Space Industry (Indemnities) Bill

– in the House of Commons am 10:40 am ar 23 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Second Reading

Photo of Jonathan Lord Jonathan Lord Ceidwadwyr, Woking 10:43, 23 Chwefror 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am delighted to be here to introduce a Bill that will help to support our thriving and dynamic space sector. It will amend section 12(2) of the Space Industry Act 2018 to make clear in legislation that all spaceflight operator licences must specify a limit on the amount of the licensee’s liability under section 36 of the Act.

The 2018 Act enables commercial spaceflight activities, which include launching a spacecraft and operating a satellite in orbit, for example, and other activities such as the operation of a spaceport and management of a range, to be carried out under a licence in the United Kingdom. The 2018 Act sets out the broad licensing and regulatory framework for carrying out such activities and is underpinned with more detailed provisions in the Space Industry Regulations 2021.

United Nations space treaties place obligations and responsibilities on states for activities in outer space. In particular, UN space treaties make states liable for damage or injury caused by their space activities or those of their nationals. Section 36 of the 2018 Act requires persons carrying out spaceflight activities to indemnify the UK Government and a number of named public bodies against any claims brought against the Government or bodies in respect of damage or loss arising out of, or in connection with, those spaceflight activities. However, that is subject to any limit on the amount of an operator’s liability specified in their licence, except in prescribed circumstances, such as where the operator is liable in respect of gross negligence or wilful misconduct.

The 2018 Act currently provides powers for the regulator to specify a limit on the amount of the operator’s liability in their licence, but the Act does not make it mandatory. Currently, section 12(2) of that Act provides that an operator licence may specify a limit on the amount of a licensee’s liability to indemnify under section 36, but this contrasts with regulation 220 of the Space Industry Regulations 2021 made under powers in section 34(5) of the 2018 Act, whereby an operator licence must specify a limit on the amount of a licensee’s liability for damage or injury to third parties. It also contrasts with section 5(3) of the Outer Space Act 1986, which regulates UK nationals, Scottish firms and bodies incorporated under the law of any part of the UK that carry on space activities from outside the UK. These require a licence to specify the maximum amount of the licensee’s liability to indemnify the Government under section 10 of that Act.

Through responses to the Government’s consultation on spaceflight liability, insurance and charging, the Government are aware that operators holding unlimited liabilities could be a barrier to conducting spaceflight activities from the UK. The same consultation confirmed that other launching nations limit liabilities or provide a state guarantee for spaceflight activities conducted from their territory.

Current Government policy and guidance is that all spaceflight operator licences will contain limits on the amount of the operator’s liability and the amount of insurance that they are required to hold, so that no operator will face unlimited liability. However, industry operators continue to lobby for legislative certainty and have raised that, for spaceflight activities in the UK to be commercially viable, there needs to be a clear mandatory cap on the amount of liability to indemnify under section 36 of the 2018 Act.

The Bill will provide legislative certainty by amending “may” to “must” in section 12(2) of the 2018 Act, so that an operator licence must specify a limit on the amount of the operator’s liability under section 36. The Bill makes a small amendment to section 36(3) of the 2018 Act. The proposed amendments to the 2018 Act will meet a key ask of the space sector on regulatory improvements to provide assurance to investors that limits on the amount of an operator’s liability will be included in licences. The Bill will also address a recommendation made by the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform.

There has been parliamentary scrutiny. The Science and Technology Committee raised the question of operator certainty on liability caps in its second report of the 2022-23 Session, “UK space strategy and UK satellite infrastructure”, published on 4 November 2022. The Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform considered current requirements and viewed them

“as discouraging investment and making the UK uncompetitive”.

Recommendation 15.1 was to

“Amend the Space Industry Act 2018 to cap liability and indemnity requirements for licence applicants to launch and operate satellites from the UK.”

There has also been consultation. On 13 October 2020, the Government published a consultation on spaceflight liability insurance and charging. Respondents raised concerns about the wording of section 12(2) of the Space Industry Act 2018, under which a licence only “may” contain a limit of liability with respect to claims made under section 36 of the Act. On 5 March 2021, in response to the consultation, the Government said in their regulations and guidance on spaceport and spaceflight activities:

“If another suitable piece of primary legislation is brought forward, the Government may seek to amend the wording in section 12(2) from ‘may’ to ‘must’.”

We all benefit from the services provided by satellites. We might pay for our morning coffee using contactless payment, Google Pay or even cash withdrawn from an ATM; none of that would be possible without satellites. Satellites provide precise references for navigation, communication to remote places, and pictures of our changing planet, not to mention the support they provide to the defence and security of the United Kingdom. Satellite data, space technology and space applications are used to enhance our everyday life.

The space sector is hugely valuable to the UK’s economy. It is worth over £17.5 billion and directly employs more than 48,000 people. It supports over 126,000 jobs across the supply chain. The UK is already one of the world’s strongest centres of advanced satellite manufacturing. Thanks to this Government, it is now possible to launch satellites from UK spaceports, rather than relying solely on overseas spaceports to launch UK-built satellites into orbit. Last year, an historical first launch from UK soil was made by Virgin Orbit at Spaceport Cornwall. In December, SaxaVord spaceport in the Shetland Islands became the UK’s first licensed vertical launch spaceport, with more to follow. New launch companies such as Orbex and Skyrora have built factories in Scotland, creating hundreds of new jobs, ready to take advantage of the new opportunities that the Government have created.

In preparation for this debate, I have been asked questions by several Members, and I will address those now. I have been asked what effect the Bill will have on public expenditure, and I can assure the House that it will not entail any additional expenditure, as the amendment is in line with Government policy. I have been asked whether there are any transitional arrangements. There are not. Clause 2(3) provides that the Bill will come into force two months to the day on which it is passed. Transitional arrangements are not required because no licences have been granted that do not have a limit on liability specified in them, by virtue of the Government’s policy on limiting liability.

I have been asked whether I have ensured compatibility with the European convention on human rights. As this is a private Member’s Bill, no statement of compatibility is required. However, as recorded in the explanatory notes, the Department for Transport considers that the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the convention. I have been asked whether it is compatible with environmental law. Again, as it is a private Member’s Bill, no statement under section 20 of the Environment Act 2021 is required, but as the explanatory notes say, the Department for Transport is of the view that the Bill does not contain provisions that, if enacted, would be environmental law for the purposes of section 20.

