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House of Commons Hansard
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Space Industry Bill [Lords]
06 February 2018
Volume 635

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Potential impact of leaving the European Union on the United Kingdom’s space industry

‘(1) The Secretary of State must carry out and publish an assessment of the potential impact that leaving the European Union will have on the United Kingdom’s space industry.

(2) The assessment under subsection (1) must make reference to the following areas—

(a) the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on research and development and access to funding, including Horizon 2020;

(b) the free movement to the UK from the EU of those who work in the space industry;

(c) the UK’s participation in the Galileo and Copernicus programmes; and

(d) the impact of the UK leaving the Single Market on supply chains within the space industry.

(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the assessment before Parliament within one year of this Act passing.

(4) If an assessment of the impact of leaving the European Union on the UK’s space industry has already been undertaken, the Secretary of State must lay a report of this assessment before Parliament and publish it on the day on which this Act is passed.’—(Layla Moran.)

This new clause would ensure the Government prepares and publishes an impact assessment of the potential impact on the space industry as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 2—Potential impact of leaving the EU on the UK space industry (No.2)—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay before Parliament a report setting out a summary of any discussions between the UK Government and the European Union on the future relationship between the UK space industry and the European Union, following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

(2) The report under subsection (1) must make reference to, but is not limited to—

(a) options for future cooperation and partnership between the UK space industry and the European Union; and,

(b) any new arrangements with, or proposed access to, EU space programmes, following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.’

This new clause would ensure that Parliament is kept up to date with negotiations between the UK and European Union in regards to the UK space industry, in order to provide clarity to the UK space industry

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I rise to speak to new clause 1, which is in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends and would require the publication of an assessment of the impacts of leaving the EU on the space industry. I do not wish to take up too much of the House’s time rehashing the arguments about the impact of Brexit on the space industry, as many such arguments were made on Second Reading, in Committee and in the other place, but I briefly want to place on the record the industry’s continuing concerns, which should require the Government to publish an assessment of the sort set out in new clause 1. I will take each of the areas that I would like to see in such a report in turn, starting with research and development and Horizon 2020.

The Minister is a former Science Minister, so I do not need to explain to him the importance of certainty for scientists in the space industry. Sadly, however, we still do not have that certainty so many months later. The UK is a net beneficiary of EU space funding, contributing 12.5% of the total budget but winning contracts worth 14% of total spend. The British space industry needs a guarantee of continued access to research and development funding, expertise and facilities currently provided at EU level after the UK leaves the EU. Of course, the European Commission also provides space-related research funding through Horizon 2020, and the Government have said they will guarantee successful bids made by UK participants before exit. However, beyond that the sector has had only warm words, and it needs certainly beyond the next few years. The Government’s science and innovation discussion paper states that the UK would “welcome discussion” on remaining a participant in certain EU science and innovation programmes.

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If the guarantee is only for another two years, there will be a profound effect on research and development, particularly in universities. If there is no guarantee beyond that, there will be a great deal of uncertainty for both universities and the industry.

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The hon. Gentleman is right, and my constituency is affected by such uncertainty.

I repeat a point that I made during the passage of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill: we must remember that this is not just about funding. At a recent hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, witnesses were clear that the most valuable asset we have as a nation is our ability to attract human capital. To put it bluntly, the funding follows the brains. There is real consternation across the entire science industry that European scientists are actively looking to move, if they have not already, to more welcoming countries. Their lives are more than just their jobs; this is about where they live, love and participate in the community, so the tone of this debate matters hugely. It is therefore critical that we maintain freedom of movement for the world-class scientists, specialists and technicians who contribute to the space industry, so that we keep those brains and the funding here.

Patrick Wood, CEO of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, an existing supplier to Galileo, has said that

“there are still a lot of unknowns”

about whether UK space companies will be able to access high-quality staff post-Brexit, noting that UK space infrastructure companies

“have a high percentage of staff that come from across Europe”

partly due to a lack of UK applicants. Aerospace companies are heavily reliant on the rapid movement of workers between different sites. A favourite fact of mine is that Airbus moved employees 80,000 times between the EU and the UK in 2016. It even has its own jet shuttle between Toulouse and Broughton. Any additional border checks between the UK and the EU could therefore prove a significant burden.

On Galileo, the European Commission is demanding the right to cancel existing contracts with UK companies that are constructing the £10 billion Galileo satellite navigation system unless the UK negotiates a new security relationship with the EU. If no long-term agreement can be found, UK companies may only be able to retain their contracts by setting up EU subsidiaries. With them will go the tax take, the brains and the supporting jobs.

Finally, I turn to the crucial effect of leaving the single market on supply chains within the UK space industry. Last year, I asked the Minister, in his former role, a series of parliamentary questions about the impact on the UK space sector supply chain of leaving the single market, but sadly there was not much in the answers to give heart to the industry. It has just not received the answers that it needs. Stuart Martin, CEO of the Satellite Applications Catapult said that

“Brexit represents a risk to the United Kingdom in sustaining its leadership position”

among sectors such as satellite manufacturing and navigation services. He also stated that the UK needs to sustain its leadership role within the European Space Agency and maintain access to the single market. Before anyone says, “But we will stay in the European Space Agency,” yes we will, but we must not forget that a quarter of its funding comes from the EU.

