Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord Ravensdale during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 17th Nov 2021

Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Ravensdale
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I will comment on Amendment 4 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. We must not lose sight of the fact that the board is there to contribute to the total purpose or mission of the organisation, and we need to be very clear, when looking at getting those with some relationship to the devolved Administrations, precisely why they are there. I question whether there is a devolved dimension to, for example, the focus of ARIA or determinations about particular projects. These should transcend any issues that arise at the national level.

In addition, the amendment says that there should be

“a representative of the Welsh Government”.

I believe very strongly that boards should not have representatives of anybody on them. Board members should be selected because of their contribution to the totality. Indeed, if we look at examples of boards that do have individuals nominated either by or with the consent of the devolved Administrations, those people are never ever drafted as representatives. They are usually drafted as members who are appointed in a particular way. It is really important that we do not lose sight of the fact that we are trying to create a unitary board dedicated to the mission of the organisation. I query whether there needs to be input from the devolved nations to that process because of the nature of ARIA, but even if there were, I am absolutely clear that they should not be “representatives”.

Furthermore, if we look at the size of the board, which I addressed in the previous group of amendments, if there are four executives there are likely to be five non-executives, and that includes the chairman. So there would be a chairman, four executives and three people appointed who are in some ways related to the devolved Administrations—although none, under this formulation, representing England—but none, or perhaps one, appointed for the general skills and abilities they bring to the party. I hope that noble Lords will think carefully about whether it is appropriate in this instance to act in accordance with the way the noble Baroness’s amendment is drafted.

Lord Ravensdale Portrait Lord Ravensdale (CB)
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My Lords, as co-chair of the Midlands Engine APPG, I am very supportive of the levelling-up agenda and have a lot of sympathy with the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. My only concern is the additional bureaucracy inherent in looking at the regional distribution of investment.

Building on the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, another lesson learned from DARPA was that the headquarters of DARPA was located away from many of the main research centres of the United States, which avoided the inevitable capture of research funding by institutions in a particular area and really encouraged the take-up of ideas from all parts of the country. I thank the Minister for writing to me on this but I hope that the Government will look further at how the location of the ARIA headquarters fits into the levelling-up agenda.