HC Deb 27 November 1968 vol 774 cc482-4
11. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister or Technology if he will make a statement on British participation in the European Launcher Development Organisation.

Mr. Benn

As I told the House on 23rd April, the Government have decided not to undertake additional financial commitments to E.L.D.O. At the European Space Conference in Bonn on 12th-14th November, I indicated that if the United Kingdom were released from its present financial commitments to E.L.D.O., this would enable us to participate in applications satellites, and other developments.—[Vol. 763, c. 40–7.]

Mr. Marten

As France and Germany seem likely to go on to build a European launcher, will Blue Streak nevertheless be available to them? Also, what does the new policy mean as regards a possible increase in the cost of our space effort, and does the Minister propose to authorise a U.K. 4 satellite?

Mr. Benn

Yes, Sir; Blue Streak will be available. Yes, if the switch is possible, it would mean an increase in our commitment to European space expenditure. On the applications side, which we think will be profitable, the opportunity provided by the Bonn conference of explaining our desire to go out for these space projects which will be profitable was very valuable. I should like further notice before answering the last part of the question.

Mr. Dalyell

What does this mean in terms of our relations with E.S.R.O.?

Mr. Benn

At the conference—I shall be reporting about this on another Question—we came forward with another increase for E.S.R.O. over a period of three years at 6 per cent. a year in the perspective of a further period at the same amount. We believe that the role of E.S.R.O. in respect of applications work will develop, and we look forward to a new uniform European space organisation.

Mr. David Price

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that this is far too big a subject for exchanges by way of Parliamentary Question. Will he present to us a full White Paper or Blue Book giving the Government's proposals, giving the alternatives and, above all, giving all the comparative figures in relation especially to his argument, with which I have a lot of sympathy, for our concentrating on telecommunications satellites and not going for launchers? Will he recognise that in the absence of official figures it is difficult for hon. Members on either side of the House to take an intelligent view?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions should be brief.

Mr. Benn

I should greatly like a debate and agree that the value of one would be much improved if we had figures available. I will consult the hon. Gentleman about the kind of figures that he would like. I cannot undertake to bind them in a Blue Book, but I will give an undertaking to make them available in the Library.

28. Mr. Moorman

asked the Minister of Technology what action he proposes to take following recent representations made by six Western European countries to Great Britain to reconsider her decision to leave the European Launcher Development Organisation in 1971; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

The Government decision on the European Launcher Development Organisation announced in the House on 23rd April, 1968, was based on economic consideration. No new factors have been revealed in recent discussions which would justify a reconsideration of that decision.—[Vol. 763, c. 40–7.]

Mr. Moonman

Bearing in mind the increasing number of European projects in science and technology, does not my hon. Friend agree that the time is ripe for a White Paper setting out clearly where our scientific and technological collaboration with Europe begins and ends?

Mr. Mallalieu

My hon. Friend will have heard the answer given by my right hon. Friend a few moments ago on that issue.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Does the Minister realise that it is calculated that on long-range communications no less than £8,000 million will be spent in Western Europe during the next 10 years, and that the E.L.D.O. project could make a useful contribution to the space communication satellite, and that it is desperately important that Britain should retain an interest and capability in this sphere?

Mr. Mallalieu

I am well aware of the enormous possibilities of work in space. Where a dispute would arise is on the part that the European launcher would play in this. It could be a serious handicap because of its enormous expense.