This is a narrowly focused Bill addressing what the space sector has asked for. I hope that no further amendments will be tabled, as it would be a shame to be unable to progress or deliver this key ask from our increasingly important space industry because of amendments or additions.

Let me give a final summary of the purpose of the Bill, why I think it is important and how it will benefit our space industry. Before a company can operate a satellite in orbit or carry out a launch mission from the UK, it must first obtain a spaceflight operator licence under the Space Industry Act 2018. The licence process ensures that spaceflight activities are undertaken safely, securely and in accordance with the UK’s international obligations. Under United Nations space treaties, the state is ultimately liable for any damage or injury that may be caused by its space activities, even when undertaken by commercial space operators.

The Space Industry Act contains provisions to help mitigate potential costs to UK taxpayers arising from UK commercial spaceflight activities. That includes requirements for operators to hold insurance and, under section 36, to indemnify the UK Government and other named public bodies against any claims brought against the Government or body in respect of damage or loss. It is recognised, however, that unlimited liability on commercial space activities would be a barrier to their operating in the United Kingdom. Other space nations, such as France and the United States of America, limit liabilities, or provide a state guarantee for the launch activities that take place from their territory. The Space Industry Act contains powers to specify in a spaceflight operator’s licence a limit on the amount of an operator’s liability, in order to indemnify the Government and other public bodies. Government policy is that the regulator should use those powers to specify a limit on the amount of the operator’s liability in the licence, so that no operator will face unlimited liability. It is essentially a form of risk sharing between the commercial operator and Government. This policy is set out in guidance, and I understand that all spaceflight operator licences issued under the Space Industry Act to date contain a limit on the amount of an operator’s liability.

However, the industry has made it very clear, in response to consultation and in other fora, that it would welcome legal certainty that it will not face unlimited liability when launching or operating a satellite from the UK. Setting that clear requirement in law would provide UK industry and those looking to invest in the UK with greater certainty, and would carry more force than reliance on policy statements and guidance. This Bill will provide that legal certainty by amending section 12(2) of the Space Industry Act, so that spaceflight operator licences must specify a limit on the amount of the operator’s liability under section 36 of that Act. As such, the Bill will provide a vital further boost to our burgeoning UK space industry. I am particularly mindful of the benefits it will bring to growing and innovative companies such as Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd on the Surrey research park, many of whose past and current employees live in my constituency of Woking.

Our UK space industry is thriving, but this measure is vital to secure an equally exciting and dynamic future. It is companies such as Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd —just outside my constituency, and many of whose employees live in my constituency—that will benefit. Other firms, large, medium and small, will grow in the UK and come to the UK if this measure is passed. To ensure that exciting and dynamic future, I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Ceidwadwyr, Wyre Forest 11:04, 23 Chwefror 2024

I rise to speak in support of the Bill in my capacity as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for space. Before I get to the thrust of my speech, I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. My interests are both financial and non-financial, and I have a number of outside roles that are relevant to the UK space industry.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr Lord on introducing a Bill that appears extraordinarily simple but, as we heard from his well thought through and well delivered speech, would actually have a profound impact on a lot of technical areas in the space sector. It shows a great deal of skill on his part that he can do something quite so complex in such a straightforward, intelligent and elegant way.

As my hon. Friend said, the Bill seeks to enhance the UK’s position in the space industry by making changes to liability for spaceflight risks. That is a wholly pragmatic and welcome change. The Bill’s purpose is to make the UK an even better place to operate space businesses from, and it follows on from the space strategy published two or three years ago.

The Bill seeks to resolve some technical anomalies in the insurance sector in a goo and sensible way. Importantly, it clarifies aspects of risk in a way that should provide comfort to those financial wizards supporting our superb space innovators, many of whom I have met. I am delighted to say that many came to Parliament for one of the regular space sector showcases run by the all-party parliamentary group for space. The next one, which will be in the Attlee Suite on the morning of 19 March, is on the sustainability and future of space activities. All Members and Members’ staff are welcome to come along to hear about that fascinating area.

The space sector is incredibly important. People do not realise that every time they use a cashpoint, their transaction is confirmed through positioning, navigation and timing that comes from navigation satellites passing overhead. We can do an amazing number of things. We can analyse a country’s economic activity through heat sensors from Earth observation satellites, which can tell us whether a city, a port or a railway station is busy. We can look at any number of different things. We can predict the use of crop fertiliser, planting and distressed crops through Earth observation satellites.

I am delighted to say that I chair the advisory board of the Space Energy Initiative—this is a non-financial interest—and we are looking at whether beaming energy from space can be part of the future of a secure and safe planet. What we can do is absolutely extraordinary. In 1969, we first landed a man on the moon, and we are doing an enormous number of brilliant things. I am delighted to say that a number of UK space industries are now looking to get involved in the Artemis programme, whereby NASA is looking to take astronauts back to the moon, possibly as early as next year. This is a very exciting time for space in a wide range of areas.

We can go wrong by focusing specifically on the space sector itself; I would suggest that there is an increased benefit to the UK that go further than the space industry. The space industry is important for a number of reasons, one of which is that, because of the high value of this type of activity, it addresses exactly what Adam Smith proposed in his 1776 book “The Wealth of Nations”: nations should try to create greater wealth by having greater productivity. This country has had a productivity conundrum for a number of years, and concentrating on the space sector could increase our productivity and therefore benefit the whole of the country.

The Bill also talks about the service sector—the insurance industry. Members will be aware that before coming to Parliament, I was in financial services—investment banking and small investment fund management—so when I look at the opportunities presented by something such as the space sector, I tend to look at the many UK opportunities, in the context not just of the direct beneficiary but of how the sector helps the wider economy. The UK has one of the best—certainly the oldest—wholesale insurance markets, located in the City of London. It must be the aim of the whole of Government to ensure not just that spaceflights and operations are controlled from the UK but that all involved in the space industry come to London to seek insurance and other financial services from our financial services experts.

I have argued for some time that the UK should do more to align the interests of our space industry with the interests of the UK financial markets. I take inspiration from a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. When he was newly appointed Chancellor after the 1997 general election, many years ago, the former Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath recognised the UK’s good but small film industry. He chose to make a small intervention in the tax system to incentivise investment into UK films. As a direct result, he helped to rebuild the UK film industry into the vibrant and innovative industry that it is today.

