David Morris – 2021 Speech on the UK Space Industry

The speech made by David Morris, the Conservative MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, in the House of Commons on 4 February 2021.

May I declare an interest as the chairman of the parliamentary space committee? As I am sure you can appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, three minutes is not long enough to go through everything that the space industry has to offer at this moment in time—a lot is going on in the space industry.

The space sector in the UK is a growing sector that has seen a 60% growth in turnover since 2010. The sector employs 42,000 people directly, including 1,500 apprentices. In 2018, it had a turnover of £14 billion, with £5.5 billion of exports. The UK space industry has more than 1,000 companies—these sectors are vital to the UK’s growth—and it generates £79 billion turnover in a year, £46 billion of that in exports supporting over 1 million jobs across the whole of the UK. As you can see, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is a very big industry indeed.

This debate is an opportunity to highlight the Government’s continued interest in the UK space sector and the ambitions to build back better following the covid-19 pandemic. People do not realise that more or less everything in our lives is affected by what goes on in space, from me sitting in my constituency making this speech, all the way through to mobile phones, technology enabling GPS satellites, and even the regulation of gas flows across the UK in certain applications. It is a huge and very complicated industry.

Recently the Government have had a lot of investment in innovation from the UK space sector. We have been at the forefront of global innovation, from sustainable fuels for rocket launchers to the next generation of earth observation. Last month, Rolls-Royce and the UK Space Agency announced that they are joining forces on unique research into how nuclear power technologies could be used to part-power space exploration. Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines is continuing to develop a SABRE—synergetic air breathing rocket engine—for propelling both high-speed aircraft and spacecraft. Some day in the future, we will be able to fly into space. The Government recently invested £500 million in a low-earth-orbit satellite communication system, and the order books are bulging, with over £2 billion-worth of investment coming in. That shows that the UK is pushing forward on its agendas and objectives for the UK’s space programme. We are definitely a big player in the space industry.

In future, we must still collaborate in the ways that we are doing, enable our terrestrial sites to have ballistic space ports as well as horizontal space tourism airspace, and hopefully give the Space Industry Act 2018 more teeth as regards dealing with the Civil Aviation Authority, which is actually stifling the space industry.