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Blue Streak

Volume 640: debated on Monday 8 May 1961

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33 and 34.

asked the Minister of Aviation (1) what has been the total expenditure to date on the development of the Blue Streak missile since the decision to discontinue the project as a military weapon on 13th April, 1960;

(2) what progress has been made towards using the Blue Streak missile as a launcher for space research purposes; and when he expects the talks to be concluded on European and Commonwealth participation in this project.

The cost of keeping the launcher in being is about £3¼ million to the end of April. We have progressed to the stage that last week two static firings of the complete rocket were successfully carried out. I hope that answers from the countries concerned to the Anglo-French proposals will be received soon.

We were told almost a year ago that the project was not for military purposes only and that a decision would be reached within two months. We are now well over thirteen months from that time. May I ask when we can expect the Minister to get down to business and how long this enormous rate of public expenditure will continue? Can the right hon. Gentleman also say on precisely what projects it is being spent?

It is being spent in bringing the launcher up to the point at which the whole integrated system of motors, fuel pumps, etc., can be fired statically at Spadeadam. This has been done twice successfully and, therefore, that money has been extremely usefully spent. As for the time, I have been disappointed before. I share the hon. Member's feelings about that, and I am anxious to get a decision as early as I can.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole question of space research and the advancement of modern technologies, ranging from cryogenics to electronics, to metals, to velocities and so on, is wholly dependent on this country being involved? If we are not to be involved in space research, can the right hon. Gentleman say what plans the Government have to evacuate 20 million people from this island if we cannot sustain them in an industrial economy?

I am very conscious of the importance from the technological point of view of being in on these forms of technology and work. I fully appreciate that one advantage would be that we should have this knowledge. What would happen if Europe did not come in is another matter which would have to be considered if and when that situation arose, which I hope it will not.

As the Minister has shown that we are in a technical position to use the weapon ourselves, will he put a time limit on future co-operation and then take an urgent decision to go ahead ourselves?

We have been having talks on the technical level with the Germans who are considering the matter. I would rather finish these first.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice for my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) and myself that one of us will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.