope that our Minister can respond positively.

4.57 pm

Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) for choosing a topic of huge significance and importance. I was delighted to be able to go to Ethiopia with the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler), whose work I pay tribute to. I was in Geneva at the global fund meeting with the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), and I also pay tribute to his work in this field. The global fund is of huge importance. I do not want to spend time on it, because it has already been touched on, but I shall reiterate the question that we want the Minister to answer: what steps are the UK Government taking to support the future replenishment of the global fund in 2013? It is important because, as I said when I intervened, the entire budget of many of the hospitals dealing with TB comes from the global fund, so without it, they will have serious problems.

To put TB REACH, which the hon. Lady touched on, into context, of the estimated 9 million people who get ill with TB every year, 3 million go without proper diagnosis or treatment. Put simply, we fail to reach far too many people—often in the poorest and most vulnerable communities—with quality TB care. TB REACH offers a lifeline to the people in that missing 3 million. It is hugely important.

The hon. Lady mentioned the 36,000 health extension workers. The health extension programme in Ethiopia is successful for two reasons: the health extension workers are predominantly women and they are predominantly, or almost entirely, local. When we asked them, “What hours do you work?” they said, “We work nine to five, Monday to Friday, but everyone in the village knows where we live.” So they are available around the clock.

I want to give the Minister plenty of time to respond, so my final question is: does she agree that initiatives such as the one we visited in Ethiopia—the one that I have just mentioned—support innovative and effective techniques to find people with TB quickly, avert deaths and stop the disease spreading? I hope that such initiatives will be supported by this Government.

5 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Lynne Featherstone): What a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate

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the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on securing this important and timely debate, and I thank him for having done so. I will try to get through all the points that have been raised, but if I do not we will contact hon. Members afterwards.

Tuberculosis is an age-old disease. It is tenacious and persistent, and affects the poorest people in the world and those who are socially marginalised. Every year there are 9 million new cases and nearly 1.4 million deaths. Although its incidence has been declining slowly since a peak in 2004, and mortality rates have fallen by 41% since 1990, the vast majority of TB deaths—more than 95%—are in the developing world.

Despite some progress, there were 400,000 cases of multi-drug resistant TB in 2011. As honourable colleagues will be aware, MDR-TB is more difficult and more expensive to treat than TB. Its spread is threatening the global response to TB, and makes TB control even more difficult. It is true, therefore, that TB continues to affect the poorest people in the poorest countries, and remains a serious threat to global health, especially through the rise of MDR-TB.

The coalition Government share the concerns about drug resistance, and we remain committed to the global goal of halving deaths from TB by 2015. The emergence of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis poses a serious threat to the achievement of that goal and, indeed, to the effectiveness of our current armoury of medicines and treatments.

Our priorities for TB, and for MDR-TB, are to help to increase access to effective diagnosis and treatment of TB; to invest in research and product development in more effective treatment, diagnostics and vaccines; to support countries to strengthen health systems to deliver quality TB programmes—a really important point—and to work with our partners to tackle the risk factors for TB, including poverty and malnutrition. That is not always highlighted, and most of the work of the Department for International Development focuses on dealing with poverty and malnutrition.

As highlighted by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse, Public Health England is developing a national strategy for TB, and engaging with key partners such as local government, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NHS England, academia, the voluntary sector and the Department of Health. DFID will obviously input into the process, and will work with the partners on their strategy, to produce national and international policy and to ensure that there is co-ordinated action on domestic and global approaches to reducing rates of TB.

Our first priority is to improve basic TB control. Basic control includes early detection and diagnosis, effective and complete treatment, and contact tracing. Basic control is also critical in preventing the further spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis. If we do not deal with basic TB, the incidence of MDR-TB will be accelerated. We also help to strengthen all aspects of TB control through direct and indirect funding channels in a range of high-burden countries.

I will quickly give three examples. We are working with the Government of South Africa to expand the quality of and access to public sector services, including that of TB control, and are increasing the speed with which new TB drugs get registered. We have engaged in

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a new partnership with the private sector in South Africa and the World Bank that aims to reduce TB in mining communities, which I think will be welcomed on both sides of the House.

In India, DFID is working with Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers to improve the price and security of supply of high-quality drugs for resistant TB and the manufacture of new low-cost diagnostic products. In Burma, we are providing bilateral funding to the 3MDG fund, a multi-donor fund for the health sector, which is supporting disease control among the poorest communities.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I, too, am a member of the all-party group on global tuberculosis, and I visited South Africa recently with Lord Fowler. Is that country not a good example of the problem of drug-resistant TB? A full third of the budget that South Africa has to deploy in dealing with TB is spent on drug-resistant TB, yet the incidence of such TB is only 2%. That underlines the importance of getting on top of that form of TB so that the costs do not run further out of control and undermine the fight against the disease.

