THE British minister with special responsibility for Hong Kong, Alastair Goodlad, plans to visit the territory this month - just days before Governor Chris Patten embarks on another trip to London. The senior British official is expected to get an update on the mood of the territory and progress of talks at the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) during his visit, which will be part of a swing through Asia. Mr Goodlad paid a visit to the territory last summer following a trip made to Beijing. Sources said it was 'extremely unlikely' he would pay a trip to China during his upcoming visit. Ways of helping speed up negotiations taking place in the JLG are set to dominate meetings between Mr Patten and senior British officials during his London trip. His four-day itinerary from January 24 to 27 includes major speaking engagements. Despite confirmation that Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen has accepted an invitation to visit Britain, British and Hong Kong officials remained cautious on whether it would lead to a significant improvement in Sino-British co-operation on Hong Kong issues. Speaking after an Executive Council meeting, councillor Professor Felice Lieh-Mak said it was hoped Mr Qian's visit could take place as early as possible and that it would improve relations. A source close to Exco said the British side would explore ways to speed up the JLG work in the next few weeks, adding that it hoped Mr Qian would visit London before the next JLG plenary session scheduled for March. But an Exco member believed the log-jam in the JLG would get worse if the draft bill on the setting up of the Court of Final Appeal were rejected by the Legislative Council. The Exco member, who preferred to be anonymous, said failure to push through the bill would reinforce China's perception that Britain was unable to deliver deals agreed in the diplomatic body. That partly explained the all-out efforts of the administration to lobby support from the legal profession over the so-called 'four-to-one' agreement relating to court judges, the member said. 'The authority of the British Government is at stake in this battle.' The councillor conceded the recent row within the Law Society over its position seemed to have dashed hopes that a considerable degree of support from the legal profession would help win the backing of legislators. If there were a clear indication the bill would be amended or rejected in the legislature, the Government would rather shelve it than withdraw it after it was amended. The member said the lack of firm backing from China on the court made it difficult for legislators who had opposed the JLG deal to change their minds.