No. 17 - Session 2003-2004    6 February 2004


A debate on the Committee’s Report

Thursday 12 February 2004, 3.30 pm,

Westminster Hall

Preceded by the presentation of an Award of Appreciation to the Committee by the Campaign for Dark Skies

3pm, The Atrium, Portcullis House

A debate will take place on the Committee’s Report on Light Pollution and Astronomy (HC 747-I) and the Government’s response to it (HC 127) on Thursday 12 February 2004 at 3.30pm. Members in the public are welcome to attend.

In its report, the Committee concluded that the majority of professional astronomy now takes place outside of the United Kingdom due to the poor and unpredictable weather conditions of the British Isles, their hemispherical position and to the continuing encroachment of light pollution on British skies. However, astronomy remains a growth subject of academic study, as demonstrated by the increase in the number of students at GCSE, undergraduate and postgraduate level.

The Committee emphasised the importance of the amateur astronomy community in the UK, which provides important observational data to professional astronomers. Amateur astronomical societies, along with professional astronomers based in the UK, are also instrumental in introducing young and future scientists to astronomy and physics through open days at observatories and by bringing mobile planetaria to schools and groups.

The Report criticised the defeatist attitude and inconsistent approach shown by the Government toward light pollution and astronomy in the UK. It found that the response from local authorities to those seeking protection from light nuisance was uneven and usually unhelpful. The Report provided recommendations on how light pollution can be controlled without reducing the levels of light needed for safe illumination of urban and rural environments. In particular, the Committee called for a clear policy on the use of street lighting and for new planning guidance to cover light pollution. The Committee was persuaded that light trespass was both measurable and controllable  and  recommended that obtrusive light be made a statutory nuisance.

Before the debate the Campaign for Dark Skies will present an Award of Appreciation to the Committee in the Atrium in Portcullis House. Press are very welcome to attend and should get in touch with Committee staff for further details.

Further information on the work of the Committee can be obtained from Committee staff on 020 7219 2793/4, Previous press notices and publications are available on the Committee’s internet homepage

 Notes for those wishing to attend the debate in Westminster Hall

Members of the public wishing to attend should present themselves at St Stephen's Entrance where they will be directed through security and to Westminster Hall. It is advisable to allow about 10 minutes for this.  Please ensure that mobile phones and pagers are turned off before entering Westminster Hall.  Under no circumstances should members of the public address Members during the debate.  Those attending the debate are asked to remain silent throughout. Those wishing to attend the award presentation should present themselves at Portcullis House where they will be directed through security to the Atrium.

Notes for Editors

• Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Committee is empowered to examine the Aexpenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies@. The Committee was appointed on 12 November 2001.