HC Deb 21 July 1994 vol 247 cc574-85

11 am

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)

I start by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin), the immediate past Minister with responsibility for space, who has given sterling service to the country and the Government over several years. I remember canvassing for him in the hills of Derbyshire during the by-election at which he entered Parliament in 1986. I am sure that we all wish him well for the future.

I also welcome to the Dispatch Box the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor), and congratulate him on his well-deserved appointment to the Front Bench. I hope that he will always remember that his first debate was on space and that that subject will always be at the top of his list of priorities. I hope that he will find my speech helpful, certainly in setting a new direction for space policy and maximising the United Kingdom's potential in that area. He will find that the space community throughout the world will welcome his appointment and be willing to assist him on every occasion. Perhaps one or two European aspects of my speech will strike a chord with him at this early stage in his ministerial career.

I am delighted to have secured this opportunity to raise the subject of the UK's position in the space industry, an issue that has not been properly debated in the House since 1988. It is also apposite as this week there have been widespread celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the moon landing, a remarkable feat for mankind. However, several matters need to be examined urgently in relation to UK space policy, not least because in September 1995 the European Space Agency Ministers' conference will look at the long-term programme, which will obviously be important for European space programmes for the next couple of decades.

The European Space Agency is now producing positioning papers and it is important that the UK participates not only in the ministerial but in the preparatory work. Without the assurance of a modern national space programme, the UK will at best be able only to react to other proposals. Until now we have depended heavily on ESA, and if we are to ensure that the ministerial meeting approves programmes that are useful to the UK, we need to be active in defining what we want to achieve from space activities.

The policies that we laid down in 1988 and the funding level are not producing the results that we intended, and there is evidence that they could even be damaging the chances of our space industry becoming competitive in a very competitive market. It is also urgent because we now have to take into account important new players in the European space scene, particularly the European Commission which has a potentially significant new role both as a user of space systems—earth observation is just one example—and, complementary to ESA, to help European industry benefit from large new marketing opportunities in, for example, navigation.

ESA was set up some 30 years ago to create a European space industry and to ensure that Europe could gain a foothold in an area that was then dominated by the space war between the USA and the USSR. At that time my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade represented the UK as a junior Minister and showed his great ability in conducting the negotiations that established ESA. It would now be most helpful if the President could again inspire the UK to a leadership role in reconstructing ESA to meet the needs of Europe for the next 20 or 30 years.

Until the mid-1980s, ESA was a great success. It helped to establish the European communications satellite industry, notably in the UK, which led to the creation of Inmarsat and Eutelsat, both of which were originally based on ESA satellites. It also provided the basic industrial infrastructure leading to the successful military communications satellites of which the latest Skynet 4 version has been bought by NATO in preference to US military satellites.

ESA also led in the production of meteorological satellites which are the basis of Eumetsat and the daily pictures on TV weather reports. Those technologies have led to the new generation of earth observation satellites, especially ERS 1 with its all-weather observation capabilities for which the radar was developed in the United Kingdom. ESA also has highly regarded international scientific programmes for astronomy and solar system science in which the United Kingdom's scientific community and our industries play an important role: For example, the space probe Giotto was built in the UK.

I am sad to say that the UK took only a small part in the final ESA success, the Ariane launcher. I say "sad" because Ariane is now winning over half the commercial launches that are put out to global competition. That success is bringing considerable benefit to the industries in those countries that decided to take a share. Since we use Ariane launchers for Skynet and pay a share of the cost of the launches that are required by ESA, we are contributing to work which largely goes to benefit space industries in countries other than our own.

However, I must not fail to acknowledge our contribution to the manufacture of the very accurate guidance system for Ariane and also the SPELDA system that separates the satellites as they are released into space. Those are impressive British accomplishments. During the 1980s, ESA decided to pursue a policy of seeking full autonomy in space for Europe and particularly for man in space, an aspect on which we have relied on US co-operation. The programme that was decided upon included continuing co-operation with the United States through the newly proposed space station in which Japan and Canada were also to be partners. But autonomy in putting man in space was to be achieved through an ambitious space plane—Hermes. Furthermore, this was to be achieved by the year 2000.

