HC Deb 27 April 1982 vol 22 cc709-10
4. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether it is intended to reinforce the garrison in Hong Kong.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Peter Blaker)

No, Sir. However, the new agreement with the Hong Kong Government on defence costs, which came into effect on 1 April 1981, provided for the permanent garrison to be increased by one infantry battalion and supporting elements. This new battalion became operational last month.

Mr. Hooley

Does not the fiasco of the loss of the Falkland Islands clearly demonstrate that it is futile and absurd to give military guarantees to nineteenth century colonies that are scattered round the globe? Is it not dishonourable and unjust to those concerned, and should we not abandon that policy?

Mr. Blaker

I am sure that even the hon. Gentleman would not regard the situation in Hong Kong as identical with or similar to the situation in the Falkland Islands. I should not have thought it excessive for there to be five infantry battalions in a territory with a population of 5 million people.

Mr. Adley

Will my hon. Friend put the matter in straightforward perspective? Is not any suggestion of any similarity in the relationship between the Government of the People's Republic of China and this Government over Hong Kong and that facing Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands utterly ridiculous? Will my hon. Friend confirm that we enjoy an excellent relationship with the People's Republic of China—[Interruption.]—and that the perceived military threat both to China and to Hong Kong comes only from the Soviet Union? Will my hon. Friend also confirm that we are in touch with the People's Republic of China to ensure that we act jointly, if necessary, against that threat?

Mr. Blaker

I agree that we have very close relations with the People's Republic of China.