Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend’s all-party parliamentary group, with which I am quite familiar. I wholeheartedly agree with him about the importance of that research, and about the link between that important research and this agency. I will develop that point further in a few moments.

As hon. Members have indicated, UK science is not only inspiring; it can also be groundbreaking and is a key economic driver. Our university research base alone contributes £95 billion to the economy, supporting nearly 1 million jobs in scientific institutes, charities and businesses of all sizes. Research by Oxford Economics commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that each £1 of public research and development—such as the money to be spent on ARIA—stimulates between £1.96 and £2.34 of private research and development, and we cannot recover from the pandemic without inspiring and initiating more private sector investment in research and development. Together, private and public sector research can help to address the key challenges facing humanity—from climate change to inequality, from pandemics to productivity.

That brings us very neatly to the broken promises of this Conservative Government on overseas development aid, as raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), and how that betrays the poorest among us and the critical challenges faced by us all. With over £4.1 billion slashed from overseas development aid, the £120 million cut from science and research programmes may appear minor, but that has already had a devastating impact on science here and abroad. Cutting funding from global challenges research fund hubs, for example, threatens researchers at Newcastle University in my constituency, as well as scientists in developing countries working together on water security. These cuts are a consequence of the Government’s decision to scrap the legally binding 0.7% of GDP target for overseas development aid.

New clause 4 tabled by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), which sought to reverse that decision, has not been selected for debate, though a debate on the issue may follow; certainly, the debate is not going away. Particularly in relation to ARIA and the amendments before us, it is really important to emphasise that for UK science, research and credibility, these cuts have a significant impact. The UK has been the only G7 country to cut aid in the middle of a pandemic, and in so doing it has united hon. and right hon. Members across this House who are horrified by the harm done—harm such as, in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, in Yemen, slashing aid by 60% without conducting an impact assessment, and harm such as cutting bilateral funding on water, sanitation and hygiene—

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Order. I would like the hon. Lady to return to the Bill.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, because that is exactly the point to which I am going—to the amendments. Just to say that the funding for coronavirus research, which is the kind of world-beating or leading research that we would hope ARIA will be looking at, has been cut by 70%, which will kill the project. A Government happy to withdraw support for vital research projects across the globe are not a Government who wish to act in the best interests of science, the country or the world.

On ARIA itself, we have many serious concerns. We recognise the need for new mechanisms to support high-risk, high-reward research in our science sector, and as such ARIA is a step in the right direction. ARIA can transform our scientific landscape and we can build an institution that furthers our societal aims for decades to come, but we have concerns, which our amendments seek to address, about the lack of direction, strategy and accountability in the Government’s current proposals. Without such improvements, we fear that the agency could be used to pursue vanity projects disconnected from the public interest.

The first major issue with the Bill is the absence of a mission for ARIA, which has already been raised. What is ARIA for and what is it working towards? Labour’s amendment 12 would require ARIA to have a specific mission for ARIA’s first decade, and we want that mission to be climate change.

--- Later in debate ---
To bring my contribution to a close, I want to make it clear that Labour wants ARIA to be a success and that we support its creation. We believe that science is an engine of progress and that ARIA can accelerate that progress, but we also believe that the Bill in its current form does not provide the optimal conditions for ARIA to work. Without our key amendments, the agency risks losing its way, so I hope they will receive support on both sides of the House. These are not partisan issues; these are issues rooted in an unwavering belief in science and democracy.
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Although a number of people have withdrawn from this debate, there are still a fair number of speakers. That means that if everybody takes about six minutes, we will be able to get everybody in. We need to think of each other in conducting the debate. Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on the call list have withdrawn, so we now go to Layla Moran.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a physics graduate and the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon—a constituency proudly at the heart of this country’s scientific innovation—I welcome much of what ARIA hopes to achieve. Time and again, the lack of funding for genuinely high-risk, high-reward science is a common refrain in conversations I have with scientists I meet, so on the face of it ARIA is a good idea.

Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats have concerns about the Bill, and I will quickly raise just two. First, we are very concerned about the Secretary of State’s unchecked powers to choose who leads this highly independent agency. On top of that, it was recently revealed that the Government’s intention is to exempt ARIA from freedom of information legislation. Transparency is at the core of good science, as it should be for good politics. If we want this organisation to succeed, the public should have faith in how taxpayers’ money is spent. That is why the Liberal Democrats have proposed a strong accountability mechanism in amendment 11, which would give the Science and Technology Committee the power to approve nominees for the position of chair and chief executive officer.

Secondly, it is beyond disappointing that the Government have failed to use ARIA’s potential to tackle the climate emergency. New clause 3 would therefore ensure that ARIA’s research did not lead to any increase in the UK’s carbon emissions. Moreover, a quarter of ARIA’s annual budget would be directed specifically to the development of green technologies.

In conclusion, transparency and the climate emergency are two of the very many important aspects that are missing from this Bill—ones that we seek to fix. This new agency has great potential. Let us not mess it up now.

--- Later in debate ---
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

No. 10 on the speakers’ list has withdrawn. No. 11 is not here and Nos. 12 and 13 have withdrawn, so I call Richard Fuller.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a surprise to be called so early, but it is nevertheless welcome. I was not on the Public Bill Committee, which I know will have been a sadness for all its members, but for me it was of particular sadness because for the future of our country and most other countries, the way in which we nurture and promote innovation is crucial. Although this is a small Bill that generally has wide support across the House, it is rather important that we get it right. It is therefore important that today we debate some of the issues on which the Committee was not able to reach a full conclusion.

Innovation is crucial for our success, and I hope that the Minister and the Department will move on from the fact that we have innovation to look at ways in which we can promote the implementation of innovation, particularly through the removal of barriers and the promotion of competition, so that we can see the fruits of this investment in tangible economic and social success for our country.

Looking through the amendments, I would group them into three areas that it seems were not fully resolved in Committee: first, the extent of oversight; secondly, the issue of purpose or mission; and, thirdly, appointments. On oversight, although each of the proposed steps might be worthy, each of them is also an impediment. If there is one driving value that I hope we have for the Bill at this stage, it is to have the courage to enable this new and additional form of innovation investing to have the freedom to grow and do what it wishes to do.

If, at some point in the future, we find that the programme has gone off the rails somewhat and gone beyond what we know, it would perhaps then be useful for us to put more bureaucratic layers on top of it, but we certainly should not do so from the outset. If we do that from the outset, essentially we are killing the idea in its entirety. It is so easy for us here to say, “We really believe in this, but we would like this or that.” It is quite natural, as protectors of taxpayers’ money—that used to be a role of this House, but sadly it is one that has been lacking for about 40 years—that we want to take that responsibility seriously and to be thorough, but with this Bill we have to accept that if we are going to take that step, we have to put trust in this group. I would be interested to hear what other Members, particularly the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) with his long experience, have to say about whether this is the right step. I will come back to that point later in respect of appointments.

On the issue of purpose, the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah)—I know she has a strong and real passion for science, and I have listened to her speak up for science over a number of years, so I know her intention is right—has tabled an amendment saying that the core mission should be about the climate change goals. The SNP spokesman, the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), who opened the debate, similarly said that we should focus on the environment.

