Vincent ("Vince") Cable is the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party and MP for Twickenham. He originally entered parliament at the 1997 general election. He was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2006 until 2010, and party Treasury Spokesman from 2003 until 2010. He was Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the 2010–2015 coalition government.
Dr Cable is described in the biography on his own website and on the Liberal Democrat website has having "read Natural Science and Economics at Cambridge University". More detail was given in a speech when he said "I’m one of few MPs to have at least started a science degree – well, it began as natural science and ended up as economics". He went on to gain a PhD in Economics from Glasgow University.
Vince Cable signed the February 2009 Early Day Motion 754: MMR Vaccine and the Media supporting the use of the MMR vaccine. The motion expressed disappointment with the reporting of the vaccine by Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show in January 2009, and expressed the hope that future reporting of the issue of MMR would be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.
In February 2015 Vince Cable voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. An October 2014 briefing report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.
Animals in Medical Research
In 2006, Vince Cable signed Early Day Motion 1850: Animals in Medical Research which noted that "animal research is only permitted where there is no better alternative and that pain and suffering are minimised and balanced against the potential benefit to humans and animals", supported "the building of the new state of the art biomedical research laboratory at Oxford University", condemned "unlawful animal rights extremism, including any violence, harassment or intimidation of those associated with lawful animal research", and supported "the well-regulated use of animals in medical research".
Faith based Adoption Agencies
In 2007, Vince Cable signed Early Day Motion 742 calling on the government to exclude "faith based" adoption agencies from the Equality Act to avoid such agencies being forced to consider gay couples.
In September 2010, in his role as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable gave a speech on science funding in the context of expected cuts and October's Comprehensive Spending Review. Although no specifics were given, the speech offered an overview on how the subject would be approached.
He started by noting the science, and science research, were important both economically and for society, and that apparently non-commercial theoretical or fundamental research could result in unpredicted practical and economic benefits. He including the following remark:
- "I fully accept that scientific enquiry, like the arts, has its own intrinsic merit. It is a public good. It helps to define the quality of our civilisation, and embeds logical scientific thinking into the decision-making of Government, businesses and households. Superstition and irrational prejudice about the natural world are rarely far from the surface and scientists help inoculate society against them – a far from risk-free task as Simon Singh and others have discovered."
He then spoke of whether it was economically desirable to avoid large cuts altogether, and to maintain investment:
- "The 2010 OECD innovation report shows that investment in intangible assets helped account for between two-thirds and three-quarters of labour productivity growth. It also suggested that innovation is also a key source of future growth for emerging economies.
- "It concluded that “Governments must continue to invest in future sources of growth, such as education, infrastructure and research. Cutting back public investment in support of innovation may provide short-term fiscal relief, but will damage the foundations of long-term growth.”
- "Some countries are acting on that advice. The US is doubling basic science spend between 2006 and 2016. China has seen a 25% increase in central government funds to the science and technology sector. In Sweden, central government funds for R&D will increase by over 10% between 2009 and 2012. And in 2009, Germany announced it was injecting €18 billion into research and higher education during the coming decade.
- "The OECD adds, crucially, that “there is considerable scope to improve the efficiency of government spending.”
- "We in the UK are severely financially constrained. I want to pose the question to you: how do we economise without damaging science?"
He then went on to outline his approach to where cuts could be made in science funding:
- "There is inevitably a process of selection and choice. So, how to prioritise?
- "My preference is to ration research funding by excellence and back research teams of international quality - and screen out mediocrity – regardless of where they are and what they do.
- "Its is worth noting in the last RAE 54 per cent of submitted work was defined as world class and that is the area where funding should be concentrated.
- "I support, of course, top class “blue skies” research, but there is no justification for taxpayers money being used to support research which is neither commercially useful nor theoretically outstanding."
He gave several examples of universities gaining directly from the commercial application of their research results, going on to say that:
- "This leads us on to the wider question of intellectual property and how we deal with it. Universities make only 5% of their externally earned income from patents and licensing. There are some striking exceptions, notably Imperial, Cambridge and Manchester, who have developed a strong professional capacity in the commercialisation of research, but more needs to be done."
BBC reporters were able to quote several scientists who disagreed with Dr Cable.
In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. Vince Cable replied:
- "1: Vitally important. I wrote much of the report on climate change and sea level rise to Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1: 988 when there was already a substantial scientific consensus about the problem and it is taking a worryingly long time for the issue to percolate through into serious preventative action.
- 2: Even though Britain contributes only 2% of global emissions, it is 1% of the world's population. Britain, as the first industrialising country, contributed disproportionately to existing CO? concentrations and therefore has a moral responsibility to take the lead with other rich countries before expecting developing countries to do their share.
- 3: I am working with my local Lib Dem council (Richmond) on a climate change strategy which includes pioneering the first experiment in linking parking permit charges to emissions. I am promoting the idea locally of carbon neutral schools including we believe the first in the world to become carbon neutral (Hampton). I am a rail rather than car daily commuter. My wife (a farmer) is building (us) a new house wholly dependent for heating on solar panels and under soil geothermal heating."
Vince Cable was one of 79 MPs who signed Early Day Motion 377 noting the achievements of Charles Darwin, and calling for Darwin's birthday to be designated a public holiday to honour "one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain's greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds."
Libel Law Reform
In January 2010, Vince Cable signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law. The motion noted that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are currently prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of the law.
- http://www.vincecable.org.uk/about and http://www.vincentcable.com/pages/vincecable.html
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