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Grand Committee

Wednesday, 17 October 2012.

Arrangement of Business


3.45 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Harris of Richmond): My Lords, if there is a Division in the House, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes.

Chief Scientific Advisers: S&T Committee Report

The role and functions of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers

Motion to Take Note

3.45 pm

Moved By Lord Krebs

That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report of the Science and Technology Committee on The role and functions of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers (4th Report, Session 2010-12, HL Paper 264).

Lord Krebs: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I want to start by thanking the members of the Science and Technology Select Committee for their excellent contributions to this inquiry. I want also to thank the clerk and the policy analyst for their outstanding support for the committee and the Minister for the Government’s response to the report, to which I shall return shortly.

In this country, we benefit from what, by international standards, is an excellent system of scientific advice in government. That is of the highest importance. I can think of no area of government policy, whether related to economic growth, enhancing our quality of life, the sustainability of the environment and much else, where scientific advice does not play a central role. When I say “science”, I mean to include engineering and the social sciences as well as the natural sciences.

In one recent review of EU member states, it was reported that while all member states have some kind of system—usually a committee—of providing scientific advice, only four countries other than the UK have independent chief scientific advisers—the Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland and Latvia. In recent times, we in the UK have been very fortunate to have had a succession of distinguished government chief scientists who have commanded respect from the scientific community and been effective, independent voices for scientific evidence within government.

The Government also have many other sources of independent expert scientific advice, including the 70-plus scientific advisory committees that deal with specific issues such as nutrition, drug use and climate change; the Council for Science and Technology, chaired by Sir John Beddington and Dame Nancy Rothwell, to report to the Prime Minister; and the

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14 departmental chief scientific advisers. It is those departmental chief scientific advisers who are the focus of our report.

With all this scientific expert advice in place, your Lordships might think that Ministers are sufficiently well furnished with scientific advice to enable them to base their policies on evidence. This Government have often said that they wish to base their policies on evidence. Sadly, however, it is still the case that the Government, perhaps too often, prefer policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy. For instance, the Government still insist on wasting taxpayers’ money on homeopathic treatments and have a Secretary of State for Health who believes that homeopathy works. I hesitate to mention the topical subject of bovine TB and badgers, given my involvement in this policy area during the past 15 years, but I will succumb to the temptation. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of scientific experts have concluded that the policy of killing badgers to control TB in cattle will have only a small beneficial effect, if any. It is essentially a waste of effort and money, and a distraction from the business of getting on top of a serious animal health problem that can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of farmers.

Together with other scientific experts, I would not expect scientific evidence to be the only factor that influences policy in this or any other situation. As is often said, scientists advise and Ministers decide. But where Ministers override the scientific evidence, it is vital that they make it clear that they are doing so and explain their reasons rather than pretending that the science supports their case. Only yesterday, the Food and Farming Minister was reported in the Guardian as saying that the science supports badger culling. If he looked at the evidence and listened to the experts, he would see that it does not.

I turn now to the substance of our report. The inquiry was triggered in part by the downgrading of the chief scientific adviser in the Ministry of Defence from four star to three star; by the failure of DCMS to appoint a chief scientific adviser; and by wider concerns about the lack of consistency of the roles and qualifications of chief scientific advisers across departments. This inconsistency has been highlighted by the Campaign for Science and Engineering’s recent publication of a scorecard. For instance, some departments have CSAs who are senior figures from outside the Civil Service, with established reputations and authority in the scientific and engineering communities; in other departments the CSAs are more junior officials from within the Civil Service.

We recognised in our report that, overall, the system of scientific advice works well, but our recommendations highlighted where improvements could be made to level the playing field up rather than down. We made 19 recommendations and I do not propose to go through all of them.

For me, the three central issues for an effective CSA are authority, independence and access. Authority comes in part from external reputation and in part from level of seniority within the Civil Service system. That is why we recommended that all CSAs should be external

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appointments and at least at the level of director-general—in old speak, Grade 2. Senior external appointees with a high reputation command both the confidence of stakeholders and, importantly, have the networks to seek advice on matters where they do not have intimate expert knowledge. Knowing whom to ask is crucial for a CSA, especially where the science is uncertain. I know from my own experience as head of the Food Standards Agency that, especially when dealing with the science of difficult problems such as BSE, it is important to know who are the experts and to be able to act as an intelligent customer for expert advice. We were somewhat sceptical of claims that grade no longer matters in the Civil Service. Certainly in my experience it remains one of the most finely graded hierarchical organisations in civilian life.

Independence is also key. A chief scientific adviser must be able to speak truth to power, especially when the truth is inconvenient. Of course, we acknowledge that all civil servants should be able to tell Ministers the facts and the evidence without fear or favour, but we concluded that senior external appointees whose careers do not depend on progression within the Civil Service are more likely to feel uninhibited in telling inconvenient truths. One chief scientific adviser who gave evidence to us, a career civil servant, when asked whether a major policy change in the department following the last election was because the evidence had changed, gave the reply that the evidence as a whole had not changed but that Ministers had been presented with different bits of the evidence. This is clearly unsatisfactory for a chief scientific adviser. Senior external appointees will not guarantee independence but it is more likely to help than to inhibit.

To add a footnote, when Research Fortnight recently contacted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ask to speak to its new, internally appointed chief scientific adviser, it was told in terms, “Civil servants do not talk to the press”. This hardly seems to me a case where there is an independent voice within the department.

The third point I wish to highlight is access. We think it is crucial that chief scientific advisers have access to Ministers and access to key policy discussions within their departments. We heard of more than one instance in which departmental chief scientific advisers were sidelined in key policy discussions and/or rarely, if ever, saw the Secretary of State in their department. This is unacceptable.

I turn now to the Government’s response. Quite frankly, we were disappointed—very disappointed—in the Government’s response. We made 19 recommendations, of which the Government unequivocally accepted only eight. Crucially, they did not accept our key recommendations pertaining to the three issues I have highlighted—authority, independence and access. We were disappointed that the Government did not accept our recommendation that chief scientific advisers in departments should always be external appointees with standing in the science and engineering communities. We were disappointed that the Government did not accept our recommendation

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that chief scientific advisers should routinely sit on departmental boards at the top table to hear policy delivery and policy development. We were disappointed that the Government did not accept our recommendation that chief scientific advisers should be appointed at the equivalent of director-general level or higher. We made these recommendations on the basis of a substantial body of evidence—they were not just plucked from the air.

Subsequently, I have held a follow-up meeting with the head of the Civil Service, Sir Bob Kerslake. He has written a letter to me, as chairman of the Select Committee, to clarify the Government’s response to our report. His letter offers some degree of reassurance but I should like to ask the Minister, when he replies, to clarify further the Government’s position. First, does he agree that it is crucial that departmental chief scientific advisers have authority, independence and access to Ministers, and does he agree that our proposals would go a long way to ensuring that these requirements are met? More specifically, Sir Bob Kerslake’s letter in response to my meeting with him places a great deal of responsibility on the Government Chief Scientific Adviser to ensure that these requirements are met. Can the Minister explain precisely how the Government Chief Scientific Adviser will indeed be able to ensure that this happens?

I am sure that other noble Lords will wish to explore aspects of the report in more detail than I have been able to do in this brief overview, and I look forward to their contributions. I commend this report to the Committee.

3.56 pm

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I begin by welcoming my noble friend to the Front Bench. It will be the first time that I have spoken in a debate to which he is to reply, and I look forward to that very much.

I warmly commend the committee on what seems to me an extremely valuable and thorough report. Its main purposes were well described by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, in his introduction. There are of course a number of very important points to which he has drawn our attention and to which I hope we will be able to return.

I want to deal with just one issue, and it can be posed in the form of a question. What is supposed to happen when a chief scientific adviser disagrees with his department’s policy? This was one of the issues explored by the committee. I shall start with the Government’s response, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, did. The recommendation was that there should be guidelines for this particularly directed at CSAs. The Government’s response was:

“Evidence given to the Committee by current and former CSAs suggests that this is not a significant problem”.

I disagree with that and I shall give an example. It goes on:

“The Government therefore is not persuaded of the need for a further set of principles specific to the role of CSAs”.

I regard that as a very complacent and disappointing response.

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I believe that it is the fundamental job of CSAs to be prepared to challenge their Ministers over a range of issues for which there has to be a proper scientific basis when what is proposed is not in accordance with the scientific evidence or, in the light of the CSAs’ special knowledge, in the best interests of the UK. This can work very well. I took advantage of a short meeting that I had with Sir David King a few days ago to discuss his experience of this. I hope that I am not boring the Committee but this is just to remind us what happened with the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001. Sir David told me that when he came on to the scene the epidemic was clearly going out of control and it appeared that MAFF, the department involved, was not grasping the seriousness of the issue. Sir David became involved and had a meeting with Permanent Secretaries. It was clear that the policy and procedures were not working. They were based on experience of 30 to 35 years earlier and were no longer relevant in the current farming environment.

A team of epidemiological modellers, virologists and logistics modellers was established, who pointed to the need to cull animals at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid the spread of foot and mouth disease, even in advance of a full laboratory test. The immediacy was important and that it should be spread to neighbouring farms as well. He found it necessary to brief the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, and there was subsequently a meeting of COBRA when the policy was outlined and agreed. He promised the Prime Minister that if the models were followed the outbreak would be eradicated by June of that year. At that point the Prime Minister became very interested because he was hoping to have an election in June, so it became very relevant. He kept a close interest and Sir David’s advice was right. He reported to COBRA sometimes twice a day during that whole process. The new strategy was implemented and the result was what had been predicted: cases went down very quickly and the Prime Minister was able to call his election only a week later than he had originally planned. That was a case where the system worked extremely well. I have to say that the election was not the only consequence. After the election the Minister who had been responsible lost his job.

Of course, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has the right of direct access to the Prime Minister over the heads of departmental heads and officials. However, many noble Lords will have had more recent experience which tells a rather different story. It was a rather different situation, but nevertheless I hope that it justifies my statement that the Government’s response is complacent. My interest in this was prompted by a passage in the Select Committee’s report in paragraphs 69 to 71 on what a CSA should do if there is a disagreement with the Government’s policy. There was a sharp difference of views. A number of witnesses told the committee that it should be open and transparent and that what the chief scientific adviser wanted to say should be clear and published. The views came from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Wellcome Trust, the Institute of Physics and others.

However, another group argued that it should all be held closely within the department. I was particularly struck by a passage cited in the report at paragraph 71,

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given by Professor David MacKay, the chief scientific adviser of DECC. He expressed a reluctance to disagree in public and said,

“I feel I do my job best if I retain the confidence of ministers. In the past, I used to speak very freely in public and I enjoyed giving frank views, but now I hold those views back more and express them very strongly within the Department, where I feel I am listened to and respected”.

Some of us have recently had the experience of listening to Professor MacKay, and I was struck by the passage in paragraph 71, which I have just quoted. I therefore looked at the evidence to see the context for what the professor was saying on that occasion. There is no printed volume of the evidence; it is nearly 400 pages long and I was told to look at the website. I apologise but I think that this is an important point. A question was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who is not in his place today. He asked Professor MacKay about CSAs not being bound by ministerial collective responsibility, about whether his reasons for disagreeing with a policy decision had been publicly expressed, and if so, about the reaction of Ministers and others to his department.

We had had the example of hearing Professor MacKay at the nuclear research and development inquiry. Without going into details, the committee was extremely critical of DECC’s policy and attitude, with its lack of evidence of long-term thinking. There were calls for a roadmap going well beyond the 2025 limit, which seemed to be the Government’s forward look. The DECC official who had described the policy was both unconvincing and very negative. He was of course echoed by his then Secretary of State. However, we also heard Professor MacKay, who was very refreshing. As the committee reported, he said that,

“the department is conducting … foresight work on future R&D needs by carrying out a Technology Innovation Needs Assessment … on nuclear which will look beyond the 5-10 year timescale to try to ‘quantify’”,

the need. He went on to describe his pathways programme. To those taking part in those exchanges on that inquiry, that passage clearly gave a very different picture from that given by the official who we had heard earlier. Indeed, we referred to that in paragraph 101 of that report.

Here I come to my main point. Before he gave evidence to that inquiry, Professor MacKay came to ask my opinion. We have had a good relationship over a number of years. He asked, “What does your committee want?”. I said, “David, what we want are your views, not those of your Permanent Secretary”—and, bless him, that was exactly what he did. It greatly helped the committee which, as its report made clear, relied on his evidence as well as that of others for that report. But what happened next? The civil servant who had earlier given evidence to the committee complained to the Permanent Secretary that he had been made to look very foolish. Professor MacKay was then carpeted by the Permanent Secretary and told that he had spoken out of turn.

The consequence lies in the answer that Professor MacKay gave in this report. “Oh yes—I used to talk in public, but now I feel I do better if I don’t”. Is that what we want? If a chief scientific adviser is invited to

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give evidence to a parliamentary Select Committee, is he not entitled to give his own view, even if it differs from that of a department? Is it really his duty to hold his views back and expose them only within the department? My noble friend Lord Willis said that we were a small, cosy group but of course evidence is heard in public, so this was in public. It would be very helpful if the Government, instead of rejecting the committee’s recommendations for a “set of guidelines”, considered this.

Chief scientific advisers are not the same as departmental civil servants. They have a clear duty to challenge Ministers. They are given much of the independence and authority to be able to do that, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has described, and even on occasions to speak out. I would contend that this is a significant problem, contrary to what was in the answer. I have today had a copy of Sir Bob Kerslake’s letter, which the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, outlined. On recommendation 8, it simply says, “Yes, we’ll make sure that they are subject to the same rules as the civil servants”. That does not answer my question at all. I do not want to hear another repeat of what happened to Professor MacKay after he gave his very useful and telling evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology. This has to be dealt with.

4.09 pm

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, this is an important report on the role of chief scientific advisers and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. I have had some experience of working with both those people—when I was at the Met Office, here in Parliament and indeed as a university professor. One point to note is that many technical agencies have chief technical advisers, such as the chief scientist at the Met Office and the chief mathematician at GCHQ, and these chief scientists are of increasing importance since the chief executives of many technical agencies are no longer technically qualified. This is therefore an important part of the whole grouping of scientific advice available to the Government.

