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Ministry Of Aviation

Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Satellite Launchers

23.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state in greater detail the proposals which have been made to the French Government jointly to develop satellite launchers, including the use of the Blue Streak rocket.

The proposals, which are joint Anglo-French proposals, have been made by these two countries to the other countries in Western Europe. They are set out in detail in HANSARD of 6th February last.

Can the Minister say to what extent this programme might be jeopardised by the recent American suggestion to Europe that they could have rockets at cut prices? Is the Minister aware of the urgency of more positive thinking in this rocket field because of the danger of losing our valuable and trained scientists and technologists?

I do not anticipate any such danger arising out of the American offer, which is in a different field. We are contemplating an offer of manufacturing jointly rockets which can be used for commercial as well as for scientific purposes and of manufacturing them inside Europe. This is quite different from the American offer.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the German Government that we are not prepared to go on waiting for ever for their decision, and that unless we get a satisfactory answer soon we shall be prepared to go ahead with the French ourselves?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Blue Streak is more or less sitting there waiting for somebody to put a match to it, and could he show me how I could put a match to the Government?

28.

asked the Minister of Aviation if it is the Government's intention to accept the United States Government's offer of launchers for space research.

We have already accepted a United States offer to make launchers available to put satellites into orbit containing experiments and instrumentation designed by us. We hope to continue to use United States launchers as well as European launchers in the future.

In spite of the Minister's statement about American collaboration, is it not a fact that Dean Rusk's offer is something different? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it will not interfere with the Commonwealth co-operative effort with Europe on, say, Blue Streak, despite what he said earlier?

I do not think that Mr. Rusk's offer is different. A year ago there were few friends for the Blue Streak project. Almost every notice that we had was critical. Today we have many friends and a good chance of European co-operation, and I am bound to say it is rather refreshing to be pressed to go it alone. I think this is progress.

What people are worried about in connection with the Government's policy is whether the Government are prepared to make a decision. There has been so much complacency and dithering that we are rather worried. We are anxious to strengthen the Minister to do something.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the keen support that he is showing for this project which I regard as technologically most important.

Will the Minister remember that in the Blue Streak debate I deplored even the military abandonment of the programme? As I am now urging the Government to go it alone even if the French and Germans will not co-operate, will he remember, when the Government do it, that I advocated it, as he has come round to my view on the first point?

I will put the hon. Gentleman into a very special position of his own. He will be the first man we put up.

Woomera Range

24.

asked the Minister of Aviation to what extent full co-operation is assured from the Australian Government to launch rockets from Woomera based on an agreement between the United Kingdom and French Governments.

As this is a European project operating from a Commonwealth base, could the right hon. Gentleman say to what extent we own and control Woomera range and whether we are free to go ahead with any space programme from Woomera range without any interference from the Australian Government?

Woomera range is used for a much wider range of operations than that of launching the satellite venture. I have always felt that the closest co-operation with the Australians is necessary, and before any approach was made to Europe at all I made a point of going along and having a discussion with the Australians on this matter.

Blue Steel

25.

asked the Minister of Aviation what progress is being made with the development and production of the Blue Steel missile.

I have nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Critchley) on 10th May.

Can the Minister say whether the production plans for this missile are up to time and whether the cost of the missile is now skyrocketing? Can he also say whether production is being held up by the American intervention in N.A.T.O. which is depriving us of a market for these missiles?

I do not know of anything that is preventing a market for these missiles. On projects of this kind which are very important from the military point of view, I do not think it is helpful to make periodic statements on exactly how they are going. Such statements can only be helpful to a potential enemy and can be of no assistance to anybody else. Therefore, beyond saying that production is proceeding normally, I would not propose to answer further.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the original plans were based upon finding an extra market for these weapons in N.A.T.O. and that this is now being frustrated, and is this not bound to have a serious effect upon home production?

Almost everything is based upon the hope of finding a future market somewhere. But this is a very important weapon. It is not just a commercial proposition; it is a military proposition.

Blue Streak

26.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on the future of Blue Streak.

The technical development of Blue Streak as the first stage of a statellite launcher has been proceeding satisfactorily. Other countries in Europe have been studying the Anglo-French proposals for a combined effort in this field, and in particular the Federal German Government have been conducting a detailed technical evaluation of them. We hope to receive their conclusions shortly.

Does the Minister realise that no worth-while technical advance has been made with Blue Streak for over a year and that the teams concerned are being dissipated and demoralised? Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that he once resigned from the Government because they were trying to spend too much money? Will he now promise to resign if they do not spend enough money to launch an independent space programme?

The hon. Gentleman's first two assertions are based on the wrong information. It is not true to say that we have made no technical progress. We have done very well up at Spadeadam and we are making excellent technical progress. There is no question of anybody feeling upset or dispirited there. If the hon. Gentleman would like to go up there at any time I would be very happy to make arrangements for him to do so.

May I put again the supplementary question that I asked on an earlier Question, namely, whether the Minister will let the German Government know that we are not prepared to wait for ever for them and that if they are not prepared to come in with us soon we shall go ahead with the French ourselves?

I do not think there is any need to let the German Government know that. I am sure they intend to report to us shortly on their technical evaluation.

Abbotsinch Airport

27.

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state approximately the sum he intends spending on the development and facilities of Abbotsinch Airport.

It is expected that the initial expenditure will be about £1¾ million.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that that is very much below the sum I anticipated, which was nearer £3 million? Can he assure me that within that sum he will be able to provide sufficient for dealing with any strengthening of the runways which may be found to be necessary; and secondly, will he also be able to provide terminal facilities which are of a character in design, with space and comfort, worthy of the increasing traffic at Renfrew Airport and also worthy of the twentieth century?

We are very economic and we shall be able to provide all the facilities which are necessary.