The Japanese-British Parliamentary Group visited the UK from January 10 to 13 to hold a forum with their British counterparts. The purpose of their visit was to build on existing ties of friendship whilst sharing opinions on issues of common interest. This was the fourth such forum, the first of which took place in 1998. The meetings are held alternately in Tokyo and London. The delegation consists of ten members of the House of Representatives, headed by Mr Tadamori Oshima, and also includes Mr Yohei Kono, Speaker of the House of the Representatives. On the British side, the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group is headed by Mr Roger Godsiff. During their visit the Japanese visitors took part in wide-ranging discussions at the House of Commons, and also made a trip to a research centre in Cambridge.
The British-Japanese Parliamentary Group Discussion aims to further dialogue on issues of common interest in domestic and international affairs, thereby contributing to the policymaking activities of the parliamentarians concerned. The two-day forum began with an opening speech by Mr Yohei Kono, who emphasised that the free exchange of views between parliamentarians of both countries contributed to the strengthening of Japan-UK relations. During the forum a range of issues concerning the Japan-UK relationship were discussed. The talks covered the economic field (including the G8 and the EU), people-to-people exchange (2005, the Japan-EU Year of People-to-People Exchange, the JET Programme and Japan's bid to host the 2011 World Rugby Cup), the future of Iraq (aid, defence and international terrorism), education (childcare and students) and population issues (immigration and asylum, pensions and the ageing society).
Besides taking part in the forum, the Japanese delegation held talks with the Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin, Deputy Leader Phillip Woolas and Deputy Chief Whip Bob Ainsworth. The Japanese delegates enthusiastically posed questions on the proceedings of the discussions in the House. They also met Sports Minister Richard Caborn, with whom they discussed sports exchanges between the two countries, and observed Prime Minister's Question Time.
Ambassador Nogami attended the luncheon meeting co-hosted by the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at which most of the Group's members and Dr Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe, were also present. In the Ambassador's view, the absence of controversial issues between our two countries is a boon to our relations, and we should therefore focus attention on fostering mutual benefit based on our common values in both the bilateral and international arenas. In this regard, the dialogue between the people of the two countries needs to extend beyond the discussions of political leaders to encompass all levels of society. Ambassador Nogami highly evaluated the active exchanges between people of both nations, including this year's forum, as having contributed greatly to the current satisfactory state of Japan-UK relations.
In conclusion, the Japanese-British Parliamentary Group visited the UK with the aim of strengthening the links between the two side based upon recognition of our common values through comprehensive discussions characterised by mutual respect. Both sides proclaimed themselves to be highly satisfied with the outcome of the forum. They are confident that the productive relations they have forged will continue to prosper in the future.