Furthermore, these agencies—the Met Office, Cefas and GCHQ, and there are many others—report to departments, and an important role of chief scientific advisers to departments is to make use of the scientific ability in these agencies and to ask difficult questions about the effectiveness of the agencies. When I was head of the Met Office, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, the noble Lord, Lord May, who is going to speak later, said, “Why do you do all this computing of weather? Why don’t you just look at the clouds and use statistics?”. That was a good, challenging question, and we gave him an answer—we had thought about it. We continued to use our modelling but we were well aware of his idea. That kind of challenging approach is necessary in this large and important part of the Government’s scientific effort.

I refer to the final paragraph of the Government’s reply. There was a discussion about how to look at the annual performance of the GCSA and, by extension, the CSAs. I agree with the Government when they say that there are several ways of judging the effectiveness

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of CSAs, and in that context I want to comment that it is well worth while recording some of the signal achievements of CSAs and Government Chief Scientific Advisers. In some cases they have helped to identify issues and brought them to the Government and indeed to the country, notably on aspects of climate change, food security, emphasised by Sir John Beddington, and natural disasters, in the case of Sir David King. They have introduced new techniques. For example, on comparative modelling the role of Sir David King, whom I have mentioned, was very important, while the use of foresight models was an introduction of the Government’s. That kind of development of new techniques is very important. The one that might still be missing is the use of system methods in government, which is coming in; indeed, the noble Lord, Lord May, is working on that with the Bank of England.

The third aspect of the important role of CSAs is to emphasise and explain the practical aspects of scientific development, sometimes even before they have been published. Sir David King spoke often, perhaps somewhat dangerously, on some of the uncertain aspects of climate change, but he certainly brought it to the public. Recently Sir John Beddington has focused on the question of long periods of static weather, with heat and temperatures and so on. Again, this is an area where the science is still not completely certain but he has felt it to be so important that he has brought it before the public with the sureness of someone with a great scientific reputation.

The other aspect of their important role is that chief scientific advisers have raised the profile of science in government decision-making. However, there are some critiques of the role of CSAs that have not been brought out in this report. The first is the question of whether CSAs are ensuring that we are making the best use of foreign science. I keep commenting on this: Britain’s science is 7% or 8% of the world total but there is a huge volume of important ideas outside that. In the United States there is a strong programme to ensure that they are, as it were, horizon-scanning around the world and looking at the technical approaches of foreign Governments; they are not afraid to do that. One foresight panel that I was familiar with on flooding made almost no use of the experience of the Netherlands, which is not very far away.

The second point in this slight critique is that CSAs could do more with UK Trade & Investment to promote UK science and technology by showing how they are being used in government in a practical way in order then to explain this to other countries. That is something that we discussed in this Room a week ago.

The third point is that they could play a more effective role in the scientific aspects of the UK’s involvement in international bodies. The noble Lord, Lord May, was very active in the Kyoto climate change agreements. However, in my experience and as we have heard—and as we shall discuss tomorrow afternoon on the polar issues—CSAs have not been particularly active in pushing research councils on how they provide expertise through these international panels. That is an extremely important part of the scientific aspect of advising government on policy.

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The fourth point is that CSAs have a role in informing Parliament. As we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, there is some belief that CSAs should talk only to Ministers within departments. In fact, they have an extremely important part to play—the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin—on scientific developments and issues. Appearing at Select Committees is one thing; they also inform Ministers. My own hand was slightly smacked—not by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh—when I was at the Met Office and advising the Opposition about various important matters before they came to power. In the United States, the head of the weather service spends the month of August on the Hill, talking to everybody. That is exactly how it should be. They do not have to go to the Hill; they can just go round the corner.

Another important point is that CSAs could do more to promote the important scientific developments emerging from the practical work of departments. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, is with us. I have a slight disagreement with him: his model of science used to go from pure to applied, whereas I believe that it often goes from applied to pure. One of the roles of chief scientific advisers is to see this applied work and ensure that it gets back out into the pure world. There are things that I cannot tell noble Lords about, but some areas of defence technology are leading to very interesting scientific developments. For example, the Met Office lightning programme is now out there and visible; people can use it. It provides the possibility of great new research. There are many government agencies working in data-handling and that is another area.

Another feature of this report is the question of appointment procedures for CSAs in particular departments. Again, it is essential to give signals that these CSAs are important. It should be clear that the Permanent Secretary or his or her deputy should be present at the appointment. If you are told that you are going to be able to speak to the Permanent Secretary but his or her deputy never comes to the appointment process, that sounds a bit hollow. If that was absolutely clear, it would send an important message through the department.

The report rightly recommends that external scientists should be on the panel. Departments would also benefit if the panels included foreign scientists, and the report recommended that CSAs should be scientists of international rank. For example, they could be scientists from international organisations that the government departments work with, so they would be familiar with the work of the department.

I agree with recommendation 7—that CSAs, having right of access to Ministers, should be allowed also to speak to politicians.

Paragraphs 11 and 12 refer to the CSA’s role in steering research, either through direct control with his or her own budget, or indirectly through oversight and the department’s programme. As the departmental CSAs are part time, the latter is probably their major role. It is very difficult to be part time and run your own programme. They can bring outside knowledge of different approaches and connections to other departments.

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I believe that when they are appointed CSAs should learn one or two elementary rules of Whitehall; namely, you have a meeting. The CSA might make a good point, to which the Civil Service chairman might say, “Very good point”. However, the written minutes may not correspond with what was said at the meeting. If the CSA does not read the minutes of the meeting afterwards, their “very good point” may not carry through. That is elementary but it is part of the learning curve that might be explained.

In agencies with full-time chief scientists, their main task is running the research programme. However, in most cases a cultural shift is needed so that those chief scientists also have a role in the application of research and the operations of the agencies.

One point that this report misses is that chief scientific advisers have a wide knowledge of science and technology and they should make sure that the methods of science and technology are used at the highest level throughout an agency’s activities. They should be involved in areas relating not only to research but to operations.

A chief social scientist ranging over all departments and agencies could, I am sure, ask questions and improve methodologies in all the departments and agencies with which I am familiar; for example, from how to account for population policies which did not have the benefit of the input of social scientists when they were first discussed to how to present certain long-range forecasts and the many societal effects of that. Social scientists interested in politics could certainly help with the provision of policy advice to Governments. This might have helped with the difficulties in explaining the extraordinary change that took place in the reasoning for action to mitigate climate change from, in the 1990s, being a policy based on a long-term prediction to, after 2001, being a response to current trends. That leads to all sorts of difficulties—as was evident in a recent article asking all sorts of funny questions in the Mail on Sunday that I was looking at in the Library yesterday.

One hopes that this move will be supported even by Nature—I do not know how many scientists have been ridiculed for totally wasting time by a leader in Nature. We were just looking at the effects of wind on people. This was considered to be a joke; nowadays its social aspects are taken seriously, hopefully even by Nature.

4.21 pm

Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who made some very good points. They will be recorded in the minutes. It reminds me of my mother-in-law, who, whenever we had an argument, said, “You’ll be right, Phil”, which was a good way of ending it.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, the chairman of the committee, for his patience and tolerance during an inquiry which could have gone nowhere but turned out to be incredibly important. Like him, I was disappointed by the Government’s initial response. It is a testimony to his skills of diplomacy that he went back to Sir Bob Kerslake, the Head of the Civil Service, and got a set of responses which “clarified”—I love that word—the Government’s response such that they were far more in support of many of the

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recommendations which the report made. While that was not ideal, and there is still a long way to go, it was a useful thing for the chairman to do, being a good way of having an interface rather than simply accepting the Government’s position.

This report was not intended as an assault on the Government’s lack of support for DCSAs; in fact, quite the opposite is true, as I think most members of the committee would agree. We recognise just how significant has been successive Governments’ support for this layer of scientific advice for Ministers. It is because it is such an important layer of support that we felt the inquiry was important. Our report sought to ensure that the current system was at least maintained given some of the assaults being made on it and, where possible, enhanced at a time when there were worrying signs that DCSAs were being seen as a luxury that could be dispensed with rather than as an investment to underpin sound evidence-based policy.

My interest in this area arose in the House of Commons when I was chair of the science committee. Many of our inquiries looked at evidence-based policy. The previous Government and this Government proudly say that their policies are based on evidence. It is the job of parliamentarians in both Houses and those outside who scrutinise government policy constantly to ask, “Where is the evidence to support that policy? Where there is no evidence to support that policy, how are you actually going to find the evidence in order to take it forward?”. That is a very good principle. It is the principle of scrutiny, and scientific advisers, both at department level and particularly the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, have a crucial role to play in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, rightly pointed out that there is no lack of scientific advice available to Ministers. In addition to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the Government Office for Science, advisory committees, learned societies, professional institutes and countless think tanks put a stream of advice into the public arena which is available for Ministers. The reality is that much of it is not listened to or even read, but the roles of the DCSA and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser are fundamentally different. The individuals holding these posts have the crucial interface between the scientific, academic and commercial world and that of civil servants and Ministers. Their function is not simply to offer advice; in many ways, it is more a challenge function than an advisory one. As the noble Lord, Lord Broers, said in our committee yesterday, they need sharp elbows, demanding presence where it is sometimes not wanted and demanding resources where sometimes they are not available in order to provide evidence as to whether policy can work, or at least whether it has a chance of working. As our report emphasised, their value lies, first, in their independence, the currency of their expertise and their standing within the scientific and commercial community. To carry out that function, they should be appointed at a very senior level. They should have a seat on departmental boards, as they are part of the policy-making as well as implementation machinery, and they should retain their academic or industrial base to remain current.

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Why is that needed? Given that every utterance from the Prime Minister and his Ministers—every single challenge facing this nation from ageing to obesity and from the environment to the economy—will require science and engineering solutions, objective scientific advice is not simply desirable but absolutely critical. According to research from the Science Council, 20% of the UK workforce depends on scientific skills to do their job. Some 5.8 million people are currently employed in science-based occupations, and this will increase to more than 7 million by 2030.

To manage and lead this “scientific century”, we need, but do not have, a scientifically literate political class. However, only 11% of MPs have ever had science-based careers and only one MP has come directly from the research laboratory. Not a single member of the current Cabinet is a science graduate. Only five out of 42 Permanent Secretaries have a science or engineering degree, and fewer than 4% of civil servants have a science or engineering background. Indeed, as was said by our previous Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, it was an impediment to progress to admit to having a scientific background.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the response to the budget deficit by departments has been to slash departmental spending on R&D and, in some cases, to downgrade their DCSA or, worse still, to delay appointing altogether, as in the case of the DCMS until very recently. In fact, only the DECC is to be credited with bucking that trend by spending more in terms of science. The reasoning defies logic. It is true that BIS has maintained a flat cash settlement during the current CSR for science funding for research councils and for HEFCE—that is very welcome, although in real terms it is a 12% cut—but that appears to have been used as a signal to departments to reduce spending on science. Had reductions come as a percentage of the overall budget, perhaps one could argue that they were “taking their fair share”, but no. Defra, despite the problems that it is currently experiencing, has reduced its R&D budget by 15%, the Department for Transport by 47%, the Ministry of Justice by 27% and the CLG by 45%. The figure for the Department for Education has actually gone up, but that for the FCO is down by 45%, the DWP by 17% and the Ministry of Defence by 11%. That is unacceptable. To argue for science within departments requires powerful, influential and challenging DCSAs to ensure that policy decisions are at least made on an evidential basis rather than on one of political convenience. No one on the Science and Technology Committee argues that DCSAs should make political decisions, nor did we argue in our report that their view should always trump other considerations. However, they are there to provide good evidence and to make clear that when their evidence is not taken by Ministers, they should be fully aware of the consequences. You cannot do that if you hide all those arguments in a back room somewhere; they have to be made public, and resources are needed in order to do that.

The lower the grade of the DCSA, of course, the more difficult it is for them to argue their case. While access to the Permanent Secretary is clearly important, it does not compensate for direct contact with Ministers. It surely does not say a great deal for the status of the

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DCSA who stated to our inquiry that she could not recall ever having had a meeting with the Secretary of State. Equally, we found the justification of tagging the DCSA role on to an existing brief neither convincing nor acceptable. How can the DCSA in Health provide a challenge when as Chief Medical Officer she is the lead on policy? How can the DCSA in the Treasury perform his challenge function when he is in charge of public spending? I am delighted that he no longer has that function and has only the role of chief microeconomist to contend with.

The report on DCSAs was timely, pertinent and crucial. The Government’s amended response is encouraging and I hope that in 12 months’ time, when the new GCSA is in place, they will have met even further some of our concerns.

I take this opportunity to applaud Sir John Beddington and the way in which he has fought for the departmental scientific advisory service, the way in which he has brought the DCSAs into an informal but effective cross-government group and for his championing of science in government. I recognise, too, the genuinely remarkable talent that exists within our GCSA ranks. Sadly, one of the brightest stars, Sir Bob Watson, is returning to the States after his stint at Defra. His knowledge, wit and wisdom will be sadly missed. Perhaps the new DCSA at Defra will find a homoeopathic remedy for bovine TB to avoid the badger cull.

4.32 pm

Lord Rees of Ludlow: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, explained, among European countries none matches our practice of having DCSAs in most departments. They are plainly a feature of our system that we should welcome and sustain, and the fact that we are having this debate is therefore in itself a positive sign.

Science and technology impinge more and more on our lives, and are therefore more pervasive in government. The issues that they raise are often highly technical and sometimes the underlying science in itself is uncertain and controversial. Almost always, a ministerial choice involves considering social, economic and ethical elements as well, and in these broader areas, of course, scientists speak merely as citizens. Within their remit, though, scientific advisers should not just offer facts; still less should they merely buttress policies already decided. They should be prepared to challenge decision-makers and help them to navigate the uncertainties. This was recognised in the US by President Obama, who opined that scientists’ advice should be heeded,

“even when it’s inconvenient—indeed, especially when it is inconvenient”.

Of course, Obama filled some of his key posts with a dream team of top-rate scientists. They have had a tough and frustrating time, but it is good for all of us that Steve Chu, John Holdren, Jane Lubchenco and the rest are still “hanging in there”. We can learn from their experiences, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, emphasised.

It is indeed good practice that CSAs generally come from outside Whitehall and that they serve a limited term of three to five years. They may keep a foothold in some kind of research lab or university, and they

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should certainly get around and participate in conferences in the UK and abroad. As compared to career civil servants, those recruited from outside are more likely to be plugged into recent research and international science. Their careers do not depend on ingratiating themselves with the hierarchy, which is why we have urged that only in very special situations should these posts be internal appointments.

