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National Space Centre

Volume 87: debated on Tuesday 26 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will list the locations which were examined before deciding the site for the National Space Centre;(2) why he has located the National Space Centre in London.

Most of the elements comprising the British National Space Centre already contribute to the national space effort and they will remain at their existing locations. The bulk of the BNSC's personnel will be specialist scientific and technical staff based at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton. Headquarters functions will for the present be brought together in a small unit at Millbank Tower in London. The alternative location for the headquarters, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, was found not to be an early practical possibility owing to problems of accommodation and the need at first to work closely with the participating government departments. The ultimate location of the BNSC's headquarters will be a matter for consideration by the new director general, Mr. Roy Gibson.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement concerning the structure, funding and objectives of the British National Space Centre.

Last week I appointed Mr. Roy Gibson as the first director general of the British National Space Centre (BNSC). The BNSC will have two main elements: a technology directorate and a policy and programmes directorate. The technology directorate will be based on those parts of existing establishments which currently undertake space-related research, notably at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, involving the equivalent of some 100 and 140 full-time staff respectively.The policy and programmes directorate will consist of about 35 staff forming the headquarters unit at Millbank Tower, London. These staff will be drawn from organisations participating in the centre: the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence, the Science and Engineering Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council.One of BNSC's principal aims will be to provide better co-ordination of Britain's £100 million a year space research and development effort, responsibility for which is presently spread amongst the participants. To this end I have asked Mr. Gibson to develop a longer-term space strategy taking into account scientific and industrial interests and the needs of both civil and defence users.The other principal aim of BNSC will be to improve the development of space technology in the United Kingdom. BNSC will undertake a coherent programme of research and development and will provide a focus for technical support for the growing range of space users. Both users and industry will be able to participate in the management of BNSC's programmes by making contributions to them, either financial or in kind. BNSC will facilitate the development of joint programmes in the many areas which are of interest to several sections of the space community.For the time being, Government expenditure on space will be met from departmental votes with costs lying where they currently fall. Staff working in BNSC will continue to be employed by their parent organisation with unchanged conditions of service. However, I have asked Mr. Gibson to consider future arrangements for funding and staffing the BNSC.