Chris Grayling: Let us be absolutely clear about this. We have one law of the land which applies to every single citizen of this country—to every single person who is in this country—regardless of race, colour or creed. That is beyond question, and, in my view, it can never be different. Systems that offer arbitration services

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1013

within, for example, religious groups are ultimately not legally binding. Ultimately, the only places in our country that deliver legally binding rulings are our courts, and people in this country can always have recourse to the courts in the event of matters of challenge in their lives.

I know that this matter is of concern to the Home Secretary. She will be here next week, and I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise the issue with her, as, indeed, will I.

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): Figures published today reveal that there has been a 30% increase in the number of acid attacks over the last two years. These brutal attacks leave their victims with a life sentence, which is often longer than the sentences that the perpetrators receive. May we have a debate on ways of tackling acid attacks, including better regulation of the most corrosive substances?

Chris Grayling: I had a brief discussion about this very matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice a while ago. I know that it is a matter of great concern to Home Office Ministers, who have been considering and discussing it in recent days. It is clearly a matter of great concern, because the lasting impact of an acid attack on an individual can be profoundly life-changing. We must always condemn such attacks, and always try to stop them. I will ensure that my hon. Friend’s concerns are raised after this session.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Last Monday saw the deadline pass for responses to the consultation on the Greater Manchester spatial framework, which sets out housing land supply for the next 20 years. It is bad enough that very few councillors in Greater Manchester knew that the consultation was taking place, but it is atrocious that the public did not know either. May we have a debate in Government time on the accountability of combined authorities, to the electorate in particular, but also to the members of the constituent councils?

Chris Grayling: I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I will pass his concerns to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which will undoubtedly be anxious to ensure that the new systems work effectively. Of course, councils and councillors have a duty to communicate what is going on to their members and their constituents. When that does not happen it is not always the fault of the people at the centre; nevertheless, there is that duty to try to ensure that the message gets out.

Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con): I was pleased to hear during Women and Equalities questions that the Minister welcomed the publication today of the trans inquiry report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the report in the Chamber. I must defer to the expertise of the Clerks, but as far as I know there has not previously been a debate about the trans community on the Floor of the House. In the light of my right hon. Friend’s report, will the Leader of the House host such a debate?

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1014

Chris Grayling: I think that that would be a very sensible thing to do. The deputy Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), is present, and will undoubtedly have noted my hon. Friend’s question. In order for such a debate to take place, a formal request must be made to the Committee, but I think that both the time that it is able to provide and the time that is available in Westminster Hall present ideal opportunities for discussion of the report, and of an issue that I suspect has not previously been debated on the Floor of the House, although it is a very real and genuine issue.

Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP): The Leader of the House will be well aware of the fate of six British sailors in Chennai, including my constituent Billy Irving, of Connel, near Oban. Having been detained for nearly two years, they were each sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment in an Indian jail. The case, and the sentence, has shocked and caused great upset to the men and their families. Will a Foreign Office Minister make an urgent statement to the House as soon as possible about what the Foreign Office plans to do to help these men?

Chris Grayling: I know the hon. Gentleman has been a vigorous campaigner on behalf of these gentlemen and their families. After this session of questions has finished, I will pass that message to the Foreign Office and ask it to respond to him. Of course, such situations are much more challenging to address once a court has ruled, because we have to respect the justice systems of other countries, but I absolutely understand the concerns. It may be that these gentlemen choose to appeal, and if they do so I would expect the usual consular support to be made available.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): It has been reported that President Obama will be visiting this country in May, no doubt at the start of his farewell tour. More disturbingly, it has also been reported that he will be invited by the Prime Minister to comment on the merits of Britain staying in the European Union as part of an increasingly desperate attempt to shore up the increasingly threadbare proposals for us to stay in the EU. Will the Leader of the House, as the representative of this House, write to the United States ambassador, not only to welcome President Obama to this country, but to make it clear to the ambassador that the President should not be commenting on very important domestic issues, important to the people of this country?

Chris Grayling: I think I can reassure my hon. Friend in that I suspect such a letter is not needed, because I have no doubt that the American ambassador closely follows the proceedings in this Chamber and that the comments of my hon. Friend will be reported to him. I am sure that message will filter back to the Americans.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): May we have a debate on the rather bizarre decision reached by the fisheries Minister, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), at the European fisheries and open opportunities meeting, whereby gillnet fishing is to be allowed to continue of the endangered bass species, whereas domestic anglers are told they are to have a zero-take bag? It seems to me and many domestic anglers an absolutely unfair decision that stops their

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1015

recreational fishing while hugely increasing the take of an endangered species by fishermen, including in the fisheries Minister’s constituency.

Chris Grayling: The hon. Lady is not the first Member to raise this concern. I am not aware of the detail that has prompted the decision, but I can understand why hon. Members think it is somewhat strange. I will ask my hon. Friend to write to her after this meeting to explain the reason for that decision and what, if anything, happens next.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Can the Leader confirm that, sadly, the Government have a new year’s resolution to further deregulate Sunday trading in the forthcoming Enterprise Bill? Why do the Government not publish the results of their Sunday trading consultation, which may have got lost in the Christmas decorations bag, and realise that this is a new year’s resolution that makes no business sense and no family sense, and should be broken as soon as possible?

Chris Grayling: I know my hon. Friend feels very strongly about this issue, and I would simply assure him that if any proposals are brought forward, the House will be properly informed and all appropriate information will be provided to the House.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): After the Legislative Grand Committee on Tuesday, there were some rather forlorn-looking Clerks in the Division Lobbies packing away iPads that had not been used, having been specially set up to record English votes for English laws. Given that these tablet devices have been paid for and exist, why not put them to use to record all Divisions in the House as the first step towards a 21st-century system of electronic voting?

Chris Grayling: I think that is the intention. The House of Lords is already using iPads to record Divisions, and it seems to me entirely logical that we should do the same. The system is now in place for the double majority votes, and it is my hope and expectation that we will move to general recording in the very near future. There is no reason not to do that.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Businesses across York have been seriously impacted by the floods as people have stayed away due to the images of floodwater. York has dried out, cleaned up and is open for trade. May we have a statement from the Business Secretary on the costs of the floods to businesses and further support to be made available for affected businesses, and will he make it clear that the best way to support cities that flooded, such as York, is to visit and take advantage of the fantastic bars, cafés and shops?

Chris Grayling: May I first extend my good wishes to the hon. Lady and her constituents and commend them for the work they have been doing to mop up after the floods? She is absolutely right: York is a large place and the floods were deeply damaging to parts of the city—but only parts of it. Many businesses were unaffected, and many others have done a sterling job in turning things around quickly and reopening. We should be encouraging

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1016

people to go into the city to visit, to shop, and to eat and drink, to ensure that its economy flourishes. That is true not only of York but of Carlisle, the centre of Manchester and elsewhere.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Next week, the High Court will hear a judicial review brought by, among others, my constituents Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who wish to enter into a civil partnership but cannot currently do so, in breach of their article 8 and article 14 rights. We are aware of the Leader of the House’s love of the Human Rights Act—perhaps he will apply for Shami Chakrabarti’s job, given that he will be looking for one soon—but this is a matter for Parliament. Will he find Government time to legislate to allow different-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman has made this point before, but if this matter is before the courts, it is not appropriate for us to discuss it today. The Government have considered the matter before and they do not currently have proposals to make a change, although Ministers and this House will always keep it under review.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): The Energy Secretary has noted her frustration that the five-year low in wholesale energy prices has not been passed on to consumers, but quite frankly, my constituents are less interested in what frustrates the right hon. Lady than in finding out what action she is going to take as Secretary of State. May we have a statement from her to tell us exactly what she intends to do to help hard-pressed businesses and households that are currently paying through the nose?

Chris Grayling: The most straightforward option is to shop around. There have been price reductions, and they tend to be among the smaller, newer entrants to the market. We have taken significant steps to encourage a broader range of providers to enter the market, and the number has risen from six to the best part of 30 providers. There are now some much better deals around. The way to get a cheaper price is to shop around, and we should do everything we can to encourage people to switch easily and to chase the best option.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): May we have a debate on the recent report from the Museums Association, which reveals that nearly one in five regional museums have closed a part or a branch to the public over the past year, with the north of England being particularly affected because of reductions in local authority funding from central Government?

Chris Grayling: We cannot dictate what local authorities do with their money, but what I can say is that in the spending review we protected the money that goes to cultural institutions precisely because we recognise their importance. We as a Government will continue to do that, but it is for local councils to set their own local priorities.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Welsh Grand Committee meets from time to time. Indeed, I think he appeared in front of it in Wrexham once. He will

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1017

therefore be aware that any time the Committee meets in Wales, its members may make representations and speak in either English or Welsh. However, when the Committee meets in a Committee Room in this place, its members are permitted to use only English. In view of the fact that there are two official languages in Wales, and that we have a Welsh Grand Committee coming up on 3 February, will the right hon. Gentleman make a commitment that all its members may use either English or Welsh?

Chris Grayling: I will not give the hon. Lady a commitment about that, but she makes a serious point and I will take a look at it. Clearly it is important that that happens in Wales, and I was not aware that it was not possible in this building. I will go and take a look at that for her.

Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Every piece of evidence shows that scrapping student grants will deter students from poorer backgrounds. Regardless of the merits of the proposal, is this not also about democracy? The proposal, which did not appear in the Conservative manifesto, will affect more than 500,000 people, and it is going to be decided in a back room by a small number of people. Is that not a shoddy way to do business? Is it not about time that the Government showed the courage of their convictions and allowed a full debate and a full vote on the proposal on the Floor of this House?

Chris Grayling: If Labour Members feel so strongly about this matter, they could use the Opposition day next Tuesday to debate it. A statutory instrument of this kind cannot pass into law, against the wishes of Members of this House, until it is voted upon the Floor of this House. Every night, as part of the remaining orders of the day, we address motions, and if people disagree with them they pray against them and they are then divided upon. That can happen, and it will happen if the Opposition choose to make it so. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, for all the stories that have been told by the Opposition in recent years, the number of young people from deprived backgrounds going to our universities has actually being going up, not down.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1018

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab): May we have a debate in Government time on cervical screening for women under the age of 25, too many of whom have died after being refused a smear test? Emma Louise Fisk died at the age of 25 after being refused a smear test approximately 10 times, having been erroneously diagnosed with a urine infection. Many Members across the House will welcome the opportunity to ask Health Ministers whether it is time to offer young women tests on request, as well as to do more to promote take-up of smear tests among women of all ages and ethnicities.

Chris Grayling: It is always a difficult challenge for the health service to set the framework within which it offers tests. The hon. Lady makes a point that has been raised before. It is tragic when situations such as the one she describes take place. I will of course ensure that the Health Secretary is made aware of the concern that she has raised. None the less, these things must be a matter for the professionals to decide what to do and what not to do, but she makes an important point and I will pass it on.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Today, we have a debate on space technology. In sharp contrast, the Leader of the House may be aware that the Department dealing with child tax credits will take faxes but not emails for MPs’ constituent inquiries, which is hardly 21st-century technology. In a written answer this week, the Treasury advised me that that was because standard emails are not secure, and yet the Department for Work and Pensions responds to emails that contain sensitive information. I am concerned that that implies that MPs’ emails are not secure. Can we have a proper ministerial statement, or a debate, on the security of the IT systems managed by the Government?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The matter of parliamentary emails is under discussion as it is of ongoing concern. The new head of security, who has been in place for a few months, has said that he regards ensuring integrity and security around our IT systems as an important area. I assured him that both the authority of this House and Mr Speaker are indeed concerned to ensure that that is the case.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1019

Points of Order

11.47 am

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the House has twice now said that the student finance measure, which started consideration in Committee at 11.30 this morning, will automatically be voted on by the whole House, as it will end up appearing on the Remaining Orders of the Day, but that is not the case. I say gently to him that he does not understand the rules. The simple situation is that, because the measure is going through the negative process, unless there is a motion formally tabled and carried in this House that says it shall not pass into law by 23 January—the motion must be tabled by him, by Government, or, theoretically, by us on an Opposition day—it cannot come to pass. He should not inadvertently mislead us by suggesting that this will happen automatically. If he is saying that he will table such a motion and allow for a debate, we would be very grateful, but he should not inadvertently mislead the House.

