HL Deb 03 November 1965 vol 269 cc810-58

4.28 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I think we can safely say that we are back in orbit. In speaking for the first time in this House, I should like to ask for your Lordships' indulgence, which is very kindly given on these occasions. So far as I can recall, my father never spoke in this House during the nineteen years that he was privileged to take his seat here, and I should straightaway like to reassure your Lordships that I have no intention of making up for lost time in order to make the family speaking statistics look more favourable, especially after the excellent example set by the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, in the last Session.

In new and specialist technologies, such as those which are involved in to-day's Motion, some speakers will naturally have interests to declare, and I am no exception in this respect as I am associated with a group of companies who are engineering products for space research and development. This has brought me on to the space scene in Europe, where already a number of bright stars are beginning to shine. I, for one, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this Motion, which embraces a wide spectrum of interest, and indeed very much wider than the 1961 Motion. The noble Earl, with his experience of visiting Cape Kennedy and being in close touch with a number of space interests, is able to speak, as it were, straight from the control room. I do not think the noble Earl realised when he referred to my speech as a space maiden that I was actually born under the sign of Virgo. In intervening this afternoon, I shall be limiting my remarks mostly to a very small part of the spectrum and that part which concerns the European Space Research Organisation, with which I have come into contact.

Taking the 1961 Motion as a launching pad for to-day's Motion, I think the most significant single event that has occurred in the intervening period is the bringing into force of the European Space Research Organisation Convention on March 23, 1964. Without going into the details of the European Space Research Organisation itself, as by now most of your Lordships will probably be familiar with this organisation, known as ESRO for short, I would point out that there are now ten countries participating in various degrees and contributing money. Out of the original list of twelve participating countries, Austria and Norway have fallen out and the remaining ten countries, the last of which was Italy, have now ratified the ESRO Convention.

Allied with ESRO are ELDO, which is a Government organisation, and EUROSPACE, which is a commercial organisation, both having widely differing constitutions. In the case of these two latter organisations other noble Lords are probably more closely concerned with them than I have been and are, therefore, more qualified to speak about them. It is clear that ESRO is tangible evidence on this side of the Atlantic that European countries now have a specific investment in space technology. In terms of money, the Treaty countries are contributing in this financial year something like £7 million, and this is due to rise to something like £20 million per year in two or three years' time. At present a lot of money is being devoted to capital expenditure, but the emphasis is slowly shifting to project work which is to be carried out under the headings of short, medium and long term projects during the eight-year period for which the Treaty is in force. The United Kingdom's contribution towards the finances of ESRO is now, I believe, fixed at 25 per cent., followed by Western Germany at 21 per cent., France at 18 per cent. odd, Italy at 10 per cent., and others at diminishing percentages.

I believe that developments in ESRO are tremendously important for British industry, and the rate at which ESRO is now setting about its tasks at its various establishments which are located in the Treaty countries is extremely rapid indeed. The growth rate of the organisation is clearly nothing short of startling, and recruitment of staff from the member countries is now accelerating to meet the programme of work facing the organisation. In saying this, I sincerely hope that they will never become the slaves of Parkinson's Law.

Out of the many ESRO establishments, I have been able to visit only one of them, nevertheless probably the most important one, and this is the European Space Technology Centre in Holland, known as ESTEC for short. The nucleus of the centre was originally formed in a hut in the gardens of Delft University, and I have seen it grow from this in the early months of 1964 to a staff now of something like 700, which is due to rise to 800 at the end of this year or the beginning of next. The main body of the staff is now housed at Noordwijk, where the major part of the research and project work is to be carried out. What was only a piece of waste land behind a sand dune at Noordwijk in 1964 is now being transformed into a complex of laboratories and environmental test facilities, which are essential to the aims of the organisation and which is the largest space centre outside America. Other member countries have ESRO establishments in their territories, such as the data centre in Germany, the Research Institute in Italy and the launching range in Sweden, in addition to a number of tracking stations which are located in other host countries.

I think it is perhaps unfortunate that we have no ESRO establishment in England, as the activities of the organisation would then perhaps appear less remote. It would give us a greater sense of belonging to ESRO than if we can only read about such places in other countries. However, it has been agreed otherwise, and whereas our major partners gain by having an establishment, I hope that there are other benefits accruing to this country, such as an increased influence in the technological programme of the organisation and, perhaps, a greater share in the industrial contracts placed by the organisation. So far there are only a few returns to be recorded, but then this is not surprising as the Convention has been in force for only a little over eighteen months, and the ground work is not yet completed.

Apart from the success already achieved in launching the first eight Centaur and Skylark rockets at the ranges in Sardinia and the Ile de Levant, the returns will come, I think, in two ways: first, through the return of technologists from ESRO to this country after completing their terms of service, which vary between three and five years, and, secondly—and this is perhaps more important—through the placing of contracts in this country by ESRO, which will strengthen United Kingdom industry in space technology and stimulate advances in related technologies such as telecommunications, vacuum and cryogenics. In the case of contracts, the position at present, I think, shows a disproportionate balance. For example, whereas France has received in terms of money 48 per cent. of the contracts placed compared with an 18 per cent. contribution, the United Kingdom has received only 20 per cent. in relation to a 25 per cent. contribution, and Western Germany 6 per cent. in relation to 21 per cent.

In the long run, these figures may appear more in balance with each other, but with contracts already placed for satellites such as ESRO 1 and ESRO 2 and for rockets, telemetry and environmental test facilities and instrumentation, as well as many other miscellaneous items, the pattern of industrial interests is already beginning to establish itself, and competition for business is hot and strong. I feel, therefore, that it is important that we make every endeavour to see that we continue to obtain our proper share of these technologically important contracts. If the procurement arrangements are not well understood by British industry—and so far very few firms here have actually tasted success—I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would consider further ways of bringing more widely to the notice of interested firms the activities of ESRO and the impending requirements.

As a suggestion, this might be done in conjunction with suitable trade interests, such as the Society of British Aerospace Companies, the Electrical Engineering Association and the Confederation of British Industries. ESRO, in fact, keep a register of European firms, based on the results of a questionnaire issued about two years ago, from which they select firms for tendering. I have been told that the response from British industry in some cases of tendering is well below expectation, and ESRO are wondering whether they have British interests adequately represented in their register. As half the £20 million per annum which will be spent by ESRO in the future years will go to ESTEC, and £5 million of the ESTEC budget will go into industry, the proper contact with ESRO and ESTEC is therefore vitally important to firms, both large and small, who wish to participate and obtain a share of the business.

Another step achieved by ESRO which I regard as extremely important is the establishment, in conjunction with ELDO and Eurospace, of a comprehensive documentation service, which, of course, is essential to all research and development programmes. This service has been established after agreement with NASA and is performed on a high-speed computer. The service was first operated in America after large capital investment in its development, and index and programme tapes are to be exchanged between ESRO and NASA. The use of high-speed computers for the retrieval and dissemination of information, as well as for theoretical and applied calculation, has been an absolute necessity on the American space programme, and I am sure that the ESRO/NASA exchange will be of extreme value to European scientists.

I recently read Dr. Hookway's article in the journal Nature of July 17 describing the setting up of a new office within the Department of Education and Science known as the Office of Scientific and Technical Information; or OSTI for short. The creation of this office to deal with the problems of information mechanisation is, to my mind, timely, and I read that the office recognises the need for co-operation with the United States Government who themselves regard the problem as an international one. It is said that they are prepared to work with other countries who have something to offer. OSTI has a budget of £180,000 this year, and its main fields of interest are medicine, engineering, chemistry and physics. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Snow, comes to reply for the Government he will be able to say whether these fields are being extended into space and other advanced technologies, and whether OSTI will be co-operating directly with NASA.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord?


No: It is not normally done with a maiden speech.


I was just going to say, to set the noble Lord's mind at rest, that in fact the answer is "yes".


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord. The budget for the office next year will, I imagine, depend primarily upon its manpower resources and the initial success of its work this year, but I, for one, feel that any additional money spent in this direction would be money well spent.

Before concluding I should like to say that I am sure we shall not reap the maximum benefits from our participation in ESRO unless we ourselves are actively engaged with our own national programme for space applications which is directed to our future economic needs and is compatible with our limited resources. In another place on August 4, in answer to a question on whether he was satisfied with the progress of Britain's space programme, the Minister of Aviation stated that a review of United Kingdom interests in space was being undertaken, and I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government when this may be expected. In the European space field we are now not alone, and there are more rapidly developing interests in France, Germany and the other ESRO Treaty countries. I also hear that there is a possibility that Spain may be in a position to have her own satellite launched in America within a number of years. I therefore hope that when the noble Lord comes to reply for the Government he will be able to define more completely the national space interests.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships are indeed fortunate that whenever a subject of great complexity and importance is raised there are among the Members of this House people who have themselves personal experience of it and who are, in fact, making contributions towards it. It therefore gives me very great pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, who speaks on this subject on the basis of his own professional interests and concern, and a lifelong experience of the matters which we are discussing this afternoon. I hope that we shall often hear him in this House, discussing matters of great technical importance.

I think we must all be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for opening up this most complex and important subject. It is one which has attracted the interest and enthusiastic support of many engineers, and it has proved a great headache and great difficulty to a large number of administrators. When he was Prime Minister of France, M. Mendes-France once said, "Gouverner, c' est choisir". Our greatest single problem these days, my Lords, is the extremely vexatious question of how we are to allocate our limited scientific resources in the best possible way. It is all very well to say "Space is wonderful; why are we not in it?" but is it reasonable to consider the priority of, let us say, developing new rockets in order to establish a communications satellite when, as we were told only last night on the television, our own telephone system is less efficient, less effective and more in need of improvement than any other among the great Western Powers?

