HC Deb 19 December 1989 vol 164 cc237-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £1,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1990 for expenditure by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on other external relations.—[Mr. Maude.]

5.40 pm
Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs will be grateful for the opportunity for us to debate this afternoon the appallingly difficult question of the future of the Vietnamese boat people—although, in view of the subject's sensitive nature and the deep emotions which it arouses on all sides, I am not sure how grateful the Chairman and Committee will be for the chance to put their heads in this noose.

The debate technically arises from the Estimates, as you, Mr. Speaker, reminded us, although the House will wish to address the principle raised by the Government's policy and decisions on the boat people. I shall briefly allude to the Estimates, which are by no means chickenfeed. We are dealing with expenditures already made by the British Government of £30 million and by the Hong Kong Government of £200 million to cope with the accommodation and expenses arising from their present policy for dealing with the Vietnamese boat people in Hong Kong. We should note that substantial expenditure, but must turn our minds to the principle raised by the Government's policy.

How to handle the Vietnamese boat people—the refugees and migrants—poses one of the most agonising decisions for my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is possibly one of the most difficult decisions which they or the Government have had to face for a long time. That agony and difficulty deserves understanding—perhaps a little more understanding than it has attracted from some quarters recently. The responsibility of these difficult issues bears down heavily on the shoulders of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

The Select Committee considered this issue when looking at the broader subject of Hong Kong's future last summer. The report issued by the Select Committee at the end of June, after the Tiananmen square horrors, mentioned this matter. The Committee's views were generally, unanimous. However, on the precise question of the Vietnamese boat people and how to deal with them, Committee members had various views. Some of the votes taken on the precise wording of those views reflect the agony and difficulty of any body of people, any hon. Members, any liberal people wanting to reach the best solutions in public affairs—as I hope that the Committee felt it was—when facing such as awkward choice.

The following statement about the boat people was unanimously supported in the Committee. It stated: Faced with a declining level of acceptances by resettlement countries and a suddenly and massively increasing population of boat people, we believe that the Hong Kong Government had no alternative but to introduce a screening policy. That policy began to differentiate between those deemed to be genuine political refugees, fleeing from persecution, and those designated economic migrants.

The Committee's report continued—the words were unanimously agreed: We accept that the logical consequence of a screening programme is the repatriation of those who have been screened out. That was accepted. There was a further sentence, against which some Committee members felt they had to vote.

Therefore, although the sentence was in the report because it reflected a majority view, it was not unanimously supported. That sentence stated: We believe that, in the absence of significant levels of voluntary repatriation, however regrettable it may be, there is no alternative to the mandatory repatriation of those who are screened out. Another set of views was supported by a different majority in the Committee. The pattern of different majorities forming shows how immensely difficult and complex the issue is. The different majority added: We note that these people are fleeing not from persecution but from extreme poverty and that over 50 per cent. of them are under the age of 20 years. This calls for special ways in dealing with these young people and if as a last resort, they must return to Vietnam, the authorities dealing with them must act in a humane way and ensure that they are adequately provided for. Assistance should also be given to allow them to settle down in Vietnam. I have sought to represent as fairly as possible the Select Committee's position. My other Committee colleagues from both sides of the House will wish to give their interpretation of the report, but I have given the words used and the ways in which we reached our conclusions. The difficulties that we faced when debating the matter, even all those months ago, were a precursor of the immense difficulties that we would face when it came to making a decision.

My right hon. and hon. Friends face the choice of two evils. This is not one of those wonderful times when there is good on one side and bad on the other and a simple choice can be made. This issue involves the awful complexity of a Government having to reach decisions and carry responsibility when no course is a good course. The lesser evil is that of taking the decisions which have now been made, versus the greater evil of doing nothing, not making the decisions and seeking to obtain other support to resolve the problem. We would then find that we had inflicted more cruelty, suffering and inhuman conditions on thousands of hapless people.

Having tried all other avenues, it is right to act in these few days in which we are debating the matter—for the simple reason that, if we do not act, thousands and thousands more Vietnamese boat people will float in on the early spring tides. They will come in their tens, perhaps even hundreds, of thousands. They will not only constitute a huge migration but cause chaos in Hong Kong which will lead to suffering on a far larger scale than anything we have yet seen. When balancing the choice between the evils, those who argue that we should once more try to delay taking action must face up to the responsibility that they may, by their good intentions, create many more difficulties and much more suffering than we have seen so far.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Is it not also a very heavy factor in this most difficult choice that the Government who showed themselves to be so utterly ruthless in Tiananmen square have made it clear that they will feel no responsibility towards those hapless people if they are left in Hong Kong in 1997?

Mr. Howell

That is certainly the case. We tend to measure these matters against our own, we hope, high standards in this House. We forget the attitude towards the boat people and their activities that prevails in many parts of Asia. We forget at our peril that many of those boats are turned away from other countries and sent to sea again, where all the people in them—men, women and children—drown. We forget that a great deal of the current migration is organised not by people who, through good will, want to provide transport to a freer life and a better world—whether in Hong Kong, America or Canada —but by the most ruthless racketeers. They are ripping off those poor people, persuading them of all sorts of false objectives, removing from them their precious dollars and gold savings, and then cruelly sending them to sea in unseaworthy craft or putting them in buses and sending them up the coast. It is as much an evil trade as drugs or prostitution, and we are seeing its end product in the miserable camps in Hong Kong. The hapless people are bewildered, conned and misled. They have been driven to what they thought would be a better life, only to find that it is not.

That is the background against which the Government have had to make a decision. They have to carry the responsibility, and have little choice but to act now, as they are doing. My hon. Friend the Minister will make the Government's position clear when he speaks. I hope that the Opposition's position will also be made clear.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that the Vietnamese people were fleeing from poverty. That poverty largely stems from the blockade of Vietnam by western powers. Did the Committee address that matter with a view to changing policy to help to eradicate poverty in Vietnam?

Mr. Howell

I have given the view of members of the Committee—although not all members—that additional assistance should be mobilised in co-operation with and for Vietnam. The hon. Gentleman must accept that, although aid and assistance from outside can help a society and an economy, the basic conditions and the basic way in which a Government treat their citizens are matters for decision inside that society. We must face the fact that, in recent years, Vietnam has been an extremely nasty place to live for individuals and for liberal values. However, there may be a chink of light. The position may now be changing, and in that may lie our hope—

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)


Mr. Howell

I do not think that anyone, not even the hon. Gentleman who wants to intervene, can claim that it is all beer and skittles in Vietnam.

Mr. Mullin

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that many of those people are fleeing not the Stalinist system of economics, which I probably deprecate as much as he does, but market forces? Many of them come from the coastal areas of North Vietnam such as Honggai and Haiphong. They are fleeing because the Government have adopted the World bank recommendations and cut off subsidy to the coal mines. Of course, the north of England is familiar with that. I shall leave aside the point that those towns were flattened by American B52s.

Mr. Howell

We are now getting into a debate about Vietnam's past. It has had its problems, but it has also brought problems upon itself.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

I am dwelling not on the past, but on the present Vietnam. The report on the British refugee camps prepared by Alf Dubs and Lord Ennals specifically states: returnees are in no danger when they are back in Vietnam; that they can choose where to live and that they receive assistance to resume their lives. They expressed the view that more people in Hong Kong should be aware of that truth.

Mr. Howell

That is an important point.

I have heard some unkind people suggest that the Opposition's posture was opportunist. I do not think that it is; I certainly would not lay that charge upon them. However, given the complexity of, and the obvious dilemma in dealing with, the problem, it is regrettable that those on the Opposition Front Bench have not appreciated the value of seeking a bipartisan approach on such an immensely difficult issue. It is their right so to choose, but it is a great pity for the aims of the policy and for the reputation of this country.

I suppose that those who are totally disinterested must ask why, if people find this forced repatriation not only appalling—as we all do—but so appalling that the even greater risks of doing nothing should be run, there are no feelings about the forced repatriation of people from Hong Kong to China, which happens every day on as big a scale as anything that we are contemplating. I understand that, last year, about 30,000 people were forcibly repatriated from Hong Kong to China, with the agreement of the Chinese Government.

