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MPs: Scientific advice not valued

A report from MPs has expressed "great concern" at the way the Government pays lip service to the importance of scientific advice.

Members of the Science and Technology Committee took the Government to task for not living up to its stated policy of putting science at the centre of decision making.

The report said: "Despite the Government officially advocating the importance of scientific advice and evidence as a key input in the policy making process, our work during this Parliament has demonstrated, on a number of occasions, that this is not always reflected in Government practice."

The Home Office, Department of Education, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) were singled out for criticism.

They appeared either not to appreciate the value of scientific advice, or to lack the "capability, experience or processes" required to make use of it, the report claimed.

"This remains of great concern to us," said the MPs.

Some departments, including the Department of Health and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, did understand the value of science and incorporated it into policy making.

The report, which looks back over the whole five year Parliament, also focused on fears that basic science was often seen as an easy financial target in times of austerity.

Ahead of tomorrow's Budget, committee chairman Andrew Miller said: "The impact of cutting investment in departmental science budgets will not be immediate, but like any infrastructure left to fall into neglect, future repair bills are likely to be enormous..

"I am hoping that the Chancellor fulfils the potential of the strategy for science and innovation by ensuring that all of the capital investment announced will have long-term sustainable funding streams necessary to deliver the outputs that deliver jobs and wealth creation more widely.

"It is right and proper that Government ensures it is getting value for money. I am worried however that, if the research councils are constantly under review, it will distract the organisations from delivering what they are there for."

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