I beg to move,
That this House, mindful of the fact that ever-improving communications are an absolute prerequisite for expanding trade both internal and external, and conscious of this country's past leadership in this vital field, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to announce plans for a general improvement in communications and in particular for the provision of a British and Commonwealth telecommunications satellite; and further calls upon the Government to treat this matter as one of great urgency, in order to maintain British leadership in communications, to prevent the dissipation of existing design staffs and to restore confidence in the future of British scientists.
In moving this Motion I am conscious of a deep sense of responsibility, almost a sense of awe for the subject that the House will be discussing today. Space, its exploration, its utilisation, its development and its conquest in the cause of all mankind is a matter which will affect all our tomorrows. It will affect our lives for 24 hours every day. It will affect our ways of thought. It will have a direct effect on all our industries and our economics, even our studies, our very existence and our future. The House, therefore, I am sure, will readily understand that, in opening a debate of this importance, I am imbued with a feeling of lightheadedness and even a sense of weightlessness which, I hope, will diminish as I develop my theme.
I do not speak as a scientist, or as a technician, but purely in an attempt to act as a finger-post to what lies ahead, to the realms of achievement that lie only a little way along the road, and to the fulfilment of men's dreams in the service of their fellow men. The world moves ever faster. Time and distance are being telescoped—old frontiers literally no longer exist. The "big boys"—that is, Russia and the United States—are engaged in a struggle for strategic, technical supremacy. The lesser ones are groping for freedom and a new way of life.
Mentally, technically and, above all, spiritually, mankind is actually reaching out for the stars. Civilisation itself is entering a long and a new phase of exploration and development, comparable to the conquest of the oceans themselves and the conquest of the air; but vaster, even wider, onward and upward beyond the confines of the known world, reaching to the planets, to the moon and even to the sun itself.
The technical and economic problems are formidable, the financial stakes are high, but the rewards are enormous. For us, they mean survival. If we do not go into this business now, with all our historic talent and natural ability, then the House today has to recognise that we shall be out of the business for good. For England, in the competitive world ahead, being out of the business spells suicide and total eclipse, the fading away of our industries, the disappearance of our influence, the lowering of our standard of life and, in the end, the extinction of our pride and greatness in the world, to which, over the centuries, we have contributed so much. In this matter neither time nor space is on our side.
Our choice today is either to take our place in the vanguard of progress, or to finish up as a small offshore island on the edge of nowhere with only bitter memories to keep us company in a very bleak existence. Unfortunately, as a result of the cold war, the whole subject is clouded by fear and ignorance and in the minds of most people outer space is synonymous with bigger and better bombs and frightening missiles. Of course, that is not the true picture.
Let us look at the background in order to acquire a proper perspective of our own task. The rapidity of the progress which has been made is impressive. It is only a little over five years ago that the launching of the first artificial earth satellite literally opened the space age. Since then, in a period of five and a half years, well over 100 earth satellites have been launched, about three quarters from the United States—and we all know where the others have come from.
Two unmanned vehicles have been on the moon, one American and one Russian. Eight unmanned vehicles have gone into orbit about the sun, five American and three Russian. Seven men have orbitted the earth in a space craft, three American and four Russian. In both those cases national prestige has called for a vast effort and enormous expenditure and in both those cases the effort has been concentrated on a quasi-strategic conception.
Obviously, the people of this island cannot contemplate expenditure on so vast a scale.
I am glad to hear the hon. Member's approval.
We must, therefore, concentrate on those aspects of space exploration and development within our own limits and our own capacities and extend them as various members of the Commonwealth join us in what I hope will be, and what I believe will be, the greatest and most binding medium and effort the Commonwealth has ever known, that is to say, the provision of a British and Commonwealth telecommunication satellite and television system.
On so wide a subject, I shall not have time to deal with everything, and, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) will deal with some of the points. If he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden), who is an expert on certain features connected with space satellite controlling instruments, such as computers, will deal with that side of the subject.
In the provision of a British and Commonwealth satellite system, we must realise that it is a most sophisticated enterprise which will bring not only incalculable benefits—and I stress incalculable benefits—to the people of this country, but will be a major contribution to peace and to the well ordered evolution of civilisation, which can no longer dare to make war upon itself.
No one can overstress the importance of communications. At home, for instance, our wealth and economic wel- fare depend entirely on the efficient manufacture and distribution of our multitudinous products. Everything that 50 million and more inhabitants eat, wear, use or enjoy depends on distribution and advertising. Distribution itself is impossible without efficient communications.
We all know that we have succeeded in almost bankrupting our railway system. We have succeeded in cluttering up our roads. We watch helplessly while our major cities grind slowly to a standstill. Every day, more and more people migrate to the great Metropolis of London, like lemmings on a suicide march, and the towns and cities of the North are depopulated by the magnet of our over-centralisation of all the services in London and the provision in London of a wider, more interesting and more cultured life for the people who live in it, as compared with other cities.
Would our roads be cluttered up if every one had a telephone? Would the cities and towns in the Provinces be denuded if they had their own individual broadcasting and television stations? This is a problem which must be tackled. To ignore what is happening now is suicidal to our economy. At the same time, inefficiency in our communication system, naturally, has a profound effect on our overseas problems. Highly developed internal communication services ipso facto will improve efficiency and automatically improve our export potential. Absolute efficiency is a must if we are to improve our overseas communications.
Let us take one or two of the highlights out of the past. It was Britain which, in the years between 1870 and 1890, encircled the world with submarine telegraph cables, the result of brilliant co-operation between the universities and industry itself. Let us think of what is now happening to our scientists and technicians at our universities—and we all know that. Again, between 1920 and 1930 British industry working with the Post Office—and I am delighted to see the Assistant Postmaster-General in his place this morning—produced the short-wave beam system around the world.
But time does not stand still, and modern technology demands up-to-date first-class telephone circuits to all the countries which we serve with our products and to those markets which we must achieve if we are to survive. Hence the desperate urgency of space communication.
Over the years Britain has built up her prosperity on her export trade, carried in British ships over all the oceans of the world. We are still in the vanguard in this direction, but every hon. Member is aware of the mounting problems in this sphere and the need for making, selling, and delivering our products overseas before even the ship's bottoms themselves can be filled.
Space communication is here. It is no longer a pipe-dream. It is a hard reality, and we as a country have little time to spare. Every hon. Member, irrespective of party, should be fired with a sense of urgency in this matter to make sure that we go ahead. If we believe, as I do, in the future of Britain, the time to go into this multi-million business is now. The youth of this country are already "with it", as they say. Our scientists and designers are with it. Some of the design staffs in the country and in Northern Ireland are only too desperately anxious to get on with this job. Our industrial leaders are with it, because they know that we have to specialise. They know that all our specialised industries will play a part in it, and that if we do not, we die. The House will, I am sure, forgive me for not providing the long list of the industries which would be engaged in this business. It would take far too much of the time of the House just to read the list.
The Government must provide the launchers, the satellite, the equipment, the finance, the management and the "know-how," but, above everything else, we have to provide our faith. This will be the biggest business, the most rewarding in the world, both from the financial and the employment point of view. For us and for the Commonwealth it is paramount. The first thing that we have to do is some very urgent rethinking. All the thinking up to now has been concerned with trans-Atlantic travel. I hate to say this, but I am already finding, in Government circles, far too much of the idea that this is the only part of this project about which we really need to think.
As I say, all the thinking has been concerned with trans-Atlantic travel, but that represents only 25 per cent. of the existing world ship-borne traffic and Britain's share of that trade is only 10 per cent. Who can put priorities on importance now? We have four times more ship-borne trade to other countries than we have across the Atlantic, so, obviously, this has to be a British and Commonwealth project. It would be fatuous and foolish if we ceased to use the talents and such aces of trumps as we have in the world with the good will of the Commonwealth, which in this matter is paramount. This has to be a Commonwealth project.
Perhaps I might quote a recent statement by Mr. J. R. Brinkley, a leading expert on telecommunications in the country. I believe that he is known to many hon. Members and to people outside. He said:
I believe Britain should give serious consideration to launching a single 'stationary' satellite to be sited above the Indian Ocean. Correctly placed, this will give communication in one hop between Britain and Europe on the one hand, and the whole of Africa, the Middle East, India, the Far East, Japan and Australia on the other. New Zealand is now linked to Australia by high-efficiency cable and there are of course high-efficiency cables across the Atlantic.
Thus a single satellite added to these cable routes already established would give communication to the entire Commonwealth and nearly every other part of the world. It would serve particularly well those countries whose internal communications are presently so deplorably bad.
That alone should fire the imagination of every hon. Member.
The Americans are also doing some urgent rethinking and are considering that their next satellite should be over the Pacific, for exactly the same reasons as ours ought to be over the Indian Ocean. As we know, Canada, a very important part of the Commonwealth, is credited with producing the first complete satellite other than American or Russian.
Only a few days ago—and I should like the House to think seriously about this—I was informed that Italy has a joint programme with the United States for launching a satellite from a floating platform near the Equator. Even the Japanese are planning their own satellite. We need, in addition to Woomera, in Australia, a new equatorial launching site of our own, and I am sure my colleagues would agree with me that the Seychelles provide an ideal place for positioning that satellite.
This type of rethinking is shared by many people, including such leading protagonists of telecommunication as Mr. Pardoe of de Havilland's to whom one day this country will realise it owes a great deal indeed. I do not propose to refer to the relative merits of the lower positioned as opposed to the high level synchro-satellite. Nor have I time to refer to E.L.D.O. or Euro-space, the study group in Europe to which more than 120 firms belong and which, I am sorry to say, in the last resort will be as inimical to British development in the satellite market as de Gaulle was to the Common Market. I will leave those two subjects to other speakers, except to point out that I am informed that France is proceeding with her own Telecom satellite, irrespective of any arrangements with E.L.D.O.
Telephone, television and Telex—in that order—call for a ring of perhaps nine satellites around the world. But there will be other satellites, for navigational purposes, ice-spotting and meteorology, the latter involving the manufacture and use of vast computors. All this will mean the vast employment of people which, in its turn, will be of inestimable value to mankind. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will refer to this subject.
It will mean accurate weather forecasting, with warnings being given of imminent hurricanes and monsoons. Surely hon. Members realise that this is a vast, inspiring, challenging enterprise, one big enough not only to energise all our scientists—and if this problem is to be tackled adequately we do not have anything Like enough scientists—but also to inspire our design staffs and technicians. Far more important, this is an enterprise which could give our youth faith in the future and provide them with a sense of purpose which, I fear, they do not have now.
I would like to pay tribute to the Postmaster-General and his staff for the enormous technical success they have achieved at the Goonhilly Down receiving station. The excellence of the results of their efforts was witnessed by millions of people in the recent Telstar Eurovision programmes. Equal tribute is due to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, at Farnborough, and its brilliant Director, Dr. Michael Lighthill.
Let us get down to brass tacks. It is obvious that if this enterprise is to be tackled properly the Government will have to go into partnership with business. I have estimates covering a period of years which, judged by any standards, would satisfy the most meticulous accountant. Whatever happens, the Government must not enter this business in a half-hearted way. They must go into it hook, line and sinker. They must use foresight similar to that shown by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and Lord Fisher, in the early days of the Iraq Petroleum Company, because risk capital is involved. Not only that; the Commonwealth is and will be for ever involved in this. The circumstances are such that only a formula is needed to unite them as one family in this gateway to the year 2000.
I would not like to resume my seat without referring to the imaginative side of world television communications. In twenty years' time English will be the language of the world. It is already the language of the Commonwealth, of the North American Continent, it is the one common language of India, it is already a "must" study in Japan, it is the language of negotiation between the Soviets and the Chinese and it is now the primary task of every student in South-East Asia.
The contents of a whole newspaper bounced off a Telstar type of satellite would appeal to hundreds of millions of readers simultaneously. The advertising of products would become universal. All people's lives would be open for all to see. The House might be interested to hear of an incident which happened last year during a visit I paid to the Far East. In a remote village, miles from anywhere, I found people squatting on the floor watching a programme on a portable television set that had been made in Japan. The programme they were watching was a canned edition of "77 Sunset Strip." Hon. Members can realise from this illustration what worldwide communications of this type could mean.
Far-sighted people like Lord Beaverbrook and Roy Thomson are already fully alive to these developments and know what they will mean—the abolition of abysmal ignorance and freedom from hunger which will only come in our lifetime by the pictorial dissemination of knowledge and the demand for books and instruction which will ensue.
And food, of course.
The path to peace lies only through the gateway of knowledge and how to use it. The next twenty-five years will see not only an intensified struggle for the minds of men, but also the pictorial presentation by Telstar satellites of creeds and ideas. Hundreds of millions of people will simultaneously each day assimilate on their screens lectures on such varied subjects as hygiene, child welfare, food, medicine, agriculture, the rotation of crops, and the conquest of disease.
Is there any other way to elevate the lives of the backward peoples of the world? Only those countries with the foresight to take advantage of present technical opportunities will reap the harvest of a universe which must become one world—in deeds and in aspirations—unless, in despair, civilisation elects to destroy itself. I am reminded of that old American adage:
He who whispers down a well
About the goods he has to sell,
Will not make as many dollars
As he who climbs a tree and hollers.
Twice in this century this island has saved the world, and the world today looks to us to fulfil our destiny. Our destiny is to lead the world to sanity.
The seat from which I have had the privilege of addressing the House today is normally occupied, when he is in the House, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, our great statesman citizen, whom we all love. We have all been delighted these last few days to read of the signal honour being accorded him of being made an honorary citizen of the United States. That is a milestone to cheer us all up in the march together of the American people and our own nation, but I am minded of a very lovely and unusual book of poems written by a famous American poet who, unfortunately, died a year or two ago—Alice Deuer Miller.
Alice Deuer Miller came to live amongst us during the days of the Battle of Britain, the retreat from Dunkirk, and the dread years of the agony of this island which followed with the bombing. She wrote "The White Cliffs""—those cliffs which came to represent to her the unquenchable spirit and daring of our people; and the very last words that she penned in that book of poems—her last tribute—were:
In a world in which England is no more I do not want to live.
The House is indebted to the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) for deciding, when he had the good fortune to get first place in the Ballot, to choose such an important subject for a Friday morning debate. The importance that is attached to this subject is emphasised by the fact that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends representing, I know, many industries have been able to attract to the House this morning two Ministers who, I understand, may be tempted to intervene. I agree with almost everything that the hon. Gentleman intended to relate to these two Ministers.
I do not think for a moment that this country can seriously think about exploring the universe or putting men into space, but, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, we can do something on a more limited scale, such as using space for communications. I also entirely agree with him when he says that time is not on our side. Further, although he did not say it with the same emphasis as I do, I agree that this country is tending to lose the satellite telecommunication race because of our hesitancy, vacillation and unplanned research and development efforts. For that, the Government are to blame. I join forces with the hon. Member in praising the Post Office engineers who planned, designed and built at lower cost at Goon-hilly a satellite communication ground station far better than the American model which was adopted by the French. That was proved after slight faults on the first day.
It is about time the House was informed exactly what is happening about satellite communication. For far too long we have allowed other countries to make the running. We have had little research projects, but no concerted effort has been made, and no decision has been made by Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, the two principal Ministers concerned—the Postmaster-General, responsible for communications, and the Minister of Aviation, responsible for giving the contracts—have proved to be most uncommunicative when it comes to international communications.
On 22nd February, 1960, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation said:
What I can tell the hon. Member for Lincoln is that what is certain is that the combination of Blue Streak and Black Knight, with a small additional rocket stage, which I understand presents no great technical difficulties, could, if wished, provide the thrust necessary to put in orbit by the mid-1960s a space stabilised satellite of between 1,000 lb. and 2,000 lb. in a near circular orbit of between 200 and 300 miles altitude.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 156.]
That was said more than three years ago, when we had already spent a lot of money on the development of Blue Streak and Black Knight. Later in the same year, the same Parliamentary Secretary, winding up a debate on space research, said:
Meanwhile, important work has bean done to thrash out the technical problems associated with a future space programme of the kind to which hon. Members have referred. This work confirms that a launcher can be developed from our abandoned military project which will be capable of putting into orbit a worthwhile array of satellites.
He was there referring, of course, to the failure of Blue Streak militarily, and its possible adaptation as a satellite launcher. He went on:
The design studies have shown that at least three types of satellite could be launched…by a launching vehicle using Blue Streak as the first stage, a modified Black Knight as the second stage, and a third new stage, based on an existing motor. This is the sort of thing which could be done… [OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 2057.]
Again, that statement was made nearly three years ago.
As recently as this week, the Postmaster-General, introducing "Post Office Prospects, 1963–64", made some reference to satellite communications. I will not quote him, but what he said was, roughly, that he has now decided that satellite communications are technically feasible; he is gradually catching up; that there has been a Commonwealth conference in this country; that the Government have had exploratory discussions with the United States and Europe, and that he did not think that cables would be quickly dated but that cables and a satellite communication system would be complementary.
He referred to international co-operation, wiping out as unrealistic the idea that Britain could go it alone. He stated, and the hon. Member for Watford should have noted this, that we cannot ignore trans-Atlantic trade because at present 80 per cent. of the telephonic trade is across the Atlantic, I will not speak, as did the hon. Member for Watford, about shipping routes, and how shipping is travelling elewhere, but there may be an alliance in regard to telephonic communications. The Postmaster-General ended by saying that the Post Office had been busy on various developments but had not yet come to any conclusions. Therefore, we still had no idea, even as late as Monday last, what the Post Office—or, indeed, Her Majesty's Government—have in mind.
