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Space Industry

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 3 May 2018

The UK space industry is a global success story, leveraging our expertise and talent to deliver ground-breaking products and services, and we want a UK space industry that captures 10% of the global market by 2030, creating 100,000 new jobs—astronomical levels! Ministers from across the Government have carried out extensive engagement on EU exit, and this has included engagement with the space sector. We have been clear in our desire to continue our involvement in EU space programmes, including Galileo, provided that the UK and UK companies can continue to participate on a fair and open basis.

I thank the Minister for her answer. Whatever the future holds for us in the UK, we are going to have to play to all our strengths, intellectually and economically. She will be aware that Her Majesty’s Government are currently considering the northern part of Sutherland in my constituency as a possible space launch site. Jobs do not exactly grow on the trees in that part of the world, and I would warmly encourage the Government to go down the route of developing the site there. It would mean a great deal to me, to my constituents and to an area that needs the help.

The hon. Gentleman raises a crucial point relating to the development of our domestic space strategy, and Scotland has a strong heritage in the sector. For example, Glasgow has built more satellites in the past two years compared with other European cities, and we also have the Prestwick aerospace park, Strathclyde University and many companies breaking new frontiers. We want the UK to reach space from our own shores, and we recently passed the Space Industry Act 2018, which is the first key step towards licensing the first missions from the UK into space. Brexit will not pose a barrier to our journey into space.

The ancients named the planets after their gods. In affirming that the United Kingdom will continue to lead geo-galactic enterprise and innovation across the continent, will the Minister explain how, goddess-like, she changed her name and tell us what role she intends to play in promoting the United Kingdom in this place, in the Government, on earth and across the cosmos?

My right hon. Friend sets the bar very high. I thank him for his question, for his stellar contributions and his work with the space sector, and particularly for his work on the Space Industry Act, which, as I said, has paved the way for our domestic policy. His reference to my goddess-like status is slightly exaggerated, but I would expect nothing less of him. Even in this space age, it takes a brave woman to follow tradition and change her name following marriage. He is right to suggest that the UK’s historic strength in the space sector will be secured as we leave the European Union and develop our own new partnership with our allies across the channel. It is in that spirit, boldly going where no woman has gone before, that I can tell the House from the Dispatch Box that, as of today, I am pleased to be known as Suella Braverman.

We are delighted for the hon. Lady, and we congratulate her on that. I would also say that, in the 25 years that I have known the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), he has always inhabited his own galaxy and been the most shining star in it.

I should like to add my congratulations to the Minister. With regard to the Galileo programme, it is reported that the procurement process will freeze out UK participation in the programme. I know that the Science Minister met representatives of the European Space Agency on Monday. Will the Minister provide an update on efforts to freeze the procurement and sort out this mess, because 400 jobs in this country are dependent on getting it sorted out?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The Government have been clear that there is mutual benefit in the UK’s involvement in Galileo, and we are working hard with our European partners to deliver this outcome. However, as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made clear in his letter to Ministers in the other 27 EU member states on 19 April, that involvement must be on terms that the UK considers acceptable, including being fair and open to the UK and UK industry. That is why the Prime Minister has announced that she will task engineering and space experts in the UK to develop options for a British global navigation satellite system that would safeguard our position in terms of navigation and timing information.

Successful space businesses such as Airbus provide thousands of jobs in the UK, and their success has been built on an open, free supply-chain system with the EU. How will the Minister obtain the agreement of EU partners for the continuation of that system?

There has been considerable engagement with Airbus. The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has met representatives from Airbus, and I have visited its site in Portsmouth. We want full access to Galileo, including the crucial secure elements that will help to guide British missiles should they be needed to keep us all safe. This is a commercial matter for Airbus, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment, but I can say that the Government have been in close contact and will continue to work with the entire UK space sector to do all that we can to ensure that the UK is able to contribute fully to the Galileo programme.