On the day on which the consultation period ends, the British Government’s science minister, Paul Drayson, provides support for a British space agency.
Drayson, the minister responsible for space within the Dept. of Business, Innovation and Skills, indicates the lack of an agency disadvantages the UK within the European Space Agency (ESA), and complicates funding and planning issues within government.
As recently as 2007 the government rejected replacing the British National Space Center (BNSC) with an agency. Asked whether he personally supported the creation of an agency, and what had changed since 2007 to require a consultation - during an appearance before Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee, October 14 - he said: I think what has changed is the experience I had as the science minster going to the ESA ministerial last November.”
Drayson says he was in the “really quite difficult position of negotiation on behalf of the UK against other partners, such as France, Germany and Italy among others, who do have such a mechanism that allows them to much more efficiently determine their policy on the allocation of the overall space budget means that we have to change our view on this.”
“Common to a number of research areas within government, the lack of cross-departmental budgets and clarity as to where funding is going to come from puts us in a more difficult position to negotiate with our international partners, “Drayson adds.
The government launched a consultation in July on how the UK manages its civil space interest, presently coordinated through the BNSC. The consultation period ends October 14.
While Drayson says : We will take views from that consultation and make a decision,” he adds, “ my personal experience was that the lack of a central budget meant that we were not in as strong a position as we otherwise would be.”
One previous counter to the creation of an agency has been the UK’s modest investment in space.
Drayson argues, however, “the advantage potentially of an agency is that it will provide – at whatever level of budget is determined – greater clarity about the future direction, priority, and allocation of funding than the lack of an agency presents at present.”