That ambitious programme was approved at the ESA ministerial meeting in The Hague in 1987, notwithstanding the fact that it required a doubling of the ESA annual budget. The UK refused to join on the ground that it was an expensive endeavour to achieve what the USA and the USSR had achieved 20 years earlier. In the aftermath of the demise of the USSR and one or two dramatic failures in the NASA programme, especially the failure of Challenger, money for space activities was put under more political scrutiny both in the United States and in the European countries.

NASA has had difficulties in funding the international space station, even with the new involvement of Russia. ESA Ministers found the escalating costs of ESA and especially Hermes unacceptable. Consequently, ESA has abandoned Hermes and is seeking a programme within, at best, level funding which Ministers might approve next year.

I have outlined that to show that ESA has served Europe well, but that it now appears to have lost its way in the prevailing political circumstances. Since we have funded most of our space activities through ESA, the uncertainties surrounding the programme and its direction is damaging to us and to our industries. That is why I am encouraging my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and our new Minister to renew interest in ESA and to help to seek a new role that will suit our purposes as well as those of the rest of Europe.

We need strong political leadership, because our refusal to support the man in space programme and the subsequent decisions to leave our funding at the existing level, has left us outside the main stream of ESA thinking. It is ironic that being proved right about Hermes has not endeared us to those who have tried and failed.

Due to our perceived attitude to space, the United Kingdom has lost much of its influence, not only in ESA, but in all parts of the world. That does not affect only the British national space centre; the effect inevitably rubs off on British industry, too. More to the point, the fact that we have placed a ceiling on expenditure, which is committed for the next few years, means that we cannot join new programmes, however meretricious, except, possibly, at a derisory level. That is bound to be damaging to our industries and is hardly likely to leave us in an influential position of forming new ESA policies, if we cannot participate.

I shall mention just three cases in point. We cannot join the new ESA communications technology programme, even though our industries are prepared to contribute 50 per cent. of the funding themselves—unique in Europe. We are offering a very small contribution to the ESA share of the second generation meteorological satellite, which will damage our industries' chance of taking part in the operational programme, for which satellites will be needed for the next 20 years.

ESA is starting to examine the next century's generation of launchers, in the Festive programme, in which our ideas on the horizontal take-off and landing launcher or alternative systems have been world leaders. A share in that would be of major benefit to our capabilities in the areas of advanced materials, avionics, software and to all markets in which we presently have some eminence. If we cannot participate in all those programmes, we shall severely damage our competitiveness and, perhaps, the existence of the many capabilities which our ESA contributions have helped us to create over the years.

The situation is made worse by the fact that the modest national programme, which the Department of Trade and Industry has always funded to help our industries to achieve success in the applications market, is being seriously eroded over the next few years. The space industry is no longer what we instinctively think—or rather thought—it to be. Its constituency has widened, so that many companies, such as those in the service industry, now use space as one component in their portfolio of activities.

They will not be able to operate successfully unless there is some judicious, planned and sustained Government direction and investment.

It is often said that industry is primarily responsible for making itself competitive. I know that our own industry accepts that challenge, but in partnership with Government, as I have outlined. This week, we have seen the merger of our largest companies, Matra Marconi and British Aerospace Space Systems, bringing together their complementary capabilities, which will put the single company in a much better position to compete effectively.

I welcome that change, but I recognise that we have smaller companies with space capabilities, such as those represented by ASTOS, based in my constituency. Those companies also need to understand the sense of purpose in Government policy if they are to thrive. It is, after all, the smaller companies that are likely to achieve the growth in jobs which we all want to see as one of the products of our space policy. A rethink of space policy on what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it is necessary and necessary now. The policies of 1988 may have been right then, but they do not seem to be right now.

I mentioned earlier the entry of new players on the space scene. When I visited Brussels last week, with colleagues from the parliamentary space committee, we were delighted to hear how the Commission has come to recognise that there are a number of things which it can do to help European industry to achieve benefit from space activities. The Commission is already the biggest single user of satellite earth observation data.

In recent years, DO VI, the agricultural directorate, has come to use those data for assessing crop yields, and I especially look forward to it using the data to help combat common agricultural policy fraud. That alone could ultimately represent major financial savings to the European Union on the escalating costs of detecting fraud. Several directorates use data for dealing with environmental problems in the European Union and, in developing countries, for example, for mapping and exploration of natural resources.