Mr Speaker: I am sure that the shadow Leader of the House is not making a speech to, or at, the Leader of the House. What he is really doing is asking for my guidance, which I am happy to provide. If that guidance happens to coincide with his own interpretation of matters, I dare say that he will dance around the mulberry bush in exultant celebration. Let me tell him and the House what the position is. I understand that the regulations are indeed being debated in Committee as we speak as a result of a reference moved by Ministers in response to a prayer—that is a motion against the regulations. I am sure that the House is with me so far. That is a perfectly commonplace, almost prosaic, procedure. It is open to Ministers to bring forward the prayer for decision in the House without further debate, or it can be brought forward by the Opposition on an Opposition day for determination by the House. That is the situation.

Chris Bryant rose—

Mr Speaker: If the hon. Gentleman is quizzical, I would not wish him to remain so.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1020

Chris Bryant: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful for that guidance. May I seek a little bit more? I was not sure whether you heard the Deputy Leader of the House say, “Yes, that is what’s going to happen,” because that is not what, thus far, the Government have said—

Mr Speaker: What is “it” in this context?

Chris Bryant: That they will bring forward a motion, so that there is a vote. It does not happen automatically. As I understand it, the Government have to decide to do it. If the Leader or Deputy Leader of the House would nod to indicate that that is what they are going to do—

Mr Speaker: Look, the hon. Gentleman is an extremely important Member of this House, and no one is more keenly conscious of that fact than he, but it is not for him to seek to persuade, cajole or exhort people to nod. If the Leader or Deputy Leader of the House wishes to give the House a clear indication now of the Government’s intentions in respect of this matter, specifically the centrality or otherwise of the Chamber to its resolution, either of them is perfectly free to do so, but neither of them is under any obligation. It is a case of speak now or, if not forever hold your peace, for the time being do so.

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Dr Thérèse Coffey): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not going to announce the business of the House, because the Leader of the House has already done that, but any Member can go and participate in that debate now. It is then for the Government to decide whether to bring the matter forward, as you have already pointed out in your guidance, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I think we will leave it there for now. Right hon. and hon. Members will make their own assessment, and I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for what she has said.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1021

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: UK Delegation

public administration and constitutional affairs committee

Select Committee statement

Mr Speaker: We come very shortly to the Select Committee statement. Mr Bernard Jenkin, the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, will speak for no more than 10 minutes, during which time, I remind colleagues, no interventions may be taken. At the conclusion of the statement, I will call Members to put questions on the subject of the statement and call Mr Jenkin to respond to these in turn. Members can expect to be called only once. Interventions should be questions, and should be brief. Front Benchers may take part in questioning. I call the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House, Mr Bernard Jenkin.

11.52 am

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to make this statement on PACAC’s report on our brief inquiry into the appointment of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is published today.

When the membership of the new delegation was announced in November, there was some disquiet among some right hon. and hon. Members, including myself and other members of the Select Committee, about the way the delegation was chosen and appointed. Concerns were raised by colleagues and the media that the way some Conservatives voted to defeat the Government on an amendment to the European Union Referendum Bill might have influenced those decisions.

It has been established practice, until this Parliament, for the existing members of the delegation to choose to retire from it, and for potential new members to express an interest in joining. This was not the case in November, when certain right hon. and hon. Members were simply removed from the delegation by fiat. Some of those so removed had wanted to continue, including my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan). The House should note that my right hon. Friend is a member of PACAC, but she therefore recused herself from the Committee’s proceedings on this matter.

Following a debate in this House to elect a new delegation for the present year, which saw a Back-Bench motion defeated by the payroll vote, PACAC received a letter from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) and the Committee resolved to invite the Leader of the House to give oral evidence on the matter. We also received written evidence from my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale), who is the newly appointed leader of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We also received written evidence from my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, although it was very late in the process. I apologise to him for the fact that we had completed and resolved to make our

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1022

report before his evidence reached me or the members of the Committee. I do regret this and apologise to him for it. Nevertheless, his evidence is published on our website. It would not have altered the substance of our recommendations, but it speaks for itself.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe does not much restrict how its delegates should be appointed. It Rules Committee states that delegates are

“elected . . . or appointed from among the members”

of each Parliament

“in such manner as it shall decide”.

My Committee heard that the Conservative party used a system based on patronage of the leader or the so-called usual channels, meaning the Whips Office. As such, PACAC concludes that the Government have not broken any rules of the Assembly. However, the Rules Committee of the Assembly said that the UK Parliament should

“review with the utmost diligence”

the way in which the delegation is appointed to

“bring it fully into line with . . . democratic principles”.

Parliament is not bound to take any action on that advice. Nevertheless, we recommend that the House should revise the way in which delegates are chosen in the future, on the basis that this is how a great Parliament makes decisions, and we should represent the highest standards of democracy and accountability to our fellow European parliamentarians. We therefore recommend that, in future, the delegation should be elected, not appointed by the Prime Minister as now, and moreover elected by the membership of the House of Commons along similar lines to those on which the House now elects members of Select Committees, but also providing for the gender balance required in this case.

This means that the House can object to the inclusion of delegation members who may be considered unsuitable, as is the case with motions on the appointment of Select Committees. This has not been the case before. Following the success of the Wright Committee’s recommendations to reform elections to Select Committees, it seems only right that the same principles should be extended to parliamentary delegations. The key recommendation of this report is that future delegations are chosen by free, fair and open elections. Subject to the approval of this recommendation by the House, the Procedure Committee would consider how the reform might be implemented, also so as to reflect the gender balance requirement.

We recommended that this system of election could be extended to other delegations, such as NATO, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly.

I very much hope that the House will welcome this proposal for democratic reform in the way that the UK appoints its most significant parliamentary delegations, and that the House will vote to approve it soon.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): Yet again, we appear to be intruding on the private grief of the Conservative party. Although I take no joy in that, I welcome the statement and the report to which it refers. It echoes the collective view from the Opposition Benches that the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should be chosen on a democratic basis. We wholeheartedly agree with the proposals in the report.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1023

Will the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) please confirm that this is the first and only such examination of how this House chooses its parliamentary delegation and that, if the report is agreed, under the rules of the Council of Europe it will be incumbent on the Conservative party to comply with the report’s recommendations?

Mr Jenkin: I believe it is the first time that any review of the procedure has been undertaken. That complies with the request made to us by the Rules Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly, but it is a matter for the House as a whole how it takes this matter forward. The Committee cannot bind the House on how it should proceed. Perhaps the official Opposition will provide time to ensure that the House has an opportunity to debate our recommendations.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and the members of his Committee for this very thorough report. What does he intend to do to try and ensure that his recommendations are carried forward, even in the face of implacable opposition from the Government? How can this House of Commons take control of the matter and ensure that its own choices are appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly?

Mr Jenkin: I would recommend either that Back-Bench business time be provided so that my hon. Friend can bring forward a motion, or that that is done by Her Majesty’s official Opposition, who clearly feel strongly about the matter. I imagine that every member of my Committee would support that.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): As a member of PACAC, I am delighted to support the report and to applaud our Chair on what he has said. Do the Government accept that there has been a cultural change over the past 15 years and that we now decide most things like this by election? The power of the Whips to stuff Committees with their favourites has more or less disappeared, certainly for Select Committees, and that is a very welcome change.

Mr Jenkin: I very much agree that there are now different expectations about how these matters should be decided. I have in my hand a written ministerial statement issued only yesterday, entitled, “UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe”. Admittedly, it only removes one peer and appoints another, but it was issued by the Prime Minister. He, of course, is a parliamentarian and the leader of a political party, but I think that the expectation now is that these matters should be handled by the two Houses and clearly ought not to be decided by the Executive. We all know what “the usual channels” means; it means decisions being made in secret, reasons not being give, and there being very little accountability. I think that people expect us to improve on that in today’s age.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I very much welcome what my hon. Friend has said about Members being elected to the delegation, rather than appointed. We await the Government’s formal response to the report,

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1024

but has he had any indication that they might be sympathetic to its conclusions, and can he confirm that it was agreed unanimously by the Committee?

Mr Jenkin: I can confirm that the report was agreed unanimously. The only evidence we have taken from the Government is the oral evidence from the Leader of the House. As we are learning, what a Minister’s private thoughts might be on certain matters might not reflect what they say as a Minister. I hope that the Government will reflect on the Wright Committee and the success of Select Committee elections and recognise that times are changing. The days when they could hand out delegation places to Members of Parliament on the basis of grace and favour are over. That does not win us respect in the Council of Europe or among other parliamentarians across Europe, to whom this House should be setting an example.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): As the longest-serving member of the UK delegation to the Council of Europe, I congratulate the Committee, and particularly its Chair, on the impartial way that this matter has been dealt with. Never in all the years that I have served in the Council of Europe did I envisage a day when one of its committees would tell the UK, which has been the gold standard for democratic integrity for the past 70 years, that we should bring our standards of democratic accountability up to those of Azerbaijan and Bulgaria. This has been a shameful period for the United Kingdom. It is not just the delegates who are not elected; neither is its leader. Neither Conservative delegates, nor those from other parties, have any role whatsoever in that. We will be going back on the spirit of the Wright reforms unless that is changed quickly.

Mr Jenkin: I pay tribute to the longest-serving member of PACAC, or whatever name it had in previous Parliaments. The hon. Gentleman has been an enormous fund of institutional memory on that Committee, and that is extremely useful. During our inquiry, he pointed out that his party already has a form of elections for its delegates that provides for the complexity of providing gender balance. Some of the objections that have been raised to say that we cannot do this are therefore clearly confounded by the experience of his party.

I think it would be a mistake to say that this episode has brought shame on our country. The hon. Gentleman is right to make comparisons with other countries that do things better. However, the Rules Committee made it clear that people might have misunderstood the confusion of roles that we have in this House whereby the Prime Minister is also leader of the governing party and sits as a parliamentarian. The more classical separation of powers that is expected does not exist in our constitution. That is not a matter of shame for us, but we are now a little behind the times. We should be demonstrating how, in our procedures, we expect the best, and the most open and democratic, practices to be adopted—not from the age of deference but the age of popular democracy.

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): I, too, commend the Chairman and the Committee for this report. I confess to finding it strange that the Prime Minister should have sought, in a fit of pique, to exclude troublemakers from the delegation to the Council of Europe, because in my time as a Whip we thought that was one of its

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1025

purposes. Why does the Chairman think that the Prime Minister did not heed the unfortunate experience of Tony Blair and Robin Cook when they disastrously tried to intervene to change the chairmanships of the Transport and Foreign Affairs Committees? Can he explain this case of prime ministerial hubris without any regard to the inevitable arrival of nemesis?