It is clear that the industry needs certainty on all those issues. We have had warm words, but not enough action. The Government’s shambolic handling of impact assessments and sectoral analyses, as well as this week’s uncertainty over future customs arrangements, is not inspiring confidence among the space industry. There are few specific commitments or guarantees in the Bill, so it is not unreasonable for the Government to publish an assessment of the sort that new clause 1 would require, and I hope that the Minister will consider doing so.

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I start by passing on the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who has been heavily involved in the Bill since the beginning. Unfortunately, she is extremely unwell this week and has uncharacteristically heeded her daughter’s advice by staying at home, but she is no doubt watching from her sickbed.

I rise to support new clauses 1 and 2, which attempt to ensure a proper assessment of the potential damage that an extreme Brexit could cause our space industry. During the passage of the Bill, we have had a glimpse of the opportunities ahead for the UK’s space industry, but this relates to the wider reaches of the EU. The EU funds space research through Horizon 2020, and we want to ensure that we remain a player beyond that point. Although the European Space Agency is separate from the EU, it does still receive significant funding from it, so we need to know whether the Government have made any assessment of the impact of Brexit on our space industries. Given the previous impact assessment fudge, the answer is probably, “Probably not, but if we have, we will not be publishing it anyway.” That is simply not good enough. The new clauses make it clear that the Government will make that assessment and will publish it. If they do not accept these amendments, the question must be: what do the Government have to hide?

The European Commission has made it clear where it wants to go on space, so do the Government intend to remain part of the strategy and programme it has outlined? If we are not an integral part of the European space programme, what will be the impact on our viability as a spaceport centre, compared with other spaceports located within the European family?

How will we retain access to EU research and development projects, which are so important to our space industry? As has been mentioned, how will changes to freedom of movement affect this industry, an industry that exchanges talent across frontiers on a regular basis? Not all that talent will be at a salary threshold that allows easy access to the UK. Will we retain full access to programmes such as Galileo and Copernicus? Will we be marginalised in EU procurement decisions?

Those are all important questions for the Government to consider now, and they should be included in any impact assessment.

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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech that outlines the isolationist view that post-Brexit Britain is about to take. How does she square what the UK Government are saying about “global Britain” with the powerful points she has made this afternoon?

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We all want to see the space industry succeed, and we want to see it succeed on a global playing field, but we need to get this right. Requiring an impact assessment would make a big difference. We need to probe further on where our space industry will find itself in the increasingly likely event of a hard Brexit.

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New clause 2 would ensure that Parliament is kept up to date on negotiations between the UK and the European Union in regard to the UK space industry.

New clause 2 differs very slightly from new clause 1, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran). Both new clauses have the same aims. New clause 2 asks the Government to produce a summary of any discussions between the UK Government and the European Union to ensure that Parliament is kept up to date on the progress of the negotiations. Just as importantly, new clause 2 would also provide clarity to the UK’s space industry.

It goes without saying, or at least it should, that the Government must ensure we get the best possible deal with the EU to help support the UK space industry’s continued growth. That is the whole point of the Bill, and it is why the Labour party is broadly supportive of it. UKspace, the trade association of the UK space industry, claims:

“The UK leaving the EU has created significant uncertainty which is already affecting the integrated supply chain, R&D collaboration and joint programmes with other EU countries.”

As colleagues have pointed out, the UK space industry makes a noteworthy contribution to our economy and employs close to 40,000 people. The industry is currently highly dependent on EU-led space programmes. As a result, the Government must ensure the UK gets a deal that secures the long-term future and growth of our space industry in order to ensure that the Government’s ambition for the UK to be a leading player in the global space industry is not just all talk and no action.

The Government provided a report to the Exiting the European Union Committee with a sectoral analysis of the UK space sector after our Opposition day debate on 1 November 2017—it is fair to say that we forced the issue. We welcome the Government publishing that document. However, the Opposition believe the document is not sufficient and that Parliament should be kept up to date with a further summary, which would also give the sector the additional clarity it asks for.

Any further uncertainty would hinder any potential growth in the UK space industry. New clause 2 is a reasonable and sensible amendment that would require the Government to publish a report setting out a summary within 12 months of Royal Assent, which is absolutely fair.

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The hon. Gentleman speaks about growth in the industry. We heard a lot about growth on Second Reading, and the Minister has acknowledged the need for skills. Leaving aside new clause 2, but relevant to it, is there a case for cross-departmental work on developing those skills, given the complexity of meeting the industry’s needs? Would the hon. Gentleman offer that as a possible compromise to the Minister?

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The right hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. I was about to say that I do not intend to divide the House on new clause 2, but I hope the Minister takes his point on board.

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Like the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), the Government want the UK to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. We want the UK to be a go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors in the years ahead. We intend to secure the right outcomes for the UK research base, including our space community, as we exit the European Union.

