HC Deb 18 February 1976 vol 905 cc1261-3
1. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if Her Majesty's Government intend to review their policy towards Hong Kong.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. David Ennals)

Her Majesty's Government's policy is to administer Hong Kong in the interests of those who have chosen to live there. The way in which this policy can best be implemented is naturally kept under review. My right hon. Friend will have a first-hand opportunity to examine the situation when he visits Hong Kong in early May.

Mr. Watkinson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that under the cover of vast wealth in Hong Kong lurk areas of human deprivation in relation to the right to vote, social conditions and civil rights? Is not that a disgrace for this or any other Government? Will my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary take the opportunity when he visits Hong Kong to discuss the value of the £40 million defence commitment to the colony?

Mr. Ennals

Certainly my right hon. Friend will be looking at conditions widely. The Hong Kong Government have had formidable problems dealing with the social conditions in the territory, particularly in absorbing large numbers of immigrants from China. The population of Hong Kong has increased sevenfold. It is a major task, but progress is being made, particularly in the planning of a long-term programme for social welfare.

Sir Anthony Royle

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Hong Kong must be looked at in the Asian context? The colony has made great progress over the past two or three years in a period when the world has faced grave economic crises. Will he give the House an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will support the Hong Kong Government in their efforts?

Mr. Ennals

Yes, I certainly give that assurance. The people of Hong Kong expect it. It is true that Hong Kong's record in a variety of respects compares favourably with that of other parts of Asia, but we are aware of deficiencies. The Governor is closely in touch with us, and the Hong Kong Government are doing all they can.

Mr. James Johnson

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that Hong Kong is unique among those few dependencies left to be administered in the old Empire? has he studied the Fabian pamphlet by Joe England? If so, will he comment on the suggestion, which has been made in the House before, that although there are not direct elections to the Legislative Council, we should nominate as members of the urban council some who have been elected in some shape or form by the people on the pavements?

Mr. Ennals

I have seen that pamphlet. It contains some important ideas which we are examining. The Governor himself has said that there is room for change in the Legislative Council while retaining its essential balance. There is value in having a broader cross-section of the life of Hong Kong represented.

Mr. Tugendhat

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Governor and the whole of the Hong Kong Government recognise the need to associate the people of the colony as closely as possible within the framework of government? Does he not agree that they have done magnificent work in building up substitutes for democracy by neighbourhood councils and so on? It is Communist China more than anything else which makes progress difficult.

Mr. Ennals

It has to be recognised that Hong Kong's geographical and constitutional position—and it is obviously not moving towards independence—create problems which are almost unique. We have great confidence in the Governor and those who advise him.

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