Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 31

Submission from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  1.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's interest in UK space policy is focused on ensuring that the UK's international obligations on space are maintained, promoting UK excellence in space science and technology, and ensuring EU space programmes meet UK objectives.

  2.  The FCO is a consulting partner in the British National Space Centre (BNSC). In that capacity its essential role is to facilitate and support BNSC on the international aspects of space policy and to ensure consistency between space policy and UK foreign policy. This includes working with BNSC on the discussion of space issues in international fora, including the European Union, the European Space Agency (in particular its International Relations Committee) and the United Nations, for example the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), where the FCO has specific responsibility for the Legal Sub-Committee.

  3.  The FCO does not provide any funding for space research or space-related activities except in the area of encouraging international collaboration on space science. For example, Phase I of the UK-China Partners in Science initiative in 2005-06 included an astronomy workshop organised by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) in September 2005 and a satellite technology workshop organised by the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) in March 2006, both partly funded by the FCO. Phase II of the initiative during 2006-08 provides an opportunity for follow-up activities, including on space.

  4.  FCO missions in key partner countries for the UK on space issues, including the USA, Japan, China, Russia and India, maintain contact with their respective space agencies in order to be able to report to BNSC on space policy issues. FCO missions also help BNSC headquarters in dealing with proposals for bilateral space agreements with other governments and support British space industry's efforts in overseas markets. The FCO's Science and Innovation Network, consisting of over 100 people in 49 missions in 30 countries and territories, promotes UK expertise in space science and technology as an example of overall UK science strengths.

  5.  The FCO works with other departments to secure UK objectives in European Union discussions and provides guidance on working in the EU, including advice on the security aspects of programmes and ensuring value for money. The FCO works closely with the Department for Transport on Galileo and the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs on Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES). In the context of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the FCO shares the policy lead with MOD on the EU Satellite Centre, a body responsible for analysing commercial satellite imagery for use in Common Foreign and Security Policy decision-making.

October 2006

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