As hon. Members will remember, the agreement that successfully concluded phase 1 of the exit negotiations in December 2017 made it clear that, as part of the financial settlement, the UK will remain part of Horizon 2020 until at least the end of this budget period in December 2020. As part of the new deep and special relationship with the EU, recognising our shared interest in maintaining and strengthening research collaboration, the UK will seek an agreement that promotes science and innovation, including on space, across Europe now and in the future. We would welcome a specific agreement to continue collaborating with our European partners on major science, space research and technology initiatives, and we will be approaching the upcoming negotiations on that basis.

New clause 1 would require the Government to undertake an assessment. As Members will remember, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union provided the relevant Select Committees with reports on many sectors, including the space sector, on 27 November 2017. The space sector report contained a description of the sector, the current EU regulatory regime, the existing frameworks for facilitating trade, including between countries, and the sector views on it. Ministers have a specific responsibility, which Parliament has previously endorsed, not to release information that would undermine our negotiating position, and I know Members present understand that position.

On new clause 2, the Government’s September partnership paper set out our intent with regard to discussing options for future co-operation and partnership with the EU through the EU space programme. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has given a clear undertaking to the House that he will keep the relevant Select Committees informed of progress in discussions with the EU Commission on EU exit matters. That commitment to openness needs to be balanced with the overriding national interest in preserving our negotiating position.

I recognise the interest of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) in how our future relationship with the EU will help support the continued strong growth in the space sector—it is an interest the Government share—but I hope he will appreciate that we cannot enter into commitments to inform Parliament about the EU exit negotiations on a sector-by-sector basis, through various bits of legislation. In the light of that, I ask the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon to withdraw new clause 1.

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I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New clause 3

Publication of regulations

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay a report before Parliament setting out details of the regulations issued under this Act.

(2) The report in subsection (1) must include, but is not limited to, regulations that have effect for licences for—

(a) spaceports;

(b) launch operators;

(c) satellite operators; and

(d) range control operators.

(3) Before exercising their duties under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and have regard to their views in respect of any proposed regulations.

(4) As well as consulting those in subsection (3) the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) UKspace, and

(b) any other such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.” .(Carol Monaghan.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish clear guidelines on the regulations issued under this Act.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 4—Cap on licensees’ liability limit

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay a report before Parliament setting out plans for a cap on licensees’ liability.

(2) Before exercising their duties under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must carry out a consultation on what an appropriate maximum limit would be on the amount of a licensee’s liability, and lay a report before Parliament setting this out.

(3) The report under subsection (1) must provide for, but is not limited to—

(a) a maximum limit on the amount of a particular licensee’s liability for each launch undertaken by the operator;

(b) a maximum limit on the amount of licensees’ liability for each launch classification type;

(c) divisions of responsibility and the level of liability for parties’ spaceflight activities, including—

(i) the Spaceport;

(ii) the launch operator; and

(iii) the satellite operator.

(4) In subsection (3) “launch classification type” means the level of risk attached to each type of launch as determined by the regulator.

(5) Before exercising their duties under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and have regard to their views in respect of any proposed regulations.

(6) As well as consulting those under subsection (5) the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) UKspace, and

(b) any other such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

This new clause would require the Government to consult on and set a mandatory cap on licensees’ liability for each individual launch, based on the classification type of each launch.

Amendment 4, in clause 9, page 8, line 24, at end insert—

‘(10) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, publish guidance about any regulations in relation to operator licences. Such guidance must be issued by the regulator (if the regulator is not the Secretary of State).

(11) The regulator must hold pre-licensing discussions with any potential operator before an operator licence can be issued to them.

(12) Discussions under subsection (11) must include, but are not limited to, providing potential operators with guidance on any regulations in relation to operator licences.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to publish guidance about any regulations issued in relation to operator licences, and to hold discussions with all potential operators before a licence can be issued to them, to ensure that the UK space industry is sufficiently aware of the regulatory framework.

Amendment 1, in clause 68, page 44, line 35, after “offences,” insert—

“(n) regulations under subsection (1) of this section”

This amendment would make regulations made under section 68(1) subject to the affirmative procedure.

Amendment 2, in schedule 6, page 61, line 2, after “authority” insert “and devolved administration”

This amendment would make it a requirement that when an order is made to obtain rights over land, notices about the orders must be served to devolved administrations, where relevant.

Amendment 3, page 61, line 22, after “authority” insert “and devolved administration”

This amendment would make it a requirement that when an order is made to obtain rights over land, notices about the orders must be served to devolved administrations, where relevant.

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Once again, this amendment stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who cannot be here this afternoon. New clause 3 will ensure that guidelines for spaceports are clear and published, and take into account the views of devolved Administrations and stakeholders. The devolved nations currently have the majority of the sites being considered for spaceports, so we are looking for some consultation in the event of rights being taken over land that would be with the devolved Government.