Mr Jenkin: Without straying too much into Greek terminology, I think that what Prime Ministers have they tend to want to keep and not give up. There was perhaps a failure of imagination about the effect of what people wanted to do, but that has provided this House with an opportunity to review, to debate, and, I hope, in due course to decide on how to make sure that we bring our procedures into the democratic age.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his statement and the way he made it, and thank him and his Committee for producing this report in a most timely fashion since the controversy arose. He has lifted the stone from the rather murky, grubby world of the use and abuse of Government patronage. I congratulate him on doing that and support his recommendations.

With the Select Committee example, we have a perfect opportunity to elect all our delegations to international bodies on a full, free and fair basis. As a member of the Backbench Business Committee, may I invite him to present to us his case for his recommendations to form part of a motion that could be voted on by this House? Now that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) has said that we have the support of Opposition Front Benchers, and given the importance that the Council of Europe attaches to motions of this House, but not necessarily to the views of Her Majesty’s Government, it would be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that this House is fully behind his recommendations.

Mr Jenkin: I am very grateful for, and flattered by, my hon. Friend’s invitation. It is important to say that were I to undertake to do this, I would want some assurances from those who say they support these proposals that they will make strenuous efforts to make sure that people turn up and vote for them, because we often have debates in this House where very few turn up, and then the Government decide to take no notice. The Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) is nodding and saying that that may well be the case, so it will be a very worthwhile thing for me to do. I will consider it and hope to bring forward a motion proposed by every member of my Committee.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1026

Backbench Business

Space Policy

12.9 pm

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): I beg to move,

That this House notes the scientific, cultural and technological opportunities arising from exploration of outer space and the significant contribution the space industry makes to the UK economy; further notes the increased public interest in space exploration resulting from Major Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station (ISS); welcomes the global co-operation that has led to the development of the ISS over the last forty years; takes note of the shortlist of airports and aerodromes that could host a UK spaceport published by the UK Government in March 2015; and calls on the Government to bring forward further advice and support for organisations considering developing such facilities so that they might be operational by the Government’s target date of 2018.

If hon. Members read the motion, they will see that it covers the incredible breadth and depth of the space industry and its amazing potential. I hope that that will be covered during the debate by Members from different parts of the United Kingdom. Some people are likely to stoop to using some fairly poor puns. At this point I would like to register the fact that I accept no responsibility for that. I lay the blame at the feet of the Prime Minister, who has stooped to using some pretty shocking puns at Question Time recently, something for which he needs to be penitent.

Some people who follow the media will be aware that our former First Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), has used as a travelling pseudonym the name of that famous captain of the USS Enterprise, but for a debate as important as this, I felt we should contact the real McCoy. I therefore have a message to the House of Commons from William Shatner:

“Space is one of the last known frontiers, mostly untouched by mankind and his politics. In opening a debate on this subject my hope is you take the tenets of Star Trek’s prime directive to universally and peacefully share in the exploration of it. I wish you all a wonderful debate. My best, Bill”.

As some people will have seen, we have also had a message on Twitter from George Takei—otherwise known as Mr Sulu—wishing us luck as we venture to the stars.

This is not a debate about fictional astronauts. We tried to get the debate on this day to honour a real astronaut, Major Tim Peake, who is currently in the international space station. We sought it today because tomorrow he will be making a spacewalk. Contrary to some slightly sloppy journalism, he is not actually the first British astronaut. That honour fell to Dr Helen Sharman from Yorkshire a quarter of a century ago, in 1991. I find it incredibly appropriate that, prior to that, she was a research chemist for Mars. [Laughter.] It’ll get worse.

However, Major Tim Peake is our first astronaut through an increased engagement with the European Space Agency. While Helen Sharman was on the Mir station, he is in the international space station, and tomorrow he will certainly be taking part in the very first British spacewalk. It will start, hopefully, at 11.30 GMT tomorrow morning. I would encourage all schools, children and youngsters of all ages to log on to or

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1027

NASA TV on the internet, where it will be shown, as it truly is an historic moment. He has been tasked with changing regulators on the solar panels. As they are high-voltage regulators, the walk has to be carried out entirely on the dark side.

I am a member of the parliamentary space committee. We had the great opportunity to have a private tour of the “Cosmonauts” exhibition in the Science Museum, which I would recommend to anyone. The museum spent four years negotiating with Russia to bring incredible artefacts to this country—the space capsule of Tereshkova, uniforms of Gagarin and all sorts of pieces of hardware that even people in Russia did not know existed. What struck me as we went round the museum was the fact that, during points of incredible friction between Russia and the US and across the world, back channels always remained open. Co-operation always continued on the international space station. We have seen that in these few years of setting up the exhibition, during which we have had the Ukrainian crisis, Crimea and friction over Syria. If we can work so well together in space, it would be great if we could work a little bit better here on earth.

Any Members who were in the Chamber when I made my maiden speech will remember that I referred to Prestwick in my constituency as being on the shortlist for consideration as a space port. I remember that whenever I talked to anyone about that during the election, they would always just laugh, because in this country we think that space is for other people—the big boys: north America, Russia and maybe even China, but not us. That is something we have to change. We need to believe in what we can do, and I think Major Tim Peake’s mission will achieve that. We see the interest of school children and the Science Museum was packed on the day of the launch, and we had Members in this place watching it live on screen. We hope it will lead to an interest in STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—and an absolute belief in the space industry here in the United Kingdom.

The space industry is new, but the UK has a proud aviation history, which includes Rolls-Royce and supersonic flight. We need to take the next step and grasp that opportunity. The industry has changed over the past five years, and I applaud the decisions taken in 2010 that led to the formation of the UK Space Agency. It is now an industry with a turnover of £11.5 billion. It employs 35,000 people, three quarters of them in graduate jobs, and a third of its production is exports, but the vision of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is that it should grow to become a £40 billion industry. For that, we really need to take action.

If it was not a political decision, there should not really be any great doubt that the choice should be Prestwick. We already have almost everything that is needed. We have a runway that is touching 3 km. We are in a coastal position, to allow start-off over the sea. We have the northern air traffic control centre in our campus, which allows the planning of what will be some pretty clever management of airspace, and obviously we have relatively empty airspace. We are close to Glasgow University and Strathclyde technology catapults and we have, uniquely, an aerospace cluster on the airport campus. It contains BAE Systems, Spirit AeroSystems and many others, all of whom are interested in the idea of a space port.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1028

Up the road from us is Clyde Space, which makes small CubeSats that are only a litre in size. Early communication satellites were weighed in tonnes and were the size of a double-decker bus, but the UK, through Surrey Satellite Technology, has led since the ’80s in producing satellites that are about the size of a fridge. That is a step change. It has been shown that if the cost of getting a satellite into space gets down to the tens of thousands, everyone is going to want one. We will have to look at regulating that, otherwise space will be full of junk, but it enables all sorts of possibilities. However, we do not have a domestic launch site. That is why the aim is to have a UK space port by 2018.

As well as all the physical attributes of Prestwick, 20 years of Met Office data show that, despite preconceptions, it has the clearest weather, compared with Newquay, which people would presume is the closest contender. Low cloud is suffered by Newquay 31% of the time and only 11% of the time at Prestwick. Less than 5 km visibility is suffered by Newquay 15% of the time and only 4% of the time at Prestwick. I live in Troon, which is next door, and I can vouch for the fact that we have a weird little weather system, locally known as the Prestwick hole. People can fly into it, drive into it or walk into it. They can be surrounded by thick cloud, but they will look up and see a large hole of pure blue sky. That is what has made Prestwick the clear weather airport for the United Kingdom for decades.

I call on the Minister to look not just at having one space port. I think this is an industry that will mushroom. We need to accept that all sorts of sectors will develop that we have not even thought about. It will diversify. This is a real industry. It is not about saying, “Beam me up, Scotty,” or fretting about the dilithium crystals that we see on the telly; it is a multi-billion pound industry. I call on the Minister to be imaginative, to be brave and to be boldly going where no Minister has gone before. [Hon. Members: “Ooh!”] Nearly done.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): More!

Dr Whitford: Oh, I am sure the Minister will have about two hours more.

Prestwick was Scotland’s first ever passenger airport and it was founded by Group Captain David McIntyre, the first man to fly over Everest. That is the kind of imagination and drive we need. I call on the Minister to please be imaginative and to support the industry across the entire UK so that it can live long and prosper.

12.20 pm

Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con): It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). In fact, I am beginning to question why we are not in the same party, because every time she speaks I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with her on a variety of different issues.

The hon. Lady will not know that, in my maiden speech in 2010, to some colleagues’ surprise I spoke about the UK space industry. In fact, I was advised by some wise owls in these parts that I should not speak about the space industry, because I would be ridiculed as the spaceman of the House of Commons.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1029

A year or so later, I secured an Adjournment debate in this Chamber, in which I discussed the rather esoteric subject of microgravity. During my speech, I spoke about the value of protein crystal investigation, the potential for doing a variety of biotechnological and medical experiments in space, and how that could advance our knowledge base. Major Tim Peake is doing all those experiments now. I like to think that that Adjournment debate led in part to the Government’s decision to invest in the European Space Agency’s European Programme for Life and Physical Sciences. That investment led to Tim Peake, whose field of expertise is microgravity, travelling on the rocket to the international space station.

The space industry has hardly any presence in my constituency, so why did I decide to talk about it in my maiden speech in 2010, and why did I subsequently take up the House’s time to talk about microgravity in an Adjournment debate? It was because, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire has already eloquently pointed out, there is something about space and the exploration thereof, particularly manned exploration and flights, that is truly inspirational to everybody. Whenever I visit schools during their science, technology, engineering and maths week, invariably I see pictures there of planets and rockets. There is something about space and the exploration of it that inspires young people. When engineers were asked why they had done an engineering degree at university, up to 40% of them said that they had done so because of the exploration of space and that their interest had first been stimulated by images from space.

I made my maiden speech in an Opposition day debate on industry. I thought it was important to talk about the space industry, not only because I think that the future of this great country is wedded to the success of science and technology and that that will increasingly become the case, but because the space industry is, in and of itself, so inspirational and such a great success that it needs as much support as possible from Governments, of whichever colour. The previous Labour Government did some very good work and UK space policy made some significant advances as a result. I hope and expect that this Government will follow suit.

When I made my maiden speech, the estimated size of the space industry was £6.8 billion, but the figure now is £11.6 billion. That increase has happened in five or six years. The space industry has grown so successfully during that time that we would struggle without the tangible value it provides.

I have been vice-chairman of the parliamentary space committee pretty much ever since I made my maiden speech, and I have often experienced pushback when I talk about the value of manned space flights. As the hon. Lady has said, there is a sense that somehow space is for others, not for Britain, that the exploration of space is very expensive and that we should be concentrating on other things. However, let us remember that for every dollar the US Government spent on the Apollo space programme, there was a remarkable $13 dollar return on their investment.

The returns were not just financial. In December 1968, a very famous photograph was taken by Bill Anders on Apollo 8—the so-called “Earthrise” photograph. The value of that photograph cannot be calculated in financial terms alone. Imagine where the environmental lobby

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1030

would be if it did not have a photograph of the earth as seen from the moon. Imagine how those astronauts felt when they put up a hand and hid the earth with their thumb. Our perception of this wonderful planet was changed by that investment by the US Government. Of course, it was driven by a race with the Soviet Union, but the return was not just financial. We recognised the fragility of this planet and how fortunate we are.