We can all make comments about the state of affairs in different countries, but I do not think that since the summer anyone has argued that China is a home of happiness and liberalism and that those people have been returned to a wonderful, open and welcoming country. Indeed, I dread to think of what has happened to some of them. While I do not wish to make any party points, it must be recognised that if one takes a certain stance on the question of forced repatriation, the same stance and the same standards must be applied to the other forced repatriations that have been taking place for many years.

I want to be brief, but I must say a word about the United States of America. I have always admired that country and, in many areas of human rights, it has been fine. However, in this matter I think that Washington's policy is pure humbug. The Select Committee report quoted the words of Sir David Wilson—who, as Governor of Hong Kong, is in an immensely difficult position that requires some understanding in the House. He said about the boat people: they are…not trying to go to Hong Kong but to go to places of resettlement. Above all, they are trying to go to North America which has said that these people do not qualify for resettlement in the United States as ordinary refugees because they come from north Vietnam…Hong Kong is caught between this upper and nether millstone. The former Foreign Secretary, in evidence to the Committee, expressed his bewilderment that the United States seemed to support the prospect of indefinite accumulation of people in places like Hong Kong and that is clearly not a tenable position. The Committee unanimously concluded: We believe the American position fails totally to understand the seriousness of the problem or its damaging consequences both to the people of Hong Kong and the Vietnamese. It is also damaging to the many other people involved. The United States policy-makers—those who are currently influential in Washington—just as they appear to be wrong about Europe, are wrong about Hong Kong and are probably wrong about their policy on China.

This is a situation in which there is no choice but to take an ugly and difficult decision to avert an even greater injustice and conflict. Those who cry halt now—those who say that there must be some other way, even though every conceivable way has been sought—would themselves, I fear, carry the responsibility for the even more catastrophic consequences of inaction.

We are asked by leaders and guides in the world and by others among the public to search our consciences. Those who argue that this action should not now be pursued need to search their consciences just as minutely and carefully.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. It is clear that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Many will be disappointed unless speeches are brief.

6 pm

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

We on the Opposition Benches welcome this debate, which is taking place not before time. We have been calling for a debate on this urgent matter for many months—[Interruption] It has been a matter of Government responsibility. The Government have been dodging this issue on the Floor of the House, while at the same time secretly hatching their plan for forced deportation. I assure the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) that that is not the best way to achieve a bipartisan approach on this issue.

The motion is a technical one on the Estimates. The Opposition view is represented by motion No. 46 in the notices of motions, which cannot be tabled because of a procedural technicality. But that motion effectively is what my hon. Friends and I support tonight.

I also assure the right hon. Member for Guildford that Opposition Members appreciate the problems of the Governments of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. The conditions in the camps are intolerable, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and I saw when we visited them in June. The outbreak of cholera, the rioting, the absence of education for the children and many other matters testify to the abject misery of life there.

We also recognise that if all that we do every time the boats arrive from Vietnam is to arrange the resettlement in the West of every person, the flow will continue unabated, and the situation will be increasingly difficult for Hong Kong and damaging for Vietnam. That is why we must tackle the root cause of the problem with a viable, long-term, stable but, above all, humane solution.

We disagree totally with forced deportation. Having said that time and again, our view should come as no surprise to Conservative Members. We have said it at Question Time and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton and I have said it in statements. We oppose it because it is heartless and inhumane. I predicted that it would have to be done by a moonlight flit, and so it was —deliberately to escape the attention of the world's media.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) mentioned the return of illegal immigrants from Hong Kong to China, a policy that has gone on for many years. How does the hon. Gentleman square his ridiculous attack on the British Government's Vietnamese policy with the fact that when Labour was in government between 1974 and 1979—the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was a member of that Government—they returned from Hong Kong well over 100,000 illegal Chinese immigrants with very little screening? That shows the utter hypocrisy of Labour policy in this matter.

Mr. Foulkes

Chinese refugees are returned one by one at the border. We are here talking of people who have settled in camps and of families with children, some of whom were born in the camps. This is an entirely different issue.

Mr. Terry Dicks (Haynes and Harlington)

That is typical of you lot—two-faced.

Mr. Foulkes

I will not take anything from that racist hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order, The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) must withdraw that remark.

Mr. Foulkes

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is well known for his statements to the media, although not for his statements in the House. I let them stand on their merit and I withdraw—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw the word that he used.

Mr. Foulkes

I have withdrawn it, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman's statement stands as testimony.

The Government have not explained why that moonlight flit was done at 3 o'clock in the morning, if not to try to dodge the attention of the media, or why, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton said, nearly 200 riot police with riot helmets, shields and batons were needed—[Interruption] The facts appeared in every newspaper, including The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Financial Times. That was done to remove 51 people, 43 of them women and children. Why was violence needed? [Interruption] The Conservative lackeys of the Foreign Office might read what was said—[Interruption] If Conservative Members want to treat this issue seriously, they should stop barracking and listen carefully to what is being said. They should also read The Daily Telegraph today—not a radical Left-wing newspaper—which reports that martial arts were applied in the deportations and that handcuffs were being used. It was described in an editorial in The Times as "a sordid action," and that is indeed what it was.

We have warned the Government repeatedly that there would be justifiable outrage when pictures of boat people being forcibly deported were seen on television sets in sitting rooms throughout the world.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Pope in Vatican City is responsible for Catholics in Britain and throughout the world. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) said that the Pope should put his hands in his pockets and fork out money from the rich coffers of the Catholic Church to assist the boat people. Indeed, he suggested that the Pope could authorise the sale of two or three Vatican paintings to help the economy of Vietnam and thereby show what a good Catholic he was.

Does my hon. Friend agree that that reveals the hypocrisy of people such as the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington? After all, if the British Government had to take such steps to deal with the problems of the elderly, disabled and other needy folk in this country, it would be utter nonsense.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Perhaps we expect the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) to insult the Pope. It was even more despicable that an anonymous Downing street source should have done so.

On a number of occasions—for example, at Foreign Office Question Time on 25 October, at Prime Minister's Question Time on 26 October and, as the Minister will confirm, when I met him on 7 September—my right hon. Friends and I urged the Government to abandon their plans for forcible repatriation. The Government have used the phrase "an orderly return programme" and recently a senior Hong Kong Government official told me that they would send home only those who acquiesced. That is euphemistic, semantic hypocrisy.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude)

I confirm that the hon. Gentleman urged us not to go ahead with this policy. I also confirm that he had no alternative.

Mr. Foulkes

That is not true, and I shall be dealing with that point.

The Opposition have a number of serious concerns, not least about the screening of asylum seekers, who are told too little about the procedures. No legal advice or assistance is given to them and there are only six United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees monitors for 600 daily interviews, so they can attend only a fraction of the interviews. The whole system is biased in favour of rejection. Immigration officers have power only to reject. Acceptance must be referred up. How, in any case, do they differentiate in this instance between political and economic refugees? I hope that the Minister will give us some idea of the criteria used and whether they are the same criteria as were used when welcoming people from East Germany.

On 12 December, the Foreign Secretary said that the British Refugee Council had approved the screening procedures. I have read the report and spoken to the director of the British Refugee Council. He, like people from Amnesty International and other organisations, are critical of the screening procedures.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

I am anxious to establish whether the hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned about political refugees being turned back, particularly in boats. It takes us back some 40 years to another Labour Administration who turned away genuine Jewish political refugees who were trying to return to Palestine, sending them back to the Soviet Union and elsewhere in eastern Europe, almost certainly to their deaths. Is the hon. Gentleman part of that, or will he denounce it today?

Mr. Foulkes

The hon. Gentleman does not have his facts entirely right, but I am sure that in any event he would agree that two wrongs do not make a right. An action of which he is understandably and properly critical provides no justification for the subsequent action that we are discussing.