As has already been emphasised, their rank and reporting line within the hierarchy does matter. Indeed, in the MoD, there is special importance in having someone who is not outranked by his or her French and American counterparts in formal talks and negotiations.

A DCSA’s personality is at least as crucial as their professional standing. They need to operate adeptly in a system that is a real culture shock for those coming from academia or industry. In this respect, we are disadvantaged compared with the United States, where it is easier to identify people who are truly independent but who have enough experience to hit the ground running when parachuted into a Civil Service culture. Senior staff in the US shuffle between government jobs and posts in, for instance, the Brookings Institution or the Harvard Kennedy School of Government whenever the Administration changes. There are always some who are “out” rather than “in”. Here, of course, we do not have the same revolving door system; government service is still generally a lifetime career. For that reason, and because secrecy is more pervasive, those recruited as DCSAs often have a steeper learning curve.

No individual has the breadth of expertise to cope with all that they will encounter. In particular, the issues are often more engineering than academic. That is certainly the case in the MoD, DECC and Defra. That is why a DCSA needs not only a strong in-house team but a network of external contacts, why there are numerous standing and ad hoc committees of experts across Whitehall, and why the guidelines about their independence are crucial. As has also been emphasised, there should be fewer constraints on whether DCSAs can talk to the press than in the case of regular civil servants, otherwise we will replicate what happened in the Bush Administration in the US and what is happening now in Canada. It is also why independent bodies such as the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering are important.

I shall venture a few words on broader scientific advice which can support DCSAs. Outside bodies such as academies and universities can do more to support them and ensure a richer network of contacts between external experts and policymakers. Declaring an interest as a member of Cambridge University, the new Centre for Science and Policy there aims to do that. Among its activities are not only seminars for politicians and senior officials but a policy fellowships scheme, whereby individuals from Whitehall, business and NGOs spend a week at the university having one-on-one meetings with academics across a range of expertise, helping them to develop new contacts relevant to their brief. Incidentally, the converse of that process—short-term secondments of academics into government departments—should surely be encouraged more as well.

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There is one advisory body in the United States which is highly effective there and has no parallel here. It is the JASON group, founded in the 1960s, which involves top-rank academic scientists. They are bankrolled by the US Government but it is a matter of principle that they choose their own new members. They spend about six weeks together in the summer with other meetings during the year, and they tackle applied problems and analysis from a menu that is suggested partly by them and partly by the US Government. They are able to address these problems in depth. The sociology of such a group has not been fully replicated anywhere else. It requires a substantial commitment by people to solve difficult problems. However, there are steps towards this mode in the so-called Blackett groups, set up by Sir John Beddington, where independent experts engage more intensively than just through committee meetings. We should at least try to go a step further towards the intensive JASON model, if not in the military, where it is focused in the US, but in civilian areas within the remit of, for instance, DECC, Defra or the Department for Transport, where some integrated view from independent experts of interdisciplinary strength could be valuable.

A further reason for supporting our committee’s recommendations is that the more clout the DCSAs have, the more effective they will be in leveraging further steps along these lines to enhance the tactical expertise available to Ministers. We will not only cope less well with emergencies if we do not do this but stumble into suboptimal and unco-ordinated plans for developing our transport, environment, energy and health policies.

4.40 pm

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, over the years I have had many reasons to be grateful to departmental chief scientific advisers and, for that matter, Government Chief Scientific Advisers, particularly in my capacity as chairman of the Foundation for Science and Technology—a role which I took over from my noble friend Lord Jenkin. I hope that we have been of some help to chief scientific advisers; they have certainly been helpful to us in formulating policy by ensuring to ensure that what might be called a discussion held with policymakers, parliamentarians, industry, academics and the like can explore a whole range of scientific issues.

That has led me to agree entirely with the thrust of the report that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, introduced so concisely and clearly. What we are looking for from any chief scientific adviser must be credibility and respect from their own community of scientists and engineers. They must have the ability to speak on level terms and must know who to go to nationally and internationally, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, reminded us. There must also be confidence in their ability to navigate the shoals of Whitehall—not necessarily an easy one if coming out of academia. They need good links with the user community, whether doctors, industry, academia or farmers such as myself. Above all, they need independence of mind. When they find that their views do not conform with the Minister’s or the Permanent

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Secretary’s, they must be prepared to speak out. My noble friend Lord Jenkin dealt very clearly with the issues that arise when the DCSA is stifled.

The role is, clearly, to offer independent advice to Ministers that is underpinned by the evidence base. Much more than that, it is important to recognise that the DCSA has a role within the department to ensure that scientific evidence is used to a consistently high standard throughout. As my noble friend Lord Willis has reminded us, there is not a culture of scientific understanding and appreciation in either Parliament or the Civil Service—at least, not very deeply. Promoting trust of the department’s policies among the user community—the scientific and engineering communities—is a central role. That is where credibility has to be maintained. If the credibility of the DCSA is to be undermined, measures have to be taken to protect his or her credibility. There has to be public trust, too, in the policies of the department on scientific issues. That includes in Parliament; that is very much part of the role of the DCSA.

To achieve these objectives, you are looking for somebody who has communication skills and an understanding of policy issues and risk assessment. They simply must be independent; the idea that it could be an appointment from within the Civil Service seems to beggar belief. My noble friend Lord Jenkin provided an exposition of the need for a protocol that can be followed—guidelines which could be developed—in order that CSAs who have felt the need to express disagreement with policy decisions do not put their relationships at risk with the Permanent Secretary or the Minister. This seems to be absolutely critical. I agree with those who have already said that the Government’s response in that respect has been disappointing. It is not just that the Minister might find it inconvenient. It is much more likely that if the chief scientific adviser cannot speak his mind, the whole department will eventually find that it will return to haunt them.

On reflection, the committee asked a rather unfair question of Sir John Beddington which, nevertheless, he answered with aplomb. We asked him what was his greatest failure and, as we have heard already, he mentioned his inability to persuade the Government that they should not be spending money in the National Health Service on homeopathy.

We also heard examples of the failure of chief scientific advisers to engage effectively within departments. Professor Collins gave us the example of offshore wind, where he was not able to participate in the discussion and the department let him down. Professor Wilde of the Home Office said that when he heard about ID cards it was on the “Today” programme. That is not a very good example but it was clearly a failure to engage the CSA which, in turn, will lead to a lack of trust in policies.

As a farmer, I always follow with interest the scientific issues in the farming and food sector, where public trust has been a real issue for many years. We have already heard mention of BSE, genetic modification, foot and mouth, salmonella, e-coli and much else. We all remember the lesson that public confidence was destroyed by not being transparent enough with the

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information; by not engaging in a dialogue where you treat the public in an open and frank way and put all the information that you have in an accessible form. Of course, nowadays, that means websites. If you do not do that, the chief scientific adviser, again, will find himself or herself greatly exposed.

That brings me back to badgers. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said that he would succumb to temptation and mention badgers. This is a topical issue. The noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord May, and 28 other very distinguished scientists published a letter in the Sunday papers to which there has been a response today in the Times. This demonstrates, at least to a layman like me, that this is an area where, at the very least, there is an enormous scientific divide. We are told by two equally eminent groups of people that the culling either will or will not help. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has already given his views on that.

This is a topical issue. I looked at the Defra website today to see to what extent this has been taken on board—presumably many people are concerned and confused by this plethora of advice—and the only thing I could find which referred to this particular issue dated back to March 2012. It mentioned the Observer and the BBC and described it as a “myth bust”. In other words, what the BBC and the Observer were saying about the culling lacking scientific support was a myth. I hope the debate moves up a notch to something much more responsible than that.

Do please recognise that you must put in the full evidence that Natural England and other scientists are giving to the Minister and compare it with the contrary evidence that you are getting from others such as Professor John Bourne, who led the original trials and is one of the signatories, and the public must be given credit for having an ability to weigh both arguments. I am not passing judgment as to whether the 30 signatories are right or wrong; I am simply saying that the way the debate has been handled is wrong.

Lastly, let me refer to the need for links from chief scientific advisers into the user community, which will often mean business. Until recently, I chaired the Partners Board of Living with Environmental Change, which included all the research councils, a large number of government departments and agencies, the Met Office, the Environment Agency and many others, and we did one thing which was helpful—we set up a business advisory board. I was enormously impressed by the commitment of those very high-powered members of the business advisory board; in fact, the Minister took much more notice of our advisory board than he did of us. That is perhaps understandable, because the transformation of policies into wealth creation, quality of life or whatever else is their purpose simply will not happen until you engage the user community.

At the moment, in his effort to try to promote the science policies within his department, the chief scientific adviser has a science advisory committee, and there may well be people from business or from the user community on it. However, they are really there as an accident; they are not quite there in order to help the transformational research. So I commend very strongly the idea of something like a business advisory board,

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or whatever other advisory board, for transforming science into the user community. That is a precedent which could be followed elsewhere.

4.50 pm

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has secured this opportunity to consider his committee’s hard-hitting and incisive report. So let me be equally trenchant. This report is hard-hitting because it needs to be. Science is essential to robust policy-making. At a most basic level, science and engineering are essential to finding practical solutions to problems. The fact that all government departments now have a chief scientific adviser, with the inexcusable—in my view—exception of the DCMS, is the measure of the progress made in recent years to ensure that the Government have access to the best scientific expertise and advice. However, science is not yet taken as seriously as it should be in the Civil Service, despite strides in the past 10 or 15 years in having science embedded in decision-making. I had years of dealing with the Civil Service in my time as a trade union official, and I know just how difficult it is to get generalists to take science and specialism seriously. Other noble Lords have made a similar point.

With that in mind, I wish to state both my strong support for the report’s recommendations and my concern at what seemed to me to be a pretty feeble response from the Government. I would like to focus particularly on recommendation 9, that all CSAs should be graded at either Permanent Secretary or Director General level, to ensure that they have the authority and the ability to work across the whole department. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made it clear that the role and status of the CSA was one of the main reasons for the inquiry leading to this timely report. I believe that the status and independence of the chief scientific adviser role cuts to the heart of the matter. I draw noble Lords’ attention to paragraphs 74 to 76 in the report, relating to grading, where a former CSA comments on the Civil Service as being rather “status-obsessed” and where the discussion is focused on the hierarchical reality and grade culture of the Civil Service.

This report stresses that it is vital that the chief scientific adviser in any government department be suitably senior. I believe strongly that incumbents of this role, so crucial to evidence-based policy, must have the necessary standing and authority, not just within the scientific community, but to gain access and exert influence where it matters within the Civil Service. Witnesses to the committee’s inquiry repeatedly highlighted the importance of CSAs having access to Ministers and to senior departmental officials and the need for CSAs to be involved early and throughout the policy process. Professor Paul Wiles, former CSA to the Home Office, made the point pretty succinctly by observing that part of the job of a CSA is to make sure that they kick the door down, frankly.

There are plenty of examples in this report of what follows when the door is kept obdurately shut, or when there is no one kicking at the door, or when you simply do not kick hard enough. These include the

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proposals for biometric ID cards, plans for offshore wind power—as mentioned earlier—and the closure of the Forensic Science Service. A more recent failure comes to mind, that of the franchising process for the West Coast Main Line. We do not yet know the full details, but if civil servants’ risk assessment was incomplete and if economic and financial modelling was inadequate, we can but wonder whether the absence of a chief scientific adviser to the Department of Transport was a factor.

While the report acknowledges that the picture varies across government departments, there are too many examples of where expert advice has been ignored, dismissed or not sought early enough to influence decisions. That failure to either ask for or take expert advice has undermined policy too many times. In the report the Home Office Science and Engineering SEA review is cited as finding a consistent,

“lack of appreciation of the value and importance of scientific evidence among (especially senior) officials”.

The BIS CSA review findings are summarised as showing that some policy officials had little enough motivation to ensure that potentially excellent advice from the then CSA incumbent went through.

It is all the more frustrating, therefore, to note the Government’s response to this report. They seem particularly pusillanimous on the independence of CSAs. To give just a few examples, I return to the question of the CSA’s standing and authority, in recommendation 1, and the importance for a CSA to be a heavyweight within the scientific community. In their response the Government appear to agree, but then say that each department—with, admittedly, the GCSA—should be able to determine this as,

“some of the … expertise may be provided by a support team and therefore may not be a high priority for the CSA”.

Just whose wishes are being served here? The CSA needs to be able to stand up to belligerent Ministers or civil servants, yet here the Government are already bending over backwards to leave it to each department to decide who it is prepared to listen to.

Recommendation 2, that CSAs should be external appointments, is rejected by the Government on the grounds that:

“Departments must be free to carry out open and fair recruitment … without bias as to existing positions of candidates”.

I have more sympathy with this position, but nevertheless I believe that the expectation should be an outside appointment. Sir John Beddington made this point very effectively in his evidence to the committee, and I echo the praise from the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for Sir John in his role. It needs to be recognised that the conventions and trappings of a long career in the Civil Service are hard to shake off.

The Government also rejected recommendation 4, that the GCSA and the head of the Civil Service should look again at current arrangements where the CSA role is combined with other departmental roles. Given the importance of this part-time role, why will they not do this? What are they afraid of? A review may indeed show up weaknesses that need to be dealt with.

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There is more government complacency in their rejection of recommendation 16, which suggests that the GCSA, the Government Office for Science and the head of the Civil Service should evaluate departmental scientific advisory bodies to see whether they are the most effective way to critique the departmental use of science and to suggest improvements. In their reply the Government say that they are content with current arrangements for reviewing science advisory councils. They show no recognition that over time a department may become part of groupthink, becoming progressively less independent or brave in its reviews.

The Government’s failure to embrace the committee’s longsighted view on the need for independence in the CSAs’ role is deeply frustrating. No wonder there is talk of kicking down doors. In my view, the report is a well aimed and timely shot across the bows in the long-running skirmish between the Civil Service and science. If we are truly to have evidence-based policy, if we want to be sure that robust, joined-up evidence is at the core of decisions within departments and across government, it is vital that some if not all of the salvos contained in the report hit home.

When I look at the membership of the Science and Technology Committee, I stand in awe of its expertise. Parliament ignores such advice at its peril, and I hope that the Minister will reassure us that it will not be ignored.

