§ 29. Mr. Dalyell
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the visits in March of delegations from Chinese Oceanography Society, the Technical Study Group of Synthetic Fibres of China, the National Machinery and Export Corporation, the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society, and the Chinese Aeronautical Society and their contacts with his Department.
§ Mr. Anthony Grant
The Department welcomed and has played an active part in all these visits. I am sure that they have been successful and will contribute to the further development of trade and co-operation between China and the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
As one who spent some days with the Chinese delegations at B.P., Grangemouth and at Reyrolle Parsons, Edinburgh, Broxburn, may I pass on thanks to the departmental officials, who from my own observation did extremely well? Do the Government realise the importance, if there are to be sustained trade relations with the Chinese, of having a direct B.O.A.C. air route into Peking, and that Mr. Keith Granville and others are concerned about the profitability of the airline route because, China being China, the payload may be smaller than would normally be considered commercially acceptable? Could a subsidy be considered in these circumstances, where trade is of disproportionate importance to the payload?
§ Mr. Grant
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's introductory remarks. They will be passed on to the officials concerned. I know of the hon. Gentleman's 842 personal interest in this subject. As for the commercial airlines, we support B.O.A.C. in its wish to operate services to China, but inter-governmental agreement will first be needed for that. The question of a subsidy is hypothetical. B.O.A.C. is expected to run its operations on a commercial basis.
§ Mr. Adley
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the question of trade with China, especially for the airlines, is one in which a little Government encouragement initially, financial or otherwise, could produce long-term rewarding results not only in terms of trade with China but also in terms of its good effect on the Concorde programme?
§ Mr. Benn
Will the Government inquire whether the French Government give a subsidy to Air France for flying to Shanghai and consider how Pakistan International Airlines fly into Canton?
Secondly, will the Minister tell us whether there are any special restrictions of a strategic kind regarding trade with China and whether the moment is now ripe for these to be abandoned following President Nixon's visit to Peking?
§ Mr. Grant
On the last general point, it is in our interests to play our part in international agreements on strategic supplies, as has been said in the House before.
On the first point concerning what action the French take, I will certainly look into that matter and let the right hon. Gentleman know.