I suspect that when we look at some great films, a direct thread can be traced: between that intervention by the former right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath back in the late 1990s and, for example, the success of the “Harry Potter” franchise right here in the UK. Harry Potter is a brilliant export, and was always going to be a great film success, but I am certain that without that intervention, the heroes of the Harry Potters may well have cast their spells with American accents. I think we can look to that, dare I say, great former Labour Chancellor, for the huge amount he did for the British film industries. It may be the only time that the House hears me say “great” and “Labour Chancellor” in the same sentence, but he did an important job, and we should recognise that. Of course, there was a little bit of abuse of the system by one or two people enjoying it, but notwithstanding that, the intervention has been important.

A similar intervention can be made to support not just the space industry but our world-class wholesale financial markets. It is important that the City of London does not just think about what it does today and whether it does markets well; it should be completely innovating the whole time to seek opportunities that come in the future. We should not think about any industry only in terms of what we can offer it; we must think about our ambitions in any sector with a view to how it can enhance wider service sectors.

In the case of financial services, investment bankers raising capital investment and insurance services securing risk cover for innovators or helping investors to find a way to maximise their opportunities in the sector, we should be thinking how a fiscal intervention might benefit all concerned. After all, our brilliant innovators, research institutions, network of catapult accelerators and universities, and all the rest of it, already attract a great deal of international business to the UK. That is a very good thing. We also need to appreciate that we need the best space industry financiers in the world to come to the UK and locate their expertise right here in the City of London, and the best insurance experts and the best space lawyers. We need to seek to achieve, in the space industry and the wider economy, the UK being the best place to come for everything needed to support space ambitions.

I believe the Government are enthusiastic about this private Member’s Bill, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Woking for bringing it forward. It is a truly innovative Bill. The City of London, as I think I have mentioned, needs to remain relevant. The City of London is an incredible jewel in the crown of this country. It has had its problems, but none the less, it pays through taxation for an awful lot of hospitals, police officers and schools. A lot of good things come out of the City of London, but it needs to be relevant the whole time for the future. We need to be making sure, as we develop something like the space industry or AI or any of these other industries, that we help the City of London to focus and be a part of that, so that there is a symbiotic relationship between the financial services sector and these other sectors that will benefit our economy. I am delighted to support the Bill; it is fantastic.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth 11:13, 23 Chwefror 2024

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr Lord on bringing forward this private Member’s Bill, which I rise in support of. Following my hon. Friend Mark Garnier, I will take us from the City of London, on which he made some brilliant and valid points, to the space sector—we are almost in danger of having some joined-up thinking in this place today!

One would not be surprised to see a Cornish MP rising on these Benches when we are speaking about space. We have a lot to say in Cornwall about the space sector. Cornwall is in fact at the forefront of the UK’s developing space economy and is playing an increasingly important role in the national space programme to ensure that as many people as possible contribute to and benefit from the economic growth. Cornwall’s data, space and aerospace strategy ambitions include: mitigating and reversing environmental degradation; restoring nature and seeking to protect businesses and communities from the impact of climate change, both locally and globally; working with the Government to grow the UK space economy as a whole; and, growing the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly economy to deliver jobs and international investment, while offering an outstanding quality of life for its people.

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership made space one of its main priorities some time ago. If the House will indulge me, I would like to pay tribute to one of the key players, Mark Duddridge, who we lost suddenly last year. Mark used to be chair of the local enterprise partnership. Sadly, a matter of hours after I was in a Zoom meeting with him from this place, he tragically and suddenly died. Mark has left a hole in the industry and business community in Cornwall, and is very fondly remembered. New MPs look for the people they can trust, with knowledge in all these things, so that we can gain our own knowledge and learn about them, and Mark was certainly one of those people for me.

Mark said of the space industry:

“We’ve backed Cornwall’s spaceport bid from day one because we saw the potential for Cornwall to play a vital role in the UK’s space economy ambitions and create high value jobs.

The global space industry could triple in value to more than $1 trillion by 2040 and what’s driving that is climate change, security and telecoms. The facilities we are helping to fund at Spaceport Cornwall are already having a catalytic effect and attracting new space companies to Cornwall.”

One of those is international space logistics company D-Orbit, which will establish a satellite assembly, integration and testing facility at Spaceport Cornwall’s Centre for Space Technologies, with support from the European Space Agency. Mark played a key role in that, and others are continuing his work. He was a talented and passionate advocate for Cornwall, and has left a large hole.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Woking for bringing clarity to the industry as a whole. As he has mentioned, where we had a “may” we will now have a “must”. That is always important so that industry knows what it is doing. Members may not know that Cornwall has more than 150 business involved in the space industry, and 35 local and national partners. In 2023, 1,300 people in Cornwall were employed in the space industry, which was worth about £88 million; by 2030, we expect more than 3,000 people to be employed in it, with a potential value of £1 billion.

My hon. Friends have mentioned some of the businesses and services employed by the space industry. Let me add to that list the marine protection areas that we are deploying not just around UK waters but globally, because that is done via satellite. How do we know how bad climate change is in different parts of the world? Satellites do that for us.

When I was a Cornwall councillor, we had interesting debates about the benefits of the spaceport in Cornwall. Some of our environmentalists were concerned that we were sending huge great jumbo jets off into space and that it would cause a lot of pollution, but my belief— and that of a lot of my constituents—is that the good outweighs the bad given the amount of information that we can now get, and that surely we in Cornwall want to provide the jobs and infrastructure to allow that information to come back to Earth.

So what else is Cornwall doing in the space industry? There is artificial intelligence and professional services—we have space lawyers in Cornwall. This legislation will be of great interest to them and how they can help their clients, and they are abreast of it all. Foot Anstey is one such firm providing those services.

We recently had drone tests over the bay of Falmouth by a company called Open Skies Cornwall. I pay tribute to the Falmouth harbour commissioner, Miles Carden, for spearheading that project. When huge tankers are ashore in the bay of Falmouth, or if in high seas it is too dangerous even for pilot boats, drones can take out medical supplies and bits for the boats. That could save lives, and could certainly save a lot of money for those companies, so they are a great investment.

