All 5 Lord Krebs contributions to the Higher Education and Research Act 2017

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Tue 6th Dec 2016
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2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Jan 2017
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Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 11th Jan 2017
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Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 13th Mar 2017
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Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 15th Mar 2017
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Report: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Higher Education and Research Bill Debate

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Higher Education and Research Bill

Lord Krebs Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 6th December 2016

(7 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, at academic conferences this is known as the graveyard slot and I thank you all for sticking with it. I particularly thank the noble Viscount the Minister as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and Jo Johnson for making time to meet with me to discuss the Bill. Sir John Kingman, the chairman of UKRI, has also been very helpful.

I shall spend my few minutes talking about Part 3 of the Bill on the architecture of research funding. This is an area in which I have a particular interest having spent a large part of my life leading a large research group at Oxford University and having served as the chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council.

As others have already reminded us, the UK performs extraordinarily well in scientific research. We publish 16% of the world’s most highly cited papers with about 4% of the world’s scientists. That is in spite of the fact that our publicly funded research is relatively poorly funded, accounting for about 0.5% of GDP compared with 0.77% for the G8 and 0.67% for the EU as a whole. To put it in context, our total R&D spend, public and private, per capita is just below that of Slovenia. The Autumn Statement announcement of an extra £2 billion per year is welcome as a small step towards catching up with our competitors.

However, this success leads me to ask two questions: first, why are we so successful; and secondly, in what ways will the Bill make us even better? No one really understands why we are such a successful scientific nation. The fact that English is the international language of science gives us an advantage—think what it would be like if we all had to publish our papers in Mandarin— but also we have been traditionally non-hierarchical in our universities and research institutes, open and welcoming to talent from all over the world, and we have heard much about the autonomy of the research councils—the Haldane principle—that has allowed peers, the scientists themselves, to determine the priorities in individual grants. Also, unlike some other countries in Europe, we have fostered teaching and research together in our great universities, feeding off each other.

As an aside, I remind noble Lords that when we talk about our Nobel prize winners we should remember that many of them, including my father, were immigrants from other countries. It is also worth noting that three of the last five presidents of the Royal Society have come to this country from overseas. Whether or not current attitudes towards people from overseas will prevent us luring global talent in the future remains an open question.

Secondly, given that we are successful, what is the problem that the Bill is trying to fix? It is not as though science is like the English football team: awash with money and pathetic in performance. Why does the funding landscape need a radical overhaul? We have already heard that, in part, the answer to this is Sir Paul Nurse’s review. In spite of all we know about our outstanding performance, he identified what he saw as a number of deficiencies, including, as we have heard from other noble Lords, the absence of a sufficiently strong voice for science at the highest level in Whitehall and the difficulty of getting research councils to work together—the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has already referred to this and I can vouch for it from my time as chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council. It has also been said that we are traditionally relatively weak in commercialising the products of scientific discovery, although I think that this has changed dramatically in the past few decades. For example, in my own department at Oxford, two spin-out companies, NaturalMotion and Oxitec, have between them been sold for around $700 million in the last three or four years.

Will UKRI help to put right such deficiencies as there are in the research funding system in the United Kingdom? I believe that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. One can argue for seven, or another number, of independent research councils, and one can argue for a single overarching body such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in Germany or the national funding agencies of Switzerland and the Netherlands, both outstanding scientific nations. However, having listened to the arguments, in conversations outside this debating Chamber and during this excellent debate, I think there is a case for giving UKRI a chance, but—and this is an important “but”—a lot of the devil will be in the detail.

We have already heard comments about the importance of providing clarification in the Bill, and I do not wish to repeat those arguments. However, a lot of this is to do with the wording. The Haldane principle must be clarified to protect autonomy; any changes in the architecture of the research councils must be subject to proper consultation; and balanced funding, as alluded to in the Bill, must be fully explained. The Bill must also be sensitive about the links between teaching and research. It is, after all, often the same people who are doing the teaching and the research, and we need to think carefully about the realities of their lives when we introduce new schemes such as the teaching excellence framework.

