§ 2.43 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBORQUGH
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the launching of the French three-stage rocket, Diamant, they intend to proceed with the next development stage of the launcher vehicle, Black Arrow.]
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, as I stated in reply to the noble Lord's Motion on November 3, preliminary development work is going on, but a decision to proceed with a full development programme must depend on the wider consideration which is being given by the Government on our space policy. As I indicated on that occasion, it is hoped that decisions will be taken in the near future.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, which I feel does not take us very much further, may I ask whether he is really happy about the continuing delay in taking a definite decision on this matter especially in view of the fact that in our debate he said, after the quotation he has himself given, that it is extremely important that we should develop a capability in this 106 field and that decisions will be taken in the near future? That was said over a month ago, and in fact there is over a year's delay in this matter. Is the noble Lord also aware that industry itself is prepared to contribute to the cost of development to an appreciable extent— I think it was £1 million out of £8 million in the next three years—and is he also aware that, again, it is over a year since industry made this offer? In my view, the delay passes comprehension.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, it is certainly over a year since industry made the offer to the previous Government, which so far as I know did not choose to take it up. There is nothing that this Government could have done that would have got us ahead of French space research. It is the previous Administration's policy which we are now having to review, in the hope of getting better value for money than they succeeded in getting in the past. I agree that this matter is of importance. It is the subject of very thorough study, and I hope that decisions will be arrived at shortly.