Another tech company, Farfields, operates at Mylor boat harbour with Mylor Boat Hire. It is testing electric eco-launches using a low-cost satellite network rather than wireless systems so that checks on the battery voltage of a boat’s electric motor can be done via GPS. Checks can be done on bilge pumps and all sorts of other things on boats. All that is happening as part of the space industry, which is not just about launching rockets into space, and it is vital.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woking mentioned the Newquay spaceport. That was 10 years of work. I again pay tribute to Melissa Quinn, who spearheaded much of that project. Despite what people have said in the press, the Newquay spaceport was a huge success; everything that Newquay and Cornwall did worked perfectly. Cosmic Girl ran into issues—sadly, the mission was unsuccessful—but Newquay proved that we could have a spaceport in the UK. That is what mattered to Cornwall.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Ceidwadwyr, Wyre Forest

To reinforce that point, it is a rather peculiar thing about the British that we tend to look at failure as a problem. Exactly this type of thing happened with the launch of the SpaceX Starship. The minute it cleared the pad, the mission had been entirely successful. When that enormous rocket—bigger than a Saturn V rocket—went spiralling out of control and blew up, the SpaceX team let out a cheer, because they had got it right. We sometimes get it wrong in the UK. As my hon. Friend mentions, there was a problem with the rocket itself, but the UK got it absolutely bang on the money in every single way. The licensing and everything went perfectly right. The fact that a second-stage fuel filter went wrong has nothing to do with Newquay or the Government. The spaceport is a real success story.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I will pass on his regards to the good people of Cornwall. He is absolutely right: it was a brilliant project from start to finish. We had engagement locally and nationally, and the local MP, my hon. Friend Steve Double, worked with the project from start to finish.

Let me explain what it meant to the people of Cornwall. It has inspired a whole generation of children in the county. I actually feel sorry for colleagues who go into schools to talk about mining and renewables, and who try to inspire children to go into such careers, because Melissa Quinn went in and absolutely wiped the floor with them. She has inspired a whole generation to go into space careers. A lot of kids and families in Cornwall think, “Because we live in Cornwall, this isn’t for us,” but it absolutely is for us and our children.

Because of the project, we have seen investment go into Truro and Penwith College, which now has the facilities to train engineers and to do virtual welding and all sorts of things. I have no idea what goes on there, but the facilities are very shiny and fabulous. Martin Tucker, the principal, has been fully engaged with this project and others to ensure that the kids who were inspired in primary school at the beginning of it can carry out their training in Cornwall and go into careers in the county. Cornish MPs have been fighting for this for a decade or more, and it is starting to happen now, thanks to that project.

Cosmic Girl ran into problems. Newquay was only ever supposed to have one or two launches a year. Are we going to get another one? Yes, I absolutely hope that we are, but it is not just about working towards launches. The project means that we have the know-how, the supply chains and the knowledge to support other launches around the country and across the world. It is fantastic that the spaceport is still there, and we should keep it going. I know that the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership and Cornwall Council are still very enthusiastic about ensuring that we harness the expertise and do not let any of it go.

The other large company that Members may or may not have heard of—I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Woking has heard of it—is Goonhilly Earth Station. When people drive right down into the west of Cornwall and the constituency of my hon. Friend Derek Thomas, they will look across the moorland, see huge satellite dishes and think, “My goodness! What on earth are they doing there?” Goonhilly is fantastic—the world’s first private deep space communications network. It provides additional capacity to the NASA and European Space Agency networks. Any deep space mission that Members have heard of will have been supported by Goonhilly and the team there.

I do not know whether Members have seen the Australian movie “The Dish”, in which the characters have a small amount of time when they are the only ones on Earth supporting whatever deep space mission or moon landing mission is taking place. Goonhilly started a bit like that, but it has developed so much more. I cannot remember the figures off the top of my head, but the capacity for the amount of data that can be stored at the facility is phenomenal. Ian Jones, who runs the facility, is always looking for people to go and see what brilliant things they are doing, such as radio astronomy, supported by cryogenically cooled 30-metre antennas. It is a part of the global space communications network.

On our ambitions, we hope that by 2030 Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be a leader in the national space programme, exploiting the physical, digital and intellectual assets of the area, and using satellite data to overcome local and global challenges, such as the impact of climate change, which we have heard about. By 2030, data, space and aerospace will have contributed an additional £1 billion to the economic value of Cornwall and the Isles and Scilly through increased productivity and jobs turnover, creating twice the average gross value added per capita of £45,000 or more.

To facilitate those strategic ambitions, we have identified local and national strategic leads to support us in maintaining awareness of the priorities. That is vital following the aftermath of what happened at Newquay. As I say, this is still very much part of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP’s priorities. It is interlinked with all the other industries we are trying to promote in Cornwall, such as renewables and the resurgence of critical minerals. Critical minerals will need to come out of the ground in Cornwall to ensure that we have all these satellites.

As I mentioned earlier, 150 companies are doing all sorts of amazing things. Satellites that are only the size of a Ford Fiesta can now be built and go up into space. We were going to launch a satellite—hopefully this is still a reality—that takes a deep-dive look from space at Cornwall’s landscape and at what we are and are not doing. For example, we have slightly different graded agricultural land. Grade 3b land, which is vulnerable to proposals for solar farms, is actually the most fertile land we have in Cornwall. We are learning all that because of satellites. I could go on and on.

The change my hon. Friend the Member for Woking is introducing today may look like a small change, but it is huge. It will bring clarity to all the companies in the City of London that my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest talked about, and to every single company I have mentioned and more, to ensure that there is a level playing field for everybody, that everything is clear and that they can continue to build and build and build. This is a very exciting future for our country and for Cornwall. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Woking for introducing the Bill.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Ceidwadwyr, Heywood and Middleton 11:27, 23 Chwefror 2024

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory. There are few more intrepid voyagers in this particular enterprise, defiant in the face of adversity but also on a voyage of discovery. She made an excellent speech and picked up on what the Bill is really about.

My hon. Friend rightly identified that this not just about putting big shiny things on rockets and firing them into the sky; it is about unlocking other important bits of the economy. My hon. Friend Mark Garnier also made that point incredibly eloquently. We can go back to Adam Smith and see the cosmic threads, if you will. We are opening up new sectors for the UK economy and empowering our people.