The lack of a liability cap in the Bill is causing us concern. New clause 4 would ensure that there must be a cap. It calls on the Government to come to Parliament, after consultation, and provide their plans on what an appropriate cap would be. A liability cap would bring our space industry into line with those of Australia, France and the USA, which is the world space leader. The purpose of the liability cap is to allow spaceflight operators to obtain affordable insurance—without it, the prohibitive cost of obtaining insurance for unlimited liability would undermine the growth of the space industry in the UK, which is the key point of the Bill. Simply put, without a cap in place, launches will not take place in the UK.

The industry stakeholders’ main worry with the Bill is the absence of a mandatory liability cap for spaceflight operators. The Government have said that they need to be flexible but, if the industry is calling for a cap, they need to both listen and take action. We understand that a cap level will not necessarily be set at this point, but a guarantee that there will be a cap would go some way to providing assurance to the industry. The chairman of UKspace, Richard Peckham, has said that insurers have made it clear that they would not be prepared to do business without a benchmark, so it is vital this takes place.

Our new clause 4 would allow the Government to be flexible on the liability cap by creating different caps for different launches, given there will be quite a broad range of risk depending on the scale of the satellite. One mechanism that has been discussed in Committee is the red, amber and green risk assessment to describe different types of missions, with a different cap for each type of mission. I am not entirely convinced that that would be entirely useful, as clearly those classified as a red risk would not get a licence. However, this could be done by class, for example, with horizontal take-off vehicles carrying cube satellites being given a different classification from a vertical take-off vehicle carrying large satellites, as has happened elsewhere.

It is also important that we do not speak about liability per satellite and actually move towards a cap based on a per-launch system. That would be better suited to much of the growing UK industry. In Committee, I mentioned the importance of the cube satellite industry to Glasgow, which is second in the world, behind San Francisco, in the manufacture of cube satellites. Such satellites are often launched in clusters. If the figure for a liability cap were to be €60 million for each one of these tiny satellites, that would be prohibitive in terms of growing the industry.

In the longer term, this issue could affect where future developments take place in the space industry. Some countries do not require satellites to be built locally, whereas other jurisdictions require satellites that are being launched to be built in the local area or in the country of launch. If cube satellite businesses do not get a mandatory liability cap in this Bill, there is a danger that future investment will be affected and a real possibility that when those businesses are looking to expand, they will do so in a jurisdiction where liability is capped and insurance can be obtained.

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Is the hon. Lady saying that the taxpayer should stand behind the extra liability above the cap?

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That is exactly how the liability works: the insurer covers up to whatever that liability is and the rest is picked up by Government. Once that is picked up by Government, we have to look at the revenue that is generated from that industry and at the amount of growth and jobs created. If we look at proper regulations on our spaceports, liability or risk will be extremely low. Every other country that is launching has a liability cap. We cannot possibly compete unless we have that in place.

As I have said, I understand that the Minister has committed to looking into the issue of the cap and talking to industry leaders about this issue. As I have also said, I am not pressing today for a figure, but the indication that a cap will be in place will provide great reassurance for the UK space industry and will allow it to grow in the way in which we hope it will.

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In Committee, I heard the hon. Lady press the case for an unlimited liability cap. I also heard the Minister give an extraordinarily good and detailed explanation of the work that needed to go into the detailed preparation for such a cap. That is why it was decided in Committee not to put this measure in the Bill, by a vast majority, with cross-party support. It is not that we do not understand the need for this, but it needs to be set in the correct way.

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I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution, but I think she is missing the point, which is that there must be a cap in place in order for these companies to get insurance. Without it, they cannot get insurance and without insurance, they cannot launch. If the Government are considering this cap, why is it not in the Bill? Why does the Bill not contain a statement that a cap will be put in place? I am not asking for a figure and I certainly did not talk about unlimited liability; we talked about limited liability. Unless this is in place, we are stifling a serious growth industry. So I call on the Government to accept the new clause and to listen to the concerns of the space industry.

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I intend to speak briefly on this issue, having heard what the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) said and having looked at these matters in my previous life, as it were. Liability is salient to this Bill. The Government have acknowledged that in what they have said and in the changes they have already made as a result of our consideration in Committee.

I pay tribute to the new Minister for the work he has done on this. It is right to say that he is continuing discussions with the industry. As the hon. Lady said, there is a fragility about the industry. That is not to say that it is not successful, growing or doing wonderful things, but when one innovates or is on the margins of innovation, as this industry is bound to be, given that it is pushing the frontiers ever further, of course one is in a risky business. To gain the necessary investment to make that innovation happen and to take on board those risks, one needs to create a framework of certainty, and the certainty is to some degree about liability.

If I may say so, though, there is a simpler way to deal with the hon. Lady’s points. As I said, I shall be brief. I notice that the Government have already made changes to clause 35(3), where the word “may” has been changed to “must”. They could make similar changes to clause 34(5). Were the Government obliged to make regulations to deal with liability, I think that would go a long way towards satisfying the hon. Lady. I have sufficient trust in the Minister and his Department to know that even with the word “may” in the provision, it is likely that, following the discussions that he and others are having with the industry, further regulations will be introduced for the very reasons the hon. Lady set out in a measured and moderate way.

