European Global Navigation Satellite System

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 9:39 pm on 2nd July 2007.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Transport) 9:39 pm, 2nd July 2007

I congratulate Ms Winterton on her new appointment. As much as I would have looked forward to future exchanges, this is sadly to be but a brief encounter because I, too, am off to pastures new. It is a pleasure to have one chance, but perhaps the Minister will not be thrilled to hear that I believe that she has given a rosy account of proceedings so far.

Let me set out the background. Satellite navigation could lead to a global market of up to £15 billion by 2010. The United States Navstar global positioning system is easily the largest provider of the navigation signal, which some people still believe to be a military system. It became operational in 1995. In 1996, President Clinton handed control of it to an intra-agency executive. In May 2002, the full signal was made available to users worldwide, and it was—and is—free. In 2004, President Bush replaced the executive board with an executive committee and, from that date, it was no longer used as a military system, but military and civilian authorities manage it equally. Long before all that happened, the European Space Agency and the member states of the European Union became aware of the potential of satellite navigation. They argued that Navstar was not reliable because it was controlled by the military and could be shut down at any time.