I am delighted by the idea of space lawyers. I promised not to go around waving my LLB about, but that sounds awfully like the superhero name I would end up giving myself. I am really excited about this. I am a member of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, so I was very pleased to hear my hon. Friend Mr Lord mention our report. A lot of love went into it—we enjoyed ourselves a bit too much, I am not going to deny it!

I find this entire sector incredibly fascinating and extremely exciting, not just because of the aforementioned geekery but because of its potential. I think about kids in my constituency who are now being exposed to opportunities and new horizons that simply were not on the radar of young people even five or six years ago. Apprentices in my patch are talking about working in this area. Some have gone to work for Airbus, which is doing fantastic things with satellites. I recently went to its Stevenage factory as part of my Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship, which is in space and aerospace. One thing it purports to be doing is transferring energy from space, which will genuinely be a game changer. I was flabbergasted when that was explained to me.

To monitor climate change, satellites will tell us how much heat is transferring out of wood in forests, so we know whether rainforests need to be reforested and whether we are facing climate change at 1.5° or 2°. That is mind-bendingly brilliant stuff, and it is now available to kids who, five or six years ago, might have been told, “Right, once you finish school, you either go work in the JJB Sports factory down the road or in a shop.” It is exciting, fantastically valuable and hugely important for things like our financial sector. Greater Manchester has a fairly sizable financial sector, which is great for us. We also have a large legal sector—I know because I used to work in it. I would love to be a space lawyer. Let’s see how the rest of the year goes; I might need to become one.

Ultimately, the Bill is about empowering us. The other thing I love about it—again, I promise not to wave my LLB about too much—is its simplicity and elegance. It is that Coltrane sax solo: so simple that it is brilliant. Changing a word effectively empowers us to do so much more. The power of that is inestimable. That is why it was part of the report that the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee put out.

At the moment, we are disincentivising people from innovating, and that is not what we should be about. We are saying instead that people should go out and take risks, and we will ensure that they can be rewarded. They will not be completely and utterly obliterated for having a go. Even if the second-stage fuel pump does not work, it will not be the end of the business. We need to be alive to that because we need risk takers, as we do in every sector. We need people who are willing to boldly go into the final frontier. [Interruption.] I have not finished yet. When I shout “House!” everyone will know that I have done them all. Fundamentally, this is about ensuring that Britain’s future is not just here on Earth, but in the stars, and we have every right to be there—as much as any other country.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth

I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene, especially given that I have just rambled on for who knows how long. One thing I did not mention that he might be interested in is the defence sector. Again, when I visited Goonhilly, there was a huge amount going on there. We talk about our maritime fleet being bothered by the Russians and the Chinese on a daily basis, but our satellites and space are as well. It is hugely important that we are at the forefront of this. Does he agree?

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Ceidwadwyr, Heywood and Middleton

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. Like me, she has been on the armed forces parliamentary scheme. I was restraining myself from mentioning Culdrose when she was giving her excellent speech, but of course I have now done it. Our defence sector is incredibly important. Again, we are making this stuff here at BAE Systems and Airbus, and defence manufacturers in this country create jobs and opportunities. That is hugely important, and I am absolutely delighted to support the Bill. I love its technical merits.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woking has played an absolute blinder in doing something quite sensible. I will give a lived example because, quite frankly, the Empire would not have been able to build the second Death Star if it had been on the hook for the price of the first one. My hon. Friend has stuck the landing. I congratulate him and look forward to supporting the Bill.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:33, 23 Chwefror 2024

It is an honour to follow Jean-Luc Picard—sorry, I mean Chris Clarkson. That was pun-central. I may have a few of my own in this speech. I congratulate Mr Lord on bringing the Bill this far. It has been brought before us for Second Reading. The aim of the Bill is to help support our space sector, as he eloquently said.

I was born in 1969, as it happens—the same year we took

“one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as Mark Garnier said. It feels with recent technological advances that we could be on the threshold of another such leap. We woke up to the news today that Odysseus had landed on the lunar plains, on the face of the moon—the first private mission by the Americans since 1972. We have always as a species looked to the stars and hoped one day to dwell among them, and I felt the enthusiasm in the House for that mission today. The hon. Member also mentioned the Artemis mission, which will be the first staffed space mission that will orbit the moon, hopefully next year. Artemis was the goddess of the wilderness, so the mission has been aptly named as we begin our new era of exploration of the stars.

The Bill amends the Space Industry Act 2018, which was written with the purpose of regulating space activity, sub-orbital activities and associated activities carried out in the United Kingdom. The space industry and its trade body, UKspace, welcome the Bill, as we do. The Space Industry Act enabled spaceflight activities from the UK, such as operating a satellite in orbit and enabling launches to orbit from UK spaceports for the first time. Companies that conduct spaceflight activities from the UK must hold insurance and indemnify the Government against possible third-party claims for damages. Currently, the Space Industry Act says that there is no limit to the amount of compensation that must be paid if anything goes wrong with UK-owned satellites in space. Industry believes that addressing this will prevent satellite operators from registering satellites in other countries to get a better liability deal. Space is becoming more congested. It is right that we amend legislation as the industry develops.

We are now at a key point in developing a thriving and dynamic space industry—an industry that we now know is worth £17.5 billion to the UK, employing up to 50,000 people. I was speaking recently to Airbus, which the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton also mentioned. As I am sure Members are aware, Airbus is the second biggest global space company and the largest in the UK. Its representatives told me that they operate over seven key sites in the UK, principally Stevenage and Portsmouth. From Stevenage to Saturn has quite a ring to it—pardon the pun, I was just following the puns of the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton. As he says, why should this industry not feature in every sector and in every constituency. We are developing the new Atom Valley in Greater Manchester, to the north of the conurbation. The supply chain is vast. There are almost 2,900 space suppliers, half of which are small and medium-sized enterprises, and it is vital that we support the industry here in the UK. I happen to know that in 2022 in my constituency £1 million was spent with space suppliers. It is good to see procurement in the sector that benefits the bottom 10% of the most deprived areas of the land.

There are so many good reasons to support the sector. We want to remove barriers to new businesses setting up here in the UK. We want companies to be incentivised to set up in the UK, rather than taking their business elsewhere, whereupon they are likely to use suppliers geographically local to themselves. We do not want to lose out on these jobs; we want these jobs of the future to be here in the UK.