I end by echoing something that the noble Lords, Lord Winston and Lord Hunt of Chesterton, said about the fact that the benefits of scientific discoveries often occur in most unexpected and unforeseen ways. Rather than reiterate examples that have already been given, I want to quote Sir Andre Geim, who won a Nobel prize for the discovery of graphene at Manchester —note, a foreigner winning one of “our” Nobel prizes. He said this:

“The silicon revolution would have been impossible without quantum physics. Abstract maths allows internet security and computers not to crash every second. Einstein’s theory of relativity might seem irrelevant but your satellite navigation system would not work without it. The chain from discoveries to consumer products is long, obscure and slow, but destroy the basics and the whole chain will collapse. This logic dictates that we invest in blue-sky research to gain new knowledge. Without new knowledge only derivative technologies are possible”.

I end on this note to remind us that, whatever the architecture of research funding is in the future—and I think there is no single perfect model—we must, I repeat must, protect the funding for blue skies research and not be lured into the trap of thinking that more funding for the application of research will necessarily bring long-term benefits.

Higher Education and Research Bill Debate

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Higher Education and Research Bill

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th January 2017

(7 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Winston Portrait Lord Winston (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to see the Minister for Universities standing listening to our debate on this important issue. We are grateful for his attention to our comments. I will make two points from examples of my own experience; sometimes the House benefits greatly from that. I am very much aware of what the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, just said about Germany in the 1930s and the effect of government on the universities, which affected German universities for a long time after the war.

In the mid-1970s, I was a visiting professor for a year at a university in Belgium—one of the oldest universities in Europe. The department in which I worked was one of the world’s leading departments in reproductive physiology, to which came Spaniards, Italians, Brits, Americans, somebody from Australia, a large number of people from South America and some people who managed to get out of the Eastern bloc. The department worked on a major world problem—that of contraception at a time when the World Health Organization predicted that there might be as many as 100 billion people on the globe by the end of the next century. In addition, at that time in vitro fertilisation was not possible. It was a Catholic university. The head of the department, who was probably one of the most famous leading scientists and clinicians in reproductive biology in Europe, faced a considerable threat from the Church in that city. Eventually, with government support, not only was he passed over but he had to leave that environment as a result of the extreme pressure which came partly from government and partly from the Church. That kind of thing could happen again. The head of the department ended up mostly in private practice. The numerous foreign students from all over the world left that department and its huge prestige was also lost. Therefore, freedom of speech and expression in universities should be written into the Bill. I hope that the Government will look at this issue very carefully and perhaps encompass it in a definition.

The amendment refers to universities making “a contribution to society”. I work at Imperial College London and the huge contribution that has been made to society through connections with schools is extremely rewarding. As we spread our word, that has made a massive difference to the aspirations of young people, not only in the East End of London but right across the United Kingdom. More and more universities are becoming involved in developing greater connections with society. That is important for undergraduates and school students. It is vital to extend those connections. That is another reason why the wording to which I have referred, or something similar, must be included in the Bill.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, it is perhaps not surprising that those of us who are academics are concerned about definitions because one of the things we always teach our students is to define their terms. Hence, I support this amendment which seeks to define what we are talking about. At the same time, we should recognise that over the centuries universities have changed. In England, between the 12th and the 19th centuries, there were just two universities—Oxford and Cambridge—which served largely as institutions for educating people for careers in the Church or in canon law. The modern university as we understand it, an institution which combines research and teaching, was essentially invented in Germany by Alexander von Humboldt in 1810, when he founded the University of Berlin. However, in spite of the changing details of what universities do, they have certain enduring qualities and properties that we should cherish and ensure are retained during the passage of the Bill.

I offer two quotes. We have already heard one excellent quote from the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. One of my quotes is from the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield, when he was offered an honorary degree by the University of Sheffield in 1946. He said, among other things about a university:

“It is a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will honour thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or in exile, will uphold ever the dignity of thought and learning, and will exact standards in these things”.

That is the spirit in which, during the passage of the Bill, we should consider what a university is. My second quote reverts to perhaps the most famous treatise on universities, written by John Newman in the middle of the 19th century. I will not attempt to read the whole book to your Lordships, but just one brief quote. He says that,

“a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life”.

