Douglas Ross – 2021 Speech on the UK Space Industry

The speech made by Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Moray, in the House of Commons on 4 February 2021.

It is a privilege to contribute to this debate. I look forward to hearing the Minister sum up, because I wish to put a number of points directly to her.

Moray is not going to be home to a spaceport, but we have heard about other potential locations here in Scotland, particularly in the north of Scotland, from the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), who has been an advocate for the Sutherland centre, and I am sure we will hear later from the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) about the plans up there.

Nevertheless, Moray is part of the process, particularly as it is home to Orbex. I have visited Orbex at the enterprise centre just outside Forres and was immensely impressed by the work there to be part of the UK’s space plans. It is great that Orbex is making high-value, high-invested jobs available here in Moray to develop and work with the Sutherland space centre. The jobs are greatly appreciated by the local community.

Chris Larmour, who heads Orbex in Moray, has been in constant dialogue with me about how we can continue to promote the company and its benefits here in Moray and about what Moray can offer as a base to Orbex and its teams. Chris was hopeful that I could put some points to the Minister and I agreed to set out some of his queries. He is looking for the Government to assist in the overcoming of any obstacles to the delivery of the Sutherland spaceport in Scotland, thereby helping to deliver hundreds of jobs and significant new economic benefit to the Moray region. Will the Minister look into what the UK Government can do to overcome any obstacles to the delivery of the Sutherland spaceport? Will the Government also consider working towards the development of reciprocal rights to launch UK rockets from American spaceports? That is another key issue for companies such as Orbex.

It is great that Scotland and Moray are leading Europe in the space sector through companies like Orbex, which has received strong support for an environmentally sustainable launch system from the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency and private venture capital funds. This is a great news story not only for those parts of Scotland and the United Kingdom that will have spaceports, but for constituents such as mine here in Moray who can provide so much support and so many benefits to spaceports and to the local economy where they are based. We are delighted to have Orbex, providing high-quality jobs here in Moray, and I know that Orbex will appreciate the support of the UK Government and, in particular, responses to the points I have raised with the Minister.