HC Deb 20 April 1959 vol 604 cc17-9
28. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Supply to what extent scientific research into space can be undertaken with the equipment he is developing for the Royal Air Force.

38. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply what present consideration is being given by his Department to proposals to use the Blue Streak ballistic rocket to help launch an earth Space satellite; and to what extent his Department plan to work in co-operation with other Commonwealth countries in space research.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Aubrey Jones)

The United Kingdom missile programme could, with some adaptation, give an initial launcher in aid of a space research programme, but of itself could provide neither the satellites nor the instruments needed to attack the important scientific problems involved in space research. The Government are at present considering the question of a British space research project using earth satellites in the light of advice from the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy. A statement will be made as soon as possible. The Government have in mind the scope which such a project would provide for co-operation with appropriate Commonwealth countries, but discussions can most profitably take place when the scale and nature of any British effort have been decided on.

Mr. de Freitas

When the Government are considering the next step in this matter, will they bear in mind the danger of losing our youngest and brightest scientists to the United States unless they are given from time to time an opportunity of scientific research, even if it involves using equipment which was originally designed for a specific military purpose?

Mr. Jones

Yes, Sir. I agree that that is a most important consideration.

Mr. Mason

When may we expect a decision on this project? Is it not causing the Minister some concern, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) suggests, that the many skilled scientists who are newly entering the field of rocketry are leaving because they are feeling somewhat frustrated that the Government are not taking a strong enough line on this?

Mr. Jones

I have indicated that the statement will be made quite soon.

Mr. Beswick

Did I understand the Minister correctly to say that the Commonwealth countries will he consulted after he had reached a decision about the scope of the programme? Would it not be better to consult them before that?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman's understanding is right. I think it is proper to consult them only after any particular plan has been decided upon.

Mr. Shinwell

Have we not many problems confronting us on terra firma without going elsewhere? Could not the Government use their own energy and ability, whatever they have got of it, to solve some domestic problems? Why bother about this problem?

Mr. Jones

I think the right hon. Gentleman is inclined to anticipate the statement. I think that he should await what is to be said.

Forward to