It is important to ask what impact it would have if we made the environment the focus. We currently have $30 trillion-worth of environmental, social and governance assets in the world. The Bill is proposing to add a flow of approximately $1 billion a year, or 1 in 30,000 of the assets that are already there. In terms of where moneys are flowing, this year’s flow of ESG in the private sector is about $130 billion to $140 billion. If we were to make the environment the core mission, we would essentially be tossing £800 million on top of an enormous pile of assets that is already there and an enormous additional inflow this year that is already happening. By its very nature, we would be doing the thing that we are not supposed to be asking ARIA to do, which essentially is to do what everybody else is doing. The whole purpose of ARIA is to do those things that other people are not doing. I feel that it is a mistake to say, “This is a really important mission—aren’t you terrible for not saying that we should focus on it?”, rather than “There are other missions—there is a bigger mission out there that perhaps we as politicians do not have the insight to understand.” That is the whole purpose of setting up ARIA, because with our bureaucratic fingers and our tiny political minds we just are not able to think of those things. It is worth our while considering that, so I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) that it should not have a mission. The whole purpose of ARIA is to do those things that other people are not doing. I feel that it is a mistake to say, “This is a really important mission—aren’t you terrible for not saying that we should focus on it?”, rather than “There are other missions—there is a bigger mission out there that perhaps we as politicians do not have the insight to understand.” That is the whole purpose of setting up ARIA, because with our bureaucratic fingers and our tiny political minds we just are not able to think of those things. It is worth our while considering that, so I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) that it should not have a mission.

--- Later in debate ---
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts


I was happy to be a member of the Bill Committee and we had constructive, good humoured discussions, many of which have been echoed in this evening’s debate. One thing that particularly struck me was the quality of the evidence that the witnesses gave. I have a question for the Minister: if she, like me, was so impressed by what we heard, particularly from the representatives of DARPA, what did she learn from it and what changes could be made to the Bill to reflect the wisdom imparted by the witnesses?

I shall speak in support of all the Opposition amendments, but I want to address in particular amendment 12 and the need for a mission. I was struck by the outline of the Haldane principle by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), who is my good friend. He is absolutely right that there is no need for the Government to get involved in the detail, but equally there is no obligation to withdraw from a having a general sense of what we are trying to do. The key issue is whether we say, “We’re just not going to have a view on what it is going to do” or we have some sense of where this might go.

I spent much of last week reading Professor Dieter Helm’s book on net zero, which I commend to hon. Members. He is quite influential on the Government, I think, but it is pretty depressing reading regarding where we are on achieving net zero. We are nowhere near doing what is needed. One of the key areas is science, innovation and research, so it would not be unreasonable to suggest putting our great scientific minds to work on the great challenge of our times: what to do about the climate crisis.

I am fortunate to chair the all-party parliamentary group for life sciences. When I chaired a meeting this afternoon, one question that I asked the people before us was, “Why was it that you were so successful in tackling the vaccines crisis?” It was because they worked in a different way, with a mission and a purpose, and I think exactly the same thing would happen if we set our great scientific minds to work on this great challenge of our times.

It is important to support amendment 12, as well as the other amendments. What a difference it could make, and what a political opportunity for the Government as we head towards the G7 this week and COP26. Unless something like this is adopted, frankly, we will not get where we need to.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Nos. 28, 29 and 30 have withdrawn, so I call Ruth Jones.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; yes, it is a surprisingly fast debate tonight, which is good.

I am grateful to be able to speak in this important debate and to say a few words on behalf of the people of Newport West. I commend the high level of debate, which has been impressive; I have learnt a lot.

Like other Opposition colleagues, I welcome the creation of ARIA. The UK has a proud tradition in science and innovation, but Labour has long called for further investment in long-term, high-ambition research and development. I join Opposition Members who have raised concerns about the Bill in its current form. Most concerningly, the Government’s proposals for the agency do not provide it with a clear purpose or mission. For the new agency to succeed, it must be given a well-defined mission and Ministers must play a role in setting that mission. In setting that mission, the creation of ARIA, which will only account for a fraction of the overall science spending, must not serve as a distraction from the country’s wider research and development priorities.

It is a matter of regret—but, alas, no surprise—that this 11-year-old Tory Government are reportedly on course to miss their target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R and D by 2027. They have also failed to provide the support needed to medical research charities during the pandemic, forcing them to make sweeping cuts. I say to the Minister that we need real clarity on how the devolved Administrations will be engaged with and supported to ensure that people across the whole United Kingdom benefit in the months and years ahead.