Over a period of years I have read with interest the statistics on the amounts of money which have been spent on the telephones and telecommunications networks of all the great Western Powers; and, expressed as a figure invested per head of the population, ours has been lower than that of any other country for which statistics are available ever since 1950. At a time when the network inside the country is as bad as it is we must ask ourselves seriously how far and how reasonably we should invest in communications satellites to make it possible to get from London to America at a time when we can scarcely get from London to Manchester. This country has been most successful for many years in developing international communications by cable. One is apt to think of a cable as an old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy thing first put down in 1860 by Lord Kelvin. The facts are that the development of cable repeaters under the Atlantic, pioneered in this country by the Post Office, has been the most remarkable and important development in long-distance communication that this century has seen.

Furthermore, we are only at the beginning of a revolution in the use of cables at least as great as that which has already happened. It may astonish your Lordships to know that it has hitherto not been possible to use anything other than valves in under-water repeaters, because it is not yet thought that transistors are reliable enough. Transistors have to be used in all the satellites because valves are too heavy. Transistors will, I am certain, be used in repeaters under the Atlantic in the next few years, and they will transform the nature and economics of trans-Atlantic communication in a manner as significant as anything likely to be achieved by satellites. We are spending vast sums of money on satellites and neglecting almost completely the things we ourselves have done and can do.

I have said that the problem of Government is the problem of choice. Let us ask ourselves briefly why America went into the space race. It is a difficult question to answer. I do not suppose anyone knows precisely, but one can summarise it briefly by saying this. The American economy is, and has been for some time, in a curious position. All the reasonable and ordinary demands of the civilian population—food, housing, clothing, transportation—can be satisfied by the efforts of about one-half of the working population. There are still in America something like eight or nine million unemployed. It is necessary for the American Government to devise, by some means, work for the rest of the population.

Furthermore, it is necessary for the Government to find work for some of the most sophisticated and dedicated engineers the world has seen. For many years these men devoted themselves to the manufacture of weapons of extraordinary potential, and when the time had come when there was ten tons equivalent of dynamite for every human being on the face of the earth, and at a time when rockets had been built so that they could deliver them almost immediately to anywhere in the world, the question arose of what to do next; and for this reason, at least as much as any other, it was decided to keep the men happy by sending a rocket to the moon. It was well said that although the rocket will go to the moon the money will stay in America. This is true, and it is the source, I believe, of the great popularity of the space race in America. It provides the livelihood and the most important single industry of very large parts of America. The men engaged in it are most able and dedicated.

Let us think for a moment of our own problems. We do not have enormous numbers of engineers out of work. We do not find the population can be adequately housed or fed or clothed by the united efforts of everybody engaged at the moment. Our problems are quite different. We are by comparison an underdeveloped country. We should remember this; and remember, too, that we cannot responsibly engage in enterprises which take our manpower away from the curent problems of society unless and until we know how to solve them. I said a few moments ago that last night (some of your Lordships may have seen it) on television there was a survey of half a dozen of the ordinary facilities of half a dozen countries. The most important of them were telephones, communications, motor cars, housing, half a dozen others. A perfectly impartial examination of conditions abroad in comparison with conditions in this country showed that in every single case we were easily worst.

We should concern ourselves first with the problems of this small country of ours, and leave other people to spend their resources in space. At a time when we have not a single berth in England capable of handling a very large tanker (there are twice as many deep-water berths in Antwerp as there are in Britain); at a time when we have a shortage of good roads; when there is a wilderness between the bottom of the M1 and the top of the M6 which somebody forgot twenty years ago—at this time we should be concerned with more mundane matters and exert ourselves primarily to study them. These are very serious and immediate problems in which the lives of our people are concerned and in which the best efforts of our most devoted scientists should be spent. I have said that our fundamental need at this moment is a renewal of what I can best describe as the main manufacturing and living plant of the country. We need more hospitals; we need more roads; we need more ports. Before long it will he possible to fly to New York in a shorter time than it takes to get from here to London Airport. These things cannot be tolerated, and if we are to see things in their proper perspective we must look at these things first. The problem of choice and perspective is the most difficult one in the whole field of Government.

I should like for a moment to describe to your Lordships a mechanism we have set up to study relative priorities in the field of science. Hitherto, as your Lordships know, there have been several independent Research Councils, each of which, having framed its estimates, went independently to the Treasury asking for their support. It has never been possible to compare, let us say, the relative claims of funds to be spent on cancer research, funds to be spent on nuclear physics or to be spent on space. This is an extraordinarily difficult choice to make, but it has to be made, because funds must be allocated and different amounts of money spent.

How, therefore, is the comparison to be made? Nobody in the whole of the world has found a really satisfactory answer. Nevertheless, we have in the last year established a committee, the so-called Council on Science Policy, which acts as a forum where the claims of these various Councils can be ventilated, can be compared, and each Council can be called upon to justify to a committee of sceptical scientists the claims made on the Treasury. It may well be that the sole result will be to arrive openly at open disagreement. If so, at least this is a step forward from the rather subterranean and incomprehensible system in which individually Councils approached the Treasury in years gone by. The task is difficult and complex, and we do not know how to solve it; but we have begun, and the problem I have described to your Lordships is an extension of the sort of thing with which the Council, under Sir Harrie Massey, has been struggling for the past year.

One of the points made by several noble Lords this afternoon has been the great importance and significance of computers in the space race. I should like to make a case for the priority of these immensely important tools of modern civilisation. Computers are transforming our society. The demands made upon them cover everything, from an analysis of the economy to the dynamics of the Mars probe. This reliance is now almost complete. Furthermore, these remarkable instruments are comparable in cost to any of the airliners and to many of the rockets that we have been discussing this afternoon. A good modern computer can cost £3 million or £4 million. It costs, furthermore, a sum to develop comparable to the cost of developing airliners. Yet the Government have been prepared consistently over many years to spend vast sums on the aircraft industry and on the aerospace industry and have almost totally neglected the computer industry.

Fifteen years ago America and ourselves were alike innocent of the techniques and ignorant of the potential of these machines. Last year the profits of the International Business Machines Corporation, which is the largest single manufacturer of computers in the world, were twice as great as those of I.C.I. and the British Motor Corporation put together. In other words, this is a vast industry; an industry, furthermore, which has ramifications extending widely beyond those of the scientific interest of space exploration. Five years ago I was Chairman of the Electronics Research Council, and in that capacity I prepared for the then Minister of Aviation a report enumerating the shortcomings of British policy for computers and urging the Government to do something about it. We pointed out how much the U.S. Government had done to help I.B.M. but our Government took the view that computers were not their concern, and nothing was done.

The consequence was easily foreseeable. Last year we were pressed by the universities to do something to help them, as they, as well as the users and manufacturers of computers, were suffering greatly from a shortage of computing facilities. Professor Flowers did a survey of the requirements of the universities for computers, and found, as might have been expected, that they are in short supply; that some eminent scholars in this country have habitually to fly to Canada in order to do calculations which ought to be done in London; that much urgent research work in aerospace and civil engineering, and many other subjects, has been delayed, and that the need for more computers is almost desperate. Professor Flowers' report has now been presented, and I would ask the Government whether they are going to publish it and what they propose to do with it, because I believe that it is one of the most important documents that has emanated from the Advisory Councils in my lifetime.

It is not enough, at a time when we are concerned with the problems of the space age, to restrict ourselves to the rockets themselves, or to the possibilities that are opened up to other countries. We must fit ourselves, our industry, our universities and our entire educational system, to the problems of the space age, the problems of the second half of the twentieth century. In this country, almost all of our primary facilities need urgent repair and renewal. We still have industries in which techniques are as primitive as were those of James Watt. Far more than we need rockets we need an injection of the kind of mystique, the kind of enterprise, the kind of initiative and skill which is transforming rocketry into our ordinary basic simple industries. It is only by doing this that we can live; it is only by doing this that we can even contemplate the kind of expense which is likely to be incurred in the space age; and it is only by doing this that we can hold ourselves and our heads up in the twentieth century at all.

Your Lordships may think that I have wandered rather far from the main theme of our debate. I do not feel that I have, however, because I believe that the problems of the space age are effectively the problems of modernisation of industry, the problems of decent living and the problems of fitting people to avail themselves of the techniques and resources now available to them. Only in this way shall we have the resources that we need to live. Only in this way shall we ever obtain the resources to develop such expensive, amusing, but hardly useful, toys as the rockets which Lord Bessborough described.

I feel very strongly indeed that we are in great danger of getting our priorities wrong. I believe, furthermore, that it is only too easy to be bemused and dazzled by the achievements of some of these immense machines. It is fascinating to believe that someone is erecting a building which is several times larger than the Great Pyramid in order to house a rocket to send a man to Mars. There is an enormous thrill about this: it appeals to the small boy in all of us. What we need is men, not to build mountainous buildings like that, but to make better mousetraps to export to Hong Kong. There is a great difference, but the type of skill we need is the same.

