HC Deb 01 June 1960 vol 624 cc1445-6
42. Sir Richard Glyn

asked the Minister of Defence, in view of the recent launching of a foreign space ship whose course passes over the United Kingdom, on how many occasions in the last three weeks a foreign aerial machine has violated British air space; what evidence he has as to the country of origin of the aerial machine concerned; and what action has been taken to shoot down or otherwise interfere with any such aerial machine.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

I have been asked to reply.

I presume my hon. Friend refers to the Soviet satellite which was launched on 15th May. I understand that this satellite and its rocket passed over the United Kingdom thirty-five times between 15th May and 3 p.m. today. Issues of international law regarding air space are for my right and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. The answer to the latter part of the Question is "None".

Sir R. Glyn

Will not my hon. Friend agree that, under the Chicago Convention, each nation has absolute and exclusive sovereignty over all the air space above its territory? This expressly applies to unpiloted as well as piloted planes. Is he aware that it is technically possible for an unpiloted plane to record by photograph or other means what is happening on the ground over which it passes and signal this back to its base? In those circumstances, may not this satellite be a substantial reinforcement to the very large number of Russian representatives, some in a privileged position, operating in a number of countries over which this satellite is passing?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Questions of international law are not for me, but my hon. Friend may have noticed that the Lord Privy Seal made a statement in another place about this matter. He made it clear that a sub-committee of the United Nations is studying the problem of sovereignty in outer space.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman be very careful, because he might shoot down an American space ship or satellite by mistake and might receive an explanation from Washington which will prove conclusively that George Washington, the man who never told a lie, no longer operates in Washington?