The end of the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee?

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 20 July 2007 15:43

The Guardian newspaper has today published a letter, signed by 38 distinguished scientists, protesting about the possible abolition of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.  The list of signatories is headed by Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society, and Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council.

Their fears are prompted by a proposal stemming from the recent reorganisation of Government Departments, as reported on this blog on 29 June and 5 July. The proposal is to create a new Select Committee that would shadow the recently-created Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).  The concern is that, to quote Phil Willis MP, current chair of the Committee  "the new departmental committee is heavily biased towards universities, skills and innovation and there is a strong feeling science will become a small part of that."  In other words, science issues might become submerged in the work of a committee that will have such politically contentious issues as tuition fees on its agenda.

The loss of the Committee, if it comes to pass, would not be good news.  Unlike most other Select Committees, its remit has not corresponded to a particular Government Department - an anomaly that the Government is now clearly seeking to terminate; but given the importance of science as a intellectual, strategic and cross-cutting issue, the Committee has played a very effective role promoting the place of science in the realm of public and political debate.

Readers of this blog who might share these concerns should not hesitate to contact their MPs - you’ll find details on the parliamentary website.  You can also write to the DIUS Secretary of State, John Denham, at BERR.Correspondence@berr.gsi.gov.uk


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