HC Deb 13 May 1986 vol 97 cc655-78 10.29 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

I beg to move, That the draft Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 7th May, be approved. The draft nationality order carries out arrangements which have been fully considered and debated over many months and it represents the culmination of a long period of careful work. It stems from the joint declaration with the Chinese Government, which, with the wholehearted approval of the House, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister signed in December 1984. It continued with the Hong Kong Act 1985, which again the House fully debated and approved. It led from there to our debate in January, when there was a full opportunity to consider the detailed arrangements which are now incorporated in the draft order. Equally full and detailed discussions have been held in Hong Kong.

It is right that the matter should have been dealt with in this careful way, because fair and comprehensive nationality arrangements are vital to the future of people in Hong Kong and to the successful carrying out of the agreement with the Chinese.

I shall not describe in detail the provisions of the order, because they are in the form that the House considered in January, apart from one or two drafting and minor technical amendments. It establishes those who, because of their connection with Hong Kong, will cease to be British dependent territories citizens in 1997, and it gives them the right to acquire British national (overseas) status—BN(O)—and the passport that goes with it. The order makes provisions also to guard against statelessness.

Our proposals in the order are fully consistent with our obligations under the joint declaration and properly exercise our powers under the Hong Kong Act. I think that this has been generally accepted in earlier debates in the House, as it has been in Hong Kong. Following their debate last December, however, the Hong Kong Legislative and Executive Councils made three points which have attracted support in the House and in another place. They were, first, that there should be an endorsement in British national (overseas) passports to show that the holder did not require a visa or entry certificate to visit the United Kingdom; secondly, that former service men in Hong Kong who fought in its interests during the second world war should be granted British citizenship; and, thirdly, that British dependent territories citizens in Hong Kong who were not ethnically Chinese, and who had not exercised their right to be British nationals (overseas), and who had no other form of nationality, should be granted British citizenship in 1997 rather than British overseas citizenship.

The Government agreed to consider each of those points fully. We have done so with great care over many months, listening to the many representations made. As a result, as the House will know from my announcement on 23 April, we have met two of the three requests.

First, for the British national overseas passport, we will place in each an endorsement which will read: In accordance with the United Kingdom immigration rules the holder of this passport does not require an entry certificate or visa to visit the United Kingdom. An explanatory leaflet will be given to each passport holder, which will make it clear that we welcome visitors from Hong Kong and which will set out the holder's position under the present immigration rules. I am glad that this concession has been welcomed by the Unofficial Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils.

Secondly, we have also agreed to meet the concern for ex-service men. There are about 270, and of those, 60 or so are eligible to apply for registration as British citizens under section 4(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981. I am ready to consider sympathetically any applications from these ex-service men. To meet the needs of the others, I have agreed also that any of the 270 may he accepted here for settlement, together with their dependants. The Unofficial Members of the Legislative and Executive Councils have also welcomed these arrangements.

We considered long and hard the third request—that British citizenship should be granted to British dependent territories citizens who were not ethnically Chinese and who might risk statelessness after 1997. We accept fully our commitments to this community, and we intend to honour them in full, but we must also consider the implications of going as far as they have asked. We believe that such a step is not necessary to provide them with the proper measure of security they need, and that it would carry considerable implications in the years ahead which we could not responsibly ignore.

We have approached the problem with two firm principles in mind. The first is that no British dependent territories citizen should have any reason to fear becoming stateless in 1997; nor after 1997 should their children, or their grandchildren. The provision of British overseas citizenship for any who would otherwise be stateless because they have not taken up their right to be a British national (overseas), and the assurances of British overseas citizenship for the children and grandchildren of British dependent territories citizens, fully meet these commitments.

Our second principle is that we should ensure that people settled in Hong Kong can continue to have the right to live there. No form of British nationality can guarantee this after 1997. It has been secured, however, through the agreement with the Chinese. That guarantees rights of abode in Hong Kong for all non-ethnic Chinese who have made it their permanent home. The agreement is binding in international law and, to make it binding in local law, the provisions are to be written into a basic law governing the Hong Kong special administrative region.

Our proposals fully meet our commitments to provide all British dependent territories citizens in Hong Kong with the right to a home, with a clear form of nationality and with assurances for their children and grandchildren.

To go further and grant British citizenship in the way suggested, would take the problem out of the immediate context of Hong Kong and risk setting up pressures and uncertainties which could only have damaging and undesirable consequences elsewhere. We must remember that there are about two million British overseas citizens in various parts of the world, of whom about 800,000 have that as their only form of citizenship, We must think of the message which they might receive, and the doubts and uncertainties which would be raised, if we were to accept that British overseas citizenship was not adequate for some people in Hong Kong.

We must also take into account the sensible principle of the British Nationality Act, which the House approved in 1981, that British citizenship should reflect a person's close personal links with the United Kingdom. And, as British citizenship carries with it the right to come and settle in this country, we must think of our commitment to a fair and firm immigration policy. There are at present about 11,500 people in Hong Kong who in 1997 might seek to benefit under the statelessness provisions, and we do not know what might have affected the size of the commitment by then.

There are those who argue that, given the circumstances of Hong Kong, it would be prudent to grant these people British citizenship in case circumstances there were to change and they had to leave. If this were to be the case there would no doubt need to be a good deal of reconsideration and readjustment, but it is not sensible to go into the next 11 years planning for the worst, and we have no reason to do so.

I understand the concerns of this community, and that is why we have made it clear that if any British nationals were at any time to come under pressure to leave Hong Kong, we would expect the Government of the day to consider sympathetically their admission to the United Kingdom on a cases by case basis. Mr. John Swaine, the convenor of the Legislative Council's ad hoc group on the order, has been quoted as welcoming this as a strong moral commitment to this community. I am sure that he was right to do so.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Is the essence of the Minister's comments that he has rejected the third category of argument, even though it applies to a relatively small number of people, because of the relevance of the other, up to 2 million, elsewhere in the world?

Mr. Hurd

That is part of the argument. Of the 2 million, 800,000 have no other form of citizenship. If we were to take action which would devalue British overseas citizenship, it would have serious effects on them. That was one of the arguments. I have gone on to deploy another connected with immigration. I have gone beyond the point on which the hon. Gentleman was fastening to explain the case by case approach which any Government would have to adopt if the need arose. I was quoting the welcome for this undertaking which has been given by Mr. Swaine in Hong Kong.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Notwithstanding any commitment that might be made for the future, will the Minister recognise that the result of Government policy will be to give 10,000 people in Hong Kong a right of abode in Hong Kong without citizenship, or citizenship in the United Kingdom without right of abode? If the very least of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents came to see him at his surgery to complain about it, would he not do all in his power to fight 'against such a monstrous injustice? Why, therefore, is he condemning no fewer than 10,000 citizens in Hong Kong to such inadequacy in the future?