It is vital that we create the investor confidence that will allow the industry to grow and, as I have said, push forward the frontiers of technology in what is necessarily a risky business. This can be a great success and the Bill takes us a long way towards enabling that success. To get the issue of liability right will be the icing on the cake but, as everyone who has ever dressed or consumed a cake knows, the icing is vital—it is what draws us in, encourages and seduces us to consume the cake. With that overture, I hope that the Minister can provide the reassurance that the industry and I seek and that on that basis the hon. Lady might see fit to withdraw her new clause, although that is a matter not for me but very much for her.

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I rise to speak briefly to amendments 1, 2 and 3.

Amendment 1 deals with the catch-all powers in the Bill and, at your discretion, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall seek to press it to a vote. In the House of Lords, the Government agreed to remove the Henry VIII power from the Bill in response to concerns expressed by my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the other place and by Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. However, there is still a need to go further to tackle the Government’s power grab.

Several stakeholders have expressed concerns about the Bill’s skeletal nature. In particular, the House of Lords Constitution Committee said that some of the powers in the Bill were “very broad” and that the Bill would be

“challenging for Parliament to scrutinise meaningfully”

because so many of its powers were delegated to Ministers. That Committee also expressed concerns about a power in clause 68 that allows Ministers to make regulations but which might prevent people from being able to take the Government to court for judicial review because the Government could easily argue that their powers were within the Bill’s scope. The power permits the Government to make almost any law relating to

“space activities…sub-orbital activities, and…associated activities …carried out in the United Kingdom.”

That covers pretty much anything to do with the industry.

In response to the raising of such concerns in the other place, the Government suggested that there was no need for concern and, according to Baroness Sugg, that the powers were needed to

“deal with any unexpected circumstances.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 28 November 2017; Vol. 787, c. 613.]

I am afraid that that is not good enough. Liberal Democrats remain concerned that the scope of clause 68 is far too wide. We believe that, if the Government are not willing to remove the power or to limit its scope, it is only right and proper to increase parliamentary scrutiny of legislation passed under the power, which is why I shall seek to divide the House on amendment 1, which would require any new secondary legislation passed using clause 68 to be subject to the affirmative procedure.

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I understand the hon. Lady’s point, but she must know that a Bill of this type essentially establishes what I called earlier a framework of certainty. This is a highly innovative industry and technology changes very rapidly. To be prescriptive about what the future might look like would be a woeful error. There has to be a degree of flexibility in the Bill, which she risks limiting by being prescriptive at this stage.

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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I disagree that the amendment would prevent innovation. I think it would be absolutely fine. The affirmative procedure is employed in 13 other parts of the Bill. Parliamentary scrutiny should not just be waved away, as it has been in other Bills. All we are asking for is the affirmative procedure, which would allow Parliament to scrutinise regulations that little bit more.

On amendments 2 and 3, it was noted in the other place that clauses 39 and 41 are essentially planning powers, so I question why they are going to be held in Westminster. It seems to me that the security powers should be shared between Westminster and the devolved Administrations. The Bill should enshrine a formal relationship between the UK and devolved Governments over the securing of launch sites, and there should be specific reference to the need of the UK Government to gain the consent of devolved Ministers, not least because as things currently stand information on the launch sites would be published in local papers, which would be the point at which civil servants in the devolved Administrations might find out.

The Government should go further and create a formalised process whereby the devolved Administrations could object to orders made under clauses 39 and 41. Amendments 2 and 3 would do just that by requiring notices of such orders to be sent to the devolved Administrations, where relevant, in addition to local authorities, so that they would be officially informed that an order had been served, rather than having to read about it or use some sort of grapevine to do their jobs well. I hope that the Minister will see that that would be a sensible step and accept the amendments.

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I rise to speak to amendment 4, which I tabled, as well as the remaining new clauses and amendments.

Amendment 4 would give clarity to the UK’s space industry. As it stands, the Bill makes no provision to ensure that the industry works with the Government to create the regulatory framework that it so badly needs. The amendment would increase the focus on making the UK commercially attractive for potential spaceflight operators. As with new clause 3, the amendment was tabled to press the Government to publish clear regulations for the UK space industry, which is one of the Bill’s key issues.

Under the amendment, the Secretary of State would have to publish guidance for any forthcoming regulations and hold regular discussions with any potential operator before a licence was issued. The UK’s space industry needs as much clarity as possible; we do not want further uncertainty that may hinder growth. If the Government do not get this right, they could quite possibly deter investment, recruitment and growth in the space sector. It will be interesting to hear the Minister’s views.

Labour Members are generally supportive of the aims of new clause 3, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). The Bill does not set out the criteria for awarding licences, and nor does it describe the procedures in any great detail, which is a problem issue. When I spoke to new clause 2, I alluded to the fact that Labour wants the UK space industry to grow in the coming years, but the Government need to get this legislation right and have had the opportunity to do so. The industry must be made aware of regulations. We agree that the Government should lay a report before Parliament setting out the proposed licensing regulations in detail. That is fair and reasonable.