I felt that, in a way, I might disappoint your Lordships because I did not express an enthusiasm for the space age. It is the space age that I welcome. What I question is the extent to which this country can afford to divert its most precious raw material, its most precious resource, the skill of its engineers, into an enterprise which I do not believe at this moment we can really afford.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I should like at the outset of my remarks to associate myself with the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, on his delightful and knowledgeable maiden speech. I am sure it is the wish of your Lordships on all sides of the House that the noble Lord will join in many debates on future occasions.

I am quite unqualified technically to speak in this debate, particularly after the most technical and knowledgeable speeches to which we have listened this afternoon. I agreed with a great deal of what was said by the last noble Lord who spoke. If we have but limited resources in money and in manpower, scientific knowledge and plant, for myself I would far prefer to see a concentration of those limited resources—a higher priority in those limited resources, one might say—used for converting sea water into fresh water and making the deserts of the world more green rather than putting a man upon the moon. One will be an immediate social benefit, and the other may be a distant pleasure.

The problems of the space age and technology dealt with in this Motion, so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Bessborough, are, I believe, social as well as technical and, within the wide terms of the Motion, as did the last noble Lord who spoke, I, too, should like to look for a few moments at another aspect, the social aspect. I believe the debate to-day in your Lordships' House would be incomplete if we did not take note of that particular aspect. Up till now it has been generally accepted that technological advances married to capital investment create employment. I think that may be true in the short term, but one could question whether, in the long term, it is really so. One can describe automation as the expression in industry of technology; and the standard remedy for unemployment caused by automation has been considered as more technical training. But let us think for a moment on where that leads us. More technical training and greater skills demand higher wage levels. Higher wage levels increase the cost level, at which point still further automation becomes economic.

We are beginning to see examples of this in Canada and the United States. In those two countries I believe we can see the tendencies starting which we may have to face in this country. In Canada, it is becoming difficult for any young person to find skilled work if his education is less than grade 12. In Canada grade 12 corresponds to our "O" level grade. At the same time, the rate of unemployment in the labouring category in those under 24 is double the rate for all other occupations, and it is steadily increasing in proportion to the total unemployed. Let us turn to the United States for a moment. On the labour front the electricians have just obtained a 25 hour working week. The unions, in return for an agreement on automation, demand guarantees of permanent employment for themselves, and in some cases for their sons, regardless of whether the work is there or not. But, at the same time, in the United States the unemployment rate for labourers is double the average rate for all other occupations.

From what I have told your Lordships I think it is reasonable to ask this question. If the North American qualification for skilled work now stands at grade 12, can we foresee a time when work will be hard to get for those without a university degree or something equivalent thereto? In Canada there is an Economic Council of Canada, the terms of reference of which are almost the objective of the Government, and indeed of all political Parties, in this country. I should like to read a particular extract in regard to the Economic Council's duties. Their principal duty is To advise and recommend to the Minister how Canada can achieve the highest possible levels of employment and efficient production in order that the country may enjoy a high and consistent rate of economic growth and that all Canadians may share in rising living standards. They are admirable objectives. But what if the two objectives turn out to be incompatible? The highest possible level of efficient production may result in something less than the highest possible level of employment. If this incompatibility exists, it must have one of two results. At the worst, the result will be an unacceptable level of permanent unemployment. At the best, it means that everyone will progressively have more time on his hands.

There is an interesting historical parallel in the late Roman Empire, where all work was done to an increasing extent by slave labour controlled by a small number of the very rich. The result was that, though the gross national product was steadily increasing, there were ever larger numbers of free Romans who found themselves with nothing to do. That was when the Roman Government started bread and circuses.

If automation is to develop an affluent citizenry with leisure time to consume, we ought now to be preparing how the affluent citizen will occupy himself in the future. For our material prosperity we have the Prices and Incomes Board, the Restrictive Practices Court, and finally we have Mr. Brown's grand Plan for industry, finance, commerce, employment and management. Ought we not at the same time to be preparing a parallel grand Plan for leisure usage in the years to come? At present we have sports grants, we have the arts, drama and music here and there. It is all rather hotch-potch and patchy and is unrelated in its content and application. I suggest we need to set up a body for strategic planning for the humanities, and for recreation parallel to Mr. Brown's National Plan, for, if we do not, I believe we are in danger of drifting into a mentally lopsided, discontented people of the future, with money and with leisure but with no real contentment because they do not know how to use that leisure for true human happiness. I believe that is an aspect of the technological age which it is just as important to think about as how we are to put man into space.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, this is a vast subject, and I will try to limit myself to a relatively few remarks about the principles which I think should be followed in our national policy on these space age—not just space—problems and then consider whether our organisation is best fitted to carry them out. As the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, indicated, we as a country, with our existing resources in men, materials and finance, obviously cannot make a really good contribution in every major field of scientific advance. In some cases our resources are patently inadequate, or other countries have already established a commanding lead, or both. I would give manned space research as an example of something in which we cannot compete.

In other cases, either for lack of resources or changes in defence policy, or just failure of will, we have lost our position and have allowed other countries to make off with the ball. I suggest that there are a number of examples of this in the field of aviation, though not, I hope, in the whole of it. We have tried, consciously or unconsciously, to mitigate this situation in two ways: by selection of the sectors of scientific research and development on which to concentrate our resources, thus bringing about a rough and ready division of labour between our own and other scientifically advanced countries; or, secondly, by organising such division of labour by collaboration with single countries, for example with France in the Concord project, or with groups of countries in CERN, ESRO and ELDO.

In reviewing the position, I venture to suggest certain principles which should guide our policy. The first is that we should build on success and give priority in resources to advanced fields in which we are still either in the lead or among the leaders. I suppose an outstanding example is nuclear research and technology—in thermal and fast reactors, in fusion research and in radio chemistry. Another example is radio astronomy, and a third is represented by important areas of the biological sciences. I should hope, too, that in aviation there are still sectors in which we can keep or reassert a leading position. I would not presume to he exhaustive or dogmatic about the selection—this is clearly the province of the Ministers' Advisory Bodies—but since the nuclear field is one in which I have some direct experience, I would express the hope not only that we should continue, as we have done, to back up our research and development effort in this field, but also that we should complete the equipment necessary for further advance, notably by bringing our diffusion technology up to date and by starting the construction of a prototype fast reactor at the earliest possible moment. I am not so sure about the nuclear engines for space to which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred, because that depends on the scope for the use of these very complicated mechanisms.

There is a peculiar difficulty in judging the amount of resources which should be put into basic research, since by its nature the scale of effort in basic research projects is the most difficult to decide, and, incidentally, the most difficult to cut down once started. Here an immediate practical question is the appropriate scale of our effort in high energy physics, which is at the same time pure research and the devourer of vast and ever increasing resources. I fear that in this field we may, in an American phrase, have got a bear by the tail.

In the second place, I suggest that we should take a hard look at the international projects in which we are or may be involved. It seems sometimes to have been considered that because a project is international it is for that reason valuable, but in scientific research and development this is not necessarily the case. International projects often mean large administrative costs, inflated staffs, difficulties about sharing out and placing contracts, with long delays due to these and other causes. A typical difficulty was mentioned in the most interesting maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ironside. Too often resources are wasted in these ways, and so international projects tend to be slower, more expensive and less efficient than others.

These difficulties increase the further one gets away from basic research into the development field and from a different angle, and, obviously, the more countries that are involved in a particular project the more the difficulties are aggravated. There are some red lights showing already around the world which should give us anxiety and food for thought. One of the most serious problems is the tendency of certain countries to have a strong national programme as well as a share in an international programme, and to prefer the former to the latter to the great disadvantage of other members who may be putting their all into the international effort. This tendency seems to appear in French policy vis-à-vis EURATOM and perhaps ELDO. It has so far been less true of CERN, which is basic research, and of the Dragon reactor project at Winfrith Heath, which was restricted to a single experimental project. But even here the future is clouded by the uncertain position in EURATOM, which contributes a considerable proportion of the cost of the Dragon project. Nuclear development is a long-range business, and the attitude of the French Government has put EURATOM'S research and development programme—of which Dragon is an element—in jeopardy.

But it is a problem for each country to judge what degree of effort is needed, in order to enable it to play its proper part in international projects and, still more, to avoid the risk that the combined demands in the national and in the international fields will exceed the resources which should properly be made available for a particular project. For us there has been the example in the high energy physics field of the right balance between our investment in the Rutherford Laboratory and our investment in CERN. Indeed, the extent to which we ought to participate internationally in the next stage of high energy physics is really a most perplexing problem. I suspect that there may be a similar dilemma in the space field in the case of Black Arrow and ELDO.

Once one of these international organisations is set up, the finance committed, and the project started, it becomes very difficult to draw back even when costs begin to mount astronomically. It is painful enough to stop a large development project on a national basis, as we have recently seen in the case of the TSR 2. It seems to be almost impossible to stop or to limit a project which has been entered into collectively. It may be desirable, though I think not often, to accept some of these drawbacks for political reasons. It may indeed, more compellingly, be the only way in which we can enter a particular field in a worthwhile manner, and space research may well be one of these. But we should do so, I suggest, with our eyes open and in the realisation that we may be unable to mount a substantial national effort later. From what I myself have seen, my own bias is for a national effort whenever it is viable.

I have one other thought to offer, that we should avoid as far as possible setting up permanent international bodies for research and development which acquire a life and momentum—I will not say a vested interest—of their own. The International Geophysical Year was, I believe, an example of successful international scientific collaboration which did not involve a permanent organisation. These matters call for a most difficult exercise in judgment. Are we properly organised to take the necessary decisions in the best possible conditions? I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Snow, who was reported as saying some weeks ago that it was becoming a national sport to throw brickbats at him and his right honourable friend. I have no desire to join in this pastime, but this does not mean to say that the noble Lord and his right honourable friend have, in fact, been given the best organisation in which to work.

