22 June 2005: Prime Minister addresses RSC meeting
Bea Perks/London, UK
The central position of science and technology at this year's G8 summit was driven home yesterday when Prime Minister Tony Blair made an unprecedented appearance at a meeting organised by the RSC to discuss the G8 agenda.
The RSC holds an annual links day at the House of Commons, which it says is the largest scientific event of its kind in Parliament. It provides MPs and peers with short presentations on topics in science and engineering: from health and education, to energy, food, the environment and beyond.
The day involved the science and engineering community as a whole, with input from the Institute of Physics, Institute of Biology, Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering among others.
This is the first time in the history of the RSC that a sitting Prime Minister has attended Parliamentary Links Day or any RSC event. 'It's one cross-party occasion that I think is of real significance in the parliamentary calendar,' Blair told a packed meeting room.
It had become clear in discussion with African leaders, says Blair, that health provision should be a key area of concern for G8 members (UK, US, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada). Clearly science can play a central part in halting the millions of unnecessary deaths to preventable disease across that continent, he said.
The case for science is even stronger on the pressing issues of carbon emissions and global warming. 'In virtually every aspect of the climate-change debate, the impact of scientific research and development is going to be crucial,' said Blair, highlighting the examples of energy efficiency, renewables, fuel cells, and nuclear power.
'I keep being told that it's very ambitious of us to accept these two goals for the G8 summit, which I think is a kinder way of saying it's somewhat foolhardy,' said Blair. But both climate change and the issues facing Africa are ultimately manmade, he stressed, and can only be solved by a collaborative manmade effort. 'The role that science can have will be absolutely vital,' he said.