These are high-flown ambitions for universities, but ones that we should uphold today, not resorting to a purely instrumental view of universities that are there for economic benefit and training in technical skills.

Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts (Con)
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My Lords, I declare my interests in the Bill as a visiting professor at King’s College London, chairman of the advisory board of Times Higher Education and adviser to 2U.

We heard at Second Reading, and have already heard this afternoon, the deep concern in the House about the autonomy of our universities. I am sure that in the process of our discussions we will want to find ways of enhancing the protection of the autonomy of our universities. However, this clause is not the right way to set about it. As we have heard, this clause is the first attempt ever in British primary legislation to define what a university is. It is an ambitious project, and if I were to set up a committee to define a university, I could think of none more distinguished than the Committee in this House this afternoon. It has, however, the paradoxical effect that the first clause we are debating is a set of obligations on universities; it is formulated as a series of “musts” that universities have to do. It reflects a view of the university that is rather narrow and traditional. Of course, it is absolutely right that academic freedom is there, but it also says, for example:

“UK universities must provide an extensive range of high quality academic subjects”.

When I was Minister, I was proud to have given university status to institutions that focused on particular subjects—the Royal Agricultural College, for example, which is now a university. Are we really going to put into law a requirement that there must be an extensive range of subjects before an institution can be a university? That sets back a set of reforms not only from my time as a Minister; it goes right back to the Labour Government of 2004.

There is a long list of ways in which universities,

“must make a contribution to society”.

I do not know quite what this “must” is, but it says that they have to contribute “locally, nationally and internationally”. Does that mean that if a relationship with a local authority leader in the area breaks down, you can turn up and tell the university that it is in breach of its obligations to contribute locally? My personal view is that we should be protecting universities by putting obligations on Governments and regulators to respect their autonomy, not trying to define universities and put obligations on them.

Higher Education and Research Bill Debate

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Portrait Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab)
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My Lords, I wish briefly to reiterate a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about primary education. As we know, universities are now taking great pains to ensure that they have relationships with senior schools to enable students to know more about going to university, giving them confidence to look at university education. As we also know, unless they have not only aspirations but good primary education, they will not be able to fulfil those aspirations in future. It is important that universities nurture relationships with primary schools so that primary school children have a vision of what they might want to aspire to in future. I know that there are some excellent organisations and charities, such as IntoUniversity, which work with primary school children to enable them to take advantage of all the opportunities that come in the future. Of course, we cannot mandate the director to do everything and he will not have the capacity, but I hope the Government are thinking about working with universities or asking the Office for Students to work with primary school children as well as those in senior schools, because that is where the flame—the aspiration—begins.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I want very briefly to endorse the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Brown of Cambridge, on the role of access and engagement in postgraduate education and training, particularly in relation to taught and vocational master’s degrees, where there is virtually no funding from the Government any more and people have to rely on their own resources. However, if students from less well-off backgrounds are to benefit from their university education, for many career paths they will need to undertake a higher degree, particularly taught master’s degrees. I hope that we will hear something more about that from the Minister.

Lord Willetts Portrait Lord Willetts
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Before the noble Lord sits down, of course, he and other Cross-Benchers are absolutely right about the importance of access to postgraduate education. I am sure he would not want to miss the opportunity, therefore, to welcome the extension of student loans to master’s students, so that they will be funded on a greater scale than has ever been possible before.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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I certainly welcome that, but it still leaves open the question of the accumulated debt.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Portrait Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (CB)
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My Lords, we are effectively talking about the criteria that will be used by the relevant offices to register, deregister and reregister universities. There is not much in the Bill that tells us what the criteria are—I have an amendment later that will bear on this question. If, for example, a university put considerable and unusual effort into access provision, or indeed did nothing at all, would that affect the need to reregister, or would it enhance the position of a new institution wanting to register as participating in the whole higher education system? This is a plea for more information. Who will provide advice to the relevant offices, whether it is the Office for Fair Access or the Office for Students, in the work they carry out? This could be a crucial way of extending access.