Mr. Hurd

I would fight against any injustice, but I would try to establish the facts in my own mind before doing so. Through the connection between the agreement with China and the contents of the order, we are providing a right of abode and British overseas citizenship to those who do not take out the BN(O) passport. For the reasons that I have given, if the hon. Gentleman had been listening, I believe that that provides the best assurance for a secure and confident future for the people of Hong Kong, including the 11,500 about whom the hon. Gentleman is particularly concerned. He does neither them nor Hong Kong any service by misinterpreting a matter which has been so carefully and strongly discussed and debated in the colony, where there is a growing understanding that the arrangement we have made is sensible.

There are already signs of continuing encouragement about the future of Hong Kong. The Joint Liaison Group continues to work well. It has made arrangements to ensure that after 1997 Hong Kong keeps its place in the world trading community, and it has also formally agreed the terms of the right of abode endorsement which I have just mentioned in the BN(O) passport.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell. South)

In writing to the Hong Kong Indian Association on 30 April, the Home Secretary said that the Government would have further discussions with the Government of China. Are the discussions which have already taken place the limit of such discussions, or does he expect to have further discussions?

Mr. Hurd

The discussions which have already taken place have led to the position which I am putting to the House. Nothing that I am saying now will contradict or come as a surprise to the Chinese Government. I have reported to the House on the link between the agreement and the discussions with the People's Republic of China and the order before the House.

Many of us have from our own experiences deep admiration and respect for Hong Kong. The Government have made a significant contribution to establishing and building up that confidence by carefully measured steps, not all easy to arrive at, but many of which have been considered and approved by the House. The nationality order represents another important step along the way. The arrangements that we have made for the ethnic minorities, as for all other British dependent territories citizens in Hong Kong, fully honour our commitments. They offer a sound and responsible basis for continued confidence and security in the future.

I believe that the order, as part of the series of measured steps. will serve the people of Hong Kong well. I commend it to the House.

10.44 pm
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)

This is the second occasion in recent months on which the House has debated the citizenship of Hong Kong consequent upon the transfer of that territory to China in 1997. May I repeat what many hon. Members and I said during our debate in January—that nothing that we say tonight should undermine our confidence in the future of Hong Kong after 1997. when it becomes part of China. Confidence is a delicate matter, and we owe it to the people of Hong Kong to encourage a state of confidence and optimism about the future. Those are not merely words: having visited Hong Kong last year. I believe that there are good chances of a successful and prosperous future for the people of Hong Kong after 1997.

We are debating the citizenship and status of those who are not ethnic Chinese and, therefore, not automatically Chinese citizens and will not automatically have the ability to become Chinese citizens after 1997. It must be said that, after 1997, Hong Kong will be unique. I can think of no territory in the history of the British empire—or at the end of the British empire—that has been transferred to another country as Hong Kong will be transferred in about 11 years' time. That is why this is an especially difficult problem of citizenship which would not apply if Hong Kong became a completely independent territory, as so many parts of the British Commonwealth have become in the past 30 years.

As the Home Secretary said, in recent months, the Government have been pressed on three issues. He mentioned the endorsement in the passport. Of course, that is welcome for what it is worth, but we must be honest with ourselves and with the people of Hong Kong and say that that endorsement is simply a reiteration of the present position. It adds not one jot to the rights of the people of Hong Kong; it simply puts into their passports rights that they should have anyway. The people of Hong Kong have told us about their difficulties when they arrive at British airports as tourists or on business. The hassles to which they are subjected have given rise to the feeling that their passports should contain something to protect them.

There may be a change of heart at Heathrow airport, and the endorsement may give them protection, but the Home Secretary knows that the Hong Kong Government advise their citizens visiting Britain to obtain entry clearance certificates first to save themselves difficulties at the point of entry. I hope that the endorsement will have the effect that the Home Secretary claims, but let us be honest and admit to ourselves that it simply reiterates the present position.

The concession granted to former prisoners of war is welcome. We argued their case in the previous debate, and we are glad that the Government have acceded to our requests.

The ethnic minorities are unhappy about the Government's proposals, the more so as the Government revealed those proposals in answer to a parliamentary question a couple of weeks ago. The Home Secretary will be aware that the Council of Hong Kong Indian Organisations has lobbied hard and effectively to express its anxiety about the position of its members after 1997. The Home Secretary will be aware that the Legislative Council in Hong Kong made strong and clear recommendations.

There have been other representations. I received a telegram from Sir Roger Lobo, an eminent man of Portuguese origin in Hong Kong, from which I quote: The British Government's failure to consider minorities' case was bitterly disappointing to those non-ethnic Chinese Hong Kong citizens and this includes people of European ancestry who have lived here for generations. They feel betrayed. He mentions the position of Portuguese people there and comments on Britain and Portugal celebrating the 600th anniversary of the treaty of Windsor, which was signed on 9 May 1386. He feels that the Government proposals leave most of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong with an uncertain future there. That is a powerful telegram. I am sure that the Home Secretary has received the same message sent directly to him at the Home Office.

We are talking about the nature of British responsibility for these people in Hong Kong. The Home Secretary has said that they will have a right of abode there as decided by the agreement with the Government of China. But, of course, giving them British overseas citizenship status in Hong Kong, albeit with the right of abode which is the subject of an international agreement. does not give those people in Hong Kong from the ethnic minorities equal and full citizenship with other people in Hong Kong. The Home Secretary knows, as we know, that British overseas citizenship is not citizenship in any true sense of the word. It is a term devised in the British Nationality Act 1981 to get us out of one of the embarrassing legacies of empire. It has now been applied with a difference to the situation in Hong Kong, the difference being that it will be able to be passed on for a couple of generations. The Home Secretary said that he had no wish to devalue British overseas citizenship. For the life of me, I cannot understand how something that has so little value can be devalued any further.

If I may turn to a particular point of substance and one to which the Home Secretary referred, in reply to a written question and, indeed, again today, the Home Secretary said: If, however, any British national were in the future to come under pressure to leave Hong Kong, we would expect the Government of the day to consider sympathetically the case for admission to the United Kingdom."—[Official Report 23 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 148.] It is not being suggested that there would be obvious pressure for these people to leave Hong Kong. Surely the problem is rather this. Because they will not be full and equal citizens after 1997 with the majority of the people of Hong Kong, their position will be difficult. It may well become untenable while they are in Hong Kong.

If the Home Secretary used his words carefully, as we must assume that he did, he was giving only a very slight concession to people under pressure to leave, not people who find that, because of their unequal citizenship status, they are having an unhappy and miserable time in Hong Kong. I hope. like everybody, that it will not come to that. However, if it does, those people surely are entitled to greater safeguards.

