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UK Space Industry

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2019

In the past month we have invested £18 million in the OneWeb satellite constellation to deliver global 5G communications, which I announced at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands. Last week we announced £7 million for the SMILE—Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer—mission. In addition, we announced £25 million for the PLATO—planetary transits and oscillations of stars—observatory mission, and last week we signed the Square Kilometre Array treaty, which will see £180 million invested in the world’s largest telescope.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but will he confirm that the Government remain positive about the potential of a horizontal-launch spaceport at Cornwall airport Newquay? Will he continue to work to provide the support needed to move that development forward, which would be of such benefit to the Cornish economy? Will he also come to Cornwall and see for himself the potential of the site?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question; we had a positive meeting with the spaceport team last week. I am keen to do what I can to progress the hard work that has been done to put together an exciting project. The Government are investing £50 million to kick-start operations for a UK spaceport, including a £2 million fund for spaceports planning to host air-launched rockets and sub-orbital space planes. I will come down to Cornwall next month.

Can the Minister confirm that it remains his intention to help the UK space industry by developing an alternative to the European Union’s Galileo system?

The Government have committed £92 million to developing options for a domestic alternative to Galileo. The UK Space Agency is leading work with the full support of the Ministry of Defence. Contracts are being let with UK companies. Around 50 have made expressions of interest in the process, which will help to keep important skills and expertise in satellite navigation.

The Minister might know that some of the finest engineering companies in Huddersfield are busy providing components for space probes, including the one that went to Mars. Our great town is really on the cutting edge, so will he visit Huddersfield and see what an enterprising, get-up-and-go town can do for small businesses and large businesses? Components come from all over Europe, so will he also come and reassure people who are terrified of what could happen with Europe?

I can confirm that I will visit Huddersfield on 10 May. I am going to the university there, and I will ensure that I speak to the hon. Gentleman and arrange to meet the companies as part of my visit.

I say to the Minister, who is a serious academic, that I have had the great joy of giving a lecture at the university. It is an admirable institution and they are very hospitable, so I think they will very much look forward to seeing and hearing the Minister.

Not every region of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be part of the UK space industry, but every region deserves the opportunity for employment. Will the Minister indicate what has been done to ensure that all regions have those employment opportunities?

When we look at our space industry, we see that it is truly part of the United Kingdom, right across every place. I went to Northern Ireland to see Thales and the work that it is doing on some of the satellite applications. Up in Sutherland in Scotland, we have a £31.5 million investment in vertical space launch. We want to ensure that our space industry—one of the fastest-growing industries in all of business—covers the whole of the UK.