On the research side, I believe that in principle the organisation of the Scientific Research Council and its subordinate and associated bodies is soundly based, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has told us some interesting things about this this afternoon. But I am much less happy on the development side. I agreed strongly with the committee of inquiry into the organisation of civil science, when they said that the techniques required in this field—that is, of industrial research—are more likely to be operated freely and without inhibition by an independent organisation than by a Government Department. I regret—and here I agree with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—that the recommendation of the Report in favour of an industrial research and development authority was not adopted.

My belief is that this type of organisation, in which a board or authority with mixed membership—scientific, industrial, professional—is given discretion, within broad policy directives and financial limits, to deal with research organisations and with industry, with or without responsibility for the development of prototypes, is the best and most efficient pattern of organisation in a difficult area. I think, further, that it would have served us well in the field of defence research and development as well as in industrial research. If any noble Lord suspects that I am "plugging" the type of organisation represented by the Atomic Energy Authority he will be perfectly correct, because I believe that this has proved a successful example of the type of organisation which I am advocating.

I myself formed the view that the establishment of a Ministry of Technology was a wrong turning, and I do not think that events have yet shown that it was not. The field of scientific research arid development is so large that it is inevitable that there should be subdivisions such as exist on the research side under the research councils, and that some similar division is needed as between research and development and within the development field itself. But, however large the territory, each part is interconnected and there ought not to be a frontier; therefore I think it is unfortunate that there are two Ministers dealing with research and development, one directly and one at one remove, and that each Minister should be separately advised. With the best will in the world, the existence of two Ministers in two Departments must lead to some polarisation of effort and policy. However, I do not know how the new organisation of research councils and advisory councils is settling down. Perhaps the noble Lord who replies will be able to enlighten us, and to assure us that the liaison is adequate. It is very difficult for anyone outside the network to form a fair judgment.

I have spoken in no spirit of controversy. This is an extraordinarily difficult subject. The decisions which have to be taken are of great complexity, and my sole anxiety is that they should be reached on valid principles and in the best possible conditions.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to add my congratulations to those offered by earlier speakers to the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, on his most interesting and informative maiden speech this afternoon. Secondly, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for the opportunity which he has given us to discuss a great many important matters which could be comprised under the rather generally worded Motion which he has put down. We have, of course, discussed some of these matters on various occasions in the last year or two but, as the noble Earl himself has reminded us, it is now almost exactly four years since space research was the subject of a debate in your Lordships' House, and a great deal has happened since then.

Both the United States and Russia have entered the field of manned space flight, and probes have been sent to the moon and, at any rate, some of the nearer planets. All this has been done at enormous cost, and the rate of spending on space in these countries is still rising rapidly. But I would remind your Lordships that a very large part of these costs concern the development of the launching vehicles and their instrumentation, and a very much smaller part is attributable to the instruments which carry out the actual scientific research once the satellites, or what-have-you, are in space.

In so far as scientific research into the problems of extra-terrestrial space is concerned, we in this country have continued to make not inconsiderable contributions through sounding rockets and satellites, and optical and radio-astonomy. If I may refer to one remark of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, I think that optical and radio-astonomy have made more contributions to space, than space has made to optical and radio-astronomy. In these fields, in the development of astrophysics and in theoretical astronomy, as well as in the development of items of equipment which have been used by our American friends, we have done a very great deal.

I mention this point, not in any self-satisfied manner, but just to emphasise that there is a great deal more in space research than putting men into orbit or sending them to the moon. Indeed, there is a vast amount of excellent scientific work that can be done without ever getting into extra-terrestrial space at all. In these fields that I have mentioned, we have some of the leading figures in the world—men like Lovell, Ryle, Massey and Hoyle—and I think we ought to back these men fully, perhaps even more fully than we do now. It is the work of men like these that brings prestige to the country, not an attempt to copy on an insignificant scale (because that is about all we can do) the massive space programmes of the United States and Russia.

My Lords, some years ago, in my then capacity as Chairman of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, I urged the abandonment of the proposed development of the Blue Streak rocket as a launcher vehicle. I am afraid that I am still unrepentant: I still hold by that view. To-day, there has been quite a bit of talk about the effective development by ELDO, the international organisation, of a launcher vehicle based on Blue Streak and two upper stages. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, told us, we began ELDO with a cost of £70 million in front of us, and, I think, about a five-year programme. We seem to be paying an inordinate proportion of the total costs; but, what is worse. I believe that the completion of the first part of ELDO has now been postponed from 1966 to 1970; the cost is now more than double what was originally estimated, and it is costing us something over £13 million per annum to keep it going.

My Lords, I believe that the money we have spent, and are still spending, on ELDO will yield us nothing of any significance. It is aimed to produce a rocket system which in 1970 will be obsolete. We may use it for an ESRO satellite, but I am quite sure that ESRO could launch its satellites at an enormously less cost by buying American rockets. I believe that far more return would have been obtained if the money we have spent in this way had been applied, in part, to scientific research in the physical sciences and biology, and to research in other applied fields which are more likely to yield results of direct value to the economy of this country.

We have been hearing about technological fall-out or spin-off, and we often hear about it in connection with space programmes. For myself, I believe that this technological fall-out is very much exaggerated. The development of launchers is essentially a matter of technology, and if you begin to look at things closely you will soon find that it is scientific research that yields fall-out or spin-off in the form of new technology. What we obtain as spin-off from technological projects is usually something which we could have got in quite different ways if we had been prepared to spend the money and make the effort. Just to illustrate this point, nuclear power, nuclear technology, is the spin-off from the scientific research that was done by Rutherford, Hahn and their collaborators before the war; and, if you suggest that nuclear power development is the spin-off from atomic bomb development, then all I can say is that since nuclear power was evident from the moment Rutherford made his first atomic fission if we had put our backs into it, it is rather a reflection on humanity that we had first of all to make an atomic bomb before we got on to nuclear power.

If I may take another very crude example, we are frequently told that miniaturisation of instruments is part of the great fall-out you get from space work, and in particular launcher development. I think there are other things which could have yielded the same kind of results. A certain kind of miniaturisation would have been achieved in putting more effort into producing an invisible hearing aid for the deaf. Now let me be clear. I admit that the making of invisible hearing aids has not got quite the glamour of sending rockets into space, but this, of course, is one of our problems. I think we have to find out how we are to put the glamour into somewhat more earthbound projects.

My general thesis, my Lords, is simply this: that if what we are interested in is technological fall-out or spin-off, it is primarily scientific research that we must support rather than technology. This does not mean that we should not back technology, but it does mean that we should back technology for its own sake with a conscious aim at some economic end, and not spend millions on something with no future, like Blue Streak, and hope vaguely that some side issue will arise in the course of it by which we can attempt to justify our expenditure. In the position this country is in, I do not think we can afford that kind of gamble, especially when there are other and larger people doing the same kind of thing on a vastly greater scale and with considerably more than a head start on us.

The American and Russian space programmes derive ultimately from their military and defence programmes. The enormous expenditure on space in America is already having a marked effect on their industrial pattern, and it is an effect which I believe may in due course have undesirable consequences for the economy of that country. Of course, there are a variety of reasons, in addition to the purely military position, which have perhaps supervened, and the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has already referred to some of these. But, in a way, this development of the space programme is only a rather obvious example of what happens in most countries. It is an example of the way in which defence programmes, even here, tend to determine, or in some cases to distort, the general industrial pattern. They do this because of the very large sums of money they inject into certain industries, coupled with the specification, of course, of an objective—usually one defined by the military authorities. Part of the trouble is that patterns of this kind tend to persist: the other part, of course, is that so far we do not seem to have been very good at finding something other than the military authorities to set down a specific objective on which the country is prepared to spend a lot of money.

I think our real problem to-day, as the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, has already hinted, is to find how to stimulate, in a way analogous to the stimulation of these industries concerned in space in America and here, the technological progress of those civil industries which can be of real value to the economy of the country. Especially if Defence spending is to be reduced at all, we must be bold and have got to redeploy our resources in civil industry. I am sure—I know—the Government realise this position, and I hope that they are going to do something about it. As to the mechanism of doing it, that is perhaps a subject I had better not discuss. My noble friend Lord Sherfield has already mentioned it; and, as one of the co-authors of the organisation report which he mentioned, it might be considered that I would be a little bit prejudiced if I said how I felt one should do it.

Finally, the noble Earl, in introducing his Motion, wished to draw attention to "problems of space-age science and technology." The problems, as some earlier speakers have said, are many and various, and they do not concern only, or even mainly, the exploration of space. In this space age (if that is how the noble Earl wishes to describe the present times), we are faced with an almost explosive growth of both science and technology the end of which is not yet in sight. One of the consequences of that growth is a staggering increase both in the cost of research and in the demand it makes on our trained manpower. Both of these present us with pretty serious problems, because just as we cannot expect to continue indefinitely to double our expenditure on research every five years, equally we cannot view with equanimity a situation which would soon arise in such circumstances in which we were concentrating so large a proportion of our manpower in scientific research that the development of our industries suffered very severely.

