§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Killearn, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in his name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to establish reciprocal airline links between London, Peking and other Chinese centres in view of the increasing political, economic and commercial importance of the People's Republic of China and the forthcoming agreement for a framework for trade and co-operation between the EEC and China.
My Lords, an air services agreement was initialled in Peking in June 1973 between representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China. We are ready to proceed to signature at any time, as we have from time to time made clear to the Chinese Government. Within the last few weeks there has been further, informal contact between officials of the Department of Trade and Chinese officials. For the moment, although there are no scheduled air services, there are occasional charter flights.
§ Baroness ELLES
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. May I ask him whether he does not think that nearly five years is rather a long time to take to start an air service, bearing in mind the fact that there are now regular weekly services from Paris and Zurich to Peking, as well as an Air France flight which, I understand, goes across the Pole to Shanghai? We certainly ask the Government to hurry up in this initiative, because, unless we do hurry up, somebody else will come in and take this route, which might turn out to be a very valuable one.
My Lords, as I indicated in my original reply, we have sought discussions in the past; an initiative came from the Chinese early this year; and these discussions are going on. I agree with many of the points which the noble Baroness has made, but I should prefer not to be drawn on the content of the discussions.