back to article MPs squeeze science back onto select committee list

The House of Commons stationery department was working overtime yesterday, after MPs forced the government to accept there was a need for a select committee with explicit responsibility for overseeing science. The former Science and Technology Committee was borged into the freshly minted Innovation, Universities and Skills …


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  1. Shabble

    Is Brown a religious nut too?

    Remember that Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, is a very religious man - he probably sees science as at best an inconvenience and at worst a threat to his personal beliefs. Fortunately his MPs aren't all stuck in the 16th Century.

    Go science!

  2. Sean Purdy


    Whither Technology?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Secular government

    With a supposedly secular government, it would be nice if there was some way to filter out the superstitious before they stood for election.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nothing wrong with religious MPs

    As long as they leave it at the door when they leave for work in the mornings, as most do.

    Those that base policy on faith and not rational thought have no business being in power.

  5. Eddie

    Phil Willis!!

    Why is a pensioner MP with no science qualifications in charge of a science committee, and I'd presume out of the 14 he was the best suited or the youngest?

    Probably all sit around discussing the warm sounds they get from their radiograms and should they recommend building a thermonic valve factory in Dudley while trousering £30k+ a year in "expenses" for this extra workload.

    I'll get my coat.

  6. Steven Knox

    Simplified Committee Title

    Advancement of Science, Skills, and Education Services might fit better...and for the religious, you could have the Advancement of Religion Skills and Ecumenical Services committee.

    Perfect parity.

  7. Alan Lukaszewicz

    Governance is good

    I hope they start with food science

  8. night troll

    Just a thought....

    How much does it cost every time they change the name of a committee, department or ministry? Just think, all those new signs and stationary that need to be bought. IIRC we seem to be changing some name or other about every month. Is this really nedded or is it just another way to waste public money (like MPs wages)?

  9. P. Lee
    Paris Hilton

    Science and secular government

    I see we're playing hobby-horse bingo and we've hit the jackpot!

    Anyway, enough of the mixed metaphors. I'd like to take a wild guess that the MPs were not trying to put an end to the creationist/evolutionist debate, but are thinking more along the lines of "we need physicists/chemists to develop new semi-conductor type materials for IT", vs the government's "oops we spent all the taxpayer's money on a stupid war", dilemma. No religious content here, move along, nothing to see.

    Regarding secular government, I don't think there is a presumed secularity. It may come as a shock and be rather offensive, but MPs and government are supposed to represent those who elected them, not just the secular humanists.

    It isn't belief in a God that causes wars, its the arrogant pride that my way is the only way and therefore I'm going to force my opinions and way of doing things on everyone else.

    Toleration is about being civil with those with whom you fundamentally disagree. The increase in secularity in society appears to have very little to help this. Seeing talk of depriving people of the right to participate in government based on their religious beliefs, it appears that you can change the religious labels, but people really haven't changed since the 16th century.

  10. Matthew Chadwick

    RE: Science and secular government

    Actually I do not think it is an MP's job to follow the opinion of those that elected them. People as a whole are not terribly bright and are often prone to over react, as such most people can not be relied upon to make an intelligent decision about anything important. Religion rather relates to this, that is people might be religious but in no way should such failure of judgement govern any wider decisions apart from those concerning only yourself. It would be immoral in my opinion to base any decision governing a wide population of people on anything other than science and logic.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    Bucky balls

    Matthew, you think only science and logic should be used for governing? Have a read of Buckminster-Fullers philosophy. He `logically´regarded all people as units, some efficient, some inefficient and some defective and who should be removed from society as logically they would be an unnecessary drain on resources.

    Scientific and rational thinking is essential to governing society but one of the reasons we ( humans) are so successful and dominant on the planet is because we are able to cooperate and look after our old or infirm, thereby not losing anything that they may be able to contribute to our collective benefit . A good example perhaps would be Stephen Hawking some one who would be no use at all digging to plant crops as well as occupying an expensive wheelchair and requiring a great deal of care but who ultimately is a bargain.

    Also the main reason any MP is elected is because his party's and his manifesto is apparently in line more or less with the elctor's beliefs, this is called democracy. Why else would the voter vote for anyone?

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  13. Alan Lukaszewicz

    Money considerations?