We are also concerned about the lack of effort, enthusiasm and commitment devoted to persuading refugees to return. That is because the Government decided on forced repatriation many months ago, and have maintained a blinkered attitude ever since. They tried to persuade other nations at Geneva in June, and failed; their heart has not been in the voluntary scheme, because they wanted it to fail so that they could return to Geneva in November and persuade other countries to accept compulsion, but they did not succeed then either. Contrary to what has been implied by some Conservative Members, no agreement on compulsory repatriation was made at Geneva: the British Government are alone in that regard.

Mr. Maude

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the international community is unanimous in its view that there is nowhere for these people to go other than back to Vietnam? Is he seriously suggesting that the Government deliberately chose their present policy when there was a better alternative?

Mr. Foulkes

Yes, and I am coming to that alternative.

Only a programme of assistance for Vietnam to help to improve the lives of people there will help to encourage them to stay, and encourage those who have already left to return. Those who return will go back to an increasingly more tolerable life, and will send messages to those who remain, thus reinforcing the trend towards voluntary return. [HON. MEMBERS:"It will take years "]

That is a counsel of despair. Our approach is advocated in a letter to The Times last Friday by Chris Bale, Oxfam's Hong Kong director; by Nicholas Hinton, director of the Save the Children Fund, in The Independent; and by Mary Purcell, War on Want's Asia programme officer, also in The Independent. Those three people are committed, long-term officers who, unlike some Conservative Members, know the circumstances of refugees in Hong Kong.

The same course was advocated in the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1986, when the refugee problem was much less acute than it is now. If it had been adopted then, it would—as the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) rightly said—have given a sense of hope to the people in Vietnam, and prevented the outflows of the past two years. Our view is also supported in an editorial in The Times on 13 December, which stated that the economic misery is at the root of the exodus", and by The Guardian, which said on 14 December that there was an urgent need to do something about the sorry state of Vietnam, which was not so much a tyranny as a devastated economy crying out for help.

If we in the United Kingdom can lead a shift of opinion to restore aid from the European Community and persuade the International Monetary Fund, the Asia Development bank and the World Bank to assist Vietnam again, hope—as the hon. Member for Broxtowe said—will begin to return.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

The hon. Gentleman's remarks are very interesting, but as 30,000 to 40,000 people are leaving Vietnam for Hong Kong each year, the programme that he has outlined must be a long-term one, and may take two or three years to be effective. For how many years would he allow this rate of emigration to continue, and what would he do with those who are already in Hong Kong?

Mr. Foulkes

If we had accepted the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report in 1986, we would now be three years further forward. We have to start some time.

One issue on which I can agree with the right hon. Member for Guildford is the appalling hypocrisy of the United States. While rightly opposing forcible repatriation, the United States is unwilling to accept the corollary —the need to bring Vietnam back into the international community. It must cease its vendetta against Vietnam simply because it lost the Vietnam war: it must lift the trade and economic embargo. If the right hon. Member for Guildford thinks that the United States' attitude is humbug—I agree with him—why do not he and his Government lift their embargo? If they do not, they, too, can be accused of humbug.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

My hon. Friend will have heard Conservative Members jeering about "taxpayers' money" when he suggested a programme of aid for Vietnam. Does he agree that a House of Commons that can vote £150 million to help victims of the Barlow Clowes affair should consider providing some sort of aid for the people of Vietnam?

Mr. Foulkes

My hon. Friend makes a valid point.

The United States Government and the French Government have a special responsibility to help in the reconstruction of Vietnam. The West as a whole, led by the United States, has constantly given a clear signal to the people of Vietnam: "Escape from Vietnam, and you will be resettled quickly in the West." That signal has been given for many years now, since the end of the Vietnam war, and to change the light from green to red so suddenly is unfair and inhumane.

It is entirely incorrect to say, as Conservative Members have on previous occasions, that other countries have refused to take Vietnamese refugees. Between 1975 and 1988 the United States took more than 700,000, Canada 121,000, Australia 117,000 and the United Kingdom fewer than 18,000. It is wrong for us to criticise other countries for not taking their fair share.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I am genuinely unable to understand the hon. Gentleman's answer to the point about returning refugees from Hong Kong to China. If he is to carry conviction inside and outside the House, it is essential for the hon. Gentleman to have a clear and consistent policy in relation to the two very similar cases. I still do not see how he can justify turning back refugees: I watched it happen in China when I worked there, and it is not a pretty sight. They do not want to go; they struggle, and women and children are pushed back over the bridge. What is the hon. Gentleman's solution? Will he suggest a programme of economic assistance for the 1 billion Chinese to salve our consciences?

Mr. Foulkes

Before Tiananmen square we were rightly trading and investing in China, but we are not trading and investing in Vietnam; that is one difference. The hon. Gentleman might also make a comparison with East Germany, and ask himself whether he is being consistent. There is, of course, a distinction between individual crossings and the position of families who have been living in the camps for some time, including children who were born there. Assistance for Vietnam is needed to develop schemes for irrigation, reafforestation, transport and agricultural production. Trade liberalisation will help to make life there more tolerable.

Our third anxiety concerns guarantees and the monitoring of returned refugees. I know that the right hon. Member for Guildford and his Committee are rightly concerned about that. We are informed that those who have returned voluntarily have not been ill-treated or persecuted and are beginning to re-integrate. They are sending positive messages back to Hong Kong and that is encouraging more people to volunteer. However, Mr. Thach, the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, reiterated his Government's opposition to forced repatriation in an interview in The Sunday Correspondent last week.

There are no guarantees and as all the agencies that might monitor the return of refugees have refused to monitor the return of those who are forced back, there will be no independent monitoring. The Foreign Secretary said in a letter to hon. Members: Independent observers will monitor the treatment of those repatriated. When the Minister replies to the debate, he must tell us who will be responsible for monitoring. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has refused, as has the Save the Children Fund. None of the other voluntary organisations will monitor forced repatriation. Surely the Minister will not suggest the embassy, which consists of only three men who are very good but are certainly not equipped for the job and are certainly not independent. They could not monitor the return of thousands of refugees. The Minister must tell us today who will carry out the monitoring.

The Government's programme is flawed. It is misdirected, heartless, likely to be ineffective and widely opposed. It is opposed by President Bush and the American Congress, Amnesty International and all the other voluntary organisations, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury. But we know that Conservative Members can dismiss the views of those eminent people.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

The hon. Gentleman has done his best to present to the House an alternative policy to that of the Government, and we have listened very carefully. His entire policy appears to be centred round an aid package for Vietnam. If we are to take him seriously, he must tell us how much money the Opposition would spend on that policy if they were in government.

Mr. Foulkes

I do not have to tell the House immediately—[HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] Of course I do not. I made the suggestion on 7 September and the Minister said that he was considering my suggestion. I did not suggest only an aid package. I suggested liberalising trade with Vietnam and aid packages from the IMF, the World bank and the Asian Development bank to Vietnam, to bring it back into the international community. Vietnam and Argentina were the only countries against which we operated trade embargoes; now we are liberalising and opening trade with Argentina and excluding Vietham.

Why are the Government pressing ahead despite all the opposition in Britain and throughout the world? It is for a very squalid reason. The Government and people of Hong Kong are pressing three issues. The Government know that they cannot give them what they want on the right of abode. They will not give them what they want and should have in terms of democracy, so they are sacrificing the boat people merely to satisfy one of those three demands. There is no other rational explanation.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Did not the hon. Gentleman hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) explain clearly in opening the debate that unless clear signals are given to people in Vietnam, another tide of boat people will arrive in Hong Kong in the very near future? In the light of those comments, will he withdraw the disgraceful allegations that he has just made?

Mr. Foulkes

They are certainly not disgraceful and I shall certainly not withdraw them. There is no evidence whatsoever that the despicable action already taken by the Government is having the desired effect. So it is proving to be ineffective as well as detestable.