Because there are fears to that effect, the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong have been arguing that they should be given some sort of assurance before 1997, not after that date. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has received a copy of the editorial of the South China Morning Post of Monday 12 May. Referring to the ethnic minorities of Hong Hong, it says: As has been repeatedly stated, there is little interest in leaving at present. The minorities are on the whole contented with life in Hong Kong, regard this as their home, are mostly well entrenched in business or the civil service or are long-term employees with their roots here. Their only desire is to have the right at some future date to emigrate if conditions in Hong Kong make it impossible to stay. That, coupled with the right to enter as visitors to the UK without visas, would be an acceptable compromise for the majority, if the British Government is unwilling or unable to take all. That is only the view of one newspaper, albeit the leading English language newspaper in Hong Kong, but it suggests that at the least the Government could have gone a bit further.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

I agree with my hon. Friend in the case that he has made about the unsatisfactory nature of the order. In view of the fact that the Government are now a lame duck Government fast approaching the end of their term of office,—only a couple of Conservative Members are making gesticulations, and other Conservative Members are being very quiet about this— will my hon. Friend in the next Labour Government reconsider the order in the light of the changing circumstances and the situation at that time?

Mr. Dubs

My hon. Friend has anticipated precisely what I was about to say. It is right that I should state what the next Labour Government's policy will be—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may laugh, but the policies of the next Labour Government will be with us pretty soon. I am sure that Conservative Members are aware of that. The Opposition have a commitment to repeal the Immigration Act and the Nationality Act and to replace those measures with non-discriminatory legislation. This will involve inevitably a wide-ranging review of immigration and nationality policy. As part of that review, we shall take into account the requests and claims of various groups, including those of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. We shall take those into account as the basis of a just and non-discriminatory immigration and nationality policy.

The critical date for the people of Hong Kong is 1 July 1997, and there will be a Labour Government in Britain many years before then. We shall be starting—

Mr. Hal Miller (Bromsgrove)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dubs

I shall not give way. Other hon. Members wish to speak and I do not want to tresspass on their time.

We shall be starting the process of reviewing immigration and nationality policy in about two years' time, when we shall be sitting on the Government Benches.

It would not have taken much for the Government this evening to show a little awareness of the real concerns of the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. I do not think that the Home Secretary showed any real concern. He said that he had thought about the matter and had decided that the answer would be no. Some of the assurances that he tried to give the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong sounded singularly unconvincing. Indeed, it sounded as if the right hon. Gentleman was not convinced of what he was saying.

The ethnic minorities have the right to say that the Government have turned a deaf ear to their plea, and that is not good enough. For that reason, we shall be voting against the order.

10.58 pm
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

My family connection with Hong Kong goes back 75 years, and in the previous Parliament, for a couple of years, I was the Minister concerned with Hong Kong at the time when the negotiations which led to the successful agreement that was initialed in 1984 were in their early stages. I take a great interest, therefore, in the success of Hong Kong and in the welfare and preservation of the way of life of all its people of whatever race. I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the decision that he has taken and on the terms of the order.

I pressed my hon. Friend the Minister of State on the endorsing of passports and on the matter of prisoners of war when we debated the draft order dealing with these issues, and I want especially to express my gratitude for the steps that have been taken on those two points. They have not been easy matters. I know that the drafting of the wording to go into the passport was not easy but, I believe that the Government have come to the right solution.

Another matter which caused anxiety some time ago was whether the BNO passport would be acceptable at all to various countries. We no longer hear about that. I quote it as an example of something which caused considerable concern in Hong Kong but which has now been shown to have had no substance. Those who live in the intense, active and intelligent society of Hong Kong sometimes get themselves into a state of unnecessary anxiety.

The most difficult question relates to the ethnic minorities. The Council of Hongkong Indian Associations will, I know, be very disappointed by the decision. As has already been mentioned, it has lobbied effectively. I want to make four points about this matter.

First, it is not correct to allege, as the Council of Hongkong Indian Associations has alleged, that the Government have broken their promises. It is perfectly clear from what was said in the previous debate that no promises have been broken. I speak with some feeling, because after the debate a few months ago on the draft order I was accused of having broken a promise. That statement was entirely without foundation. I believe it does not help the case of the Council of Hongkong Indian Associations if it makes reckless accusations of that kind.

Secondly, I wish to refer to the numbers involved. The Council of Hongkong Indian Associations referred to 10,000. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department referred to 11,500. But is this the full picture? There must be people who do not hold BDTC passports but who are entitled to apply for BDTC passports. Moreover, will not the children of the 11,500 be entitled to BDTC passports before 1997? They will swell the number to well over 11,500. It is unrealistic to refer to 11,500 or 10,000. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State who is to reply to the debate will say something about that question. Thirdly, I welcome the language used by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his answer to a parliamentary question on 23 April. In particular I welcome his statement that we have concluded that the granting of British citizenship is not justified in the present circumstances."—[Official Report, 23 April, 1986; Vol. 96, c. 147.] I emphasise the words "in the present circumstances."

That answer appears to me to keep the door a bit open. I welcome also the words that have already been quoted about the possibility that British nationals might come under pressure to leave Hong Kong. They show that the Government's mind is not closed. It is right to remind the people of Hong Kong that there are still 11 years to go before 1997. If circumstances change drastically during that time—I do not believe that they will—this matter can be looked at again. I want to emphasise to my friends in Hong Kong that the language used by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his parliamentary answer is, in the British parliamentary context, very important and significant. They are not empty promises. They will be regarded as very important, if ever they should become relevant.

Fourthly, we should try to be clear about why the minorities in Hong Kong are worried. They are not' worried about the agreement. They think it is a good agreement—as, I believe, everybody does. It guarantees to the people of Hong Kong all the freedom that they could possibly wish. It gives to them the right of abode. If we ask ourselves whether or not this agreement is being well implemented, the answer is that it is being implemented step by step with the Government of China. Agreement has been reached in the Land Commission about land. Agreement has also been reached about Hong Kong's position in the Asian Development bank. A very important agreement was reached recently that Hong Kong will be an independent member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That agreement was reached between China, the United Kingdom and GATT. It is more important than some of the other matters that have been causing concern in recent weeks to the people of Hong Kong.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the fears of the Asian community in Hong Kong. He had long experience as Minister of State with responsibility for Hong Kong. What does he consider to be the true position of Peking if the British Government give British citizenship to these people? Does he really believe that after 1 July 1997 China will give Chinese citizenship to them?

Sir Peter Blaker

Peking has made it clear that it regards that question as a matter for the British Government, which is exactly what I expected it to say. The hon. Gentleman's latter question has already been answered—it is open to Hong Kong people to apply for citizenship of the People's Republic of China, and that sort of position applies in many countries throughout the world.

I was dealing with the question of what was causing anxiety to the Indian community in Hong Kong. Why does it want us to take action now, on the assumption that the agreement will not work? I believe that the Indians are worried not that they are likely to be expelled from Hong Kong after 1997 but that they may be discriminated against. We must recognise that relations between China and India, and between the Chinese and the Indians, have not always been free from friction. However, I believe that after 1997 there will be a rather special position in Hong Kong. There will be not a free enterprise territory run by Communists, but a free enterprise territory run by the people of Hong Kong. That is the whole point of the agreement. I think that the people of Hong Kong will recognise the mutual inter-dependence of all elements of Hong Kong society.

