§ Lord Kennet
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have been correctly reported as wishing to cut the European Space Agency's (ESA's) budget by 25 per cent., if so, whether they will give reasons, given the industrial return and benefit British firms derive from ESA research activities; whether their wish for this cut has been discussed with British firms; and whether they consider such a cut would improve the commercial and other prospects of those firms.
§ Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
The ESA Ministerial Council decided unanimously at Toulouse on 19 October to set a flat five year level of resources for the science programme. This will run at 347 million accounting units (ecu equivalent) a year from 1996 to 2000 and will be indexed only for inflation exceeding three per cent. The level is some 15 per cent. below earlier proposals. The Government maintain a regular dialogue with companies in the space sector and welcome the decision as providing a stable basis for the continued pursuit of excellence in ESA's space science programme and encouraging cost-conscious mission hardware and equipment procurement along the lines the UK has consistently advocated. Changes to ESA procurement, which were also agreed at the Ministerial 173WA Council, can be expected to enhance opportunities for competitive suppliers in the UK and elsewhere.