Labour’s amendment 12 on mission has a welcome focus on net zero, which, as a shadow environment Minister, I welcome very strongly. The greatest challenge that we face as a country and as a planet is the climate and environment emergency, so I applaud and thank the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), for proposing that the fight to preserve our planet and protect our environment be the new agency’s mission for the first 10 years. Achieving net zero offers a broad mission and ARIA’s new CEO would have plenty of discretion in choosing which aspects of the climate and environmental emergency to address.

I turn to oversight and accountability. As has already been mentioned, it is important that people know what is happening, how and when. By making ARIA subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, we would be drawing open the curtains and shining a light where it is absolutely necessary.

Let me turn to regional and national empowerment. As I indicated, I want my constituents in Newport West to benefit as much as those living in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. As such, it is vital that the Minister supports amendment 13, which would require the agency to have regard for the benefit of its activities across the nations and regions of our United Kingdom.

I am in the privileged position of having the Intellectual Property Office located in my constituency, and I am proud to stand up and shout on behalf of the next up-and-coming Einstein, to ensure that they can work on a level playing field. This Bill may be small, but it is important and we must get it right now.

I turn to the new clause in the name of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who has a long track record on fighting for the rights of the poorest in our world. I commend him and his many right hon. and hon. Friends—notably the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May)—for standing up and doing the right thing. So many colleagues on both sides of the House have spoken eloquently in this debate about who we are as a nation and about the values that drive what we do and when we do it. Although I would of course never question a ruling by Mr Speaker, I do want to place on record the fact that I regret that the new clause was not selected. However, I am really pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has secured his debate tomorrow, and I look forward to its outcome.

This last year has been like no other in living memory, and we have seen pain and suffering not just here at home but around the world. We have sought to respond to the ravages of coronavirus and to rebuild and move forward. That is why so many of us in Newport West were outraged when the Secretary of State announced that the Government would be scrapping the 0.7% target. However, although I could go on at length about this, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am content to know that we have the three-hour debate tomorrow. Therefore, I will keep my powder dry until then.
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Nos. 32, 33 and 34 have withdrawn, so we go to Jim Shannon.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I cannot recall a time when we have rushed so fast through the speakers, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the beginning, as No. 35, I thought I would have three minutes. You have asked us to keep to six minutes, and we will do our best—indeed, I will keep to that.

I value the opportunity to speak on this matter of utmost importance. I also welcome the Chancellor’s announcement—I have my instructions for tonight as the one who will do the proxy votes on behalf of my party—that the UK Government will invest at least £800 million in this new agency as part of the Government’s wider commitment to increase public research and development funding by £22 billion by 2024-25 and to increase overall UK spending on R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. It would be churlish not to welcome that and not to say how good it is to have those figures on the record here tonight. It is clear that the Government have given a commitment to ensure that this agency will be a success story.

When I see that many of our shops have been tied up not simply by Brexit but by the over-dependence on overseas manufacturing and production, I lament that because we were at one time the greatest industrial nation, with the greatest innovators. I believe we can be that again; all we need to do is follow the Government’s policy and strategy, as set out here tonight, and then we can all benefit across this great nation. I still believe that that title is ours, but for us to become all we can become in terms of leading groundbreaking blue-sky projects, we must put the money in, and the Government are clearly putting their money in.

I want to ask the Minister—last time, we did not have much time, and she was unable to respond—to ensure that the R&D and the spend benefit all the regions. The hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) and others referred to that. I want Northern Ireland very clearly to be a recipient of the R&D so that we have some of the benefit from this whole project. Technology does not come cheap, but the rewards are extensive. What we have achieved with the covid vaccine through investing money is an indication that greatness still awaits. The Government have been extremely successful in the coronavirus vaccine roll-out and in how they have benefitted and helped all the companies, whether with furlough or the grant scheme. Many businesses in my constituency are here today because of the Government’s commitment, and I want to put on record my thanks to them for that as well.