4.58 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I was not a member of the Science and Technology Committee when this inquiry took place, but I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the committee as it then was on this highly pertinent report. As others have made clear, if Britain is to compete in a world in which the mastery of science and technology is becoming ever more important, it is vital that our decision-making is aware of leading-edge developments and that the evidence used in decision-making is itself up to date, relevant and applied.

I want to pick up three issues that have been mentioned by many other people but noted in particular in his introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs: first, that chief scientific advisers within departments should have authority, independence and access; secondly, that on the whole they should be external appointments of people with status in their own profession and therefore with their own networks to call upon; and, thirdly, that they should be able to rely upon being able to speak directly to Ministers and senior officials when they feel it necessary to do so.

I have asked to speak in this debate because of my concerns about one particular department, with which I have had more to do than others in terms of the chief scientific adviser appointment. This is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. My interest in this stems from an inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee back in 2005-06, which I chaired, looking at the application of up-to-date techniques of science and technology to the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage. We called our report Science and Heritage. At that time, the DCMS stood out as resisting the idea of having a chief scientific adviser; while we

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argued not only that the understanding of the heritage science sector, as we called it, required someone with a good grounding in science but that its responsibilities in relation to, for example, the digital technologies, media and communications, also required someone with these capabilities.

The department came under a good deal of pressure at that time, not only from the committee itself but also from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, and eventually appointed a CSA in 2008. She was a Treasury economist, who had also served at the Department of Health. Nevertheless, she proved herself quick to take up the job and very interested in the department’s issues and its developments and science and technology implications. In particular, she set up a science and research advisory committee, which was expressly seen as a means of accessing expert scientific opinion and as providing Ministers and senior officials with advice on the implications of developments in science and technology for the department’s policies and priorities and to identify issues which might have an impact across the range of DCMS issues. We were concerned as a committee that the role of chief scientific adviser would greatly help such an area where the efforts from one part of the sector to another were extremely fragmented. We wanted to see the chief scientific adviser pulling people together and helping to develop what we called a national heritage science strategy, which has, in fact, since got off the ground.

The committee picked up these issues again and a follow-up report, which identifies some of these things, was issued in July this year. Sadly, however, the post of chief scientific adviser in the department was dropped as part of the restructuring after the general election in 2010 and remained unfilled when we took evidence for the follow-up report from the DCMS in March this year. Indeed, it was also unfilled when the committee was looking at chief scientific advisers. In spite of coming under very considerable pressure at that time from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and its own advisory committee—the science and research advisory committee—it found itself to be really rather rudderless without a chief scientific adviser within the department.

When we took evidence from Ministers during the summer, John Penrose, the then Minister for Tourism and Heritage, said that they were looking for a “workable solution” appropriate to the “scale and needs” of the department. We argued in this follow-up report that two years seemed to be sufficient time for the department to have found a workable solution. However, I am very glad to report that, thanks perhaps to pressure from us and from the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, DCMS has now appointed a new scientific adviser. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lord Willis have pointed out, he comes from the Treasury like his predecessor. Although he was initially an English graduate, and, indeed, an English teacher for some time, he took an MSc in Economics at Birkbeck. He comes to fill the post as head of policy analysis within the department and will cover the principal functions of chief scientific adviser as well.

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From the point of view of this report, this appointment illustrates a number of features where the committee expressed considerable reservations. First, it is an internal appointment and the post holder will have other substantive responsibilities in the department. It is a relatively junior appointment, at director—the former Civil Service grade 5—level rather than, as recommended, at a more senior rank. The appointee has no background in science. Although, as I have shown, this was the case also with his predecessor, nevertheless, at a time when the committee had put so much emphasis on this and when the Civil Service could have shown that it had been listening to its strictures, it was extremely disappointing that it should pay no attention to it whatever.

Nevertheless, I wish the incumbent well. Speaking with my hat on as the chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council joint project on science and heritage which has been going forward for the past five years, I look forward very much to meeting him and I hope that he will enjoy the breadth and challenge of the new job that he has taken on, as did his predecessor.

5.06 pm

Lord Parekh: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for introducing this report. I endorse almost all its recommendations and feel slightly uneasy that I am neither a member of the Science and Technology Committee nor a natural scientist. I might have got in by virtue of being a social scientist—which, again, I am not—because I cross the border between social science and philosophy by being a moral and political philosopher. I therefore have no real competence in the matter, which is precisely why I thought I should use this occasion to think within the framework of the report and open it up a little to raise issues that it hints at but does not systematically pursue. I shall make three general points.

First, chief scientific advisers generally—I think, almost all of them—come from the natural sciences or engineering backgrounds. I can see why this is so historically, but I do not see the rationale. Public policy has profound social consequences and can easily go wrong if it makes wrong assumptions about the nature of society or the profound changes taking place in it. We should therefore widen the background of chief scientific advisers by including sociologists, psychologists and political scientists, who all have an important role. I would wish to go a step further. Public policy does not occur in a cultural vacuum; in fact, it is suffused with cultural assumptions to which scientists are not immune. A form of behaviour that we take to be uniform across the species is shaped by cultural preconditions. Unless, therefore, we begin to understand the cultural factors which are at work, we would have considerable difficulty in understanding even a non-cultural phenomenon such as global warming, let alone rising population or lots of other things.

Culture is at the centre of human existence. Unless we take account of cultural factors in policy-making, we would get our policy as wrong as if it took no account of the natural sciences. This is particularly so in a society like ours, which is increasingly multicultural.

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If other policy is based on the assumption that we are a Christian or secular society, taking no account either of the Jewish community, the Muslim community, the Hindu community or lots of others, we will simply fail to understand why our fellow citizens behave in the way they do, why they respond to science in the way they do and why the very idea of scientific evidence might frighten them if they take science to be inherently secular and anti-God.

Given all this, it is important that we take account not only of the social sciences but of the humanities, languages and philosophy. Profound changes are taking place at the cultural level and we need to appreciate this. I therefore suggest that there might be a space among the distinguished body of chief scientific advisers for historians, cultural anthropologists and students of humanities—even, perhaps, for students of literature.

If you think along those lines you can see where I am going: it is to locate at the very heart of the Government, at the very heart of their policy decision-making, the natural scientists, the social scientists and the humanities, and to institutionalise a dialogue between the three different perspectives that are central to understanding the kind of society in which we live. Once that dialogue takes place at the very heart of the decision-making process, it will have the capacity to trigger and stimulate similar dialogue at other levels of our society. One then begins to see why knowledge drawn from different areas should be pulled together to shape a more sensible society than we sometimes have.

The Government have already recognised the need for a chief social science adviser but their response is rather tentative. As far as I can see, their response talks in terms of it as one of several options. I do not know what other options they have in mind—I certainly do not see one—so perhaps the Minister, who I gather is not, like me, a natural scientist, will tell us what the Government have in mind. I would have thought that the idea mooted as a possible alternative—namely, joint heads of research—will not work because, in that kind of role, the social science adviser would not have the same authority and the same degree of independence.

My second point is slightly different. We have been talking about scientific advisers and the role that they can play in shaping policy. Scientific advisers are an institutionalised voice of science located in a government department. However, outside the government machinery you have national academies such as the British Academy and the Royal Society, and these bodies can provide cross-disciplinary expertise that can supplement the expertise of chief scientific advisers. The body to which I belong, the British Academy, has done this in recent years in trying to bring together the policy-makers and social scientists and, in some cases, the natural scientists. In discussing foreign policy issues such as Iraq, it brought in historians and linguists to show how that disastrous policy could have been avoided if the policy-making had taken place in a more intelligent and sensitive manner.

National academies can also play an important role in increasing public understanding and awareness of scientific evidence, as well as perhaps increasing public

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trust in science. An important point that was made earlier is that it is one thing for scientists to be banging away in their discussions with the Government but, if the Government are not scientifically minded, are scientifically illiterate or do not see or are unable to appreciate the point of what is going on, then that evidence, however high a role the chief scientific adviser might occupy on the governing board, the departmental board or whatever, will simply have no impact.

So while looking at the supply side, we must also look at the demand side. We must make the Government want to ensure that their decisions are right, based on scientific evidence and not discredited once they have been taken. That can happen only when we have a scientifically literate political class. That will take years to arrive but at least we can make sure that public opinion puts pressure on the Government. The national academies can increase public awareness and encourage public opinion to exert adequate pressure on the Government to listen to scientists and scientific advisers.

My last point concerns humility. Evidence is absolutely crucial in any decision-making but no decision can be based on evidence alone. Evidence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. We require evidence, obviously, but also certain normative principles under which we charter, harness and use the evidence for this or that purpose. Evidence therefore tells us what factors are relevant, what the empirical truth is and how important these are. However, all decisions, including policy decisions, are ultimately normative; they involve moral principles and moral commitments of a certain kind, even religious convictions, and they balance various factors in judgment. Mercifully, scientists cannot provide that judgment or those moral principles. The day when scientists begin to provide these things, those scientists will be God.

In any such discussion between scientists and the Government, therefore, the Government need to recognise that scientific evidence is a necessary condition, while scientists need to recognise that scientific evidence is not a sufficient condition. Once each side begins to recognise its own strength as well as its own limitations, a sensible dialogue becomes possible.

5.15 pm

Lord May of Oxford: I begin by saying that the UK probably handles these issues better than any other place I know. I part company with my long-standing good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Rees, in that I have lived 20 of my professional years in the United States and 23 here. I know the comparison between the resources, access and influence that I had as Chief Scientific Adviser to John Major and Tony Blair and what is available to the corresponding people in the States, one of whom was quite a good friend. They do not have anything like the same influence or contact, so the criticisms that I am about to make start from the position that we are doing well but could do much better.

I come to this in a rather different way. It is roughly half a century since, as a very young post-doc and newly arrived at Harvard, I had the privilege of hearing CP Snow give the Godkin lectures. These lectures are currently being republished by Cambridge University

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Press and I have just had the privilege of revisiting them to write an introduction. Snow’s “two cultures” theme runs strongly, if implicitly, through these lectures. He draws several lessons, all of which resonate with the recommendations of our committee, from two critical events in World War II, in which he was an observer as a senior civil servant.

In the first event, in 1935 when war seemed increasingly likely, the distinguished scientist Tizard was asked how best to defend the UK, particularly against bombing from Germany. He promptly put together a committee of real experts: Blackett, Appleton, AV Hill and others. They came forward with a bold and emphatic recommendation that essentially all resources should be concentrated on what we now call radar. This, mark you, was before we knew it worked. The Labour Party was in government then and Churchill was on the outside. Churchill’s adviser, Lindemann, later Lord Cherwell, who was an indifferent scientist but a skilled social climber and courtier, consistently gave Churchill the advice he wanted to hear. He was very much against radar and produced an amusing concatenation of silly ideas as alternatives.

In retrospect it was very fortunate that Churchill was not in a position of influence at that time, because it is generally agreed that radar played a decisive role in Britain’s survival in the 1940 Battle of Britain. By 1942, however, with the war in full swing and with Churchill in power, Lindemann was enthroned as the sole source of scientific advice. There arose a second major row around the question of the effectiveness of the massive bombing of German cities. Lindemann was entirely in favour of this bombing, and one must have sympathy, in the light of what happened in Coventry and London, for doing this. In fact, Tizard made an estimate and suggested that Lindemann’s cost-benefit analyses were out by a factor of five, Blackett said that it was a factor of six, and post-war estimates suggest that it is closer to wrong by a factor of 10. The strategy was not particularly effective and hugely costly both in British lives and in resources, but the Cabinet had heard no advice other than from the egregious Lindemann.

Is this relevant to today’s debate? I think that it is, because the recommendations in the Select Committee’s report are essentially very much along the lines of how Tizard went about handling things. I regret to say that the Government’s response, which is not the Minister’s fault, is essentially in the idiom of Lindemann. If we listen carefully we can hear Snow rotating in his grave.

It will be helpful to sketch briefly the evolution of science advice and policy-making in the UK since World War II, because for several decades after the war, although science people were seen as so important—from the initial people I talked about through Bletchley, and so on—the status of science adviser that persisted as an ad hoc appointment drifted down until it was a sort of one day a week pop-in to talk with the policy unit in No. 10. The really major change that we have almost forgotten and which we take now for granted began in the 1990s and emanated from a grey eminence behind the scenes in the Labour Party, Jeremy Bray, whom some noble Lords will remember. He convinced Neil Kinnock that one of the manifesto commitments for the Kinnock/Major election should be the creation

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of an office of science and technology, headed by a distinguished scientist and appropriate person brought in at the mandarin, Permanent Secretary level. He would go along to the Wednesday morning meetings of all the other Permanent Secretaries and be given an adequate star.

William Waldegrave persuaded John Major, who won the election, to implement the Kinnock manifesto commitment, and I was the first such person appointed in that wave in 1995-2000. I was succeeded by David King and then by John Beddington. I found it fascinating and challenging, although it was also an experience in the cultural anthropology of the Civil Service. I had always thought that “Yes Minister” was a sitcom, but I discovered that it was a documentary. I had great good fortune; I was really lucky. I had better fortune than some of my successors. Both my Prime Ministers—first, John Major and then Tony Blair—were people who sought informed and honest rather than comfortable advice, and I had direct access to both of them. The two Cabinet Secretaries—Robin Butler and Richard Wilson—could not have been more helpful.

During my time, the Permanent Secretary for trade and industry, where OST was housed, changed. At first it was Peter Gregson and then Michael Scholar. At our first acquaintance we had lunch together and Michael said, “How do you think you are doing?”. I said, “Well, I’m really enjoying it and I feel that I am being moderately effective, but the one thing that is clear is that had I pursued a career in the Civil Service, I would never have made it to the grade of Permanent Secretary”. Michael, with characteristic honesty and the right words said, “That is absolutely right. How shall I put it? You don’t have the courtier skills”. I was confronted, as successors have been, by the kind of resistance to outsiders that we see subtly expressed in the failure to accept so many of the recommendations that have been written by civil servants. Civil servants are not bad people; like everywhere else there are good and bad people, but they have a culture that is not well suited to the sort of things we are talking about.

Let me give noble Lords a very quick sketch of some of these issues. In the early 1990s, the apparent peace dividend—the end of the lunacy about the end of history—meant that the Ministry of Defence had to take big cuts. What did it want to do? It did not want to get rid of its civil servants and so thought that the best thing to do was to spin out the whole of the research enterprise. This would have been a disaster because it would have impaired all relations with the Americans, among other things. This is the first time I have ever claimed this in public, but I think that my biggest achievement was that I kept a big chunk of that. QinetiQ was spun out, but the defence science and technology labs in Porton Down are still in the public sector and still interacting with the Americans. I could not possibly have done that if I had not had the status—four star—and direct access to the Prime Minister and Ministers. I could multiply such examples.

