PM facing demands to explain ‘paradoxical’ potential cuts to science

Sam Blewett, PA Political CorrespondentTue, 23 March 2021, 10:33 pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing demands to explain whether he will make a “paradoxical” cut to the science budget during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commons Science and Technology Committee chair Greg Clark raised concerns that the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) science and research funding could be slashed by nearly a quarter.

The senior Conservative MP also pressed Mr Johnson over the lack of financial support for medical research charities, despite an apparent fall in fundraising income of 41% during the crisis.

Brexit
Greg Clark (PA)

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Clark said it is “deeply concerning” that the science budget is possibly facing cuts just as the nation recognises the importance of scientific research.

The MP said it has been suggested that the UK’s £2 billion funding from the European Union’s research initiative, Horizon Europe, will instead be covered by the business department’s science budget post-Brexit.

He warns this would create a “devastating reduction” in the research budget by reducing funding earmarked for UKRI.

In a statement, Mr Clark said: “As the past year has demonstrated like no other, we owe so much to science. In the midst of a global pandemic, it would be paradoxical if science funding were cut.

“The Prime Minister must now turn his personal attention to resolving issues relating to science funding in the days ahead.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to strengthening the UK’s world class reputation for research and innovation. This year alone, we will spend more than £10 billion to address poverty, tackle climate change, fight Covid and improve global health.

“We are working with our delivery partners, including UK Research and Innovation, to implement a new research and development settlement for 2021/22 that delivers on our ambitions.”

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