Science & Technology Committee

The President of the RAS has written to the Leader of the House of Commons and to the Chief Whip urging the retention of the S&T Committee. RAS officers also spoke to Committee chairman Phil Willis MP, who has now replied.

Professor Rowan-Robinson said:

"The RAS recognises the excellent cross-cutting scrutiny work undertaken by the Committee and has submitted evidence on several occasions, most recently to the enquiry into UK Space Policy.

I was therefore concerned to read the Hansard transcript of 9 July where Phil Willis MP, the current chair of the Committee, suggested that its future may be under threat. Specifically, it was implied that the examination of science and technology issues may be subsumed into a committee established to scrutinise the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills ( DIUS).

I believe it is crucial that the Science and Technology Committee can continue to scrutinise the Government's use of science in policy making across departments. It is vital that the creation of DIUS and the Government's sharpened focus on science does not come at the price of reducing Parliamentary scrutiny. For these reasons, I urge you to retain the Committee in its present form."

Update: 26 July 2007

Robert Massey wrote to Phil Willis following the release of the Space Policy report at the Science Museum. He replied earlier this week:

"Dear Dr Massey

Thank you for your recent email concerning the space report and the future of the Science and Technology Select Committee. It was good to meet you on Tuesday after the launch of our Space Policy Report.

With regards to the future of the Science and Technology Select Committee unfortunately the decision seems to have been made.

There is likely to be a subcommittee which will carry out cross-cutting scrutiny of Government science policy, though I fear this will not suffice as an adequate check. I have been informed that these new select committee arrangements will not come into effect until the re-opening of Parliament in November.

Once again, thank you for your continuing interest and support in the future of the committee.

Yours Sincerely

Phil Willis MP"