Skip to main content

Space Programme

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1965

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

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister what is the Government's policy towards a British space programme; and what steps are being taken to implement it.

We participate in space activities, including those of international space organisations, as fully as our resources permit.

In view of the complexity of this subject, will the Prime Minister agree to setting out in a White Paper exactly what are the objectives of Her Majesty's Government's policy, and stating the resources which have been earmarked over the next few years to achieve it?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the complexity and about the difficulty of dealing with this by Question and Answer. I shall consider, however, whether there is any way in which we can make a fuller statement. One of our objectives must be to deal with the problem of escalating, even rocketing, costs in this field which is causing great anxiety in some of these international organisations.

Would not the Prime Minister agree that if we are to play our full part in the European space programme, we must have a very strong national space and technological programme? To this end will he consider appointing one Minister to be in charge of space?

To the extent that we overspend in our own national programme, we have less resources for spending overseas. Both the previous Government and ourselves found it difficult to deal with the question of the allocation of Ministerial responsibility. Post Office satellites must be a question for the Post Office. I think that the right rule is that Ministers in their celestial capacities should pretty well correspond to their terrestrial responsibilities.

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind the tremendous importance to our modern industry of being on the ground floor in developing science and micro engineering? This is an entirely new development in engineering, and we should be lost if we missed the boat in this connection?

I am bound to say that as the greatest master of mixed metaphors in the House I could not have done better myself. We will certainly keep our feet on the ground in these matters, and this means keeping a sharp control over costs where this is possible, but I agree with what my right hon. Friend said about micro engineering, which i3 vital not only in space matters, but in many other fields of technological advance.

In view of the immense importance to modern technology of the aerospace industry, and also the possible commercial advantage of a communications space satellite, will the Prime Minister bear in mind the absolute necessity of having these really advanced technologies on this side of the Atlantic as well as on the other side of it?

Will he also give us news, if he can, of the progress of the two European organisations, E.L.D.O. and E.S.R.O., of which we are members?

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has a very strong point there. We are doing all that can be done in the matter of space satellites, particularly for telecommunication purposes, but we have to consider the cost, and the latest news that I have to give about the two European organisations to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred is that costs are escalating fast.