HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc756-7
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will now transfer the scientific work in space from the Department of Education and Science to the Ministry of Technology.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The general question of Ministerial responsibility for space activities is kept under review, but I have nothing at present to add to my Answer to a Question by the hon. Member on 30th April, 1968.—[Vol. 763, c. 994–5.]

Mr. Marten

In view of the recent changes in space policy and the fact that the Ministry of Technology has set up a new space division, is there now a valid reason why this change should not be made and space put under one head?

The Prime Minister

As the hon Gentleman knows, and I have been repeating this continuously, I still think that it is right for us to follow the example of our predecessors that, to use the old phrase, "celestial activities are related to terrestrial responsibilities of Ministers". Technology is very important in relation to the electronics industry, but it is important that the pure research in space should be controlled by the Minister responsible for the Research Councils.

Mr. Moonman

Will the Prime Minister not agree that the whole question of Government structure is worthy of a White Paper with green edges, or of a green paper with white edges, which would also examine other European practices, whereby combined Ministries of Science and Technology have facilities for decision-making in research and development?

The Prime Minister

I have studied the position in other countries. The problem is the old one that, if pure science is put with technology, the disadvantage is that is is cut off from education, and it would be an extremely serious matter to separate universities' research activities from their teaching activities.