HC Deb 17 April 1972 vol 835 cc29-31
30. Mr. Bishop

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he proposes in relation to the post- Apollo programme to preserve United Kingdom supremacy in all large structures projects and to ensure United Kingdom participation in the European Space Club. European Launcher Development Organisation and European Space Research Organisation post-Apollo programmes in the future.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

The Government have decided to take a full part, along with other European nations, in further exploratory work designed to facilitate evaluation by the European Space Conference of its response to the United States offer of participation in the post-Apollo programme. The contribution of the Government to this further work is estimated at £240,000. Much of this money will be spent with British companies. I am not able to comment as to the likely outcome of these researches until they have been completed.

Mr. Bishop

While appreciating the hon. Gentleman's reply, may I ask him whether he is not aware of the concern of the British aerospace industry for the need to increase collaboration with the United States on this aspect in order to reduce fragmentation and launcher costs? Will he ensure that if we enter the EEC the United Kingdom will give a continued initiative in this matter?

Mr. Heseltine

In reply to both questions, I am sure that the announcement will be welcomed by industry.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a Report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology arising from the work of a Committee chaired by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) which has some important recommendations to make about British participation in the post-Apollo programme? May we be assured, in addition to what my hon. Friend said today, that the full report of the Committee will be urgently considered and reported upon by the Government as soon as possible?

Mr. Heseltine

We are aware of the work that was done, and I am looking at the report. I will take an early opportunity to announce any conclusions that I may reach.

Mr. Palmer

While congratulating the hon. Gentleman on the reply that he has given about the post-Apollo programme, which was one of the recommendations of the Select Committee, may I ask him to say whether the Government are prepared to accept the main recommendation of the Select Committee, namely that a British space agency should be created?

Mr. Heseltine

I cannot answer that question, but it is a very important part of the matter that I am considering.

Mr. Benn

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the £240,000 which he has announced today will allow a decision to be reached in time to meet the deadline by which the European countries, including the United Kingdom, have to decide whether to respond to the bigger programme, running into £8 million a year, involved in full participation in the post-Apollo programme?

Mr. Heseltine

The present objective of the European Space Conference is to reach a decision on European participation in the shuttle programme in July and to take at the same time a decision in principle on participation in the tug or orbital systems which form part of the programme. This is as fast as we can go.