Lynne Featherstone: My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. South Africa is an epicentre, so far as its spend on what is a relatively confined industry is concerned.

I was talking about Burma. It is estimated that between 2013 and 2016, the 3MDG fund will spend $20 million on tuberculosis. Funding is an important strand. DFID also supports a number of global partnerships that work on strengthening basic TB control. For example, the Stop TB Partnership plays a critical role in helping countries to strengthen their TB policies, and in supporting the improvement of funding applications for large TB-control grants.

The UK’s contribution to UNITAID, of up to €60 million per year, has funded new laboratory infrastructure in 18 countries, 10 of which now routinely diagnose MDR-TB. The network will have detected approximately 12,000 MDR-TB cases by the end of 2011, compared with only 2,300 cases in the same countries in 2008.

I will move on to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, because I know it is of particular interest—this is not the first occasion on which it has been raised with me. The majority of UK funding to global TB control is channelled through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and we have increased and accelerated our funding and are on track to meet our £1 billion commitment to the fund for 2008 to 2015. The fund is, as hon. Members have mentioned, absolutely critical to achieving many of the UK’s health-related international development objectives, so it is important to us that it continue to deliver ever-more impressive results. The UK intends to increase its contribution, pending, as we have said, progress on the implementation of crucial reforms. That obviously falls within my portfolio, and I have had reports from all DFID offices around the world, having asked them to report to me on the fund. Recently I was in Nigeria and had a meeting with recipients of global funding from across the three diseases, to understand the changes that are being heralded in with the reforms at the global fund—so far so good.

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We are committed to working with others to ensure that the planned autumn replenishment is a success. We are a world leader, but sometimes it would be nice to be at least equalled in some of these things by other donor countries. We will use our influence to draw in more overall financing. I understand the call to go early, but there are many multinational decisions to be made and, as I have said, this all depends on progress.

On investment in research and innovation, which I think all Members would agree is critical, DFID has a strong record of supporting research and development for effective treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. An example of that is our effort to increase the affordability of diagnostic testing for MDR-TB. DFID’s support of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics has contributed to the development of a rapid molecular test, GeneXpert, which has the potential substantially to improve the diagnosis of TB and drug-resistant TB.

DFID aims to continue our strong record of supporting investment in TB research and development, including through product development partnerships, and we will strive for value for money in such investments. On DFID’s support for innovation, we will consider the hon. Gentleman’s request that we fund TB REACH against, obviously, the competing priorities and commitments in our international health financing decisions.

Sir Tony Cunningham: Will the Minister recognise the importance of TB REACH? We can have all the drugs in the world, but if we cannot find the people with TB, we cannot use those drugs.

Lynne Featherstone: Absolutely. The point is that we are waiting for the evaluation. TB REACH worked by giving a small amount to a great number of organisations to test how to reach people in difficult circumstances. It had precise pre-specified targets and cost-effectiveness benchmarks, and we have to await the evaluation of that first phase to assess what our funding might be for the second phase. We cannot go ahead of that, although I understand that reaching people is critical. We should also work to strengthen health systems, because ultimately we want health systems that are able to reach every individual in a country and dispense whatever medical care is necessary, but I understand the point in relation to TB.

On Ethiopia, about which I have not yet responded, DFID provides significant support to its health system, directly supporting community health workers, and we agree that they do a great job, including on TB. I have been to Ethiopia myself—twice, in fact.

In conclusion, I am very proud to serve in the coalition Government who, even in tough times, have protected the development budget and will reach the target of 0.7% of gross national income this year. I am also proud that we have cross-party consensus in this Parliament: it is one of our finer moments. We are equally clear about the responsibilities that come with those resources, particularly when this country is itself struggling for survival. Those responsibilities are to spend taxpayers’ money well, to deliver aid that is accounted for transparently, and to ensure that our support delivers value for money and gets to where it is most needed.

Significant progress has been made in controlling TB since 1995, with more than 51 million cases treated and 20 million lives saved. That progress was rooted in improved partnership, policy, innovation and leadership,

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so there is cause for optimism. I thank all hon. Members here, because the issue is really important and I appreciate their continued pressure. The issue needs to be worked on in all the ways they have proposed if we are to get the better of this disease: our progress is good, but not remarkable. The UK is playing its part, but as I have said, we are all clear that significant challenges remain.

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Question put and agreed to.

5.12 pm

Sitting adjourned.