U.K. Science Minister David Sainsbury resigned today after 8 years at his post. In a statement, he said he was leaving for personal reasons and that he wanted to "pursue business and charitable activities." Although he had no budget authority, Sainsbury served as the government's public champion of science; his constant theme was that British universities need to link up with industry to promote technological innovation. He also reportedly helped lobby new legislation through Parliament that imposes tough penalties for harassment of people using animals in research.
Sainsbury, 66, is the longest-tenured minister in the Labor Party government headed by Tony Blair. As science minister, Sainsbury was in office during a major increase in U.K. research funding: Expenditures roughly doubled over a decade to more than $6 billion. Blair said today that Sainsbury had been a "huge asset" to the government. Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, an independent charity, echoed this praise, saying Sainsbury "has been an outstanding science minister and shown extraordinary passion and commitment to his portfolio."
One of the richest men in England, Sainsbury is heir to the supermarket chain of the same name. In recent years, he has contributed millions of dollars to the Labor Party--donations that later caused trouble. Last summer, the London police interviewed Sainsbury along with many other Labor Party donors in an investigation of political contributions. Critics allege that Blair's government awarded lifetime peerages in return for money. Today, Sainsbury said his resignation was "not connected" with an ongoing investigation into the matter.