Space minister needed in Cabinet to stop the UK falling behind its rivals, experts warn MPs

 Space minister needed in Cabinet to stop the UK falling behind its rivals, experts warn MPs

A space minister is needed in Cabinet to stop the UK falling behind its rivals, experts have told MPs.

Appearing before the Defence Select Committee on Tuesday during a discussion on space, industry leaders explained that the Government needed to act more like Japan and create a specific role to focus on the area.

Nick Shave, chairman of UK Space, the trade association of the UK space industry, said there should be “a minister for space as a single role” so that all Government departments have a single point of interaction. 

When asked by Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the committee, if the Whitehall traditional construct was “out of date” and had not yet incorporated “cyber and space as new entities”, Mr Shave agreed.

He said: “In some respects I would argue that we need to think about space in the strategic context that it is and some other nations do. In Japan, for example, they do have a defence and civil, then they have a cabinet level position, that is responsible for space and I think that’s what we should be doing.”

It comes after the Government officially launched the UK’s Space Command in July. The new joint force will provide command and control of all of the UK defence’s space capabilities, including the Space Operations Centre, RAF Fylingdales in north Yorkshire, and Skynet, the military communications satellites.

It will focus on sharing information about developing threats in the arena. 

At the time of the launch Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston warned that Russian and Chinese activity in space was causing daily threats.

Meanwhile, the industry experts also spoke of the importance of UK built equipment when designing elements for space. 

Nik Smith,  Lockheed Martin Space UK Regional Director for the UK, told MPs that “certain safeguards” needed to be provided in order to ensure safety around the arena. 

“I think there are some key areas of space capability that need to remain sovereign,” he said.  

Mr Shave added: “We do need to look at the sovereign needs for our space sector where we need to be able to have a level of control.”

He said “space is like any other domain” and as a result “we need a certain level of sovereignty”.  

“Not everything needs to be built in the UK, but we need some core real central parts of the systems to be built and designed in the UK to retain that control over open spaces and for example the communications link to the spacecraft to control the decryption devices need to be built in the UK,” he said. 

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