HC Deb 22 October 1973 vol 861 cc693-5
27. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement about the European Space Conference meeting on 31st July 1973.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

The conference agreed on a fourfold programme comprising:

  1. (1) the establishment of a European Space Agency and of agreed measures for the future harmonisation of national and European programmes;
  2. (2) the development of Spacelab within the American post-Apollo programme;
  3. (3) the development of the L3S launcher;
  4. (4) the development of a maritime communications satellite.
This package was the outcome of bargaining and compromise but represents in my view a significant step forward towards the achievement of a meaningful European space effort.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Although I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend on his effort in setting up the European Space Agency, may I ask him when he expects it to become operational, and is it his intention that Britain's own space project and contributions should now be channelled through the agency, or does

for people to use smokeless fuels in substitution for other fuels.

Following are the estimates:

he intend to keep a separate space programme going as, for instance, with the geostationary satellite?

Mr. Heseltine

The intention is that the agency should come into operation on 1st April 1974. It was the intention of all the countries negotiating for the establishment of the European Space Agency that we should seek to harmonise our programmes within Europe. With that in mind, it is not the Government's intention to proceed with the geostationary satellite.

Mr. Dalyell

How was it that on 31st July the Minister allowed himself to be bullied by the French into supporting a project, namely, the L3S launcher, in which, on the basis of his own frequent public utterances, he and his Department did not for a moment believe?

Mr. Heseltine

As I have explained to the House, it was the intention of the Government to seek a proposal which was acceptable to all the European nations. I find it difficult to understand how the hon. Member could suggest that we were bullied into support for a project when all we agreed to do was to contribute a certain part of that particular project, the cost of which would be met by the British taxpayer and all of which would be matched in kind by the French, who had been investing in a different project organised by this country.

Mr. Marten

Will the new European organisation go in for a geostationary satellite?

Mr. Heseltine

The new organisation's programme will be that which is taken over from ESRO, the existing organisation. It includes the OTS project and the additional programmes agreed at the space conference.

Mr. Mason

Will the Minister say to what extent he has financially committed Her Majesty's Government to the European Space Agency?

Mr. Heseltine

The arrangements reached in the summer are, of course, accepted by Her Majesty's Government in full.

Mr. Dalyell

Answer the question.

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