The Commission is also conducting with ESA an important study on how we can handle and distribute earth observation data in Europe to benefit those who can use the information. By the end of the century, there will be enormous quantities of data pouring down from earth observation satellites which are already planned. We need to agree how we can best handle that data in Europe, but eventually, we shall need co-operation on a global scale very much as was envisaged at the environment conference in Rio.

The Commission is also making progress in reaching agreement in Europe on satellite navigation. In that area, there are massive opportunities for our industries; airlines, ships, cars, and lorries. Europe has a strong involvement at present in satellite navigation systems and we need to ensure that we at least maintain that position and that we do not lose out to the United States or Japan in the future.

There are other areas requiring Commission involvement: negotiating for a level playing field for our satellite industries and for the Ariane launcher; regulation of satellite communication in Europe; and negotiating, especially with the USA, on future mobile systems. Those would be useful negotiations which require action at a European level.

I hope that I have given the House the flavour of my argument—we have an urgent need to review space policy.

We have important interests to protect and some exciting new fields to explore and exploit. Our level of funding for national programmes and our contributions to ESA should not be related to some historical level of funding. At the international level, and especially in ESA, we need to show how our policies of favouring space applications, with which many countries have come to share, can bring benefit through the adoption of market-led policies.

At the same time, we need to support our industries where they face competition, not least from United States companies, which have received support from their own Government. In due course, we may be able to persuade other Governments to reduce their support, but I am afraid that we are not there by a long way yet.

Space is no longer the sole province of the space enthusiast, although I hope that those enthusiasts will continue to point the way not least for our children, for whom space is a great incentive to study science and technology. I have tried to indicate some of the economic and social benefits which space activities may bring to earth. With the fresh thinking in other countries, it is the right moment for us to review our policies and re-engage in international planning for space activities, which can achieve our objectives. It would be a great pity if the 25th anniversary of the Apollo landing also heralded the abandonment of space by the UK because of its apathy towards policy and future planning and expenditure.

In September, ESA will be present at the Farnborough air show for the first time in 15 years. I know that 'we welcome it to that venture. The UK will also host the first European parliamentarians conference on space. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to send the right messages to ESA, to our industrialists and especially to that conference, so that we can again lead Europe on the formation of space policy as we did 30 years ago.

11.18 am
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian Taylor)

It is a particular pleasure to reply to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) is a great expert in these matters; she has pursued the subject of space with great expertise and knowledge since arriving in the House. I admit to the House that it is a subject with which I am somewhat less familiar.

Certainly, I did not expect to have the honour of replying to my hon. Friend until a short time before she got to her feet. However, that is one of the excitements of assuming a ministerial office and learning about the portfolios that one is honoured to have at one's disposal.

My hon. Friend made a timely contribution, because there is no doubt that space is a subject of enormous interest to British industry, which she stressed, and, of course, for reasons which any cursory glance at the television would show, it is of great interest to the British public and to the public around the world.

The extraordinary events that we are seeing on our television screens are the result of much hard work in the past by industry. Therefore, the timing of the debate is particularly appropriate. It has been a long time since the previous debate on space in the House, which I am told took place in 1988. I am delighted to have this opportunity to reply to my hon. Friend.

As my hon. Friend said, yesterday we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

The Shoemaker-Levy comet, as it disintegrated and descended into Jupiter, has had the most extraordinary effect in galvanising public opinion behind what can be achieved by the technology that is available to us in monitoring such events.

We should draw attention to the role that the Hubble space telescope has played in monitoring the Shoemaker-Levy comet and to the remarkable corrective action that was taken last year on the telescope to enable us now to have a wealth of new information for analysis by the scientific and astronomical community worldwide. We in Britain can take justifiable pride in the contribution that we have made to the telescope. It reminds us of the high regard in which our space science is held worldwide, which my hon. Friend underlined. We have an industry of which we can be proud.

We have also played our part in the European Space Agency's Ulysses mission, which has been able to observe the event from space. The British public should appreciate the role that we have played in ensuring that these dramatic events can be seen.

