HC Deb 07 February 1973 vol 850 cc434-6
2. Dr. Stuttaford

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he is satisfied that there is adequate consulation between his Department and the Post Office on the subject of satellite communications.

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision to adopt Intelsat V as a replacement for Intelsat IV is a major national policy decision and that he cannot shrug off the responsibility in this casual way, as he did today and when he replied to the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) on Monday?

Sir J. Eden

I understand that Intelsat has selected a new generation of satellites which will have about twice the capacity of the present generation. The Questions from the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) related to operational matters which are the responsibility of an international committee of operators of which the Post Office, not Her Majesty's Government, is a member. That is why I asked the Post Office in this instance to write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Warren

With respect to my right hon. Friend, I suggest that he is perhaps referring to a decision which has been made on Intelsat IVA, whereas it is in fact Intelsat V which is the pressing demand now. If there is no agreement on it during this calendar year there will be an irrevocable breakdown in the communications network between this country and the rest of the world.

Sir J. Eden

I will look further into that last point. Up to this time I am satisfied that the traffic requirements are to be fully met. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the decision has been taken in favour of Intelsat IVA, but this will allow further development in communications to take place and will be instrumental in buying time before later consideration is given to subsequent developments.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is a very complex subject for all hon. Members? In view of the importance that this decision will assume in future, is it possible for him to give the House some guidance—perhaps a paper might be published—rather than the sort of answer he gave in reply to the series of Questions put down on Monday by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown)?

Sir J. Eden

If there is a way open to me to give the House any further information that it requires on the matter I shall certainly do so. However, hon. Members will have in mind that the Post Office is the operational expert and is therefore responsible, as the United Kingdom representative on Intelsat, to consult Government Departments about the wider national interests.