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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Debating the Issue

I just took a break to watch the private members debate on the science and technology research council that was called by Edward Vaizey. It was very interesting viewing.

The MPs concerned had clearly done their homework and made good statements. Amusingly the minister who responded on behalf of DIUS came across as very nervous - this may be his usual style. I imagine that he was a bit embarrassed since Edward Vaizey cut his knees out from under him by predicting the arguments that the minister would provide. He flagged that shouting about increases in budget (13.6% in case you have missed all the times that keeps getting repeated) was a complete red-herring and did not address the issue that programs are being cut with little warning and no community involvement. of course the minister started with exactly that.

The minister mentioned the Haldane principle (learning from his boss there) but failed to consider whether that is being properly applied by STFC.

The point was raised that although the Wakeham review is welcome there is little chance of it being finished before the cuts are implemented unless more money is provided or the review is brought forward. The minister dodged around this issue by saying that it is up to Prof. Wakeham (and his appointer) to determine how long the review should take.

At the end the minister expertly managed his time so that he was still speaking when the debate was closed. This meant no one was able (if indeed they were going to) to point out to the minister that saying that the scientists would have access to ISIS and Diamond was a complete red herring as the science disciplines that are being cut do not use those facilities in their research.

All in all the government are still saying that it is up to the STFC and they should get on with things. Not surprising really. On little gem that crept in might answer why there is advice circulating to stop 'pestering' DIUS. It seems that remarks have leaked out of the department to the effect that there is no way that they will bend to the will of whingeing scientists. If true this is an interesting attitude to take from a group that professes belief in the Haldane principle, no?

Once Hansard catches up I will post the link here

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