Standing Committee H


17th June 1986




Standing Committee H


Tuesday 17 June 1986


CLAUSES 1 to 15 agreed to, some with amendments.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Ashdown, Mr. Paddy (Yeovil)

Bidwell, Mr. Sydney (Ealing, Southall)

Brinton, Mr. Tim (Gravesham)

Bulmer, Mr. Esmond (Wyre Forest)

Carlisle, Mr. John (Luton, North)

Carttiss, Mr. Michael (Great Yarmouth)

Chope, Mr. Christopher (Southampton, Itchen)

Clay, Mr. Bob (Sunderland, North)

Cox, Mr. Tom (Tooting)

Duffy, Mr. A. E. P. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Gardiner, Mr. George (Reigate)

Grist, Mr. Ian (Cardiff, Central)

Grylls, Mr. Michael (Surrey, North-West)

Jessel, Mr. Toby (Twickenham)

McGuire, Mr. Michael (Makerfield)

Pattie, Mr. Geoffrey (Minister for Information Technology)

Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey (Coventry, North-West)

Thompson, Mr. Donald (Calder Valley)

Mr. R. H. Lambert, Committee Clerk.

3 Standing Committee H Tuesday 17 June 1986

[MISS JANET FOOKES in the Chair.]

Outer Space Bill [Lords]

10.30 am

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2
Persons to whom this Act applies

The Minister for Information Technology (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie): I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 15, at end insert ", a British National (Overseas)". This is a consequential amendment following the change of status in relation to Hong Kong citizens.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5
Terms of licence

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Pattie: Without wishing to detain the Committee unduly, I should like to say a few words. The clause deals with the terms of licences and, in particular, with the conditions which can be attached. The clause is both wide enough and flexible enough for the conditions to be tailored to the needs of each case. In order to give an idea of the way the powers are likely to be used, clause 5(2) gives a number of examples of the matters which might be covered. The way in which the conditions would apply to the University of Surrey have been discussed and it may help the Committee if I make the position clear. Surrey university's spacecraft engineering research unit has built two low-cost experimental satellites, UOSAT I and UOSAT II, which are used for a variety of educational and scientific purposes. The beneficiaries of the programme are not restricted to Surrey: many schools, colleges and individuals worldwide have gained hands-on experience of the spacecraft. Indeed, a school can give its pupils valuable experience with equipment no more sophisticated than a VHF receiver and a BBC microcomputer. Surrey university estimates that there are over 1,000 amateur, professional and educational stations receiving UOSAT data. A measure of the value of the project is that both satellites have been launched by NASA free of charge—a privilege accorded only to projects of the highest merits. In fact, NASA invited Surrey to build the second satellite at short notice because of the success of the first, and Surrey built it in only five months. Surrey is the only British university to have 4 ventured into this area. Its programme has the potential to do much to encourage our brightest pupils to enter space engineering and is to be congratulated on its undoubted success. The continued operation of these satellites will probably need to be licensed in due course. Although the exact terms of the licence cannot be determined at this stage, they are likely to include the matters set out in clause 5. Clause 5(2) was drafted largely with commercial satellites in mind, but some of the provisions proved inappropriate for a scientific satellite we should be prepared to omit or modify them. One possible example is insurance. We are conscious that even a modest amount of third-party liability insurance might prove unduly burdensome for a scientific project. If this turns out to be so, we would be prepared to consider relieving scientific projects like that of Surrey of the insurance requirement. I am sure that the Committee will be reassured to know that Surrey has been consulted about the Bill and appears to be generally content with it.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West): I welcome what the Minister has said about Surrey university. He will be aware, having read the report of the Second Reading Committee, that the Opposition raised the matter at that stage. I should add that I have received the same assurance as the Minister from the University of Surrey. It is probably worth putting on record that we thought it fit to refer to Surrey university on Second Reading because of the merit and potential of its programme. The further assurance that we have had today from the Minister on insurance, which he will remember was briefly discussed on Second Reading, is something that the university will welcome specifically. We hope that the Surrey programme can expand. The support for it from NASA is, I think, unique and unprecedented in this country. Satellite building is one of the areas in which the Minister and I share a common interest and in which the United Kingdom has had a great deal of success. We are anxious to hear, therefore, that the quite proper commercial considerations would not inhibit the scientific efforts of Surrey university. Putting these two points on the record would, I think, complement what the Minister has said.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 to 14 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15
Short title, commencement and extent

Mr. Pattie: I beg to move amendment No. 2 in page 8, line 14, at end insert— '() The Secretary of State may appoint a later day for the commencement of so much of section 2(2)(a) as refers to the status of British National (Overseas).'. This amendment follows on from amendment No. 1 to clause 2.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 15, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.



Fookes, Miss Janet (Chairman)

Ashdown, Mr.

Brinton, Mr.

Bulmer, Mr.

Chope, Mr.

Duffy, Mr.

Grist, Mr.

Jessel, Mr.

Pattie, Mr.

Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey

Thompson, Mr. Donald