I should like to draw the bon, Member's attention to two points. These decisions relating to communication satellites are political and technical, and the development of technical knowledge at any one time into a missile or satellite takes time. This criticism of delay is hardly fair. Will the hon. Member not agree that when one embarks on a programme of development its technical achievement takes time? The hon. Member referred to Atlantic traffic. Would he not agree that present communications, particularly with the Far East and Australasia, are inadequate and that if they were more reliable and cheaper that traffic would increase?
I agree wholeheartedly with the final point. The first point of delay is the reason why the Government slumped at Swansea, East, yesterday and allowed a freak party to beat them. Three years ago Ministers said that these things were technically possible and that we had the rockets. We have waited three years to go ahead and we still have none of these things. This is the attitude that causes the Government to be in such disarray and to be so weak at the polls. I know that it is difficult when the Government are so low down and when everything turns sour around them and everything they try to do crumbles about their ears. If they had more courage and initiative they might be able to get out of the slough of despond they are now in.
Let us consider to what extent the Government have been fiddling about with these satellite communications and the way they have spent money on various projects. There is the European Launcher Development Organisation, which was intended to have Blue Streak as the first stage, the French Veronique as the second and the third possibly being developed by the Germans. The project was to cost £70 million and we were to pay roughly one-third. What is the present picture of this project? It seems very doubtful at the moment. How much have we spent on it? Are we still in E.L.D.O., and are we going ahead with the original plans?
Secondly, as the House knows, we have been experimenting with the United States on telephonic and television communications by Telstar and using our Goonhilly station in Cornwall. This is all right for experimental purposes. We have been testing ground equipment and gaining operational experience but this is no good at all to this country in the long term. We cannot and must not be committed solely to the Americans for global communications.
Anyone who takes an interest in the subject must know that renting telephone and television links from the Americans would prove exorbitant. We have been placed under this Government in the disastrous situation of relying on American missiles and rockets for our defence system and then having them cut off and being left almost naked. How ludicrous to place ourselves in a similar situation with communications.
Thirdly, the Government received plans from the British Space Development Company about 15 months ago. The company was formed more than two years ago with a view to looking into the possibilities of using space for communication purposes. This appeared to me at the time to be a British-owned project and the plans which the company may have submitted to the Government may have been on those lines. There was a combine of aircraft firms in the company which were very interested in a development at a suggested cost of £250 million for which we could have global coverage by 1970 using our own rockets, satellites and launching bases and using Woomera, the Seychelles and Christmas Island in order to secure the right height and to cover the whole world.
Last March a conference of Commonwealth nations in London showed interest in satellite communications and some of the groundwork on a scheme may have been done. One would have thought that Her Majesty's Government would have been looking favourably on this type of project with the possibility of a number of Commonwealth Governments and Her Majesty's Government indicating a financial and user interest in a scheme of this kind and accordingly signing a charter.
This country is a member of the European Space Research Organisation in which there are 12 European countries whose aim is to have a joint development for research mainly into the use of sounding rockets. There may be a programme costing £110 million to which the United Kingdom is committed to contribute £28 million. We are, therefore, already committed to spending £23 million on E.L.D.O. and a further £28 million on E.S.R.O. Yet we have made no concerted effort in this country to bring together our research organisations and industries at a time when we are pouring out money into doubtful little organisations in Europe.
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Aviation smiling at my remarks. This matter is causing great anxiety in the country at the moment. There is a report in a morning newspaper today about firms on the Continent going it alone irrespective of E.L.D.O. or E.S.R.O. The report may or may not be true, but we have dissipated our money and our energies in Europe on what may prove to be very doubtful projects.
I take it that the hon. Member is not suggesting that we should not be members of these two organisations. It must be within his knowledge that there are great advantages to be gained from membership.
No, I was not suggesting that. But I want to know whether it is worth while pouring money into them. Our international relations come into this question, particularly in the case of E.L.D.O. In view of the diplomatic relations between France and Great Britain under the present Government, is this a possibility now? Is this project really a starter?
I have indicated the projects in which we have various interests and have submitted that there is no co-ordination, but we also have many little projects at home. Again there is no decision to bring all these together under one Ministry or an organisation responsible for space development. We developed the Skylark rocket programme. This was a small rocket which was successful in use for upper atmosphere soundings. It was so successful that the United States bought some of these rockets from us and asked for the use of Woomera to launch them. This was an instance of Anglo-American cooperation in the satellite programme. There has been some co-operation on different levels at which different Ministers appear to be responsible but there has been no co-ordinating Minister.
We developed Black Knight, another very successful space research rocket. Blue Streak failed militarily but it has distinct possibilities as the basis for a satellite launcher. I remember also the Jodrell Bank radio telescope development. This was in the main a private venture. Although as a tracking station it has given this country tremendous prestige, I remember that the Government were doubtful about giving money to help its development. When it was built, great pressure was needed to persuade Her Majesty's Government to give a few thousand pounds to develop it further.
We have the radio research station at Slough, run in the main by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to provide a satellite orbit prediction service. There is also the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, which has done a great deal of research into the use of space rockets and aero space machines. We have all these projects at home, apart from the international and especially the European ones, but again there is no co-ordination of our own little research efforts and there is probably duplication. Meanwhile, the United States is surging ahead. Telstar proved very successful, although the relay was damaged a little because the van Allen radiation belt was injured by stratospheric nuclear explosions.
The Americans recognise that trade in communications will be across the Atlantic. We cannot lay sufficient sufficient cables, so there must be space telephonic links. I notice that the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which has been working with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has obtained permission to go ahead with a full experimental programme involving the expenditure of £170 million with a view to linking London, Bonn, Paris and Hawaii. It is hoped to operate a system of 35-minute periods three or four times a day, allowing telephone traffic and television links to be used through these various capitals. I notice that in 1959 trans-Atlantic telephone traffic resulted in 3 million telephone calls, and the estimate is that there will be 100 million by 1980. As I said earlier, to lay cables to satisfy this demand, apart from it being such a gigantic task, would prove extremely costly. The United States' aim is to get into space quickly with communications and to capture the market before we even start. In that respect, time is running fast against us.
I understand that the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the General Post Office have put forward ideas for a satellite communications system based on the use of E.L.D.O. and using Blue Streak as the initial launcher and possibly using Woomera, though I understand that there are difficulties. Woomera is not the best place for launchings into equatorial orbits at high altitudes. It is also assumed that all the component parts of the satellite are to be developed in the United Kingdom. But there are two major items required which will take some time. One is the development and production of silicon solar cells which are required in large numbers—I understand 50,000 per satellite. The estimated time scale for development and production methods to get roughly 250,000 of these cells produced per year would take at least two years after placing the contract.
I also notice, rather sceptically, that a study has been made and a small contract placed with Plesseys. It seems to be a firm which enjoys a privileged position within the Post Office. However, I will not develop that point. Sufficient to say that Plesseys seem to have a lucrative future in satellite development. I only query whether, once again, this is to be the key firm within a monopoly ring which is destined to get mammoth contracts if we develop a British satellite communications system.
The second major item, I notice, is that we have to build a test chamber for testing complete satellites. This, again, would take about two and a half years. So even if we decided now to develop our prototype it would take about three years. Then we have to go through the period of experimental launchings of prototypes, testing, assimilation of information and so on, and that might take a further two years. This is why time is so important. We have already wasted three years, and we cannot afford to waste any more time. All these plans put forward by the Royal Aircraft Establishment and the G.P.O. based on E.L.D.O. assume that the French and German stages of the launcher could be built and tested within that five-year period. If there is any delay from Europe, our project would be delayed further still.
As the hon. Member for Watford indicated, there are many industries which are keen to start. English Electric Aviation has had a team investigating the use of communication satellites, comparing the merits of low orbital multi-satellite systems and systems using a 24-hour satellite. The de Havilland Company is interested. So are Associated Electrical Industries, Callender Cables, Decca Radar, Elliot Automation, Hawker Siddeley, Plesseys, Pye, the Rank Organisation and Rolls-Royce. Most of them are taking a vital interest in this subject. It is this organisation in the background which is the strength behind this project. I am glad, for the nation's sake, that the Minister of Aviation and the Assistant Postmaster-General have been brought to the Government Front Bench today, and I hope that this is an indication that the Government are also taking an interest in the matter. If we do not attempt to do something positive now, I think there will be a waning of interest by the industries concerned. If the Americans go rapidly ahead to develop and perfect this system, it will be very difficult for us to keep our own people interested in the project; and secondly, it will be very difficult for us to catch up and we may end up renting links from the Americans.
I have two final points. I notice that the United Nations have been talking a great deal about international co-operation in space. This is the international use of space for peaceful purposes. It is the U.N. desire that there should be a pledge of co-operation between the bodies concerned. The United States and the Soviet Union have already made pledges between themselves on the joint development of satellites for weather purposes and for measuring the earth's magnetic field. I do not know whether E.L.D.O. is involved. This is the European organisation in which we are interested, and if there is to be a pledge of co-operation it should be between America, Russia, and E.L.D.O.—Britain within Europe.
That is all right so far as it goes, but, to be frank, I doubt very much whether there is any possibility of going beyond that, to get an international pledge between the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Britain or E.L.D.O. for the peaceful use of space for communications purposes. There is too much of a military ring about communications, and I doubt whether there would be any possibility of achieving such an objective. We may try hopefully to achieve it, but my fear is that because of the military implications there would be very little chance of doing so.
Communications in this country have been developed on national and nationalised lines—telephones, telegrams and so on. If we go forward now with a satellite communications system, there is the possibility that the Government will start to farm out work without sufficient Government direction and control. It may then slip into private enterprise hands and go out of the complete control of the G.P.O. I hope the Government have no intention of allowing that to happen. A communications system from this country must remain within the hands of the Government and not private enterprise adventurers.
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the aviation industry in this country can find the money? It cannot find the money for a one-stage rocket, let alone a satellite communications system. This, in the main, is going to be found by Her Majesty's Government. They have to pour the money for research and development into the aircraft industry at the moment. Surely, one of the quibbles of this House is that we have wasted too much money on research and development for rocketry, missiles, aircraft and aircraft engines, and therefore we want to make sure that in the development of satellite communications there should be sufficient Government control.
Two things are urgently required from the Government today. The first is a decision to go ahead with a satellite communications system, either by the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, or E.L.D.O. and the Commonwealth. Britain has now got to decide on one or the other. Secondly, we urgently require a centralised agency to act as fulcrum for the various industries which are interested and the research organisations so that there may be proper co-ordination of all their activities and an avoidance of duplication and overlapping.
We cannot afford to wait any longer. I hope that, when we have an indication from the Government of their intentions at the end of the debate, it will be clear that delay is no longer one of them. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to interest the industry and the nation as a whole in this exciting adventure of gradually conquering space.
It is becoming a pleasing formality nowadays to congratulate an hon. Member who moves a Private Member's Motion on his success in the Ballot and on his choice of subject. Today, the whole House agrees that this is very much more than a formality. Since the failure of the Common Market negotiations, in Brussels, there is, perhaps, no more important subject for the House now to dis- cuss. I agree entirely with the view of the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) about that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) introduced his Motion with a weighty and comprehensive speech, for which we are all extremely grateful. He was followed by the hon. Member for Barnsley in a speech of great comprehension, with almost all of which I agreed. I did not agree with every word of it, certainly not with some of the hon. Gentleman's more colourful political polemics, but I certainly agreed with the major part of his thinking.
I do not wish to traverse the ground already covered by those two excellent speeches. I take up, first, a point touched on in both, that is, the remark made last Monday by the Postmaster-General in speaking of the North Atlantic route. I believe that this question is absolutely fundamental to our thinking on the Whole project. My right hon. Friend said that
. 80 per cont. of the inter-continental traffic passes across the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe, and this is likely to continue for many years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 196.3; Val. 674, c. 999.]
Wide publicity has been given to this statement, and I consider that a very great deal of misconception may flow from it. One should not assume that, because 80 per cent, of traffic is now across the North Atlantic, this will necessarily be the communications pattern for the future. I believe that it will not. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. Unless we understand this, we shall be in the greatest danger of making catastrophic mistakes. We shall be in grave danger of getting the wrong missile and the wrong type of satellite put in the wrong place.
Anyone who has studied communications in the past will agree with the concept which all great communications engineers would postulate, that all successful communications projects begin with a wide and objective analysis of the potential user need. Space telecommunications are absolutely no exception to this rule. I am far from satisfied that in this case the views of potential uses have been properly canvassed. Who are the potential users of space telephone communications? They are certainly not the G.P.O. The object and function of the G.P.O. in this is to provide a good deal of the technical "know-how," to provide the British terminal stations and to operate them on behalf of the users. Who, in fact, will be the users?
Only a very small amount of private communications traffic will be involved in this field. The prime user whose needs we must serve in preparing for international telecommunications is the British exporter. He will be the man to use the system. I hope that the Government understand this because, if there is any misconception about it, they may form a completely wrong idea of what is necessary.
What other purposes might there be? One may talk about the needs of the tourist trade. That is a British export. One may talk about the needs of defence, of communication with our defence forces and bases overseas. Why are our defence forces there if not, in the ultimate, to protect British trading interests? This is the foundation of it all. In fact, the great potential user is the British exporter.
Of course, one of the great attractions of providing a space communications network by satellite is its profitability, but this should not be the prime factor, as I shall show in a moment. I will just give some figures which were prepared by Mr. Pardoe, of de Havilland's, to whom reference has been made, so that the House may see something of the scale of profitability involved.
I am told that the capital required to establish a space communications network in the first place, including research and development for a communications satellite, is about £100 million. That expenditure would be spread over seven years. The operating costs are expected to start after the fifth year and be about £10 million a year, so that total expenditure on operating costs over twenty years would be about £200 million. Revenue, on the other hand, might be expected to start after the seventh year and build up over twenty years to a total of about £700 million. Thus, the likely balance of revenue over costs would be about £500 million.
These are very interesting and attractive figures, but we must not think of this level of profitability as the prime reason for the effort or the prime result at which we aim in establishing a space telecommunications network. The object of establishing such a telecommunications network is not to make profits for the British Post Office, for the Bell Telephone Company, for the French, for the operator of the link, or whoever it may be.
The prime purpose is to provide a great new facility for the expansion of world trade. The system can be very profitable if correctly managed, but the profit which it will ultimately bring to this country and its advantage to the general expansion of world trade and stability generally will far outweigh any considerations of actual operating profits.
Reading the words of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General last Monday, I feel that there is a great danger of both the Post Office and the Government looking at this matter in too narrow a way. This is a great, new, imaginative proposal the benefits of which to this country might well be incalculable.
I said that the prime potential user of communications is the British exporter and it therefore surprises me that today the President of the Board of Trade is not here. We are considering something which is primarily concerned with British trade and it really surprises me that a representative of the Board of Trade is not present. I asked whether the most important potential user, the British exporter, had been consulted about communications. I have managed to talk to a great many leading exporters, and I find that their view of communications is that the trans-Atlantic routes are pretty good, and again I join in the congratulations to the Post Office engineers involved in this. But, Europe apart, communications with all the other countries with which we do trade are absolutely abysmal.
I believe that if the Board of Trade were to send out a questionnaire to 1,000 British exporters, asking them for their opinions of the communications systems with which they have to carry out their export trade, the answer would almost certainly be that across the North Atlantic the system was good, although capable of considerable expansion and improvement, but that, Europe aside, the rest were bad or unreliable and would wonder whether they existed at all with many countries. It does not seem to be appreciated how important good, clear communications are to the modern export trade.
Over the years I have taken part in these telephone conversations in connection with business. A good link such as that which we have with North America saves much letter writing and misunderstanding. A bad link such as that to which I referred before—and two countries which I have in mind are South Africa and Australia—leads to misunderstanding. I think that the answer to the questionnaire to which my hon. Friend referred would be that good and reliable communications are of immense value, but that difficult communications can do more harm and damage than good.
Of course, my hon. Friend is perfectly right.
In the export of really complex modern equipment, such as computers, nuclear power stations, or any other piece of complex equipment, it is of vital importance that there should be crystal-clear communications, and the prime object of our discussion today is to provide such communications. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade should understand that the reason for the stagnation of some of our Commonwealth export trade is the absence of good communications as a prime factor in developing certain exports of new products, particularly to under-developed countries.
The great opportunities in space communications do not lie in communications across the North Atlantic, where the cables work very well. They are technically and economically sound. The challenge is in reaching out to all the smaller distant countries where submarine cables are either completely out of the question as being impracticable or are totally uneconomic.
In Africa, we have about 50 telephone networks. Some of them have rudimentary short-wave radio communication with Europe. Many of them have not. There is no international outlet for many of them at all. I can think of no greater single contribution to the general stability of the African continent and the general improvement of Africa's trade and ours than provision by this country of the necessary ground stations in Africa in order to put all the emergent countries in Africa in clear telephonic communication with Europe and the rest of the world and with each other. From this would flow incalculable benefit. If there is any question in future of allocating circuits, I believe that Africa should have priority.
Can we leave this job to American capital? Can we leave it to the American Government? The Americans are already cutting down on foreign aid and are seeking other methods of doing so. President Kennedy has already criticised us for not doing enough about Africa. This is a development to which we could make a dramatic contribution at no very great cost and from which there would be obvious and immediate returns to ourselves and to the emergent African countries.