I have given way many times and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to speak, so I shall conclude my speech. I have outlined in detail our proposals for assistance to Vietnam, but I wish to outline a further dimension. On 13 September, the Financial Times stated: More forcible repatriation can be avoided, but only with international help. The consequences of not resolving this issue next month will be a shameful indictment which will not fall on Britain alone. Best of all, the Daily Express, which I do not usually quote, stated: Mr. Hurd should announce an indefinite stay on the repatriation policy while Britain fights in every appropriate body to see that the international community comes up with a solution to what is an international problem. How can the Government continue when the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and Lord Ennals are being sent by the Government on a mission to Vietnam in the new year to examine the situation? Is it not a slap in the face for them if forced repatriation continues? How can the Government continue when there are no guarantees on monitoring arrangements and in the face of widespread and mounting opposition?

There is an alternative, and that is to bring some hope to Vietnam and its people—to bring them back fully into the international community and to try repeatedly to persuade and encourage more boat people to return to some long-term hope. They will return if they have better prospects for a more tolerable life.

Once again, I urge the Government to abandon their plan for further forced deportation. To continue that as the last vote in the House before we adjourn for Christmas would be an inhumane act of boundless folly and I urge the Government to think again.

6.26 pm
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

We are dealing with what should be termed an immense human tragedy. It is not a question of right against wrong; it is what all tragedies usually are—a conflict of right against right. I do not altogether dissent from the conclusion drawn by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) when he quoted from the Financial Times and the Daily Express, but I hope he will forgive me for saying that the polemical partisan terms that he used were below the level of events.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

What about Albania?

Mr. Amery

What an absurd intervention. I read in the newspapers that the right hon. Gentleman was suffering from 'flu. I am sorry that it has had such an effect on his cerebral capacity.

Mr. Kaufman

In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was delineating various suggestions as absurd —[Interruption] The right hon. Gentleman is a very long-serving Member of the House and early in his political career he will remember recommending the bombing of Albania. That struck me as rather an absurd suggestion.

Mr. Amery

Obviously the 'flu has done its work. I never recommended the bombing of Albania. I have recommended the bombing of other places, including Nazi Germany, but not Albania. Of course the right hon. Gentleman got it wrong.

All I was saying was that the polemical speech by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is below the level of the serious debate which we should be conducting on such an immense human problem.

First, we should be quite clear that Britain is involved with Vietnam only marginally by historical association. Hong Kong has come into the picture only because we have agreed that it should be a staging post for refugees. So far, it has carried out that role, but there is no question of Hong Kong being asked to bear any burden. If there is a burden, it should be borne by ourselves as the governing power, and by the international community. Obviously, we do not want to put any burden on Hong Kong as a result of this, and if extra personnel were needed, it would be up to us to recruit them.

I hope that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley will forgive me if I say that to bring Vietnam into the international community is no certain solution. It is all very fine to talk about reforestation, but we are talking about the problems of today and tomorrow. Hope might be given over a decade. Marshall aid took a long time to take effect so the idea that we can cope with the problem of the boat people now through the International Monetary Fund, the World bank or any other organisation is moonshine.

Mr. Foulkes

I also mentioned, as I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will recall, irrigation and other more short-term proposals. However, even the long-term proposals are meant not merely to provide immediate solutions, but to give some hope that there is a bright future for people in Vietnam. Surely the right hon. Gentleman agrees that that is one essential element.

Mr. Amery

I was involved in the old Commonwealth development irrigation schemes, and they took years. Dams have to be built and many types of equipment have to be provided. Such schemes will not solve the problem of people who are escaping, some from persecution and some from hunger.

The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley was a little nearer the truth when he talked about economic migrants, although the line between political and economic migrants, is difficult to judge. Were the 5 million Afghan refugees all political migrants? Nobody suggests that they should be sent back. Did the Palestinian refugees escape purely for political reasons? The Ethiopian refugees are escaping from hunger. Is that economic or political? This is a complicated and difficult subject, which should not be dealt with as the hon. Gentleman did by talking about long-term developments.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Amery

I shall develop the argument a little. The suggestions of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley might ignite hope, but are the people in north and south Vietnam really scanning newspapers and listening to the radio to see whether there will be a loan? I do not think so.

The coming of the next boat season, to which the Government have drawn attention, is also a problem. The Government have made out a cast-iron, logical case, which I find it difficult, in logical terms, to combat. And yet I cannot bring myself to accept the idea of the forcible repatriation of thousands of people from a British colony. I am not much influenced by international opinion or much afraid of facing up to harsh decisions, yet I find it unacceptable and even obscene to repeat what happened with the repatriation of the Cossacks, or with the Jewish refugees after the war when we blew up ships that tried to take them back to the mandate territory of Palestine. My hon. Friend the Minister would not put it in those terms, but he would think, "OK chum, what do you want to do?"

I have to answer the question of what we should do. I would not like to take the responsibility—nor would I like my hon. friend the Minister to take the responsibility—for denying sanctuary to people who have spent money and run considerable risks to escape from the prison house so that they would then be sent back to it. Vietnam is still a prison house and we make no bones about what we think of it, as we have gone so far as to support an alliance that included the Khmer Rouge because we dislike the Vietnamese Goverment so much.

What can we do? It is not given even to the wisest of us to read the future with any real clarity. The movement of history is sometimes slow and sometimes rapid. We have seen the whole of eastern Europe change overnight, like an avalanche or landslide. It might be wise to postpone the repatriation and to go to the refugee conference, where we could say, "All right, you won't take them, although it is your duty, but at least cough up some money to make the camps tolerable for the present refugees and, if there is another boating season, for the next lot. Pay up."

The space in Hong Kong is limited, but the New Territories are quite extensive, as my hon. Friend the Minister and I, who have been there, both know. We need not take a decision yet. Many problems in life cannot be solved at a given time. Time may work for us and the position in Vietnam may improve, although some of the developments about which the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley spoke will not happen quickly. We do not know whether the fear of what will happen in 1997 will inculcate a greater readiness for repatriation. I do not know, but we should avoid taking decisions now and putting ourselves in the position of denying sanctuary. The answer is to call the conference quickly and to say to the international community, "It is your job to pay. We shall maintain the camps for a year or two longer. If you do not accept that responsibility, on your own head be it."

6.36 pm
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I listened with a great deal of interest and care to the impressive speech by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), which will bear careful study. I hope that the Government listened to his remarks as he made an important contribution.

There are some things that it is in a Government's power to do, but which they should decide not to do, not on the grounds of practicality or because there are no alternatives, but simply because such actions are wrong. Although I recognise some of the difficulties of the matter, the Goverment's actions a week ago last Monday were wrong. They were wrong by almost any standard by which one cares to judge them. Even if the policy of mandatory repatriation was right, it was wrong to go about it in that manner. The Government were wrong whatever the sinuous convolutions of facts and truth in which the Minister will, no doubt, get involved later. Even if the policy of mandatory repatriation is ultimately judged to be correct, it is still wrong deliberately to choose women and children to put at the front line of such a contentious policy simply because they will put up less of a struggle.

Whatever the situation and whatever conclusions we reach on this difficult subject, it is still wrong to put in place a screening mechanism that takes administrative decisions that condemn people to return to the tryanny from which they fled in fear of their lives. It is also wrong to put in place appeal tribunals that judge whether or not such administrative decisions are correct and at which the people who are so condemned are forbidden to be present, to have legal representation, to know the reasons why the decisions have been taken against them or to have access to judicial review. As I understand it, this is the first occasion in the history of British justice on which such a judicial review has been denied.

Whatever conclusions are reached about the rightness or otherwise of a policy of mandatory repatriation in difficult circumstances, it is still wrong for a Government to use the techniques of the 3 o'clock knock, to send in riot troops who outnumber those women and children by four to one and to cart those people off to detention against their will.

Last Monday morning I felt the same sense of revulsion at the Government's action and at the way in which they have carried out their policy that was felt across the nation. That action has rightly caused international condemnation, opprobrium and obloquy to be heaped upon the Government. That action was wrong, and it shamed the Government, the Prime Minister and, ultimately, the nation.

