HC Deb 31 March 1976 vol 908 cc1285-6
3. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next intends to visit Hong Kong.

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

My right hon. Friend announced on 29th October that he was planning a visit to the Far East, including Hong Kong.

Mr. Cryer

When my right hon. Friend goes to Hong Kong will he ensure that gross exploitation in the colony is ended and that legislation such as the Employment Protection Act which applies in this country also applies there? Until then will be ensure that the products of exploitation, particularly textile products, are not allowed into this country to put out of work people here who are under the protection of that Act?

Mr. Ennals

I cannot accept that there is gross exploitation in Hong Kong. There has been, as many hon. Members who have been to Hong Kong recently know, a great deal of progress. The Hong Kong Government have greatly increased the proportion of their expenditure this year—they are spending £100 million more than in the past year—on such things as social welfare, housing, health and education. Textiles are, of course, basically a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, but I can tell my hon. Friend that as a result of the EEC-Hong Kong textiles agreement, in which we and other Community members are involved, a greater proportion of the increase in Hong Kong textiles is going to other parts of the Community, with, correspondingly less coming to Britain.

Mr. Townsend

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that British administrative ability and Chinese expertise in commercial affairs produce a highly successful combination? Would it not be a good idea to meddle as little as possible in the affairs of a very successful colony?

Mr. Ennals

It is true that in comparison with most other countries in Asia the standards of living of the population of Hong Kong are very high. That is partly because of the people and partly because of the technical advice and aid they are able to get. As for interference, the British Government have a responsibility which is principally carried out through the Governor, in whom we have very great confidence.

Forward to