Not only the Americans but the French will get ahead of us. I should like to quote from a report which appears in today's Daily Mail, which reads as follows:
On the eve of the all-important space debate in the Commons, a mammoth consortium of 110 European firms has cold-shouldered Britain's plans to put Europe into space. The consortium favours a much more vigorous programme, in which the soaring French rocket industry would be dominant. The firms, including leading British aircraft and electronics companies, all belong to a pressure group called Eurospace. Their report throws cold water on Britain's cherished Blue Streak Club, the seven-nation plan to launch a purely experimental satellite from Woomera in 1966, now running late. Eurospace calls for a start on practical commercial satellites for communications and navigation—launched from the French Sahara.
I should like to know from the Government whether they think that that is true. I am advised that, with the development of micro-miniaturisation in communications, it is now possible to develop a very small satellite and that, perhaps, what the French are after is not a large multi-circuit telephone-providing satellite, but a tiny satellite providing, say, 100 Telex circuits, and that they are hoping to scoop the communications pool with such a satellite. It would be absolutely disastrous if this country were left behind in this race.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford referred to our past leadership in communications. It is no accident and no coincidence that this country's leadership in communications throughout the world corresponded with its great leadership in world trade. The two things have gone together. I think that communications precede trade. Our command of the seas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and our command of communications made a direct contribution to the great industrial revolution in which we led the world. My hon. Friend also referred to the 1880s, when we had the enterprise and push of the great Lard Kelvin, who encircled the globe with telegraphic communications. The Marconi Company developed the short-wave beam system in the 1920s.
We are now at a turning point and, once again, this country can take the lead in the development of trade throughout the world and in places where trade will ultimately develop and from which great benefits can flow. Are we to shrink from this challenge?
The Motion mentions one other thing—that we have many unused human resources, many scientists who are looking for outlets and many important design staffs. Perhaps I may be parochial for a moment and remind the House that there is a design staff at Short and Harlands, Belfast. It is a famous team of about 500 skilled men for whom there does not appear at the moment to be any future as a team. If we embark properly in the right way and with sufficient determination on telecommunications, there will be enough and to spare in the way of work for all the country's design staffs.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, "Please do not allow Short and Harlands to dissipate this famous design staff pending a Government decision to go into this matter." If necessary he should support the company with finance, because it would be an absolute tragedy if the team were dispersed and then, within six months or a year, we suddenly found that they were needed.
My final point was also referred to by the hon. Member for Barnsley and by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford. It is the need for co-ordination within the Government. This is vital. We have several interested parties. They include the Post Office, the Ministry of Aviation, the Board of Trade, the Commonwealth Relations Department, the Foreign Office and the Minister far Science. There are so many interested Departments, yet no one single Minister has the jab of co-ordination. I am not worried about which Minister is to be in supreme command, but whoever it is must be in supreme command and in a position to put drive into the job. I do not think that the Post Office is the right body to be at the head of this. I would prefer the Ministry of Aviation or, better still, a new Ministry.
This is a subject which might very well be better served by a special Minister. But however it is done it is important that there should be one single driving force behind it to see it through. If we allow this matter to drift, we shall lose the greatest opportunity this country has had for a very long time. As the hon. Member for Barnsley said, we shall end up with our total stake in space communications as a small shareholding in an American network and we will have to pay a price even for that—first, for the shareholding and, secondly, and through the nose, for rentals. What is worse, we may even have to pay a price in binding ourselves never thereafter to enter into telecommunications ourselves.
Perhaps the biggest price of all would be the non-participation of British industry in the valuable technological fallout. Is not that perhaps the most urgent reason for our participation?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend.
There is every reason why we should be in this now. We are not talking of great expenditure on a defence project from which we may or may not see some security in future. We are not talking of the expenditure to put a man on the moon for prestige reasons, and from which there is no particular return but prestige. We are talking of something which can make a tremendous contribution to the peace, stability and trade expansion of the world, from which the rewards can be incalculable.
This may be the greatest opportunity that the country has had for a very long time and, what is worse, it may be the very last occasion on which we may be able to exercise that opportunity. I beg the Government not to allow it to slip from our grasp for lack of resolution.
It is not often that I soar into the stratosphere, and I do so with hesitation. I listened to the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) with very great attention. He made a very able speech. The trouble was that he never got out of the stratosphere. He described very impressively and movingly the very great importance of this matter to the country. He described, honestly and frankly, the grave neglect that has taken place in the past and the failure to take advantage of our own inventive genius and develop it.
I do not want to make this a party matter. I have every desire that it should not be. But the hon. Gentleman's indictment of the Government was honestly made, and it was rightly made. He delighted me by stating that he was going into the stratosphere, hook, line and sinker—which suggested a search for flying fish. Then he said that he would come down to brass tacks, but we never got to a single tack.
Having mentioned the possibility of ugly metaphors, I shall now produce an even more difficult one, for even in dealing with Telstar with an apogee of 3,500 miles the parish pump surprisingly rears its ugly head. I have some constituency interest in this matter. Within my constituency are the great aircraft firm of A. V. Roe and the firm of de Ferranti, which probably leads the world in its experience of computers.
The Minister of Aviation's policy of amalgamations has left the A. V. Roe factory at Chadderton very vulnerable. It employs about 4,500 skilled men and the aircraft industry is in a great state of uncertainty. The building is not, I understand, the property of the company and is the only one with no adjacent testing ground. If there is further contraction of the aircraft industry I fear the possibility of heavy unemployment of skilled engineers in my constituency. Perhaps one of the best forms of employment for the factory and one of the most highly paid would be telecommunications.
The hon. Member for Watford chucked in references to the Commonwealth without saying which Commonwealth he was talking about. We talk about spending money on this. How much will be involved? What is the Commonwealth which will contribute and to what extent? One of my parochial problems is that Australia has just placed an order for Mystere fighters in France. It would not have done so but for the feeling that it has been let down over the Common Market. I do not want to make this point but I must face the situation. We must realise that at this moment no co-operation is possible with a Europe in which General de Gaulle has a part to play. We must face that fact. I am not trying to make capital of the situation.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) intervened to emphasise the technological importance of these matters. I agree. The hon. Member for Watford made a very powerful case for the importance of communications. We have always held the pre-eminent place in global communications and are recognised, including by the United States, as still being the centre of them.
But I think, too, that the search for knowledge is necessary for its own sake. I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) about putting a man on the moon for prestige reasons. The amount of knowledge coming through is incredible. The most fascinating thing of all is the extraordinary combination of the microscopic and the macroscopic in this progressive path to knowledge. The author of the "Sociology of Nature" spoke of the continuity of change, but even in change there emerges a sense of relationship, of order. The electron microscope opens up as many new worlds as the space satellite. The order of the universe is brought now to the infinitely small, an order which may hit the theory of the Bishop of Woolwich for six before very long. We are having a new conception of infinite order which brings new theological conceptions as well as any other. We have reached a stage where microphotographs can be produced to the tune of one thousand millionth or more and where we are delving into one and 13 noughts of a centimetre and combining that with the exploration of the spheres.
One of the things we have to consider in relation to this—I say it with reluctance—first is, is it too late? On that the hon. Member did not give us much information. Compare this discussion this morning, a discussion very ably opened by the hon. Member for Watford, to whom we are grateful for giving us a day to look into this, but compare this discussion on a Friday morning with what has been going on in America all this time. Here is a document of some 200 or 300 pages of expert evidence given to a Committee of Congress. They have been very generous about it all. They have made all unclassified facts available. I do not propose to enter on to the theme of military satellites, of telecommunication satellites for military purposes which, from the American point of view, are a separate thing. They emphasise this extraordinary word "Encryption" which reduces the output by 90 per cent. They put the signal in code first of all and then they use smashers and one of those curious telephones and so on to jumble it all up, and having, done so they find they have reduced output by 90 per cent. I think that the Advent telecommunication satellite is really virtually the reproduction of Symcom, but is reserved for military purposes.
But the American programme has produced quite a number of important international considerations. First of all, of course, their programme itself, remember, started with the Echo as far as telecommunications are concerned. This extraordinary instrument is virtually a balloon by which messages were to rebound but did not have the possibility of retransmission of any kind. The hon. Member forgets the first earth satellite which is only 240,000 miles away, which is 2,000 miles in diameter and may ultimately be of use. We are talking now about Symcom, in terms of an orbit of 23,200 miles, one-tenth of the distance to the moon, which may ultimately play a very much larger part. We do not know.
But, as I said, the Americans have been very generous in disseminating information which they have obtained. But there have been accidents, there have been difficulties; there are problems.
The second experiment was called the Westwood project, which bunged 500 million to 1,000 million minute pieces of wire into the atmosphere to form a continuous belt of reflection, and on their own evidence on that they said it was a little problematical at the time but they thought—and their conclusions were that ultimately the orbit would extend into an ellipse and that that ellipse would come down into the gravitational field and be disseminated when they reached the atmosphere.
Hon. Members will remember that there were serious repercussions from Jodrell Bank. Professor Lovell, who, I think, is recognised as one of the outstanding authorities in the world, deplored bitterly the effects of this on radio-astronomy.
There is a case for world co-operation and world co-ordination, and one has—I hate to say this, for I am most anxious to encourage these projects—one has to know the facts and one has seriously to consider whether we are in a position to compete, whether it is not too late, and whether our best road ahead lies in world co-operation in all this.
When the initial considerations were being made, Mr. Murrow was the first witness who gave evidence. He is the Director of the Central Information Agency of the American Government, and this is what he said:
We can best satisfy the national interest of other lands by bringing them into a partnership regarding the system. There is much technology to learn, minds to train, and men to organise. We cannot alone staff the world's communication systems.
He finished with a peroration I should like to quote:
Over much of this globe there are unfed bellies and tired bodies that will turn to our satellite system with but marginal interest In many areas of this planet the grindstone of poverty will still remain the lodestone of policy. A system of communications satellites is a dream worth the trying. But history will record there were more people than nations, and more dreams than people. It may be that the history of our day will be decided by what dreams we choose to deliver. The issue is not how we deliver it; it is equally what our delivery has to say.
To that one may perhap add that when this measure came before the Senate it was regarded as so important that there was an unprecedented filibuster lasting for days, of a sort not seen in the Senate since 1927, and the main object of the filibuster was the question of control. In the end President Kennedy roughly got his way, and control of the American system is now under a 15-man organisation in which the individual investors can invest anything up to 100 dollars, in which the participating companies will have a representation of six, the investors
will have a representation of six, and the American Government a representation of three.
Right through it has been said that though they must use private enterprise, and the inventiveness of private enterprise, and that private enterprise should be encouraged to join in, this is so important a matter that it must never be the subject of private enterprise control; that it is a matter of world policy as well as of national policy, and we want to establish a form of socialisation which will mean that this instrument of policy should not become an instrument purely of competition.
That is important. It is important to see how far our own national interest can be served by some form of independent competition, how far it may yet be possible for all our resources to be devoted to endeavouring to establish this as a form of world co-operation.
I do not want to go too far from my subject, but the way the United States is now moving towards Socialism, from the Tennessee Valley Authority onwards, and the way Mr. Khruschev has moved in favour of decentralisation means that with an international telecommunications system we may establish that the ideological difficulties have disappeared by the effluxion of time.
I agree that we have immense resources of technological ability—immense. But we have to overcome this lack of knowledge that our scientists have to some extent been deprived of. Many things have happened. There have been unforeseen things, the discovery of the van Allen belts, the Explorer or the Enquirer, explosions in the atmosphere that added something else, and there is also the question of ionosphere, in which we have made some investigations.
I recollect the original Werner Braun schemes which envisage the launching of space ships into an orbit which would maintain their relative position with the earth. The opinion of American experts was that this could in relation to communications satellites be done effectively only on an equatorial orbit at a height of 23,200 miles or 19,300 nautical miles. For that to be done their estimate was originally that there would have to be a booster power of 350,000 lb. Have we anything that will do it? We could have, but it would cost a tremendous amount.
When the hon. Member comes down to brass tacks he has to remember that we are closing down our railways to save a few hundred millions of pounds a year. I am all for a satellite scheme if it is practicable. I am all for risking all we can afford. I agree with every word that the hon. Member said about its importance. I agree that we should be participating as fully as we can in the preservation of our pre-eminence in telecommunications and sharing in the pursuit for knowledge. But how many years are there ahead? All these plans—the Echo and so on—were fully developed and in course of production at the time of these inquiries in 1960. Long before that the Americans had been developing the booster power. They developed the initial escape velocity power. But since then to establish this they have had all their experiments.
What have we got? What is left of Blue Streak? I do not know. What has been done in connection with the European organisation? I do not know. With great respect to a number of hon. Members opposite and to one of my hon. Friends who has temporarily left the Chamber, who has given a great deal of study to this matter, nobody knows; and when nobody knows what has been done, it is a fair bet that not much has been done. That is the situation.
To get back for a moment out of my own orbit, I understood that one of the arguments about international communications was that when one had established them, then more or less anyone could use them. One can send a message. It need not be transmitted. As far as I know, we do not know anything about the terms on which this organisation would hope to operate if it had established its initial three Symcoms in orbit over the Equator. But a good deal of the early suggestion was to the effect that the Americans intended to capitalise their end of it, to say that if one wanted to send messages to China, one must let China send messages back, and provided that they had the initial land apparatus for doing it, they could use the Symcom for their transmission. It is important to know that. It may be that as far as that is concerned we have got some distance.
I am very reluctant to pour cold water on it and very anxious that we should take the fullest possible advantage of it. But nothing should be done without the fullest investigation. I wish we could have the experts here giving their evidence in this forum. It may well be that when we consider Parliamentary reform we might consider some such thing.
The hon. Member referred to the necessity for co-ordination. Everybody agrees; but co-ordination has been a dirty word for years. What co-ordination is there? If I raise the question of a sick woman in Oldham who is not fit to work, I am referred to the Minister of Labour, and he will write to say that she is very sick but there is no suitable work for a woman as sick as that and that I should write to the Minister of National Insurance. I write to the Minister of National Insurance, and he replies that his doctors do not think there is anything wrong with the woman, and if there is, it is not due to injury, and there is nothing that he can do for her. If I ask what about some medical treatment for her. I am referred to the Minister of Health.
When I say that there seems to be no research into this disease and nobody knows how it is caused or how it will be cured, I am referred to the Minister for Science, and when I am referred to the Minister for Science I am told that he is away in the North-East with a mixed brief on cancer research, Newcastle United and unemployment; and while he is there Dr. Beeching closes down the railways in the North-East.
I appreciate that in what I am saying I am departing a little from my own political philosophy. But I would rather see an "Imperial General Staff" of research technicians working under a full-time co-ordinating officer and having one Minister responsible to the House. But do not let us set up another Ministry. I had forgotten that we have a new Ministry to publicise the co-ordination that does not exist in the other Ministries. I should have thought that if we reduced the number of Ministries, that would have been a much more useful job.
There it is. I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House. I know that many others who have more information and more knowledge than I have wish to participate. But I must say that I think there are things we are entitled to know. Perhaps I may interrupt myself here to say one word about this. There is among even the greatest of our industrialists a lack of exchange and of the facilities for exchange, maybe partly a hang-over from the old days of our own patents and our own researches — "We have to protect them; they might become of value to others.", and SO on.
I recall a story about Ferranti's which is substantially true. Si non e vero e molto ben trovato. When the firm was first deciding whether to go into the computer field, it sent all its experts to America. The team of experts had to find out who was the ultimate source of knowledge on the subject. They moved round America moving from one expert to another, and then they came to the super-American expert, and he said, "The only person who really understands this is at Manchester University, six miles from Oldham", and so they came back and went to see him at Manchester University. That is a strange but pleasant situation.
Let us ask the Minister today to reply forthrightly to the very fair speech which the hon. Member for Watford made. Have we the resources? Have we the original boost capacity? Or have we to wait several years and go through the agony of goodness knows how many more Blue Streaks and failures before we get it? Is there is a possibility within the Empire today? Canada is already in relationship with the United States in this field, and already co-operating. What of Australia? Australia is, no doubt, anxious to co-operate, but is obviously unable to provide other than a comparatively small proportion of the cost.
India—what could she do? I would hope that she could participate. If not, what is the Empire to do in terms of producing two or three hundred million pounds to expend on an Empire project? The hon. Gentleman has to say where the proportions are to come from. That is the problem today. What about the Empire and Europe?—Possibly. Even so, I am left with very grave doubts whether any useful purpose will ultimately be served by a competition in the air, and, indeed, by a competition based on conflicting or incomplete sources of knowledge, because most of this is still experimental and still producing atmospherical, radio and astronomical results which were unforeseen and unknown.
Therefore, I would hope that the Minister would say that before we make a decision—and we hope that a decision will be made as quickly as possible—we shall be absolutely fully informed as to what are the chances of world participation in telecommunication satellites on the basis of the work that has already been developed.
We will have to consider how far it is to world advantage to have one system being operated by the world and on behalf of the world or how far we are now, at this late hour, in a position to provide effective individual competition that may not even raise some old commercial rivalries and old international antipathies which might be dangerous. I hope, however, that the hon. Member proves right. I hope that we shall have an explanation which will enable us to adopt the view which, in substance, the hon. Member has put forward.
Perhaps it might be convenient if, at this point, I make a few remarks on the communications aspect as it affects the Post Office. I should like at the outset, however, to say that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General is sorry that his other preoccupations keep him from the Chamber this morning. He will, however, study avidly all that is said in this debate.
The words of the Motion, that
ever-improving communications are an absolute prerequisite for expanding trade",
sum up the views of all of us in the House. In this context, I should like to give a few facts which, I hope, will assist the House in coming to a decision.
