Transport Committee Press Notice

Session 2007-08

12 November 2007

Press Notice No 2



Government must stop EU “sleep walking” into multi-billion pound Galileo project

The UK Government must do everything in its power to prevent the Galileo satellite navigation programme from going ahead unless a rigorous cost-benefit analysis has been produced. 

The Transport Select Committee’s report on recent developments in the Galileo satellite navigation programme, published today, sets out the Committee’s serious concerns about the continued merits of the project and the lack of rigorous assessments of its true costs, benefits and risks. The Committee also expresses deep concerns about the way in which the European Commission now proposes to fund the Galileo project.

In an almost unprecedented move, the European Commission now proposes that several billion Euros should be transferred from other Community budgets, such as agriculture, to the Galileo programme. Under this scheme, European tax-payers would foot the entire, spiralling bill for the project.

Chairman of the Committee the Hon Gwyneth Dunwoody MP said: “What tax-payers in the United Kingdom and other European countries really need and want is better railways and roads, not giant signature projects in the sky, providing services that we already have from GPS and other systems. If this is not stopped, Europe could end up with an orbiting Railtrack which may be obsolete even before it is operational.”

The Committee has learnt that the programme, built to rival the American GPS system, will have 30 satellites if completed, but only one test satellite has been launched so far. Though it should have been completed in 2008, the programme has so far been delayed by five years, and the Public Private Partnership that was supposed to build and operate the system has failed.

Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP added: “The Government must stop this folly, and endeavour to bring the European Commission to its senses. The Commission is poised to spend billions of tax-payers’ money on a satellite system without any realistic assessment of its costs and benefits. To fund this, it is prepared to break all the rules for prudent budgetary discipline. This cannot be allowed to proceed. We must have independent and up-to-date evidence that proceeding with Galileo is worthwhile, and if it can be demonstrated that Galileo offers good value for tax-payers’ money, any decision on funding must be based on sound management of European Union budgets. Given the sums of money involved, such decisions must be made only by the unanimity of all EU Member States”

Mrs Dunwoody said: “Three years ago, our predecessor Committee warned the UK Government and the European Commission against proceeding with the Galileo programme without comprehensive and rigorous cost-benefit analyses. Our warnings have obviously fallen on deaf ears in Brussels, since such analyses have yet to be produced. Nonetheless, the EU now appears to be sleep-walking into a further vast financial commitment to Galileo which is likely to take the public funding for the project to £10 billion. This sum would pay for almost two thirds of the entire Crossrail project, and given the history of spiralling costs, we fear Galileo may end up costing much more still.

Mrs Dunwoody said: “We have asked the Government to ensure that the UK Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinize and debate this project properly on the floor of the House before a decision is made at European level.”

Once the crucial questions concerning the future and funding of the Galileo project have been resolved, the Committee may decide to consider again some of the other important issues raised in our 2004 report, notably the potential for the system to be used for military purposes despite being a civilian system.


From 11.00 am on Friday 9 November, media representatives who would like to receive an embargoed advance PDF copy of the report in preparation for Monday publication should contact Laura Kibby, Media Adviser, on 020 7219 0718 or 07917 488557.

The report has been printed in-House and therefore only a limited number of hard copies will be available in the Press Gallery and in the Parliamentary Vote Office on the day of publication. However, from Tuesday 13 November 2007, copies of the report may be purchased from The Stationery Office (TSO) - tel: 0845 7023474. Please do not contact TSO for a copy of the report before 13 November as copies will not yet be available.