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Questions to Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband:

CaSE and Scientists for Labour (SfL) asked the five candidates for the Labour Leadership what role they thought science would play in their future policy plans. The following is the response from the new leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband, received back in August.

1. How can science, technology, engineering and mathematics contribute to economic growth in the face of current constraints on government spending?

If we neglect investment in STEM now, we will pay a heavy price in the growth, productivity and employment foregone in the future. I am deeply concerned by the government’s approach to deficit reduction. The speed and severity of their spending cuts will damage the country’s chances for sustained economic growth.

My vision for the future of the economy is very different. I want to begin the long process of building an economy that is based on higher wages, high skills and higher productivity, where British industry competes internationally on the basis of quality and not simply on the basis of low costs. Moving to this kind of economy requires a government that pursues an active industrial policy, a core part of which must be to ensure we have scientists, engineers and mathematicians of the highest calibre. The work that CaSE is doing to promote science and engineering is therefore crucial to the future health of our economy.

2. How will you bring expert scientific advice into Labour policy-making and the shadow cabinet, now that the party is in opposition?

When we were in power we made extensive use of external experts in the formation of public policy. We need to continue to be outward-looking and get the best scientific advice as we work towards a policy platform for the coming years – in a way that respects the independence of scientific experts, but which ensures policy is thoroughly evidence-based.

Within our own Party, we have to look again at how we form our policy. When we were in power, it sometimes seemed as if the government and Labour Party members had little contact with each other. I want to change that by revitalizing the policy process within our party. Part of this revitalization will be to encourage organisations like Scientists for Labour and CaSE to bring their energy and expertise into the process of forming policy. It’s only through this kind of grassroots organisation that Labour can regain its potency as a campaigning force.

3. How will you promote the continuation of infrastructure regeneration in universities, schools and colleges to ensure that we inspire and train the scientists of the future?

I was appalled by the coalition government’s decision to cut our Building Schools for the Future programme, and by the reckless and casual way in which the cut was made. It came as a huge blow for so many communities, not least those who thought they had been given a reprieve, only to find that Michael Gove hadn’t even bothered to check he’d got his facts right. It’s decisions like this that demonstrate how important it is that Labour wins the next election, so that we can stop the ConDems from dumping important public spending programmes.

We need to have a comprehensive approach to ensuring adequacy and certainty of funding for universities and colleges, combining public funding, support from business and alumni, and contributions by the students themselves. On student finance, the most important challenge is to work out a fair and affordable way for students to contribute to the costs of their higher education. I support the introduction of a graduate tax, which would allow people to pay for their tuition from future earnings, rather than being put off by unaffordable up-front fees.