HC Deb 27 November 1968 vol 774 cc110-1W
58. Mr. David Price

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the negotiations on European space policy in which he took part in Bonn at the beginning of November.

Mr. Benn

The European Space Conference reached broad agreement on the concept of a unified European space organisation, on the objectives of European space policy, and on the principle that only those countries who wished to do so need participate in future launcher development programmes.

The Conference agreed on the continuation of E.S.R.O. for a further three years with an increased budget. It endorsed the united European position agreed in C.E.T.S. for the forthcoming Intelsat negotiations.

The Conference agreed in principle on an applications satellite programme, though decisions on the first project will not be taken until next Spring; it also agreed on the use of a limited number of European launchers for European scientific and applications purposes, at prices substantially subsidised by the countries supporting launcher development.

The United Kingdom made it clear that it wished to see a switch of resources from expensive launcher development to the field of applications satellites, which we consider to be technologically and commercially more interesting. For this reason we stated that our participation in the applications programme and in the arrangements for the use of European launchers was conditional upon release from our present financial commitments to E.L.D.O.

Although much difficult negotiation lies ahead, a good deal of support was expressed for our approach based on economic considerations, and I think that we made a useful start in establishing a sound basis for future European space activities.