HC Deb 02 December 1976 vol 921 cc1155-6
Q2. Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to Hong Kong.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Thomas

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we still need to make progress in improving wages and labour conditions and in rooting out corrupt practices in both private and public organisations in Hong Kong? Will he take up the plans that he had as Foreign Secretary to visit the colony? Does he still hold the view that Britain has serious responsibilities towards Hong Kong, which we must do better at fulfilling, or does he agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) that the best course for Britain is for us to become a colony of Hong Kong?

The Prime Minister

I know my hon. Friend's interest in Hong Kong since his visit. That was intended as a compliment, if I may say so, and I want to congratulate him on the assiduity with which he follows up these matters. Indeed, if I may be quite serious, it is one of the advantages of hon. Members visiting such territories that there is a continuing interest that often lasts through the lifetime of a Member's membership of this House.

On the social and labour conditions in Hong Kong, I am told that the target is to achieve a level of legislation in social, labour and allied fields at least broadly equivalent to the best in neighbouring countries within the next five years. I am glad to inform the House that the Hong Kong Government intend to improve their legislation significantly this year in respect of five outstanding ILO conventions, and next year in respect of a further four conventions. I asked for the previous figures, and I am told that, in the previous three years, they had ratified only five conven- tions. I think, therefore, that the interest that my hon. Friend is taking—which I also took when I was Foreign Secretary —is bearing fruit.

Sir Frederic Bennett

Meanwhile, would the Prime Minister care to put into perspective the relative average standard of living in Hong Kong as compared with the whole of the rest of Asia, with the possible exception of Singapore?

The Prime Minister

I would if I were given notice of the question, but I do not carry all those figures in my head.