We cannot get along by putting too much manpower into scientific research and devoting too little of it to the pursuit of technological ends. This point has been stressed very forcibly by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, in his speech this afternoon and he has stressed it also in some of his recent writings. I am, I confess, very largely in agreement with the general thesis that he advances and if, as he and others of us have maintained, we are coming towards a plateau in permissible expenditure on scientific research in the not too distant future, then we must devise some method of getting our priorities straight and formulating a workable scientific policy. And in doing this we must not allow ourselves to be led away either by false ideas of prestige or by scientific chauvinism.

In the field of research there is one point that I should like to make before I sit down. Just a year ago, in its last Annual Report, the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy pointed out that to carry through the really worthwhile research projects in the physical and biological sciences that are clearly before us now (the carrying-out of which would probably deploy the abilities and activities of scientists in this country to-day) it is fairly clear that during the next five years we should have to double our present expenditure on scientific research; that is to say, it would need to grow at about 15 per cent. per annum during that five years. I understand that it is now considered in official quarters that such a rate is too high and will have to be cut down.

Reduction in the rate of development in a field of scientific research is by no means a simple matter. In fact, in the world to-day, if you are going to reduce the rate of development in a particular field then you might as well stop it. So, what one faces, if one cuts back at this stage, is a situation in which we may have virtually to opt out of certain fields of science. If at this stage we cannot really face a doubling of our expenditure in five years, if we cannot afford that amount of money for scientific research, then we must face up to it and we must begin to take some hard choices which will almost certainly involve opting out of certain fields of science; and we must do that now if we arc not going to get the money for the next five years.

Problems of choice, such as the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, mentioned will come up; but I would make this point. If we have to opt out of fields of science, then we shall be doing something which may, so far as the long-term future of this country is concerned, be vastly more dangerous than would be, despite the political problems, the seeking of some kind of re-negotiation or reconsideration of our expenditure on what I am afraid I must regard as dubious technological projects like ELDO.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that it is interesting to note that ELDO does, in fact, represent the great majority of the expenditure on what might be called space research. The real research content is fairly small. This is a purely neutral statement which I think parallels what the noble Lord has just said.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I hope that I have not misled the House. I was specifically talking about ELDO and I was not discussing ESRO or matters like that. I sought to distinguish particularly between scientific research in space and the technological development of launchers.


My Lords, I also sought, perhaps unsuccessfully, to re-emphasise what the noble Lord had said.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that what I am going to say will relieve your Lordships' minds. I had intended, when I came here, to address a certain, or uncertain, number of remarks to your Lordships on the only problem concerned with science and technology in the space age which I feel in the least qualified or inclined to discuss. This is the problem of how far, if at all, mankind can use science and technology instead of being used by them, or, reduced to words of one syllable, how man can best use the facts he knows and the tools he has on the earth or off it. At this stage in the space-time age, and in this House, where there is less time than space, I do not propose to make those remarks, because I think that to do so would be, to parody the words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, "dangerous, inflexible, controversial, probably inaudible and harmful to the launcher as well as to the recipient."

I shall confine myself, (again to quote the noble Lord) for "a different form of thrust is required", to doing two things. One is to join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, on what seemed to me to be an admirable maiden speech. The second is to say that on the last occasion when I had some remarks to make in this House and did not make them, I remember preparing at short notice what I calculated would be a one-minute speech. In this I wished to draw your attention to a cartoon by Mr. Osbert Lancaster which appeared on that day (which was the day of the War Damage Bill debate) in which were represented two ladies outside a church. One was saying to the other: "Canon O'Bubblegum thinks that the artificial insemination of a jellyfish in outer space is the thin end of the wedge". I was going to say at the time that that was what I thought about the War Damage Bill; but it seemed to me rather a thick thin end.

I feel that this remark is equally applicable to some of the prospects confronting us in the space age. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned the alarming pace with which fact is catching up with science fiction. I remember about eight years ago a letter in The Times from the Astronomer Royal in which he said, with authority, that although he had nothing to say against science fiction as fiction, anybody who seriously thought that a projectile of any sort within foreseeable time could be sent outside what I think he called "the atmosphere" ought to have his head examined. That was a very short time before the Sputnik went up.

Since then, many of us are feeling that we ought to have our heads examined at intervals because we do not quite know where we are. I merely mention one of the technological projects which give me this feeling. It is, as your Lordships will have read in the papers—and those who are not scientists ought to know about—the discovery that apparently memory is a chemical which can be injected and has been injected with success into thousands of flatworms. My memory has never been good. It is so bad that I cannot remember ever being introduced to a flatworm. But I can remember a friend of mine who was interested in Japanese poetry giving me a translation of two of what are, apparently, the most famous short Japanese poems of fourteen syllables to each. They may well lose something in the translation, but certainly not conciseness. One was: Night is cold. A rat has fallen into the waterjug. The other one was: Come to my dismal dwelling and listen to the bagworm. Up to date, I had always thought that represented what I might call the nadir of conviviality, but to be asked to spend an evening listening to the bagworm would be jollity compared to being asked to spend one listening to a flatworm injected with the memory of a bagworm, injected, for all one knows, with the memory of a Liberal Peer.

I know that this may be a frivolous way to put it, and it may be put more seriously, but I say this only to show that there may be dangers as well as advantages in the prospect before us, which I think ought to be viewed with cautious optimism. I feel that I must stress the caution as well as the optimism by sitting down now.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, two thoughts have been running through my mind as I have listened to the extremely interesting debate. The first, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has reminded us, is that if ever there was a reflection of the contemporary phenomenon called, I think, the acceleration of history, this debate is it. I well recall trespassing into space some six years ago in a debate on the Air Estimates and my accomplices in that endearing little sortie were my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I think that most of the occupants of your Lordships' House then thought we were fairly "bonkers". Some two years later, in a deeply informed speech, my noble friend Lord Bessborough initiated a full-dress and very informative debate on the subject. By then, I feel, those of us who were raising this issue were regarded as being only mildly mad. Now I flatter myself that we are regarded as more or less sane though possibly somewhat misguided.

I think our rapid promotion to relative sanity has been matched by, and is to some extent a reflection of, the progress and pace set by the pacesetters of this planet. That progress has been so rapid that it is easily measured. I remember that in the debate four years ago my noble friend Lord Hailsham (as he then was) discussed the theoretical possibilities of a system of communication satellites. He was discussing them, admittedly, in fairly positive terms. That was only four years ago. Now when we telephone to our friends in New York we do not really know whether our voices are carried to them by the 4,000 miles or so of Atlantic cable or over the 45,000 miles to and from Early Bird. That is the measure of the speed of this progress.

My second reflection on listening to this discussion has been to rejoice that once again this noble and rejuvenated House has been showing a fairly clean pair of heels to another place. We are, of course, well known now for our liberal views on aspects of society and sex and related matters. I feel that it is good that we should show ourselves equally forward-looking, if at times equally realistic, on these matters of science and of space, and indeed the wider subjects to which the noble Lord, Lord Todd, my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye and the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, and others have introduced us this evening. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Bessborough on once again initiating so fully and so well a debate on this vast subject. I would also thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton for having expanded, if not our knowledge of space, at least our knowledge of the Government's intentions, honourable though modest, in this sphere. Not least I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Ironside on a very thoughtful and extremely well informed speech.

In summing up this discussion from this side of the House, I propose to operate on a pretty narrow front. In trying to bring together some of the main threads of the debate as it has struck me I will confine myself, if only for the purposes of compression, almost entirely to the question of space and space research. In doing so I do not propose to re-argue the case for Britain's taking space seriously and spending money seriously upon it. My noble friend Lord Bessborough has already done so, and others have supported him. Yet others have taken a contrary view.

As I see it, my Lords, we have here a fairly stark, but not at all simple, choice. We can opt out in greater or in lesser degree as the noble Lord, Lord Bowden has suggested. I did not take what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, in answer to my noble friend, as indicating that this was the intention of the Government, although clearly what he has said would enable this country to select the spheres in space on which it was going to concentrate; and I certainly would not quarrel with that. We could "go it alone", but "going it alone" would be a pretty poor "alone", and I certainly should not recommend this as being our entire effort. We could ride "piggyback" on the Americans and the Russians. To some extent this is what we are doing, and to some extent it is what we should continue to do—and by using that jargon I am not belittling the validity of the scientific experiments which have been carried on American launchers.

Or, of course, we could make a real effort of making a real go of this with our neighbours and natural partners in Europe. I, for one, have no doubt that this is the right decision for us to take in space, or in selected areas of space, as in other fields which call for a very high investment in skills or in resources, provided that in this vast sphere, which so dwarfs our petty national differences on earth, we in Europe lose no suitable opportunity of sensible association as partners with the real pace setters.

In urging this I am not discarding what may well be the need for being strictly selective in our European endeavours, but in considering what Europe can do, I do not think that we should underestimate the capacity of Europe. After all, the gross national product of Europe is not less than half of that of the United States and space will be there for a very long time to come. In pleading for a genuine European effort, I do not suggest for one moment that we should not make a reasonable, yet realistic national effort as well. Indeed, I should have thought that the two must go together. Therefore in this national context I would revert to one or two questions which have already been touched on earlier in the debate.

First there is our military capability in space. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for what he has told us—and he told us quite a lot—about the Government's thinking on the military uses of space and the sort of capability which this country might require in this military sphere. I am also grateful for what he told us about the state of our negotiations with the United States in this respect. I do not wish to comment further on that. This was an important statement by the noble Lord and I, for one, should like time to consider it carefully.