I would argue that, in the process of the achievement of putting the first man on the moon in July 1969, man rediscovered the value of exploration. Now we face the next challenge, which is to place a person on the surface of Mars—perhaps it should be a woman. Increasingly, women are deployed in fighter jets because of their ability to withstand G-force, so perhaps it will be a woman who first stands on Mars. I think that Britain should be part of that. The cost may seem large, but we should consider it in proportion to the rest of the money we spend as a nation and, indeed, as a world. If we are not prepared to explore space, push back our boundaries of knowledge and discover things that we did not realise we were going to discover, then what on earth are we about as a species?

Space is an exciting subject and I cannot think of another subject that is so truly inspirational. British Governments, of whichever colour, should play a greater part in it and recognise that they have a role to play in mitigating risk and that private investment alone will not bring it about. If we do that, this country will have a very bright future indeed.

12.27 pm

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): I think this is the first time I have been called to speak in the Chamber without there being a formal time limit on speeches, but I will do my best not to go to infinity and beyond. I thank my co-sponsors of the motion, and the Backbench Business Committee for giving us the time to have this debate at relatively short notice. As my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) has said, the debate has come at an opportune moment, the day before Major Tim Peake makes his spacewalk.

Adjournment debates secured by the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) notwithstanding, I understand that this is the first time since a 2005 Westminster Hall debate that the House as a whole has considered space policy, so this debate is very timely indeed. It is great to hear that today’s important deliberations have been recognised by good wishes from Captain Kirk and Mr Sulu themselves. Indeed, our very own chief Trekkie, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), who usually occupies the spot on which I am standing, has sent us his best wishes as well. On space issues, there is a close link between the inspiration provided by both science fiction and science fact. Perhaps I will come back to that later.

It is also appropriate to finish the week in which the English votes for English laws procedures were used for the first time by discussing matters about which there can be no question that Scottish National party Members have a mandate to speak and vote on. Later today we will discuss the House of Lords, which is reserved. Schedule 5, part II, section L6 of the Scotland Act 1998 proudly and clearly reserves to the Parliament of the United Kingdom,

“Regulation of activities in outer space.”

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1031

If a Starman waiting in the sky read that, he might think it was quite a claim or question whether Parliament really has the power to regulate the infinite majesty of all creation, although I am sure some Members think that it does. However, the explanatory notes to the legislation make it clear that the reservation applies specifically to matters regulated by the Outer Space Act 1986.

The 1986 Act gave effect to a number of international treaties on the exploration and, for want of a better word, the exploitation—I will touch on that later—of outer space. The principles behind the treaties are hugely important, particularly those in the 1967 United Nations outer space treaty:

“The exploration and use of outer space…shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries…and shall be the province of all mankind”,


“Outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire spoke powerfully about the role played throughout the cold war by the development of the international space station, which demonstrated that global co-operation was possible even at a time of significant political tension. The ISS has been described as the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history. It is the largest structure that humans have ever put into space. It can be seen on a clear night if not quite with the naked eye, except perhaps through the Prestwick hole, then certainly through binoculars or a home telescope. It was the result of collaboration between five different space agencies, representing 15 countries. It has been permanently occupied since 2 November 2000, or just over 15 years, which is a truly remarkable achievement.

It will be interesting to hear whether the Minister will recommit the Government to such principles of space law today. In particular, will he offer any reflections on the possible impact of recent legislation passed in the United States recognising the right of US citizens to own any resources they obtain from asteroids? A number of academics and observers have expressed concern about that, especially if other countries begin to follow suit. Indeed, Gbenga Oduntan, a senior lecturer in international commercial law at the University of Kent, has said that the US Space Act 2015 represents

“a full-frontal attack on settled principles of space law”,

and is

“nothing but a classic rendition of the ‘he who dares wins’ philosophy of the Wild West.”

Space should be for exploration, not for exploitation in any sense that excludes anyone from the benefits it can provide, or what the motion calls

“scientific, cultural and technological opportunities”.

In drafting the motion, we were very careful to list those aspects of space exploration and opportunity before mentioning the economic impact of the space industry. Indeed, UKspace, the trade association, has said that the Government must

“ensure its positioning maintains the balance between economic growth, excellent science and the inspiration of young people”.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1032

As we have heard, we have certainly lived through an inspiring era of space exploration. In recent years, there has been huge interest in the Philae lander and the Rosetta mission, the evidence of water on Mars and the New Horizons fly-by of Pluto. I was particularly struck by NASA’s use of the “children will never know” hashtag when images were first beamed back from Pluto. The new generation of children will never know a day when they could not see images of Pluto in such great deal. Sadly, children born today will also never know the thrill of the space shuttle, which certainly inspired me when I was growing up. I remember watching the final launch of Atlantis back in 2011, and thinking about all the other things then going on in the world.

Dr Lee: I apologise for being a bit of a pedant, but the first British-born astronaut to walk in space was Michael Foale when he was on the US space shuttle.

Patrick Grady: That is a fair point. It is important to recognise the huge achievement of all the astronauts of various heritages and from various parts of the United Kingdom. There is certainly no intention to play trumps.

Dr Philippa Whitford: Did not that gentleman change his nationality? He had dual nationality, and did not fly with the Union flag on his suit, as Helen Sharman did.

Patrick Grady: My hon. Friend was absolutely correct to pay tribute to Helen Sharman. I remember that as well. I was particularly young at the time, but I will leave Members to work that out for themselves, if they want to look up my biography.

The shuttle programme was a huge inspiration to many people. It is a very sad loss, but if its end several years ago was a low, we are now going through something of a renaissance. There have certainly been a number of highs recently, as I have mentioned. The fact that 15,000 people attended events to watch the launch of the Principia mission just before Christmas, including those of us in the Jubilee Room and later in Portcullis House, demonstrates how the international space station continues to serve as an inspiration.

Many of us who watched the amazing opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games will remember that, just when we thought it could not get any more exhilarating, a live broadcast was beamed down from the ISS. I was not at the ceremony, but with thousands of other people on Glasgow Green on that great day of celebration. There was a real coming together, with exactly the kind of inspiration that the hon. Member for Bracknell spoke about. It was humanity at its finest: people coming together from all over the world to take part in sporting endeavour and being supported by their fellow human beings hundreds of miles above the ground. It was particularly appropriate because, as we have heard and will continue to hear, Glasgow—and indeed Scotland—plays a significant role in the modern space industry and in space science.

In December 2015, my old university, Strathclyde, hosted the annual Canada-UK colloquium on the future of the space industry, which was attended by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. Delegates visited two companies in the city, Clyde Space and Spire, which specialise in cube satellites technology and data. In the margins of that event, the First Minister

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1033

strongly backed the calls that we have heard and will no doubt continue to hear for a spaceport to be located in Scotland. She pledged that the Scottish Government will do whatever they can to ensure that one of the bids is successful.

In my constituency, the University of Glasgow has one of the leading centres for space science and research in the UK, or indeed in the world. Space Glasgow brings together more than 20 academics from a range of disciplines to co-ordinate research, especially under the key themes of exploring and understanding space, mission analysis, risk and technology.

One recent achievement has been the university’s involvement in the launch of the European Space Agency’s LISA—laser interferometer space antenna—Pathfinder spacecraft. The launch in December marked the end of a decade of work for a team from the university’s institute for gravitational research, which helped to develop the craft’s sensitive optical bench. The bench is a hugely complex and important technology. It has a laser interferometer. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) congratulates me on my pronunciation. It was developed, built and tested by the university’s team, and is capable of detecting changes in distance between test masses of as small as 10 picometres. It is an outstanding scientific achievement in its own right, and the images and knowledge that the Pathfinder will produce will no doubt help to inspire generations to come.

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP): Can my hon. Friend explain to the House what a picometre is?

Patrick Grady: A measurement of picos—[Laughter.] My hon. Friend may be able to enlighten us later, if she catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Like any academic discipline, research in space science and technology costs money and requires certainty. I am happy to back calls from researchers for greater transparency in the relationship between the UK Space Agency and research councils on funding decisions. It would be useful to hear from the Minister how the Government are engaging with research departments at the cutting edge of this important technology. Much of this technology has an impact on our daily lives, especially in the west, where we rely on satellite technology for everything from weather forecasting to our mobile phones.

We have spoken of the inspiration that space exploration can provide, so it is important that Governments in the UK and Scotland continue to support science and technological education, as well as initiatives such as dark sky parks. In boasting of our satellite technology industries, we must also remain vigilant about the risk of space debris, as my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire mentioned. Too many of our oceans and geological ecosystems are poisoned by the unthinking results of attempts at technological progress, and the same must not be allowed to happen in near or outer space.

Those of us on social media will have seen the internet activity about NASA’s recruitment of a planetary defence officer recently. That is not as outlandish or as “outspacious” as that might sound. It is not simply about the risk of asteroids—I know that former Members who are no longer with us used to champion that issue—but about

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1034

the risk of near-Earth objects too. If the satellites we put into space are not properly managed and regulated, there is a risk that they will crash into population centres.

Dr Lee: Does the hon. Gentleman know that a piece of British technology has been developed that can be put into space to capture space debris and bring it back to Earth?

Patrick Grady: That is a helpful contribution that demonstrates the point that we are making about the importance of the space industry, not only to the economy but to the greater collective good.

I spoke of the relation between science fiction and science fact. NASA recently collaborated successfully in the production of the movie, “The Martian”, which is about a man stranded on the planet after a mission goes wrong. It is based on a realistic understanding of the technologies and science that would be involved in a mission to the red planet.

I have spent the little free time I have had over the past 18 months reading through Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, which is rightly described as a “future history”. It was written in the 1990s with exceptional clarity and foresight. It was forensically researched, to the extent that after reading it for several hours, one can easily look out of the window and expect to see a Martian landscape unfolding. The trilogy is also a well-observed study of human societies and the possibilities open to mankind in building an economy and polity from scratch. There is much to commend in, and much to learn from, how science fiction authors have used the inspiration of space exploration to reflect on our current earthbound condition.

This is a valuable opportunity for debate, and I look forward to hearing further contributions from Members and a response from the Minister, particularly on the questions of ensuring the neutrality of and common access to space, support for education and science, the preservation of dark skies and the minimisation of space debris. We have talked about nationalities and laying claims. Scotland lays claim to one astronaut so far—Brian Binnie, who was brought up in Aberdeen and Stirling, and has test piloted a number of private space flights. Let us hope that the inspiration from the many space missions, which are growing in number, and not least Major Tim Peake’s, will encourage more young people to pursue careers in the sector and that, before long, we will see more astronauts from Scotland and across the UK who will have the opportunity to contribute to the good of humanity, to explore strange new worlds and, if Hansard will allow a split infinitive, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

12.41 pm

Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): I rise to put the case for Cornwall. We have heard a lot about Scotland, but we did hear some references to Newquay in the opening speech.

I want to put it on the record and make Members aware that Cornwall is already the home of the Aerohub. Newquay has a runway that can accommodate the fastest and largest civilian and military planes. Formerly the home of RAF St Mawgan, Newquay is an ideal location for the new space hub.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1035

Cornwall more widely has a lot of knowledge and history relating to space. Goonhilly downs had the first dish, Antenna 1, nicknamed Arthur, which started operating in 1962 and linked with Telstar. That led the way in UK communications. My constituency has the Caradon observatory, which Ken and Muriel Bennett funded themselves. It is in an ideal location. It takes fantastic photographs, thanks to the dark skies over Bodmin moor, that are published in space magazines.