When I was at the University of Edinburgh, the most important access work that we did was to work with a local further education college and provide a one-year programme taught jointly by the university and the college. Marvellous students went through there, one of whom ended up, interestingly, as the chair of the Scottish Funding Council for higher education. She was someone who went through this programme, came through the university and benefited from it. I should like to think that when we are discussing the quality of the education provided, this is exactly the kind of point that might be brought out and whose significance should be made something of.

Higher Education and Research Bill Debate

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Higher Education and Research Bill

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Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 13th March 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chancellor of Cranfield University, a truly global university in science and technology, with almost two-thirds of its students coming from outside of the UK. In looking at the Government’s Green Paper on industrial strategy, it is clear that what we want to try to forge for a post-Brexit UK is a vibrant industrial sector that is truly multinational in its businesses. That depends on being truly global in our approach to research and in recruiting the best and brightest students from across the world.

I know that we are in a particularly overheated moment in terms of immigration, and the Government are quite understandably nervous as a kitten in that respect. However, the reality is that we cannot regard international students as people who are coming here as supplicants to us. We are going as supplicants to them, because they have many choices. What international students want is to go somewhere where they will be able to study as an undergraduate, and then potentially as a postgraduate, at the cutting edge of whatever their discipline is, where they feel that their families are welcome to come and stay with them because they might be here for many years, and where they have the opportunity of moving seamlessly into employment with a company or organisation that they might have had contact with during their university years. That is what they want, and that is what we are preventing from happening if we are not careful.

The signal has gone out that Britain is not open for business for international students, whether or not that is true. The time has come, after all of these reports from other committees saying that we should change this very important signal, for the Government to ponder on that. The reality is that we are not going to see any diminution in the heat and steam around immigration in the next few years: we are going to see it getting worse and worse as we exit from Europe. The time has now come to make sure that the by-product of that heat and steam is not that we failed to deliver for our high standards of education, our high standards of research or our place in the global business community.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, in supporting Amendment 150 I declare an interest as having, for many years in the past, led a large research group at Oxford University that was heavily dependent on international students, not just from the European Union but from all over the world, from Argentina to the far eastern corner of what was then the Soviet Union.

I want in particular to refer back to one of the many Select Committee reports. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, referred to the fact that this whole question of overseas students has been examined in recent years by many Select Committees. One such committee was the Science and Technology Select Committee when I was the chair; in 2014 we produced a report on STEM students—science, technology, engineering and mathematics students—in relation to international students and immigration rules. In the summary of our report, we concluded:

“Above all, we are concerned that Government policy is contradictory. The Government are simultaneously committed to reducing net migration and attracting increasing numbers of international students”.


Echoing what my noble friend Lord Bilimoria said, certainly in 2014, the Government had a target of increasing international students by 15% to 20% over the next five years. We went on to say, as other noble Lords have said during this debate:

“This contradiction could be resolved if the Government removed students from the net migration figures”.


Will the Minister, in his reply, tell us whether he recognises this target that the Government certainly had two or three years ago? Does it still exist and, if so, does he recognise that government policy is currently contradictory?

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly to oppose Amendment 150. I am sure that noble Lords will listen very carefully to the arguments that have not yet been made. I should make it clear that I speak as someone who is firmly in favour of foreign students. I agree with much of what my noble friend Lord Hannay had to say, and it is hard to disagree with most of the contributions that we have heard this afternoon from people who run universities and colleges, who know students and who are absolutely clear about the benefits of foreign students. I agree with that.

However, that is not the issue. The issue is whether there is a problem here in relation to immigration—a massive issue for the public—and, if so, what should be done about it? Is it sensible, viable or feasible to make immigration policy by legislation? I rather doubt that, and if your Lordships look a little more carefully at this amendment, you will see that there are matters in it that do not square up with the reality of how the immigration system works and really go beyond legal matters in terms of trying to suggest what policies should be.