The Indians are inclined to say, and I am sure that they are right, that they control 20 per cent. of Hong Kong's foreign trade. Will the Chinese people of Hong Kong, after 1997, want to destroy or render less effective a community that is so important in the running of Hong Kong's economy? Surely it is clear to us now that China has understood the importance of confidence in a free enterprise economy and also, at least in part, the way in which a free enterprise economy works.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The right hon. Gentleman is trying to explain away the concern of some of the Indian community. Will he not, in the way in which he usually attacks these matters, be absolutely frank and admit that, regardless of the present contribution of the Indian community to the welfare of Hong Kong, there is a past history that worries many Indians? They were the upholders of law and order under the British Government. In terms of the Pathan riot squad and acting frequently as prison warders and night watchmen, they were the maintainers of law and order. They will not necessarily be popular in the future social order of Hong Kong.

Sir Peter Blaker

I do not accept that premise. If Hong Kong is to run itself—which I believe will be the case, and which is the whole basis of the agreement on which everyone has been congratulating both Britain and China—the hon. Gentleman's point is not valid.

I want to cite an example that shows that Chinese and Indians can co-operate. I am surprised that it has not yet been cited. It is the example of Singapore. I believe that the Foreign Minister of Singapore is an Indian—Mr. Dhanabalan; he certainly was when I was a Minister. The Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, which is predominately Chinese, is or recently was an Indian. There are other Indian Ministers and also prominent Indians in every walk of life. There is co-operation and equal rights between Chinese and Indians in Singapore, though it is a Chinese-dominated society in terms of numbers. I do not see why the Indians should be so pessimistic about the possibility of Hong Kong operating on a similar basis.

I say again what I said in the previous debate—that I believe that the agreement will be observed because it is in the interests of China as well as the people of Hong Kong that it should be observed. However, I take comfort from the fact that if things do go wrong, the Government—as I understand it—have kept the door ajar.

11.9 pm

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

It has already been noted that the House had an earlier and more lengthy opportunity of considering substantially this order on 16 January. However, on 16 January it so happened, for reasons which are not directly connected with the future of Hong Kong, that I was not a Member of the House. Therefore, I take the opportunity as briefly as possible afforded by tonight's debate of placing on record my anxieties about the future consequences of the changes which the order will make in the nationality law of the United Kingdom.

Those changes are two. The first is that we are extending British nationality at present to 3.25 million Hong Kong Chinese. It is British nationality because we repeatedly call it British nationality; and, because they are to be designated British nationals, their passports are to be issued in the name of Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State, and are to be renewed or issued as necessary by the consular posts of the United Kingdom. In every natural respect those who obtain that status will be regarded as British nationals.

The world knows what it thinks a British national is. It thinks a British national is a person who has the same rights in relation to the United Kingdom as a national of any other country normally has in relation to that other country, notably the right of entry and abode. That right does not inhere in that status. Therefore, the question arises, what is to be the future, in the event of there being a strong desire on the part of the holders of that status not to remain in Hong Kong, and if they were to look to the United Kingdom, of which we are making them nationals, as the natural place of abode or of residence?

It is not necessary in order to consider that prospect seriously to cast any doubt on the bona fides or to deny any of the hopes attached to the People's Republic of China, although our memories do not have to be long to survey a different scene in that People's Republic of China. It is simply necessary that our people have understood that the calling in of the implication of the conferment of our nationality on 3.25 million Chinese is not something which rests in the power of discretion of the United Kingdom. It depends on the behaviour of others and on circumstances over which, by definition, we shall have no control.

If those circumstances were so to develop that the implications of British nationality were to be sought, we should come under intolerable pressure in the world at large and within the United Kingdom community to acknowledge the reality of nationality, and that that reality cannot be devoid of a right of entry and of abode. Therefore, I believe that we are creating a potential commitment in what we are doing which we have no right to create and which I do not believe is fully understood by those outside.

It is not absolutely clear why we have thought it necessary to do so, or why we have had the concurrence—no more was needed—of the Chinese Government in doing so. It is not clear why a people so sensitive and proud as the Chinese should have been so ready to concur in our nationality being conferred on 3.25 million Hong Kong Chinese. It is not absolutely clear why, since a travel document and a passport of Hong Kong is to be available for ethnic Chinese after 1997, the availability of that document as a travel document should be regarded as so singularly important. I fear that it is regarded as an insurance that can be claimed in due course upon the strength of the implications of what we are doing in extending in this way our nationality.

That is the largest of the two changes that we are making, and potentially the most dangerous. The second has already been referred to quite extensively, and I shall therefore refer to it only briefly. It is that those who would otherwise be stateless are, by virtue of this order, to be able to obtain the status of British overseas citizenship. It is not clear, if they are stateless without it, what state they have with it.

Much has been said about the passports that will be available to the British nationals (overseas), but little has been said about the passports of the British overseas citizens, although I presume that they, too, if they are issued at all, will be issued in the name of Her Britanic Majesty's Secretary of State. There again, we are proporting to give a status to which there does not attach the most valuable quality and characteristics that national status and the possession of a nationality gives throughout the world. In doing this, we are incurring the danger of misunderstanding, and of being accused of double dealing in offering something and, upon it being claimed, its reality being found to be virtually non-existent.

We are in this position, as those of us who lived through the debates on the British Nationality Act 1981 are aware, as a result of the transformation of our nationality from one that rested upon allegience, before 1948, to one that now has a quite different basis, and which we have endeavoured, in line with other countries, to equate with connection with this United Kingdom, of which it is the nationality and the citizenship. We have been left with loose ends, and I fear that the manner in which this matter proceeds in regard to British nationality has left two loose ends—one large and pregnant with major danger, and the other, although minor in its scope, still pregnant with understanding and disgrace.

11.17 pm
Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I feel that I must criticise the Government because we should have had this debate yesterday, and it should have gone on for a much longer period than the time allotted to it tonight. Whoever in the Government is responsible for this change should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for compressing this debate into one and a half hours, which is not being fair to hon. Members.

I remind my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of the promise that was made by my noble Friend Baroness Young on 19 February 1985, when she promised that the order would be withdrawn and revised to take account of the views expressed. In the debates that took place in this House and in the other place, many expressed grave doubts. I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to what has gone on in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, which overwhelmingly asked for safeguards for the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. They are not ethnically Chinese, and are not entitled to Chinese citizenship. Their only national status is that of British nationals overseas, and as far as I am aware that gives them no right to live anywhere, and cannot be passed on to their children.

I am speaking particularly on behalf of the 6,000 people who make up the Indian community, because most of them come from families which settled in Hong Kong many years ago and regard Hong Kong as their natural home. In 1947 they opted to stay in Hong Kong rather than accept Indian citizenship, and one of the problems about that is that India does not offer dual citizenship.