In satellite communications, we stand on the brink of the next stage in world telecommunications. As my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) said, the British Commonwealth pioneered a worldwide network of submarine cables in the nineteenth century and led the world in the development of high-frequency radio in the 1920s and 1930s. Following the Second World War, we have been one of the world's leaders in the development of the long- distance submarine telephone cables, which have already revolutionised the trans-Atlantic telephone service and will, in a few months' time, provide a first-class service to Australia and New Zealand. We are proud of these achievements and we are determined that we shall take our appropriate place in the new era.
While satellite communications can work together with the existing forms of international communication such as submarine cables, they are in some respects different. Submarine cables provide links between two countries. Satellites link the whole world. This will mean changes in the traditional pattern of Commonwealth communications. For many decades, the Commonwealth has owned and exploited its own communications system, separate from but interconnected with the systems of other countries.
For every message, there must be a sender and a receiver. So, in satellite communications, we must look to the countries where we wish to send our messages to know whom we must work with. With her world-wide trade and world-wide responsibilities, Britain must co-operate with all countries in the establishment and operation of the system she uses.
Satellites are essentially a means for sending messages over very long distances. Over short distances, cables or surface radio links are cheaper. Satellites are a means for speaking from continent to continent. In this context, it is important to keep in mind the distribution throughout the world of inter-continental telephone traffic.
At present, 80 per cent. of intercontinental traffic passes across the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe. Regardless of what my hon. and gallant Friend for Down, South (Captain Orr) says, all our information shows that this position is likely to continue for many years to come.
This is a matter of opinion between us. Naturally, we have made considerable studies of traffic and of potential traffic in the future. It is on the best authority that I can obtain that I say that it is likely that apart from minor changes, the present balance is likely to remain.
The British share of world intercontinental traffic is 10 per cent. of the total and the whole of the traffic between the countries of the Commonwealth is no more than 20 per cent. of the total. Of the British share, about one-quarter is with the Commonwealth and two-thirds with the United States. It is, of course, natural that a high proportion of world telephone traffic originates or terminates in the United States, since the number of telephones in the United States is now 77 million out of a world total of 150 million. I would not dissent from recent estimates which I have seen that even by 1975, the revenue from traffic originating and terminating in the United States will be between 75 and 80 per cent. of the total.
The preponderating position of the United States in the telephone services of the world must, therefore, be recognised. This is not to say that the remainder is insignificant. Britain and Europe together are substantial users of intercontinental telephone services. Their traffic with the rest of the world, excluding the United States, is 35 per cent. of the total. Here again, however, the United States preponderance shows itself, since the 35 per cent. figure becomes 87 per cent. if traffic with the United States is included.
Briefly, this means that if the Commonwealth or the Commonwealth and Europe go ahead with a satellite communications system which does not carry traffic to and from the United States it would be many years before it could pay its way. In any event, whatever we do will not be uncomplicated. There would not be a simple system constructed at one time which would serve the world for all time. Rather it would be a product of continuous growth. The first phase would almost certainly be American, but some of the later phases would be provided by the other countries which are in a position to do so.
Let me illustrate the possibilities of growth as we see them. At present, intercontinental telephone traffic amounts in total to 2·4 million calls a year. Of this, the largest proportion crosses the Atlantic. Only ·6 million calls do not cross the Atlantic. We expect that the non-Atlantic traffic will increase to about 3 million by 1970 and to 9 million by 1980: that is, to increase fivefold by 1970 and fifteen-fold by 1980. On the other hand, we expect a rather smaller rate of growth in traffic across the Atlantic: by 1970 a four-fold increase, and by 1980 an eleven-fold increase. Even so, by 1980 the trans-Atlantic traffic will still represent 70 per cent. of the total world intercontinental traffic.
The figures which I am giving are the best authority that I can obtain of the future increase in traffic to different parts of the world. Obviously, one must take the most reliable figures, or those that we believe to be the most reliable, because only on this basis can we become involved in a considerable amount of expenditure. We must take as a basis the facts which we believe to be based upon the most accurate foundations.
The figures which I am giving are from Post Office sources. Naturally, they take into account figures provided by other official sources, included in which is, for instance, the rather interesting report produced by the Rand Corporation of America showing trends in America. That, however, is only one of the points of information which have been used in projecting these figures showing the extent to which we believe that traffic will increase.
This is a very difficult point. Obviously, if one is working out the incidence of increase in traffic one is first concerned with what will be the demand for the service and then one must also take into account whether the service will be available. One has also to take into account the actual cost of calls at that point in time.
There are all sorts of considerations in working out what may be, or what, on the best information, will be, the changes in volume of traffic to different parts of the world. It is important to realise that as all sorts of factors must come into this, we must take all sorts of sources to get the most accurate information that we can.
Are the Post Office sources from which my hon. Friend has obtained the figures aware that the demand ought to be considered not in the light of existing demand, but in the light of the demand which must come from places like Africa, and, in particular, the Commonwealth, where our exports must be expanded, where there must be enormous growth?
I would not wish to say that the United States will stand still in this respect, but enormous growth is coming from elsewhere, and it is for that reason that the figures that are supplied to him may be accurate today but have no connection with the future.
That is a point of view and we all, naturally, have our own points of view.
The only point that I make is that the Post Office, when it is advising what can or ought to be expended, must make certain that it has the most accurate computation possible on which to base those calculations. That is most important. Therefore, while one may argue about the projected figures all I can say at the moment is that they are the most accurate figures that I can find. But, of course, they never can be wholly accurate because they have to take into account a large number of things which can only be guesses at the present time. Obviously, the change in volume will be effected by all sorts of considerations in the future. These are the most accurate figures that I can obtain.
I do not want to be thought rude, but I think that this is a matter that cannot be resolved by interventions. All I have said is that these are the figures upon which we are basing our calculations, that they have been arrived at as near as possible to known facts, where they are known. This is the sort of thing that will obviously guide us in the absence of any figures which appear to be more reliable, and which can be seen to be based on more reliable sources.
That I cannot say. I am trying to give to the House as good a calculation as I can on how traffic will increase.
The trends increase on the trans-Atlantic routes, but increase by comparatively small amounts, and so, based on this, one will see in the future that on these projected figures the number of trans-Atlantic calls will not rise as fast as non-trans-Atlantic calls. This is one of the lessons that the figures prove to us.
I think that we could spend all day arguing on this point, because, obviously, there is the whole question of supply and demand in any service, and, naturally, one has to take into account not only the demand, but prospects of supply in the future.
The essence is that these various various phases of growth, probably with different types of orbits and different satellites, would be planned to work together to give the world the best possible service at the lowest cost. They would carry on the tradition of co-operation, built up over many years in the field of telecommunication. My right hon. Friend, who is to wind up the debate, will no doubt speak of launchers and satellites and tell the House what we are doing and proposing to do. I confine myself to what affects the Post Office, perhaps less spectacular, but all important, if we are to harness these wonderful products to our service.
With regard to cost and possible income, the first contribution towards a global commercial satellite communications system is likely to be made by the Americans. We do not know what the cost of this will be, but it is unlikely that the revenue available to support a global system giving world-wide coverage will exceed £60 million a year by 1970. Our own studies have been directed to a system employing 12 stations keeping satellites in equatorial orbit. By itself, however, this would not constitute a global system. We estimate that the capital cost of such a separate system might be £160 million to £190 million, the annual cost amounting to £32 million to £37 million. Revenue is a matter for speculation, for it depends on so many factors.
However, we have done everything possible to exploit the opportunities. I was pleased to hear so many hon. Members paying compliments to the Post Office staff for the excellent work which they have done. First, we have built our experimental ground station at Goonhilly Down, in Cornwall, a station based on British ideas and predominantly British in manufacture and construction. This station has cooperated with brilliant success in the trans-Atlantic tests with the American experimental telecommunications satellites, Telstar and Relay.
In our opinion the station is much nearer to the design of the ultimate operating station than any other in the world. Incidentally, as the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) pointed out, it has been built at one-quarter of the cost of its counterparts in other countries. We are now going on to improve and extend the equipment at Goonhilly so that it will be ready to become an operational station when the first system of regular commercial satellites is put into orbit.
We are also putting in hand a design study for the communications part of the equipment which goes into a satellite—the radio receivers and transmitters which pick up the signals from ground stations and transmit them back to earth at increased power. At the same time, we are playing our part in the enormously complicated pattern of international discussions which must be completed before a project of this magnitude and complexity can come to fruition.
Our engineers are taking part in various conferences under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union, which will decide on the allocation of radio frequencies for satellite communications and settle the standards for the many technical conditions and parameters which are involved. As the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) pointed out, the whole question of frequencies and rights of use and so on must be thoroughly discussed and agreed before one can make much progress.
We are also studying the broader aspects of the question and have undertaken a series of exploratory international discussions. These opened with the Commonwealth Conference on Satellite Communications which met in London last Spring. The conference concluded that satellite communications would be technically feasible and could well be financially profitable, and it recommended that early discussions should take place with the United States and European countries. The conference expressed its hope that such co-operation would lead to a pooling of effort and thereby achieve the best world-wide system of satellite communications.
The preliminary discussions with the United States, in which Canada took part, took place in Washington last October. The preliminary discussions with European countries took place in Cologne in December under the aegis of the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administration. This conference decided to set up an ad hoc committee to study the wider aspects of the problem with a view to presenting a considered view to the next plenary meeting which takes place in September this year. This ad hoc committee met recently in Paris. A second meeting will take place in June, probably in London.
Unlike the submarine cable development, we are not pioneers in this work, but there is no reason why we should not play a major part, so long as we face the facts.
The House is extremely indebted to the Assistant Postmaster-General for giving us so many facts and figures and for injecting into the debate a note of realism which had hitherto been lacking. I congratulate the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) on his good fortune in being able to introduce this extremely important subject this morning and on giving us an opportunity to discuss it so fully. However, I cannot agree with the attitude which inspired the hon. Member to put the Motion before the House.
There is an attitude, prevalent both in the House and in the country, that we cannot afford to be left out of anything—nuclear-powered merchant ships, supersonic airliners, thermonuclear weapons, or, in this case, communication satellites, and that far greater efforts should be made in all those respects simultaneously.
Speaking of communication satellites, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, said:
In short, can we, as a nation which relies so enormously on exporting skills rather than materials, afford to restrict our participation in space exploration to the very modest contributions which haw been sanctioned to date?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 143.]
That reasoning might be applied to any other aspect of scientific endeavour. It is not good enough to say, as the hon. Member for Watford said, that this project is one which will bring incalculable benefits to the people of this island and that if we do not go ahead with it, we die. That is obviously grossly exaggerated and we have to get the matter back into perspective.
Our sources of scientific and technological manpower are not unlimited; nor are the funds available for all these purposes. It is no longer possible in this or any other country for scientists to take major strides forward in any subject working in a Nissen hut with home-made equipment, as it still was as recently as just before the war. Anyone who has read Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle's book "Jet" will have found an amazing contrast between the miraculous progress which he managed to make on a shoestring budget and the hundreds of millions of pounds for the development of modern gas turbines. In all these fields we have to have elaborate and expensive test facilities if any advances are to be made.
What we have to decide in Parliament and in the country as a whole is to what kinds of science and engineering we are to allocate the available resources of money and brain power so as to yield the maximum return to the nation. We have always to remember when we discuss these questions that there are many promising research projects which are competing for the same resources.
That is not to say that the provision of a satellite communications system is not one of the desirable objects of expenditure among all the others. The growth in overseas telephone traffic from the United States of America, where all these figures are much more readily available than they are elsewhere, has been roughly exponential since the introduction of the first radio-telephone circuit between New York and London in 1927. I understand that the number of calls originating in the United States in the last year for which figures are available, 1960, was 3,500,000.
It is interesting to compare that with the number of calls originating within the Commonwealth. I obtained figures from the G.P.O. for calls to both Canada and Australia and although I was not given the year to which the figures relate, it was the latest for which figures were available, there is a striking contrast. There were 43,497 telephone calls to Canada and a mere 9.784 to Australia. One can easily see the vast difference between those figures and those relating to traffic originating in the United States.
It is estimated that there are 80 million telephones in the United States today and only about the same number in the rest of the world put together. One can therefore suppose that future expansion of international telephone traffic will be at least as great as it has been in the past. In the Financial Times the other day I saw it estimated that by 1980 the number of calls originating in the United States would be 100 million, a somewhat larger figure than that which the Assistant Postmaster-General gave.
The capacity of submarine cables, of which we were the pioneers, is limited. The most advanced which we now have is capable of carrying only some 250 voice channels. Incidentally, in order to carry television transmission 1,000 channels are needed and it would be impossible, therefore, to have an intercontinental television system without the use of satellites. Also, if the expansion of telephone traffic is to be as great as it has been in the past, the investment required in submarine cables to deal with it would be absolutely enormous, quite apart from this impossibility of providing television channels.
These requirements could not be adequately met by the expansion of radiotelephonic communication naturally, because the short waves used in radio telephony over great distances are reflected from the ionosphere and are susceptible to disturbance caused by solar flares, which means that the quality of the transmission is often poor, and I think that it was the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) who emphasised the extreme importance of clarity in telephone communications, which is not adequately catered for by short wave transmissions.
The advantages of satellite systems are that they both meet the objections which apply to submarine cables and those which apply to radio-telephony. They use wavelengths which penetrate the upper atmosphere, the ionosphere, and are not susceptible to the disturbances caused by cosmic radiation, and they can carry a larger number of signals than can cables, and hence are usable for television transmissions.
Although it is widely accepted that satellite systems will ultimately be both economical and a reliable means of long range communication, the House should appreciate that the capital investment required to bring the projects to an operational stage is astronomical, in more than one sense of the term. The sum involved is about £200 million, not £100 million as the hon. Gentleman said, and there are many published estimates which confirm me in that figure.
The American Telephone and Telegraph Company alone plans to spend about £170 million on a comprehensive world-wide system which would employ 15 satellites in equatorial orbits and 40 in random polar orbits at altitudes of 7,000 miles. In these circumstances, it is inconceivable that any nation should decide to "go it alone" and produce an entirely independent system of its own, complete with launchers, satellites, computing facilities, ground stations, and so on.
I should like to quote a passage from the editorial in Flight yesterday on this subject. It said:
If Mr. Farey Jones' 'British and Commonwealth telecommunications satellite' means the development of an independent satellite system intended to show the Americans that we can go it alone, then there is no necessity for it, urgent or otherwise. In communications, especially space communications, no nation can go it alone.
That, I think, would be as true for the United States as it is for us. The Assistant Postmaster-General said that for every message there must be a sender and a receiver. Therefore, no nation can establish a system of communication by means of satellites unless it has the co-operation of the other nation which is to receive the messages which would be sent.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Commonwealth Conference on Satellite Communications, which took place about a year ago. They were fully seized of the importance of this matter. They decided that these discussions should take place between ourselves, the United States and the European countries, and in the communiqué which was issued at the end of the conference they emphasised the fact that this recommendation was entirely in line with the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 1961 which expressed the view that communication by satellite should be available to the nations of the world on a global and non-discriminatory basis.
I endorse everything that was said by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) on this subject, and I think that this is the line on which we ought to be thinking in respect of satellite communications. I am pleased to say that this attitude seems to be the one adopted by the Parliamentary Secretary, even if it is not that of some of his hon. Friends behind him.
I, too, would like to add my voice to the congratulations to the G.P.O. on its successful collaboration in the past particularly with N.A.S.A. and other authorities. In a recent bulletin on the establishment of a commercial satellite system the G.P.O. said that this would clearly need full discussion and cooperation between European and Commonwealth countries, as also with the United States, and I am certain that this is the right way of looking at this question.
The Americans, who could much more easily than us go it alone if they so decided, seem to be far less nationalistic. I should like to see a United Nations committee set up to co-ordinate all the national activities which are taking place at the moment in Britain, Europe, and the United States, with the object of implementing this resolution of December, 1961, and providing a world-wide system which is usable by all the nations of the world, and to which all would make a contribution in proportion to their ability.
I do not think that there is any conflict between the use of satellites for military purposes and peaceful purposes, because, as I understand it, a completely different system will be needed for the two requirements anyway. For military purposes probably the system of three stationary satellites at an altitude of 22,300 miles will be suitable because it will not be so important to minimise the delay in transmitting time which will occur with satellites at that altitude. It would take about one quarter of a second for a signal to be transmitted to the satellite and returned to earth. That might be a severe disadvantage in ordinary telephone communications for civilian purposes, but not an absolute hindrance for military communications. For civilian purposes it is probable that the final system will be one similar to that mentioned by the Assistant Postmaster-General with satellites at very much lower altitudes where the delay in transmission will be correspondingly less.
I conclude by re-emphasising what has been said by one hon. Member on the subject of co-ordination between the Ministries. I think that we have been lucky to have had two Ministers listening to this debate. It reinforces the point which has been made, that we must have a satisfactory assurance this afternoon that there will be more co-operation between these Ministries than there has been in the past. Not only that, but there must be more evidence of such co-operation.
In yesterday's issue of Flight International there was a report of a lecture on space technology by Mr. K. W. Gatland, a vice-president of the British Inter-Planetary Society. He complained
that there was no co-ordination or direction at present in the British space effort and compared the position in Britain with that in France. He said:
While France has set up its National Centre for Space Studies, Britain is still without a comprehensive space policy and is content to divide her interests between five branches of government—the Ministries of Defence, Air, Aviation, Science and the G.P.O.
