Science and Technology Framework

Carol Monaghan Excerpts
Tuesday 7th March 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My ministerial team and I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend’s Committee. It was good to speak to him yesterday. As I said then, funding remains available to finalise association with EU programmes. In the event that we do not associate, UK researchers and businesses will receive at least as much as they would have through Horizon over the spending review period.

The Government have stepped in to continue to support the UK’s world-leading R&D sector. We have extended the Horizon guarantee until the end of June 2023, as we announced yesterday. The Government have provided £882 million to date via UKRI through the guarantee and they will still deliver their commitment to invest £20 billion per annum in research and development by 2024-25. That is not impacted by the £1.6 billion to which my right hon. Friend refers.

On Horizon, as I said to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), we have not changed our position. We continue to try to associate with Horizon, and we look forward to engaging in more deep and meaningful conversations with the EU on what is possible as we work out the potential options. I will keep my right hon. Friend and this House as informed as possible as plans develop.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I welcome the creation of the new Department and welcome the Secretary of State to her position. I thank her for advance sight of her statement.

The framework should be seen very much as a starting point. I have to say that the Secretary of State’s comments on Horizon will not give the sector much assurance at the moment. That view is echoed by the Royal Society, which says:

“The extension of the funding underwrite announced today is a welcome intervention”

as a safety net,

“but it is yet another sticking plaster, when the ultimate goal needs to be speedy association”.

Sir Paul Nurse’s review also describes Horizon Europe association as essential, so we need a timeframe for when a decision on Horizon will be taken. We have been hearing from the Government for three years that their intention and hope is that there will be such an association, but we need a timeframe.

Dr Tim Bradshaw of the Russell Group has said that the £370 million of new funding falls far short of the £1.6 billion that had been earmarked for research collaborations with the European Union, so it would be useful to know how the Government can continue promoting science in the UK when they are driving down funding in comparison with what was provided before Brexit.

The framework commits to establishing

“competitive advantage in attracting international talent to the UK”,

but Royal Society analysis has shown that work and study visa fees are up to six times higher than in comparable science nations. What plans do the Government have to reduce visa fees in line with other science nations?

The Secretary of State has chosen future communications as an area of focus. In 2020, a $500 million stake was invested in OneWeb to support such communications. Can the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of the OneWeb investment in terms of future communications?

Finally, we have been asking about the semiconductor strategy for many months now. When is it likely to be published?

Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On Horizon, the hon. Member seems to be rewriting history, which is slightly disappointing. We have tried for two years to associate. It was the EU, not this Government, that linked the issue with the Northern Ireland protocol. We now stand ready to continue those conversations. The £1.6 billion was earmarked for Horizon. We were not able to affiliate and associate with Horizon, which is why the money is no longer available, but we stand committed in terms of our record investment of £20 billion, which we have pledged for 2024-25.

On the conversation around attracting talent, we think it is very important that we are supporting industry and the opportunities available, so there are jobs in this country for people to come to and so they will want to forge a life here.

The semiconductor strategy will be out imminently. We have been doing a great deal of work to ensure that it comes out in exactly the right place.