Another select committee bites the dust...
Here we go again. The recent disappearance of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Science (DIUS) and the subsuming of its responsibilities within Peter Mandelson’s new Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has led to a renewed debate about which corresponding parliamentary select committee will speak up on behalf of research.
A couple of years ago, I reported on the wringing of hands that accompanied the demise of the old Science and Technology Select Committee (chaired, you will remember, by the now-disgraced Norwich MP and self-styled science crusader Ian Gibson) that followed from the creation of DIUS. The new body that eventually emerged at the time was the Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills - the ‘Science’ bit was added as a result of high-powered lobbying from illustrious members of the scientiﬁc establishment, led by Royal Society President Martin Rees.
More of the same sort of lobbying is going on again, this time to ensure that the research and science bit of BIS is shadowed by a select committee with a clear focus on research and science, and nothing else. The Leader of the House, Harriet Harman, is now being called upon to resuscitate the old Science and Technology Committee. Will they succeed? Select Committees usually shadow whole Government Departments, not parts of them - so the Government may be reluctant to go down that route. Once again, research and science are in danger of turning into a political football in the rariﬁed atmosphere of the Palace of Westminster.
Any views on this? Please don’t write to RIN, but do feel free to drop a line to Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the House, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, or firstname.lastname@example.org .