From what has been said today we might add to those the President of the Board of Trade, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I think that the Minister ought to say something about this idea of coordination. I would not like to see this idea of a special Minister for Space followed through to its conclusion, because I think that in any field of scientific research we might be able to make a special case for a Minister, and it might he said that we ought to have one for atomic power. I should like to see one Minister made responsible for co-ordinating all these activities and bringing them to the House.
I echo what has been said about the difficulty with which we are faced when discussing subjects like this. None of us are really technical people; or if we are it is difficult for us to keep up with the developments taking place in the subjects we followed before becoming hon. Members. It is opportune, in view of the debate we had last Friday on the means whereby debates of this nature can cover technical subjects more adequately than now, that this should be re-emphasised to the Government.
Mr. Godfrey Lagdent:
I am sure that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) will forgive me if I do not comment on the subjects he raised, although I was surprised to hear him refer in the way he did to the attitude of mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) as to the prevalent feeling in the country being that we must not be left out of this business. I hope that that attitude of mind exists among the majority of people and that it will be intensified, because we must not be, and cannot afford to be, left out.
I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Watford in his choice of subject, because this is probably one of the most important debates we can have. It may be, if we are successful in projecting our ideas on the Government, that today's debate will go down in history as representing the start of a most desirable enterprise for the future. I do not propose to comment at length on the amusing speech made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) and his comments on the connection between Newcastle United, Dr. Beeching and outer space. He thought that today we were too late to enter this great business of space. I do not hold with that view, for we must not be too late. If we have not already started really seriously, although I believe that we have, we must seize the opportunity and start now.
Before looking into the future let us look back 50-odd years and consider the past. At that time travel by air or under the water was not thought to be even a reasonable proposition. There were many people to whom space talk would have been in the realms of utter nonsense. Today we find ourselves considering not the possibility of these things but how to improve the already accomplished facts. That is the mental attitude we must adopt today.
We as a nation cannot afford to lag behind in this new science, for it is a challenge. If we do, the future consequences will be exceedingly serious. In the past this country has always been the leader in matters of this kind, and it has always been the young people who have had the drive and enterprise to carry this country forward as the leader. Whatever else we do we must not deny our young people, by our apathy, the right to go forward as well equipped as any other young people in any other part of the world.
That brings us to the question of higher education. I will discuss the possible and existing uses of computers, but higher education has a great bearing on this, because unless we can produce from our schools, technical colleges and universities persons of sufficient capacity to undertake this work we will make no headway. As has been said on many occasions, the computer is a mechanical brain. Despite this, it must be humanly controlled and it can never do entirely without the human element. True it can do tasks in an hour which would take the cleverest of human brains days, if not months, but we must have the right calibre of person to work accurately the machines we have produced.
I am delighted to learn that it is proposed that when the new University of Essex is built in the next couple of years one of its main subjects will be the whole question of computing. I should like, at this stage, to declare an interest in what I say from now on about computers, for I intend to mention computing machines which are made by the International Business Machine Company, in which I have an interest.
Consider, for example, Project Mercury. Tnis emphasises what I have been saying about education. I have with me a copy of the final report on Project Mercury and, to be frank, I doubt whether many people—and I hardly claim to be one of them—can read and understand it. This is another reminder of how important it is for us to educate our youth if advances are to be made.
There are the other projects, the Titan 2, Gemeni—that is, the two manned space programmes—along with Saturn 5 and Moon Shot. There is also the ballistic missile early warning system. All these things would not be possible unless the equipment was supplied and fed by computers. These computers are vitally necessary because they not only produce the data as a result of which the objects are fired but, without them, the machines could not be fired at all. Even in the first few seconds of firing the safety of persons or equipment in the missiles is controlled entirely by the results of computing machines which advise on the possibility of their successful launching or the possibility of their falling back to earth.
The M.3 is being produced in America now and will, it is hoped, be in the air by the end of the year. It will travel at three times the speed of sound. It is indeed almost impossible for us to grasp some of these facts. Only when we quietly think about these things can we begin to appreciate the realm of education and understanding we are now entering.
Many millions of dollars have been spent by the United States on research, the results of which are available to us. I hope I was wrong, but during the debate I sensed that one or two of the remarks showed a little jealously about the amount of money being spent on the other side of the Atlantic. I hope that I was wrong because that research is not only there but it can be shared and we must take advantage of it. This cannot be a national affair, for we must take part in all research, wherever it is carried out, and I hope that we will be able to share the secrets which undoubtedly we otherwise would have to find out for ourselves in due time and at great cost.
The anti-trust laws in America prevent the exact figures of the amount of money spent on research being made available. That is the only reason why those figures are not given. I am quite certain, however, that if they were given we would be absolutely astounded at the amount of money that has been poured into this industry. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation will agree that the United States technical departments have smoothed the way with regard to security for many of the requests for information that the Ministry has made in that direction. Co-operation is, at the moment, very great—long may it continue to be so.
I should also like to draw the attention of the House to the Space Guidance Center at Owego, New York State. For years now, day in and day out, research has gone on, and goes on there, and I can say without fear of contradiction that any assistance, any knowledge that is there is ours for the asking. I sincerely hope that our Government Departments will not be too proud to ask for the knowledge that can do so much to help us in our very important work.
The advanced capability of radar gives an example of the sort of scientific advance that has been made. The computing machinery in the aeroplanes themselves means that those aircraft can fly at very low altitudes while the pilot has in front of him an actual picture of the ground underneath him, on either side of him, and in front of him. Thus, he can travel in reasonable safety because he can see hills or other obstructions approachmg—and all this while his aeroplane is not just tinkering along but flying at frightening speeds. That indicates just another use for the computor in this modern age.
If we are to go into space, we must do so equipped not only physically and mentally, but mechanically. Those three factors are today absolutely essential. The present advance into space is fantastic. It is a challenge, and it is a challenge that I am quite sure our young people are eager to take up. Most of us in this House today have possibly slightly passed from the age bracket of what one would call very young people—
My hon. Friend says that I should speak for myself, so perhaps he will be one of those to whom I was about to refer. I was about to refer to those courageous, fine young men who are training to fly into space. We shall, perhaps, lose my hon. Friend; nevertheless, perhaps he is one of those who are going.
These fine young men who are making these applications seemed to most of us only a few years ago to be rather foolish young men with very little regard for their own safety, or anything else. We are thinking very differently of them today. The mental attitude has changed, and it may well be that in the near future we shall need more and more young men of that capacity and courage to undertake those duties. They certainly should not be discouraged in any way. There are high rewards to be earned in the future—very high rewards—and we must make sure that those who are capable are paid in a manner appropriate to their knowledge.
Man has always looked at the stars. It is possible that before long we shall even reach them. We must not remain earthbound, but venture forth and take up the challenge that awaits us in the new and unknown territories of space. Yesterday was ours, today we must equip ourselves for tomorrow.
I should like to follow some hon. Members who have today raised the question —and also the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), who raised it a fortnight ago—of the whole context in which back benchers have to take part in this sort of debate.
For the sake of the record, I want to say that the staff in the Library of the House could not on this occasion have been more helpful. On Monday, they were asked by a number of us to produce as much material as they could, and they put literally many hours into that work. They cyclostyled for quite a number of hon. Members a large number of wordy documents. I have nothing but praise for their hard work and helpfulness. But, having said that, I ask: is it right that those who are by definiton amateurs in scientific matters should be in the position of having to produce for some of us what is our main source of information?
In this context, it is perhaps justifiable to put in a plea for some sort of scientific secretariat to be attached to the House of Commons—not people who will give us our opinions; we can form our own —but people who will explain the up-to-date information without which we cannot operate sensibly. When one has to depend on articles from various newspapers, perhaps two years old, or perhaps one year old, one realises how unsatisfactory it is.
What I ask is that we should have men perhaps of the seniority of Sir Robert Speed, Mr. Speaker's Counsel, or, perhaps more flexibly, people attached to the Library service itself who can explain the basic facts without which one cannot make meaningful judgment at all. What one asks for is not only engineers, as a right hon. and learned Gentleman, the hon. Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Hurd) opposite, mentioned a fortnight ago, but a chemist, a physicist and a biologist. That would not merely be for the purpose of one debate on communications satellites—more and more frequently we are having, not only debates on atomic energy, but scientific questions, also.
The hon. Member for Abingdon asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science:
what proposals he has received from the Director or Council of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research for another and more powerful particle accelerator …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1963; Vol. 674, c. 26.]
This is a question of considerable importance. It is fitting that we should be in a position to pass judgment on it, regardless of the answer. At the moment,
we have no means of doing so except by taking advantage of scientists who may be friendly towards our political parties. It is unreasonable to ask hon. Members to take undue advantage of these scientists. One cannot go to Professor Blackett or Professor Wilkinson and ask them to explain comparatively elementary points.
Does the hon. Member realise that the points which he has made up to now directly affect the Opposition? If he is looking for specialist advice then I hope that the scientists, the chemists and the physicists will be Members of the House of Commons in their own right. I hope that the hon. Member will bear that in mind.
If I may crave the indulgence of the Chair and avoid getting out of order, I would say that very question has been put to such scientists as Sir Howard Florey, Sir Lindor Brown and Sir William Hodge, and that their reply has been to ask whether one would expect scientists with their training to take part in all the work necessary before a politician gets to the hustings.
There are not only questions of debates in the House, but of specialist Committees of the House of Commons. I hope that I am not taking advantage of Privilege when I say that some of the questions put to Sir Harry Melville, F.R.S., in his capacity as Secretary of the D.S.I.R., when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, would have been much more meaningful had there been present someone qualified to put the questions of sub-nuclear physics in perspective.
I do not propose to go over in the debate facts probably extracted from the same documents that have been supplied to other hon. Members. But there are a number of imponderables connected with this subject and perhaps attention should be drawn to the points made by the Assistant Postmaster-General about the likelihood of a demand in the 1980s for telephone calls across the Atlantic. This is worthy of remark, because the figure of 33 million which he gave represents a third of the claim made by the American Telegraph Company. This difference by a factor of 3 is highly meaningful. Perhaps we can have a little more clarification of the numbers involved when we have a reply to the debate, and we shall discover whether the figure I have quoted is correct.
I would not follow the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) on the question of world facsimile newspapers, because I am sure that the imaginations of some hon. Members boggle at the thought of world-wide copies of the same newspapers. I would follow the hon. Members who spoke about the imponderables of helping under-developed countries, perhaps with weather forecasts and also with educational television.
I will not repeat facts which have been stressed already by my hon. Friends the Members for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), but I should like to draw attention to one point. If we do riot either in co-operation with others or by ourselves go into this kind of industry we are opting out of all industrial developments related to semiconductors, "lasers" and all sorts of beam transmitting cells. If our scientists are right in saying that this is one of the great industries of the future, would it not be tragic if, by taking too careful financial decisions now, we should lose the whole technology which is associated with the production of semi-conductors.
A great deal has been said about the benefits which an industry of this kind would bring to areas like Northern Ireland and Merseyside. But this is not entirely a financial problem. It is also a question of where we are to find the men to develop this highly sophisticated machinery. In this connection, we ought to think carefully of the part which the colleges of advanced technology should play. Should they go into the business themselves? Some hon. Member opposite look surprised, but it should be remembered that in America both the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology have made remarkable discoveries not only in fundamental science, but also in the development of the discoveries that they have made. The latter have now made significant contributions to cosmic ray research which is so crucial to communications satellites.
Regretting the absence from the debate of the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, and not making a party political point, I wish that he could have told his noble Friend the Minister for Science that American science does not suffer from having to do so much sponsored work. Merely because the budget from the United States Government to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology was 10 million dollars does not mean that we should play down the 15 million dollars which the Institute made altogether in 1951 from sponsored research in worth-while fundamental science.
I do not think that any hon. Member could hold for a moment the proposition that the great American technological colleges have suffered one iota from having done so much sponsored work. I think that it was the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) who asked what the taxpayer would think about this. It would be a great help to the taxpaying and financial aspects of the whole problem if the cost of development of communication satellites could be coupled with the research programmes of colleges of advanced technology. This would also give some raison d'être to otherwise esoteric and perhaps abstract research done in these colleges. It might also give them that academic status which these colleges seek.
I think that this is as much as I can usefully say on the subject of this debate.
I should like to join the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in what he said about the difficulties of debating complex scientific subjects in the House and about the facilities available to hon. Members for research. It would be out of order to pursue the point much further, except to say that I congratulate the Library staff on the assistance which they have given us on this occasion. I am a member of the Library Committee. Possibly the hon. Member's proposal for some kind of scientific secretariat as an extension of the research staff of the Library might well be considered by that Committee. It might also be possible to reform the Committee system of the House, a point which I developed a fortnight ago.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) has today raised one of the momentous problems of our time, involving a big decision by the Government. It is perfectly clear that we have to revitalise our communications systems and that we ought to employ all the skill and resources we can afford on going into the space business. I have found the case overwhelming for some time. Although I join with others in congratulating the Post Office on the research and engineering work which the staff has done so far in connection with Goonhilly Down, it is clear that much wider opportunities are open to the United Kingdom in this work, as hon. Members have already said.
In the debate on 27th April, 1960, when the abandonment of Blue Streak as a military weapon was announced, together with hon. Members on both sides of the House I advocated that Blue Streak and Black Knight, as first and second stages, should be used for space purposes. At that time, three years ago, apart from the United States and Russia, we were the only people who had a potential vehicle which might be used for launching satellites. Therefore I urged with many of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members opposite that the Government in 1960 should take a British initiative in regard to this launcher and that we should seek customers for it in Europe and in the Commonwealth.
It must seem very familiar to those who took part in those discussions, but we were also asking for an organisation, a partnership between Government and industry, to tackle such a problem. The Royal Aircraft Establishment's work is of course of very high quality, as it has been for the past three years, but I do not believe that going into the space business through the instrument of a Government Department is the right way to go about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford was quite right when he referred to the question of raising capital. Although the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) made a most effective speech—if I may say to, the best I have heard today—he got himself very much involved with the idea that the question of going into the space business had something to do with nationalisation. I think it could be a partnership between public and private finance. There are models from the past of how this could be done, and the Government ought to give us an answer as to how it could be tried. Iraq petroleum is an example from several years back, but there are other ways in which it could be done.
The space business is a commercial matter. We are told that we should not be competitive and that we should collaborate. I think we have to do both. There is competition in getting customers for the traffic if we use our own system, but we should also bear in mind the need for international collaboration. It was on 21st December, 1960, that we last had a debate of any significance, I believe, and at that time, if I may be allowed to recall my own words, I said:
… time is running very short for Britain to maintain any kind of independent position in the field of space communications." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st December, 1960; Vol. 632, c. 1384.]
That was not intended to be part of a go-it-alone policy. My hon. Friends and I, as well as hon. Members opposite who have interested themselves in this matter, have never suggested that we can go it alone in space. International cooperation and agreement are needed in connection with ground stations and in connection with many aspects of research.
The point I wish to make is that in 1960 we had the opportunity to sell a British scheme in advance. We had the opportunity to make the preparations and to sell the idea to Europe and the Commonwealth. As my hon. Friend the Member for Watford said, five and a half years have passed since the first artificial satellite was lanched. What is the position? Hon. Members have referred to it, but it should be repeated before my right hon. Friend makes his statement today. First, the United States are now three to four years ahead and, with the big resources that they have, the American telephone companies—we warned the Government of this three years ago—are making great headway.
I do not oppose E.L.D.O. and I do not oppose ratification by this country of E.L.D.O., but it has not been ratified. The E.L.D.O. launcher, which is under the control of a committee of seven nations, according to its present time scale will not be able to launch an operational satellite for five years, and probably not for seven years, because the time scale for launching is clearly controlled by its development. There are also considerable United States pressures, which ought to be mentioned, on the European nations not to proceed with the E.L.D.O. development but to buy American boosters.
There is another aspect of the matter. Although E.L.D.O. has kept Blue Streak ticking over, and work is still being done on it, can we any longer afford to wait? We have got Black Knight, the launcher which we know has had good firing results, and we could put a third stage upon it, but we have lost a great deal of time. Three years ago the cart was put before the horse. We urged the Government at that time to make a political decision to develop Blue Streak and Black Knight, to approach Europe and the Commonwealth as our customers by launching at Woomera; and now, as we have already heard from various hon. Members, national programmes are growing up in Europe.
Three years ago we could have gone out and sold this programme to Europe and the Commonwealth. Now, other countries wish to build their own and, as we have heard, Europe has big productive resources through E.L.D.O. and is creating its own programme. We have lost a big opportunity, although we still have opportunities to make good in this field. Also—though I hesitate to make these criticisms—I think we have lost a good many engineers and scientists who have gone elsewhere as a result of our failing to take the steps which we might have taken three years ago.
The Government must develop a firm policy, if only as a safeguard, to enable the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and private industry to go ahead if E.L.D.O. breaks down. There is news today, according to the Evening Standard, that E.L.D.O. is going ahead and has not broken down. But the fact remains that, although we have a big share in E.L.D.O., we also have the possibilities of developing our own resources in this field in a far greater way than has been announced by the Government so far.
There has been a lot written in the Press about study contracts. To what are these study contracts going to be directed? What is the ultimate aim? Are they going to be directed towards budding up a British system and selling it to the world, or are they going to be limited to one of a number of alternatives which have not yet been decided on? It is no good waiting to see what other people are going to do. That is what is happening at present.