On JASON, given the way the MoD is now, I do not think that JASON is quite appropriate. One of the conclusions that came out of the defence science and technology labs is that we should have more interaction with academia and more attempts should be made to

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bring in that kind of free-ranging and great strengthening dialogue. The one bee in my bonnet throughout my entire tenure as a non-exec there was to build up the social sciences in the research part of the MoD because then, as you began to go into Iraq, you could ask questions about what was going on in Iraq and what were you going to do when you had won. I was told consistently by people in the MoD that they were too busy to think about that.

I could multiply this endlessly and give you examples that we have already heard, but I will not. After the war, the chief scientist in the MoD, the very distinguished Hermann Bondi, a hugely important person, fought off repeated efforts, one of which I fought off during my brief tenure, to downgrade the post or capture it for a civil servant, but that is what has now happened. It is a real loss. I could multiply these examples more or less indefinitely.

I cannot resist mentioning that the story of FMD and what happened was not quite as rosy and simple as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, portrayed. To begin with, it was not Dave King who put together the committee but John Krebs. When he put together the committee of experts on epidemiology—I forget whether it was under MAFF or Defra at that time—not a single one turned up, but Dave did. Dave then took it over and did a super job.

In retrospect, it is clear that if we had been able to use bigger and wider firebreaks and vaccination, we would have stopped things by June. However, that was thwarted by the farmers’ union. The most satisfactory thing took place at the post mortem, where the Royal Society recommended that next time vaccination must be used. Defra had clearly forgotten this, but the Royal Society reminded the Government, and I have a letter signed by Tony Blair apologising for their oversight and saying that it would not reoccur. There is now a rule that if there is another outbreak and vaccination is not part of the strategy, the Permanent Secretary must give reasons in writing to Parliament before abandoning the measure.

Against that background, I conclude by strongly urging the Minister to sweep aside the objections, denials and equivocations that constitute the present Government’s response to this report. It will require a certain amount of courage to go up against them, but I am willing to be as helpful and to enlist people if he wishes. I particularly emphasise the following six recommendations in the following order of importance. The first is recommendation 10: that all CSAs must have a seat on the departmental board. The current response contains some weasel words about the need for flexibility, but flexibility has nothing to do with it. It is another expression that means that we want to put these guys on tap, not on top. The issue here is getting the job done.

The second is recommendation 9: that CSAs must be grade one or at least grade two. Here, again, in wonderful Civil Service double-speak, the Government replied:

“The precise grade of the position should remain a matter for the Permanent Secretary in managing his or her department”.

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It has nothing to do with managing the bloody department; the grade has to reflect the importance of the person so that they have the clout to be heard. To accept that recommendation is a no-brainer.

On recommendation 7, on direct access to Ministers, the response does not say that it does not accept it but it uses weasel words to that effect. Again, there is no alternative to an unequivocal agreement to direct access. I know examples—and other people have given them—of chief scientists who just have not had direct access, as they are carefully managed and encapsulated.

Recommendation 1 lists a catalogue of desired qualities. Again, there are weasel words in the response, but they are obviously the things that you want. Recommendation 2 is one of the trickiest. It says that, given that these are the qualities that are wanted, recruitment “necessarily excludes internal candidates”. That is an awkward thing to do. I would recommend that one does not just say that they cannot be internal candidates but rewords it to say, first, that there is a very strong presumption that the appointment will be from outside and, secondly, that if it is not, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser should have a veto and justify it.

Finally, recommendation 8 concerns the formal protocol designed by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser for CSAs when they disagree with Ministers or civil servants about policy decisions that are contrary to scientific advice. I am not going to talk about that because, in the week when badgers are in the news, we do not need to.

5.31 pm

Viscount Hanworth: As there can now be no doubt, our politicians and civil servants have an uneasy relationship with scientists and technologists, exemplified by the circumstances of the departmental chief scientific advisers and the roles that they play.

If you look elsewhere in Europe, you will be hard put to find persons who are playing comparable roles. You will not find the counterparts of our chief scientific advisers either in France or in Germany. It is interesting to consider the reasons for their absence there and for their presence here.

There are cultural and historical circumstances that explain the roles of the scientific advisers in the UK that I shall touch on later. In France and Germany, their counterparts are absent for the reason that their civil services are already permeated by scientists and technologists, which implies that there is no need to appoint them to a special role.

Many of the civil servants in France have been educated in les grandes écoles. These establishments fall outside the main framework of the French university system and have traditionally produced many, if not most, of France’s high-ranking civil servants, politicians and executives, as well as many scientists. We tend to date the inception of les grandes écoles from the years following the French Revolution and to attribute them to a Napoleonic initiative. In fact, some of the better known ones, including les Ecoles des Mines and l’Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées, predate the French revolution.

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In Germany, a high status is accorded to scientists and engineers, who are well represented in the civil and diplomatic services. The current German ambassador to Britain, for example, is an academic physicist.

In a common perception, the role of scientific advisers in UK government is to represent the scientific point of view. To persons trained in science, this must seem to be a curious requirement which mistakes the fundamental nature of science. Science is not a systematised set of opinions; instead, it is a discourse.

Admittedly, the discourse depends greatly on codified knowledge; and scientists can be arrogant and dismissive of arguments that pay no respect to such knowledge. However, in the main, arrogant opinionation is not the hallmark of science or a common personal characteristic of scientists. If science does encourage any particular traits of personality, surely these are a diffident nature and a tentative opinionation. Such personal characteristics are the very opposites of those that the report we are considering has identified as the necessary qualities of a chief scientific adviser. For this, there are good reasons.

However, it is probably misleading to talk in general of the personal characteristics of scientists or, indeed, to talk of the scientific ethic as if individual scientists necessarily embodied it. The greatest virtues of science are not intrinsic qualities that are inherent in the individual scientists; instead, they are the extrinsic qualities that characterise the realms of scientific discourse. Aberrant opinions and false conclusions, which abound in science, tend to be eliminated in a ruthless manner in the process of scientific debate. This is another feature that is barely recognised or is generally misunderstood in the common perception.

A difference of opinion among scientists is commonly perceived to be a symptom of scientific failure. On occasion, when differences arise, the right-wing press, which is largely inimical to science and to scientists, can be vengeful in its invective. Such invective accompanied the dismissal in 2009 by the Minister of Health of his chief scientific adviser, Professor Nutt, for making observations that were contrary to his own fixed ideas. Professor Nutt had ventured the opinion that cannabis is less harmful to those who smoke it than would be their likely consumption of tobacco and alcohol. He suggested that it should therefore be classified not as a class B drug, in common with alcohol and tobacco, but as a class C drug of a lesser potential harm. The contrast between this mild opinion and the fierce invective to which it gave rise was remarkable. Professor Nutt received the support of many of the chief scientific advisers, some of whom resigned in sympathy on the occasion of his dismissal. This episode highlighted the hazards of the job and illustrated how different the political environment is from the normal scientific environment. It also emphasised that considerable strength of character is often required in the role.

Some persons of remarkable strength of character have filled the role of a chief scientific adviser in the past. The formal arrangements that prevail today date from 1964, at the beginning of the Government of Harold Wilson, and the first person to fill the post was Solly Zuckerman. However, there had been precedents, among which the careers of Churchill’s wartime advisers

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were perhaps the most influential. The personalities of Henry Tizard and Frederick Lindemann impacted heavily. Lindemann, who became Viscount Cherwell, was—according to a received opinion that has been strongly challenged today—an able scientist with a wide range of competence. He tended to derive firm and inflexible opinions. In the main, valuable services were rendered but sometimes his opinions were decidedly haywire. This created difficulties for his successors and was responsible, in large measure, for the cautious and resistant approach that has often characterised the reactions of senior civil servants to scientific advice. The expectation that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser should be able to give informed opinions on a wide range of matters is also a legacy of Lindemann. To meet this requirement, the chief scientific adviser needs far more support in terms of staff and resources than is currently available. This is a need that the report has clearly identified.

The effect of Harold Wilson’s exaltation of the roles of science and technology has been widely misconstrued. A conventional interpretation is that, despite his commitment to “white heat” technology, his intended scientific revolution came to nothing because of the resistance of the established powers. In fact, the Governments of Harold Wilson were committed to the tasks of curtailing the nation’s expenditure on military and civil aviation, of resisting the ambitions of Britain’s nuclear scientists and of holding many other great technological endeavours in check. Many people would maintain that this was a necessary endeavour. However, its pursuit had an influential effect on the attitudes of the Civil Service to expensive technological projects.

It is precisely such ill effects that the recommendations of the report are designed to counteract, by advocating that the roles of the scientific advisers should be enhanced and that the resources available to them should be increased. The advisers have to contend with the effect of the history that I have recounted. They also have to contend with a culture within our Civil Service that is largely ignorant of the sciences, if not inimical to them. For a hundred years from the beginning of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, the education of senior civil servants was predominantly in the classics and humanities. A rapid change then began in the 1950s. It was recognised that it would be more appropriate for civil servants to study economics and law. A degree in politics, philosophy and economics became the paradigm of the appropriate education.

Economics can be described as a philosophical Weltanschauung, which is to say that it represents a powerful overview of science that can afford to ignore the inessential details. There is a common opinion among economists that matters of science and technology are among such details. We need to defeat this false opinion and the Science and Technology Committee has been influential in its endeavour to do so. Unfortunately, it has recently suffered at the hands of those who fail to recognise the importance of its mission and some of its activities are being curtailed.

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5.40 pm

Lord Mitchell: My Lords, first of all I congratulate the Minister on his new position and welcome him to the job. He and I are both new boys at this and are both non-scientists so we have a difficult task in front of us. I was very fortunate to serve on the Science and Technology Committee, which reported on nanotechnology and food and was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I was able to witness first-hand his mastery of the subject, his team leadership and his ability to tease out every last detail, and in the report before us we see the very same competence. It is an excellent document on an important subject, and it is a tribute both to the noble Lord and to all the other Lords who have spoken in this debate today. I must say a particular word to the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford; he spoke for 16 minutes and I would have happily sat here for 16 hours listening to what he had to say.

On previous occasions I have lamented the inability of Government to take reports issued by your Lordships’ House as seriously as they should. That is as true of this Government as it was when my party was in power. I just do not understand why a report that was published at the end of February has taken so long to come to the Floor of your Lordships’ House. I know that this is another debate for another occasion, but it is very irksome.

I would also like to add that in 2004 I had the privilege to chair another Science and Technology Committee report on science and treaties. In that report we wrote a section on chief scientific advisers and examined closely whether DfID and the FCO in particular should have CSAs. We achieved one immediate victory in that, shortly after the report was published, DfID indeed appointed its own CSA, and the FCO followed later. The noble Lords, Lord Oxburgh and Lord Hunt, were on that committee at that time. Was the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on that committee?

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: No, I was not on that one.

Lord Mitchell: I shall be referring to that 2004 report tomorrow in the debate on Antarctica, in which several noble Lords speaking today will also be speaking—it is a busy two days. However, to my mind today’s report follows on from the initial recommendation that we made back in 2004. I am no longer a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. Obviously I did not sit on this investigation but, when I read the report, the word “frustration” screams through, barely concealed—the lament of scientists at not being appreciated by politicians and not being listened to, in some cases until it is too late. Not much has changed.

Luckily for us, but unluckily for the badger population of this country—I too will succumb to the temptation—we have a very topical example in front of us today of politicians versus scientists. We see how a decision to instigate this cull has been taken against the advice of some of the leading scientists of the country. The cull must be the wrong decision, but why do decisions of this nature happen? Why do the politicians so frequently

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get it wrong? In my opinion, it happens because politicians live in a different world and march to a different drumbeat. It is this disconnect between politicians and scientists that I would like to address today.

I am a businessman by background. Indeed, they describe me as a serial entrepreneur—I think that that is a compliment but I am never too sure. Businessmen in general make for lousy politicians and the reasons are not difficult to see. In business, the CEO generally takes what they believe is the correct course of action; you make an executive decision and you live and die by the outcome. Often you do not have to persuade your colleagues to back you. The buck stops with you. If you get it right, you get the glory, and if you get it wrong—well, as the CEO of Citibank saw yesterday, you have to fall on your sword. Business is not about 100% success; it is about getting it right more often than getting it wrong. However, politics is a different game. You have to be seen to be infallible. You have to be collegiate—or pretend to be collegiate—you have to take the team with you and you have to live for the moment. In a 24/7 world it is always tomorrow’s headline that matters. We have all seen this but in this new world of social media, where a single tweet can go to hundreds of millions of people in a second, the game becomes even more intense, and it is often a nasty and brutish game. You are never completely sure who is on your side. This is not my personal experience, but it is what I have observed.

Why do I say all this? Because scientists also come from another world—not another planet, but another discipline with a different temperament. Their judgments are evidence-based, their opinions do not pander to the media, their timeframe is long-term and their reputations have to stand the test of time. I am going to say something that many people might not agree with, but I am going to say it all the same: scientists need to learn to play the game. They cannot just lean on the purity of their research. They have to fight for their views to be taken seriously and acted upon. A noble Lord mentioned sharp elbows, and they are absolutely needed. Just as we in the business world have to adapt to the realties of the world of politics, so too should scientists. The game is often murky but that is the world that politicians inhabit, and to get their attention we outsiders have to have guile and square up to them on their territory, or we will never be heard.

Throughout this report we hear about scientists’ frustration at not being taken seriously—“easily marginalised”, I believe it says in the report. We can visualise it now: the Minister has had a bad day, everything has gone wrong, it is late, and his wife has told him that he dare not be home late. He is in a foul, stressed mood. Then in comes the CSA with yet more bad news. They use terminology that the politician does not understand and does not want to understand; he listens, but he does not hear. It is the clash of cultures, and it will be another disaster. I love the expression used in the report about the interchange between the scientist and the Minister: “Truth speaks to power”. That just about sums it up. It reminds me of the old adage: “Don’t let the facts spoil a good story”.

