§ 6. Mr. Michael Brown
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on British relations with Australia.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Alastair Goodlad)
British relations with Australia are excellent. We continue to develop close co-operation in all areas. We intend to organise a series of cultural, scientific and commercial events in Australia throughout 1997 as a showcase for this partnership.
§ Mr. Brown
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I had the opportunity and privilege of trying to further British-Australian relations in my own way when I was a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation that visited Australia two months ago? Will he take it from me that our relations with Australia in regard to the debate about the monarchy can best be strengthened if we allow Australia freely, in its own way, to make up its own mind in a responsible way about what it wants to do about the Head of State in the future? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Australians are more concerned with opportunities to enter the European Community trade market? That, ultimately, is the way in which to improve our relations with Australia.
§ Mr. Goodlad
I recognise the contribution made by my hon. Friend. He is right: the Australian constitution lays down procedures for change in that constitution, and Her Majesty's Government have no role in the debate. The identity of the Australian Head of State is a matter for the Australian people to decide.
We are working hard to enhance our current very good trade relations. Our exports rose by 16 per cent. last year, and growth has been sustained since then. We have had extremely successful relations, and we shall build on them.
Mr. William O'Brien
When the Minister discusses trade with Australia, will he ensure that coal imported to the United Kingdom is economically priced, and that no subsidies undermine the United Kingdom's deep-mined coal? Will he assure us that he will investigate the position?