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Parliament's sci-tech committee faces permanent recess

Science orphaned in Whitehall overhaul

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The Science and Technology Committee is fighting a rearguard action to save itself after Gordon Brown’s overhaul of government departments terminated the Whitehall tentacle it was covering.

Gordon Brown had barely got his key in the lock at number 10 before he carved up the DTI, with the result that the Office for Science and Innovation was subsumed into the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, with its staff no longer forming a distinct unit within the government.

If it wasn’t bad enough that’s Science now only appears in very small letters in Whitehall org charts, if at all, the change also means the Science and Technology Select Committee now has no-one to watch over.

The MPs have now gone on the attack, saying that there is a need to retain the committee to enable scrutiny of science policies across the government.

Dr Brian Iddon MP, a member of the committee, speaking to El Reg at an ID conference today, said that if the committee was scrapped, science scrutiny would pass to a committee covering for Innovation, Universities and Skills. With, for example, arts course in the Universities thrown into the mix, the current six reports a year covering science would likely drop to one.

“I don’t think they thought through what would happen to the select committees.” he said.

He added diplomatically, “I don’t think it’s a cockup. I think it’s an oversight.”

The Education Select Committee was facing the same problem, said Iddon, with Universities now in one department, and primary and secondary education disappearing into the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Having committees working across government departments shouldn’t be a problem, said Iddon, as the work of the Public Accounts Committee showed.

A final decision could be announced today. Either way, the fate of the committee will be sealed one way or another by the beginning of the summer recess later this month.®

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