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The report spends quite a bit of time focusing on the skills that departmental CSAs must have—his or her standing in the scientific community, communication skills, public engagement, understanding the policy environment and project delivery—but I wonder how many of them actually fit the role. Lack of access is constantly cited; the Minister is too busy to see the CSA. The report even talks about CSAs having to kick down the door, but does that really happen? I am a pretty good door kicker, but I am the first to admit that I am a pretty lousy scientist. We must be careful in seeking attributes in people that in many ways are mutually exclusive.

The report refers to the now infamous NHS IT project where the Blair Government decided to digitise and computerise the whole NHS at a stroke. It is an interesting example. At that time I was a consultant to IBM, not directly on that project but certainly on the periphery. The anticipated benefits of the project were enormous, but so too were the dangers. No businessman I know of would ever have taken on a project of that size without taking it step by step, but for the politician it was the opportunity to change everything at a stroke. Grand plans and glory beckoned but they went pear-shaped, and someone else was left to pick up the pieces. In that case the Government were naive in the extreme, and they were taken to the cleaners. They did not ask the questions and they certainly did not want the unpalatable answers. Those with experience knew that it would all end in tears; £12 billion later, they were right. It was a river of tears, and so it is with chief scientific advisers, who are often right but are so often ignored.

My advice, for what it is worth, is this: CSAs need to be much more politically savvy and must be able to play the game. Perhaps they should be selected from scientists who have ventured into the outside world, from quasi-scientists who are not really scientists but who understand the scientific argument or even from scientists who have ventured into politics—although I concede that there are not many of them.

In summary, we have a real problem. Scientific experts need to be listened to by Government, and this excellent report makes strong recommendations for CSAs to be given much more prominent positions. I believe that CSAs should also be appointed as much on their personalities as they are on their scientific skills.

5.50 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, first, I thank noble Lords for their kind remarks. I congratulate those noble Lords who have participated in this debate and those who have supported this inquiry, both here today and through their work in the committee. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the committee for such a thought-provoking inquiry. I am conscious that, as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, mentioned and to the disappointment of my noble friend Lord Willis, I am a non-scientist replying to so many eminent scientists. Having read the report, its quality is self-evident. It recognises the value and the standing of the current CSAs and the achievements of Sir John Beddington.

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The Government are committed to ensuring that all policy is underpinned by the best science and engineering evidence. The many significant challenges we face in the world today can be addressed only by the implementation of robust and effective policy, applying the best knowledge. CSAs are crucial to delivering this. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, rightly pointed out, this must be drawn from all sources—from government agencies to abroad. The enhancements to the CSA network over the past few years demonstrate the commitment to continued improvement. The present GCSA, Sir John Beddington, deserves considerable credit for the effort and expertise he has invested in building and supporting the CSA network over the past five years.

The committee made 19 recommendations, several of which have already been acted on. The report is already a key guiding document for the GCSA, the Government Office for Science and the CSAs. This has been acknowledged by the head of the Civil Service, who, as noble Lords know, recently responded to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. While not all the recommendations could be accepted in full, the Government are committed to further continued development of the CSA network. The challenge for the future is to deliver effective, excellent policy yet we will have to do so with fewer resources. There are cost implications for departments arising from many of the recommendations made in the report. Very careful attention will have to be given in balancing these against the many competing needs that each department faces. I can reassure your Lordships that, none the less, the Government are committed to delivering the CSA influence that the report aims to promote.

I will now explain the steps being taken to implement some of the key recommendations. First, on the characteristics of chief scientific advisers, the report identified a number of personal characteristics necessary for an effective CSA and made recommendations on the terms and conditions for appointment. The Government agree with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on the three criteria of authority, independence and access. The Government consider that the characteristics set out in the report, as emphasised by noble Lords today, are a relevant, appropriate and very useful guide for departments to use in recruiting a CSA.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised issues relating to recruitment. I can confirm that the GCSA will be closely involved in advising Permanent Secretaries on all CSA appointments. He will also expect to sit on the selection panel and will encourage departments to seek additional external independent advice in the recruitment process.

Turning to the appointments procedure, I want to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, that the default position will be to advertise all appointments externally in open competition. However, under the rules of open and transparent appointments, internal candidates cannot be excluded.

Moving on to the issue of the right grade for a CSA, again the Government agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and my noble friend Lady Sharp that these are important roles that must have suitable status in their department. As I said earlier,

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these are difficult times. Departments have gone through restructuring and downsizing at all levels, which has led to a significant reduction in the total number of directors-general and other senior grades across Whitehall. It is simply no longer feasible for there to be an expectation for the CSA always to be at Permanent Secretary or DG level. The Government have agreed that departments should not appoint CSAs below director level and have already held a department to this.

The noble Lords, Lord Rees and Lord May, referred to the position in the MoD. I can assure noble Lords that the post remains one of the most influential within the MoD and a distinguished and respected engineer, Professor Vernon Gibson, has been recruited to this important role.

My noble friend Lady Sharp also raised the issue of the DCMS. As your Lordships will know, the DCMS has been without a CSA for a few years. The department is now very small, with very few senior staff at all, and is unable to appoint a CSA at the level agreed to. The DCMS has appointed a head of analysis who is linked into the network of deputy CSAs and who will receive support from the CSAs in other departments as well as the advisory committee referred to by my noble friend Lady Sharp.

As recommended, the Government have also agreed that the GCSA should contribute to the CSA’s annual performance reviews and a mechanism for this will be in place from this year. The Government also agree with the committee that the CSAs must have the necessary resource, both budget and staff, to carry out their role effectively. Your Lordships acknowledge in your report that departments vary greatly in size, scope and type of evidence they need. It is not therefore sensible to be too prescriptive on what that resource should entail. Governments, with the advice of the GCSA, must be free to balance the many competing needs for limited resources.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, I would like to confirm that Sir John Beddington wrote to Permanent Secretary colleagues last month to start discussions on the implementation of all the recommendations to which I have just referred. Professor Sir Bob Watson, until recently the CSA in Defra, presented the issue well. He said, in relation to CSA policy processes, that policy proposals should,

“point to these questions: what do we know? What do we not know? What is controversial? What is uncertain? What are the implications of the uncertainties?”.

If CSAs have any concerns that these questions are not routinely being answered in policy submissions to their Ministers or that they are not sufficiently engaged in the process, they should raise the matter with their Permanent Secretary and with the GCSA. We also accept the importance of CSAs, like other officials, offering challenges to developing policies. I know that my noble friend Lord Jenkin referred to this.

The Government have well-established routes for raising concerns about the policy-making process. These are enshrined in the Civil Service Code by which CSAs are bound for the duration of their appointment and,

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in turn, Ministers are bound by the principles of scientific advice to Government which are enshrined in the




I am conscious of the controversy and indeed the specific case of bovine TB as referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Mitchell, and my noble friend Lord Selborne. The GCSA is content that the evidence base, including uncertainties and evidence gaps, has been communicated effectively to Ministers.

On the issue of CSA membership of departmental boards and access to Ministers, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord May, knows of the respect that I have for him—indeed, he and I sat on a Select Committee for a year—but, after the greatest consideration was given to these recommendations, it was concluded that the departmental boards did not meet frequently enough, and indeed were not involved in the day-to-day policy process, for them to be the best mechanism for policy to be influenced in the department.

Lord May of Oxford: That is a typical Civil Service response. One has to enter the mindset of this devious subculture. Does the noble Lord really take that as an argument?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I have not yet attended a departmental board. Perhaps I will be better able to tell the noble Lord when I have. It is fair to say, though, that this is not considered to be the best mechanism to deal with the point that he wishes to affect. While we expect that CSAs should have regular and frequent interactions with Ministers, I am bound to say that not even Permanent Secretaries have access on demand.

My noble friend Lord Willis referred to government policies and the need for them to be underpinned by relevant research. I agree with him that R and D budgets should not be seen as a soft touch when overall departmental budgets come under pressure. Indeed, the Government have affirmed the requirement that departments should discuss in advance with the GCSA and Her Majesty’s Treasury any planned reductions in research budgets or expenditure. Sir John Beddington has recently written to all departmental Permanent Secretaries to remind them of that point.

I turn to science advisory councils. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, gave an appropriate reminder of the importance of the advisory system. While the Government do not feel that a full review of science advisory councils is necessary, it is acknowledged that there are some specific concerns. The Government Office for Science will therefore be looking at the way in which these bodies identify and prioritise issues for consideration and how their advice is fed back to the department. The GCSA continues to discuss with all departments the benefits that can be gained from having a council. However, we are committed to funding the best evidence from all sources. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, referred to national academies as important partners, and indeed we need to build on links with industry too.

The noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Parekh, referred to the recommendation for the appointment of a chief social scientist. I assure noble Lords that the

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Government recognise the importance of the social sciences and are giving careful consideration to the recommendation.

It remains for me to thank all those who have participated in the debate today and to thank the members of the committee again for their extremely valuable report. The recommendations of the report have been taken very seriously and of course I have studied the letter that the head of the Civil Service sent to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I hope that that letter reaffirms that, although I understand there may have been disappointment in the early stages, the Government take seriously all that the committee has said, even where we could not accept the proposals in full. That many have been acted on confirms Her Majesty’s Government’s commitment to strengthening their science advisory systems. As so many noble Lords have referred to, with all their expertise, strengthening those advisory systems will benefit the whole nation as we meet the challenges of the future.

6.05 pm

Lord Krebs: I thank all those who have taken part in this debate. I have enjoyed it very much and noble Lords who have contributed have illustrated great depth of understanding, experience and expertise. I do not propose to go through any points in detail, because we have already taken up a substantial amount of time. I thank the Minister. His reply, together with the letter from Sir Bob Kerslake, gives us some encouragement that we are perhaps inching in the right direction rather than making a sprint for the finishing line. I can assure the Minister that we will keep an eye on these matters in the Select Committee and will no doubt make our opinion strongly felt if we are not satisfied with the way that the Government respond in the light of Sir Bob Kerslake’s letter.

In closing, I make two further comments. One is to join others who have acknowledged the good work done by Sir John Beddington, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser. He has slightly less than six months to serve and, as I mentioned at the beginning, he stands in a long line of distinguished predecessors and has served with exceptional distinction. It will not surprise noble Lords if I give the very last word to the badgers. I want noble Lords to think about what the Government are proposing to embark on. The Environment Secretary will, I believe, announce this week the initiation of the pilot culls, designed to determine the effectiveness and humaneness of free shooting as a way of controlling TB in cattle. Think about what is being done. There are two areas, so there is a sample size of two. There are no control areas. So the analogy is with my being asked to figure out the average height of professors in Oxford. If I said, “I have measured two of them and here is the average height”, you would say, “That is ridiculous. You have to measure 100 or 200”. Then, if you asked whether professors in Oxford were taller than in the rest of the country, and I said that I had not actually looked at what was happening in the rest of the country, that would be ridiculous. It is a completely meaningless, pointless pilot. It emphasises how policy decisions, if they are to be of any sense or value, have to have a

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scientific underpinning. This is in a department where we have a senior independent chief scientific adviser. In spite of that strong system, the policy makes no sense. In departments where there are weaker systems, things could well be worse. However, I leave it at that point. The last word is with the badgers and I thank everybody very much indeed.

Motion agreed.

6.08 pm

Sitting suspended.

Sudan and South Sudan: EUC Report

The EU: Sudan and South Sudan-follow-up report

Motion to Take Note

6.10 pm

Moved by Lord Teverson

That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report of the European Union Committee on The EU: Sudan and South Sudan—follow-up report(28th Report, Session 2010-12, HL Paper 280).

Lord Teverson: My Lords, probably at the end of this debate I will not be able to raise the applause that the last debate did. It would be most inappropriate for the subject we are debating this afternoon. This is probably the shortest report ever produced by an EU Committee, but its purpose was specific: to maintain focus—not just within this House but well beyond it—on events going on in Sudan and South Sudan, following our original report published around the time of independence last year. I will give the Grand Committee some background to the issues; we have such an excellent level of contributions to this report that I hope everyone else will then be able to contribute.

Sudan has been much troubled. Since 1955, the year before independence, up to 2005, it was a period of almost continual unrest, except maybe in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then in 2005, we had the comprehensive peace agreement, very much with the help of the United States, which was seen as a major breakthrough. That led to a referendum in January 2011, which was generally seen as successful in terms of the way it was carried out and its validity, which overwhelmingly called for the independence of South Sudan. On 9 July last year, both Presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir were there to celebrate the independence of the first African state to be declared independent by consent. That was a tremendous achievement, not just for that continent, but for the people of both Sudans and the world community.

However, despite that comprehensive peace agreement, a large number of issues were still there: debt, citizenship, most of all the delineation of the border and the status of Abyei in particular, and the issue of oil revenues. As we are an EU sub-committee producing this report, there were a number of EU issues as well, such as the slow establishment of the mission there, but overall those problems internationally between Sudan and South Sudan were of great importance. Not just that—in

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South Sudan there was very little infrastructure. There were about 50 kilometres of tarmac road, hardly any social infrastructure, rebel forces within South Sudan, an overlarge Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and $11 billion of oil revenues unaccounted for post-2005, when the comprehensive peace agreement took place. That was some challenge and the comprehensive peace agreement was not so comprehensive by the time of independence.

Since that report and since independence, as members of the Grand Committee will know, the problems have been just as large: a huge refugee flow, going both ways, but particularly into South Sudan, has created a grave humanitarian crisis; Sudan’s bombing of South Sudan; and the occupation of the Heglig oil region by South Sudan; which hardly helped that situation and almost led to war around March and April this year. One of the things that stimulated us as a sub-Committee to look at this issue, was South Sudan’s decision to stop the flow of oil through Sudan, which was its only way of exporting oil to the Red Sea at that time. It meant a reduction of public revenues to the South Sudanese Government, who are not well endowed otherwise, of 98%.

In fact, when we circulated the draft report among the EU Committee, one of the members wrote back and said, “You have got this wrong because it says that South Sudan has stopped the oil, whereas clearly you mean it was Sudan”. Of course, it was not. It is like South Sudan having imposed oil sanctions upon itself. Whatever the reasons and however deep the injustice, the sub-committee felt very strongly that this was reckless behaviour by the new state towards its citizens. Of course, within Sudan itself there has been the ethnic cleansing and all the other violence that has taken place in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.

In September, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps, with the agreement made in Ethiopia and all the work that Ethiopia has undertaken in this area around oil and the demilitarisation of the border zone. Having said that, we are aware that it is very easy to turn off oil; it is much less easy to turn it back on again, and the oil in the Sudan region is particularly viscous and waxy, and getting that pipeline to work again is going to be a major issue. In fact, the International Energy Agency estimates that even in five years’ time, output will not be back to the levels that it was before the supply was cut off.