We all have a great affection for our mothers, and I have a particular affection for mine. She always said that her greatest investment was the time she invested to believe in her children. It is important that we take note of those wise words, and I hope that my mother will be very pleased with the investment she made in her four children. If God spares her, she will be 90 on 14 July, so she has had a long and very good life. When I phone her, as I did at about 6 o’clock tonight, she always asks me what is happening over here, and I always tell her, because she is really deeply interested. We are very fortunate to have a 90-year-old mum who is sound in body and mind and still able to tell this big boy what to do when the time comes. That is what a mother does—she tells you off no matter what age you are, and I am always very conscious of that.

We must invest in our own people and in their ability. That is why I support this Bill and why we will be voting with the Government tonight. I want to take this opportunity to press the Minister for an assurance that the investment to which I referred earlier will take place across the UK, and will allow the wonderful research and development that takes place in Northern Ireland to continue. We have a great scheme in Northern Ireland, which works really well, to avail us with increased support and funding. I believe that the Minister will be happy to give that assurance and I will be happy to hold her to that assurance. I look forward to her response.

Northern Ireland has the best education system in the United Kingdom. I thank my colleague Peter Weir, the Education Minister, for the great job that he has done in trying to secure our children’s ongoing education through covid. As a result of this education, we have highly skilled young people who have so much to offer in terms of vision and goals. I meet those young people every day in my constituency of Strangford and across Northern Ireland. We have some wonderful people. We need to encourage them and to ensure that they can be part of that future as well. We do this as well for my grandchildren and, indeed, for everyone’s grandchildren.

We should also allow those with grand projects to take on young apprentices, who will learn how to take innovative approaches. It is very important that we do these things. The R&D projects to give young graduates a place at the R&D table would benefit from their wisdom, experience, enthusiasm and learning. Again, I commend the Northern Ireland Assembly, and particularly Minister Dodds and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, for all that they have done, working alongside the Education Minister to ensure that we in Northern Ireland can be part of this great nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—always better together and always better if we can share what we have. I see my colleague and friend, the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), having a smile to himself. But I mean it. I want him to stay in the United Kingdom. I do not want him to leave; I want him to be a part of it.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Nos. 36 to 40 on the speakers’ list have withdrawn, so we go to Virginia Crosbie.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate on ARIA and to follow the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who always speaks so eloquently and passionately. I particularly liked the fact that he mentioned his grandchildren.

I was proud to serve on the ARIA Bill Committee and I would like to thank the Minister and all those who have contributed to this landmark legislation. Setting up this agency will deliver on yet another manifesto commitment from 2019 and I wholeheartedly support the Bill. The last year has shown us the power of science to deliver solutions, and now is the time to further invest in the ideas of the future that will allow us to continue to make scientific progress.

ARIA needs to have as broad a remit as possible, not to be restricted in its scope, which would be the outcome if new clause 2 were accepted. Scientists need to have space and time to research new technologies without restrictions about the agency’s mission imposed upon them. In the words of Professor Bond in the evidence sessions of which I was part, this is about “radical innovation”.

In my constituency of Ynys Môn, there is already the infrastructure in place for research and innovation, hosted by the Menai Science Park, which is the innovation hub for Bangor University. Businesses such as Tech Tyfu, a vertical farming pilot project in Gwynedd and Ynys Môn delivered by Menter Môn, provide the opportunity for the UK to increase UK food production. We need to encourage more people with an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset, such as those at Tech Tyfu and the others located at M-Sparc, to engage with research in order to solve the problems that the world faces today and in the future. We need to recruit the right people and trust them, not micromanage them.

Amendments 1 and 12 look to focus ARIA’s core mission on achieving net zero and the impact of climate change. I am fully supportive of the goal of achieving net zero, as was laid out in the manifesto on which I proudly stood in 2019. Indeed, Ynys Môn— also known as energy island—will play a key part in delivering this target. However, restricting ARIA’s mission to this goal is not necessary, as we have already legislated for the net zero target by 2050, with ambitious interim targets and a cross-governmental framework in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan.

