Spaceflight Sector

Transport – in the House of Commons on 24th November 2022.

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Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

What recent steps his Department has taken to support the spaceflight sector.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking this question. I have granted consent to the Civil Aviation Authority to issue a licence to Britain’s first ever spaceport, paving the way for the first ever orbital space launch from the UK, or indeed from anywhere in Europe. The launch from Spaceport Cornwall remains on track for later this year. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Steve Double, who is in his place, for his tireless campaigning on this issue.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

I welcome all the new Ministers to their place and join the Secretary of State in congratulating my hon. Friend Steve Double on the work being done in Cornwall. That is another example, along with the SaxaVord spaceport in Shetland, of the UK Government covering the whole country in glory. SaxaVord spaceport has just completed the construction of the first launchpad to be built in Europe to support the orbital launch of four small satellites for a major European client. Does my right hon. Friend or any of his Ministers have plans to visit the site where construction is going on of the other two pads?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding us of the work that the UK Government do across the whole United Kingdom. The work at SaxaVord is very exciting and I hope to have the opportunity to visit it in due course. UK spaceports will launch highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom while providing greater resilience for our critical national infrastructure capabilities.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice)

The news that the Secretary of State will visit Shetland, I think for a second time, will be welcomed by all in the county and particularly in Unst. SaxaVord has three European companies testing their facilities for a launch, and it is an exciting development. When he visits, however, he will see the difficulties in developing something such as that on an island that requires the service of two ferries. When he leaves, he might therefore be prepared to support our campaign to have fixed links to replace the ferries in the future.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper The Secretary of State for Transport

I would be very pleased to visit Shetland again, which my right hon. Friend—I will call him that, as we worked together in government a number of years ago—represents so ably. On his specific point, those issues are devolved to the Scottish Government. However, as has been said from this Dispatch Box, I look forward to working in partnership with colleagues in the Scottish Government to focus on the priorities of people across the United Kingdom, including his constituents in Shetland.