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
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
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