Secondly, there is the question of Black Arrow. Here, again, I am glad to hear that work on Black Arrow is proceeding, pending a final decision one way or the other. I must confess that I am somewhat disappointed that a final and positive decision has not yet been taken. We were told in that admirable Central Office of Information paperback, which came out earlier in the summer, that on this subject the policy of the Government elected in October, 1964, had yet to be announced. I should merely like, rather playfully, to express the hope that the policy of this Government on this important matter, not only in the national context but also possibly in the European context, will be announced before this Government is "unelected".

Thirdly, there is the question of money. I realise that when the Government are giving serious consideration to the whole range of policies in space it is unreasonable to ask what their target ceiling is here. Meanwhile, I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about the actual "spend" this year. He gave a figure in the neighbourhood of £20 million. I was surprised to hear that figure, because, in information which has recently been submitted to the Western European Union, culled, I thought, from Government figures, a "spend" in 1964 of some 42.8 million dollars, or £15 million, was indicated. Am I right in thinking that this indicates that there has been a fairly sharp rise in our expenditure in this connection?


Yes, my Lords. There has indeed been a sharp rise, and a large part of it has come from ELDO.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. He also suggested that on the assumption that our expenditure was likely to be £20 million, presumably including our military expenditure, such as it is, it would be at the same level as French expenditure, which is running at the rate of some £24 million, excluding the military sphere. I find it a little difficult to relate these two figures.


My Lords, I am afraid that I find it exceedingly difficult. Having had great difficulty in getting reliable figures and proper comparisons, I really have to use that easy phrase, "They are in the same order of magnitude".


My Lords, I still find it a little difficult to see how they can be in the same order of magnitude. But perhaps we can pursue this mathematical problem at a later date.

Fourthly, while dealing with the purely national sphere, I should like to ask (and here I am echoing a thought which the noble Lord, Lord Todd, expressed) whether the noble Lord, Lord Snow, when he replies, could tell us if the Government have yet considered the recommendations of the Committee on Radio-Astronomy over which the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, presided; and, if so, what is their decision. I should be grateful for some indication of their intention in this field, and also of what they are proposing to do to maintain Britain's fine and proud position in the field of radio-astronomical research.

Before I leave purely national matters, I would come back to two questions of organisation, which were touched on earlier this afternoon. In the first place, there is a need to define and draw up a national programme. That informative and pleasing paperback which the Central Office of Information have produced makes interesting reading. But its contents do not really amount to a national space programme. Nothing concentrates the mind and effort better than the discipline of having to produce a proper plan. And it was, I think, the definite assignment of specific objects in space by the late President Kennedy which, rightly or wrongly, did so much to bring the American space effort into focus. And I believe that it is the possession by France of a definite plan and definite objectives (I am not here arguing whether these objectives are right or wrong) which has given so much momentum to the French space effort. I hope that the Government will now produce and let us see a properly co-ordinated national plan in this field. Here again, I am not arguing for this or that "spend"; what I am saying is that all this should be brought together to enable the question of priorities, both within the plan itself and outside it, as between what we spend on space and on many other desirable objectives, to be rationally decided.

In my view, much the same applies to this question of national organisation. As my noble friend Lord Bessborough mentioned, our national space effort is fragmented between at least five Ministries. We certainly have no equivalent to the National Council in the Executive Office of the American President, or, so far as I know, to M. Bourges, the French Minister of State for Nuclear and Space Affairs. I know that it is natural for the Establishment to favour the established set-up and I do not wish at this stage to probe too far into this. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, indicated that he had an open mind on the question of organisation. All I would suggest is that there is a strong case for looking afresh at our national organisation, from the ministerial level downwards, in this field. I myself am inclined to think, though this is a difficult and complicated question, that a greater focusing of authority would strengthen our national effort in this field.

From this, I come straight to the international and, above all, the European effort in space. In the main, it has been channelled through three organizations—ESRO, ELDO and CETS, the European Conference on Satellite Communications. I want to touch briefly on each of these three organisations. ESRO, about which my noble friend Lord Ironside spoke so authoritatively, is functioning quite well, albeit at present on a fairly restricted scale. It has one important advantage, that it can plan on an eight-year budgetary basis. But I should like particularly to revert to a matter on which my noble friend touched. It is admittedly a rather parochial aspect of ESRO, but it worries me, as it does my noble friend. Apart from its headquarters in Paris, it has established, or is establishing, important stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Italy. But, as my noble friend mentioned, none of its activities is concentrated in this country. Can the noble Lord tell us why this is so? Is there not possibly a case (I throw this out just as a suggestion) for locating that very large radio-telescope, or possibly the International Radio Astronomy Institute, to which the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, alludes in his Report, in this country, possibly under ESRO's wing?

As for ELDO, I listened with close attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had to say. I am not surprised to hear that our stake in ELDO is under review. Here, again, because this review is going on, because it touches on delicate matters affecting our relations with other European countries, I do not wish to press the Government too hard at this stage. I only hope that the difficulties which are affecting ELDO at present can be surmounted. If, as I hope, they are surmounted, and if we decide to go ahead with a serious launcher development programme, I feel that one of the results of that decision should be to give that organisation not less authority, but rather more authority, more confidence and more autonomy. I am not suggesting what the decision on this should be; but if we do go ahead, I am suggesting that ELDO needs an injection of more financial flexibility, and possibly more authority for letting its own contracts and so on.

I am not at this stage arguing for or against a particular ELDO programme. All I would argue—and this I would argue with as much force as I can command—is that ELDO needs to know, and needs to know very soon, for what purpose its launchers are intended. So far as I can understand it, we have been developing launchers without knowing precisely what they are intended to launch. It is not, to put it mildly, the normal way of proceeding. It may have been necessary in the circumstances. But when Mr. Issigonis was designing the Mini Minor, he knew that he was designing it for four people—or, at least, for three Jellicoes or three Snows. But, as yet, ELDO has never really known for what or whom its launchers were intended. That is a situation which I believe the European Governments, and not least our own, should correct, and correct speedily. If this is one of the matters under review, I can appreciate why this question is being reviewed.

This leads me to put a heavy emphasis on the third of the three European space organisations, CETS, the Cinderella of the three. Telecommunication satellites are already playing some part in our affairs. Pace the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, I believe that they are destined to play a far larger part in a very short time. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that we are right to aim at a global and fully international system; and I think we were right to have joined, in July last year, in signing the two agreements which are leading to the development of such a system. But the present arrangements, which I understand are purely interim, and which will need renewal by January, 1970, contain two very unsatisfactory features. In the first place, they enshrine, as I understand it, a built-in American voting majority over all the other participants of 50.6 per cent., a figure which cannot be decreased. Secondly, they reflect, with the exception of the important ground stations, our present almost total dependence in Europe on American science and technology in this field. As long as that dependence is so total, I very much doubt whether we shall get what we should like to consider to be our fair share of the contracts flowing from Article 10 of the Agreement.

I do not believe this is a situation that we should allow to continue for any longer than we need. We should, if possible, aim to put our negotiators in a far stronger position by the end of the decade when these agreements have to be renegotiated. I understand that this process of renegotiation is due to start by late 1968. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has mentioned some plans which CETS have in preparation to meet this situation. I myself was glad to learn when I was in Paris recently that their technical planning staff had worked out a programme which would permit European countries at least to demonstrate their ability to produce such a communications satellite by the time these negotiations are due to start, and which should also enable us, if need be, to have a European satellite in orbit not later than 1972 or 1973. I think that some such development is vitally necessary if we ourselves, and our other European partners, are to have the sort of position we should have in whatever more permanent global arrangements are worked out in the later period.

I do not for one moment underestimate the difficulties which confront our Government or the other European Governments in this particular matter or in other aspects of space research. It will certainly be no easy matter to get things moving in time in this costly and very complex field. But if we are to achieve a really worthwile result three things are probably required. First, as with our national space activities, so with European space activities, we need to draw up a coherent and co-ordinated programme with defined objectives. At the moment there is no such programme. There is an ESRO programme. There is a sort of ELDO programme. There are proposals now coming forward from CETS. There are the views of the national Governments, and particularly the national industries on the sidelines. But there is at present precious little real co-ordination. This does not permit either the priorities within the programme to be determined or the priority to be given to such a European programme to be properly considered in relation to the other ways in which such sums could be spent.

Secondly, in order to achieve this co-ordinated programme, we require, in Europe as in the United Kingdom, a better organisation. The present organisation would be, I suspect, described by one of my noble and gallant friends as "a bit of a dog's breakfast". Again, given the different membership of the different European organisations, I do not for one moment underestimate the difficulty of obtaining a more united organisation. Ideally, I am inclined to agree with my noble friend, Lord Bessborough, that what we really require is a European Space Authority. But it will be very hard to get. As a second best, we could try to secure some overall committee to co-ordinate the activities of the various European organisations. But I am a little chary of piling yet another Pelion of a committee on all the existing Ossas.

A third possibility might be to confer on ELDO the responsibility not only for the launchers but also for driving forward all the immediate and practical applications of space research in Europe which we decide jointly to develop, whatever they may be. In any event, I am quite certain that, however it is done, if we do decide to continue in Europe with a co-ordinated and important space effort, as for one, hope we shall, this question of organisation must be squarely faced. Then, I personally think the time is probably coming when, if all these various strands are to be tied together, all this will need scrutiny at a high level within Europe. I would suggest that this probably requires a fairly early Ministerial conference.