I did not intend to make a contribution today, but I felt that I should point out that Cornwall has an extremely good case. It is one of eight locations that is being considered. I just wanted to make the case, as a Cornish Member of Parliament, and to say that we are still there. Being successful in this bid would not only be good for Newquay, but superb for the county that I call home.

12.44 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to hear the other contributions.

It is always a pleasure to hear the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). I look forward to hearing her speak about health issues, because she brings her wealth of knowledge to the House. Her contributions are always well worth listening to because we learn from them. That is why I enjoy them and I want to thank her. We have found out today that her knowledge goes beyond health issues: it extends to space policy and to places where no man has gone before.

Here we are in the Chamber with the chance to speak about this issue. It is always very nice to see the Minister in his place. I think that I can honestly say, without fear of contradiction, that if the Minister is in the House, I will be on the other side ready to ask him a question, and vice versa.

It is always good to consider this important and too often overlooked issue. Although it is not pertinent to Northern Ireland at the moment, I want to make sure that the Province is part of the Government’s strategy for the space sector. That is why I wanted to make a contribution. I want to put down a marker for Northern Ireland and to ensure that we have the chance to be part of the strategy.

Northern Ireland has one of the youngest workforces in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the Minister will know. We have a lot of well-educated young people with high skill sets who would benefit from jobs in the space sector. I believe that that would go some way to addressing the brain drain in Northern Ireland. Although that is declining, it is something that we need to get to grips with.

Perhaps in his response, the Minister will tell us how the space policy can interact with Northern Ireland. How can we get some of the benefits and spin-offs of it? How can we be part of the strategy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? We are better together, as he would say. It is good to see all the Members who are in the Chamber, united within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1036

Jim Shannon: I am very happy to give way, although I will probably regret it.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the press stories today mentioning Stornoway. Indeed, the name David Bowie is linked with it as well. Just a little bit north of Malin Head, the hon. Gentleman will see the Outer Hebrides. It is a fantastic place—near Northern Ireland—for such space adventures.

Jim Shannon: Earlier, the hon. Gentleman was waxing lyrical about black puddings; now he is doing the same about Stornoway in a different way. It is always good to hear from him.

Mr MacNeil: Black puddings in space!

Jim Shannon: Absolutely.

Ensuring that the space sector has a place in Northern Ireland and is aware of what we have to offer will go some way towards addressing the brain drain issue of too many of our young people emigrating. I would like to hear from the Minister how the space policy can better connect with Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has a proud history of air flight, although it is not linked directly to space policy. Henry George Ferguson, who was better known as Harry, a brother Orangeman, was a Northern Ireland engineer and inventor who was noted for his role in the development of the agricultural tractor. He was also the first Ulsterman and Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane. The first ever airport in Northern Ireland was in my constituency of Strangford, in Newtownards, and was built in about 1910.

Northern Ireland has a fantastic aerospace industry with Magellan and Bombardier, which has been established for many years. I believe that there is a role for those aircraft companies to play in space policy and development. They can and should be part of it.

The space sector is fundamental to the future UK economy. I welcome the Government’s civil space strategy and the goal that the space sector will contribute £40 billion a year to the UK economy by 2030.

Dr Philippa Whitford: The point that I was trying to make in my opening speech was that the bid talks about a UK spaceport, whereas I think there will be different sectors. One sector that will come in the not-too-distant future is hyperbolic sub-orbital flight. Once we get past the Virgin Galactic model of a plane and a wee rocket, we will have the combination of jet and rocket engines, such as SABRE—the synergistic air-breathing rocket engine—which will go from standstill to orbit and back down. We will be able to fly to Japan in a short period of time. Different sites around the UK may therefore follow totally different routes. That should be enabled, not blocked.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Lady for that significant and important intervention. She shows the vision that all of us in this House should have. There are no barriers to what we can do. Some of the things that are in “Star Trek” are not impossible, so let us look forward to those developments. I look forward to being able to travel from A to Z—from Belfast City to Heathrow—in a matter of seconds. If that is ever possible, we will be

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1037

able to get here and back a couple of times and to do business at home and here, all in the same hour. Is that possible? I do not know, but I hope it will happen.

Thinking back on how space has been discovered, I am always mindful of the first time man stepped on the moon. It was one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. For me, and I think for many others, that showed us the immensity and size of the universe that God created, and it focused our minds on God’s power and the fact that it was not for us as children, and that he is in total control of the universe.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman quoted the historic phrase, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, but what about the seriousness with which the space industry considered the Isle of Man a number of years ago? Those in the know in the space industry said that only the United States, Russia, China and India were ranked above the Isle of Man for the likelihood of getting the next person on the moon. That shows that if the political will is there, a lot can be achieved.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We should believe in what we want to achieve, and that goal is achievable if we are determined to make it happen.

The Deregulation Act 2015 is an encouraging development that will allow the UK to be more competitive globally in this future industry. It is important to consider that and to ensure that we are world leaders in offering somewhere for the space industry to do business. We want to be part of that business across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The 2010 space innovation and growth strategy is another welcome development that seeks to create a partnership between industry, Government and academia to develop, grow and make use of new space-related opportunities.

This debate is important because of the possibilities of what can be achieved, which enthuse us all. Although there were encouraging developments during the last Parliament, it is disappointing that space did not receive a mention in the Government’s 2015 manifesto. I am sure that the Minister will correct that when he responds, and clearly set out Government policy and strategy. I hope this is not a sign of the Government taking their eye off the ball.

The Government are hoping that the new regulatory framework enabled by the Deregulation Act will allow the creation of a commercial spaceport in the UK by 2018—again, a marvellous vision of what can happen in future. That is a welcome development because commercial space travel is an industry in which we can, quite literally, reach for the stars. In “It’s a Wonderful Life”, James Stewart talked about lassoing the moon. We are not going to lasso the moon; we are going to reach it and beyond, and it is important that we have that possibility.

The value of the space sector in the UK has grown from £6.5 billion in 2007 to £11.8 billion in 2014—it has almost doubled, and there is the potential for it to double again. With Tim Peake’s recent mission sure to rekindle interest in the space industry, that trend is sure to continue, and the ability to offer commercial space travel will make us world leaders in the space industry.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1038

Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con): I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman remembers this, but he was one of the few Members of the House who attended my Adjournment debate on microgravity. Prior to that I had been contacted primarily from America by Boeing and various other companies on the subject. They pointed out that the microgravity research industry had a potential $100 billion of growth. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the future potential for the space industry.

Jim Shannon: I do remember that. It was one of those Adjournment debates that I am known to attend, and I remember intervening along those lines. It was three or four years ago.

Something else that I enjoyed, and that I think was positive, took place last week when Tim Peake was able to make radio contact with young people in a school. The inspiration that that gave to those young people was fantastic, as was the fact that it happened. Those young people were inspired, and they had a photograph and a TV show that showed him in their school making direct contact. I know it was a bit rehearsed, but it was exciting for us to watch. How much more exciting must it have been for the children, both male and female, to have that ambition and inspirational drive to try to be the next Tim Peake in space? As we seek to obtain secure jobs for the future, we need more such encouraging developments, and this has been a welcome opportunity to contribute to a debate on an issue of great importance to the future of our country and its economy.

In conclusion, the new national space policy, the Deregulation Act, and the space innovation and growth strategy are all signs that we are heading in the right direction. The positivity that comes through this debate will be noted not just in this Chamber by MPs, but outside the House and further afield. We can play our part in space travel and policy in future, and I hope that off the back of this debate we can maintain momentum and ensure that those plans turn into real delivery for the “better together” space industry and future economy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

12.54 pm

Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) for securing this debate.

Tim Peake’s six-hour adventure tomorrow, as part of a team of two Tims, to replace a solar power connection unit in space will be watched with awe by children and adults alike—hon. Members will be glad to hear that I removed from that paragraph a cliché that has already been used.

Tim’s iconic voyage into space, living and working on the international space station, is beamed into our lives tweet by tweet, which is fascinating. He has paid tribute to David Bowie’s “Starman”, and he sends us extraordinary aerial views of the planet, alongside spacesuit selfies. He really gives a feeling of life on the space station, as well as those iconic visions and views, and he raises our aspirations to the farthest frontiers. Let us make the most of this chance to spark young people’s interest in the careers of the future.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1039

The spirit in which this motion is presented is to be greatly appreciated, and there is perhaps potential for not just a single spaceport site, but for a number of sites across the UK. Members with vested local interests in a possible spaceport site in their constituency will inevitably take the opportunity to set out their individual stalls—that is our representative duty. However, the proposal to ensure that fantastic scientific, cultural and technological opportunities arise from UK spaceport development must benefit the United Kingdom as a whole.

With that semi-apology, I will turn to the possible spaceport site at the former RAF camp near Llanbedr. It is in a coastal location surrounded by sand dunes between Cardigan bay and the hinterland of Snowdonia. The site has a 50-year track record of airspace management and operations. It comprises three main runways, the longest of which is oriented in such a way that flights pass over sparsely populated areas. Unique among all the candidate sites, Llanbedr already has access to 2,000 square miles of segregated airspace over Cardigan bay. The airfield was bought by the Welsh Government in 2004 as a strategic asset, and since 2008 it has been leased by Llanbedr Airfield Estates on a long-term lease.

So far the site has mostly been used for testing, evaluating and developing remotely piloted air systems and unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. Its most recent initiative relates to the use of drones for protecting fisheries. The site is included in the Snowdonia enterprise zone, which has facilitated improvements including a £1.5 million spend to upgrade its facilities and infrastructure. The Civil Aviation Authority has rightly identified safety as the overriding operational principle for a spaceport. That applies not only to any members of the public and workers using that port, but also to the “uninvolved public”. That would imply that the combination of relative isolation, coastal location and segregated airspace satisfies those requirements as fully as possible.

It is safe to say—others have already made an excellent case for this—that the economic potential for a spaceport, both in the immediate locality and further afield, is immense. The county of Gwynedd is to a great degree dependent on public sector employment and the leisure industry. The constituency of Dwyfor Meirionnydd suffers from seasonal and minimum wage employment, and although official unemployment figures are low, chronic economic inactivity is a very real issue. The demographics of the area indicate a steadily ageing population, as young people move away for higher education and employment. That is the price we pay for dependency on the seasonal tourism industry, a shrinking public sector, and scant Government investment in well paid employment.

Of course, this is in no way simply a local investment in a far western corner of the United Kingdom. Llanbedr has the potential to benefit the whole of north Wales, with its educational powerhouses in the University of Bangor, Wrexham’s Glyndwr University, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, and Coleg Cambria. Indeed, it goes much further than that, because the northern powerhouse would have that development within easy reach, and it is the nearest site to the international travel hubs of Manchester,

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1040

Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and London. It is also the closest candidate site to the UK space gateway at Harwell in Oxford.

This has the potential to make a real difference to Gwynedd, and indeed to the economy of the wider area and the UK as a whole, yet we are still waiting for the Government to bring us out of the limbo of expectation by providing the operational criteria for the UK spaceport. It is impossible to move ahead, as we do not yet know what we are bidding for. It is difficult even to quantify, in terms of jobs both locally and further afield, until we know the operational criteria. We need them as a matter of urgency. The uncertainty impacts locally, as caravan sites in the area tell me their customers are reluctant to commit to new contracts until a definite decision is made about the future one way or another.

I spoke to a student at my local sixth-form college, Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, who happens to live in the next village to Llanbedr. He told me that his fellow students think this is a cloud cuckoo project that will never happen. How could it ever happen in somewhere like Meirionnydd? But then I could see a flash of hope and a realisation that yes, this could happen, this could happen here and I could be part of it. Like Buzz Lightyear, we can turn falling with style into infinity and beyond.

