MP says he will flush out the truth of science funding
By a sleight of hand, science is not getting the money the public has been led to believe it would. That’s the fighting talk from Andrew Miller, the chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. The Labour MP told PST today that he intended to “flush out” the mystery surrounding science funding.
Miller is certainly pursuing the science budget as if it were some kind of dodgy deal. Last week he stood up in Parliament to demand that the government tell “the truth about the science budget”. He asked the Leader of the House, Sir George Young, to timetable a full debate on the topic. Sir George denied the request, saying instead that there will be an opportunity to discuss the matter at the next round of BIS Questions with Vince Cable and David Willetts on 8th December.
“A full debate on the issue would have enabled us to get the record straight in terms of where we’re heading, spending-wise,” said Imran Khan, director of CaSE, “and how this needs to be built upon if we’re going to make science and engineering central to our economic recovery.”
When PST spoke with Miller, he was resigned to waiting until December to probe further. And he was obviously disappointed that Sir George batted down his plea so quickly. He promised: “At the select committee, we will continue nagging away at this because there’s something that doesn’t read right.” Miller has been swotting up on CaSE’s analysis that the £4.6bn ring-fence is actually a cheeky £1.7bn cut.
Of course, it makes perfect political sense for a Labour MP to be scrutinising the government’s figures. Labour may be in the political wilderness, but its MPs are shrewdly latching onto specific causes. Like Tom Watson and phone hacking, Miller may be a dog who’s just found his bone. It might amount to political point scoring, but that’s still good news for CaSE, Science is Vital and every scientist who cares about science funding.