COMMONS

Chair nominations for Science and Technology Committee

Nominations close for Chair elections.

Two nominations have been received for the position of Chair of the Science and Technology Committee. The Chair will be elected from the Liberal Democrat party.

A full list of candidates is published below with accompanying statements.

As set out by the Speaker, the election will be held in Committee Room 8 from 10am to 4pm on Wednesday 12 July. The results are expected to be announced by the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow, as soon as possible after the ballots close.

The candidates are:

 

Nominated by (own party)

Tom Brake, Layla Moran

Nominated by (other parties)

Rachel Reeves, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Dr Dan Poulter, Alison McGovern, Robert Halfon

Statement

The role of Chair of the Science and Technology Committee is an immensely exciting prospect, and I hope I could offer sound guidance, leadership and authority to this important position. In terms of what I would bring to the role and my thoughts about the Committee’s future work, there are three points in particular that I would like to highlight. 

1. My personal style of politics

My approach has always been to work across party boundaries. I would want to build a close relationship of trust on the Committee. As a minister, I made myself available to members from across the House, holding weekly sessions for any member who wanted to raise issues with me. I plan to operate in exactly the same way, if elected. This committee will focus on key issues for the future of this country, and I want to be accessible to all those who have ideas or suggestions.  
 
I want to ensure that the committee engages closely with the science and technology community, getting out of Parliament as much as possible. I have a strong interest in evidence-based policy making. In 2014, I won the Political Studies Association Award for best evidence-based policy making in my role as minister responsible for mental health and social care. More recently, I have been complimented for my cross-party work on mental health and NHS and care funding.  

2. Making sure the interests of science and technology are fully considered in Brexit negotiations
 
The Committee must play its part in examining the implications of decisions taken during negotiations with the EU for science and research in our universities and elsewhere, including issues relating to Euratom. This is vital to our national interest. We have to ensure there is an environment which will allow our research institutions to flourish. Central to this will be maintaining the benefits of close collaboration with universities across the EU, access to EU research schemes, and attracting the best scientists and researchers from the EU and beyond. 
 
3. The central importance of science and technology to our future prosperity
 
This committee's remit is central to the economic and social interests of our country. It will be important to closely monitor and scrutinise the Government’s forthcoming Industrial Strategy which includes, as one strategic pillar, ‘science, research and innovation’. Other potential issues deserving attention include securing high-skilled, high-value jobs for the future given the existential challenges of automation and artificial intelligence, and the importance of encouraging more women to study STEM subjects. 
 
I am particularly interested in the role of science and innovation in healthcare. There is much to explore in areas such as the adoption of new treatments and technologies, genomics (following the Committee’s incomplete recent inquiry), the importance of a greater focus on mental health research, and the science and evidence relating to early intervention and preventive 
 
I am confident that I have the attributes and experiences to make an effective Chair of this Committee, and would be sincerely grateful for your support.

Relevant interests

None

Nominated by (own party)

Christine Jardine, Wera Hobhouse

Nominated by (other parties)

Nicky Morgan, Ian Murray, Stephen Gethins, Sir Oliver Letwin, Mr David Lammy

Statement

“more collegiate than tribal” – Telegraph

Collegiate

Even the Telegraph said I’m collegiate, and they’re not known for their love of Lib Dems.  If you’ve been in Parliament for many years, I hope you agree that I engaged constructively with MPs regardless of party when I was a Minister: from pubs to payday lending, employment rights to equalities.  If you’re newer, you don’t need to take my word for it, do ask your colleagues.  And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or ideas.

Fair

Select Committees are about the art of asking good questions to get to the heart of an issue.  It’s a wonderful privilege – and fascinating - to be able to quiz experts on any given subject, and I hugely enjoyed my time on the Environmental Audit Committee from 2007-2010.  Every member of a Select Committee has an important role to play.  In creating reports and recommendations for Government, Select Committees should be both challenging and constructive: giving credit where it’s due, and being bold about where change is needed. 

Enthused by science and technology 

Science and technology offer hope for the advancement of society, as an engine of growth for the economy, and to solve the big problems we face as humanity, from climate change to disease.  The UK has a pivotal role to play, with a well-respected scientific community that should be supported and celebrated.  I’m enthused by these opportunities, as an early adopter of technology for democratic engagement, a former Vice-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Digital Taskforce, and having served as a Non-Executive Director of a data science start-up.  My constituency is home to the Beatson Institute, a world-class science facility focused on cancer research.

Can v Should

Science rightly pushes the frontiers of knowledge, and asks “Can we?”.  In public policy terms, we must also ask “Should we?”  Ethical questions range from balancing online privacy with security to preventing artificial intelligence entrenching current inequalities, from how to assess the benefit of new pharmaceuticals to understanding fully the impact of drones and driverless cars on employment.  The Select Committee should play a crucial role in exploring these dilemmas and finding a path forward.

Relevant interests

Former Non-Executive Director and current shareholder of the Glasgow-based data science start-up Clear Returns.  My financial investment was modest and represents less than 1% of the company.

The Register of Financial Interests when published will contain several donors to my constituency association who have science or technology links:

  • the founder and former CEO & Chairman of e-bookers
  • a director of Warwick Energy Limited, which develops renewable energy and gas production projects
  • a Professor and former Vice-Principal in the Biomedical & Life Sciences Faculty at Glasgow University 

Several family members work as doctors in the NHS.

Image: Parliamentary copyright