The EU is doing a number of things and we should not forget that some €285 million will be spent on the development budget since independence and up to 2013, and this month a CSDP mission is due to go into Juba airport to help with communications and that area of infrastructure.

Our report says that it is easy to go through all these difficult issues, but the comprehensive peace agreement is still not implemented. Although there has been a resolution, perhaps, on oil revenues and on the demilitarisation of the border, those border disputes are still not resolved and there is still infinite possibility of continued conflict between the two states, and all of history will tell us that it will continue. Clearly, the committee hopes that that will not be the case.

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What the region very much needs is for the international community to stay involved. The African Union has played an important role, as has the United States, the United Kingdom and other member states of the European Union. This region must not be forgotten. The international community must help it to reconcile its difficulties. Apart from the important work of China, one thing that is absolutely clear to all of us is that for the foreseeable future the two Sudans need each other, and to live in peaceful coexistence. I beg to move.

6.18 pm

Lord Trimble: My Lords, I very much welcome the fact that this debate is taking place comparatively soon since the publication of the report. After taking out the couple of months in the summer, it is a comparatively early debate. I also welcome the new Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, to her position. I believe we do not have the honour of being her first debate—I think that was last week—but we welcome her here very much indeed.

This follow-up report is very short, just one page. The background has been ably set out by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, so I am not going to go through it. The core concerns are set out in paragraphs 3 and 4. Paragraph 3 says:

“The Committee is particularly alarmed that South Sudan has cut off the flow of its own oil”,

and paragraph 4 says that,

“economic or social development in South Sudan will become profoundly difficult, if not impossible, with rapid and serious adverse effects on its economy and people”.

That, of course, is absolutely right.

In many respects, South Sudan’s actions in cutting off the oil struck us as almost suicidal. However, looked at from another point of view, the South Sudanese were in a situation where they believed Khartoum was deliberately using the pipeline as a lever and was misappropriating some of the oil and consequently the proceeds of it. They felt that they could not allow themselves to be held to ransom by Khartoum. If they had said, “The effect of this on us would be horrendous”, they would effectively have put an ace into Khartoum’s hands. Therefore, while the action had all the implications stated in our report, the South Sudanese had to show Khartoum that if need be they could do without the oil, and that eventually this would start to hurt Khartoum and perhaps bring it back to a more reasonable position. Perhaps that happened; I do not know. My comments are speculative. I am aware that there was pressure from others. Perhaps they—and even the Chinese, who had a very clear interest in getting oil out of Sudan and South Sudan—had an effect.

When we think of the impact on South Sudan, we should bear in mind that its level of development is already comparatively low. None the less, it is a rich agricultural area where people exist largely by subsistence. However, the people have narrow margins to deal with and they have problems with intertribal disputes, as occurred last year. Of course, the flood of refugees into South Sudan was something that they could not cope with. We are looking at this from a

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development point of view; they are looking from the other end of the pipeline, where things appear rather different.

Since we produced the report, there has been a new agreement. On 27 September 2012 the co-operation agreement between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan was signed and countersigned on every page with the initials of the persons involved. Obviously one welcomes it; a new agreement is a good thing. However, one also asks the question: will the agreement be any better than the other agreements in resolving the outstanding problems?

It is important to step back from day-to-day matters and remember some of the basic facts about, first, the nature of Sudan and of the Sudanese Government. Sudan exists within colonial boundaries, and if ever there was a set of completely inappropriate boundaries, this is it. It unites sub-Saharan Africa with the north of the Sahara in terms of the peoples it covers. The ethnic and economic differences are enormous. In a sense, splitting the country is a sensible thing; one could say that it should never have been one unit in the first place. I will come back to this in a moment.

The second thing to bear in mind is the nature of the Khartoum Government. I will not go into detail, but refer noble Lords to comments I made in the 7 December debate on our first report. We are dealing essentially with an Islamist Government. We should remember that this is where bin Laden first moved when the Saudis drove him out of Saudi Arabia. The President of this Government was indicted as a war criminal. The regime has been responsible for enormous atrocities within its current boundaries and also in the area of South Sudan. My impression is that the regime is hunkering down under pressure and doing things reluctantly when it is forced to, and that if ever it gets a chance to get out from under that pressure and try to reclaim part of the authority that it had, or to destabilise others, it will not be able to resist the temptation.

When we consider these two factors we see that in this situation normal diplomacy will not work. The African Union is—perhaps “incapable” is too strong a word, but it is intrinsically unlikely to be effective. It is heavily inhibited by anything that changes the colonial boundaries, because of the implications that would have through country after country south of the Sahara. Furthermore, it is extremely reluctant to pass judgments on the character of Governments. Too many other African countries have skeletons in their own cupboards. Therefore, the African Union will not be effective in dealing with the character of the regime.

The only thing that will work is pressure. The only thing that produced the comprehensive peace agreement was pressure, and by pressure, I do not mean normal diplomatic pressure, I mean really strong pressure, exerted primarily by the US Government, which left Khartoum at one stage fearing that it was facing an existential threat. I am not saying that we should be trying to persuade the current US Administration to do that. I do not think we would have any chance if we tried and, of course, we must not make any assumptions about what might happen in future. As the interim report says, we end up saying that the international community should be doing what it can to bring about

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the resolution of the outstanding issues, and while, for the sake of politeness, we have to name check the African Union, the European Union and others, we ought to bear in mind that at the heart of the matter the people who are going to bring effective pressure to bear are those with the ability to do so, which, I am afraid, puts the ball back in someone else’s court.

6.25 pm

The Archbishop of York: My Lords, in May, I attended a three-day retreat of Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops in Yei, South Sudan. Unfortunately, the bishops from the Republic of Sudan could not be there because of the political situation. I was struck by how, as Anglicans and Roman Catholics seeking to work as one across both nations, they were committed to working with each other and with Muslim leaders as well for the good of all.

These bishops are close to the grass roots. In their joint statement, they said:

“We begin to wonder whether the International Community still understands the aspirations of the people of South Sudan, as well as the marginalised communities in Sudan”.

The fact is that the needs and aspirations of these noble people are not actually understood in the West.

One thing is absolutely clear: the future well-being of both Sudan and South Sudan depends on achieving peaceful and constructive relations between the two countries. The agreement reached in Addis Ababa between the Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan on 27 September in the course of talks mediated by the African Union high-level panel is good news and represents a significant step back from the brink of war and towards peace. The African Union’s role and, in particular, that of President Mbeki in heading the panel is to be applauded. The support of the international community, including both Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union, has also played an important part.

However, the 27 September agreement is only partial. The oil agreement enabling the resumption of oil production is critical to the economies of both countries, but the oil deal on its own is not enough. Achieving border security, particularly establishing a demilitarised zone along their common border, will be a prerequisite for stability. Stability will require agreement on disputed border areas and, most notably, on the future of Abyei. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Although the basis has long been agreed, the Sudan Government have so far rejected every attempt to make progress, despite the considerable efforts and concessions made by South Sudan.

A church delegation led by Archbishop Daniel Deng returned from a visit to Abyei last week. It was shocked by what it saw. The town is deserted and has been completely destroyed. The Catholic church, Catholic and Episcopal Church of Sudan schools, boreholes, administrative offices, government houses, the power station, shops, and even the latrines have all been destroyed. There appear to be no humanitarian agencies working there as, apparently, it is considered part of Sudan, and they do not work cross-border. A huge number of displaced people from Abyei, perhaps as many as 100,000, are in Agok with very few basic

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services. The people simply ask for what is their right under the Abyei protocol of the comprehensive peace agreement agreed by both parties: a referendum in which they can choose their destiny. All parties should be ready to accept the African Union high-level panel proposal. Abyei cannot endure this much longer. There are some real signs of hope. The four freedoms agreement, under which rights are granted reciprocally to the two countries’ citizens to allow freedom of movement, property ownership, work and residence, is much to be welcomed. This offers much needed safety and stability. The 27 September agreement did not address conflicts internal to Sudan in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which nevertheless affect both countries.

There can be no military solution. Both parties to the conflict—the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the north—are militarily well equipped and are set on military success. Both urgently need persuading of the need for a negotiated resolution, which must safeguard the rights of the indigenous population and resist any attempts to force them to flee south and take over their lands and resources. Attacks on civilians by either side must immediately cease, particularly the aerial bombing of civilians by the Sudan armed forces.

Resolving the conflicts in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur remains critical for the future stability of the Republic of Sudan. Key to this will be the recognition of the reality of Sudan as a multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious nation. The UK and the EU need, in their engagement with the Government of Sudan, to encourage respect for this reality and a constitutional process that enables the inclusion and participation of the whole of Sudanese society.

Freedom of religion is an essential element of respect for human rights in Sudan and needs to be emphasised. There is a significant indigenous Christian presence in Sudan whose rights must be respected. There was a marked deterioration earlier in the year following dangerously provocative language from President Bashir, which included the destruction by a mob of a Presbyterian evangelical church and community centre in Gereif and the destruction by police of an Anglican church in Haj Yusef, both in Khartoum. Anglican church premises in Kadugli were also badly damaged by government forces in June 2011. It is welcome that the local government has taken some steps to work with the church in repairing that building.

Back in South Sudan, the church has a significant role in supporting the transition from armed conflict and in addressing development needs. The church makes a unique contribution in peace-building, and great leadership has been shown by Archbishop Daniel Deng in achieving a regional peace agreement in May 2012 between the different groups in Jonglei State. Development support should be encouraged to ensure a peace dividend becomes apparent so as to consolidate such efforts. In education and health initiatives, the church continues to be a strategic major player. On the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence in July this year the two archbishops, Anglican and Roman Catholic, Daniel Deng and Paulino Lukudu Loro, reiterated the dream expressed when we met back in May:

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“We dream of two nations which are democratic and free, where people of all religions, all ethnic groups, all cultures and all languages enjoy equal human rights based on citizenship. We dream of two nations at peace with each other, cooperating to make best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity … We dream of people no longer traumatised, of children who can go to school, of mothers who can attend clinics, of an end to poverty and malnutrition, and of Christians and Muslims who can attend church or mosque freely without fear”.

I call upon Her Majesty’s Government to do all in their power to assist both countries in making this dream a reality, and I welcome this short report.

6.33 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, it is difficult to follow the right reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York, but I shall do my best. I join other noble Lords in welcoming the Minister to her job. It is very good that she is in the Foreign Office and that the ministerial team in the Foreign Office is no longer 100% male. Perhaps the noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Chalker, will join me in saying that.

I feel a slight frustration that in this House, when we discuss Africa, we tend to move from crisis to crisis. I hope that I will be forgiven if I say a few words about Africa more generally before moving on to Sudan. The broader context is changing rapidly. We have come a long way from the day 10 years ago when the economists described Africa as the hopeless continent. There are positive developments. There has been strong growth in sub-Saharan Africa. It was nearly 5% last year and considerably more in some sub-Saharan African countries. Investment and labour productivity are growing.

There are also some startling statistics. Between 2010 and 2050, the population of Africa is expected to double, which means that by 2050 one in every four people in the world will be African. These changes of course provide opportunities and I shall give just a couple more statistics. British exports of goods and services to Africa last year were about the same as those to China and India combined. When I first read that statistic, I blinked slightly and checked it. But I am told that it is true, and African exports to Britain have now doubled since 2000.

With that good news, as always, comes the need for caution. To comment on another part of Africa, something that looks good one year can look pretty ropey the next. Mali was a success story until the takeover in the north and the coup in the south. We now have in the north of Mali, an al-Qaeda/Boko Haram/radical Tuareg state which threatens our interests in the region and across the Mediterranean seaboard. I find it profoundly depressing that just as the desperate scenario in Somalia begins to get better, we risk having a quasi-terrorist state further west. Therefore, there is all the more reason to ensure that the tensions elsewhere in the continent, such as in Sudan, are well handled.

As others have said, the recent agreement between north and south on restarting the oil pipeline is positive, even if it is still fragile. However, that agreement did not touch other flashpoints. It did not touch Abyei, South Kordofan or the Blue Nile, and horror stories in Darfur remain. I feel that there is a slight risk that with the focus on the north and south, we forget about

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Darfur. We still need to remember that there are atrocities in Darfur which, if they were the only thing in Sudan that attracted our attention, really would attract our attention. I urge that we do not forget that.

While these tensions remain, particularly those between north and south, there remains too the risk of miscalculations leading to renewed and serious conflict. That includes the south overplaying its hand in the expectation that international support will always be there, and the north committing atrocities in the border areas and intervening in the south to a degree that causes the south’s neighbours, perhaps Uganda, to intervene or attempt to intervene to protect it.

Just as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, there is a key role for the international community to work with both Sudans to ensure that those sorts of miscalculations do not happen, and to help with the humanitarian and development needs, particularly in Darfur and the south. There is a need first just to keep Sudan at the top of the international agenda. Good news or relatively good news, such as that over the oil pipeline, is not a reason for shifting our attention elsewhere but for ensuring that there is no backsliding. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that Sudan will remain a key part of the Government’s priorities. Despite the difficulties, there is a real need, too, for closer co-operation between the EU, the African Union and, as we said in our report, China, which has a real interest in the north and the south.

There is also a need for new and improved mechanisms for aid funding to meet the huge needs of South Sudan in particular. I declare an interest as chair of the international medical charity, Merlin, which operates in South Sudan and Darfur. A few years ago when I was in Juba, much play was made by donors, bilateral donors and the World Bank of new interim donor co-ordination measures that had been put in place and how they would provide some assurance of continuity. However, three years later, they are still interim measures and there has not really been the improvement in donor co-ordination which will make a real difference to people in South Sudan. I hope that there, too, the Minister can give us an assurance that we will do all we can to ensure that donor co-ordination is improved.

As well as keeping Sudan and South Sudan firmly in the headlights, and ensuring that western countries, the EU and China work together to prevent potential disastrous political miscalculations, we need also—perhaps above all—to strengthen our donor mechanisms and continue to focus on the real humanitarian needs in much of South Sudan and Darfur.

6.41 pm

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, the speech made the noble Lord, Lord Jay, places this matter very well in its correct context. The deals over oil, trade and security signed by the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan last month were a most welcome development. They have brought hope of a better future for some of the poorest people on earth whose lives have been ravaged by civil war. However, it would be naive to believe that all the economic woes, the plight of the dispossessed refugees and the dangers arising from the volatile border disputes can simply be eliminated overnight.