On new clause 3(3), Labour tabled an amendment in Committee that would have ensured that if space activities were established in any of the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, their respective environmental agencies and bodies, and respective Governments, would be consulted before any decision was made to grant an operator licence in their jurisdictions. Unfortunately, our amendment was defeated, so I welcome new clause 3, which presses the issue a little further.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire also tabled new clause 4, which deals with the liability issue that came up time and again in Committee.

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There are 40,000 jobs in the UK space industry. Would it not deter investment if the Government did not implement a liability cap for the industry?

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He is right to say that 40,000 jobs rely on such a measure. Colleagues on both sides of the House have made the point that investment may be deterred if that is not in place.

New clause 4 deals with this very important issue of liability. The issue has been raised at every stage of the Bill’s consideration, both here and in the other place. Labour broadly supports the Bill, as we have reiterated throughout its passage, because we want the industry to grow so that high-skilled, high-paid and secure work is created across the country. Labour previously tabled amendments to get a discussion going about a liability cap. My colleagues in the other place tabled an amendment that would have removed any cap on a licensee’s liability, but that was merely a probing amendment with the intention of grabbing the Government’s attention so that they would seriously consider providing for a definite liability cap in primary legislation. I am grateful to my colleagues in the other place for the work that they did. As I said in Committee, we were never opposed to a cap; we just wanted some clarity from the Government, as they must get this right. I think it is fair to say that the Government have listened carefully to the points we made in Committee.

The UK space sector has made repeated representations to the Government that they should implement a cap for UK-licensed satellite launch operators. Britain’s space industry wants the Government to introduce a cap, I think at around €60 million. The Bill makes no mention of that, apart from the vague and lax use of the word “may”, which has now been amended to “must”. We are aware, however, that the Government stated previously—I think in Committee—that they opposed writing into legislation a mandatory cap on liability, as well as mandatory compensation from the Government, because that might breach state aid rules. I would be really grateful to the Minister if he clarified this particular point.

The industry has maintained throughout that it would not be able to secure insurance without a benchmark liability figure. The ambiguity from the Government on this issue could put off potential investment in the industry, as we have already heard, and harm the growth that the Bill sets out to achieve.

Requiring the Government to consult on and set a mandatory cap on a licensee’s liability for each launch individually, as well as basing it on the classification type of each launch, is reasonable and fair. We believe that the Government need to look again at this, and I see that the Minister is taking note of what is being said.

I will speak very briefly to Liberal Democrat amendments 1 to 3. Amendment 1 would make regulations made under clause 68 subject to the affirmative procedure. In the other place, Labour colleagues worked on a cross-party basis, it is fair to say, in an attempt to ensure that a number of the regulations under the Bill would be subject to the affirmative procedure. Labour also tabled a similar amendment in Committee. We are grateful to the Government for listening and taking on board the concerns raised in the other place, and the Bill now ensures that there is enhanced scrutiny of regulations under the affirmative procedure, which I am very glad to see.

Amendments 2 and 3 to schedule 6 are about ensuring that the devolved Administrations are notified when an order is made to obtain rights over land. In Committee, Labour tabled an amendment to ensure that, before any decisions or notices were made, there would be consultation with not only the relevant environment agencies of the devolved Administrations, but the devolved Administrations themselves. I pressed that amendment to a Division because I did not think that the Government went anything like far enough to ensure that the devolved Administrations would be involved in the overall process. Unfortunately, that amendment was defeated, but I hope that the Government have now fully appreciated its intent.

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I thank all hon. Members who have spoken to the measures tabled by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). In addition to new clause 3, she tabled new clause 4, which would introduce a mandatory requirement for the Government to lay a report before Parliament setting out their plans in relation to a cap on a licensee’s liabilities. The new clause would also mandate consultation with the devolved Administrations and UKspace, a trade association of the UK space industry. The Government have consistently listened to the industry’s concerns about liabilities, dating back to the early development of our policy by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), including with regard to the licensing of UK entities carrying out certain space activities and in the development of all of the provisions in the Bill.

The Government are well aware that the main space launch nations, including France and the US, limit a launch operator’s liabilities in some form, which is why the Bill contains powers for certain liabilities to be capped in licence conditions by way of regulations. Having such powers enables the UK to compete on a level playing field and allows the Government to share the burden of liabilities with operators.

However, launch from the UK is a new activity, and we should cap a launch vehicle operator’s liability, and thereby confer contingent liability on the Government, only if there is clear evidence that that is necessary. It is therefore important that the Government are able first to gather such evidence. In order to do that, as has been highlighted in earlier stages of the passage of this Bill, we will undertake a call for evidence specifically on liability and insurance, and that will take place shortly after Royal Assent.

