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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I hope that I shall be allowed to say a few words because Malcolm was my Chief Whip when I was Leader of the House. I was an insecure figure; I belonged to an older generation. The then Prime Minister and later my great friend Harold Wilson told me that, "We cannot keep Eddie Shackleton waiting forever, can we?". That was not encouraging, but Malcolm supported me throughout. He was loyalty itself and he was a wonderful man.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues on the Bishops' Benches, I welcome the opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the memory of Lord Shepherd. He gave long and distinguished service to this House, including service on its various committees, as we have been reminded today, as well as in the wider, public domain. His wisdom and integrity were hugely respected and, clearly, his presence will be greatly missed. Our prayers and condolences go to the members of his family.
Lord Carrington: My Lords, over a great many years, Lord Shepherd and I faced each other across our respective Dispatch Boxes and argued together. Some 25 years ago, this House was a very different place. The Chief Whip and the Leader of the House in a Labour government had a very difficult task; they were faced with a huge majority wholly opposed to almost everything that that government were doing. They
He was as respected and as popular on this side of the House as he was on the other. He was a courteous and modest man; he was fair and he was open. He became to me, as to many others, a firm and personal friend. I am saddened by his death.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, although we do not recognise Taiwan, we are keen to develop a mutually beneficial unofficial relationship. This covers economic and trade relations, inward investment, education, science and technology and culture. Taiwan is a target market for Trade Partners UK, and last year our exports grew by 17 per cent to more than £1 billion. A strong programme of exchanges is supported by unofficial ministerial visits, mainly in trade related areas. We shall continue to strengthen our unofficial relationship.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I welcome confirmation that the Government see Taiwan as a valuable trading and cultural partner and that they wish to see more Taiwanese investment in this country. However, does my noble friend appreciate that the present stand-off between the United States and the People's Republic of China is creating enormous instability and nervousness in the region, particularly for Taiwan, which has more than 250 Chinese missiles pointing at its coast from the mainland?
Can my noble friend confirm that the Government see the modern Taiwan as a defender of human rights and democracy? Can she further confirm that the free will of 23 million Taiwanese will be taken into account in any deliberations about the future constitutional status of the country?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand the sensitivities that may be being experienced in the region as a result of the recent difficulties in relation to the US aeroplane. Although we recognise Taiwan's position, we also acknowledge the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China. It is
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, further to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, can the Minister explain whether it is the Government's policy to support the American "twin track" approach; that is, on the one hand, to strengthen Taiwan's defences against violent assault and attack--which is, after all, the right of the Taiwanese people--and, on the other hand, to recognise the long-term validity of the One China policy and to contribute to links with China in the most positive way, despite the present stand-off which obviously threatens that approach?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that British policy in relation to Taiwan remains the same. As I said, we acknowledge the position in relation to China. We have demonstrated by the way in which we have reacted to Taiwan that we can have a very vigorous unofficial relationship founded on good trade relations, cultural links and other contacts. We shall certainly continue to pursue that relationship to the advantage, I hope, of both Taiwan and ourselves.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, will Her Majesty's Government make it clear to the People's Republic of China that the One China policy, to which the international community contributes and subscribes, can only become a reality on the ground with the free will of the people of Taiwan, and that that is dependent on progress being made towards democratic and free institutions in Beijing itself? In view of that, will the Government offer a little more encouragement to Taiwan, given that the Taiwanese have recently, after 45 years, changed their government through the ballot box?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the unofficial relationship that we have with Taiwan has been, and is, a warm one. I am sure that that warmth will continue. We look to both sides to pursue a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question through negotiation. We attach great importance to the avoidance of conflict in the Taiwan Strait, which could be very destabilising for the whole region and beyond. We would view with extreme concern any recourse to military action. We shall continue to do all that we can to encourage both sides to arrive at a mutually consensual arrangement with which they are both satisfied.
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, while I understand the obvious constraints on British policy towards Taiwan, would it not be a very helpful indication of our general sympathy and support if we were to back Taiwan's application to join the World Trade Organisation?
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that patience and time are likely to offer the best resolution to this difficult historic problem? The democratisation of China and its opening up to the outside world are all very helpful in terms of making the One China policy a success, but does the Minister further agree that it is incumbent on both sides to avoid, as far as possible, creating more and more weapons of greater and greater sophistication, which can only add to the tension already present in the region?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness. Her last comments are, of course, generally applicable. Internationally, we are all seeking a creative, forceful dialogue in an attempt to resolve those issues.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the assurance that he seeks in relation to that issue. I shall write to him if my understanding of the position has changed. What the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said is right: we need dialogue on these issues, and patience and time may be our best friends.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I am grateful for the replies that the Minister has so far given. However, perhaps I may return to the original Question: can the Minister elaborate in a little more detail on the Government's plans to improve relations?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, as I said, we have been taking every opportunity to improve trade relations. Taiwan was the UK's 30th largest export market world-wide last year, when our exports increased by 17 per cent to just over £1 billion. It is a target market for British trade internationally. Taiwan is now a major investor in the UK. Approximately 175 Taiwanese firms have a presence here, maintaining around 10,000 jobs. So far this year there have been two sponsored working level visits by Taiwanese specialists, focusing on transportation and information technology; and next month we will hold our annual trade policy consultation. We receive a large part of the student body from Taiwan. More than 12,000 Taiwanese are studying in the United Kingdom, which represents a quarter of the Taiwanese overseas students market. We are taking active steps to try to find mutual opportunities where we can work together effectively.
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