Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Through my work on the Public Accounts Committee I have been trying to get to the bottom of why the UK has spent 500 million dollars of taxpayer money on a US satellite company called OneWeb.
The idea – reportedly driven by Dominic Cummings – was that OneWeb would be a way to plug the gap left after we no longer had access to the European Galileo satellite system. Purchasing OneWeb would be cheaper than the grandiose plans for a home-grown GPS system previously trumpeted by the Conservatives.
This is important as GPS systems are vital in matters of defence, however, recent news reports have described OneWeb as a low-margin, low-growth business that launches satellites from places such as Kazakhstan and bargain basement sites in Russia.
I asked the MOD Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Finance and Military Capability) about it last week and was told that OneWeb is a “commercial provider of internet communications” that “is not being used for defence purposes.”
So what exactly are the plans for it now and why did the Government spend half a billion dollars on it?
The Government has to answer for what appears to be a business investment that will, seemingly, play no part in protecting the UK.