Alongside that, the UK Space Agency is already working on, and considering its approach towards, risk assessment, insurance and liability requirements for launch activities taking place from the UK. If, following that work and the call for evidence, a cap on the launch vehicle operator’s liability for launch activities taking place from the UK is deemed appropriate, a full consultation will take place, which will include the publication of Government proposals and draft regulations. As I have said, this will be an open and comprehensive consultation that will include the devolved Administrations. Any proposals outlined in such a consultation will be subject to compliance with relevant trading rules, whether they are EU state aid rules, or other rules applying after our exit from the European Union.

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It seems that the Minister has exceeded even my expectations. The big billing that I gave him was entirely justified, because he has addressed exactly the point that was made earlier: we need to know precisely what the circumstances are as launch facilities are developed. The combination of a call for evidence and a potential consultation seems to go a very, very long way towards what those who asked for further work on liability wanted to achieve. I am delighted to hear what he has said in his brief contribution.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for his support for the Government’s approach of gathering the evidence base in a call for evidence, and then, if necessary, holding a further consultation, particularly involving the devolved Administrations.

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Can the Minister offer any timeframe for the consultation and the ongoing process, because the industry would welcome that?

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The Government have committed to launch the call for evidence as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent, which we hope will not be too long now. Should the evidence show that there is demand and a need for a liability cap of the kind that the hon. Lady has been describing, we will launch a formal consultation at that stage. That consultation will, properly, involve the devolved Administrations and others with interests in this matter.

Through amendment 4, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) rightly raises the importance of the timely provision of guidance to applicants for spaceflight operator licences, and the benefits of pre-application discussions between prospective applicants and the regulator. The Government fully recognise that all potential licence applicants under the Bill—spaceports, satellite operators, range control service providers and spaceflight operators—will need to understand the regulations and processes with which they will need to comply. I hope that my earlier responses to the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), who is speaking on behalf of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire, have helped Members to understand the approach that we will be taking.

Pre-licence application discussions are already a key part of current Civil Aviation Authority and UK Space Agency licensing, and they will remain a central part of the process for licences under the Bill. Such discussions benefit prospective licence applicants and the regulator, because they help to build effective working relationships. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East will be pleased to know that discussions of this sort are already under way with a number of interested companies.

Finally, I turn to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran). As hon. Members are aware, the Government have made considerable concessions in relation to delegated legislation under the Bill. We listened to concerns previously expressed about clause 68, and have been convinced by arguments that there is a need for enhanced parliamentary scrutiny in some areas. The Bill has therefore been amended to include a statutory duty to carry out a public consultation before making any regulations under the affirmative procedure. The Secretary of State will report to Parliament about any such consultation. It is proposed that subsequent regulations, if any, that would materially change the substance of the original instruments would also be subject to consultation. Amendment 1 would lead to a duplication of effort, and it is therefore not required.

The same is true of amendments 2 and 3, which once again raise the involvement of the devolved Administrations in the making of orders under clauses 39 and 41. The amendments are similar to a measure that was tabled by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire in Committee. Without going into the same level of detail, I will take this opportunity to remind hon. Members that before the introduction of the Bill, officials worked to agree this set of land provisions, and the devolved Administrations have confirmed they are content with them.

The current drafting of schedule 6 requires that notice of a proposal to make an order under clauses 39 or 41 must be published in local newspapers and served on the local authority. This gives a devolved Administration the opportunity to raise any concerns about a specific order. Should the devolved Administration be aggrieved by the making of an order, it will have the opportunity to apply to the High Court for the order to be quashed, as is provided for by schedule 7.

I reiterate the fact that any orders made under clauses 39 and 41 will be compatible with existing planning legislation, which means that nothing in the Bill will restrict the ability of local planning authorities to take planning decisions. That is important because it means that, should Ministers in the devolved Administrations wish to call in any planning decision in relation to the development of a spaceport site, their right to do so will not be affected by any provision in the Bill.

On that basis, I ask the hon. Member for Glasgow North West, speaking on behalf of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire, to withdraw new clause 3.

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I am happy to withdraw new clause 3, so I beg to ask leave to withdrawn the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 4

Cap on licensees’ liability limit

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within 12 months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay a report before Parliament setting out plans for a cap on licensees’ liability.

(2) Before exercising their duties under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must carry out a consultation on what an appropriate maximum limit would be on the amount of a licensee’s liability, and lay a report before Parliament setting this out.

(3) The report under subsection (1) must provide for, but is not limited to—

(a) a maximum limit on the amount of a particular licensee’s liability for each launch undertaken by the operator;

(b) a maximum limit on the amount of licensees’ liability for each launch classification type;

(c) divisions of responsibility and the level of liability for parties’ spaceflight activities, including—

(i) the Spaceport;

(ii) the launch operator; and

(iii) the satellite operator.

(4) In subsection (3) “launch classification type” means the level of risk attached to each type of launch as determined by the regulator.

(5) Before exercising their duties under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and have regard to their views in respect of any proposed regulations.

(6) As well as consulting those under subsection (5) the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) UKspace, and

(b) any other such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

This new clause would require the Government to consult on and set a mandatory cap on licensees’ liability for each individual launch, based on the classification type of each launch.(Carol Monaghan.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division 114

6 February 2018

The House divided:

Ayes: 33
Noes: 277

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Clause 68

Regulations: general

Amendment proposed: 1, page 44, line 35, after “offences,” insert—

“(n) regulations under subsection (1) of this section”.—(Layla Moran.)

