HC Deb 13 November 1980 vol 992 cc605-6
Sir Paul Bryan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the 30,000 Vietnamese refugees still remaining in camps in Hong Kong, he will announce a new quota of such refugees to be received in the United Kingdom in the coming year.

Mr. Raison

We are directing our efforts to the fulfilment of our undertaking made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and announced in July 1979, to accept 10,000 Vietnamese refugees. About 7,250 have so far arrived in this country from Hong Kong.

Sir P. Bryan

Is my hon. Friend aware that Britain and Hong Kong together have given a magnificent lead in this difficult problem of dealing with Vietnamese refugees—Hong Kong in accepting these great numbers despite its difficulties with regard to Chinese immigrants, and Britain in setting up the Geneva conference and undertaking to accept the quota of 10,000 refugees? Is he aware that other countries are now looking to this country to see what further quota it will announce before deciding what further quotas they will accept?

Mr. Raison

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said about our contribution, and I endorse what he said about the contribution of Hong Kong. However, I am afraid that I am not in a position to add to my previous answer.

Mr. Tilley

Does not the Minister accept that the Government now have a policy of paradox verging on hypocrisy if on the one hand they accept the Vietnamese boat people and on the other deport hundreds of Filipino domestic workers whose only fault is that they did not answer a question about their children that they were never asked?

Mr. Raison

I can see no comparison at all between the hon. Gentleman's statements.

Mrs. Knight

Many of us who have had the opportunity to see and talk to these refugees in Hong Kong have the greatest sympathy for them and would wish every help to be extended to them. However, when considering this question, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that at present Britain does not have sufficient jobs for its own people or a sufficient number of homes? In making his decision about the kind of help that can be afforded to them, will he press areas of the Commonwealth where there are space and opportunities to take them instead?

Mr. Raison

Like my hon. Friend, I have recently had the opportunity of visiting Hong Kong and talking to the refugees. I very much endorse what she has said. She was also right to point out that housing and employment are constraints that we must recognise. I do not think that it is for us to urge other members of the Commonwealth to take these refugees.