There are other examples, of course. In 1985, United Kingdom industry led the development of the Giotto mission to intercept Halley's comet. That proved to be an outstanding success. It was also United Kingdom industry which primed all ESA's satellite telecommunications missions which have flown so far.

Our major contribution to the Earth remote sensing satellites has provided—it will continue to do so—a wealth of data about the Earth and the development of its environment.

An important feature of these achievements is that they are possible through our collaboration with other nations in pursuing space activities. It is clear that no nation—not even a super-power—can afford the cost of major space missions in today's economic climate. Indeed, it may not be possible for a nation to try to meet the cost, given the exchange of know-how that can take place with other countries.

That was not always the case. America and Russia separately pioneered space programmes, for example. As my hon. Friend remarked, co-operation is now the order of the day. In that sense, the space race between nations is over and the old rivalry has been merged into co-operative ventures. We have only to have regard to the efforts to include Russian participation in the international space station to perceive how much progress has already been made in that context.

We are talking about new opportunities, but they will bring problems of adjustment. We are working closely with our partners in ESA in adapting the agency's operations to the new situation.

The other major change since the epic first steps on the moon has been the emergence of an identifiable commercial requirement for space telecommunications, broadcasting, navigation and business services. My hon. Friend mentioned all those items. Governments are no longer the only players in space, so our attention has turned to industry's need to be competitive in world space markets.

That is an important part of the responsibilities of the Department of Trade and Industry. My former responsibilities as parliamentary private secretary to the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave me a great insight into the wide range of input that comes from the science community. The Government's science budget is operated through research councils and is dealt with by the Cabinet Office.

The House will be aware that the Government's White Paper on competitiveness was a result of extensive consultation with industry, taking account of experience in identifying the key factors that determine success for world-class companies in the international market. Particular attention must be paid by the Government to creating a stable macro-economic environment and to fair and open markets. At the same time, our firms should be committed to innovation, quality and better management practice, for example. Space can be no exception to the need for partnership between industry and Government. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend underline that.

The House will wish to be told that the British National Space Centre is this morning consulting a broad cross-section of United Kingdom space companies on the full range of issues raised in the White Paper, including further development of an export strategy which involves our embassies, export promoters, trade specialists and, of course, industrial managers and market specialists.

My hon. Friend referred to telecommunications. Over the past year, the BNSC has worked closely with companies and trade associations to agree a strategy for that sector of the space industry, taking account of business opportunities, perceived barriers to markets and realistic levels of resource.

Companies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe meet various forms of tariff and non-tariff barriers in international markets. The Government are already heavily engaged in reducing those barriers. We work closely with the European Commission on conditions of trade.

The Government set out their civil space policy in a statement to the House in 1988, to which we have firmly adhered. Its key elements have been, and continue to be, to develop and introduce work space technologies. That is carried out principally by selective and cost-effective use of ESA programmes. Additionally, our national programme is aimed at achieving further exploitation of our investment in ESA, alongside necessary investment by industry.

The first priority objective of our policy has been, the development of Earth observation for environmental and long-term purposes. Again, my hon. Friend mentioned that. The second objective is to help industry to take advantage of past investment to make a commercial success of satellite communications and, where appropriate, to foster development of specialised telecommunications technologies for niche markets. The third objective is the maintenance of a sound space science base. I can assure my hon. Friend that our membership of ESA remains an important part of our space policy.

The space agency has undoubtedly been a source of many successful missions and developments in space technologies. The agency, with the United Kingdom as the lead participant, laid the foundations for today's thriving satellite telecoms sector. With the United Kingdom as a major proponent, the agency is at the forefront of Earth observation. Our contribution to the ESA science programme has been and still is extremely successful. The UK is playing a leading role in ESA's major contribution to our understanding of the Earth's environment through the successful Earth remote sensing satellite and its future missions.

Our main driving force is to identify and develop the applications of Earth observation data that are available from ESA and other sources. We are working on potential commercial applications in agriculture, fishenes and transport, ensuring that UK companies are in a good position to exploit market opportunities. In addition, the BNSC is working with the EU, which is a potentially large user of environmental information. I was glad that my hon. Friend discussed co-operation between the various directors-general of the European Commission. It is an extremely important matter. I am delighted that the Commission is becoming effective in attempting to gain the most out of the ESA programme.