The first, most incredibly obvious, point to make—and it has not been made yet—is that any student who comes here, does his course, maybe works for a while and then goes home, does not contribute to net migration. They are counted in and they are counted out: they do not make any difference to net migration. What is more, all of our competitor countries mentioned today—Canada, the United States, and Australia—include, by the way in which they calculate their immigration figures, their students who stay on. There is no question about that. Therefore, the issue for public policy is, surely, how many do stay on illegally, not how many stay on legally. As my noble friend Lord Bilimoria mentioned, that is a matter, at the moment, of intense scrutiny by the ONS and the Home Office, and rightly so. That issue needs to be resolved. If there is a serious degree of overstaying, that has to be dealt with. If the statistics are weak, then we need to change our tune and perhaps change our policy.

It is not clear to me what, in practice, this amendment is intended to achieve; in the real world, the ONS will continue to use the international passenger survey in order to assess the flow of students in both directions—exactly the same definitions used by all of our competitors. If the amendment is intended to mean that students should be ignored, both on their arrival and on their departure, there is simply no measure whatever of whether they contribute to net migration or not. As international students from outside the EU now contribute 46,000 a year to net migration, it is a significant number. We do not know whether that is accurate, but it is a significant part of the case and needs to be considered.

Therefore, this proposed new clause will not clarify matters: it will only add to confusion over the numbers. If its only purpose is, as some noble Lords have suggested, to require the Government, when all the numbers are put together, to put into a separate paragraph those who are students, that is fine, but that is a political decision, not a matter for legislation. Whoever takes that decision is going to have to say, “Now wait a minute: what happens if we actually do that?”. I can think of one or two newspapers that might add them straight back in and then accuse the Government of fiddling the figures. That needs to be borne in mind.

Lastly, subsection (3) of the proposed new clause seeks to legislate to prevent any tightening of conditions for foreign students. Surely that is a matter for policy and not law. The House will be aware, I hope, that there are very strong pressures on our immigration system and, in particular, that there has been widespread abuse at the college level. The National Audit Office estimated that in one year, to 2010, about 50,000 students from the Indian subcontinent came here to work rather than to study. That largely explains the drop in students from India, which has been referred to once or twice. The House certainly knows that 900 bogus colleges have lost their licence to bring in foreign students. That is a massive number. This has been a scandal that has gone on for years and I very much regret that from the academic lobby, which should be powerful, accurate and on the case, hardly a word have we heard. I sometimes wonder whether some of the stuff put out by Universities UK gives a negative impression of our universities. These are the people who have been complaining and complaining for six years—of course foreign students are going to think that something is up and they are not terribly welcome.

I turn now to the university level, which I think is what most noble Lords have been talking about. We cannot preclude the possibility that there will, in future, be scams that apply to universities. Noble Lords will remember, I hope, that in 2011-12 the highly trusted sponsor licences were suspended from Glasgow Caledonian University, Teesside University and London Metropolitan University. Why? Because they had been on the fiddle. What will happen in the future if this amendment is passed and a raft of smaller, less distinguished universities than those mentioned by my noble friends start fiddling the system, one way or another? The Government’s hands will be bound by law. That cannot possibly make any sense.

In my view, these amendments do not amount to scrutiny nor to holding the Government to account. Rather, they are an attempt to make policy by legislation. I suggest to the House—and I am not in a majority tonight—that that is wrong both in practice and in principle.

Higher Education and Research Bill

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Report: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th March 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Brown of Cambridge Portrait Baroness Brown of Cambridge (CB)
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My Lords, I give my strong support to the government amendments in this group that allow for larger research councils, including an executive, and make it clear that our research can aim just to advance knowledge. I am very much an applied scientist, but I think it is hugely important that people are able do research that is just about moving forward the frontiers of their subject, even if we may not know for many years whether it has any purpose or practical application. I am delighted to see that such a provision has been included. I thank the Minister for not only listening to the comments of noble Lords and the research and innovation community, but responding to them.

