There’s always a slightly odd dance of press releases and timings in the run-up to the Liberal Democrat autumn federal party conference. The underlying dynamic is a simple one: press release a policy motion or policy paper before the conference and it can get two slugs of media interest – in advance and then when debated at conference. However, wait until conference before publicising what is after all only a proposal for a policy until the votes are taken – and you then only get one slug of media interest. Post-debate, it’s old news in the media’s eyes.
As a result, around this time of year, a sequence of press releases come out that tread a careful line – describing proposals going to party conference as being nearly, almost but not quite policy – enough like policy to interest the media, enough not like policy to recognise that the conference vote has not yet been held. (Just occasionally a proposal is controversial enough that the very fact it is going to be debated is news itself, especially if the outcome is in doubt; that, however, is very much the exception.)
One such part of the pre-conference dance I highlighted a few days ago – Lib Dems publish plan for 300,000 homes to be built a year. Another has come out this week:
Liberal Democrats are pushing for increased investment in science and research across the UK.
Proposals in three key areas – funding, people and skills, and the role of scientific advice – have been outlined by Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert in a policy motion which will be put to members at the party’s Autumn Conference. Julian was a research scientist at the University of Cambridge before his election to Parliament.
Key proposals include:
- A target to increase the ring-fenced government science budget above inflation over the next 15 years
- A commitment to improve science and maths teaching in schools
- Immigration rules that encourage bona fide students and experts to come to the UK.
Commenting, Julian Huppert said:
“Despite low levels of funding, the UK has outperformed other countries, some which invest almost twice as much in research and development.
“There is clear evidence that government investment in research and development incentivises and creates the conditions for additional private sector investment.
“The UK must also develop an education and training system to produce a highly-skilled workforce that supports research and innovation. Improving science and maths education in schools must be a priority if we are to inspire the next generation.
“Finally, one of the key contributions to the UK’s success in the sciences has been our ability to attract researchers and scientists from across the world, allowing free exchange of knowledge and ideas. If we do not have an immigration system that actively encourages top scientists and academics to come to the UK then they will go elsewhere.
“These proposals challenge the way the government thinks about science, redirecting money to where it benefits the economy, improving our ability to attract the brightest minds and giving the next generation the skills they need to compete in an ever-changing world.”