1 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate. I congratulate the hon. Members for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) on securing it and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to it. There have been far too many references to “Star Trek” at the expense of “Star Wars”, so let me try to even it up a bit. Space policy has not been debated as much as it should have been in this House given how important it is, but I am pleased that, as a result of the tenacious attitude of the hon. Members for Central Ayrshire and for Glasgow North, the force has awakened. [Laughter.] That’s the only thing you’re going to get.

As has been mentioned, Tim Peake’s mission on the international space station is a fantastic achievement. I think the whole House and the whole country wish him well as he embarks on his spacewalk tomorrow. His mission is important for a number of reasons. First, he is undertaking practical experiments and research that will have positive applications back on earth, a point to which I will return in a moment. Secondly, as has already been mentioned, Major Peake’s space mission is undoubtedly inspiring and motivating a whole new generation, rather like a previous generation was inspired by the Apollo programme. I remember the inspirational words of President Kennedy:

“We choose to go to the moon…and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

That inspiration and ambition are incredibly important.

The young people looking at what Major Peake is doing—following his journey and progress on Twitter, Facebook and so on, and perhaps even interacting with him as he conducts experiments in space—will have their eyes opened to the enormous and often unlimited potential available to them in their lives and careers. They might not necessarily want to become astronauts—I still have a wish to be an astronaut; I think everyone in this debate does—but they will see the dizzying potential

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1041

and scope of science, technology and engineering. I hope that the impact of Tim Peake’s mission into space will last for decades, as young people are inspired to go on to have an impact on science and research throughout the 21st century.

The third reason why Major Peake’s mission is so important is that it showcases a true British industrial success: the UK space industry, and that is what I want to focus on. Most people walking the streets today will not be aware, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said, that Britain has a space sector. People will perhaps automatically think of NASA and, possibly, Russia. They might consider a space industry linked with putting people regularly into space or, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North said, with missions such as New Horizons and the exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Major Peake’s journey gives us the opportunity to celebrate a great British economic success and highlight what I hope is a shared ambition—it certainly is in today’s debate—to see the sector grow.

I think the Minister would agree that the UK space sector is the very model of the type of modern, successful sector that Britain should be focused on: innovative and high value, and providing well-paid and highly rewarding —in every sense—careers. It taps into Britain’s strengths, based on the very best of science, engineering and world-class British research, but with a very clear nod to British excellence in professional services, such as legal, financial and regulatory work. It is a rapidly growing sector throughout the world—perhaps it is best to say above the world—and the British comparative advantage should be used to capture even more wealth and value for this country in the future.

We have been quite canny in this country in identifying precisely where in the space sector, and throughout its value chain, Britain excels. We have skills in upstream activities, such as satellite construction. I visited Airbus in Stevenage and saw the great work that goes on there. I saw satellites being built and walked on the surface of “Mars”, which was absolutely fantastic. Our real strength and potential, however, lie in the industry’s downstream activities, such as user equipment, applications, services and data. Our strengths in professional services such as legal, regulatory and financial services allow Britain to lead the world in raising capital to finance space technologies, as well as the expertise to provide licensing arrangements. It is these downstream activities that will increase demand in the future so that Britain is well placed for future growth.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire and others have already mentioned the figures, but it is important to reiterate just how successful the UK space sector has been in recent years. It generates almost £12 billion for the UK economy, which is almost double the value of the sector just a short time ago in 2007. The industry directly employs 37,000 people in this country. That figure rises to 115,000 when one considers the supply chain, and supported and indirect jobs. UK space has seen an annual growth rate of 8.6% since 2008-09.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I think you were in the Chair yesterday when we discussed, in an Opposition day debate secured by the Scottish National party, some of the structural weaknesses in our productivity and trade positions. Frankly, if all other sectors in the British economy were performing at the same rate as the UK space industry, this country would be doing well. Productivity

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1042

is three times the national average, with a value added of £140,000 per employee in the sector. Exports are twice the national average, representing about a third of the sector’s turnover. That success bodes well for the future. The global space industry is set to grow even further to about £400 billion by 2030. The UK space sector’s ambitions are challenging but achievable; the national space policy’s objectives are for Britain to have a 10% market share in the global space industry, provide £40 billion of value to the British economy and employ an additional 100,000 workers by 2030.

I hope there is a real consensus across the House, regardless of party affiliation, for that ambition, and for backing the Government and building on the back of previous support for UK space, regardless of which party is in government. Tribute must be paid to Paul Drayson, who launched, as it were, much of the Government’s interest in UK space. To be fair, David Willetts continued that policy in an excellent way throughout the coalition Government, providing all-important policy continuity and certainty that transcended Parliaments, and allowed confidence in the sector to grow and gave potential investors the reassurance that has provided much of the success for British space.

Given the characteristics of the UK space sector—a high-value, innovative, productive, export-focused industry that has identified our specific key strengths within the sector and built on that comparative advantage to secure more global market share in the future, assisted by a strong and long-standing partnership between industry, Government and research to provide policy certainty—it is surprising that the Government do not want to shout more about the virtues of an industrial strategy. An industrial strategy has been part of the success of the UK space industry. The Secretary of State seems to have abandoned such aspirations, with the possible exceptions of the aerospace and automotive industries. That seems wrong. I am pleased that the Minister on the Treasury Bench is the Minister for Life Sciences. I would single out life sciences as another great skill for Britain. It is a marvellous sector, so why is it not also classed as strategically important? That approach is very important.

In his autumn statement, the Chancellor announced a movement of research funding away from grants to loans, with the exception of the aerospace and automotive sectors. That runs the risk, as mentioned yesterday, of investment not being attracted to Britain. For such a successful and promising sector as space, that is worrying. Will the Minister consider expanding the definition of the aerospace sector to include space so that it can take advantage of the security of research funding and grants?

Jim Shannon: In seeking to advance the space industry, is it not important to involve universities and their expertise and knowledge? Is partnership with universities not also part of this?

Mr Wright: That is incredibly important. Britain’s unique blend of strong leadership and partnership between industry and Government, through things such as the UK Space Agency and the Space Leadership Council, and our world-class research expertise and strong university base, means we are well positioned to capture as much market value as possible.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1043

Will the Minister accept—I believe he personally believes it—that industrial strategy works and commit to ensuring that the Government embrace such an approach so that sectors such as space and the life sciences can be exploited as much as possible for the benefit of Britain? I mentioned that the national space policy set out an ambition for 100,000 additional jobs in the space industry in the next 15 years—I think we would all sign up to that—but given the skills shortages in engineering and science-based industries throughout the economy, and the difficulty of encouraging girls and young women to consider science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in school, college and university and then as a career, what is he doing to address barriers to growth in the UK space sector? What further assistance, in terms of outreach activities, internships and apprenticeship opportunities, will be provided to motivate and inspire girls and young women to think about a career in space?

In criticising the space industry, it is often said that interest and investment in space is a luxurious folly and that, at a time of austerity and crisis in public services, we cannot afford a space industry: why are we sending a man into space, when patients are lying in hospital corridors? This is a false argument. To a vast extent, the UK space industry is driven by private sector investment—Government investment in the past 15 years has averaged 0.015% of total investment—and the value it creates grows the economy, employs people on good wages and increases tax revenues, thereby helping to fund public services. Research in space or in the space industry has positive applications on earth—for example, satellite technology and food crops or experiments into materials and how they react. Major Peake, while on the international space station, is carrying out experiments to measure pressure in the brain that could have important applications in serious trauma care. Investment in space results in tangible benefits for society on earth.

I am not just talking about the cost-benefit analysis. I was struck by the comments of the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee). Industry is important, and the bottom line is crucial, but as he said, exploration and imagination are fundamental to the human spirit, and it is difficult to think of anything comparable to space when it comes to letting our imaginations run riot. It is vital that we ensure an interest in space by showing what space can provide. The UK space industry is a huge success story, and has the potential to grow still further and inspire a whole generation, but that requires an ongoing partnership between industry, the Government and research. This debate shows that there is great consensus and that many people support the Government in ensuring that the UK space industry realises its potential.

1.14 pm

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): I have much to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) for. Anyone observing me in the Chamber today will have seen me smiling broadly all the way through this debate. It is an incredibly exciting opportunity. I remember, as a young child, playing with my Airfix kit of the Apollo 11, with its detachable parts and so on, seeing how it all worked,

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1044

so it is exciting to be in the Chamber today discussing the future of space policy—there it is, up on the annunciator; what an opportunity! It is just a shame there is so much space on the Benches—but I will try to avoid the puns and conduct myself with gravity.

I want to talk about the exciting opportunities out there. Yesterday in the Chamber, we discussed trade and industry and innovation, and again I want to talk most today about innovation and the skills required. There are so many wonders in space and so many things we can learn that we cannot comprehend at the moment. Without the investment that hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), have talked about, and without making sure we can learn those things, how can we hope to take full advantage of the opportunities to develop ourselves as a race? There are stars out there 1,500 times bigger than our sun, and how much do we know about them? 3c303 is a galaxy with a black hole in the middle of it that has the biggest electrical current ever detected in the universe. There are fantastic opportunities to find out how that happens. What can we learn from that about how we conduct our lives and protect our planet into the future? I was stunned to find out there was a gigantic raincloud out there, floating in space, that is not just the size of the Pacific ocean, but 100,000 times larger than the sun. It is an amazing thing to comprehend, but we do not know enough about these things. We have to invest.

The Scottish Government see huge potential for the space industry in Scotland, and we are pleased that the UK Government and the Civil Aviation Authority do too. We should be exploring these opportunities jointly. The Scottish Government have committed to supporting science and technological development in education and industry, having recognised science’s contribution to a sustainable economy. The hon. Member for Hartlepool talked about opportunities. The space industry, 16% of whose employees are in Scotland, is growing by 7.5% a year. These are encouraging figures, but we must do more. There is a recruitment exercise to ensure that there are members to join the Scottish Science Advisory Council. The Scottish Government have engaged with the world-leading science sector on the post of chief scientific adviser for Scotland and are currently advertising for the post, which is the right thing to do just now. They are continuing to invest in four science centres and to support science festivals in Scotland. They continue to promote the value of science as a career for young people.

In my previous career as a councillor in the highlands, I was passionate about getting our young people interested and encouraging them to lift their sights and see the opportunities available, not just to us as a set of countries on these isles but to them. There are rewarding and meaningful careers and they can build something important for themselves. As a new councillor eight years ago, I saw an advert put out by the European Space Agency calling for the next generation of recruits to come forward. As an enthusiastic councillor, I thought I would put out a press release across the highlands saying, “Young highlanders should come forward.” I was disappointed that it was met with scepticism from my colleagues on the council. They thought it was a mad idea to encourage highland children to get involved in the space industry. I was desperately disappointed by their attitude, but it highlighted to me the need to change people’s attitudes to these opportunities and how they could take advantage of them.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1045

I am pleased to say that one development from that is the science skills academy, which is starting up in the highlands. It is a collaborative enterprise that brings together organisations such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Highland Council and a range of private businesses and engineering firms, as well as other non-governmental operatives in the highlands. It aims to encourage young people from pre-school, throughout their education and beyond, to take advantage of the opportunity of gaining these skills, which directly transfer not just into the aerospace industry but to and from oil and gas, renewables and so forth. These are similar skill sets that can be transferred across. Embracing this into the future provides enormous opportunities. I hope that future attitudes in the highlands will be changed, but there is a job of work to be done in this Chamber, in the Holyrood Chamber and in all the devolved Administrations to make sure that we get the word out to our young people to raise their sights and look for an opportunity.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire for telling us that Helen Sharman was the first astronaut from Britain in space. It is important to repeat that message because we need to encourage young girls and women to consider these opportunities. Tim Peake is a fantastic ambassador for space and I have great respect for what he has already done in a short period of time, but let us imagine the impact if he had been Tina Peake and that message had gone out to young girls and women about such opportunities. When it comes to encouraging young girls and women into engineering just now, there are clear systemic problems in our culture that must be tackled. I call on the Government to join me and others to make sure that we change this attitude over the coming years.

