Friday, November 05, 2004

Galileo in parliament

During yesterday’s Commons debate on defence procurement, the subject of Galileo was raised by Gerald Howarth, shadow minister for defence procurement. The exchange is reproduced below:

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I turn to Galileo, the EU's proposed competitor to the US's free-to-users global positioning system, which provides aeronautical and motor car navigation systems—although more advanced Members no doubt have SatNav in their BMWs…

The Galileo project represents a potential source of growing transatlantic discord. It has serious military potential. Ministers insist that they will resist any attempt by France to give Galileo a military application. On 7 June, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), told European Standing Committee A that it:

would not be used for operational military matters. [Official Report, Standing Committee ESCA, 7 June 2004; c. 6.]
Is that also the intention of the MOD?

Furthermore, the Minister will have seen last weekend's article by Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph, which referred to a discussion at the Royal United Services Institute on 11 October when the question was posed whether, in the event of a conflict involving the US, the EU would agree to deny Galileo facilities to America's enemies.

I understand that that is the case, as I have been told in a letter from Astrium. At that meeting, when EU officials replied that they would not be prepared to turn it off, US officials unsurprisingly responded that in such circumstances the US would be forced either to jam the Galileo signal or destroy Galileo's satellites.

There is a further cause of concern in that China has been admitted to the project as an equity partner. It will therefore have access not only to Galileo's facilities, but to the technology, and is reported to have said that it will resist any US attempt to deny access to Galileo—whatever that means. These are extremely serious issues on which the country is entitled to know the views of the MOD, as well as the Department for Transport.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): The hon. Member for Aldershot asked about Galileo. It is a civil system under civil control, as has been confirmed by successive EU Transport Councils. The requirement for navigation and timing information to support UK armed forces will continue to be met by GPS, which remains the de facto NATO standard.

(Hansard: Columns 492-3 and Column 534)

And so the lie continues, with the Labour minister still maintaining the fiction that Galileo is a civilian project. The full debate can be read here.

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