ARIA also gives the opportunity to level up around the country, be truly inclusive and involve the brilliant minds from all over the United Kingdom, including those in Wales. It needs to be able to do that without being weighed down by bureaucracy. I spoke in Committee about why ARIA should be free from the freedom of information regime proposed in amendments 8 and 14. In Committee, we heard evidence about the potential burden of administration. UKRI told us that it had a team of staff purely to deal with the 300-plus FOI requests it receives annually. As Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser said, UKRI is “happy” to be able to respond to FOI requests, but

“there is a judgment call about the burden of administration”.––[Official Report, Advanced Research and Invention Agency Public Bill Committee, 14 April 2021; c. 9, Q4.]

With its unique freedoms and independence to enable transformational research, ARIA will inevitably receive a disproportionate number of FOI requests relative to its size. Our vision for ARIA is that it should be lean and agile. Do we really want it encumbered by that level of administrative burden? Do we want ARIA’s brilliant programme managers to be stifled by bureaucratic paperwork?

We also heard about whether ARIA will be able to deliver the game-changing R&D that we want if it is subject to FOI. It was Tony Blair who gave us the Freedom of Information Act and who subsequently described it as

“utterly undermining of sensible government”

To use his words:

“If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you're weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations...And if those conversations then are put out in a published form that afterwards are liable to be highlighted in particular ways, you are going to be very cautious.”

Professor Philip Bond put this view into an R&D context in his discussions with the Committee:

“if you are asking people to go out on a limb to really push the envelope, I would assert that there is an argument, which has some validity, that you make it psychologically much easier for them if they do not feel that they are under a microscope.” ––[Official Report, Advanced Research and Invention Agency Public Bill Committee, 14 April 2021; c. 29, Q21.]

Mr Blair and Professor Bond perfectly highlight the fundamental reason why ARIA should be free from FOI: the last thing our scientists need when they are looking for the next internet is to be held back by caution.

The Bill already contains very strong statutory commitments to transparency: an annual report will be laid before Parliament; ARIA’s accounts and spending will be published; non-legislative mechanisms will be set out in a framework document; and there will be a thorough and transparent selection process to ensure it is led by respected individuals who will uphold public honour. Freedom of information requests can still be submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and any organisation that ARIA works with. Any contracts awarded by ARIA will be publicly available.

ARIA will give the United Kingdom and the island of Ynys Môn the opportunity to grasp and shape our future on a global stage. It will help drive innovation and investment, and secure our status as a science superpower. I am proud—I am proud to support this Bill.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
- Hansard - -

Nos. 42 to 49 on the speakers’ list have withdrawn, so we go to Angela Richardson.

Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is such a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), who is so passionate about this area. That came through in the Bill Committee, as it does whenever she speaks on behalf of her constituency.

It is a pleasure for me to speak on Report, as it was to be a member of the Committee and to speak on Second Reading. It is a relief to speak to amendments that pertain to the Bill today, even if I do not support them. I particularly want to speak to the procurement amendments tabled by both the Opposition and the Scottish National party, but first I wish to address the amendments that want to make ARIA’s primary mission health and research, or our net zero aims. We already have knowledge of and have committed significant resources to those two areas, and we understand the importance of tackling them. The benefit of freeing ARIA from those specific missions is the ability to go into the unknown—to the areas we do not have knowledge of. I have no issue with ARIA seeing successes or failures in those areas, but prescribing for those areas through ARIA may not necessarily be the cure we are looking for.

Turning to procurement, the exemption from the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 places freedom into the hands of the leaders and programme managers who will be recruited to run ARIA as an independent body. ARIA’s procurement will be at arm’s length from Government and Ministers. Procurement rules do not apply to the traditional R&D granting used by UKRI, but ARIA, like DARPA, will work in a different way by commissioning and contracting others to conduct research. ARIA will often be procuring research and development services, which can be in the scope of the procurement regulations.