With regard to telecommunications, it is useful to look beyond ESA and to consider sources of investment and the Government's role. Over many years, we have led, or have been a major subcontractor, for a series of very successful telecommunications or communications satellites. As the perception of a real market for space telecommunications has matured, Governments have created European and international satellite operating companies.

European manufacturers, in a strong position from success in ESA programmes, have had considerable success in supplying those operators. As they are exposed to international competition for their service, those operators expect European industry to be competitive with United States suppliers.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I simply wanted to congratulate him, as an old friend, on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box. It gives me the greatest pleasure to be able to do that.

Mr. Taylor

That intervention has not thrown me, although I am delighted by my right hon. Friend's comments. I am grateful to him, and I hope that all his subsequent interventions on me at the Dispatch Box will be as kind and generous.

As I was saying, operators in the European industry must be competitive with United States suppliers. As markets for telecommunications, weather forecasting, broadcasting and so on have become more mature, opportunities have become available outside Europe.

Although there have been successes, European companies have faced fierce competition from American contractors who benefit from their large civil and defence home markets. Reductions in American defence expenditure have heightened that competition.

The United Kingdom and European industry acknowledges the need continually to improve competitiveness, particularly on time and price, to win a more significant slice of opportunities in Japan, China, Korea and elsewhere. The Department of Trade and Industry is very much behind those efforts.

Increased Government expenditure on research and development would have little direct effect. In these circumstances, we must be driven by British industry. Action by Government to create fair open markets, and by European industry to increase competitiveness, can have a decisive influence.

However, ESA programmes continue to provide real opportunities to develop scientific instruments, technology, components and applications relevant to telecommunications and European markets. We contribute to a numbe. of aimed development programmes which are consistent with our overall policy.

Some emerging markets require a more global and more rapid response than ESA has traditionally provided. The market in satellite navigation is an example of that. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham referred to that point and, in so doing, revealed her considerable knowledge of that sector.

The British National Space Centre is currently talking with ESA, Eurocontrol and the Department of Trade and Industry about the next generation of air traffic navigation systems in order to ensure European success in that market.

Mrs. Gillan

Does my hon. Friend agree that an important dimension to those discussions should include the European Commission, which can provide a larger overview of the requirements of the whole of the European Union, including the new members that we expect to join shortly?

Mr. Taylor

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Quite often in this country, we tend to want to downplay the Commission. However, when the Commission acts in such areas, it acts in Britain's interests to gain the maximum advantage from the high technology opportunities available and because, as I said earlier, it is essential that we have co-operation between countries and industries on a cross-national basis in this area.

No one country is capable of making a proper contribution. In such circumstances, it makes sense for the Commission to play a leading role. I have learnt a great deal from my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham this morning about the way in which directorates-general are co-operating. Having assumed my ministerial responsibilities, it is clear that I will be greatly involved in those discussions.

New Ministers are always amused when they discover what is planned for them, in respect of which they have had no say. However, I understand that there will be discussions in the European Union in which I will take part. Those discussions will enable me to understand the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham has made and to see just how effective co-operation between the directorates-general is.

As my hon. Friend pointed out, there are practical civil applications, across the board, from the knowledge that we are gaining from many of our space activities. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the attention of the House to those points.

Mrs. Gillan

Perhaps I can hearten my hon. Friend by informing him that, in my discussions last week with Commission representatives, they were not backward in coming forward in praising the attitude, stance and capabilities of our United Kingdom representatives who, from time to time, find themselves in discussions across the directorates-general in respect of the subject that we are discussing today. I pass on to my hon. Friend the fact that the officials and representatives who are exposed to those directorates-general in the Commission are already very user-friendly towards the United Kingdom delegation.

Mr. Taylor

That is very valuable news, and I look forward to co-operating with my hon. Friend as I learn about the various activities.

My hon. Friend made an important point. It is not only officials who must be abreast of the developments; Members of Parliament must also be abreast of them. My hon. Friend referred to the recent visit of the parliamentary committee. There is also to be a conference of parliamentarians next year in this country. That is quite right and proper. We should take a lead. The parliamentary space committee, with which I had some dealings in my former existence in the Office of Public Service and Science, is impressive in the way in which it initiates discussions and takes a lead in its links with industry and the European Union.

