asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to maintain and improve relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the People's Republic of China.
Her Majesty's Government attach the highest importance to maintaining and improving our relations with China. The Chinese Government have welcomed a proposal that I should go there next year and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade will do so this month. We have made it clear that China's leaders will be welcome here and the Ministers for Foreign Trade and Public Health have accepted invitations in principle.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for that encouraging answer, which helps to dispel some of the unfortunate Press reports which have been circulating recently. Does he agree, however. that our relations with China are inevitably determined, in part, by the emphasis which the Chinese Government feel we put on our relations with the USSR? Will the Foreign Secretary ensure that he does not lose sight of the fact that almost the entire defence budget of the United Kingdom is now devoted towards NATO, against an ostensible threat of attack from the USSR? Wil he bear in mind our relations with the USSR when considering our relations with China?
I do not think that the fact that we are improving our rela- tions with the USSR should adversely affect our relations with China. That would be a foolish way for us to conduct our foreign affairs. Our trade, cultural exchanges and other relationships in connection with air matters with China are proceeding very satisfactorily, and it will be my endeavour to push them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our improved relationships with both China and the USSR can only advance the cause of people throughout the world? This applies particularly on the question of trade. At a time of economic stringency, should not every possible effort be made to deepen and intensify our trade with both those great countries?
I hope that on the question of aircraft sales with China, for example, the preliminary purchasing order for Concordes will certainly go ahead. We have also discussed the VC10 with the Chinese, although so far there is not very much interest in it. There are other matters in which our trade relations are improving and recent British missions to China have included groups interested in electrical, postal and telecommunications equipment. The Chinese have likewise sent here groups interested in other matters.
I very much welcome the prospect of the visit to China by both the Under-Secretary for Trade and the right hon. Gentleman. May I particularly urge them to press the case for British aircraft sales in that very large country, and, in particular, will the Foreign Secretary be willing to encourage joint venture manufacturing of aircraft with the Chinese in the People's Republic?
I can certainly give an undertaking in response to the first part of the supplementary question. I do not feel technically competent to reply to the second part. Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.