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Space Sector

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2017

The UK has a world-leading space sector. A quarter of the world’s satellites are either built in the UK or have major components from the UK. At the last European Space Agency ministerial in 2016, the Government agreed €1.4 billion of new funding for space programmes, and we have recently introduced the Space Industry Bill, which will enable UK firms to participate in a sector worth £25 billion.

I thank the Minister for his very encouraging answer. The tender for the next stage of the ground control segment of the Galileo programme, in which the UK has a leadership role, is currently live, so will he make sure that the European Commission’s request for UK-based companies to clarify how they will repatriate activities to the EU does not undermine them in winning contracts?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. British expertise has been absolutely fundamental to the development of the Galileo and Copernicus programmes. The “Collaboration on science and innovation” paper we published just last week made it clear that the UK would very much welcome an agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have made it clear that we want our companies and our universities to continue participating in key EU space programmes.

The ingenuity, expertise and experience of our UK space sector enables us to punch well above our weight and to collaborate globally in bodies such as CERN, ESA and many others that predate the EU. Does the Minister agree that we should continue fully to support the role that British companies play in both other European space agencies and the EU space programme?

My hon. Friend has great expertise in this area, through his association with the parliamentary space committee. I can reassure him, as I did a moment ago, that we are committed to continuing to collaborate closely with European countries to develop our space sector to the benefit of all those in employment in this sector in this country.

The Minister probably knows that precision engineering companies in Huddersfield are very much involved in the Mars probes and the space programme, but does he know that they are increasingly worried, as is the University of Huddersfield, about the future of partnerships across Europe and the funding from Europe that makes that exploration and the existence of those cutting-edge companies possible?

At the ESA ministerial council in December, the UK committed a record sum of €1.4 billion to ESA. We are committed to continuing to participate in ESA, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is not part of the EU but a separate organisation entirely. We see great value in continuing to participate in the programmes it administers.

The Minister is right to address the space sector. He will also be aware of issues within the aerospace sector, in particular at Bombardier. He will be aware of Boeing’s attempts to stop the contract and to add $30 million to every C Series plane coming out of Belfast. What is he doing to ensure that Bombardier’s contract is secured?

The hon. Gentleman got the word “space” in, but there is a distinction between aerospace and space. Some people might think that he was cheekily shoehorning his own preoccupation into a question to which it was not obviously entirely relevant.

None the less, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are engaging very closely with the companies involved and will follow up on his points.

14. In my constituency of Chelmsford, more than 500 jobs at Teledyne e2v are directly involved in the space sector. We are making the cameras that will go on satellites out in space to see whether there is life on other planets. Will the Minister reassure my constituents that the UK’s ongoing contribution to the European Space Agency is being considered? (900797)

Absolutely; we are committed to our ongoing membership of the European Space Agency. As I said a second ago, we have just provided €1.4 billion of new funding for its programmes. Teledyne e2v in my hon. Friend’s constituency makes an important contribution to the success of the programmes that ESA is running.