Some 11% of engineers in the sector are women, but 21% of engineer graduates focused on the sector are women. This is the lowest percentage female employment rate in the sector in Europe, and we have the lowest retention rate in Europe. That is at a time when there are significant skills shortages at every level of the industry.

We have heard that many people are not aware of the opportunities in the space or the aerospace sector. I was delighted yesterday to meet Bridget Day, the deputy programme director for the national aerospace technology exploitation programme. I crave your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I would like to read something she sent to me, at my request. She said:

“I have worked as an Engineer in the Aerospace industry for nearly 40 years. I worked for 30 years in the supply chain for a heat exchanger manufacturer in Wolverhampton, starting as a graduate apprentice and becoming Engineering Director. In my personal experience there has been little progress in encouraging women into engineering. I currently lead a team of engineers helping aerospace supply chain companies with new technology”—

within NATEP, as I have said. She continues:

“In a team of 24 there is only one other woman”,

That is a shocking figure. She continues:

“I know that engineering is considered difficult, dirty, and dying by the general public. This means that parents and teachers often encourage young people away from engineering, thinking that industry is something in the past and not for the future. The increasingly ‘green’ views of our youth are annoyed with industry building on green belt land and taking priority over wild life. So the reputation of industry publicly is not what my experience is. I have had a very varied working life, every day something different, everyday keeping me interested in solving problems with new ways of thinking, new materials, new possibilities. The amount of new possibilities is better than ever before and NOW”—

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1046

she capitalised it—

“is a great time to become an engineer. We are very short of engineers. As a woman in engineering I am often the only woman in the room, usually only 5% are women even at a large event. There is an assumption that I am the secretary and not that I am the boss. My reputation is never assumed, like a man’s often is, I always have to earn it.”

Jim Shannon: If I had been allowed to ask two questions at Women and Equalities questions this morning I would have raised this issue. The Government need to target girls-only schools and introduce the STEM industries, including engineering, to those girls.

Drew Hendry: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his substantive point about engaging young girls and women with these industries, and I absolutely subscribe to that view. As I have said—I will continue to repeat it here until we get it right—this is an issue that we need to tackle together to ensure that girls are able to take advantage of these opportunities.

Carol Monaghan: Does my hon. Friend agree that one serious issue that has not been properly taken up is our major shortage of STEM-qualified teachers. Unless much more attractive and lucrative wages can be offered, this shortage will continue and it will impact on the number of girls coming through.

Drew Hendry: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that education is the key. I mentioned the science skills academy, and the idea behind it is to influence children as they develop and give them these opportunities, but also to try to reach out to society in general and to say to parents and grandparents that they need to talk about this. It is also about saying to education professionals and to those who make the investments that lead to their recruitment that this issue has to be taken incredibly seriously.

Stakeholder activities going on at the moment are to be encouraged. For example, I congratulate The Telegraph on creating the women in space jobs resource, which includes educational resources encouraging women into STEM subjects. Another example is the Royal Society of Aviation, which established the women in aerospace and aviation committee in 2009.

On solutions, we need to increase public awareness of the UK space industry and its value to the economy. We need to increase engagement with young people through projects such as Scottish Space School. There will doubtless be others of which I am not aware, but we need to make sure that this sort of thing carries on. I support calls for the need to concentrate funding on research and development projects. We absolutely need to stop thinking about what is happening today and start thinking about the opportunities for tomorrow. We need to work to increase peer support to encourage female graduates to enter and remain in the sector.

Let me finish by citing Professor Alan Smith, head of the department of space and physics at University College London, who acted as rapporteur for an event hosted by the Scottish Government and the Civil Aviation Authority. He said:

“Scotland has embraced space. Space feels at home in Scotland.”

Let us make sure that all of us and all our children get the opportunity to feel at home in space, too.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1047

1.27 pm

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry). He made some excellent points about women and equality in the industry. As a civil engineer, that chimes with me. My profession has seen a lack of women over the years, although it is doing its best to try to remedy it by engaging with schools. My hon. Friend has shown, both yesterday and today, that he is a great advocate for technology, and his enthusiasm certainly shone through in his speech. I congratulate, too, my hon. Friends the Members for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) on bringing forward this timely debate. I welcome the chance to participate in it.

Let me start with a confession. Anyone who knows me personally will probably be somewhat surprised that I have chosen to speak in a space-related debate. Unlike the Members who have spoken previously, when I was growing up I never had the same fascination with space. Science fiction movies did not do it for me. Although I was born in 1970, I have still not watched the early “Star Wars” movies—[Hon. Members: “Shame!”] Now I have got that confession out of the road, I should have everybody on my side. At least it shows they were listening to me.

Carol Monaghan: I am concerned that my hon. Friend has not watched the earlier “Star Wars” movies. Is he suggesting that he has watched the later ones?

Alan Brown: I have seen one or two, and I took the children along, so it was a family activity. I could not say what happened in them as I do not recall.The good news is that—in view of the earlier lack of interested nods—there will be no more puns in my speech.

I appreciate the importance of the science, technology and commercial aspects of the space industry, and I am right behind the United Kingdom Government’s proposal to focus on making the UK the European hub for commercial space flight and related space sector technologies. I also applaud the ambitious growth targets that have been set.

What other reasons have I for speaking in the debate? One of them was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady): it is great to be able to make a speech that is not preceded by the words “From now on there will be a three-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches”—although some Members may wish that there was a three-minute limit on mine.

The main reason for my participation, however, is my wish to give an unashamed plug to Prestwick airport, which I would like to become the United Kingdom’s first space port hub. It is in the neighbouring constituency rather than my own, but I can appreciate the benefits that it would bring to the surrounding area in general, and many of my constituents are already employed in the aerospace industry.

Unfortunately, my constituency is among the top 15% in the UK in terms of unemployment, and 200 skilled manufacturing jobs have recently been lost from a factory in Kilmarnock, so a jobs boost would be most welcome in my constituency and the wider area. However, despite the headline unemployment rate, Ayrshire in general has a great engineering pedigree, and there are still many

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1048

successful engineering and manufacturing companies in my constituency and its neighbours. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire, there is already a cluster of aerospace-related firms around Prestwick, and I know that they could easily expand to service a new space port. We have also heard that nearby Glasgow already contains space technology companies, including Clyde Space and Spire. That would be another advantage of choosing Prestwick.

The UK Space Agency has made clear that its activities are about much more than direct space technology, covering climate change analysis and other beneficial research on such matters as health and ageing, as well as materials innovation and plasma physics. I realise that, given that ongoing work, successful partnerships will already be operating, but there is no doubt that if Prestwick were chosen to be a space port, it could form links with the Scottish universities, which are among the best in the world. That is another advantage. As for transport infrastructure, Ayr Harbour is nearby. Prestwick also has a railway halt, and close links with the motorway network. I believe that it is easily the most accessible location on the shortlist that the Government are considering.

Yesterday I attended a breakfast hosted by the all-party parliamentary group for aerospace. One of the discussion points, which was also raised today by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, was education, and preparing kids for qualifications in STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and technology design. The Scottish Government are making great strides with that in their curriculum for excellence, and the local authority of which I was a member before becoming an MP has produced a STEM programme for primary schools, as well as successfully running a business enterprise initiative for secondary schools.

In Scotland, the wider implementation of the Wood report has led to a recognition that school leavers must have a greater understanding of the working environment and what will be expected of them in that environment, and, crucially, of the fact that higher or full-time further education is not for everyone. Along with the Scottish Government's investment in modern apprenticeships, that has given Scotland—and Prestwick in particular—a head start when it comes to renewing interest in STEM subjects and technology design.

Ayrshire is also home to the campus of Ayrshire college, which has recently won awards and, moreover, is willing to work in partnership with industry to develop tailor-made courses. An excellent example of that is the partnership that has been established to create courses for wind turbine technicians. That came about because the industry realised that, owing to the growth in renewables, there was not enough qualified expertise for the operation and maintenance of wind turbines. A new £53 million campus is due to open in Kilmarnock, which I expect to present fantastic opportunities for links with the space industry.

Prestwick has one of the longest runways in the UK, and it does not suffer from fog problems. It is often used when flights are diverted because of problems elsewhere. Unfortunately, there are not enough commercial flights from Prestwick to enable it to make a profit, but that does mean that there are no capacity or logistical issues that would prevent the creation of a space port there.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1049

In fact, if that mitigated some of the losses that are currently being covered by the Scottish Government, there would be benefits for Scottish taxpayers, and funds would be freed up for investment elsewhere in Scotland. Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway are also home to the Dark Sky project, which could provide more links and other benefits if the space port were located at Prestwick.

The Scottish Government are very supportive and positive about development in this sector, as was demonstrated by Fiona Hyslop's attendance at the annual UK-Canada colloquium in Glasgow just before Christmas. The conclusions reached at that event will be presented to both Governments, and I am confident that they will underline the strong case that I expect to be made for Scotland in general. I urge Ministers to pay due heed to those conclusions.

Let me now move slightly away from the subject of Prestwick, although I am reluctant to do so. I agree wholeheartedly with the motion: this seems to be one sector for which the UK Government are outlining a positive vision. Like many of my colleagues, I have often complained in the Chamber about the need for the Government to spend more money on social justice, rather than on projects that some people consider to be vanity projects. However, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), wider benefits, which could be long-lasting, accrue from this investment.

There is no doubt that Major Tim Peake's mission could inspire another generation of scientists, explorers, engineers and innovators. If the benefits are to continue, however, and if the proposed space port is to have any chance of being an operational venture by 2018—with no loss of momentum, or of the interest that is currently being generated—the Government must set clear guidelines for the submission of the final bids. The final decision-making process must be transparent and non-political, in order to ensure the best possible value for money and future success.

However, given that the Government like to cut red tape and bureaucracy, if they do not want to go down that route, they could simply award the space port location to Scotland in general or, more specifically, to Prestwick. Alternatively, in the light of the speeches that we have heard so far, we could have a show of hands in the Chamber today. That would solve any problems.

1.37 pm

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP): So far, this has been a very interesting debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) on initiating it through the good auspices of the Backbench Business Committee.

The fact that I have had an interest in space from an early age has proved most useful since my election last May, as the Government’s social and fiscal policy is from another planet and completely alien to me. However, we are here to debate a subject which need not be, and, in fact, should not be contentious, and which will hopefully generate a fair degree of unanimity throughout the House.

Like many youngsters, I grew up fascinated by the stars, learning about the different planets, the missions of astronauts, and the work of NASA and other space agencies. I am sure that I am not the only Member

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1050

present who dreamt of becoming an astronaut. It was either that or a football player. You can be sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the one thing that no one in the Chamber grew up aspiring to be was a Member of Parliament, yet here we all are: astronaut, footballer, ballerina—rejects all. We may have lost out on our childhood dreams, but that does not mean that we cannot help the kids of today to fulfil theirs.