I think it was Pascal who wrote: The silence of those infinite spaces terrifies me. think most of us who have gazed at the night sky—and most of us have—have felt some such sense of intellectual terror and of deep awe. To-day, we have touched on many facets of research into those infinite spaces, some of them practical, some of them mundane, some of them, I fear, military. However, in a deeper sense space research, certainly if we include radio-astronomy within its orbit, is but to-day's expression of that old desire of man to answer some of the questions which the night skies pose. I feel myself that it is right that this country should continue to play a prominent part with our partners in attempting to answer some of those questions. But opinions on this may differ. In any event, I am quite certain that it is right for your Lordships' House to discuss, and to continue to discuss, these great issues. That is why I am so glad that my noble friend Lord Bessborough has once again induced your Lordships to trespass where only angels and a few others have so far dared to tread.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a most valuable debate, and one which will be of great help to the Government. Anyone who has ever thought about these problems knows that they are some of the most difficult which can possibly face any Government. You need to have a curious mixture of realism and a dash of imagination. Even if you have those, no man but a fool would think that he was likely to be right. Therefore, like the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this subject this afternoon. I am so grateful, in fact, that I can forget those political gesticulations which he can never avoid making amidst his good-natured and fascinating speech. But I do not believe that he, or your Lordships, would want me to reply in kind, because I am much less of a nice man than the noble Earl, and I should go in for heavier and harsher badinage if I did. Instead, I think it might be acceptable to your Lordships if I began by trying to indicate the Government's attitude of mind to this whole set of complex problems, which the Americans call "Big Science." That is really what we have been discussing this afternoon. After that, I will try to reply piecemeal to individual points which have been raised by noble Lords.

There has been one curiosity and one which encourages me. Thinking over my speech before this debate, I had made at least five points which have been made in turn by the noble Lords, Lord Sherfield and Lord Todd, now the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and two other speakers in the debate. I shall have to mention them, but I shall give due acknowledgement to the people who have made the remarks already.

I want to begin by drawing a line between science and technology. In some ways, these activities come close together, and I shall say in a minute that we are approaching them in the same spirit. But they are different activities: their practitioners often require quite different ranges of ability. They have different purposes, and at the frontiers of new science and new technology there is another important difference for any Government—technology costs a lot more money. The greater part of what we have been discussing this afternoon, and the greater part of what is usually called, rather misleadingly, "space science" is, of course, technology, that is, the use of scientific knowledge for a practical purpose. As some of the American space technologists used to complain rather bitterly: "If a satellite goes into orbit that is a scientific triumph. If it falls into the sea, that is an engineering failure."

At science, as scientists understand it—that is, the search for new knowledge about the natural world—this country has been doing very well. We have got into the habit of national self-depreciation. In some places that is salutary, but it would do us no harm at all if we patted ourselves on the back just a little when we deserve it. So I will say, without qualification, that our science is, and remains, one of our chief glories. We are doing out of comparison better than any country of our own size. In many branches of science we can more than hold our own with the Soviet Union. In some, we can compete on equal terms with the United States who, since the war, have taken on the world leadership in science. There was a remarkable ceremony two weeks ago, I think, when fellow Nobel Prize winners gathered together to honour that great and good man Sir Lawrence Bragg. Any country ought to be proud of having that amount of talent assembled in one room. I wish we had made more of a public thanksgiving on that occasion.

We are not, of course, going to let this scientific excellence of ours wither away. We are spending a fair amount of money on scientific research, but appreciably less than the Americans, measured either per head or as a fraction of the gross national product, or by whatever other scale of comparison one likes to use. We shall have to go on spending money. Here I might at least partially reassure the noble Lord, Lord Todd, that no decision whatever has been reached about the reductions in the rate of growth in any sphere. This is being considered at this moment by the Council for Scientific Policy. I should like that to be taken, not as a hedging statement, but as a real statement.

We shall have to go on spending money. We have all read my noble friend Lord Bowden's typical and stimulating remarks in the New Scientist, which the noble Lord, Lord Todd, echoed this afternoon. I should like at this moment to say how much the colleagues of the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, will miss his generous and sparkling presence in Whitehall. I am not so much worried by his curves, except just one of them, that is. Of course, neither this, nor any other country, can go on spending money on science until its entire wealth is devoted to no other purpose. But that will not happen. Sigmoid curves are tricky things to play with. No man can predict discontinuities in development. In the year 4,000 B.C. a cheerful but slightly alarmed Lord Bowden, making his fellow pastoralists' flesh creep, could have proved that every man, woman and child on the planet would, within a foreseeable time, be devoting themselves to agriculture.

Meanwhile, the Council for Scientific Policy has to suggest how to allocate money for science—science in the strict sense that I have been using. I need not tell your Lordships that this is an extremely hard job. How is anyone to decide what proportion of our available funds should be spent, say, on radio-astronomy, molecular biology, experimental psychology, high-energy physics? These things are strictly incommensurable. I notice, by the by, that high energy physics got its usual "bad press" this afternoon. That has become a matter of form; yet if one moves among the particle physicists themselves, one finds the atmosphere is charged with excitement in the same way that one found among the very early quantum theorists of forty years ago.

The decisions about which subjects to support are, as I have said, never going to be neat and tidy. I have talked to Americans and Russians who have the same responsibility on a larger scale: their comments are unrepeatable, certainly in this debate, though perhaps more suitable to one of your Lordships' more recent debates. But fortunately, in our Council for Scientific Policy we have collected a store of scientific and administrative wisdom. A new generation of scientific administrators is growing up in this country and they will be one of our great sources of strength. They are being pragmatic about their policies, as they have to be. We cannot do everything, we have to invest in strength—and here I am at one with the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield—and we have to invest in scientific fields which our creative scientists want to work in, which is almost as important as investing in strength and is usually the same thing. I have no doubt at all that the Council for Scientific Policy is the right body for this purpose and that it will do much good for scientific research in this country.

Curiously enough, decisions about advanced technology are at least as difficult, and probably more so. It is not simply that the sums involved will be larger by order of magnitude, and I would remind your Lordships that the Americans are spending on space technology more than our total expenditure on Defence of all kinds, taken in the widest sense. One might expect that technological projects, since they may be assumed to have a practical purpose, would be easier to evaluate economically. That is, one might think it would not be a matter of comparing molecular biology and radio-astronomy, which have no reference to economic terms. It ought to mean that a technological project which is not going to make money in a rather short time can be dismissed without any further meditation. Unfortunately, that is not true. It is true for working technology, but it is not true at the frontiers of advanced technology. Advanced technology turns out to be as difficult to quantify as advanced science. In some of its spirit, technology is even more of an art.

Have your Lordships ever asked yourselves the question asked once to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Todd: why the Russians and Americans are investing these enormous sums of money, and great talent, in their space activities? We have all heard a great many rationalisations about this. There is a military rationalisation which began, I think, by being a serious one; but once the big missiles were built and known to work it ceased to be convincing. There is a scientific rationalisation. There have been some increase in real scientific knowledge through the space programmes, and there will be more; but nothing like so much as we should all like to believe. I was going to use exactly the same example as that used by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and say nothing like so much as has been achieved for a relatively tiny expenditure by the combination of radio-astronomy and optical astronomy, which is one of the most dramatic things in the last ten years.

Then there is a rationalisation of "spin-off" or "fall-out", or whatever barbarous phrase happens at this moment to be in fashion; and again I was going to say something very close to what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has said. To begin with, there is something in this concept. A great deal has been found out about metallurgy through the space programmes: how to work beryllium and titanium in curious conditions; and of course, because one has to economise in weight and size, a great deal has been learned about how to make tiny electronic components. And there is certain to be a large-scale increase in our knowledge of the usefulness of computers.

But I suggest to your Lordships that if one spends £2,000 million a year one can hardly avoid getting something out of it. It is a very big sum. It is nice to get some unexpected things out of it, but that anyone should be surprised that there are certain practical results I find baffling. I further suggest that one-fiftieth of this sum spent directly on esoteric metallurgy or microelectronics, or on computers, would put this or any other country right in the front of any of these particular technical arts. In fact, you have to go only about thirty miles from London to get the most sophisticated micro-electronics done—where there has never been any "spin-off" or "fall-out" at all; so I am afraid that this argument is not at all convincing.

However, there is something truer than rationalisations, and that is the desire to explore space just because it is there. This is much more like mountaineering than science. It is precisely the same motive which drove Mallory to try to climb Everest or my noble friend's father to spend a lot of his life in the insalubrious neighbourhood of the South Pole. This motive I deeply respect. I am sure that man will one day get to the moon, though perhaps not so soon as we now tend to think. They will be either Americans or Russians. If it happens in my lifetime, I shall drink that night to the courage and energy of the human spirit, but I am afraid that I shall have a slightly envious regret that they are not Englishmen.

But I do not believe that space exploration is going to be passionately interesting for very long. We may get to Mars: then what? By sheer chance the solar system happens to be rather a dull place. It is not the silence of the infinite spaces which frightens me, as it frightens the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; it is the distance and sheer size of the spaces which, it seems to me, frustrate us; and despite the warnings of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I fear that they will frustrate us for ever.

I suspect that at some time we may get signals from living intelligences elsewhere in the universe. But they will be signals from many light years away. You send it off now and you get back the reply, if you are lucky, and their intelligence is fairly good, in about thirty years' time. You cannot carry on much of an intellectual conversation in those circumstances. To be talking for the benefit of one's children in rather simple phrases does not seem to me a very good bet. It will be fine if we get these signals. We shall know we are not alone and there, I am afraid I should bet, that will probably be all, and for ever.

