HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc1545-7
Q2. Mr. Rankin

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now seek to make an official visit to China.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Rankin

In view of present developments in the Far East, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that a visit by him to China now might provide him with the background to certain developments in foreign affairs in that part of the world which he cannot acquire by being in this part of the world?

The Prime Minister

As for the events of the last few days, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs instructed the embassy in Peking last night to have conversations immediately with members of the Chinese Government about what action could be taken to deal with this situation. As for the longer term, it has now been agreed in principle that my right hon. Friend shall pay a visit to Peking and the Chinese Foreign Minister a visit to London, but the dates have yet to be settled.

Mr. Churchill

Is my right hon. Friend aware how much the Chinese leaders attribute to him personally the improvement in relations between Britain and China, which has led recently to the exchange of ambassadors, as a result of his Brighton speech last October? While I welcome the announcement that the Foreign Secretary is shortly to visit China, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister take such steps as he may judge appropriate further to improve relations and co-operation between the British and Chinese peoples?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that there has been an improvement in the relations between the two Governments and the two peoples, and this is shown by the fact that we have raised our representation there to the rank of ambassador. We have encouraged trade delegations both ways—four on each side at the moment—in order to improve our trade. We have also indicated that in addition to the visits of the two Foreign Secretaries we would like to see other ministerial visits. I think, therefore, that the Chinese Government are well aware of our desire to improve our relations and trade as much as possible.

Mr. Pardoe

Those who have been fortunate enough to be in China recently believe that a visit by the British Prime Minister at this time would be very welcome to the Chinese. If the Prime Minister cannot see his way clear to a visit to China in the immediate future, can he consider a visit during the course of what we hope will be a very successful British trade fair next spring?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that a visit by me would be welcomed there and I have not excluded it, but the arrangements for the visits by the Foreign Secretaries have now been made. I shall, however, bear the hon. Member's point in mind.