HC Deb 05 June 1972 vol 838 cc22-3
27. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will take steps to set up a United Kingdom Space Agency.

Mr. Onslow

Consideration is being given to the recommendation on this matter by the Select Committee on Science and Technology, together with their other recommendations, and a statement will be made to the House in due course.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

While I welcome that reply, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he does not agree that one reason why this country has a less-than-first-line showing in space has been the lack of either single ministerial responsibility or a Government agency to control our space programme? Is he aware that this has led to fragmentation which has resulted in our having a not particularly viable national space technology?

Mr. Onslow

I would not necessarily go all the way with my hon. Friend but certainly we are aware that the Science and Technology Committee saw a powerful case for centralisation and we are getting on with our consideration of this matter—which has been going on for some time—as fast as we can.

Mr. Palmer

As the Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Science and Technology which made this recommendation, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us why it is taking the Government so long to make a statement?

Mr. Onslow

The hon. Gentleman will be the first to understand that the issues involved include establishing the purpose and objectives of the United Kingdom space activity, and we cannot rush a decision on that.

Mr. Tebbit

May I remind my bon. Friend, when he is thinking about the time taken for these reviews, that before he was promoted to his present post he was well known for the cry of "Too long" when supplementaries went on?

Mr. Onslow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of my youthful indiscretions.

Mr. Bishop

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the next few weeks some critical decisions will have to be taken affecting our future in space in the next decade, and that due to fragmentation, with at least four Ministers and a dozen offices being responsible for this matter, there is no coherent policy such as there is in the United States with NASA? Do he and his colleagues appreciate the grave urgency of this matter?

Mr. Onslow

If I am right in thinking that the hon. Gentleman is trying to anticipate his own Question about a space shuttle, I can assure him that this is very much a factor to be taken into account.

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