81. The BNSC has various relationships with departments
or Research Councils that are not part of the BNSC partnership.
Dr David Williams, Director General of BNSC, told us that "What
I want to do is work more with what I call the departments which
are not fully funding space, but where we believe they have an
interest, to try and strengthen the cross-departmental links in
government where we see societal needs that space can answer".
The then Minister agreed, saying that "we can be more proactive
in approaching other departments and other agencies to at least
introduce them more to the possibilities as opposed to other tools
and mechanisms in terms of fulfilling policy objectives."
82. We here focus upon the relationship between BNSC
and three bodies that might use space applications in the future:
the Department for International Development (DFID), the Home
Office and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
83. On 10 January 2007, Dr Williams, Director General
of BNSC, told us that "I personally at the moment have not
had very much interaction with DFID
There has been, I have
to say, not a lot of direct discussion, but that will start in
the next two or three months because it is an initiative in an
area which is recognised as important".
Since 10 January 2007, BNSC has held initial discussions with
DFID about their involvement in the International Charter "Space
and Major Disasters". DFID is one of two UK agencies authorised
to activate the Charter. BNSC says that "The Charter aims
to provide a unified system of data acquisition and delivery from
Earth observation satellites in organisations in eight member
countries, in support of efforts related to natural or man-made
84. The BNSC is working with DFID on holding a seminar
to provide information on the current and potential space applications
in support of disaster and humanitarian aid efforts. DFID is also
a member of the UK GMES steering group and is involved in cross-Government
work on GMES. BNSC told us that "DFID is not currently planning
to join the BNSC partnership."
DFID declined to contribute evidence to our inquiry. We are
disappointed by DFID's lack of response to this inquiry. The use
of space has clear relevance for DFID in the field of disaster
monitoring and other environmental applications. We recommend
that the BNSC strengthen links with DFID in relation to the use
of space for environmental and disaster monitoring.
Home Office & Ministry of Justice
85. Dr David Williams told us that BNSC had had discussions
with the Home Office Scientific Development Branch at St Albans
about the tagging of prisoners.
The BNSC explained that staff from BNSC and the Home Office Scientific
Development Branch met in August 2006. The Home Office provided
an overview of the challenges that they faced and the BNSC explained
the UK strengths in space and the potential for space to provide
solutions. The areas that were covered included satellite positioning
for offender tracking, Earth observation for border security and
operational surveillance, and "Google-Earth" style tools
for data presentation.
The BNSC has scheduled a further meeting for June 2007 following
Home Office reorganisation and it is maintaining a "watching
brief" on these areas.
86. Responsibility for monitoring offenders has recently
passed to the newly-created Ministry of Justice. The Ministry
of Justice has told us that the National Offender Management Service
undertook three satellite tracking pilot programmes in Greater
Manchester, West Midlands and Hampshire between September 2004
and June 2006. Over 500 offenders were tracked by satellite during
the programmes. The Ministry of Justice recognised during the
pilot programmes that satellite tracking cannot guarantee complete
coverage of an offender's movements, but noted that technology
continues to advance.
We recommend that the BNSC continue to develop a close relationship
with the National Offender Management Service, the Ministry of
Justice and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. These
organisations should continue to monitor possible applications
of satellite technology in offender management and security.
Economic and Social Research Council and NHS Research
87. The then Minister, Malcolm Wicks MP drew our
attention to a further area of policy that could benefit from
satellite technologies. He suggested that there might be a need
"to develop another strand of our thinking to see whether
some of the issues we face in terms of our society and social
policy could not be helped by the development of suitable satellite
technology and monitoring."
He gave the example of monitoring elderly or frail people, such
as those with Alzheimers.
88. We understand that work in this area is in a
very early stage. The then Minister told us that there was not
specific funding for research in this area and that BNSC has not
had the opportunity to discuss this issue with the Research Councils
or the health sector.
The BNSC later stated that it intends "to take this forward
in the next months."
More research is needed to understand how space applications
might provide solutions for social problems. We recommend that
BNSC work with ESRC and NHS Research to develop research funding
calls, possibly in conjunction with STFC and with reference to
the Foresight programme within DIUS, focused on the social and
potential health applications of satellite technologies.
INVOLVING THE SPACE COMMUNITY
89. The space community in the UK is diverse, encompassing
industrialists, scientists and academics working in numerous areas.
The BNSC currently involves representatives of the space community
on its advisory boards and Space Advisory Council. The trade association
for UK industry suggested that industry should be a full partner
in the BNSC partnership, telling us that "Industry is confident
that BNSC would operate with more effectiveness and cohesion if
industry was a full partner."
Colin Paynter, Managing Director of EADS Astrium, explained that
we could help have a voice in shaping policy,
in shaping and understanding technology that lies five or 10 years
out and we could help articulate that. Whether we need to be a
full partner to do that, I am not sure, to be fair, but it would
be useful to have more of a voice.
The Director General of BNSC countered that
industry is able to interact with BNSC in a number of ways from
the industry group to representation on the advisory bodies.
 We believe
that it would unusual and inappropriate for industry to be a partner
in the BNSC partnership.
90. There is, however, scope for the development
of a new forum that would take account of the views of the numerous
stakeholders within the civil space sector. We agree with the
Royal Society's observation that "it is important that there
is input from the grass roots research community into directing
UK space strategy."
We acknowledge that the BNSC has a series of advisory bodies,
but believe that there is a need for an ongoing forum where the
space strategy and the activities of the BNSC can be discussed
by the wider community. Such a forum would provide an outlet for
many of the opinions that have been expressed in evidence to this
inquiry. The then CCLRC suggested that "An independent Space
Council, with representatives from industry and academia, could
] be constituted to advise both BNSC and government at
ministerial level on the performance and strategy for a UK space
The Royal Astronomical Society suggested replacing the existing
Space Board and Advisory Council with a Space Board "with
representatives nominated by Academia, Industry, Research Councils,
Government and relevant Learned Societies [
] an independent
body with an overview of the country's space portfolio would be
able to point out lacunae and bad practice as well as celebrating
successes and reporting independently to ministers".
We are attracted by this idea and believe it would complement
the existing structures. We recommend the creation of a Space
Forum whose membership would include representatives appointed
by the Secretary of State from industry, education, and academia.
We suggest that this should be a dynamic small body with a maximum
membership of fifteen, staffed by a small independent secretariat.
The Forum should meet several times a year to scrutinise space
policy and should report annually to the Secretary of State on
the work of BNSC.