But I do not even believe that this adventurous athletic aspect of space activities is the real reason why they have been conducted. I believe it is simply because it is technologically possible to send lumps of material into space, and because it is technologically possible, then people want to do it—no more, no less. Advanced technology is like that. It is not closely linked to economic welfare, and here I am absolutely at one with the noble Lord, Lord Bowden and the noble Lord, Lord Todd; we have got to get it linked to economic welfare. I depart from them, however, in one respect. The people who can perform these technological feats want to perform them, "come Hell, come high water." I do not know your Lordships' reactions when the first Sputnik went up. My own was quite simple; it was simply joy that man could do such things.

This simple desire to take technology to its limits is true of a great deal of the advanced manifestations of this art. It is a driving motive behind some of the most gifted people in this country and in all countries. That is why I believe that it is dangerous, and probably wrong, to try to cut out advanced technologies from our national scheme of things. The people who can do them want to do them. In a profound sense they may know better than we do. Just as in advanced science we cannot do everything, we cannot do everything obviously in technology. But we must think twice, and then think three times, before we say what we cannot do. There is one unbreakable rule: if we decide to make a "go" of space technology, or any other advanced technology, then we must do it well; we must not play at it. To decide to go ahead and then do it half-heartedly is the worst of all worlds. In nuclear energy we made an all-out effort, as the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, knows, going for it as far and fast as anyone in the world; and there, at least, we can hold our own with anyone in the world.

It may seem hard-headed to rule out every project which has not a certain financial return. But I think here it is the kind of hard-headedness which does not see much before its nose. It is probable—I do not conceal it from your Lordships—that some of these advanced technological projects will neither now nor at any time in the future earn their keep in money. But they will earn their keep in a different way; or, alternatively, if we do not undertake some of them, we shall suffer a different kind of loss. The loss is men. The leaders at the frontiers of science or of technology attract to themselves people like themselves. For ten years we could get on without any of this frontier technological work. In twenty years, or a generation, they are the people who directly and indirectly are going to help to make our wealth. If we do not keep them and encourage them, then the end will be death.

This is part, in fact, of the entire educational process. The Department of Education and Science and my Ministry are trying to make sure that technology as well as science gets some of our brightest minds. We are trying to show that technology can be part of a humane education, and I am delighted to tell your Lordships that there are signs of hope. Do not be put off by reports of empty places at universities. Do not be put off by stories, often untrue, about switches in the sixth forms of schools; on the whole the straws in the wind are blowing in the right direction. We must have absolutely first-class minds in technology. Like attracts like; bright men attract bright men.

That is what might be called a sort of body of opinion about these problems. Now I should like to race rapidly through points made by your Lordships. First of all, I will deal, if I may, with the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. The possibility of a United Kingdom space authority is one we are not especially favourably disposed to, but our minds are by no means closed; we are perfectly willing to think about this, and indeed about everything said in this debate, because everything, apart from a certain amount of persiflage, has been trying to push us in the directions in which we want to go or have good reasons for not going. "Spin-off" and education I think I have dealt with. I do not agree with the noble Earl on the question of "spin-off", but I do agree very strongly about educative value.

Then he asked about that ever-interesting subject the Ministry of Technology. Neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, must think I worry in the least about brickbats of that kind. If you live in public you deserve brickbats. But perhaps, since I am rather closely involved, your Lordships will allow me to say rather formally what we think of the present set-up; then I confess I hope your Lordships will get this particular obsessive idea out of your heads, for it is only obstructing the things we are trying to do. It is not going to be altered. It wastes some of your temper and makes me keep mine. In reply to the noble Earl, I would say that Her Majesty's Government are convinced that the decision a year ago to set up the new Ministry with a special responsibility for encouraging innovation and the introduction of modern technologies and processes was right. We knew at the time, which no one else seems to have known, that this was a very long-distance effort. I have always been astonished that people expected it to perform miracles in one week. If that had been so, it would not have been necessary to set up the Ministry. We believe its responsibility is one which any Government in this day cannot fail to provide if it is to match the national needs.

Of course, the organisation will develop. One of t he strong points of our British system of administration is its adaptability. The Ministry can develop as circumstances require, to discharge its existing responsibilities more effectively and to meet new needs. The noble Earl also asked me about the cost of the Ministry of Technology. Here, as he had not given me warning, I could not for sure get a considered reply, but such reply as I have got is very surprising. He asked me the difference between the cost of the D.S.I.R. and the cost of the Ministry of Technology.


My Lords, may I make it absolutely clear? It was the cost of those parts of the D.S.I.R. which have now been absorbed into the new Ministry of Technology before they were absorbed, so as to get the balance to see what the overheads of the new Ministry come to.


This is the thing I think will surprise the noble Earl as much as it surprised me. The cost of the D.S.I.R. last year was £10 million, and the cost of the Ministry of Technology was £6 million. Why we have saved £4 million I find baffling. I am sure that none of us would regard this as a likely answer. I am sure that a more accurate answer is that the present additional cost of the Ministry of Technology is quite small, and that it should be greater as soon as we get into real operation.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, on a most interesting and authoritative maiden speech. He was too modest to say that he is associated with a firm which has got a contract from ESRO and so his remarks on the subject were entirely benevolent. We want to make the possibilities of contracts with ESRO more public to British firms. I am sorry that I interrupted him in the middle of his maiden speech, but I wanted to say that OSTI is in close touch with NASA in exactly the same way as ESRO is, and this, I think, is satisfactory.

I should like to say to my noble friend, Lord Bowden, that I will draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to all he says about the Flowers Report. We all agree that this is one of the most important papers on scientific matters that has been written for ten years. My right honourable friend will have to decide whether it should be published, but I will make a point of drawing his attention to it.

I should like to speak at length, but the time is getting on, about the fascinating contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for he was somewhat off the guidelines within which most of us have been working. It was both fascinating and most important. It is quite clear that we must have all the problems and the human consequences of what we are doing well in mind long before anything happens. We have a fair amount of time. It is possible to have a certain degree of foresight. I think we should be held guilty by another generation if we were to make the kind of mess that our ancestors made of the Industrial Revolution. There is no excuse for it whatsoever. But the problem is curiously tricky and difficult. How you provide people with enough to fill their time if they are not working is a subject to which I should like the noble Lord to devote his powerful mind. Oddly enough, leisure, however admirably provided for, is, for a lot of people, not a solution which they want. For some it is, and for people of rich interior natures all kinds of leisure life are possible. For a number, it does not appear to be so. We shall have to bring every bit of human science, psychological and physiological, to bear on this question.

I have mentioned the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield. I entirely agree with him in regard to building on success—in fact, that is part of our tendency. I do not think he need worry at all about either the diffusion plant or the P.F.R. He will see a good deal of that in a short time. I understand his doubts about some international projects. I think we have to choose them most carefully, and keep a good organisation if we are to make them viable. Whether we are properly organised is a matter of difference between us and one upon which Her Majesty's Government have a strong view. Whatever the difficulties about the Ministry of Technology and the Ministry for which I speak in this House, the Department of Education and Science, this is not a bipartisan technological decision. There are at least six Ministries concerned and the matter is not made easy for them.

To turn to the noble Lord, Lord Todd, I can only say that I and my colleagues hold his contribution to be a source of support and wisdom. I am sorry that it looks as though I have actually stolen his notes, but in fact I have not. Finally, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked me about the Fleck Committee in relation to radio-astronomy. That is being considered at the moment by the Science Research Council. We should get an answer quite soon, but I do not believe that anybody could possibly think that we do not realise what a major contribution and British triumph radio-astronomy has been since the last war. There I think we must leave it. Everything that has been said except persiflage will be reported on and considered. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his Motion.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, I am immensely indebted to both Ministers for the answers which they have given to-day. They have obviously put in an immense amount of work, as I did myself in preparing my original Motion. I do not think I have ever done as much hard work as I did then, and I am quite certain from the replies that their Ministries have been most active. Indeed, I saw more people in the Officials' Box than I have ever seen there before. I am immensely indebted to the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Snow. I hope that Lord Snow did not take any of my earlier remarks to heart; I certainly did not mean anything personal to him. But I am afraid that my conclusion is that I cannot be happy about the new Ministry; otherwise I recognise only too well, although I may be less experienced than almost any other speaker in the debate to-day on this subject, that it is impossible to achieve an ideal balance in research expenditure. I have spoken to some of the same people as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, about this and, as I say, their remarks are unquotable. I had one in my original draft.

I know that, after all, people will only do what they are willing to do and capable of doing; and if people prefer to work on rockets rather than on the miniaturisation of hearing aids, or whatever it is, you cannot persuade more people necessarily to work in the sort of fields that the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has suggested. But I thought he made an important contribution, as also did my noble friend, Lord Sherfield, who I am glad took part in this debate. All in all, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Todd, that we must do what we can do best. I think we all are agreed about that. I also think that we must develop new techniques of international co-operation. I agree that many of these new organisations are not happy, but if we could develop these new techniques, I think we could then work more happily together, and could afford to do the sort of things that we have been talking about to-day; otherwise we cannot afford to do them. That is absolutely clear.

All I have been asking for is a quite modest increase in space research and technological expenditure. It appears that it is only an increase from, say, £20 million to £25 million. I do ask that we go ahead with Black Arrow. I thank your Lordships, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.