Young scientists and science minister meet at Voice of the Future event

13 March 2007

More than 200 young scientists and engineers from all over the UK attended the House of Commons to meet Science Minister Malcolm Wicks and members of the Science and Technology Select Committee (STSC).

The Voice of the Future Event, organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry's Parliamentary Affairs team, saw Mr Wicks give a speech which covered a number of important scientific issues, including climate change and the fight to improve healthcare on all frontiers.

Mr Wicks said: "This is a tremendously exciting time to be involved in scientific disciplines."

He was then asked a number of questions by the audience. One student asked why the government had sanctioned cuts to the research budget - to which Mr Wicks replied that his department (The Department for Trade and Industry) had to balance its books just like any other organisation. In this case, the cuts had been made to compensate for loss making projects such as those in the collapsed MG Rover.

Whilst the government was not happy to make the cuts, Mr Wicks described them as a blip, and said that the Labour Government had doubled science spending since coming to power.

Mr Wicks was also asked about the closure of Reading University's Physics Department, as well as renewable energy and energy security.

Voice of the Future also featured a special science "Question Time", chaired by Phil Willis MP, in which STSC members fielded questions from the audience as in the popular BBC TV show of the same name. RSC chief executive Dr Richard Pike was on the panel, as were Des Turner and Brian Iddon MPs.

The panel were asked about creationism being taught in schools, clean coal technology and making the school science curriculum more exciting.

Voice of the Future is one of a number of events taking place in Parliament during National Science week - but the only one in which both Mr Wicks and the Select Committee have both taken part.

Members of the UK Youth Parliament and some A-level students were among the young scientists in attendance. 

RSC chief executive Dr Richard Pike said: "This was a unique opportunity for young scientists from all over the country to find out first hand how science is dealt with by government and parliament.

"The Select Committee spends its whole year asking questions - on this occasion they were answering them!"

The young scientists and engineers also had the opportunity to meet their local constituency MPs.

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