These people opted for Hong Kong because they believed in Hong Kong, and that is where they want to stay for ever. The community has always supported Britain, and has always been on our side. There is great anger in Hong Kong about the Government's behaviour.

This week I received a letter from a lady which stated: We are spending four months in Hong Kong where my husband is visiting Royal Society professor at the university here. (Our home is in Hale. Altrincham.) She is lucky—she has a very good Member of Parliament. Her letter continued: Having talked with many people here in Hong Kong, Chinese and expatriate alike, we have been saddened by reports of the Government's attitude towards the ethnic minorities, particularly the Indians, and very aware of the deep concern here for these people. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary seems to believe certain things. First, he seems to believe that minorities will have the right to live in Hong Kong as a matter of law. In fact, I have been told that the right to live in Hong Kong will be subject to the powers of another nation—in this case, China, of which these people are not nationals.

Secondly, my right hon. Friend seems to feel that if we accede to the claims of that small number of people the position of other British overseas citizens will be affected. I remind my right hon. Friend that in the case of Gibraltar and the Falklands we have done something for the people who live there.

Thirdly, my right hon. Friend argues that to accede to the requests of these people would wrongly imply doubt about the commitment of the Sino-British joint declaration. The fact is that the Chinese Government believe that providing the Indian minority with an effective form of nationality is a matter for this Government and not for the Chinese Government.

Fourthly, my right hon. Friend seems to say blithely that if, in 1997, there is pressure for these people to leave Hong Kong, the Government of the day in Britain will consider sympathetically whether to admit them to the United Kingdom on a case-by-case basis. I am afraid that that has not assured the Hong Kong people or the Legislative Council. I believe that some of my right hon. Friend's statements are erroneous. People in Hong Kong to whom I have talked do not share my right hon. Friend's equanimity on this issue. They think that it is less than satisfactory to be given a vague non-binding assurance rather than a legal entitlement, which would at least put their minds at rest. They do not want to be the boat people of 1997. They want effective citizenship which guarantees them the right of abode somewhere.

Of course, numbers are important, and I have always agreed with the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) on this point. Over the years we have made a total mess of immigration. It is not a matter of the total population of Hong Kong wanting to descend on this country. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) pointed out the difficulties if large numbers of people want to settle here. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will give some thought to this also—that we have a cut-off date, for example, in 1990, by which time all non-Chinese BDTCs should be required to register. and those non-Chinese BDTCs who have no other nationality available should qualify for full British citizenship. The time to do that is now, not in 1997. A three-year cut-off period would at least give the authorities time to examine each application.

I believe that there is something called justice and that the people who have given great loyalty to Britain over the years are entitled to some consideration. They do not want to descend on this country. They want to stay in Hong Kong, because it is there that they have their families, homes and businesses. All I ask is that they should have some security and not be left as stateless persons. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister can give some assurance. If he cannot give any assurance, I am afraid that I shall not vote in the Lobby with my hon. Friends.

11.23 pm
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The Government have wisely yielded on the two issues on which they should never have demurred for such a long series of debates. A sinner's repentance—to a Presbyterian, that is particularly attractive—is always a plus and a bonus. The Government have many pluses and bonuses to earn in the hereafter.

We are pleased that the argument for the passport endorsement making it clear that Hong Kong British people do not need visas to visit Britain has at long last been accepted. It is only right also that ex-service men who have done their duty by this country will be granted full British citizenship or the right to settle in Britain. The protracted arguments in debate after debate which have been required to achieve these minor corrections should never have been necessary. That sad fact shows how mean minded the Government of the present Prime Minister are.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House know that there are many other examples of that meanness of spirit in many fields of policy. One of them, in this very matter of retreat from empire, is the continued refusal of the Government to accept their responsibilities—our responsibilities, British responsibilities—for the 11,000 or so British nationals in Hong Kong who are not ethnically Chinese and who, unlike those of Chinese origin, are not entitled to Chinese citizenship. Their status as British nationals overseas gives them no right to live anywhere and cannot be passed on to their children.

Government spokesmen have trotted out in this long series of debates all the old arguments of evasion and, excuse and supposed explanation. Let me briefly try to counter some of their obfuscation. These 11,000 or so British nationals overseas—

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

British overseas citizens.

Mr. Faulds

No, they will now be called British nationals (overseas) if the order is passed. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will catch up with that in time.

Those British nationals (overseas) are not planning en bloc to decamp from Hong Kong. Their lives are committed to that series of island territories. They simply seek the security of a proper citizenship, not a paper one. They do not want to have to leave their homes in Hang Kong. They just want that security of citizenship.

The agreement guaranteed right of abode to everyone who already has it but excluded non-Chinese from Chinese nationality. It is Her Majesty's Government's responsibility to put right their statelessness. It is not China's responsibility as those people are not nationals and China has no ultimate responsibility for them. The Government know that very well. Although I have been a long time friend of the People's Republic, I am convinced that if we abdicate our post-imperial responsibility, future Chinese Governments will behave with proper consideration. China does not abandon or abrogate its international commitment.

There were earlier arguments put forward by Her Majesty's Government that the Chinese majority in Hong Kong would resent special treatment for the minorities. That devious pretence was put paid to by the Legislative Council's generosity in stating its understanding of the vulnerability of people without a secure nationality. Indeed, it has endorsed the need for special treatment.

Finally, there was the argument that the People's Republic of China would consider special treatment as showing that the United Kingdom and Hong Kong Governments lacked faith in the agreement. The Chinese Government is much too sensible and much too sophisticated to credit such nonsense. Indeed, the pro Peking press in Hong Kong supported the proposed changes. One newspaper, which takes the official line, called in question the right of abode in Hong Kong, proffered by Her Majesty's Government, as having anything to do with citizenship as such.

All those who know Hong Kong best, from businessmen to parliamentarians—and there are many of them in the House—from journalists to ex-governors of the place, have urged the Government to be generous in this last exercise of our colonial exit. It can be only the lack of vision and the mean spirit of the present Prime Minister that prevents a proper resolution of this last issue.

The Foreign Secretary is a warm-hearted and generous individual, and so, indeed, is the Home Secretary, although he simulated some conviction in his speech a little earlier this evening. Ministers in both this House and the other place have made commitments in debate after debate that they would revise their views to take account of what was said in the various debates. Here, I must disagree with my old right hon. Friend who seemed to argue the contrary. I think that Blackpool is his place of abode normally. Ministers had need to do so because this matter has been pushed through on an Order in Council instead of through primary legislation, which the House could debate, and the point is then amend. If, indeed, both Houses had had that opportunity, they would have made an amendment on this particular issue.