I am delighted about the conference, and look forward to learning more about the timetable and planning and what we in the DTI can do to assist. It is important for us to be prodded by colleagues in the House who have a particularly specialist interest. As a Minister, I look forward to being prodded by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham in the months to come.

Co-operation between the Government and industry is very important. As I said, the BNSC is currently talking to ESA, Eurocontrol and the DTI about the next generation of air traffic navigation systems under the general heading of satellite navigation. A company in my constituency has been involved in those discussions.

It is important to try to get industry to come forward with research and development money and to enable the United Kingdom contribution to ESA to be the broadest possible across Government and industry. I am satisfied that the present provision in the national programme covers the key essentials, particularly in relation to our priority objectives in Earth observation.

Our emphasis is, and will be, on value for money both in the conduct of ESA's operations and in encouraging the most cost-effective approach to the provision of all space and space-related services.

My hon. Friend will know that, sometimes, with exciting issues such as space, which is easily capable of pulling the imagination with it, with the phenomenal things that we now see on television, there is sometimes a feeling that value for money and efficiency should not be part of the equation and that money should be spent because it is a good thing. I know that my hon. Friend does not share that view, and, as a Minister, I certainly do not share that view.

If something is as good as the whole technology which has driven forward the space programme, it is important for the Government to encourage industry to get the best value for money out of its activities and to concentrate on the matters that it can do best. In areas where resources in any one industry or country are inadequate, we must consider important prospects for the co-operation to which we have made reference.

There is to be a ministerial conference in late 1995. We are considering the future direction of the agency's programme. That conference is already an important part of the calendar. There will be many preparatory meetings on a bilateral and European basis, and the agenda will be of enormous importance. If I may be so bold in my first appearance at the Dispatch Box, I invite the parliamentary space committee to put forward ideas well in advance. Perhaps the ministerial conference and the parliamentarians' conference, which my hon. Friend has informed the House about, could make sure that our agendas have rapprochement so that we do not end up trying to second-guess each other on the these matters.

Mrs. Gillan

I thank my hon. Friend for his generous invitation to the parliamentary space committee. I am sure that my fellow officers of the committee will respond to it in due course. I am extremely heartened already to know that my hon. Friend is listening to, and is willing to take on board, fresh ideas, and expects, particularly in the run-up to September 1995, to participate in the discussions during the lead-in period to the EC ministerial conference.

Mr. Taylor

We will be in touch with my hon. Friend and the other officers of the parliamentary space committee to work out how we can best gain advantage from those two conferences.

I agree with my hon. Friend that there have been many significant changes to the political, defence and economic environment in recent years, although those changes have brought our partners in ESA closer to our position—that is, putting space to work—rather than creating a diversity of view. As events have turned out, our decision not to take part in a European manned space programme was sensible, although, of course, it might have been exciting. The main planks of our space policy remain valid, and, indeed, other ESA partners are realigning their policies more closely with United Kingdom objectives.

My hon. Friend mentioned several changes that are now taking place. I had also noticed the British Aerospace deal with Matra Marconi. I might even visit the company to see what progress is being made. I have already mentioned that I have Logica Space and Defence in my constituency, and it will be interesting to be able to visit that company as the Minister, as opposed to just an interested Back-Bencher. Such excitement lies in wait for me in the programme that I am now honoured to be able to follow from the Front Bench.

Overall, my industrial and business background tells me that nothing will be successful in this very exciting sector unless it is firmly based on a cost-effective programme. We must not try to do things that we cannot follow through. We have constraints on our budgets. My hon. Friend mentioned that the Department of Trade and Industry budget is not exactly expanding, but it is only part of a much broader Government contribution to the British National Space Centre, and other Departments are co-operating.

My hon. Friend mentioned the European Space Agency's telecommunications technology programme. The Government are contributing to some parts of the technology framework known as the ARTES. We are very open to influence by industry, perhaps to switch between the various subjects. At the moment, there are commitments to elements of ARTES 1 and 4, and we propose to join ARTES 9, but we will listen closely to representations. Overall, the co-operation between British industry and the Government is working well. Certainly, we are very keen indeed to see a proper and effective European Space Agency working in this very exciting sector.

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