Even if hon. Members do not accept my case that that action was, by any judgment, wrong, I ask them to reflect on what an appalling example we have set for the Chinese Government, who are to take over the care and safe keeping of our subjects after 1997. What if, after 1997, the Chinese state troopers turn up at 3 o'clock in the morning to carry off a British subject against his will and hand him over to a Communist state? How can we complain, since we shall have done it first?

Mr. Walden

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have finished my point.

What if the case of that British subject is put before an appeal tribunal and he is condemned to detention in a Communist state, and what if that British subject is not entitled to be present, to have legal representation or to know why the decision has gone against him? What if he is not entitled to judicial review? How then will we complain, since we shall have taken such action first?

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

What difference would our complaint make?

Mr. Ashdown

It seems that the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene. I shall give way to him in a moment, after I have given way to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden).

I ask the House to understand that we shall leave behind little enough as it is to protect freedom in Hong Kong. After 1997, probably the only thing that will stand between our subjects and the tyranny that slaughtered its own citizens in Tiananmen square is our system of legal justice, and how terribly we damaged that system last Monday night. What a dreadful legacy we have left to be picked up after 1997. Those who come to abuse their powers—we know that they have the ability and the stomach to do so—will say, "But this was the example that British justice set us." What an appalling example to have set.

Mr. Walden

The right hon. Gentleman has a tendency to talk in moral absolutes, and he must expect to be asked to live up to those absolutes. He has just stressed the iniquities of the mainland Chinese regime. I repeat the question that I put to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). We are returning refugees to a Chinese mainland, run by an iniquitous regime. How does the right hon. Gentleman square his repeated concern for the stability of Hong Kong with a moral argument that could lead only to the non-return of Chinese refugees to Hong Kong and the collapse of Hong Kong in very short order as a result?

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that that is the central issue to which we who object must address ourselves. I ask him to remember that I have so far concentrated not on the policy—with which I shall now deal—but on the way in which it was implemented. The hon. Gentleman has asked an important question and I shall seek to answer it. If I do not, I shall be happy to accept another intervention from him.

I listened with interest to the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell). I realise that this is an extremely difficult problem to tackle. I accept that it is no good Opposition Members simply standing on the high peak of their self-righteousness, and mouthing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I assure hon. Members that I shall be dealing with the policy itself. It is no good our merely mouthing our outrage. The central question must be whether the Government had an alternative, and I believe that there was, indeed, an alternative, and that it was an effective alternative. It was the international programme for the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees.

The difference between the Chinese refugee who comes over the border and the Vietnamese refugee who arrives in Hong Kong is that, in 1979, we explicitly encouraged refugees to leave Vietnam and we put in place an international resettlement programme aimed at resettling every single one of them—something that we have never done with the illegal immigrants from China. Those Vietnamese who are now flooding into Hong Kong have not understood—rightly or wrongly—that the policy has changed.

The Government must realise that there is no point in their saying that there is no alternative when it was the Government who were, in chief measure, instrumental in destroying that alternative.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Ashdown

I hope that hon. Members will bear with me, as I wish to develop my argument.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)


Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ashdown

If the hon. Lady will forgive me—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The right hon. Gentleman is talking about the south Vietnamese.

Mr. Ashdown

Oh, I see. The hon. Lady thinks that there is a difference between the south Vietnamese and the north Vietnamese. I am sorry, but I do not recognise that there is a difference. The country is a singular and unitary country. They are all refugees who seek our protection.

As I have said before, in 1985 I may well have been one of the first hon. Members to visit a Vietnamese refugee camp. I told the Government in an Adjournment debate then that unless they fulfilled their obligation under the international resettlement programme, the programme would collapse. The right hon. Member for Guildford criticised the Americans tonight. I ask him to remember that when the programme was in operation to Americans took 25 times as many Vietnamese boat people from Hong Kong as this Government did. They took 49 per cent. of those people, who were our responsibility, whereas the United Kingdom Government took 2.4 per cent. We took fewer than any other participating nation. Even Sweden took twice as many as we did.

It is all very well the Government saying that we had no alternative, but they were the instrument to destroy that alternative. I warned in 1985 that if the Government persisted in failing to carry out their obligations to the international programme, that programme would collapse, and so it has. In 1980, no fewer than 37,000 people were taken under that programme whereas this year only 6,000 have gone. Since 1980, Britain's contribution has dropped from 6,077 to 101. If the Government had played their part in that international resettlement programme, we would now have in place a system that might begin to tackle the problem—

Mr. Devlin


Mr. Ian Taylor


Mr. Marlow


Mr. Ashdown

Let me make this point before I give way to allow an intervention or two. It is quite simple. I can understand the reluctance of the international community towards bailing us out at this point when we have so signally failed fully to carry out our responsibilities under the programme previously.

Mr. Ian Taylor

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to me. He seems to be living in a different world from the real one. The whole world community has changed the rules on the treatment of refugees since 1979. All refugees who arrived in Hong Kong prior to last June when the screening process, started have been confirmed by the Government as being treated as political refugees, so they will be resettled internationally. Therefore, they will be treated as was previously intended. There was then a public announcement that there would be a screening process, and that screening process is acceptable internationally as the only way to deal with the problem.

Mr. Ashdown

Yes, indeed. The hon. Gentleman has brought me to my next point. The international agreement is now that the screening process should be in place—I accept that—but it also states that we should be giving the maximum input. Last year's agreement, reached at the June 1989 international conference, stated that the first option for a Government is to apply voluntary repatriation and that only after that had been in place and only after the "passage of reasonable time" should alternative measures be put in place, and then only after a proper programme had been established to encourage that process.

I do not believe that either of those two conditions has been fulfilled, and UNHCR takes the same view. A programme of voluntary repatriation that has been running for only six months cannot conceivably be said to have allowed a reasonable intervening passage of time, and nor has there been the education programme for voluntary repatriation to which the June 1989 conference agreed.

However, despite that, it can be argued that voluntary repatriation is achieving much more than most people had predicted, and I admit to the House bluntly that it is achieving more than I had thought it would achieve. Applications are now running at 150 per week. As I understand it, 637 people—let us recognise that that is 10 times as many as the Government have repatriated—have returned to Vietnam voluntarily and another 1,500—

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)


Mr. Ashdown

I hope that the hon. Lady will agree that I have given way a fair amount. I am trying not to take up too much of the time of the House so that other hon. Members, perhaps even the hon. Lady, can make their own speeches.

About 1,500 people have now registered in that process but—and this is the point to remember—there has already been a significant fall-off in applications for the voluntary repatriation programme since the forced repatriations began. The Government do not have the right to follow through enforced repatriations until, in accordance with the agreement that they made in June this year, they give the voluntary repatriation process some time to develop. That is why UNHCR, Amnesty International and other respected organisations working in this area have refused to agree with the Government's action. They believe that the voluntary repatriation programme can be given a boost and be allowed to expand.

I want to make several points about the need to reform the screening process because, as other hon. Members have said, it is a disgrace. I have with me a letter from a firm of solicitors, Boase and Cohen, which is representing some of the boat people. Perhaps it would be instructive for the House if I read a small passage of it for the record, because the Government must address the points that are made in it. That firm of solicitors writes about its clients: What we have found is that we are obtaining great difficulties to get access to the camps even to advise our clients as to how they should deal with the questions at the initial review. Indeed, the Immigration Department do not even advise us as to whether our clients have been interviewed or when they are likely to be next interviewed. They also prevent us from attending at the interviews and making representations. Although the UNHCR may be able to monitor the interviews, my firm or any of my representatives are not allowed to be present. It is my experience from seeing the results of the initial interviews that the Immigration Officers dismiss out of hand pleas by my clients that they have been subjected to persecution. Indeed, at one interview, my clients had documentation to show that they had been placed in a Re-education camp but this was dismissed as being untrue. I do not believe, UNHCR does not believe, and Amnesty International does not believe that the mechanisms by which we have been screening these people for a decision that will return them to the tyranny from which many of them have fled in fear of their lives is adequate. We believe that the wrong decisions are being taken and that many people are being returned who should not be returned and who will be subject to persecution on return.

Mr. Graham


Mr. Ashdown

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but this must be the last time.