I can best sum up the case that I think most of us in the House want to make tonight in the excellent coda to a document that some of us have received from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. It states: The minorities in Hong Kong have won all the arguments, convinced the doubting and undermined all objections."— I do not think that any of us in the House would disagree with that— The government's response is unworthy of the calibre of the debate and the breadth of concern in both Houses of Parliament. We would urge members of both Houses to restate their opposition to the unamended order and to insist that the government keeps its promise and acts in the spirit of the debates in Britain and in Hong Kong. I think most of us in the House tonight would strongly endorse that argument.

11.31 pm
Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

I shall detain the House for but a very few minutes.

I should like to add my welcome to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was able to concede two of the three issues that exercised the minds of many hon. Members on both sides of the House during our debate on 16 January. However, I must also register my disappointment that my right hon. Friend has not felt able to concede British citizenship and the consequent right of abode here in Britain to the non-Chinese ethnic minority British dependent territories citizens. While, clearly, that was the most difficult of the three issues, I am as yet not persuaded that my right hon. Friend has come to the right conclusion.

I have read many thousands of words—I am sure that everyone has—on the subject since our debate in January, and they have become fairly repetitive. Since then it has become clear that because, under Chinese law, only ethnic Chinese BDTCs can become Chinese citizens, the non-ethnic minorities would become stateless in 1997. The British national (overseas) status for the former BDTCs and the grant of the nebulous British overseas citizenship to their children and grandchildren born after 1997 merely postpones statelessness to the fourth generation, unless the Chinese decide to amend their law. That is something that they seem singularly unwilling to do. As has been said by several people, the people in Peking seem to prefer to leave that question entirely to the British Government as they see it as our problem, not theirs.

It is also clear that the Chinese ethnic majority in Hong Kong is not seeking to use the non-ethnic minority as a Trojan horse to reopen the whole question of the status for Chinese BDTCs after 1997. Hence it cannot be claimed that there would be a knock-on effect in Hong Kong.

What about the possibility of a concession to the non-Chinese in Hong Kong being cited as a precedent at some future date should we give up any of our few remaining colonies thereafter? There seems to be no likelihood of any other colony being ceded to another sovereign power of such different political and philosophical status and attitude as the People's Republic. In the case of the Falklands and Gibraltar—two territories that could conceivably be ceded to another sovereign power rather than granted independence in their own right—very specific promises have been given that the will of the people of those two territories will be paramount—and in any case, we have already conceded precisely that right of abode to the Falkland islanders and Gibraltarians that the non-Chinese ethnic minorities in Hong Kong seek. I could quote Gibraltar and the Falklands Islands as a precedent for the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong. I believe that the remaining British colonies—and I went through that very short list this evening—which consists of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, British Indian Ocean Territories, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and Tristan Da Cunha and finally the Turks and Caicos Islands are unlikely to produce a situation similar to that in Hong Kong.

I am one of those who believe that this country has given a home to as many people from overseas as it can possibly absorb. None the less, I believe that in the case for the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong, we are bound by the responsibilities of our colonial past to ensure that we do not bequeath a group of stateless children of British overseas citizens to the Government of 80 years from now. That would be a cop-out.

I will support the Government tonight, with some reservations. I will do so in the knowledge that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said, there is still plenty of time for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary' to do what would be right by the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong.

11.35 pm
Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) did not conclude his remarks by saying that he would follow the logic of his arguments and vote against the order. I agree with much of what he said, and his hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) put the case as succinctly as did any hon. Member in the debate. I was pleased that he concluded by saying that he would not support the order. That was the logical conclusion of the case that he advocated in his speech.

I was fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong over the Easter recess, and I discussed these matters at some length with the various groups involved, with representatives of the Council of Hong Kong Indian Associations and with Members of the Executive and Legislative Councils. The House should not underestimate the strength of feeling that still exists in Hong Kong on this issue.

The Government's decision on the endorsement on the passport is greatly welcomed in Hong Kong. It had been asked for vigorously by the people in Hong Kong for some time. One point that was made earlier in the debate is that there has been an irritating need for people to obtain and pay for entry certificates if they are not to have difficulties when they arrive at Heathrow or some other port of entry. I should like the Minister to assure the House that that will not be necessary with the new endorsement in the passport. There has also been a welcome in Hong Kong, as there has been throughout the House, for the Government's decision on the ex-service men.

There is still a unity of condemnation in Hong Kong of the Government's action over the non-ethnic Chinese, and also of their unwillingness to listen to the united voice of the people in Hong Kong and the strong voices of hon. Members here and in another place.

The Government and this country have a moral responsibility towards that relatively small group of people. During recent years the number of Vietnamese refugees that we have taken in from Hong Kong is roughly the same as the number of the non-ethnic Chinese community in Hong Kong about whom we are concerned. That puts the numbers that we are talking about into context.

I do not accept, and do not think that many hon. Members would accept, that because we advocate that the Government should accept the representations on this issue, we must say that the other people whom the Home Secretary mentioned should also have a right to come to this country. That does not follow, and we all believe that, because of the unique nature of the situation, a ring fence could and should be put around these 11,500 people and they should be allowed to come to this country. That does not reflect upon the unique and excellent agreement with the Chinese Government, because the Chinese have made it clear that they regard that as a British responsibility and that the British Government should accept their responsibility and act upon it.

These people do not want their right to live in Hong Kong to be subject to the powers of China, a country of which they are not nationals. Their statelessness and lack of an abode in the world, if they need it, is the basis of their claim to the House for British citizenship.

I believe that we could find a solution to the problem. Indeed, they themselves have suggested that there should be a cut-off date, which would ensure that a ring fence was put around the problem, that numbers were clearly identified and that a continuing commitment was not being accepted. They have suggested that approach and we should be prepared to accept it.

On that basis, we on these Benches believe that this injustice should be rectified. We would wish to rectify it, if the opportunity arose, before 1997. With that in mind we will vote against the order tonight, in the hope that at some stage it will be rectified.

11.41 pm
Sir Paul Bryan (Boothferry)

I should have thought that in this frustrating game of politics most of us have found that however worthy our objective, and however we persevere in pursuing it, we seldom achieve 100 per cent. success.

In approaching the order, the Legislative Council set their sights on three changes, of which their Members made sure that we were aware, and more than aware. Their effective campaigning has achieved two of their objectives; but the third only in part. I hope that they will not view that as a failure, but as a positive success, if not a 100 per cent. success.

The endorsement of the passports will be provided in full. It only remains for the Government to persuade other countries to respect it. British citizenship for those who served in the defence of Hong Kong is, quite rightly, granted.

The Home Secretary has explained the reasons for the Government's attitude to the claims of the third objective, that of the British dependent territories citizens who are not ethnically Chinese. Of course, our Indian friends will be very disappointed.

I ask them not to underrate, as the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) has done, the assurance in the Home Secretary's reply which reads: If, however, any British national were in the future to come under pressure to leave Hong Kong, we would expect the Government of the day to consider sympathetically the case for admission to the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 23 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 148.] The hon. Member for Battersea said that those words were inadequate, although he gave little in the way of an alternative. I took down his words. He talked about life being unpleasant or intolerable.

