HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc933-4
10. Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of current relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of India; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Relations between Britain and India are excellent.

Mr. Spring

My hon. Friend will be aware of the great strides being made by the Indian Government in liberalising and privatising the country's economy. Will he assure the House that help will be given to British exporters to access that growing and important market and to capitalise on the truly excellent relationship between the British and Indian Governments?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have massive commercial interests in India, and Britain is the second-largest overseas investor in that country. Our investment is rising dramatically, and last year trade increased by more than 20 per cent.

Mr. Godsiff

Bearing in mind the excellent relations Britain has with India, will the Minister ask the Indian Government whether they have any objections to British Members of Parliament travelling to Indian-held Kashmir to see for themselves the situation there?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am always encouraging the Indian High Commissioner to persuade his Government to allow more visits by British parliamentarians. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) visited India in January this year, and went to Kashmir. Lord Weatherill has been to Kashmir recently. The International Commission of Jurists and several international lawyers, led by Sir Philip Goodhart from Britain, have been there. Many American and French senators have also travelled there. There is much independent observation of what is going on.

Mr. Lord

Will my hon. Friend accept from someone who had the good fortune to visit India with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in January this year that relations between our countries seem to be better than they have been for a long time? Is he aware of the enormous boost given to trade between our two countries by the Prime Minister's visit last year and the truly excellent work done by our high commissioner in India? Will he urge British business men to make best use of the opportunities now offered in India?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that the opportunities exist. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last year launched a great trade initiative. It culminated at the end of the year with the Indo-British week in November, to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary went and at which 16 major deals worth £1.2 billion were signed.

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