    I must admit to dwelling on finance issues. Not so much on this topic but of schools, NHS, police ...

    The present models are understandable from a historical perspective but I wonder if they need revised?

  14. Liam

    Edmund Burke..

    I totally disagree with you there Matthew because the entire point of a representative democracy and the parliamentary system is that the Members of Parliament are your representatives. Their constituents are essentially their employers regardless of intellect,race, or creed. Remember in a democracy everyones vote is equal. Although MPs sometimes must use their own judgement, knowledge and wisdom to protect the public, from our 'baser passions,' as it were. For instance every single poll on capital punishment in Britain shows the public would bring back hanging...something that would never pass through the Commons. {Here comes the representative bit,} famously Edmund Burke commented that he is not a servant of the people but a representative so essentially he will follow his own convictions. However this does not mean that constituents should be ignored completely as Burke said "Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention."

    Regarding Religion/Science. Everyone is entitled to believe in what the hell they like, I think for some people faith in something is needed and it's no bad thing, However when it begins to interfere with other disciplines especially Science it becomes unnacceptable in Government. Our Science education after the syllabus changes this year is going to be diabolic anyway, the Government needs to sort this out!

  15. Jack
    Gates Halo

    @ P Lee

    Whilst it isn't the job of MP's to follow the opinion of those that elected them it is their job to represent them, moreover it is the job of government and parliament to represent the people. That does mean that both in principle and practice you end up with some religious MPs. The UK parliamentary governmental system is structured to not leave too much power in any one individual so the presence of religious members, even in high posts in government shouldn't necessarily translate into religious policies being rigourously followed.

    Also, not only is there no real assumption of secularity in government in the UK, the establishment of the church of england and the oath of allegiance presented as the standard option for MPs both entrench religion if not in government then certainly in parliament.

    All that said, nice to know that the government does indeed have science policies and that there is a body to oversee it.

  16. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Re: why no chair with a science background?

    New Labour would have to hunt for a long time to find a chairman with a science background - their Parliamentary highfliers are dominated by third-rate lawyers, ex-union smoothies and those who've done nothing but grease the party political machine since leaving their politics course at uni.

  17. Spleen

    @Liam and others

    Democracy has one purpose and one purpose alone: to rotate the most senior posts in government between two or more opposing factions every few years so that they can't, in theory, do anything too stupid or empty the entire Treasury into their Swiss bank account. It keeps them on their toes. To suggest that MPs are representative is ludicrous, as many if not most of them are not chosen by their constituency, as that constituency is a "safe seat" and whichever candidate gets to wear a red rosette (or blue or yellow) will certainly win. Those MPs are effectively chosen by small unaccountable committees of local party supporters.

    "Impermanence is impotence and rotation is castration." I think that was Sir Humphrey talking about Cabinet reshuffles, but the same principle applies to party democracy.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    'Constitutionally', you vote for an MP at a general election, based on his/hers speeches etc and then give him/her their head until the next election. That's why referenda are unconstitutional.

    The foregoing of course bears no relation to reality, but that's how it's meant to be.

    My gripe is ... almost no elected representative or senior civil servant has any understanding of science, technology (including IT) or maths - specifically statistics. They're all educated in the classics or humanities chiz chiz chiz.

  19. steve

    Why is this a bad thing?

    "Matthew, you think only science and logic should be used for governing? Have a read of Buckminster-Fullers philosophy. He `logically´regarded all people as units, some efficient, some inefficient and some defective and who should be removed from society as logically they would be an unnecessary drain on resources."

    I would vote for any MP with enough spine to put this forward as an idea. There are many people who should be "removed from society" due to the strain they put on the state without giving anything back. I believe we do need breeding controls so we can stop those who prey on the benefits system from breeding like rats. Our country is already splitting into two halves, those who try to help society and therefore don't have much time to breed. They may produce 1-2 children. Then you get those people who do nothing except breed, with families of 5+ who do nothing but leech off the state.

    I'll get my kevlar jacket on my way out, hoping to avoid a barrage of gun fire from PC jackasses.

  20. Fibbles


    I see the religious nutters are spouting the whole 'tolerance' argument again. But I ask you, why should we be tolerant of idiots?

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