Interestingly, one of the other main sites that is strong in the space sector is Newport. As we heard from Cherilyn Mackrory, jobs have been at risk in that area because of the Tata Steel plant. Unite the Union and my own union, Community, tell me that well-paid, highly skilled, unionised steel jobs are at risk in the area, so we must ensure that these areas are not de-industrialised so that there are opportunities available for our workers and for our young people. We also want our own SMEs to be part of the supply chain. Encouraging businesses is what we should be all about.

The Bill addresses what happens if anything were to go wrong, from launch failure to satellite crashes. However, this is not just about UK launches, but UK ownership, as the Government have the final liability on any space item that is owned by the UK Government.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Woking on bringing his Bill to the House today. I thank the hon. Member for Wyre Forest for his work with the all-party parliamentary group for space. He quoted the “The Wealth of Nations”, which is much-favoured by Conservative Members. I remind him of Smith’s treatise “The Invisible Hand”, in which he said that economic activity should enrich the whole community. We know that space can do that.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth. I was intrigued by what she said. Our nation contains a number of left-behind areas, including—I am not trying to make a party political point—some of our coastal areas, market towns and suburbs. Through an agglomeration of the maritime, aviation and space sectors, we can really begin to think about how we can regenerate those areas by giving people opportunities, just as, when I was a young councillor in Manchester in the 1990s, we created a legal sector, a banking sector and a media sector. People will not have to leave their communities when they turn 18, or turn 22 and get their degrees, because those technological jobs of the future will be in the areas in which they grew up, and that, I think, is one of the greatest hopes that we politicians can give our young people. This is what the space sector provides through the supply chain across the country, but particularly in the south-west and the Shetland Islands: a diverse geographical spread.

To the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton I say thanks for all the puns, and I wish him good luck with his career as a space lawyer after—well, whatever happens at the general election! I wish him well.

Industrialists tell us that the Bill will give them confidence and will encourage investment in the UK, providing highly paid, highly skilled and yes, unionised jobs throughout the nation, and on that basis, we support it.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee

May I say how privileged I am to be chairing this debate? I once hosted the astronaut Nicole Stott and the crew of Discovery in the Public Gallery and then took them over to No. 10 Downing Street. I am also honoured and privileged to have met Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, on two occasions—once here and once at Cape Canaveral—and I have seen a few launches. So space is very important to me.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 11:42, 23 Chwefror 2024

This is probably the most enjoyable debate I have ever taken part in. Particularly after Wednesday night’s activities, it is nice to have a debate of a cross-party nature in terms of its support and enthusiasm.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

He has gone and spoilt it all, Mr Deputy Speaker.

A few months ago I went to see the show “The Moon Walkers”, with narration by Tom Hanks, about the 12 men —and they are all men—who have walked on the moon. It is a remarkable exhibition, and I highly recommend it to everyone, particularly you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you are interested in space. It is about an age of adventure, an extraordinary era 50 years ago when people were walking on another celestial body. We thought it was the dawn of a whole new era and that mankind, and womankind, would carry on and explore the rest of the universe, but that did not happen, and no one has been back to the moon since. Yesterday, however, the United States returned there, for the first time for 50 years, as the shadow Minister said, although it was not a person but the Odysseus robot that landed near the moon’s south pole.

The real significance of this event, however, is not the 50-year gap but the fact that Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based company, sent that robot to the moon. The space age has entered a completely new era, which is not about states and Governments of big countries trying to prove how powerful and effective they are for the purpose of national pride, but about real commercial opportunity. Many of my hon. Friends have mentioned all the commercial opportunities that are out there. People are doing this not for reasons of national pride, but because it is so useful to humankind, and so important for communications, sensing, geographical information and all the other elements that have been mentioned.

This is now a properly based commercial opportunity for the UK, and that is why I want to thank my hon. Friend Mr Lord for bringing this short but impactful and timely Bill to the House. I also greatly enjoyed the contributions from all the other Members who have spoken. I am pleased to confirm that the Bill has the Government’s full support. Let me briefly explain why.

As my hon. Friend and others have said, the UK has a thriving space sector. In fact, I learned this morning that Cornwall has 150 space companies. We have a far more thriving space sector than most people realise. Did you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the satellite capital of Europe is Glasgow, and that more small satellites are built there than anywhere outside California?

The UK is now the second most attractive destination for commercial space investment after the United States. We get more space investment in the UK than any other country in the world apart from the United States. Given your interest in space, Mr Deputy Speaker, did you realise that no rocket has ever been launched into orbit from European soil? We have a European Space Agency, which has launched rockets into space, but it does so largely from French Guyana in South America. Rockets have been launched into space from Kazakhstan, but never from European soil. We now have a spaceport in the Shetlands preparing to do just that—SaxaVord, which many hon. Members have mentioned. We might end up with one from Cornwall as well, but Shetlands might be the first. That will be a truly historic moment.

Let me clarify that rockets are launched into space from Europe, but they are suborbital. From Norway and Sweden, they go around the earth once or maybe twice, and then come back down to Earth. Never has a rocket been launched into sustained orbit from European soil. The UK plans to be the first European nation to do that, which marks a huge opportunity. We set up the regulatory and licensing regimes to license the spaceports because, not just in the UK but in other European countries, companies are making satellites and rockets that they want to launch into space. It will be far easier and cheaper for them to do it from European soil than having to transport the rockets to America, French Guyana or Kazakhstan.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth

On more of a technical point, if the Minister does not mind, I know that we have done an awful lot in a very short space of time to get our regulatory system up to scratch. How do we compare with the other European nations, or Europe as a whole?

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

This has been a Brexit opportunity, dare I say. Leaving the EU enabled us to set up a whole new regulatory regime in great detail. Other European countries have regimes for space activity, but none with the same detail or launch opportunities as the UK. In the UK we are blessed with our geography, for various reasons. To launch a rocket in space, it needs to be launched from somewhere where there are not a lot of people, and with a trajectory so that if the rocket has a splashdown, it will not land on any other people. Cornwall is obviously very interesting, as is the north of Shetland. If a rocket is launched into orbit from there, it goes north and through the Bering strait. The first land it would hit would be New Zealand, but hopefully it will be up in orbit by that time. Not many other European countries have such geographical opportunities. It would be very difficult for Switzerland or Germany to do that. We are blessed with our geography.

