HC Deb 14 April 1964 vol 693 cc213-4
12. Mr. Mason

asked the Postmaster-General if he will make a statement on the discussions that have taken place between his Department and the American Satellite Communication Corporation regarding the development of a global satellite communication system, specifying the British commitment in this proposed venture.

Mr. Bevins

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to last week's discussions between representatives of the European, United States and Canadian Governments. This was an exchange of view on the many problems involved in the creation of a world system of satellite communications. Good progress has been made. We have as yet made no commitments, but if we can secure acceptance of conditions as indicated in my reply of 26th February to the hon. Member, the United Kingdom would be willing to provide up to £15 millions towards the capital cost of a world system.

Mr. Mason

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what we have offered during the course of these discussions, other than facilities for ground stations; to what extent he thinks that British industry will benefit from entry into this venture; whether the Russian interest, which was shown last week, is really serious, and to what extent it may affect our interests?

Mr. Bevins

The principles to which the United Kingdom has been working in this field art, first of all, to take a positive part in the design of the system when it comes, to share in its ownership, to play a full part in the management of the system, and finally, to have the opportunity, as the system is expanded, to provide satellites, launchers and any other equipment which may be necessary. As regards the Russians, they have not, as the hon. Gentleman knows, taken part in these recent discussions with the Americans. Frankly, I am not aware of their interest.

Sir J. Eden

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that, even assuming we have a successful agreement with the American Satellite Communication Corporation, in the subsequent phase of this development British industry will have a substantial part to play in this important development?

Mr. Bevins

Yes. I think it is only fair to say that in the initial stages the system is bound to be largely of American construction, but we are determined that a way must be left open to British industry to supply material to the system as soon as it is able to do so.