HC Deb 07 December 1988 vol 143 c304
9. Mr. Jack

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what measures he has taken to promote and encourage overseas participation in the HOTOL project.

Mr. Atkins

It is for Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace to determine jointly which pattern of international collaboration they wish to explore and we will support them in that endeavour. Following a visit that I made recently to Washington, where I met Dr. Graham, the President's science adviser at the White House, I am pleased to tell the House that avenues have been established for the companies to pursue discussions with their American counterparts.

Mr. Jack

In welcoming my hon. Friend's positive statement about future developments in respect of HOTOL, may I ask him to confirm that the only real future for the project depends upon putting together international consortia with a vested interest in launching satellites? While he encourages that development, will he ensure that the companies participating in the materials development, technology and avionics associated with the project have sufficient encouragement from his Department to continue the work? We must not allow the project to wither on the vine.

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend is right. I can do no better than quote from a recent report in the United States by a group of people from the United States and other nations. It concluded that it was economically and technologically impossible for any single country or company to develop an HSCT aircraft. Collaboration must be the order of the day.

Mr. Wood

Bearing in mind that HOTOL holds the prospect of a reduction by a factor of four in the cost of satellite launches, which would benefit broadcasters, telecommunications networks and defence departments, is it not extremely important that the industries involved should co-operate internationally in this venture?

Mr. Atkins

As my hon. Friend knows, it will cost many billions of pounds to develop HOTOL. The early stages of such activity will require relatively small sums of about £2 million to £3 million a year, which it is well within the capability of the companies involved to provide. My hon. Friend is right to say that this is an innovative project that deserves consideration, and we are doing just that.