Another difference—and why there is an opportunity for the UK—is that if we go back a couple of decades, the main focus was on big rockets launching satellites into geostationary orbit, which is 47,000 miles out, where they stay above the same point of land as the Earth rotates. A very big rocket is needed to get a satellite up there and into place. It is far easier to do that if the rocket is launched close to and in the direction of the equator. The European Space Agency’s launch site is in French Guyana because it is close to the equator. We now do not send geostationary satellites that far out into space—all the interest is in low Earth-orbit satellites. All the satellites launched by SpaceX for its internet service are low-orbit satellites. It is easier to do that over the north pole.

The changing technical nature of the use of space and satellites represents a huge opportunity for the UK. The satellites themselves are getting a lot smaller. Going back 20 or 30 years, the satellites were the size of buses, whereas now they can be the size of fridges or microwaves. They require much smaller rockets to launch them into space. I hope you enjoyed all that explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker.

As we have heard from various hon. Members and the shadow Minister, Mike Kane, the UK space industry supports an industrial base of over 1,500 space companies and provides highly skilled, high-quality jobs across the UK, with over 77% of employees holding at least a primary degree. We heard about jobs in Cornwall and Manchester; this is true levelling up. I also mentioned space jobs in Glasgow and at SaxaVord in the Shetlands. In 2018, Orbex, another Scottish company, opened a new facility in Forres, incorporating design and manufacturing facilities for its Prime launch vehicle. The Prime project has created more than 140 highly skilled jobs in the local area so far, with many more anticipated as the company continues to grow.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise anticipates that the Sutherland spaceport will support around 613 full-time equivalent posts throughout the wider Highlands and Islands, including an estimated 44 full-time equivalent posts on the site. SaxaVord anticipates that by the end of this year, its spaceport site could support 605 jobs in Scotland, including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region. As we heard, Spaceport Cornwall anticipates that its project will deliver 150 direct jobs and 240 indirect jobs by 2030.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am a little bit anxious that the Minister will forget Airbus, which is in Newport West. I am sure that he was going to mention it. As the shadow Minister said, it is really important for cyber-security and tech jobs in south Wales. It is a vital part of our network, and I wanted to remind him about it.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The challenge is that there are so many businesses and companies involved in aerospace in the UK, and in the space industry generally, that I cannot list them all. The shadow Minister mentioned Airbus. Clearly, Airbus and British Aerospace are the two really big aerospace companies, but the industry is not just about those two giants. There are many thousands of small and medium-sized companies, and there is a whole supply chain, creating jobs, value and economic opportunities for the UK, which the legislation is designed to help enable.

Building on the success of the UK space sector, the Government have set out bold spaceflight ambitions—the text I was given by officials is definitely bold. In our national space strategy, the UK is boldly going where no country has gone before. [Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] The puns are not stopping. That includes making the UK the leading provider of commercial small satellite launch in Europe by 2030. As I say, the small satellites present the opportunities, not the big ones. To achieve our ambition, the Government have invested over £57 million so far through the Launch UK programme to grow new UK markets for small satellite launch and suborbital spaceflight.

Before I come to the regulatory aspects of the Bill, let me say that many hon. Friends have talked about the commercial opportunities. I will not talk only about that, but the choice to land the Odysseus robot on the moon yesterday was interesting. Why go to the moon? I am trying to paint a bigger picture, rather than concentrating on the immediate commercial opportunities, because lots of people see opportunities for further space development. Elon Musk, who has a few achievements under his belt, has said that he wants to die on Mars. I do not know how realistic that is, but he has launched a Tesla, or one of his cars, into orbit. There are plans to send humans back to the moon next year, and plans to send humans to Mars.

Humans have looked to the skies since time immemorial and dreamed about what is up there. Human instinct is to go and explore, which is why we went around the earth. In Polynesian culture, people went from one island to another. They set forth in their boats without necessarily realising what they would find when they arrived. The human instinct is to explore the universe. We do not know what we will find there, or what the opportunities will be, although I do not think we will find the Clangers or the Soup Dragon on some other planet.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth

I never thought I would intervene on the word “Clangers”, but there we are. I chair the all-party parliamentary group for critical minerals. Obviously, critical minerals are another huge industry in Cornwall. As we know, globally, we still do not have enough supply for the future—certainly not from friendly nations that we can trust. Does my hon. Friend agree that in future generations, space could be another source of critical minerals that we need for our supply chains?

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for that point, which was very well made. The Odysseus robot went to the south pole of the moon because that is where the supply of water is. Water is obviously not a critical mineral, but it is a source material for energy and oxygen. We can get hydrogen out of it, but the reason why commercial companies and, indeed, Governments are interested in the moon and Mars is exactly that: critical minerals. We have a limited supply of those minerals on Earth, but we may be able to find them in other places.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Ceidwadwyr, Wyre Forest

While we are waiting to get to infinity and beyond, it is important to highlight other very innovative British companies that are looking at doing extraordinary things in the area of critical minerals. They are seeking to take the lunar regolith—moondust, which is a metal oxide—and use robots to create 3D printing powder, which could be used to print a moon base through additive printing. The by-product of the powder is oxygen. Keep in mind that it costs $1 million per kilogram to get a payload to the surface of the moon, and that we need not just breathing oxygen, but energy and oxidants for propulsion. It is extraordinary what British companies are doing to make it possible to not only get to the moon and occupy it, but use it as a launchpad to get to further places—such as Mars, speaking of Elon Musk’s ambition. The Americans need us; I think we should remember that.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend has expounded a very important point: we are critical to the space industry, and to space exploration more generally.

Coming back to the issue of regulation—coming down to Earth from our big visions, the Clangers and so on—the Government have been funding the industry. We put in place the Space Industry Act 2018, which my hon. Friend the Member for Woking talked about, and appointed the Civil Aviation Authority as a spaceflight regulator—that is why I am answering this debate, as a Transport Minister, rather than someone from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Getting into space and orbit is a DFT responsibility. The civil aviation regulator—which has licensed SaxaVord, for example—enables the licensing of spaceflight activities from the UK, such as operating a satellite in orbit, and enabling a launch to orbit from UK spaceports for the first time.