I have to criticise Government hesitation in this matter and I have to say, with all respect, that Post Office thinking has not developed at ail since I raised this matter in December, 1960. Nothing new has been said since that debate in which the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt), Sir Geoffrey de Freitas, as he now is, and others, including myself, took part. It is true that 80 per cent. of this traffic is on the Atlantic. It is true that we might not get more than 25 per cent. of the Atlantic traffic if we had our own satellite system. But surely account must he taken of some expansion in telecommunications elsewhere by means of satellites? Has no study been made of this? What is the point of reiterating all the time that 80 per cent. of the traffic is on the Atlantic? The House knows that quite well, having heard it several times during the past few days from Ministers.
What we want to know is: are there any imaginative plans for extending telecommunications in the Commonwealth and to other parts of the world? Although it is true that America has this big interest in Atlantic traffic, the United Kingdom has a global interest and that interest should be considered in any plan that is made.
Another point is: could my right hon. Friend say whether the E.L.D.O. vehicle that is proposed is going to be powerful enough for what is required? We are now talking, as a result of problems of radiation, in terms of 22,000 miles altitude. Will that mean further delay as a result of these new discoveries? How are we preparing to deal with that problem? Can we be told something about costs in relation to prototype satellites for operational purposes and how soon they will be ready? I refer to the cost of launching, of guidance and of ground stations. I dare say my right hon. Friend has those details prepared, and it would interest the House to know the estimated life of the satellites which are at the moment being designed.
Could we also be told what is the estimated signal delay under the programme that is in mind, assuming, of course, a satellite system in continuous operation? It is quite clear that we want a very much broader co-ordinated programme and only one agency to which industry, civil servants and Government scientists will have to refer, a single agency which can determine their policy problems. If we really did start to do this with a British system, there might not be a serious time-lag in relation to the Americans. We already have two stages and, as I have said, we could do a third stage. But we must state our intentions clearly now while these political considerations are present in Europe, or our default case will go by the board. If we do not do something about it this very summer, we are bound to lose the opportunity.
A momentous decision is involved. I hope that the Government will take it. I hope that their studies will be on a far bolder basis than hitherto so that our engineers and scientists may bring great economic advantages to Britain and to the Commonwealth.
Whatever else one may say about life in this place, it certainly lacks nothing in variety. Yesterday, we were meandering somewhat nostalgically through the centuries in an atmosphere of ermine and old lace, as it were. Indeed, we were contemplating bringing some of the ermine and old lace into this place. Today, we are talking of trying our hand at bouncing radio waves off the moon.
This is typical of the conditions in which we now live. I suppose one can say that we live in the most revolutionary period man has known since the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel. The pace at which the revolution is going intensifies with every year that passes. Perhaps the very pace of change is what may in the end determine whether man survives or not. People are now trying to pack a thousand years of experience in any normal set of conditions into a lifetime, and perhaps on our ability to do this a very great deal will depend.
The scientists have broken through on a very wide front indeed. One feels at times that politics is, as it were, bumbling along in the rear, trying to catch up with the new possibilities which science has to offer. One of the most fortunate aspects of the timing of this scientific revolution is that it synchronises with the ending of colonialism. Man's ability now vastly to increase the production of wealth must be used in order to eliminate the terrible poverty and malnutrition experienced by two-thirds of the world's population. This is why I say that, as far as one can see, the timing is most fortunate.
During the debate, questions have been asked about the organisation of science at Government level. In my view, there is much sense in saying that we are at present getting the worst of all possible worlds. Half a dozen Ministries have an important stake in scientific projects of the kind we are considering today. Hon. Members are becoming frustrated because they cannot get a picture of a Government policy which is co-ordinated and complete. I support those who say that the time has come to have a Ministry answerable for scientific projects rather than to have things as they are, with the Post Office concerned with one possibility, the Minister of Aviation concerned with others, and so on.
If we are to embark on the sort of projects which the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) has in mind, what about the industrial organisation necessary for the purpose? The research and development required will be enormous. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) said about public and private ownership. I do not believe that private industry could find anything like the amount of capital necessary for this kind of development. This presupposes that large sums of public money will be involved. I want to ensure, as, I hope, every hon. Member wants to ensure, that we have ample value for the money we spend.
I do not relate this too closely to the present set-up in the aircraft industry, although many of those firms will have to do a lot of the work. I say, frankly, that I should want a far better coordination of effort, especially in research and development, and I should want this House to be far better acquainted with the use of the public money put into the capital development of this project to the extent which I believe to be necessary.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the best kind of set-up here would be as I described it, a partnership between private and public finance, with private enterprise having a stake in it, although a good deal of public finance was involved?
It depends on how one looks at it. I have mentioned the aircraft industry. This is a private enterprise which is doing a job for the Government. I do not say that we can produce great new industries to do this kind of work. Of course, private firms would have to do a lot of it. There is no question about that. What I say is that it is, in essence, a public project financed by public money.
It is true, also, that in communications, particularly the sort of communications that we are thinking of today, the Post Office has a direct responsibility and happens to be publicly owned and controlled now. I see no argument for saying that, in this change to satellite communications, we should transfer something now publicly owned to private ownership. We all agree that the private element will have to use public money. Hon. Members on both sides join in paying tribute to the Post Office, and I see no force in the argument that we should transfer communications as such from it.
I see no reason whatever to believe that we could possibly have the efficiency demanded by both sides of the House if we were to be restricted in terms of capital, and so on. I put it in a positive way. If we were to establish a system of communications based on private enterprise, with all its regard for patent rights, and so forth, we should deliberately stop co-operation along the lines I want to see. I say, therefore, that it would be wrong to alter the present situation in Britain in which the Post Office looks after the communications job.
I do not in any way suggest that there should be taken from the Post Office anything which it has now, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates what I had in mind when I interrupted the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) earlier today. The aircraft industry is at present under pressure as regards its own capital and is receiving considerable help from the State, but there is a field of finance open if only those who would be prepared to invest in it could be assured that, if it proved successful and their risk was justified by results, they would not then be punished for any profits which might accrue.
I believe that I am putting a case with which he does not disagree. We are here considering developing what amounts to a new industry. We all agree that it cannot possibly provide its own capital and that the Government will have to take a hand. Hon. Members opposite have been appealing to the Government to stop shilly-shallying and to go ahead and invest. We are at one in saying that the vast, bulk of the capital required will be public capital. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke earlier of £100 million over seven years for research and development and £200 million over twenty years for operating costs. Other hon. Members said that a figure of £200 million in capital costs would be involved.
All that I am saying is that this presupposes that the Government, and only the Government, can agree to embark on this venture. The Government, having decided to do so, will have to finance by far the greatest part of it. I am saying that, given the fact that communications in this country are controlled by a public authority in the form of the Past Office, I have heard no arguments to convince me of the need to change over to private enterprise. I have said that private enterprise will have a big job to do in producing the space vehicles, and so on. I am not arguing about that. What I am saying is that the ownership and control of communications must remain in public hands.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South referred to profitability. He spoke of very large figures, such as £500 million. If there are profits of that size to be obtained, I see no reason why the nation should not benefit from them. I have said that private enterprise would also gain enormously from the fact that we as a nation are creating a new, vital and important industry. This is the sort of partnership to which I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred.
The timing here is right because of the obsolescence of many of our industries. The railways have been mentioned. The coal industry will not again employ the numbers that it once employed. Shipbuilding may be in the same category. We become rather nostalgic about the fact that we as a nation led the world in the first Industrial Revolution and that our methods of production gave us our pre-eminent position. It would be a very great mistake to believe that, because our industries gave us the lead in the first Industrial Revolution, they can possibly see us through this one. They cannot, and the Government must face that.
It is right that Britain should play a very important rôle in the research and development of space communications. I agree, however, that it is impossible for us to contemplate spending money on the scale which nations like the United States can undertake. Apparently, £1,600 million per annum is invested in rockets alone in the United States. It is obvious that we cannot possibly expend that kind of capital. Since we cannot cover such a wide area as the United States or Russia, that is all the more reason why we must decide in which area we are likely to have the greatest success. We should not spread our research and development over too wide a field but should concentrate on a more limited area in which we are likely to succeed at the earliest possible moment.
I know that a great deal of success has been achieved in many ways. We have made a very notable contribution in radio astronomy by the use of the telescopes at Jodrell Bank and Cambridge. Sir Bernard Lovell has been mentioned, and we all pay tribute to the great work which he has done. His name is eminent throughout the world, and I feel that redounds to the credit of this nation.
We have also taken advantage of the generous offer of the Americans to place instruments in United States rockets. This was a fine offer, and we have increased our knowledge and experience as a consequence of this co-operation. In addition, we have benefited from the work of non-governmental bodies, such as the Royal Society, which is responsible for setting up of the British National Committee on Space Research. However, I believe that, to obtain worth-while results over a wider field than we can afford to finance, it is necessary for us to think in terms of co-operating with other nations rather than going it alone.
One or two hon. Members have referred to the European Space Research Organisation, which was set up by 12 European Governments, including our own, and which came into being in February last year. The exclusive purpose of it was to explore space for purely scientific purposes. I understand that we are committed to a fairly large expenditure over the next eight years. As I read the Convention, we are committed to a quarter of £110 million. E.L.D.O. is not mentioned in the Motion. Indeed, the hon. Member for Watford gave me the impression that he has given up E.L.D.O. I have not quite reached that stage.
On 19th March we had a short debate, in which the hon. Member for Watford took part, on the Supplementary Estimates for the Ministry of Aviation, and we asked questions of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation about the future of E.L.D.O. Of the seven member Governments, only the Australians have signed the Convention, and they happen to be the only ones who are not paying any money, which is not too good. The Parliamentary Secretary informed us, however, that we should be ratifying the Convention in mid-year and that the other member countries would be ratifying this year.
I asked the Parliamentary Secretary:
Has the hon. Gentleman any doubts about whether any one of the seven will refuse to ratify the Convention at the appropriate time?"—
The hon. Gentleman's reply was:
I have no evidence of any doubts at all, and I would tell the hon. Gentleman if I had."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1963; Vol. 674, c. 309–10.]
We therefore have a specific assurance that our Government will ratify the Convention in June this year and that the other nations will be ratifying it in the autumn of this year.
I should like the Minister to tell us today how far advanced are the E.L.D.O. nations and whether he has any information about Blue Streak and whether the French and Germans are in the same state of preparedness. Is their research as advanced as ours? I have heard that the Italians are going ahead by themselves, with the Americans. If the contribution of these nations to E.L.D.O. is looked on as a sideline which does not matter anyway, and if each nation has a main project with which it is going ahead, while we rely on E.L.D.O., we will not win many medals in that sort of undertaking. I should therefore be grateful if the Minister would go into some detail today and tell us what we can expect from E.L.D.O. and when we can expect the launch to take place. That is of the greatest importance.
A very great proportion of our effort must be concentrated on communications. I was grateful to the Assistant Postmaster-General for telling us what he could, but I was a little worried about one thing which he said. He seemed to be telling us that, although the North Atlantic traffic is now very heavy, we must concentrate on making it heavier. I should have thought that the logic of the matter was that, if 80 per cent. of the traffic was on one route, that was the one route which we could not expand very much. I should have thought that the greatest potential increase was in the routes on which the traffic was low.
I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to give a wrong impression. I am sure that that is the last thought in his mind. I was trying to set out what the pattern would be on the most accurate figures available. In giving that pattern, I sought to show that traffic on routes other than the Atlantic route would tend to rise. However, that does not mean that we will not do everything we can to increase other than the Atlantic traffic. In the long run, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, traffic will increase in the places where there is a demand, and where there is a demand there will be a supply to meet it.
I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say that the demand will be met. If we are right in our forecast of demand by what are looked upon as backward areas, it will be terrific when it begins.
The Post Office itself has laid down its objectives clearly. It says that a continuous 24-hour service should be available for telegraphy and telephony for all ground stations provided in con- nection with the system. Secondly, there should be world-wide coverage provided in association with the existing cable and radio links. Thirdly, there should be provision for the satellites to carry about 1,000 television channels and one or two T.V. links. Fourthly, the system should be capable of carrying the traffic in the minimum number of hops, for example, by bringing into use only one satellite for the operation.
All that is a long way ahead. It also presupposes co-operation on a scale which does not now exist, The United Nations resolution on this subject has been mentioned. I hope that this will be a wide enough subject for the United Nations itself to play a far more prominent part than it does now. If we are to get the fourth point especially, something far more ambitious than Telstar or Relay, both of which are experimental, will be necessary. The project Syncom, which is to be tested this year, looks, in spite of the difficulties about space lines of one quarter of a second each, looks as if it will be the most promising system which we have had the opportunity to hear about.
The Post Office has been congratulated on its work at Goonhilly. But I want to enter a caveat at this stage. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) said that we must not be too starry-eyed about one project. There are certainly great dangers. Referring to Telstar and Relay, The Times, on 20th March said that the Telstar satellite relay system had
been made impracticable because of the additional radiation pollution created by the detonation of the rainbow bomb.
Calculations at the Royal Aircraft Establishment show that this new man-made radiation belt will probably have a damaging effect for ten years on solar cells, which provide satellites with electrical power. Thus it has become essential to get above the contaminated region if a communications system is to have an economic lifetime. The Telstar experimental communication satellite, which was expected to have a two-year operational life and for two or three months performed so well, has already become a casualty of these inhospitable conditions.
We are to invest a terrific amount of capital. None of us can guarantee that even more will not be needed. The Americans erred badly when they ignored the advice of certain British scientists. Because of what was done,
proposals by the British Space Development Company, the Post Office and the Royal Aircraft Establishment have become impracticable.
The correspondent of The Times also suggested that the Minister may announce today the placing of a study contract for a civil-military communications system. If he is, we shall be glad to know that there is to be a practical offer by the Government and that they have advanced to the point where they are ready to talk in terms of laying contracts.
Reference has been made to the Commonwealth conference. One recommendation of the conference was:
The Conference recognised that satellite communications and submarine telephone cable systems would be complementary one to the other, and had regard throughout its discussion to the projected submarine cable developments both by the Commonwealth and by other countries. Research and development work in the submarine cable field should be continued.
I hope that the Minister will tell us what is to happen as far as these cables are concerned. One or two hon. Members have mentioned them in passing. Let us look at the record from 1956 when the first trans-ocean submarine cable system was laid from the United Kingdom to the United States. Today, we have about 13,000 nautical miles of cable system in public service, which is equivalent to about 1 million circuit miles.
In addition, similar systems of a total length of several thousand miles have been installed for vital defence purposes. The present cables across the Atlantic are together capable of handling well over 200 circuits. The cable to be laid this year will handle 128 circuits.
I am told that a study of the techniques of this service in the United Kingdom shows that a system for about 350 circuits could be available in three years' time. I am told also that a system with double this circuit-capacity could be produced with facilities for television on it. I understand that there is no particular technical problem in this and that it is a straightforward job for the cable people, who could get cables taking both television and telephone channels operating simultaneously, and that the cost of development would not be in excess of between £1 million and £2 million.
I have this information from experts and I hope that the Government will not lose sight of the very great capital which has been invested in cables and the fact that we have still not completed our round-the-world Commonwealth cable system. We have reached Australia. I understand that the next leg is to go up to Malaya and Singapore. This, I believe, is now in abeyance and I hope that we can be told why. Perhaps the reason is the unsettled political situation in that part of the world. But this delay is causing great apprehension among those doing our submarine cable work. Important research teams are in danger of being laid off. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that the cable will go on through Australia and up to Malaya to be completed.
One of the imponderables of the space satellite system is the question of cost. We can, however, be quite specific about the costing of the cable system. There has never yet been a failure, which reflects the quality of that system. It has a guaranteed life of twenty years as distinct from Telstar's life. There is no limit to the number of cables which may be laid. They are, or can be made, far and away more secret than any satellite.
To dismiss this kind of project as something which is antiquated is rather ridiculous. In 1956, the cost per circuit mile of laying cable was about £156. In 1957, a cable from the United States to Hawaii cost about £123 per circuit mile. With all the bigger cables which have been laid since 1956, the cost has gone down from £156 per circuit mile to £41 per circuit mile, while for the Australia—New Zealand—Fiji—Hawaii—Canada cable and on the extension which I have talked about—through Malaya—the estimate is £38 per circuit mile.
If we were asking for a little more money for unemployment benefit the hon. Gentleman would say how important costing was. In this case, I have shown a quite fantastic decrease in the cost of what is a modern communication system—so modern that the United States is now engaged in laying more and more cables for itself. That being the case—
No, I do not. I want somebody to prove that to me. I have been saying that whereas there is no definite costing one can get about satellites there is a very definite costing programme here. I have given the actual figures. I have no vested interest in either cables or satellites, but I am saying that on the showing I have produced here we really must have an answer today, because I am by no means yet convinced that we can write cabling off as being either obsolescent or obsolete.
Indeed, with their present modern equipment, they are now going over to transistorised repeaters which, in a few years, can boost cables from 80 circuits to 560 by 1970, and probably 700 or 800 within this period. This is comparable with the claims made for the satellites, and it is one of the main reasons why I say to the hon. Member for Orpington that television programmes are quite capable of being produced on a cable system, just as they are on a satellite system.
Would the hon. Member not agree that it would be very expensive to lay a cable, even though it contained 1,000 channels, especially for television programmes, and for that purpose alone?
Of course it does. So can a cable. I have pointed out that we can have television and telephone going simultaneously by the same cable.