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It is acknowledged that international pressure, particularly from the African Union, helped to produce the recent agreements. However, the committee’s report, which was written before the deals were signed, makes the still very relevant plea that the European Union must work urgently with the African Union and the United Nations to persuade Sudan and South Sudan to seek a mutually advantageous resolution of the outstanding issues between them.

The most important economic issue is how soon oil sales can begin again, as the precarious financial position of both countries has been seriously damaged as a result of the shutdown in oil production in the south in January this year. It will be recalled that at the time of independence in July last year, the new country of South Sudan got two-thirds of the former Sudan’s oil but Khartoum continued to retain the processing and export facilities. Oil sales, in fact, account for around 98% of South Sudan’s budget.

There is also the prospect of negotiations and arguments over the possible development of a pipeline from oil fields in South Sudan through Uganda to the coast of Kenya. Here, I should very much like to congratulate and welcome the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, and to wish her every good fortune. Perhaps she would like to say a word about the possibility of such a pipeline through to Kenya. However, it seems to me that Sudan will assert an interest in any such development and that discussions with a view to finding a meeting of minds are extremely likely to be necessary. Perhaps the Minister can say how best a way forward might be found on that subject. Judging from past experience, the African Union should have a considerable influence in this connection.

While the deal over resuming oil production is the most encouraging aspect of the recent agreements, international pressure should also be maintained. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, emphasised that point. That pressure should be maintained on both Governments to try to reach a solution on the vexed question of Abyei. I was very pleased that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York referred to this and to other urgent matters. A demilitarised buffer zone is part of last month’s agreement but little progress seems to have been made on deciding the future of this disputed border area, which contains valuable oil reserves.

Here again, perhaps the Minister can tell us whether the British Government favour the concept of a referendum being held that could assign the area to one of the two countries or whether they prefer the idea of political negotiations and a negotiated solution that could mean the region being divided between the two Sudans. I note that Sudan has stated a preference for a negotiated solution.

I should also like to ask the Minister about the current status of the EU office in South Sudan following the previous commitment of the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, the high representative of the EU, to upgrade it into an EU delegation with a new head of delegation, and also about the planning of development support in areas such as law, education, health, water management and food security. The average life expectancy of men in this part of the world is around only 58 years of age.

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Half the women are not literate, and we know the horrifying total of at least 1.5 million people who died during the long years of warfare between the north and South Sudan. Future generations deserve a great deal better than that.

I was very pleased to have the opportunity to support the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his committee in having a follow-up report. As that report urges, European Union countries must continue their efforts to play an effective part, through development aid, in helping the people of these two countries, who have endured so much suffering and upheaval, to achieve a stable, peaceful and economically viable place in the modern world.

6.46 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I begin by apologising to the Minister and members of the Committee; because the earlier debate overran, I have run into personal problems with a longstanding family engagement, so I may have to leave before the end of the debate.

I welcome the follow-up report and the initial committee report, The EU and Sudan: on the Brink of Change. The very title of the initial report poses two questions. First, clearly the committee remit is restricted to the EU role, thus it does not have the total picture in focus—for example, the atrocities in Darfur. Surely we as a House need to revisit the possibility of a foreign affairs committee in the House of Lords. When I chaired the committee in the other place, I was in favour of such a foreign affairs committee because the world is a big place and, with adequate co-ordination, one could have such a committee.

Secondly, the title says “on the brink of change”. The initial report was published in June, after evidence over the previous months, with a follow-up report in March 2012. However, it is thin in the extreme, with only one witness, the Minister, and was a snapshot of a serious problem at the time, with the oil blockade and war. Happily, things have improved with the agreement of 27 September. This House needs to examine its procedures in order to allow such reports to be debated in a timely manner and not just deal with historic documents.

I will make one other preliminary remark. I looked in vain, in both reports, for any mention of the Commonwealth. The Government trumpet their attachment to the Commonwealth but they seem to ignore it when opportunities like this present themselves, particularly on governance and because of the proximity of Kenya and Uganda—two Commonwealth countries—and given the great experience, for example, of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in helping Governments in relation to their own administration.

States divide in different ways. At one extreme is the velvet divorce of the Czechs and Slovaks and at the other is Korea, where, after 60 years, North and South Korea still confront each other across the DMZ. The jury is out as to which of the two models the two Sudans will be closer to. There will certainly be a difficult transition. The wicked fairies at the birth of

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the new state ensured that there were many unresolved problems ready to flare into conflict. In 2005 the CPA, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has said, left the borders not agreed, for example, on Abyei. The CPA stated that they should be based on a future consultation, but none has been held. There are 1,800 kilometres of border. There are some estimates that the disputed areas range up to 60%; the lowest expert estimate that I have seen is 20%. Of course, the concerns are different. At state level the concern is over the border, mainly related to the division of natural resources, particularly oil. At local level, and for the people, the concern is over access to water and pasturage because of seasonal migrations. Hence the case is for flexibility and soft borders, given the salience of that issue.

I am surprised that the first report did not highlight the expert work of a British-based NGO, Concordis International, with which I was involved over South Africa in the 1980s and Rwanda in the 1990s. I concede that in paragraphs 73 and 238 in the base report there is a recommendation that the EU should play a role in border-management issues, and in paragraph 159 a glancing reference is made to one EU Concordis project. In fact, though, Concordis International has been supported by the European Union since 2009, working to assist with conflict resolution and issues concerning border management and security. Now it has 15 staff based in Khartoum and 18 based in South Sudan, with three more soon to be deployed. The majority of the funding is of course from the EU’s EDF and Instruments for Stability. Activities facilitated by Concordis International include cross-border and migration conferences, the formation and training of peace committees, and capacity building for development projects. The recommendations that it has made from these activities on soft borders, seasonal migration and training for conflict resolution have been passed to the key stakeholders, including the AU panel mediating the conflict, and have been reflected in the September agreements. Perhaps the Minister will say a little about the expectations of those agreements and the key unresolved issues, such as the settlement of refugees and the pipeline projects. Currently the south is dependent on the good will of the north for its oil exports.

There has been a significant contribution by the EU to conflict resolution—prevention in both Sudans—as recommended in the committee’s report. There is, however, a case for saying that the projects could have benefited from an assurance of funding over a longer period. Again, the European Union has played a significant role in financing the work of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel. I understand that the EU delegation in Juba in the south is now in operation, after the delays mentioned in the report. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that.

The base report is valuable, but dated. The Concordis International experience of working with the EU has been very good. The EU has provided funding in a flexible way and shown great interest, enabling it to meet EU objectives based on its experience and modus operandi elsewhere. The EU has also been helpful in the management of grants and overcoming practical and bureaucratic problems.

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After so many years of civil war the transition, since I first visited a rather more peaceful Sudan in 1967, was bound to be bumpy. Two highly vulnerable and fragile states emerged in July last year, and many serious political and economic problems remain. In the north the Republic of Sudan is the only country in the world led by an indicted war criminal. Only in September did the Republic withdraw its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council at a time when its atrocities in Darfur were reported to be worsening. Surely this says something about the “Buggins’s turn” view of the African region in terms of the UN Human Rights Council, which may, alas, repeat the mistakes of its predecessor, the UN Commission.

A year after independence in the south, it is still talked of as a failed state. I cite the Africa Growth Institute at Brookings, the Atlantic and the special report in Le Monde on 7 July, all giving a very gloomy end-of-first-year report. Let us recognise that the EU is just one of the key players involved—others include the African Union, the UN, the US and China—but it should be given credit for its work. Obviously the two Sudans must make the key moves but the international community is playing a positive role in the transition. The base report and the follow-up report are therefore valuable, if dated. I very much hope that the Committee will return to this subject in future and will perhaps be able to give a more positive analysis of the two Sudans.

6.55 pm

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, those who have followed events in Sudan through the end of the civil war and the progress of the comprehensive peace agreement will share the disappointment of the Select Committee that many crucial issues left outstanding remain unresolved, in particular the failure fully and faithfully to implement the memorandum of understanding and the tripartite plan to expedite the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile state, and the resolution of the issues of the final status of Abyei and disputed areas. The Security Council, the US mission to the United Nations, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Norway, the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague and the tripartite group have all voiced their concerns over the failure to address the continuing humanitarian crisis and have pledged their practical and political support for putting the tripartite agreements, signed in early August, into immediate effect.

This is not to deny the value of the nine agreements reached at the presidential summit on 27 September in Addis Ababa by the presidents of South Sudan and Sudan. In its press statement of 28 September, the UN Security Council recognised that:

“These agreements represent a major breakthrough for the establishment of peace, stability and prosperity in both Sudan and South Sudan and give cause for genuine hope that the peoples of these two countries will realise the fruits of lasting peace and friendship”.

The nine agreements covered oil, citizenship, border demarcation, border monitoring, economic co-operation and other matters. There are still important outstanding issues. The humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is critical. Hundreds of thousands of

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people are suffering, and this cannot continue any longer. The Government of Sudan must grant full, safe and immediate international humanitarian access and, in co-operation with the tripartite group, implement the MoU and the action plan without further delay.

As the Associate Parliamentary Group for Sudan and South Sudan—of which I am a vice-chair—discovered when it visited South Sudan in April, the new country faces a profound state-building challenge. International investment and skilled returnees are contributing to pockets of economic development and represent a foundation for future growth. The decision to shut down oil production was biting, with the Government set to reduce spending by over 25% from an already low base. Ministry budgets had been slashed and remaining spending was concentrated on salaries, with little left for investment and maintenance. In South Sudan, over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Less than 50% of children enrol in primary school and far fewer complete eight years of education, with just one teacher for every 117 children. There is the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, with a one-in-seven chance of a woman dying of pregnancy-related causes. There is only one qualified midwife for every 30,000 people.

Corruption became a major recurring theme throughout the APG delegation’s visit, with concerns expressed that it was becoming fairly ingrained within South Sudan’s fledgling systems. The mismanagement of public funds was a central concern, sitting at the hub of all others, fuelled by avarice and a sense of entitlement. The anti-corruption commission, established in 2005 with a mandate,

“to protect public property and investigate cases of corruption”,

and combat,

“administrative malpractices in public institutions”,

finds, however, that it lacks sufficient authority, independence and transparency. International non-governmental organisations including Global Witness, the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa, Oxfam, World Vision and others have all expressed concerns over the continuing humanitarian crisis and the lack of governance and capacity in South Sudan to address it.

There is a call to work more closely with the audit chamber of the South Sudan Government as a key player in the financial management of state funds. The Ministry of Finance needs support, and USAID is tutoring and mentoring the development of budget systems. Acts of Parliament are being passed to bring in financial control and management systems, but donor nations need to press for their implementation. It is no good just passing the Act; it has to be put into force. Global Witness has told me that it is very disappointed about the lack of transparency and accountability in oil governance, with no independent auditor provided. A petroleum law has been passed that calls for open tendering and for all beneficial ownership to be published. Global Witness’s consultant, Dana Wilkins, says:

“Sudan and South Sudan’s citizens are the ultimate owners of their countries’ natural resources. Yet they have been totally cut out of this new oil deal, with no way to verify the amount of oil and money that will be transferred between their governments”.

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While the new agreement establishes mechanisms for internal information-sharing and auditing, there are no requirements for transit and financial data to be made public.

The United Kingdom and the EU have important roles to play in building institutions in South Sudan and Sudan and in concentrating on the constitutional process. Again, to quote Oxfam:

“South Sudan and Sudan do not have a European Champion right now and therefore are slightly off the EU Foreign Affairs Council radar”.

The EU has the policies and mechanisms in place and, for the first time, member states have agreed to a joint development programme in South Sudan. There is one joint strategy paper, agreed by the EU institutions and member states. Priority sectors are identified, with donors agreeing to complement each other in their implementation. This is a first and is part of the EU commitment to aid effectiveness but, so far, implementation has been postponed because of South Sudan’s oil crisis. Now the oil agreements are in place, there is an ideal opportunity for the EU and member states to make real progress.

There is a consensus that the humanitarian crisis will continue to dominate the South Sudan agenda for some time. Analysts predict that it will take two generations of long-term engagement to establish basic infrastructure and achieve significant and substantial development of basic services. There is a compelling need for continuing support in capacity-building at all levels of government to gain the benefits of a strong and empowered Parliament.

To this end, the Norwegian Government commissioned a report on training needs in the South Sudan National Legislative Assembly, which was conducted in August 2011—just one month after independence. The analysis was undertaken with the co-operation and support of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, commonly known as AWEPA and of which I am a UK council member. This was part of a capacity-building exercise for this new legislative assembly, the main objective being to analyse its training needs. The majority of assembly staff did not have appropriate academic qualifications for their duties. Qualifications did not match their job descriptions or the departments in which they were deployed. There was a clear need for a wholesale retraining exercise.

As well as having inappropriate skills, over half the assembly staff stressed their concerns over a lack of proficiency in the English language. This was considered alarming, given the move from Arabic to the English language in South Sudan. A close second in skills deficit was that in technical skills, particularly information and communications technology. In the course of a short one-week exercise, the study identified a large capacity-inhibiting skills shortage with massive scope for retraining and confidence building, particularly through exposure to established parliamentary practices.

The National Legislative Assembly of South Sudan has now, with the support of the Netherlands Government and AWEPA, adopted a five-year strategic plan whose core aim, as described by the Assembly Speaker, is that by 2016:

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“The National Legislative Assembly will be valued as the central institution in promoting democracy, effectively holding the Executive to account, scrutinising proposed legislation and representing the diverse views of the people of South Sudan”.

The strategic plan is clearly fundamental to South Sudan’s progress towards sustainable government. Recognising that the UK, through DfID, is a major donor in South Sudan, I would like the Minister, either in her response or later by letter, to tell the Committee whether DfID is aware of the strategic plan for South Sudan; if so, how it figures in DfID’s business plan, given that Sudan is one of the UK Government’s top priorities in foreign policy; and what DfID plans to contribute to capacity building and structural support in the National Legislative Assembly, through what means and over what timescale.

7.05 pm

Lord Cameron of Dillington: My Lords, following a parliamentary visit to South Sudan last April, I should like to focus on the new country. It will come as no surprise to some noble Lords here that I should also like to focus on agriculture there.