This amendment would make regulations made under section 68(1) subject to the affirmative procedure.

Division 115

6 February 2018

The House divided:

Ayes: 33
Noes: 282

Question accordingly negatived.

View Details

Third Reading

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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Space Industry Bill is a bold and important Bill which will ensure that the UK space sector is at the vanguard of the new commercial space age that is now under way. The UK has always been at the forefront of space discovery and technology. We were the third country to successfully operate a satellite and the sixth to launch a satellite into space on our own launch vehicle. We were a founding member of the European Space Agency and a key player in its most exciting and pioneering missions of science and discovery. We pioneered small, low-cost satellite technology that is revolutionising the global space economy, and we continue to develop technical and commercial innovations that will shape the global space economy for decades to come.

Accessing space is one area in which the UK has not yet had an opportunity to excel, as there has been no market to deliver the services on a truly commercial basis—that is until now. The UK today stands at the dawn of a new commercial space age. This presents us with a huge opportunity. Not only has the surge in small satellite launch demand created a global launch market that is forecast to be worth more than £10 billion over the next 10 years, but direct domestic access to space will reduce our dependency on foreign launch services, fix the fracture in the UK’s space value chain, enable the development of national expertise and employment opportunities, and allow the UK to compete for commercial and strategic opportunities for decades to come.

It has been a great privilege to witness Members of both Houses being enthused and engaged by the Bill and its power to unlock the potential of an entire industry. The approach to the Bill in both Houses has been constructive, creative and collegiate. Indeed, in the best tradition of pioneering space missions, it has inspired collaboration, not contest, at all stages of development and debate. That is testament to the importance of our shared ambition.

I again pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), who played such an important part in the development of the legislation. Is it any wonder that he is the Conservative MP with the highest vote share in the House? I express thanks to both Houses for well-informed debate, careful consideration and willing commitment to work quickly on this important enabling legislation. I also thank all the Committee members and those who have taken part in debates, including today’s.

Finally, I pay tribute to an example of true cross-Whitehall collaboration. The Department for Transport, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Health and Safety Executive have all played an integral part in developing this important legislation.

We are at the dawn of a new commercial space age. Our scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are ready to pursue this opportunity and to reach higher and farther than they ever have before. The Bill will equip them with the most modern space industry legislation anywhere on Earth and ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the space economy for generations to come. I commend it to the House.

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I thank the Government Front-Bench team for the spirit of co-operation in which the Bill has been handled, and I thank the Minister’s officials, who have worked very hard on it as well. I also thank my colleagues in the other place, where the Bill began, for their very valuable work. They secured a number of important concessions, including the removal of Henry VIII powers, and pressed the Government to introduce a new clause on environmental issues, all of which improved the Bill immensely. It meant that when the Bill came here it was in a much better condition than when it began. I also thank Members who helped to scrutinise the Bill in Committee and those who have made contributions today.

The Minister has said this, as have Members time and again throughout the passage of the Bill: the UK space industry is an important, growing part of our economy. It was valued at £13.7 billion in 2014-15 and supports almost 40,000 jobs. The Bill will establish a licensing regime for spaceports, space flights and satellite launches, which is currently missing from the statute book, and will put in place a regulatory framework to allow the further expansion of the industry. For that reason, the Opposition support and welcome the Bill.

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First, I would like to thank the Minister, who has moved seamlessly from his previous role into this new role and is not too far away from where he was a few months ago. I also thank the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) for the work he has done.

It is a nice coincidence, I suppose, that SpaceX will be launching the Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in the next couple of hours. It is the largest rocket ever to be launched and could pave the way for travel to Mars. This is the inspirational industry that we all want to be part of, and for that reason there has been great cross-party support for, and consensus around, the Bill.

The idea of spaceports in the UK is potentially exciting, but it needs investment from both the Government and private industry, and I hope that parts of the Bill will draw down some of that investment. I am pleased that many of the potential sites for spaceports are in Scotland, but I am disappointed that the Government chose not to support new clause 4, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). It would have strengthened the Bill and provided the assurances the industry was calling for. I hope that the cap will be put in place, and quickly, to generate future investment possibilities for the industry.

I want to place on the record the three satellite companies currently manufacturing satellites in Glasgow: Clyde Space, Spire and Alba Orbital. Between them, they ensure that Glasgow is second only to San Francisco, worldwide, for the production of CubeSats. We very much want to support this industry, and it would be great to see these Glasgow-built satellites, manufactured very close to the Clyde—they are all within half a mile of the Clyde—actually being launched. “Clyde built” used to be an indication of quality. Let us hope it is for these new spaceships.

The Bill will, of course, need collaboration between the Scottish and UK Governments, as well as cross-party support, which it has had generally, and I look forward to seeing it strengthened after the consultation process that the Minister described this afternoon.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.