HC Deb 13 December 1962 vol 669 cc576-8
Q6. Mr. Eden

asked the Prime Minister Which Ministers have a Departmental responsibility for research into and development of the opportunities of space technology; what are the particular spheres of responsibility of each Minister concerned; and which Minister is required to co-ordinate their various activities.

The Prime Minister

There is a distinction between the capacity to launch a vehicle into space and the particular uses which may be made of that capability. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation has a general responsibility for space technology. In consultation with him, the Minister for Science, the Minister of Defence, the Secretary of State for Air and the Postmaster-General are responsible, respectively, for scientific, defence, meteorological and communications aspects of space research.

Mr. Eden

I was not quite clear from my right hon. Friend's reply exactly who is responsible for co-ordinating their various activities. Would he please look at this again? Does he not agree that there ought to be some central co-ordinating authority in order to ensure that the maximum advantage is taken of space and other scientific research by Government Departments, universities and industry?

The Prime Minister

This is a very old and difficult problem of Governmental organisation. There are some who argue that if one takes a Minister and puts him in an office with a secretary, and makes him co-ordinate the work of other Ministers, it will produce the results that one wants. From some experience I have found that though that is a good method occasionally for certain specific purposes, on the whole the method of the Ministers mainly responsible working together is a more effective method.

Mr. P. Williams

Does the Prime Minister recognise that what I suspect my hon. Friend was suggesting was not imposing a new Minister as overlord but making one of the existing Ministers responsible for co-ordinating and initiating policy?

The Prime Minister

Yes, but I think that broadly speaking this system is working satisfactorily. There are two quite separate purposes. One is initiating and making the capacity to launch a vehicle, and the second is a great variety of purposes, such as communications, which must be the chief interest of the Postmaster-General, and meteorology, which is a matter for the Secretary of State for Air, for which the vehicle is used when it has been launched.

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