LONDON—Government spending on research is becoming a major issue in Britain's upcoming elections, with the major parties staking out their positions.

Campaigning is not officially underway, but the election is expected to take place by early autumn. There is a growing split between the Conservative administration of Margaret Thatcher, which argues that state expenditure on research is about right, and opponents who believe more cash is needed to strengthen basic research and stem the trans-Atlantic brain drain.

The opposition Labour Party has set forth the most comprehensive platform. Its proposals include a $4.8 billion increase in annual spending on industrial R&D, funded partly through taxes on corporate profits; cuts in defense R&D; and an increase in research funds funnelled through the five Research Councils and British universities (from $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion). Jeremy Bray, the party's spokesman on science and technology, has also said that Labour would increase spending...

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