Global Navigation Satellite System


[back to previous text]

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Can the Minister explain how paragraph 6 of the draft conclusions of the Council meeting at the beginning of next month guarantees that this project will not be subject to military creep?

Mr. Jamieson: We discussed that during the last sitting. The decisions that we are taking now are made by qualified majority voting, but the motion before the Transport Council ensures that any decision in future that would take the usage of the Galileo satellite system beyond a civil use would have to be made under a pillar 2 discussion, which would need unanimity. Our position, which has been clear and is, I think, shared
 
Column Number: 7
 
by not a small number of the other states, is that people want this to be a civil, not military, programme. Any country could use its veto to block such a decision.

I am satisfied that the motion put to the Council will ensure that this programme will remain a civil project until such time as all 25 countries make a decision to the contrary.

Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): Can the Minister confirm the figures that I have—that the UK is contributing 17 per cent. of the public funds, yet British industry has been successful in getting between 25 and 30 per cent. of the project contracts? That seems like a good deal for British investment and British companies are doing well out of it. Does the Minister agree?

Mr. Jamieson: The hon. Gentleman raises an excellent point. We have received back in orders well beyond the sum that we have put in and we are pleased about that. I just hope that we can maintain that position. It would be optimistic to suggest that we can carry on like that.

There is another side to this matter. The money goes through the European Space Agency on a juste retour basis, so the money we are putting in has to be spent back in this country. The other nice thing about that is that the other part of the funding, which comes through the European Union, comes from the trans-European networks funding. Ordinarily, we do not receive very much of that, but we are receiving some of that money because it is being spent on the Galileo programme. That is almost a back-door way of receiving some of the TEN budget—of which we only received a few million pounds last year for projects in this country. On both counts it is excellent news.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): In his opening remarks the Minister quoted figures of 1 billion and roughly £700 million. However, paragraph 1.20 of the European Scrutiny Committee's 37th report refers to a total cost of £7,000 million, albeit

    ''only a maximum of one third of the deployment and operational costs will be required to be publicly funded.''

One third of £7 billion is roughly three times the £700 million to which I thought the Minister referred. Will he clarify that?

Mr. Jamieson: Those figures are tricky, and many of them are estimates as well. I realised that Committee members would want these particular figures. The following is perhaps the most helpful figure I can give of the United Kingdom's expected contribution to the programme: obviously, there has been some expenditure already, but we anticipate that the UK's total contribution between the pre-2001 period, when we made some expenditure, and when the public expenditure will come near to an end in about 2010-11, will be in the region of somewhere over 500 million.

Mr. Chope: The Select Committee on Transport recommends in paragraph 4 of its conclusions that there should be an agreement at the Transport Council
 
Column Number: 8
 
that the project should not proceed unless the Transport Council is confident that if the PPP were to fail it would be content either to fund Galileo directly or to write off the considerable costs of its development. Does the Minister agree with that conclusion?

Mr. Jamieson: I hope that the PPP does not fail, and we will do everything we can to ensure that that does not happen. However, if it were to happen, we would be taking a step back, and it would then be up to the European Union countries to make further decisions about whether we try to set up another PPP, or whether the funding should come wholly from the public purse, or whether the project should be abandoned. I hope that we do not find ourselves in any of those scenarios and, at present, we are confident that one of the concessionnaires will succeed in taking the project forward.

Matthew Green: Can the Minister confirm the figures that I have, which estimate that by 2015 satellite positioning systems—SPS—will be worth about £3 billion to the UK economy? Obviously, there is potential for that figure to increase. If the Minister can confirm that, will that not show that public investment in this is a good thing?

Mr. Jamieson: I cannot confirm that particular figure, but I know that the industry is very large, and as our country is losing some of its low-skilled jobs to other countries we must endeavour to do the things that we are good at, such as science and engineering; we are probably joint world leaders in education in science. Those areas offer the sort of high-quality employment that we must encourage throughout the country.

Because the global positioning system—the hardware and the software—is a military system, the United States has kept the intellectual property of the work it has done. That gives the EU, and the UK in particular, the opportunity of opening up entire new areas of work in something that will be very valuable to us in the next 40, 50 or 100 years in transport, and probably in other uses that we have not yet imagined.

