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12 September 2017

Why does the science and technology committee have no women – and a climate sceptic?

With three members left to announce, it's an all-male affair.

By Jason Murugesu

Earlier today, the members of the new Commons Science and Technology Committee were announced. Of the eight members revealed so far, seven are white and none are women. 

Norman Lamb, the newly elected Chair of the Commitee, later tweeted that three members were yet to be selected and that it was “imperative that we have women on the commitee”. Lamb later retweeted someone sympathetic to the abuse he was receiving, saying: “In fairness to @normanlamb he has no control over the committee composition. The parties nominate their members.” (That being the case, though, Lamb cannot guarantee that any of the three vacant spots will go to women.)

In addition to the lack of women currently on the commitee, there is a distinct lack of a scientific backgrounds among the members as well. Only the Labour MPs Darren Jones and Graham Stringer, a Eurosceptic, have a background in science. (Jones has a degree in human biosciences and Stringer used to be an analytical chemist.)

However, Graham Stringer is also a vocal climate change sceptic, once arguing in Parliament that “much of the Government’s policy is based on the belief that climate science at present is settled, and it is not, because nobody knows the answers to those questions”. Stringer was one of two MPs who voted against the conclusion made of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there was “no reason to doubt the credibility of the science”. 

He is also one of two MPs on the board of trustees of Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, GWPF. The foundation’s tagline is “common sense on climate change”. Lawson, its chair, was recently caught misrepresenting studies on climate change on the BBC and has rightly been criticised for it. Others who are a part of GWPF include Labour peer Lord Donoughue, who has compared climate change activism to “virtue signalling”

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According to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, there are currently 103 members of parliament who have some form of science background. (Newly elected MP Neil O’Brien’s role as “advisor on the Northern Powerhouse” counts.) Only two of them are represented in the eight-strong Commitee

The Science and Technology Commitee ought to be a strong voice in favour of evidence-based policy. That is if the Government listen to their advice: the previous Committee’s recommendations to hire a Chief Scientific Advisor for Brexit went ignored.

This article was amended on 13 September 2017 to make it clear that Labour MP Darren Jones also has a science background.