That is not an adequate substitute for those words in the statement. I consider the assurance that has been given to be exceptional. It is a serious step for a Government to commit their successors in this way. The assurance should not be scorned.

The changes should be seen as part of the broad and positive progress that is being made in Hong Kong on several important fronts. The machinery set up under the joint agreement is being seen to work. The all-important basic law drafting and consultative committees are regarded now by the people of Hong Kong with some confidence as a serious attempt by the Chinese to equate the law to the joint declaration. The original doubts as to the role of the joint liaison committee are beginning to fade, as its practical value is emerging. It has cleared the way for the endorsement of the passport, for entry into GATT with immediate and independent negotiating status and for membership of the Asian Development bank. The Land Commission, another body set up under the agreement, has shown itself to be flexible in dealing with the tricky problems involving revenue from land sales. These important changes are taking place against the background of Hong Kong's continuing prosperity and social development. Hong Kong will be building a third university by 1994, a unified stock exchange has been established and a housing authority—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must address his remarks to the subject matter of the order, which is British nationality.

Sir Paul Bryan

Great progress continues to be made in all the spheres to which I have referred. Such progress is vital for the future of Hong Kong. The additional progress that the order represents is part of the advance that we want to see, and provided the British Government and Hong Kong's friends in this House and in the other place continue to show our genuine commitment to its wellbeing, confidence there can be maintained in the difficult years to 1997.

11.4 pm

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

The essence of this debate is the Government's unreasonable and unjustified attitude to Hong Kong's non-Chinese ethnic minority. Their refusal to grant them right of abode in Britain is an abdication of a clear moral responsibility.

I appreciate that some hon. Members even some Ministers, feel that if Britain took the appropriate action, it would upset the Chinese and be interpreted as an expression of no confidence in the Sino British agreement. While I am a warm supporter of that agreement and would not do anything to damage it, there is no substance in the view that providing British citizenship for the non-Chinese ethnic minority would offend China. It has been made abundantly clear in recent months by, in particular, Mr. Xu Jia Tun, head of the Xinhua News Agency in Hong Kong, that the Chinese would have no objection to British citizenship being given to the non-Chinese ethnic minority.

In a recent letter to me, the Prime Minister said that no BDTCs in Hong Kong need fear statelessness, and the Home Secretary implied that in his remarks tonight. But that was a thoroughly misleading statement for the Prime Minister to have made. We understand the rights and privileges of citizenship. The new status conferred on BDTCs denies them the right of abode in Britain and denies them legitimate citizenship.

Statelessness is not avoided by handing out bits of paper. If it were, confetti would be invaluable. As we know, confetti merely showers good will. The members of the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong do not just want good will. Nor do they want the sympathetic consideration offered them by the Home Secretary. They want rights. The Government are proferring a bogus kind of citizenship, one that is devoid of the basic right of abode. It is a counterfeit status which, like any forged banknote, seeks to convey credibility but which will not bear close inspection.

The Government should recognise that they are creating bitterness and disillusionment in Hong Kong. They should be aware that their refusal may force the ethnic minority to leave Hong Kong and to seek citizenship elsewhere. Those people are crucial to the success of this unique proposal for Hong Kong's future. Their departure would seriously damage Hong Kong. The Government should not allow their nightmare fears, nor those of some right hon. Gentlemen, to supersede justice.

The Government have rightly acknowledged that the joint declaration, creating "one country, two systems", was a unique and imaginative concept. To help the non-Chinese ethnic minority who are the unwitting victims of this remarkable and warmly welcomed development, the Government should show a generous and imaginative response. It is only by granting citizenship to this minority that the Government can rise to the occasion and also act with fairness and justice. I hope that the Government will think again.

11.50 pm
Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

The order is important for the Indian community in Hong Kong but equally for the politics of Hong Kong. The hon. Member for Boothferry (Sir P. Bryan) was right to draw attention to the wider considerations which unfortunately—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman was quite wrong.

Dr. Bray

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is part of the problem. The people and the Legislative Council of Hong Kong attach particular importance to this House because it helps to build up their standing vis-a-vis the People's Republic of China in the difficult transition that they have to make.

Hong Kong made three requests. It is good that two of them should have been conceded by the Government. Some progress has been made. I agree that weight should be attached to the assurances given by the Home Secretary, but Hong Kong will make sure that the argument continues and is considered again by a future Government. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not be too discouraging.

11.52 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)

The debate has concentrated on the third request made by the Hong Kong Legislative and Executive Councils, but the House will not forget the extent to which the Government have responded to the views expressed in the House when we last discussed these matters and the extent to which we have taken account of the views then expressed, as promised. It cannot be suggested that that debate was a waste of time and that the Government responded with deaf ears.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) was a little unfair in his comments about the procedure adopted. After all, we went to great lengths to follow a procedure which allowed the House to debate at length a draft Order in Council so that the Government could hear the views of the House and go away and consider them. We have met the wishes of Hong Kong on the passport endorsement. We recognise how important it is to the people of Hong Kong to know that genuine visitors will always be welcome here. In regard to other countries, the clear indication in the passport that the holder has the right of abode in Hong Kong, guaranteeing returnability to Hong Kong, should mean that the passport is every bit as acceptable as the present BDTC passport.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) for his comments. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was rather churlish and showed no comprehension of the difficulty involved in finding an exactly appropriate form of words to put on the passport to reflect the rights which all of us wish to see stated clearly in it.

We have also met entirely the wishes of Hong Kong on service men. I am glad that UMELCO has welcomed what we are doing as "a fitting recognition" of the service given by these people.

The arguments about those British dependent territories citizens who are not ethnically Chinese have been stated often, but I should stress a few points. We cannot accept, as suggested by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) and by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), that a form of British nationality that does not carry with it a right of abode in Britain is not a genuine form of nationality. British overseas citizens are not stateless. They travel round the world on British passports. They are entitled to British consular protection. To accept that they are stateless is to accept that we have a continuing obligation to accept no fewer than 2 million BOCs living throughout the world.

I invite the House to remember that, while saying how valueless the citizenship was, the hon. Member for Battersea made a commitment that was so woolly as to be almost meaningless. All that he said was that if, unfortunately, a Labour Government returned to office, they would scrap the British Nationality Act 1981 and the Immigration Act 1971, and they would take account of the requests made by all sorts of people. What sort of an undertaking is that? What sort of a sign is it of the hon. Gentleman's true reaction to the order? What sign does it give us of the official Opposition's attitude to the order? It gives us no sign at all, and the hon. Gentleman might as well not have stood at the Dispatch Box. We are no wiser than we were before the debate as to where the Opposition stand on this matter.

