Geoff Hoon MP, the Government Chief Whip and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has responded to RAS President Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson's letter requesting the retention of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee...
On 17 July RAS President Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson wrote to Geoff Hoon MP and Harriet Harman MP requesting the retention of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. This is set to be replaced by a committee shadowing the new Department for Innovation, Universites and Skills (DIUS).
Many MPs and scientists are concerned that the new committee will have far less scope to examine science issues (see http://www.ras.org.uk//index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1265 for more details).
Geoff Hoon replied on 26 July:
Science and Technology Committee
Thank you for your letter of 17 July.
The Prime Minister established a new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills with a mandate which includes delivering the Government's long-term vision to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation. It follows that science is a core part of the Department's focus.
The House of Commons yesterday unanimously approved a motion to establish - from the start of the next session - a Select Committee to scrutinise the work of this new Department, in accordance with the practice of having a select committee in place specifically to monitor the work of each department as a whole. It will of couse be up to the new Select Committee to decide how it wishes to operate but it will be able to appoint a permanent Sub-committee dedicated to Science and Technology. If it does choose to appoint a permanent Sub-committee then this can serve very much in effect as a successor to the old committee and can be seen by the outside science community as a focus for such work. Given the representations made by a number of backbench MPs in support of establishing a Sub-committee, I am sure that the new committee will be giving this very careful consideration.
I do not anticipate any difficulties arising on cross-cutting inquiries. Select Committees are well used to conducting inquiries which cross departmental boundaries and frequently do so, usually following informal discussions between Committees or Committee chairs. And of course it is also open to Committees to conduct joint inquiries.
Please be assured that the Government holds science in high regard and attaches the utmost importance to the scrutiny of Government policy.
Geoff Hoon MP"