I assert that this is information that I have received from technical people and which has led me to the point which I have made, that one really cannot dismiss the idea that cabling has a great future in communications merely because, at the moment, it does not look "glamorous", as we are all inclined to make the satellite system. For my part, I do not believe that in the end there will be a great deal of competition between cables and satellites. I think that, just as we saw after 1896, when Marconi carried out his own successful experiment with wireless telegraphy, there was some fear of competition, and so on, in the end it proved complementary to cabling, so before long the same thing may well happen in this case, because of the huge increase one can expect in the business.
I have the feeling, then, first, that the House is right to ask the Government to go ahead as rapidly as possible with getting Britain into the space age. It is right that now we should do everything possible to ensure that E.L.D.O. and our European contacts will not go ahead more rapidly than we, and, instead, that we should try to get co-operation either with the United States, or, indeed, on a world scale, through the United Nations.
From our point of view we support the Government in that kind of thing, but I repeat that we need to use every facility which is available, including cabling. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not leave the House in any doubt that the Government are seized of the importance of this matter. This day will have been wasted unless we get a definite assurance from him on that point, and I invite him to make that declaration before very long.
I had been hoping to open my speech by congratulating the President of the Board of Trade on having come in to the Chamber to hear my remarks. I regret that he must have got wind of the fact that I was going to say some critical things about the Government, and beat a hasty retreat.
I think that one of the themes running throughout this debate seems to be a slight difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on the question of how the cost of any project of this nature could be shared. For my part—I do not know how many of my hon. Friends I speak for on this—I believe there is need first of all for a Governmental decision to go ahead with a project of this nature and, second, to examine the possibility of financing it by a share of responsibility between the Government and industry. By this I do not just mean industry alone, but I mean the possibility of calling upon the City to support a venture of this nature. This will mean taking it into active partnership.
I think that the fallacy among a number of hon. Members opposite is that they seem to believe—I hope it is only "seem" to believe—that unless one can move by Government decree one must not move at all. This, I believe, would be the one sure way not only of our being rooted to the launching pad but of making sure we have no launching pad at all for this venture. I hope that the Minister of Aviation will be able to tell us that the line of Government thinking here is that they are trying to get active and financial partnership between the Government and the City and industry in this matter.
There has been a considerable degree of criticism—rightly, I believe—of Government procrastination and delay in this matter. Certainly on the part of the Post Office there has been lack of inspiration and imagination. But, having said that, I believe that very little blame can attach to the Minister of Aviation because I believe that his action, his initiative and his ideas and feelings on this matter, that it should be brought to a successful conclusion, have led to this Motion today. Therefore, if I make criticisms of the Government they are of previous Ministers and are not of the present Minister of Aviation.
I believe that the language of space must be English, but it must not be solely with a trans-Atlantic accent. We have heard so much today about the possibility of our latching on or buttoning on to the American system. This may be very good for the promotion of the dollar but it cannot be good for the sterling area or for the advancement of standards of living in the under-developed territories of the Commonwealth, and so I think one must says—I must say, at any rate, very frankly—right at the beginning that I want to see a British communications programme based on British effort and in conjunction with the Commonwealth.
Of course, America is going to be there. America is going to be there in space and operational by 1966 or 1967, but we in Britain must also be there. That is vital to our industry and our trade and commerce, and I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) was dead right when in his speech he said that either Britain must lead in this matter or die. I do not believe there is any alternative for a highly specialised industrial nation than to be in the forefront of technical advance.
I represent a shipbuilding division, and perhaps it is a little bit surprising, when one thinks of the normal skills of shipbuilding, that I should be talking about a high precision operation of this nature. I do so partly because I am interested in the subject and partly because I believe that we shall never be able to sustain even the traditional heavy industries in this country unless we are out in the forefront of technical advance in all the new processes and techniques. There is a direct connection between our leading in that field and our being able to sustain any standard of living at all in the older industries as well, whether cotton, shipbuilding, heavy engineering or anything else.
So I say that from the industrial point of view we must find Britain in the space race and leading in this, as I think the phrase is today, technical fall-out of knowledge on matters in this field. It is not just space communications but all the techniques and systems that go with it—guidances, controls and other things of that nature. This is why we need to be there and cannot afford to bale out, as apparently the Liberal Party would, with a rather uncertain parachute.
If the hon. Member were speaking about the atomic power programme or nuclear propulsion for ships, would he not say precisely the same thing? Will he tell the House how the resources are to be found for all these things, which apparently hon. Members opposite think can be done simultaneously?
I believe that we need a system of national priorities which should be guided, but not necessarily controlled, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The great weakness of our nation today is that we are not releasing the energies of private capital in the way we could and should be doing it. That is one of the weaknesses of our economy. If we on this side of the House are suffering by-election reverses, it is because the Government are too "liberal" and not Conservative enough.
Two problems face us in this matter; one is of the launchers and the other is of the customers. We are told, I believe, that the first E.L.D.O. launch is likely to take place in 1966 or, perhaps more likely, 1967, and that the E.L.D.O. project will become operational in 1968 or 1969. This means that there is a three-year time-lag between the Americans becoming operational and a European system—if a European system gets off the ground at all. Frankly, I have considerable doubts about the merits of backing E.L.D.O. I believe that there is a very strong argument for Britain going it alone in the sense of being able to bring together Blue Streak and Black Knight and the third stage too.
Frankly, I should be shocked if for various reasons, such as defence, certain investigations and studies had not already been carried out into the possibility of a British third stage. I very much doubt, if it is taking place, whether the Minister would be able to confirm it or otherwise today, but I should hope that something of that nature would be taking place. I believe that if we can bring these three stages of a British launching apparatus to fruition, we are much more likely to be able to guide European nations into supporting us than if we put our faith in a committee decision, as the E.L.D.O. project will be. I suspect committee projects, for I believe that very often there tends to be a lack of co-ordination, and perhaps, in this sense, a lack of balance as well.
What about customers? The Assistant Postmaster-General has talked about 80 per cent. of the traffic being across the Atlantic. I should like to think that the Minister of Aviation could be very specific on the point of what these figures are composed of. Do they or do they not include the American space communications programme? It is important to know how these figures are built up. I should be grateful if we could have some information about that.
But if one goes on saying that 80 per cent. of the traffic will be across the Atlantic, this is to assume a rigid pattern of trade and communications, ossified, solidified and never moving.
That may well be true. But to assume that the patterns of trade will not change is to accept death as being with us today and not, I hope, two or three years away.
I should like to think that the Assistant Postmaster-General was serious when he made his reference to the growth potentials in this matter in other spheres. He pointed out very clearly that the growth elsewhere would multiply by five by 1970 and by 15 by 1980. It seemed to me, therefore, that the growth potential, the place where we can show the biggest national return, is in the non-transatlantic areas.
Also, I should like to know how fair the figure of 80 per cent. of traffic being across the Atlantic is, or is this purely because the lines happen to be there? If one wants to telephone to Australia, South Africa or the Far East today, this is not the easiest of operations. It is almost as difficult as telephoning from Sunderland to Newcastle.
It cannot be worse. But we have to send runners carrying messages in cleft sticks at the moment. My hon. Friend will know that a smoke signal will not work, because Newcastle is upwind of Sunderland. I believe that the greatest growth potential lies in the non-transatlantic routes. This is why I believe that having a British and Commonwealth system would be the right way to handle this matter.
I am sure that the hon. Member would not want to mislead the House. Suppose, however, that he is right in saying that the non-transatlantic traffic increases by a factor of 15 by 1980. The number of calls made between this country and Australia would still be less than 4 per cent. of the number of calls now originating from the United States.
That is totally irrelevant. The hon. Member is taking one small section of the potential market. I am talking about the whole of the non-transatlantic traffic, which, from the figures given by my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General, which we all accept, shows the greatest growth potential. That is why I say that the second problem—that of customers—is one in which we should be looking to the Commonwealth and those other oceanic Powers with whom we trade across the world as being our outlet in this matter.
Whatever the technical merits of the launchers and the possibility of getting customers, I believe fundamentally that a political decision is necessary here at home. This is a matter of the utmost importance. I would rather see a decision taken not to go ahead than that we go on fluffing decisions in this matter. That would at least give me something further to oppose.
If we are to get a decision, which, I trust, will be the right one, we can get it and see it through effectively only if one Minister is made responsible for co-ordinating Government policy. Like hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House, I have grave doubts about the merits of one new Minister. I believe that this task can be carried through by one existing Minister being appointed to bring together all the strings of Government policy, by being given a Vote and cash to spend, for when there is cash to spend there will be an attempt to drive a policy through. I trust that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation will have the guts to get a British programme, will become the Minister responsible, will get the Vote for it and will drive it home.
I was fascinated by the speech of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) and was also impressed with his bursts of poetry. His speech was, in parts, a mixture of H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Lord Tennyson. I have followed the debate and the succeeding arguments with rather more scepticism and I am very doubtful whether, if the hon. Member presses his Motion to a Division, I can honestly support him.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) talked about a system of national priorities, with which I agree. He complained about the difficulty in telephoning to Australia, to Borneo, to Patagonia and to all the other places from which he assumes that there will be a rush of trade as a result of this new system of communication. But what about the person who wants to telephone from Glasgow to Edinburgh? What about the priorities there? If the Post Office had been able to solve all its problems of enabling people in Glasgow to telephone easily to people in Edinburgh, or people in Edinburgh to telephone easily to London, I could understand branching out into this wider field.
This week, however, we have been discussing the problems facing the Post Office, and on page 5 of the White Paper, "Post Office Prospects, 1963–64," I find, in a paragraph headed "Waiting List," that
The waiting list for telephone service has remained fairly steady during the past year.
There is not much progress in developing the ordinary telephone for the ordinary man.
The paragraph goes on to say:
At 31st December, 1962, it totalled 45,000. There were also some 104,000 applications being negotiated or in course of being met.
Surely, before we think of the urgent desirability of improving our communications between this country and Borneo, we should be thinking about improving the telephone communications between the important towns of our own country.
It would be far better for the trade for which the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was arguing if we could improve our communications between Glasgow and Belfast. On Monday, hon. Members from important industrial towns complained about the lack of speed in developing the telephone system. I say that our first priority, before we embark on any schemes which might involve gigantic expenditure, should be to improve the telephone system between our own towns.
As far as I can see, the Post Office has enough on its plate for the next five years without venturing on some of the hypothetical and doubtful propositions which have been advanced by hon. Members. We are told in the White Paper that there are
8,000 awaiting exchange equipment only; 32,000 awaiting lines to the exchange only;
5,000 awaiting both exchange equipment and lines. Despite a large increase in investment it is possible that the waiting list may rise a little in 1963–64.
I can imagine ordinary persons, who have been waiting a long time for telephones, wondering what Members of the House of Commons are doing, talking about communications with the remote parts of the world. I think that they have overstated their case. That is also the conclusion of an article which appeared in the Financial Times yesterday, which said:
Probably the main question facing Britain and other European countries today is not whether they are ready to take part in the foundation of the new method of telecommunications. Instead it is whether they are prepared to spend money on a profitable capital investment by providing the installations for computing centres, telephone exchanges, and recording and transmitting equipment.
So we come down to earth.
We hear about the scientists and the technicians, but a very large percentage of them can be diverted only for essential work that the Post Office has to do in improving communications. Although I am interested in all the imaginative ideas for looking forward into the future, I say that on this occasion I really must be a Conservative.
There has been the question of who is to develop the space satellite communications programme? Is it to be developed by the overworked, overburdened Post Office, or by private enterprise? We are frequently told, in this controversy, that the new industries should be developed by private enterprise and the great ideas of a free economy. But here the hon. Gentleman comes, like Oliver Twist, asking for something from a nationalised industry, and apparently private enterprise is incapable of dealing with the situation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South tried to translate into pounds, shillings and pence what the hon. Member for Watford had dealt with in a largely ethereal way. He told us that in the first few years there would be expenditure of £10 million rising to £200 million and in about another ten years there would be a profit of £500 million. I believe that it was he who said that advantages would come if the same advertisement could be flashed to all peoples of the world simultaneously. Fancy all the people of Borneo and of other parts of the world having the inestimable benefit of seeing on their television screens at the same time, at the same moment, a universal advertisement for Coca-Cola! That situation does not attract me.
I am interested in the development of science. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss space research with one of the young Russian astronauts who had circled the earth several times. His aircraft had landed at Prestwick and for an hour I listened to him explaining with enthusiasm his experiences in this new adventure. I appreciate that a new world is coming and I want this country to take its part, but if we approach these developments on a purely national basis we shall be behind the times.
If we say that we do these things because we are pioneers in scientific research, will not the French and Italians and the other nations make a similar claim? Might we not have the ether crowded with satellites? Whatever the ideological differences of nations, there should he some kind of co-ordinated effort in this work. Why should we not unite with the Americans and the Russians in an organisation resulting in the benefit of new developments in science not on a national but on an international basis, and for the good of mankind?
I was somewhat disappointed by my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General, because much of what he said was similar to what was said by the Postmaster-General in an earlier debate, and because he expressed views which could have been put forward by the Post Office many years ago. A more imaginative outlook, a greater sense of urgency and a greater appreciation of what is involved are required. That is why some of my hon. Friends and I are disappointed and are pressing for action in space communication satellites.
I was not, therefore, surprised when there was reference to a report that Eurospace is getting somewhat restless. It wants a much bolder programme of action and a larger objective. The Post Office requires a little more of the initiative and enterprise of organisations such as the British Space Development Corporation, which is associated with Eurospace.
I agree with those hon. Members who have said that we must have the closest possible co-operation between Government and industry, that there must be a partnership between the two, a sharing between public and private enterprise and between public and private capital. The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. F. Lee) must appreciate that this is too large a subject to start worrying about whether an industry is nationalised. The issues are much greater than the nature of the ownership of the particular venture, or who is controlling the finance or the capital. This is a national venture and must be seen as such. I will go further and say that it is a national venture which must be seen as part of an international organisation. It is in that context that we should be thinking about it.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), like all Liberals, apparently condemns any British or national initiative on the ground that something can be good only provided that it is internationalised at once. It is much more likely to prove successful in the international field if that operation is based upon the collective experience of separate national endeavours, and those things are not conflicting in any way. They are complementary; they are steps moving in the same direction; and I am not—nor, as far as I know, are any of my hon. Friends—advocating a "go it alone" policy, believing that somehow Britain is able to do all these things by herself.
We are not saying that. What we are saying is that Britain must have her own national programme, that this programme must be vigorously pursued, and that until we have that programme we shall have nothing to contribute to the international sphere.
I come, next, to the organisation by which this is to be achieved. I agree that, ministerially, there must be a single chain of command. There must be one communicating channel for our thoughts, for our researches, and for our discoveries in this great adventure. That means, in effect, that the efforts of industry, the studies of the universities, the work sponsored by the Government, and the admirable work such as is being done in the Royal Aircraft Establishment, at Farnborough, must all be directed to a clearly defined programme, and headed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) said, by one Cabinet Minister responsible to this House and with a Vote at his backing.
Reference has been made to the Minister of Aviation. Without touching on other great issues which are partly before the House in the realm of defence, this may very well be an opportunity for us to exchange the existing Ministry of Aviation and my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Science for a single Minister of Science and Technology who will embrace all these activities not only in space aeronautics generally, but touching on many of the realms and activities at present the responsibility of the Minister for Science.
Let us bring them all together under a single Minister of Science and Technology, in the Cabinet, and responsible for all these great developments in industry, in our universities, and in the various Government Departments. In that way, and only in some such way, shall we really get a move on and get a positive clear-sighted programme.
I did not spell out all the colleges. I embraced them in the generic term universities. I mean the learned establishments and the other research bodies; in fact everywhere where money and brain power are now being devoted to this sort of thing. The work must be co-ordinated. It must be planned. These words are dear to hon. Gentlemen opposite in some respects, and I wonder why the hon. Member for Newton did not take up this point and advocate it.
Some hon. Members have referred to the details of the communication satellite itself, and I hope that we shall hear something about this from my right hon. Friend. Whether it is to be in equatorial orbit, or a synchro-satellite—all these things about which I have been learning during the past few weeks in preparation for this debate.
The study should have been done long since. The answers should be at my right hon. Friend's fingertips already. I do not want to hear any decision being announced with gusto, or in some such spirit, from the Dispatch Box today simply to the effect that the Government will just study this. We should be long since past that stage. We should be at the stage of embarking on such research and development. We should be reaching the time when the paper studies are being backed up by the physical operation of cutting metal.
All hon. Members who have spoken are agreed that a communications satellite system is vital for our export trade and for the many indirect technological benefits which will come back to British industry in all its wide and varied aspects. It is also vital for defence; and I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air in his place. By his presence he is recognising the importance to his Department of the subject we are debating.
The whole of the U.S.S.R. programme in space is devoted to military aspects. Although some hon. Members opposite do not like this fact, it is one we must take into account, for a vital military role is involved in all of this. This may bring us to the next stage, the one in which we are well suited to participate. It was touched on in earlier defence debates and I am referring, of course, to the manned space vehicle. This may become necessary for interception and detection and, in any case, it brings in the whole field of defence in which, of course, we must have some role.
If it is not a case of "going it alone", then equally it is not a case of "waiting and seeing". The United States Air Force Chief of Staff, General LeMay, has said that the United States is at about the same stage in space science as it had reached in aeronautics in 1912; this at a time when the United States is spending about 6,000 million dollars in the current fiscal year on its N.A.S.A. budget alone, about two thirds of it on manned space flights.
Thus, the Americans are thinking in terms of being at the beginning of it all; at the start of a great new break-through into a great new age and series of discoveries. We must come into this because the space age is here and other European nations are getting on much faster than we are.