Mr. Graham

Did the right hon. Gentleman see on British television the other night a British television crew wanting to interview some boat people in a camp, but being prevented from speaking to those folk by the guards? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is strange that a country that says that it has a democratically elected Government does not allow ordinary men and women who are suffering the right to speak to British television companies?

Mr. Ashdown

We need no clearer example of the Government's shameful policy than that it had to be carried out in the dead of night and under the blanket of secrecy, so ashamed were they of what they did. The House continues—[Interruption] Well, it cannot be in the Government's interests to lay down a system in Hong Kong that allows the Government of the day and the state troopers of the day to operate in such a manner. We can defend the rights of people in Hong Kong only if we are prepared to give the example of an open and free democracy, not the example of actions that are more in keeping with those of an east European state a year ago.

I have five brief points about what I believe should be done. I hope that the Government will consider them. First, the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley was right when he said that one of the long-term issues that must now be addressed is aid to Vietnam. It is illogical to allow the embargo on aid to Vietnam to continue and it is idiotic that the United States should seek to preserve it. If the Government must act unilaterally to lift that embargo and provide aid, they should do so.

Secondly, it is important that we fulfil the agreement that we made in June 1989 to give time to allow the voluntary repatriation programme to work and that we resource it effectively.

Thirdly, it is important that we return to the forthcoming January conference because perhaps one of the few positive results of this painful and tragic episode is that the international community is now alerted to the problem. The right hon. Member for Guildford is correct that the Americans' condemnation of our action gives us a unique leverage so that we can turn round and say to them arid others, "Right, you must put your actions where your words have been and put into place an international resettlement programme." However, the Government must play a part in such a programme, and not leave others to carry the major burden.

Fourthly, as is now suggested by some at UNHCR in Hong Kong, it is important that we now consider the possibilities of converting Tai Au Chau, which is an uninhabited island in Hong Kong, into either a permanent or temporary resting place for the Vietnamese boat people for the period until the problem can be solved. The Minister is shaking his head. If he wishes to intervene, I shall of course give way to him, but I should like to make one point before he does. We know from Hong Kong—I am sure that the Minister knows also—that there is a shortage of labour there at present. There is also a massive shortage of labour in Singapore, which is seeking to buy in labourers from Hong Kong. I do not believe that this proposal is impossible and to those Conservative Members who believe that it is impossible, let me just say that the opinion of many at UNHCR is that something can be done along those lines.

Fifthly and lastly—

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is a three-hour debate and this rubbish has been going on for 22 minutes. Could you bring it to an end?

Mr. Ashdown

I shall ignore that comment since much of my time has been taken up answering interventions from Conservative Members. If I had not done that, my speech would have been significantly shorter.

I hope that my fifth point will answer the right hon. Member for Guildford. There is a case for saying that we must do something that will stop the post-monsoon influx of arrivals in Hong Kong. Sending back 50, 150 or 250 people will not do that. We should use the intervening three or four months to put in place an effective, efficient and fast screening mechanism which would prevent people from being put in camps for several months and would effectively allow a decision to be taken on their future on the spot. In other words, we should treat them on exactly the same basis as we treat the Chinese illegal immigrants.

If in the next three months that screening process were properly resourced with an appeals mechanism that respected civil liberties, and if the Vietnamese Government were asked properly to propagandise that fact, we would be able to tackle the problem in a way that did not bring shame and condemnation on the Government or set such an appalling example for the Chinese Government who are to follow us in 1997. The alternative, as I have outlined it, would tackle the problem at its roots in the long term and in the short term without shaming Britain's reputation and infringing the civil liberties of a few helpless people whose only sin has been to seek freedom under our protection.

7.1 pm

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)

In the past week, Hong Kong has moved centre stage and the eyes of the critical world are focused on the policies to be adopted by the British Government on two major immigration issues: will we repatriate further Vietnamese boat people, and how many insurance policies are we prepared to give to Hong Kong residents in the run-up to 1997 to stem the brain drain?

Given the little time that we have, to deal with the second issue would be wrong. Suffice it to say that major concessions to Hong Kong residents could seriously misfire and it would be the likes of my constituents who would yet again bear the brunt of our well-intentioned decision.

The extent of the humbug and hypocrisy that I have heard in recent weeks has made my blood boil and has prompted me to speak out tonight. It started particularly for me when I watched the events of Camp David, when Mr. Bush lectured my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That was followed by one international attack after another, culminating in the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury joining in. What they all have in common is that they have no solution, no offer of help, and, like those Opposition Members we have heard tonight, no policy.

I had hoped to hear constructive solutions tonight, but I have heard only a lot of idealistic fantasy. I have heard no way of solving the prolonged crisis that mounts by the day in Hong Kong while Opposition Members procrastinate. There are 56,000 Vietnamese boat people living in artificial homes. Some have been there for years on end, jammed into crowded and often insanitary detention centres. In two months, they face the prospect of being joined by a further 1,000 a week. The problem has grown out of all proportion and has been too long ignored. Hong Kong just cannot cope.

Those of us who have been to Hong Kong will have seen the living conditions there. There are 13,000 people to every square mile. For how long do we let people go on living in misery in the hope of getting out of the camps? For how long do we tempt further Vietnamese to come in search of the brave new western world? Is that what our critics call compassion?

I shall stick my neck out and congratulate the Government on taking control of an intolerable situation. That is a reflection of the strong leadership for which the Government are respected and renowned. The British people will stand behind us. To run away from the mounting crisis, as the Opposition parties would have us do, and be ruled by sentiment and emotions that we have heard tonight, would be irresponsible. Tempting as that might be, our hearts cannot rule our heads.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Hicks

I will keep going, because of the shortage of time.

Constituents in inner cities such as Wolverhampton, which I represent, have long lived with the repercussions of an open-door immigration policy, advocated by many Opposition Members. The residents in the leafy glades of Yeovil have not. Too often I have listened to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who would not listen to me tonight, pontificating on the need for the Government to be generous, and I listened to him tonight savagely attacking the Government's actions. But for how much of his time has he had to live with the tensions of inner-city life? Has he ever had to watch immigrants arrive in a community, often small and overcrowded, and endeavour to integrate, competing for jobs, housing and schools with locals who were born and bred in the area? It is all too easy to preach as long as the problem is not in one's own backyard.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Hicks

The Labour party has no policy, but it will be quick to label me racist. But I am dealing with the realities of 57,000 people. I am not a racist; I am a realist. I have to consider the effect of any more immigrants on people of all colours and creeds whom I represent. Opposition Members say, "Let's be nice to everyone. Let them all in and to hell with the consequences." But they will blame the Government for the consequences. Opposition Members parade the plight of the homeless in one breath, then say hello to everybody in the next.

Little England is creaking at the seams, and we have our own problem of overpopulation.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Hicks

Time prevents me from giving way.

We have 232 people per square mile. But in the past week we have heard vociferous criticism from Canada and Australia. Canada has about 2.5 people per square mile and Australia has only 20 people per square mile. America, the most vociferous critic, and a country that I usually love and respect, has 25 people per square mile. Yet those countries lecture us. They preach one thing and practise another.

We have been condemned for returning 51 people, while Mr. Bush contemplates returning 42,000 Chinese students. What future can they expect after Tiananmen square? What about the forcible repatriation of immigrants from Haiti and Mexico? They are regularly returned. America, with its experience, should be able to give us help. As we have heard tonight, 50 people are daily turned back from Hong Kong at the Chinese border, and they have no right of appeal. Others seem to be able to do what they like with their illegal immigrants, but if we follow suit we are labelled heartless and there is an enormous outcry.

The Government, having taken a sad but honest decision, must guarantee that the Vietnamese boat people will be treated with dignity, and that physical force is never used against them. Boat people facing the prospect of repatriation must have their fears addressed and be reassured that their return to Vietnam will be peaceful and scrupulously monitored. Two embassy staff and three parliamentarians may be sufficient for the task of monitoring 51 refugees, but in the case of greater numbers, other agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must take responsibility in a concerted international effort to help the refugees re-adapt to Vietnamese life—living, as they will, in the knowledge that their dreams of life in the West have been dashed. Others in Vietnam must learn from their harsh experience and realise that it is not worth leaving home, because they will be returned.