I also add my support to Amendments 164A and 166A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, which would add a senior independent member to each council. I encourage the Minister to adopt that approach among the many other excellent improvements that he has already made.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I, too, echo the thanks of the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, to the Minister, the Bill team and the honourable Member for Orpington for the fruitful discussions and for listening to the points we raised at earlier stages of the Bill. I strongly support the government amendments in this group. There are two amendments with my name on them, which have already been discussed: on the establishment of an executive committee of the executive chairs of the research councils. I should declare that I am a former chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, so I have first-hand experience of this issue.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, both mentioned the importance of Amendment 181, which sets out that one of the research councils’ objectives is the advancement of knowledge. In fact, I would go further and say that the core objective of research is to advance knowledge. The fruits of that may be to improve the economy or quality of life but, as I said at Second Reading, one can never predict where those fruits will grow. I quoted the words of Nobel Prize winner Andre Geim, saying how important the advancement of knowledge for knowledge’s sake was in helping to promote the well-being of society and of the economy.

Amendment 164A concerns a senior independent member. I would have preferred to have a non-executive chair because I know from my own experience as the chief executive of a research council that it is quite hard to fill the roles of both the chair of the board and the proposer of initiatives to the board, but I understand that for various reasons the Government are not willing to go down that road. The role of the senior independent member who can be a mentor to the executive chair, and in difficult circumstances perhaps chair the board if it wishes to take the executive chair to task, is an important addition.

Also from my own experience, I strongly support the notion of lay members on the council as set out in Amendment 165A. There were occasions when I was the chief executive of the NERC when disputes between the warring factions of the academics—the earth scientists, the oceanographers, the ecologists and the atmospheric scientists—became so severe that I had to call upon the lay members to act as brokers in order to resolve them. I can hear the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, laughing at that remark, so obviously he has seen that kind of phenomenon before. The lay members of the research councils will have a key role to play and we should certainly support their inclusion among the 12 board members.

That is all I want to say at this stage, other than to repeat my thanks to the Minister and to noble Lords on these and other Benches with whom I have worked in trying to improve the Bill; I think we have significantly improved this part of it.

Lord Broers Portrait Lord Broers (CB)
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My Lords, I compliment the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, and the noble Lord, Lord Prior, on their willingness to talk about these issues and on the changes that have been brought about in the Bill. In the end, it has been a very positive experience. I too would like to support Amendments 164A and 166A, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Mendelsohn and Lord Prior, as they resonate with the opinion that I expressed on Report. Those points have reached a satisfactory conclusion.

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Lord Judd Portrait Lord Judd (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise simply to make two brief points. In doing so, I hope I will be forgiven for taking the opportunity to pay the warmest tribute to, and to express my admiration for, my noble friends Lord Stevenson and Lord Watson for the sterling work they have put in on the Bill on behalf of this side.

There is a great deal of feeling in the research community about the points covered by these amendments. I am sure there is a recognition that a tremendous amount of work has gone into trying to find an acceptable formula of words. It should be put on record that many of those who are involved in the most outstanding research in our universities remain mystified about why the phrase,

“(such as a peer review process)”

should be in brackets. They believe it should, if anything, be in capital letters because they see peer review as essential to the process.

There is some feeling that the word “excellent” should not have disappeared. Quality is, of course, important, but what ultimately matters in the research record of our universities and in its contribution to Britain’s noble standing in the world community for the quality of our research is its emphasis on excellence. As this goes forward it will be essential to keep those two important concerns of the research community in mind. In saying that, I should emphasise that I am involved with three universities and that I was a governor of the LSE for many years and am now an emeritus governor.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction of these amendments. I shall refer very briefly to Amendments 189, 190 and 191 which are related to the Haldane principle. I am delighted that it is in the Bill. During the passage of the Bill we heard many different views on what the Haldane principle is, whether there is more than one Haldane principle and, indeed, whether it should be called the Willetts principle because one of the key references is the paper by the noble Lord, Lord Willetts.

Cutting to the core of what is involved here, it is about peer review and deciding which individual projects are funded within broad areas. Of course, it is reasonable for Ministers to have broad priorities, just as when the noble Lord, Lord Willetts, was Minister for Universities and Science, he described the eight great technologies that he thought were priorities for this country. However, within those, it should be the peer review system, the practitioners and others who are close to the action, who decide which projects are funded. Although the wording says “quality”, if I were on a peer review committee I would interpret “quality” as including excellence, echoing the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Therefore I warmly support this amendment.