Reference has been made to France and her national space programme. That may become so important to her that she may forget all about her participation in E.L.D.O. Italy has her San Marco project, with off-shore launching equipment off Somalia. Western Germany is being pressed into activity and has many ambitious programmes lined up or getting under way. We, too, must have these things. In having them it will, admittedly, involve a considerable amount of money. I do not know what the correct estimates are, although some reference has been made to a cost of about £200 million. Even if it were double that figure—
It is essential for us to spend this money so that our railway system, our other transport systems, our communications system, our social services and our standard of living generally are able to be maintained and so that we are able to keep our proper position and advance along new roads and technologies.
The rewards of an imaginative British space effort must surely be clear to all. It will, as the Motion implies, provide our scientists with the challenge they need and our industries and manufacturers with new technologies and advanced techniques. It will encourage international trade. It will increase the profitability of trading, and in that way guarantee continued employment for our labour force. It will help us to maintain the improvement of our social services, and substantially contribute to increasing our standards of living.
These are not the purposes of national prestige alone, but purposes vital to British national interests. It is for these reasons that we are anxious to press the Government. It is for these reasons that we are anxious to hear from my right hon. Friend a clear account that the Government have come to a firm decision that Britain must take part in an imaginative space satellite communications programme.
The Motion put down a few days ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), and the Motion we are now debating have both concentrated a great deal of public attention on the subject of space communications. The Government welcome this, and welcome also the opportunity to discuss these matters this afternoon. Apart from the names of the authors of the two Motions, there is nothing "airy-fairy" about space now. Indeed, it has become a strictly practical political problem, and it might be as well if I begin with just a word about the Government's organisation for processing space matters.
The hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and Newton (Mr. Lee) referred to the need for co-ordination. Our view, at any rate hitherto, has been that space projects should be processed in very much the same way as air projects; that is to say, the Ministry of Aviation is responsible for the development and procurement of launchers and of satellites that other Departments may need. We are responsible for producing launchers and satellites in just the same way as we are responsible for the development and procurement of aircraft or guided weapons for the Services or, in the one case, for the airline Corporations. The operation of a satellite system would be the responsibility of the Department commissioning it. Thus, the operation of a space communications system might be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, or the operation of the military satellite system, the responsibility of one of the Service Ministers or the Minister of Defence.
We incline to the view, therefore, that we should not distinguish sharply between air and space, but should have an aerospace concept and allow the establishments that at present devote their energies to aerodynamics and other work connected with the air to extend their activities into space, because the frontier between the two is not easy to define.
Our approach to the problems of space has, I agree, been a cautious one, but I do not think that in this matter we have been as slow as the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and one or two of my hon. Friends have suggested. We have been in no doubt for some time that space programmes set the pace for modern technological development, and I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) that a country that is not in space runs serious risks of falling behind in all its technology and engineering—
Oh, three or four years ago, when I first began to take an interest in these matters.
It is likely, too, that in the long run there will be a number of important civil, as well as military applications of space, quite apart from those that we have so far discussed today. I do not think that we should be too pessimistic about what Britain can do in the long run in this field. The hon. Members for Barnsley and for Newton said that we could not aspire to the deeper probes into space, or the deeper explorations, but I do not think that we should look at this as though we were church mice.
We have to start cautiously, but in the long run we may well play quite a big part. In all this, of course, the costs are very high and I think that the Government have been right to hold their space horses—if I may coin a phrase—until we can see a field where space programmes have a better chance of being self-supporting and even possibly profitable. Space communications, as we see them, offer just such a chance. It is to space communications that the Motion has been chiefly directed, and most of what I have to say will be concerned with that aspect of space.
I want to make it clear, however, at the outset that the decisions which we have taken and are about to take on the subject of space communications will have very far-reaching implications for our general position as an aero-space Power. I do not think that we need have too much regret that we did not move sooner in this field. If I may draw a historical parallel, our mariners were not the first to discover America but this did not stop us from leaving quite an imprint on the New World.
It might be helpful if, first, I were to say something about the extent of British space technology, the work we have done, the decisions we have taken, and the capabilities to which we can aspire in this connection. First, I should like to say something about the launching side. The technology of launchers is very similar to that of guided weapons, and here there may be growing opportunities for those who work on the design side of our guided weapons programme. We have already learned a great deal from our work on Black Knight and Blue Streak, and our membership of E.L.D.O. will also give us access to the work which other European countries, notably France, are doing on the development of rockets and boosters.
Is it not a fact that several nations have already refused and will not ratify and have opted out and that Britain herself has not ratified? Is it not a fact that the only country which has ratified is Australia? In these circumstances, is not the right hon. Gentleman's talk about the work of E.L.D.O. premature?
Perhaps the hon. Member will let me make my speech in my own way. I listened to his with considerable patience.
I should like to say something about this E.L.D.O. launcher. As the House knows, as at present intended it is to be a three-stage rocket and the first stage is to be Blue Streak. Some hon. Members have suggested that we should have achieved long ago the result which the E.L.D.O. launcher is expected to achieve. I want to make quite plain that there has been no dissipation of effort at any stage, or any hold-back. Work on Blue Streak, except for three months after cancellation of it as a weapon, has gone forward steadily. No time has been lost.
Our critics speak sometimes as if it were obsolete or obsolescent. Nothing could he further from the truth. The type of first-stage launcher which the Americans propose to use for their satellite communications system will be powered by a propellant similar to that of Blue Streak, and it will have very much the same mass ratio. As no doubt the hon. Member for Oldham, West appreciates, I mean by mass ratio the amount of propellant which it can carry in relation to the weight of its own structure, that is of the casing and so on. Its mass ratio is about 7 per cent., leaving 93 per cent. to the propellant. This is about the same as a hen's egg where the weight or mass ratio of the shell, in relation to the yolk and the white, is 7 per cent. shell and 93 per cent. edible part. A number of static firings have been carried out on Blue Streak at Spadeadam, and Blue Streak will shortly go to Australia where we hope to carry out the first live launch in about a year.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) referred to the Eurospace Report and to doubts expressed in the Daily Mail this morning. I do not think these doubts are well founded. I think they arise from the fact that reference to the Blue Streak throughout this Report is used in the terms of the first stage of the E.L.D.O. launcher as at present devised. The French rocket is likely to be used as a test vehicle in some of the early stages before Blue Streak is completed. But it puts up a very much smaller payload and would not be suitable for the work that we have in hand.
In the same way E.L.D.O. proposes to use Black Knight for a number of launch test firings in Australia, although it is not regarded as an integral part of the E.L.D.O. launcher. The second stage of the launcher is to be developed in France and it is based on a French military rocket and employs very advanced fuels. The French have carried out a number of engine firings. The third stage is being developed in Germany.
A satellite test vehicle is being developed in Italy to calibrate the characteristics of the launcher, and Belgium and Holland are working on the guidance and telemetry system. Australia is providing Woomera as the main launching site. Australia is a full member of E.L.D.O. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) asked just now what the position was about ratification. I think the hon. Member for Newton also asked about this. Australia ratified the
agreement some time ago. Britain ratified the E.L.D.O. Convention yesterday. We expect all other members to have completed the ratification procedures by about the autumn. But I would emphasise that the practical work of E.L.D.O. is not waiting for ratification. I saw the Secretary-General of E.L.D.O. the other day. I was interested to see in this afternoon's Evening Standard—and Lord Beaverbrook's newspapers have not been pre-eminently in support of the European movement—an interview with Mr. di Carrobio which begins with these words:
I came here ready to bury the corpse of Europe's Space Rocket Club"—
writes the reporter—
But I find that the body is alive and kicking.
He goes on to quote Mr. di Carrobio. I will not attempt to weary the House with the quotation—the hon. Member can find it in the Smoking Room—but it gives optimistic accounts from the Secretary-General of the state of work, not just on Blue Streak but on the French and German stages.
On the contrary. I do not think the hon. Gentleman can have read the latest edition. The report says:
We asked the Germans quite deliberately to draw up several proposals and we then argued their merits at length. But we have now fixed on one.
It does not say yesterday. This is a report of an interview today. It is planned that the E.L.D.O. launcher should put a test payload into orbit by 1966–67. This means, on our calculations, that E.L.D.O. could provide the launching capability for an operational satellite system some two years later—in 1968–69. This is not more than two years after the anticipated date for the first stage of an Americal operational system.
I come now to the question of satellites. Where these are concerned we have done a lot of work in the Ministry's establishments. A number of our scientists at Farnborough and Christchurch have been engaged on satellite studies, and in the process they have accumulated a good deal of knowledge on attitude stabilisation, special power supplies, problems of heat balance and other orbital analysis problems. I particularly commend a book called "Satellites and Scientific Research" produced by Mr. King-Hele, one of the scientists at R.A.E. Mr. King-Hele has indicated from his studies that the world is slightly pear-shaped, a conclusion, which, I understand, is now generally accepted. He is also a leading authority on the poet Shelley. Therefore, it seems that the R.A.E. is preserving a proper balance between science and the humanities.
In co-operation with the Post Office we have carried out studies on the feasibility of a communications satellite system, and it was these studies which formed the basis of the discussions on space at the Commonwealth Communications Conference last May. We are now approaching the stage of more practical action. We are about to let contracts with industry for the design and construction of Ariel III. This will be the third of the satellites in the joint Anglo-American scientific programme. The first two of these satellites, Ariel I and Ariel II, as the House knows, were American satellites carrying British instruments. Ariel III will be the first all-British satellite, although it will still be launched from an American launcher.
We are also co-operating with several other European countries in a scientific space research programme through the medium of E.S.R.O. Several technicians from the organisation are undergoing training on the Skylark rocket at Farnborough, and we expect shortly to be involved in the provision of Skylark rockets and the design of a satellite for the organisation.
We have now decided to take a further and, I think significant step into space. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) said that he hoped that there would be no gusto expressed in announcing studies, but the decision that I am on the point of announcing is an important one. The Government have decided to carry out a detailed design study to determine a suitable design for a communications satellite. This is the normal and necessary first step in any development programme. This study will be undertaken under the general guidance of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and of the Signals Research and Development Establishment at Christchurch. R.A.E. will be concerned with the development of the satellite and S.R.D.E. with the communications system.
The House may like to know that these two establishments have, for some time, been bouncing signals to each other off the moon for free.
The moon is a bit rough as a surface. The Post Office, which is the major potential British customer and user of a communications system, will naturally be very closely associated with our studies. It has a wealth of experience to contribute. We shall also seek the co-operation of the communications branch of the Armed Forces, which has done a good deal of work on this.
The Government cannot go very far into space without the co-operation of industry. With regard to rockets, launchers, we are already in partnership with the Hawker Siddeley group on Blue Streak and with Westlands on the Black Knight. The contract for Ariel III is going to industry. We have come to the conclusion that most of the work on the detailed design study for a communications satellite should be centralised in our establishments, given the present state of the art. We intend, however, to associate industry very closely with this study. Suitable firms will be invited to attach members of their staffs to our establishments to work on the study, and this will enable the firms concerned to gain valuable experience on satellite communications. Certain items will also be put out to contract with industry.
I propose that there should be no restriction on the dissemination within British industry of the information derived as a result of the study.
May I repeat the parochial point which I put about the design staff at Short Bros. and Harland? What proportion of the work does my right hon. Friend imagine will go there?
I cannot say at this stage, but I discussed this problem very closely at the weekend conference we had about 10 days ago with leaders of the aviation industry and Mr. Wrangham, the chairman of Short's was present at that meeting.
We have not reached that stage. I am giving the House as much information as I can. The decision that we have arrived at so far is that there shall be no restriction on the dissemination of information within British industry. Other things would have to be considered, if at all, on a strictly reciprocal basis.
I am not at this stage announcing the development of a communications satellite. What I have announced is the decision to undertake a detailed design study. The results of this should be with us by the autumn, and we should have a very fair idea of where we are going well before then. There are many problems to be solved in the course of this study. There is the design of the satellite itself. There is the nature of the equipment to be put into it. There is the character of the ground stations, in which, of course, Goonhilly will give us a good deal of guidance.
We have also to decide on the most suitable type of satellite communications system. The polar or other random orbits may be useful for military purposes, but it looks at this stage as though an equatorial orbit is the best for communications.
At present, we are considering two systems. The first is the so-called medium orbit of about 7,500 nautical miles, which would call for quite a large number of satellites, a dozen or so; the other is the so-called stationary or synchronous orbit where a much smaller number of satellites would be put up to a height of 20,000 nautical miles or so. In this system each satellite would remain above the same point on earth.
I ought to say a ward about the consequences on the choice of orbit of the explosion of the American so-called rainbow bomb. It has been alleged that the energetic electron belt caused by this bomb would have a damaging effect on the solar cells and other satellite components for 10 years or more. If this were so, we should, of course, have to put the satellites above 10,000 nautical miles. It is not yet clear how much substance there is in this argument, but it is one of the things we are investigating and, of course, our decision will have to be based on the final judgment reached on the point.
The project study is being carried out on the assumption that the satellite will be put up on an E.L.D.O. launcher. One of the purposes of the E.L.D.O. launcher has always been to serve a possible communications system. The present conception of the E.L.D.O. launcher would be quite powerful enough to put up a satellite into the medium orbit. It may be that a little more power, or an additional motor, would be required to put a satellite into the higher or stationary orbit. Even this is not yet certain. I am advised in any case that it would not be difficult or cause much delay to provide this.
As regards launching sites, Woomera is likely to meet every requirement during the development phase of the communications satellite as well as our and E.S.R.O's other launching requirements as far as we can foresee; but it is possible that to launch an operational communications system might need an additional site nearer the equator. As I was saying to the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt), we hope to have the report by the autumn. Meanwhile, we shall be keeping our E.L.D.O. partners fully informed of its progress.
Our tentative conclusion is that it should be possible for us to develop and produce, if it were so decided, a space communications system by the time the E.L.D.O. launcher is ready, so that no time is being wasted by international negotiation or any aspect of that kind. We could be ready within two or three years of the Americans. A number of hon. Members speaking in the debate have expressed doubts and suspicion about the E.L.D.O. organisation. Frankly I do not share these doubts. I have great confidence in E.L.D.O., and it looks to me as though it is going right ahead. Even if my confidence were ill founded—and I do not believe that it is—we should not have any great difficulty in catching up with any delay or any change which might be imposed upon us.
I turn now to the practical problems which have absorbed so much of the debate, the question of what kind of communications system we want to see established, and what our part in it should be. Of course, here we must take certain basic considerations into account. The success of a communications system, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West recognised, depends on the readiness of others to use it and one cannot make it pay unless enough of them are going to do so.
Where will the main efforts be? The Soviet Union has done a lot of work but we do not know much about what priority it gives to improving communications within the Soviet bloc. The present estimate is that the Americans will be first in the field. With their longer experience of space programmes generally and of telecommunications in particular, and with the great financial powers they have, we must expect their system to be very attractive to other countries. This will be particularly true of those countries—which certainly number the majority—which are concerned with the sending and receiving of messages and do not propose to embark on space programmes themselves.
Another consideration, as my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General said, is that about 70 per cent. of the world's total international communications up to 1980 are likely to run across the North Atlantic. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) asked whether this calculation took into account the development of a space system. I understand that it does and, indeed, that the cables will be full up long before then. This means that, to be successful and to pay its way, any space system must expand into North Atlantic communications. It must have the co-operation of the Americans on the one hand and the main industrial countries of Western Europe on the other.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the different possible combinations—of a single world system, of competing American and European or Commonwealth systems, and of a separate British or British Commonwealth system. In the Government's view, we have not yet arrived at the point where we can choose between the different solutions proposed. The difficulties of establishing a single British system are great. On the one hand, we have committed Blue Streak to E.L.D.O. and on the other we doubt whether we could get enough customers to make a purely British system pay.
What we can and do say is that, while we are not yet in a position to determine the ultimate form of the communications system we shall adopt, we are determined that Britain shall take part in space communications and shall do so not only in the sending and receiving of communications but in the provision of a communications system and equipments; in the provision of satellites and in the provision of launchers and parts of launchers. We do not mean just to buy time in any system. We want to see our industries making their contribution to space communications at every level and to the technological advances.
We believe that we have a part to play and that it is in the national interest that we should. No one country can have a monopoly of space. It seems to us that the other members of E.L.D.O. are in very much the same position. They are also interested not just in sending and receiving but also in the supply of launchers.
As the first step, therefore, we propose to take counsel with our partners in E.L.D.O., and perhaps with other Commonwealth and European countries which may be interested, to consider how best to proceed. It is only after these discussions that we can determine the precise form of our contribution and what should be its relationship to the American system which will be first in the field.
We propose to press on as fast as possible both with our launcher programme and with these discussions. I am determined that these discussions need not, must not, and, as far as I have anything to do with them, will not hold up the development work which is essential to British participation in space communications.
Communications and technical developments must be parallel, for only in this way will we be able to seize the opportunity which space communications offer to our country. It is in this spirit and on the basis of what I have said today that I ask the House to accept the Motion.
That this House mindful of the fact that ever-improving communications are an absolute prerequisite for expanding trade both internal and external, and conscious of this country's past leadership in this vital field, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to announce plans for a general improvement in communications and in particular for the provision of a British and Commonwealth telecommunications satellite; and further calls upon the Government to brew this matter as one of great urgency, in order to maintain British leadership in communications, to prevent the dissipation of existing design staffs and to restore confidence in the future of British scientists.