Dr. Vis: My hon. Friend just gave an answer to a part of the question I wanted to ask. He mentioned the present American GPS, and he confirmed that we now have EU independence. Can he also confirm that Galileo is technically superior to GPS?

Mr. Jamieson: I do not think we want EU independence; the agreement we secured with the Americans just before the last European Scrutiny Committee in June 2003 will ensure that the two systems work together and are complementary. The American system is essentially a military system, while what we are setting up is essentially a civil system with civil purposes. We will get the benefits of that and, as my hon. Friend says, our system will be far more accurate. I am told that the GPS can get down to about 10 m. The Galileo system will be accurate to about 1 m. The GPS does not have the constellation of satellites that there will be with the Galileo system. Sometimes there are what are called urban canyons—
 
Column Number: 9
 
between buildings or, in certain parts, between valleys and trees—and the GPS does not always reach those areas, whereas I think that Galileo will. Galileo will also have a much wider spread around the globe and much greater integrity: it will have a self-checking system so that those using it will know if it has failed and if it is inaccurate, they will know by how much.

Barbara Follett (Stevenage) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for such a good outline of the Galileo project. I have to declare an interest, because the satellites are being built in my constituency and I have seen them there. What was said about keeping high-value-added jobs and technology and keeping us in the space race is incredibly important.

I would also like my hon. Friend to confirm that having Galileo ensures that all the commercial interests that we hope will be involved in the applications that it offers have a reliable system. The Americans take part of the GPS offline if they need it for places such as Afghanistan—as happened when they first went in there.

Mr. Jamieson: Yes, that has been a concern and on one occasion the system was taken offline.

The first part of my hon. Friend's comments was right; huge benefits are already being accrued by British industry and I am delighted that my hon. Friend's constituents are benefiting. Having the type of independence that we are discussing—albeit the two systems are interoperable—means that the system will be much more reliable and we will have much more independent control over it. The American GPS will still be used by NATO and the military applications that we would have would still be using that system, not Galileo.

Mr. Chope: Civil users of a GPS get free access to it. Will the Minister guarantee that they will continue to enjoy that and that there will not be any cross-subsidising levy imposed on them by the programme?

Mr. Jamieson: The GPS is described as free access, but it is free access up to a point. The American companies hold the royalties to some of the chips and the software. That, of course, is chargeable to somebody who buys the receiving equipment. It is not entirely free access as a payment goes to those who provide the signal. The open services on Galileo will be ''free'' in the same way as a GPS is currently free to use—in other words, the concessionnaire would probably have some small royalty for the chip that does the receiving, but the access will be generally free.

The difference is that the concessionnaire would be able to make a charge for other parts of the service—the commercial service, the safety of life service, the search and rescue service, and the public regulated service. The open service system will be free, as such, in the same way as the GPS is today.

Matthew Green: Can the Minister confirm that the number of uses of Galileo compared with the GPS is much greater? He is right to mention the safety aspects; the difference between 10 m and 1 m makes quite a difference in certain circumstances, as does the loss of
 
Column Number: 10
 
the canyons in mountainous and in urban areas. Can he also confirm that civil engineering will benefit from the use of Galileo, because its 1 m accuracy is likely to mean that it will have much more uses than the 10 m to 20 m accuracy of the GPS?

Mr. Jamieson: The hon. Gentleman is right; the applications are far wider. The reason why it has been placed in transport to start with is that many applications would be in that field. If we look well into the future, something such as road user charging, which a lot of countries in Europe are examining, would be possible. With 10 m accuracy a car cannot be spotted, perhaps where there are parallel running roads, and one might want to charge a different amount on each road. Pinpoint accuracy is needed for that type of thing.

There will be many other uses for the system that do not involve transport. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green), at the moment we have not anticipated some of them. That is why a project such as this is such a wonderful adventure. We have already identified many good things that the system could be used for and we see that it will provide things that we want in the future—better transport planning for trains, for vehicles and for logistical use by companies. However, there are lots of exciting things that we have not anticipated. Advances are constantly being made in mobile phone technology. Who knows what the Galileo system may give to hand-held mobile phones? Lots of information may become available that will liberate individuals from having to use other types of system.

 
Previous Contents Continue
 
House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 2 December 2004