The one plea that I make to my hon. Friend the Minister concerns orphan children held in the camps. There are conflicting figures, but I understand that as many as one third of them can be positively identified as orphans. To subject them to further insecurity by returning them to Vietnam now, while they are still young, would be tragic. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make every effort, in conjunction with every possible agency, to arrange for the adoption of those orphans by Vietnamese families already settled in the West.

We have enough experience to know that to continue talking around the problem, to live in hope of other countries offering help, or to hold the unrealistic belief that voluntary repatriation will ever solve the problem is misguided. I ask the right hon. Member for Yeovil how long it will take voluntarily to repatriate 57,000 people. That is the size of the problem. While 600 refugees were voluntarily repatriated over the past three months, over the same period, another 3,000 boat people arrived in Hong Kong. The vicious circle continues.

To avoid taking an unpopular decision now is just to avoid the inevitable. It would nurture false hopes in the Hong Kong camps and in Vietnam, and would simply put off the problem until another fearful day. The Government will be respected for taking the decision that they have. They had no alternative but to take action now, and I support their resilience in ignoring the wrath of hypocrites.

7.12 pm
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

The opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), the Chairman of the Select Committee, were couched in proper terms. He presented fairly not only the report but the different shades and nuances of opinion expressed by its members. He was right to say that, however the Government's decision may be judged, it was an agonising decision—and one that no Government, of whatever party, could take except after the deepest reflection and considerable anguish of thought.

I share the repugnance of all those, including the majority of right hon. and hon. Members, who blench at the very thought, let alone the sight, of men, women and children being bundled on to ships or into planes en route for compulsory repatriation in Vietnam. Not one person of any decency of feeling does not share that repugnance. Therefore, if voluntary repatriation could work, it is infinitely to be preferred, because it avoids a horrible dilemma and the decision that would otherwise have to be taken.

Hon. Members have mentioned international action to relieve Hong Kong of the burden of the 57,000 Vietnamese refugees. That is a wonderful prospect, but the plain fact is that no international solution exists. There is a distinction between present circumstances and those of a decade ago which the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) keeps describing. Under the 1979 convention, there was an international commitment to accept from South Vietnam people who were overwhelmingly political refugees, who had backed the Americans, and who were deeply implicated in years of horrible war. That is how the 1979 commitment arose and why it was honoured by the international community.

The current position is very different, as anyone who reads the Committee's report will learn. Today's refugees are not fleeing from the taint of American collaboration in South Vietnam. Rather, they are peasants, farmers and fishermen fleeing from North Vietnam, where there is no serious evidence of their political disagreement with the rulers of that country. It is a different sort of exodus.

The root of today's problem is entirely different. Whereas those who fled from South Vietnam risked all the savagery of attacks by pirates and others off the Malaysian and Thai coasts, the refugees leaving North Vietnam put into the Chinese coast two or three times in order to revictual, so that they could be assured of reaching sanctuary in Hong Kong. If we do not begin to recognise that central difference, we shall not begin to get the argument right.

Of course we want to reach a solution other than compulsory repatriation, but time is running out very fast. We have between six and eight weeks to mobilise international opinion—if it can be mobilised after the tremendous upheaval in world opinion and disturbance that greeted Britain's initial actions. If the Americans really felt the same outrage about North Vietnamese peasants that they felt about South Vietnamese collaborators, they would be as generous now as they were when they absorbed 700,000 South Vietnamese into their country a few years ago. The same applies to the rest of the international community. It has the chance to act now.

The Government have imposed a moratorium on movement, and it should be allowed to remain in force for up to six weeks. I say that because, in six to eight weeks, the next movement of boat people will begin. That movement is seasonal and depends on the winds and the weather. The North Vietnamese will start flowing out of their country again at the rate, some suggest, of 1,000 per week. The figure could be much higher. Their hope will be that, however temporarily inconvenienced they might be on their arrival in Hong Kong, the glittering promise of life in rich America, Canada or elsewhere, will stretch before them. There will be no cessation of the outflow, and that is why there must be no more than a few weeks' respite from making what will be a most painful and difficult decision.

There are 57,000 Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, whose own population is around 5.5 million to 6 million. If one expresses those refugees as a percentage of the British population, they are equivalent to 570,000 people arriving at the south coast of Britain in a single year, mainly because they were looking for a better form of life. How would we react to such a development? How would we face the prospect of those 570,000 people being followed by another 400,000 to 500,000 the year after? We must face the realities of sentiment in Hong Kong.

No one, with the possible exception of the right hon. Member for Yeovil, has suggested that it will be possible for Hong Kong to absorb another huge exodus of people from Vietnam.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene? He has misrepresented my comments.

Mr. Shore

I did not mean to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ashdown

Unlike the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), I made it clear that I should like refugees to be effectively screened and dealt with on the same basis as the unofficial illegal refugees from China, beginning with the next post-monsoon influx.

Mr. Shore

I am talking about how we could cope with another massive exodus. The right hon. Member for Yeovil suggested that an island might be used, but I doubt very much whether the physical space and facilities would be available for another such mass exodus. Even Mr. Hugo Young, whose conscience is as tender as that of any hon. Member, when writing in The Guardian about a week ago, had to try to draw a line between those who are already there and those who are yet to come. However much he accepted the case of those who were already there, he could not say, in all honesty, that one could do other than close the door to those who have yet to come.

Mr. Ashdown

That is precisely the line that I have just drawn.

Mr. Shore

But it is not a satisfactory line to draw, because the essence of the matter is that we have a deep moral obligation to give refuge to political refugees. Our duty lies with those who have a real apprehension of persecution and worse if they are sent back. The right hon. Member for Yeovil suggests that we should not even allow the next wave of people to be screened to discover who are genuine refugees, who are afraid of political persecution, and the rest who are looking for—

Mr. Ashdown

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It cannot be in order for a right hon. Gentleman so wholly and disgracefully to misrepresent the speech that I gave—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. That is a matter for debate.

Mr. Shore

I should not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Ashdown

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) has done so twice.

Mr. Shore

If I have, I apologise, but no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have a further opportunity to set the record straight.

If there is not the space and facilities to accommodate the next 40,000 people from Vietnam, how can they be screened so that we can find out wo are genuine refugees and who are economic migrants? That is the essential physical problem. The right hon. Member for Yeovil should have to create space now to carry on the proper screening process which he said he wants in the years to come. If I am still misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman, I apologise, but I hope that I have made my point clear to him.

It is essential that we carry the distinction in our minds between political refugees and economic migrants. It is one thing to be sent back to a totalitarian regime to face prison, torture—as is often the case—appalling ill treatment, cruelty and persecution, but it is very different, although not necessarily very pleasant, to be sent back to conditions of economic hardship and squalor. If we cannot make that distinction, we shall not begin to get the issue right.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Is he aware that three years ago the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I was a member with the hon. Members for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), recommended that when Vietnam withdraws from Cambodia the Government should contemplate some form of economic assistance? As that withdrawal is almost complete, and in view of the moral obligation of the United States to the economy of a country whose Government are evolving in a direction that we all understand, is there not an obligation on the United States and Britain to meet the Government of Vietnam to see whether those economic conditions can be ameliorated to get to the root of the problem?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend is right. I see no reason why there should be any serious contention between hon. Members, particularly now that the great political problem of Vietnam invading and holding Kampuchea has been resolved, on resuming substantial aid to the war-shattered Vietnamese economy. It needs help, and we should now be prepared to give it. We and the Americans should have started that process some years ago.

Of course I understand the need for the most rigorous examination of the credentials of those who apply for refugee status. If we are not examining them properly and adequately under the supervision of the United Nations, we must put that right until we get general agreement that our method of sorting the two categories is as fair as possible.

