THE LIBERAL Democrats have been forced to scrap a policy to abolish subsidies for scientific research after a revolt by MPs who feared it would make them look like Luddites.
Earlier, Labour attacked Liberal Democrat plans to scrap the Department for Trade and Industry and to abolish the DTI's science budget.
Yesterday Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrat trade and industry spokesman, was forced to issue a formal statement pledging that the party had a "commitment to fund scientific research" including "blue skies scientific research".
The statement came as Steve Norris, who stood as Tory candidate for Mayor of London, warned that the Liberal Democrats could overtake the Tories at the next election and that the Conservatives had no "automatic right" to be the main opposition party. "The worst of all possible worlds would be to see the Lib Dems actually vault over the Tories and be in second place in the British political spectrum," he said in an interview for GMTV.
Vince Cable, the party's Treasury spokesman, had made it clear the party would scrap state funding for private companies engaged in research, on the ground that they could pay for it themselves.
But the policy infuriated other Liberal Democrat MPs who at a meeting this week expressed disquiet about the policy. "There were a lot of concerns about this and we have dealt with it. …