Amanda Solloway – 2021 Speech on the UK Space Industry

The speech made by Amanda Solloway, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, in the House of Commons on 4 February 2021.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) on securing this incredibly important debate and acknowledge the richness of this entire debate—there really are just far too many comments that I would like to make. I have been hearing words such as “opportunity”, “future”, “growth”, “jobs”, “inspiration”, “economic recovery”, “connectability”. All of these are just so exciting, and it is the reason why we really need to focus on the space industry.

To highlight just a couple of Members—there are too many to mention, although every Member has made such a valuable contribution—my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) talked about being Minister for the Universe. I think that is really exciting; I am the Minister for the Universe now. That is so great, and I could not agree more about making sure we seize this opportunity. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) talked about Tim Peake and the inspiration he can bring. I was really fortunate over Christmas to receive one of the books that so inspired him. That is the kind of thing we need to harness and capture.

Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)

On the subject of inspiration, I am sure the Minister will agree with me that we have the opportunity to inspire a generation of children. Aa an example, as I walked to the Chamber earlier for this debate, I received a voicemail from my boy enthusiastically explaining a new fact that he had learned about a comet. It is that kind of enthusiasm that we need to inspire among a whole generation, to take our education and our industry through to the next generation.

Amanda Solloway

I thank my hon. Friend. I know his son Freddie, and wow! That is what we have to do: inspire future generations.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) talked about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. I remember that, and I remember thinking how important—how amazing—all these achievements were. Finally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) talked about how we must plan for our future. I am grateful for all those contributions, which were all valuable.

We must use space every single hour of every single day, and that is what makes it so exciting. From getting the latest weather forecast to navigating the oceans and operating the National Grid, satellites keep our troops safe, underpin every financial transaction and help scientists monitor our climate. Space innovations can and have transformed how we live and work, from automated cars to wearable technology, while space science helps us to understand our place in the universe and protect our future.

As I speak, British satellites are capturing high-resolution images around the globe to help us assess environmental hazards, manage natural resources and understand our climate. British technology is on the way to Mercury—gosh, that is incredible—making possible the European Space Agency’s first mission to study how the planet closest to the sun was formed. That is really amazing.

Satellites have kept our families, communities and businesses connected this past year, while space-powered technologies such as drones have supported the incredible efforts of our NHS, as was acknowledged by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). That includes enabling my 86-year-old dad in Wales to watch this speech today.

The Government’s partnership with our inspirational space sector has been at the heart of its success. Our space growth partnerships bring together the UK’s space industry, research base and Government to drive our ambitions forward, and will help us build back from the challenges of the pandemic better and stronger than ever.

We have established a new National Space Council to co-ordinate space policy. We will grow our space economy across the Union, bolster our capabilities to protect the UK and our allies, foster innovation, and make the UK a world-class destination for global talent and investment. The UK’s priority for space will be set out in the first comprehensive space strategy, which will be delivered in the next six months. I could not agree more that we need that.

Our free trade agreement with the EU, worth £668 billion, is a vital step, allowing the UK to remain at the forefront of this high-tech industry. It paves the way for the UK to remain in the Copernicus programme, where there will be opportunities for UK businesses to bid for high-value manufacturing work and access satellite data, on which we will build science and commercial applications.

Outside the EU, our £374 million annual investment in the European Space Agency is ensuring that UK scientists and engineers take lead roles in this decade’s most exciting missions, from building Europe’s next Mars Rover to searching for life on other planets and studying the sun in greater detail than ever. We are investing in new international partnerships that will boost UK space exports and strengthen our collaboration on ground-breaking science and research with other leading space nations, such as the US, Australia and Japan.

We are also establishing major new national programmes to build the space capabilities that are vital to our prosperity and security. Our space-based positioning, navigation and timing programme is exploring new ways to ensure continued delivery of satellite navigation and timing services that are critical for UK energy networks and communications in the maritime, aviation and defence sectors, all of which we have heard about throughout this incredible debate.

We plan to make the UK a global hub for space innovation. We have launched a £15 million national space innovation programme, the UK’s first dedicated fund for pioneering space technologies, which will help solve some of the greatest societal challenges. Our strategic investment in the OneWeb satellite communication constellation demonstrates the Government’s ambition to put Britain at the cutting edge of the latest advances in space technology. Access to our own global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect people worldwide, creating jobs and building on a strong advanced manufacturing service base. Our aim is to be the first country in Europe to launch small satellites.

We have kickstarted work to build the first UK spaceports, including in Scotland, supported by grants worth £40 million. We expect the first launches from 2022, creating hundreds of secure, highly skilled jobs. To ensure that the UK’s launch offer is competitive and encourages new market entrants, the UK Government are putting in place a world-leading regulatory framework, with the Civil Aviation Authority assuming responsibility for the regulatory functions of the Space Industry Act, in addition to regulating orbital activities under the Outer Space Act 1986.

We are working with our partners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to build their local strengths and drive development of their sectors. Government initiatives will join and complement our existing areas of strength as part of our developing national space ecosystem, unlocking new talent and making a career in space a realistic prospect in every part of the country.

We have a truly vibrant space sector, which stretches across the nation, going further to ensure that our space industry benefits from every region. We must seize this moment and deliver.