The arguments of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) are always interesting. He said that we were extending British nationality to 3.25 million people. He did not mention that we are giving a different form of British nationality to 3.25 million people who already have British nationality, which is different from the impression which he may, unwittingly, have given during his speech.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale said that the non-ethnic Chinese wish to continue living in Hong Kong. We cannot give them the right to do so by conferring upon them British citizenship, but we have won them the right to do so by the agreement. That agreement is binding in international law, and it will be written into a basic law governing the Hong Kong special administrative region. British citizenship cannot be transmitted further than to the second generation born abroad, so British citizenship could not give to the non-ethnic Chinese a nationality that could be transmitted to their descendants any further than the British overseas citizenship which, under the order, can be transmitted to their children and grandchildren born after 1997.

That is an answer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman). We could no more guarantee British citizenship to the children and grandchildren of those people beyond the second generation born abroad by granting them British citizenship than we could by granting them British overseas citizenship.

We must remember our commitment as a Government to a firm immigration policy, but I repeat that if any non-ethnic Chinese BDTCs were at any time to come under pressure to leave Hong Kong, we would expect the Government of the day to consider sympathetically their admission to the United Kingdom on a case-by-case basis. That has been described as a "strong moral commitment". I agree with that description.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 119.

Division No. 177] [12 midnight
Aitken, Jonathan Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)
Alexander, Richard Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Amess, David Baldry, Tony
Ancram, Michael Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Tom Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ashby, David Bellingham, Henry
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Bendall, Vivian
Benyon, William Gow, Ian
Best, Keith Gower, Sir Raymond
Bevan, David Gilroy Greenway, Harry
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gregory, Conal
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Blackburn, John Ground, Patrick
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bottomley, Peter Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hampson, Dr Keith
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Hanley, Jeremy
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hannam, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Harris, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Harvey, Robert
Bright, Graham Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Brinton, Tim Hawksley, Warren
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hayes, J.
Brooke, Hon Peter Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Hayward, Robert
Browne, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Bruinvels, Peter Henderson, Barry
Bryan, Sir Paul Hickmet, Richard
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hind, Kenneth
Buck, Sir Antony Hirst, Michael
Budgen, Nick Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Bulmer, Esmond Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Burt, Alistair Holt, Richard
Butcher, John Hordern, Sir Peter
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Butterfill, John Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cash, William Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hunter, Andrew
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Chapman, Sydney Jackson, Robert
Chope, Christopher Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Churchill, W. S. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jones, Robert (Herts W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Clegg, Sir Walter Key, Robert
Cockeram, Eric King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Colvin, Michael Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Conway, Derek Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Coombs, Simon Knowles, Michael
Cope, John Knox, David
Couchman, James Lamont, Norman
Cranborne, Viscount Lang, Ian
Crouch, David Latham, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lawler, Geoffrey
Dickens, Geoffrey Lawrence, Ivan
Dicks, Terry Lee, John (Pendle)
Dorrell, Stephen Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J, Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dover, Den Lester, Jim
du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Durant, Tony Lightbown, David
Dykes, Hugh Lilley, Peter
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Eggar, Tim Lord, Michael
Evennett, David Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lyell, Nicholas
Favell, Anthony McLaughlin Patrick
Fenner, Mrs Peggy McCrindle, Robert
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McCurley, Mrs Anna
Forman, Nigel Macfarlane, Neil
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacGregor, Rt Hon Johr
Forth, Eric MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Madel, David
Freeman, Roger Major, John
Fry, Peter Malins, Humfrey
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Galley, Roy Maples, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marland, Paul
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mates, Michael
Glyn, Dr Alan Maude, Hon Francis
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Skeet, Sir Trevor
Mellor, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Merchant, Piers Soames, Hon Nicholas
Meyer, Sir Anthony Speed, Keith
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Speller, Tony
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Spencer, Derek
Miscampbell, Norman Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moate, Roger Stanbrook, Ivor
Monro, Sir Hector Stanley, Rt Hon John
Moore, Rt Hon John Steen, Anthony
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Stern, Michael
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Moynihan, Hon C. Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mudd, David Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Neale, Gerrard Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Nelson, Anthony Stokes, John
Neubert, Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Newton, Tony Sumberg, David
Norris, Steven Taylor, John (Solihull)
Onslow, Cranley Temple-Morris, Peter
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Terlezki, Stefan
Osborn, Sir John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Thorne, Neil (llford S)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Thumham, Peter
Pattie, Geoffrey Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pawsey, James Tracey, Richard
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Trippier, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Twinn, Dr Ian
Pollock, Alexander van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Porter, Barry Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Michael Waddington, David
Powell, William (Corby) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Powley, John Waldegrave, Hon William
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Walden, George
Raffan, Keith Waller, Gary
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Walters, Dennis
Rathbone, Tim Ward, John
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Renton, Tim Watson, John
Rhodes James, Robert Watts, John
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wheeler, John
Robinson, P. (Belfast E) Whitfield, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Whitney, Raymond
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wiggin, Jerry
Rowe, Andrew Wilkinson, John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Winterton, Mrs Ann
Ryder, Richard Winterton, Nicholas
Sackville, Hon Thomas Wolfson, Mark
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wood, Timothy
Sayeed, Jonathan Woodcock, Michael
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Younger, Rt Hon George
Shelton, William (Streatham)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Ayes
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Mr. Carol Mather, and Mr. Robert Boscawen
Shersby, Michael
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Ashdown, Paddy
Anderson, Donald Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Atkinson, N, (Tottenham)
Barron, Kevin Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Bell, Stuart Johnston, Sir Russell
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bermingham, Gerald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Blair, Anthony Lamond, James
Boyes, Roland Lead bitter, Ted
Bray, Dr Jeremy Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Litherland, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Bruce, Malcolm McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Caborn, Richard Madden, Max
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Marek, Dr John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Canavan, Dennis Martin, Michael
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Maxton, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Michie, William
Clarke, Thomas Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Clay, Robert Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Clelland, David Gordon Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Nellist, David
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Conlan, Bernard Park, George
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Parry, Robert
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Patchett, Terry
Corbett, Robin Pendry, Tom
Dalyell, Tam Pike, Peter
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Powell, Rt Hon J. E.
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Deakins, Eric Prescott, John
Dewar, Donald Raynsford, Nick
Dormand, Jack Redmond, Martin
Dubs, Alfred Robertson, George
Eadie, Alex Rogers, Allan
Eastham, Ken Rowlands, Ted
Ellis, Raymond Sheerman, Barry
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Ewing, Harry Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Faulds, Andrew Skinner, Dennis
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Fisher, Mark Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Flannery, Martin Soley, Clive
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Spearing, Nigel
Forrester, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Foster, Derek Strang, Gavin
Foulkes, George Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
George, Bruce Wallace, James
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Godman, Dr Norman Wareing, Robert
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Welsh, Michael
Hardy, Peter Winnick, David
Haynes, Frank Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Home Robertson, John Tellers for the Noes:
Hoyle, Douglas Mr. Don Dixon and Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Hong Kong (British Nationality) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 7th May, be approved.