HC Deb 07 November 1960 vol 629 cc647-9
45. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Minister of Aviation, whether he will make a statement on his recent talks in Australia, and with the French and Canadian Government, about a joint space research programme.

49 Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on a joint space research programme arising from his recent talks in Paris.

The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)

If a heavy rocket for satellite launching is to be developed outside the United States or Russia, there are substantial advantages for all concerned in doing it in co-operation with our friends in the Commonwealth and Europe. The Government have been and are exploring this possibility, but I would like to carry our consultations rather further before making any statement.

Mr. Wyatt

Would the Minister let us know a little more about how far this has gone? This has been going on for over a year and it is about time we did something about it. Will he assure us that his previous dislike of an increase in Government expenditure has not been carried with him into his new office, because if it has we shall be in a very bad way technologically?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter, which I welcome. I have had talks in Australia and Canada, and I have recently been in consultation with representatives of the French Government. As we both share a desire to bring this matter to a successful conclusion, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will co-operate and give me a little time in which to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr. Chetwynd

Were these talks with the French based on Black Knight and Blue Streak, and were the French asked to make a financial contribution?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The suggestion I made to the French was that we should have full collaboration with them both in finance and technology. It was to be based on the work which we have done on the Blue Streak and Black Knight projects.

Mr. Nabarro

Would my right hon. Friend agree that far from being an uneconomical venture to join with our friends in a space enterprise of this kind, in the passage of years it will probably yield a substantial income, which is very close to the heart of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I think that in some of these large, important and necessarily expensive projects there is an argument to be made out in favour of friends co-operating together on them.

Mr. Strauss

The Minister asked us not to press him as to when he will be able to conclude negotiations, and while we are willing to fall in with his wishes, could he give us any idea when these negotiations are likely to come to any finality—during the next few weeks or months, or is it indefinite? Is it to be a recurrence of the year's delay that we have already had?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I sincerely hope not.

Mr. de Freitas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the last eighteen months I have twice raised this problem on the Adjournment and each time I have been given to understand that the decision was coming very soon?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not think I can add to what I have already said to the hon. Gentleman. I share his desire to come to a conclusion, and I certainly think we ought to make up our minds before the end of the year what the answer should be. I hope the House will give me a little time to finish the talks on which I am engaged at present.