The Government recognise that the issues of liability and insurance are of the utmost concern to the space sector, and they are obviously the entire point of the Bill. The industry made clear in its responses to the consultation on the then draft space industry regulations in 2020, and in response to the Government call for evidence to inform orbital liability and insurance policy in October 2021, that holding unlimited liability will have an adverse effect on the UK space flight industry. People sometimes object to private Members’ Bills because they are not based on consultation, but this issue has been endlessly consulted on and negotiated with industry, and the industry is calling for this Bill.

The industry has advised that it is impossible, not just difficult, to obtain insurance for an unlimited amount. Members might ask, “Why is that, if the chance of something happening is infinitesimally small?” The reason is that it is impossible for the actuaries to quantify it; with infinity over infinity, one could come up with any value. Also, insurers are required by regulation to show that they have the capital to meet any claim on them. Clearly, insurers cannot have unlimited capital, so it is regulatorily and legally impossible for insurance companies to insure to an unlimited amount. It is very difficult for the industry to say to investors, “Please give me money to fund the launch of a rocket, even though I may not be able to insure it.” We need liability limitations so that launch companies and other space operators can get insurance, and so can get the investment that they need.

If a spaceflight company cannot get unlimited insurance, it obviously cannot get full insurance. As a number of hon. Members have said, if the Government did not limit a spaceflight operator’s liability, spaceflight companies and investors would instead look to more favourable regulatory regimes in other countries, where Governments share the risks involved by limiting an operator’s liability and offering a state guarantee. The United States already does this, as does France with French Guiana.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Woking has explained, there are powers in the Space Industry Act that we can and do use to limit a spaceflight operator’s liability when carrying out spaceflight activities from the UK. Government policy is that the regulator should use those powers and specify limits on operator liability in the licence, so that no operator faces unlimited liability. However, the law sets out that the Government “may” do that, rather than “must”.

The Government fully support the Bill for two key reasons. It is consistent with our policy that all spaceflight operator licences should have a limit on liability. It will not, therefore, impose any additional liability or risk on UK taxpayers. My hon. Friend made that point. The Government also recognise the value that the industry places on legislative certainty on this matter. As I pointed out, if investors are to make an investment in a space company, they need to know that the company will be able to get insurance. The report by the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform—the TIGRR report, for short—published in May 2021, expressed concerns from the space sector over the use of the word “may” in section 12(2) of the Space Industry Act. The Bill would replace that “may” with “must”.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. My hon. Friend Mark Garnier explained his great interest in space, and mentioned financial services, which I want to come on to. The point was well made that before the UK was a spacefaring nation, we were a seafaring nation. London was the biggest port in the world for more than 200 years, which led to a whole maritime industry with insurance around it, including Lloyd’s of London, and lawyers. We have a huge maritime industry in London as a result of having a maritime fleet, and we now have the same opportunity with space. We can have space investors—I have met some of them—as well as space lawyers, space insurance companies, regulatory experts and so on. It is a huge opportunity. The Government and the regulators need to ensure that the industry has the right incentives.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Ceidwadwyr, Heywood and Middleton

The Minister mentions ports. Obviously, quite a few of our maritime assets are considered critical national infrastructure. Have any discussions been had on whether our space assets will also fall into that category? That applies particularly if we are to launch a 3D printer so that we can build on the moon, which is apparently the only place where the Liberal Democrats will not try to block house building.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend asks an interesting question. I will raise it with officials and come back to him with an answer.

My hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory gave the most fantastic and enthusiastic speech about the space opportunities for Cornwall. I bet most people in Britain do not realise quite how important space is for Cornwall. There are 150 different companies; I had no idea that Cornwall had its own space lawyers, so that is a great insight. We also heard about the use of satellites for the maritime sector and various other issues to do with Cornwall. I want to make sure that my hon. Friend knows that as the Government Minister responsible, I fully agree that the Cornish launch, which was before my time as a Minister, was absolutely a success from a regulatory and investor point of view. I agree that the whole regime worked.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest made the point that we in this country tend to overemphasise the negative, and we always look at the bad things that happen. I think I am right in saying that the first three launches from SpaceX did not get into space, but were actually seen as successes because they contributed to the whole launch operation. Lots of things were learned from those launches, and the same is true of the Cornish launch.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Ceidwadwyr, Truro and Falmouth

I do not think I said earlier that the Cornish launch did actually make it to space; it was during the secondary bit that the fuel problem happened and it went wrong. However, we did launch successfully from British soil, and did make it to space.

Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I would not want to malign the Cornish space launch in that way, so I fully accept my hon. Friend’s point. It is great to hear that Cornish children are so inspired by space now. As we have heard, there are huge commercial and job opportunities, and I am sure there will be many great careers that will come from children having an interest in space.

I thank my hon. Friend Chris Clarkson for his general huge enthusiasm and countless puns, which have livened up this day. We could all do with a bit of levity. I thank the shadow Minister for his great speech and for some of his puns, as well as his call for me to resign—[Laughter.] I am grateful for the Opposition’s support for the Bill.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Woking for his Bill, which would amend section 12(2) of the Space Industry Act and meet a key request from the sector, as well as address a recommendation made by the taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform. Indeed, by turning that one word “may” into “must”, the Bill will enable Britain’s space industry to reach the final frontier and beyond.

Photo of Jonathan Lord Jonathan Lord Ceidwadwyr, Woking 12:05, 23 Chwefror 2024

I thank honourable Members on both sides of the House for attending the debate and for their support. In particular, I thank my hon. Friend Mark Garnier , who so ably and knowledgeably chairs the all-party parliamentary group for space. In his wise and interesting speech, he touched on many things, but in particular how important the growing space industry is and can be to our financial and insurance sectors. I thought that was a very interesting point to bring out.

My hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory made a passionate and eloquent speech, particularly pertaining to how the space industry is already changing Cornwall for the better, adding to the Cornish economy and with huge amounts of scope for future growth and engagement. I was particularly taken by her points about how schoolchildren and students are being enthused by the space industry. I thank her for her support.

My hon. Friend Chris Clarkson, in a very witty and engaging speech, alighted on a number of interesting and important points, but particularly how our legal services industry—the legal sector—can and will benefit from a growing space industry. I am also extremely grateful to the shadow Minister and the Minister for their support for the Bill. As we would expect, they were masters of their brief and spoke with great insight, but also enthusiasm, about this growing industry and the help that the Bill will give it. For that dynamic, innovative and growing future for our space industry, I urge the House to support the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).