HC Deb 12 December 1984 vol 69 cc1041-2
7. Dr. Mawhinney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which ways he expects the signing of an accord with China over the future of Hong Kong will affect Anglo-Chinese relations in the long term.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We are confident that the successful conclusions of the Hong Kong negotiations provides a firm basis not only for the future prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, but for even closer co-operation between the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China in the years ahead.

Dr. Mawhinney

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept the appreciation of the House for the substantial contribution that he has made to improving Anglo-Chinese relations? Now that the accord on Hong Kong has been signed and an agreement has been reached, will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that he will continue to afford the highest priority to building on that good relationship politically, diplomatically, in trade and in travel?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I assure him that, just as we have been working hard for a number of years to improve our relationship with the People's Republic of China we shall continue to do with particular reference to trading, touristic and other opportunities, so that our companies can make a major contribution, as we would wish them to do, to Chinese modernisation.

Mr. Beggs

Following the signing of the agreement, will all possible assistance be given to British companies tendering for contracts in China? Will companies such as GEC, which has factory space in my constituency in Larne, benefit in the long term from the good relationship being developed between the two countries?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We shall certainly continue to give all the support that we possibly and sensibly can to the efforts of British companies. We shall shortly be reopening a consulate in Shanghai, which will be helping in that important part of the Chinese economy. I hope that the company to which the hon. Gentleman has referred will be among those to benefit.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, following the agreement on Hong Kong, any consideration of Anglo-Chinese relations should include priority being given to fostering confidence in Hong Kong and in the relationship between the people of Hong Kong and China? Has he any plans to facilitate that?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I very much agree that after the conclusion of the agreement on Hong Kong it is essential that we do not lose sight of the continuing importance of good relations between Hong Kong and China. Indeed, such relations are likely to develop during the work that will have to take place over the next 14 years. That work will be undertaken in a more auspicious climate if, at the same time, we are striving to improve our general relations with the People's Republic.

Mr. Adley

Will my right hon. and learned Friend please take this opportunity to have a thoroughgoing review of the COCOM agreement in so far as it relates to relations between this country and the People's Republic? Does he agree that in the past 30 years there has been such a fundamental change in China's relations with the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union, as well as with the Western world, that the present situation is nonsensical, indefensible and thoroughly harmful to the development of good trade relations between us?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hesitate to agree with such wide-ranging epithets, even though they come from my hon. Friend, but I agree that it is important to ensure that the COCOM agreement operates sensibly and in a manner consistent with its overall objectives.

Mr. George Robertson

Now that the Foreign Secretary is on the point of going to Peking to sign the Hong Kong agreement, which will do much to cement British-Chinese relations, will he tell us how he intends to report on the joint liaison group over the next 12 years? Has he had any time to reflect on the suggestion made last week about the possibility of an annual report to Parliament, with, perhaps, a debate on it?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have certainly been reflecting upon that point, but I am not yet in a position to emit the results of those reflections.

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