HC Deb 16 June 1958 vol 589 cc669-70
36. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent his Department is now encouraging and financing a British earth space satellite programme.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

No financial support is at present being given by my Department to an earth satellite programme. There are, however, constant consultations with my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council and with the Royal Society about the scientific value to be derived from such a programme.

Mr. Mason

While appreciating the part that cost must play in the matter, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, in view of the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile and the expense involved in that, is not the cost factor added to that relatively small to launch a satellite into space? Secondly, has any research been conducted into the development of conquering gravity without the present high speeds and thrust which are required, particularly the evolution of an antigravity technique which will allow us to escape the present gravitational pull of the earth?

Mr. Jones

I am not at all sure that I understand the second part of the hon. Member's question, but on the question of cost, clearly that has to be balanced against scientific value. As matters stand, the countries which have launched satellites are pledged under the rules of the International Geophysical Year to disclose information and data to other countries. That being so, it would be premature to decide whether or not we have a ballistic missile to launch into the satellite programme.

Mr. Shinwell

Would it not be better to employ someone to launch the Government into space?

Mr. Beswick

Even though we are not ourselves considering the projection of a missile into space, we as a country would have some interest in all these other missiles which are being sent up by other countries. We have an interest in getting liaison and co-operation with the other countries concerned. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it will be his Department which will be concerned with co-operation after the determination of the I.G.Y. arrangements?

Mr. Jones

If I may indulge in a correction, I did not say that we were not considering launching a satellite programme. I said that this was a matter to be kept under constant review, the scientific value always to be weighed against the cost. My Department is mainly a military Department. The scientific advice on what should be done must necessarily come from the Royal Society and the Lord President of the Council. My Department is the researcher, the developer and, if I may say so, the fabricator.