Over the last four years my Department has invested the sums of £37 million. £44 million, £58 million and £64 million, respectively, in the United Kingdom space programme. The published estimate for 1983–84 is £61 million. Expenditure beyond that year has not yet been decided.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the majority of that expenditure represents our contribution to the European Space Agency? Does he agree that, although those contributions are matched by other member states within ESA, they produce a substantial return which has made this country the pre-eminent manufacturer of communications satellites in Europe?
My hon. Friend is correct. ESA is one of the most striking examples of the success of international co-operation in technology. It has ensured that Europe has a space industry, and we are one of the leading countries in the world—second only to America—in making communications satellites.
Does my hon. Friend agree that many people still find it difficult to grasp the benefits of the space programme? Does he further agree that the programme is not science fiction or pie in the sky, but will be of real economic benefit both to industry and to employees in this country?
I agree with my hon. Friend. Few people realise how significant our space industry is. It employs about 3,500 engineers and has a turnover of more than £200 million per year. There are many jobs in it for us. In addition over the next 20 years the market for communications satellites will be worth about £10 billion. Britain cannot afford to fall behind.
Does my hon. Friend agree that after Ariane IV and the space laboratory follow-on programme there are some fundamental decisions to be made for Europe? Would it not be better for this country to put more money into the ESA budget so that we may obtain decisions in favour of a manned space programme, reusable vehicles and so on?
In cash terms we have more than doubled the amount that we shall spend on space during the lifetime of this Government. I agree that there are some large projects in the offing, and I particularly want to support earth remote sensing, in which we have considerable skills.