This is a dream that many children have, both girls and boys. There is something about space that captures the imagination of youngsters from an early age, and while many will never quite reach their dream, thinking big will undoubtedly lead to a fulfilling career. During the summer recess, I visited Gallowhill primary school in my constituency. More than half the kids put their hands up when asked if they wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up. I am sure that other Members will have had similar experiences when visiting schools in their constituencies, and I expect the number to become even higher as children learn about, and are inspired by, the important work that astronaut Tim Peake is currently doing at the International Space Station.

Moving on to the economic benefits of the UK space industry, it will no doubt surprise many outside this Chamber that in 2012-13 the UK space industry contributed £5.1 billion to our economy, which is the same amount as the railways. The latest figure is over £11 billion, and across the UK the space industry supports 68,000 jobs. It is hoped that the industry’s output will grow to £40 billion by 2030.

Locally, the space industry is worth around £16.5 million a year to the Scottish economy; more than 30 companies in Scotland operate in the market. When talking about the contribution that Scotland makes to space exploration, we have to mention the impact and work of Glasgow-based Clyde Space. Clyde Space produces a number of products used by NASA and the European Space Agency. In 2014, it secured £1.2 million in funding to produce power systems that will be used for two ESA satellites.

One of the products of which Clyde Space is particularly proud is its UKube-1. This product was jointly funded by Clyde Space and the UK Space Agency and is the first satellite to be both designed and built in Scotland. The UKube-1 has been described as the most advanced nano-satellite ever made and Clyde is rightly proud of its innovation. I mention that as it underlines the point that there are companies throughout the UK who are producing high-quality products that aid the work not only of the UK Space Agency, but of the ESA and NASA as well.

It is important to note what we are doing to help nurture the astronauts, scientists and engineers of tomorrow, but first I want to make a wider societal point about dreams and ambition. I was struck by something Lord Empey said during a meeting with the aerospace industry yesterday. He was making the point that in Britain we tend to stifle ambition in the young, as opposed to fostering and positively supporting it. For too long a significant section of society—and I include myself in this—have had a play-it-safe, “walk before you can run”, “don’t get ideas above your station” mentality. It has changed, but changed far, far too slowly. I do not pretend to have the answers, but I think we would do well to acknowledge that fact and work towards an equality of ambition and opportunity across all our young regardless of their background. A good start

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1051

would be for aspirational industries such as aerospace to formulate a collective strategy and a curriculum enhancement that would engage with children early on and throughout their school career. As I heard yesterday, there are many companies doing good work in this area, but there is an ad hoc approach and very much a postcode lottery for children.

The pupils in my local area of Renfrewshire have been lucky; we have been fortunate that the Mission Discovery programme has come to Renfrewshire for the last two years. It is an educational programme—launched and supported by Renfrewshire council, the University of the West of Scotland and the International Space School Educational Trust—and it provides an exciting opportunity to 15 participants from the first and second year to learn from astronauts and other experts in space and science, as well as recruiting 15 paid mentorship positions for those in the third or fourth year.

Mission Discovery recruits astronauts, astronaut trainers, scientists and NASA leaders to help train local people studying in the area. The programme involves students working alongside space experts to carry out a number of tasks, including formulating an idea for an experiment that can be done in space. Not only the students benefit and enjoy this programme; the experts also value the time working alongside the students. In fact, former NASA astronaut and president of the United Space Alliance, Mike McCulley, said:

“Mission Discovery was, by far, the most comprehensive, interesting, and educational endeavour I have been involved with.”

The Mission Discovery programme was a great success in Renfrewshire. The students gained practical knowledge which aided their studies, and the programme made a real addition to their CVs. Programmes such as Mission Discovery help equip students with the necessary skills to be able to gain a career in the space industry, and that is vitally important as we attempt to grow the industry. Mission Discovery is a fantastic programme and I would urge other local authorities to attempt to bring it to their areas.

The potential of the UK space industry is huge and I expect that, used correctly, Tim Peake’s mission and spacewalk can act as a catalyst for fully realising that potential. To that end, I welcome the “National Space Policy” publication and hope that the Government can work with the sector to improve and increase the opportunities for the UK space industry. The growth of the space industry should not be viewed in a vacuum. If we achieve the goal of capturing 10% of the global market by 2030, that will create real opportunities for us, helping to create 100,000 new jobs for the youngsters I have spoken of and generating £40 billion for the economy.

I have some concerns about whether the Government will achieve the ambitious plans that they have set for themselves; they have not hit too many targets of late. To achieve the goals that the UK Government have set, they will have to commit more public funding to the sector. We have seen in other policy areas that the fixation with austerity has hindered investment, and I worry that this same economic mindset will prevent the Government from achieving the goals set out in the “National Space Policy”.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1052

The amount of public spending allocated to the UK space industry has to increase; in 2013, UK Government spending on civil space research and development ranked seventh among all OECD countries. However, contrary to my natural instincts, I will not end my contribution on a sour note. I wish the Government well as they work towards achieving the vision set out in the “National Space Policy”. Having a vibrant and successful space industry is vital to growing our economy, creating jobs and contributing to our research output, and I hope that the Government can take advantage of the large amount of public interest and enthusiasm surrounding the UK space industry.

1.45 pm

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP): I want to start by paying tribute to the original spaceman. I am not talking about Yuri Gagarin; I am talking about the legend who was David Bowie, and I am sure the House will join me in sending our condolences to his family.

I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s and there are three things I remember vividly from my childhood. The first was the excitement of the power cuts. That was maybe not so exciting for the industries, but, for me, as a child getting the candles out and wandering through the house in darkness always holds great memories. I remember Margaret Thatcher coming to power, too—probably the less said about that the better—and I remember space. I remember the space programme and the space shuttle programme, which started in 1981, with great excitement.

That excitement took off for me when the space shuttle made a surprise visit to the Paris air show in 1983, and for it to get there it had to piggyback on a jumbo jet. I was at primary school in Glasgow at the time, and we knew the jumbo jet would be flying over at some point in the morning. We had been told that when we heard the jumbo jet we had to stand, quietly put our chairs under our desks, line up at the door and all go carefully outside. Of course all order was abandoned when the noise of the jumbo jet was heard. Chairs were thrown, people climbed across desks, people were knocked down in the rush—[Interruption.] It was the west end of Glasgow. Eventually, out we went to see the incredible sight of the space shuttle perched—precariously, it seemed—on the back of this jumbo.

It was that single event in my childhood that sparked a major interest in me both in science and technology and particularly in physics. It was how I ended up choosing to study physics at university and eventually becoming a physics teacher, so the inspiration offered by space stretches across all strands of society.

At this point, I want to mention another physicist. He is a far more famous physicist than I am and has done great work for space: Professor Brian Cox. It was a great treat for my pupils at school to see clips of Professor Brian Cox taken from his wonderful DVDs “Wonders of the Solar System” and “Wonders of the Universe”. It never surprised me that the academic students would be interested, but what was really surprising to me was that the less academic ones wanted to see him as well, and regularly would say to me, “Miss, are you going to stick on that professor guy?” They enjoyed that. I was lucky enough to be at the Science Museum

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1053

on 15 December for Tim Peake’s launch. There were thousands of schoolchildren there, and their enthusiasm and excitement reminded me of the incident from my childhood with the jumbo jet.

One of my colleagues asked me a couple of days ago: “What is the point of this debate? Is it really that important? Why does space exploration matter?” Well, it is absolutely crucial that we have this debate and it is timeous to have it at this point. I want to talk about the three aspects of space exploration that I think are most important. First, there are only two industries that push innovation in great leaps and bounds: defence and space exploration. Space spin-offs have found their way into all aspects of our everyday lives, through materials such as Teflon, solar cells and robotic arms, which have led to the development of prosthetic limbs. The basic memory foam mattress was developed as a result of providing cushions for astronauts during take-off. There is also a story about the space pen that NASA spent a great deal of money developing, only for the cosmonauts of the time to decide that a pencil would work just as well in zero-gravity conditions.

Space technology has wide-ranging applications. For example, the damping system on the launch pad has special fluid dampers to ensure that the launch can take place in a stable manner, and when the Millennium bridge just down the road developed vibration problems in the first couple of days after its opening, it was those same dampers, taken straight from the shuttle’s launch pad, that provided the solution. Such applications happen throughout. Those spin-off technologies do not simply have an impact on our lives; they also have huge economic benefits, and it is important that we recognise that.

Secondly, the satellites that are in orbit have become fundamental to the way in which we live our lives. The largest satellite in orbit around the Earth is of course the Moon, which is of fundamental importance to our lives. It creates the tides, which create great benefits for life in the tidal areas. Artificial satellites that have been put into orbit provide us with television from around the world through satellite broadcasts that come to us via geostationary satellites in high Earth orbits more than 22,000 miles above the Earth.

Drew Hendry: Does my hon. Friend agree that micro-satellite technology is providing some really exciting opportunities to dramatically reduce the cost of putting satellites into space while still performing the functions previously carried out by larger machines? Does she also agree that, on that basis, there should be much more investment in innovation in order to take forward that work?

Carol Monaghan: Absolutely. It is often not understood that satellite launches take place regularly. The next such launch is in fact on Sunday, but we have not heard very much about it in the news. The micro-satellites that my hon. Friend has just mentioned are providing us with more and more great services.

Patrick Grady: Geostationary satellites were first conceptualised as science fiction by Arthur C. Clarke. This reinforces the point that I was making earlier about the inspiration that space provides to the creative and cultural scene, which has a knock-on effect in scientific applications.

14 Jan 2016 : Column 1054

Carol Monaghan: Absolutely. It is really important that science fiction writers continue to write, because they often provide ideas and encouragement for creativity and development.

Satellites are also important in other areas. I have mentioned television; I could also mention communications, and weather and climate monitoring. It was satellites up in space that first photographed the issues with the polar ice cap, and we have now been able to compare the photographs that were taken 30 years ago with those that are being taken now, which are showing the real impacts on the ice cap.

Dr Philippa Whitford: The United Kingdom obviously has the potential to be part of a world network of satellites, in that the geostationaries are likely to be launched from America, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, whereas Australia and the northern hemisphere will be launching satellites into polar and sun-synchronous orbits. Obviously, another blatant punt for Prestwick is that we are further north.

Carol Monaghan: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Different areas can no doubt provide different services.

Possibly the most famous satellite is the Hubble space telescope. I have been asked why we should not simply view the stars from a dark area of the Earth, such as Chile or Hawaii. The answer is that the Earth’s atmosphere is a fluid. Let us try to imagine viewing images through water in a swimming pool. That gives us an idea of what it is like trying to view space from the surface of the Earth. Getting out of that fluid and putting the Hubble space telescope up there have enabled us to get images that would never have been considered possible in the past.

The third really important, and really exciting, aspect of space exploration is the possibility of living in different environments. It was thought for a long time that two things were required for life to exist: an oxygen-rich atmosphere and liquid water. However, we have now seen evidence, even on Earth, of life existing in extreme areas—for example, at very deep pressures in the ocean and in very cold parts of the world. That gives us real hope that there might be life in other places, even within our own solar system. It also gives us the opportunity to think of living further afield beyond the constraints of the surface of the Earth.

We have mentioned astronauts already. I have counted seven British-born astronauts, although I might have got that number wrong. Two of them are space tourists, and a number of them moved to the United States in order to pursue their careers, but what was really exciting about Helen Sharman and Major Tim Peake is that they were both living here in the UK. That gives our youngsters great hope.