Blair says science critical to Britain's future

Britain's Prime Minister Blair visits Forensic Science Service headquarters in central London
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Forensic Science Service headquarters in central London Oct. 23. Blair said in a speech Friday that "the path to our future economically is through...the brilliant light of science."Steve Parsons / Pool via Reuters file
/ Source: Reuters

Tony Blair said on Friday science and technological innovation were crucial to Britain's economic success and that scientific skills were also needed in the battle against climate change and disease.

"I think the path to our future economically is through, if you like, the brilliant light of science," the prime minister said ahead of a speech on the topic.

"We won't solve climate change without the best scientific minds; we are not going to be able to treat people for diseases unless we have the best scientific minds," he told BBC television.

Blair said the government needed to continue to make the case for scientific advances and not be deflected by critics.

"One of the things I want to do in the speech is to enthuse our young people particularly with the prospect of working in science," Blair said, adding that a knowledge-based economy needed skilled scientists.

He said it was not just about being a "boffin in a laboratory" but about practical applications that can transform people's lives.

"This is a great career for people to come into, it is fascinating work that when you develop the skills you are a worldwide tradable commodity in terms of the jobs market."

The speech forms part of a series of lectures given by Blair under the banner heading of "Our Nation's Future".

Climate change and energy security are high on Blair's agenda for his final year in office and the government believes technology is key to developing renewable energy sources to reduce greenhouse gases.

Blair has legislated to curb the activities of animal rights extremists who have fought a sometimes violent campaign against using animals to test new medicines.

"Science can tell us the facts, it can give us knowledge. How we apply that knowledge is a matter of human judgement and human opinion," he told the BBC.

He said valuable lessons could be learned from bio-technology and scientific research on animals, risking the wrath of animal rights protesters.

"We shouldn't get into the position of ever being anti-science as a country," he added.