We should be as generous as we can, and immediately, in giving cash aid not only directly to the economic migrants who are returning, but to the Vietnamese authorities who will cater for them and offer them accommodation and employment.

We should ensure that the mission of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Ennals and the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) is carried out seriously and not just cosmetically, and that they have sufficient support staff in Vietnam to do a thorough job.

7.25 pm
Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

As usual, the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made a courageous, sensible and eloquent speech.

The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) was also courageous and clear and has been consistent over the past few months on the issue, but the sad fact that we must face is that, if there were free movement for the people of Vietnam, the number who would like to come to Britain over the next 12 months would perhaps be 10 times the size of the population of Yeovil.

The root of the Government's problem is that every sensible inhabitant of Vietnam would like to leave and move to the West. That is not necessarily an absurd idea, because over the past 15 years more than I million Vietnamese have moved to the West, mostly to the United States. Last year, incredible though it may seem, the money sent back by Vietnamese in the United States to Vietnam exceeded the hard currency earnings of its entire manufacturing industry.

Some boat people have taken to the boats because of a fear of political persecution, and some have done so because of the actuality of grinding poverty. There are some signs that that poverty may be easing.

This summer, thanks to the Foreign Office, I met the Foreign Minister of Vietnam in London. He is a veteran Communist who, I am told, organised the great Tet offensive in 1968. When I met him it sounded as though he was seeking to be chairman of our Back-Bench finance committee. He told me that the economic problems of Vietnam had largely been caused by centralised planning, and that it would be able to cure its raging inflation with market forces. There are some signs that what he said is coming to pass, because visitors to Saigon and Hanoi speak of a renewed commercial vigour in Vietnam. There is also some hope that poverty will be relieved because of the run down of the vast Vietnamese military machine.

It is absurd that, 15 years after the departure of the Americans and 10 years after the Vietnamese army defeated the Chinese in a sharp, brisk, border war, Vietnam should still have the fifth largest army in the world, which absorbs about 20 per cent. of the GNP of that desperately poor country. Over the past 40 years, the Vietnamese army has defeated the French, partially defeated the Americans, conquered the south and seen off the massive Chinese army but, sadly, its greatest victory has been over the economy of its own country. The size of the military establishment has shattered the Vietnamese economy. It is absurd to talk of aid as the solution to the problem when 20 per cent. of the Vietnamese GNP goes on entirely unnecessary military expenditure.

What can we do in the short term? Clearly, it will take a long time to relieve the poverty. First, we should look at the interrogation system in force in the camps. When I was in Hong Kong in April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative was unhappy about the screening process. Amnesty International and less liberal lawyers are unhappy about it. It is up to us and the British Government to ensure that the screening process is seen to be fair and thorough.

Secondly, we should accept greater responsibility for the camps in Hong Kong. The living conditions in some of them are disgraceful. We cannot ask the people of Hong Kong to contribute more. Admittedly, we have made millions of pounds available, but we should accept responsibility for the administration of the camps together with the Hong Kong Administration and assistance for the boat people in Hong Kong should have higher priority in the ODA budget.

Thirdly, we should take up the offer made by the Philippine Government at the boat people's conference at Geneva in June, when they offered to take political refugees into a transit camp in a town near Manila until they could be found homes. We should have grasped that opportunity, which would have relieved the pressure on Hong Kong. Sadly, little seems to have happened. When I checked with the Philippine embassy a few days ago, we seemed to be no further forward.

Fourthly, together with the United States of America we should seek havens for the boat people outside the western welfare system. We should consider Mexico. Much has been said about the Americans returning immigrants froom Mexico, and they have returned a few, but one must he drunk, drugged to the eyeballs or crippled to be caught by the American immigration forces. Millions of legal and illegal immigrants have flooded across from Mexico into the United States. At the same time, the Mexicans owe a vast debt to the United States and recycling it is a constant problem. It is not beyond the realms of possibility to arrange with the Mexican Government for a few thousands or even tens of thousands of the boat people to be resettled in the southern part of Mexico. That is in the long term.

What about tonight? I am in some difficulties. I appreciate the Government's problems, but in the 1960s I went frequently to Vietnam. I had many Vietnamese friends in the army and the Administration who are now either scattered or dead. I cannot with a good conscience support a policy of repatriation of their friends and families, so I fear that I cannot support the Government. I hope that we can find an alternative, on which we can look back with a little less shame than our present policy.

7.35 pm
Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

Part of the difficulty over the boat people has arisen because we in the West have dealt with Vietnam as an economic leper over the years, denying it both aid and trade. The problem has been compounded because until comparatively recently all those who came were accepted as refugees. In Hong Kong we have built up a large camp society. Tonight I shall consider how that problem has been dealt with and, most of all, condemn the means of forcible repatriation which, to say the least, is unBritish. I doubt if anybody would have accepted that solution if the people being deported were white, not coloured. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is disgraceful."] Deportation in this means is disgraceful.

We saw on our television screens how 51 people were deported. They were taken from their former camps and isolated in a group. The group was made up of 17 women, 26 children and eight men. They were awoken at dead of night by a thump on the door. Gazing out of the windows they saw the lights reflected off the riot squad helmets and equipment. Would hon. Members not have been intimidated? If that was not repatriation by force, it was repatriation by intimidation. Some 200 police stood outside waiting for them.

I know that the Secretary of State is an honourable man. The Government are all honourable men and women. What instructions were given to the police? I assume that they were not there to convey the seasonal greetings of the Foreign Office. What instructions were given if there was resistance? Is there any truth in the allegation that karate was used to persuade people to get on the aircraft? If it was an honourable exercise, why was it done in such a clandestine way, at dead of night, with little attempt to bring in official observers or the media? Something here does not bear the scrutiny of day, like most clandestine operations, and, in a free and democratic society, we require an explanation of that from the Minister.

The Government's argument is that those people are economic refugees, and therefore we must vet them. What form does the vetting take? It has been condemned by Amnesty International, and although the United Nations Organisation may have been asked for advice, it was not consulted, and has not given its stamp of approval to the methods that are being used.

During the first screening, there is no access to advice or legal representation of any kind. Is it not also true that the immigration officers who carry out the screening find it an unpopular duty? Is it not true that they do not write up their notes after the completion of one interview, but record them from memory, days or weeks later, after many more interviews? Is that a legally just procedure for a country with a reputation like ours to adopt?

When people appeal, is it not true that the appeal can be made only by written application? No legal or other representation is allowed, and the defendant—if I may use the term—is not allowed to appear at a tribunal that has the power to deport him or to keep him.

Will the Minister account for the fact that twice the number of people are granted refugee status after going to appeal when they first come before the first interview? Does that not show that it is not the appeals procedure that is fair, but the initial interviews that are biased, incompetent and inadequate for the type of cases that come before them?

Is it not also true that people's minds are conditioned, to compliance because they know that the people who run the camps—often the police—are responsible for their deportation? Is it not true that there have been complaints about police activity in raids in camps, which have resulted in the Hong Kong magistrates carrying out investigations? As a result of the investigations, and in spite of a condemning report, no action has been taken against those who acted against the people in the camps.

All those issues bear close investigation, as does the monitoring of what happens to people who return to Vietnam. If the Government are not moved by international concern from the Church at home and abroad, and from people with whom we are claimed to have a special relationship, at least Hanoi seems to be moved. If people who have been deported by the Government arrive in Hanoi and claim to have been deported involuntarily, the Hanoi Government have said that they will be returned. What will the Government's stance be on that?

Is the Secretary of State going to make a statement tomorrow that will allow some 200,000 Hong Kong economic refugees into Britain? How does he reconcile a policy of pulling in one group of Hong Kong citizens, into Britain and presumably leaving the rest of them to the tender mercies of the Chinese People's Army, with his policy of refusing asylum to people from Vietnam?

I know that it is a difficult and complex problem. If the Government argue that their actions are in accordance with the traditions of British empire I am not surprised that the sun never set on that empire, because not even God would trust it in the dark.

7.45 pm
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

I share with many right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in the debate concern, anxiety and horror about the misery and privation that so many Vietnamese boat people suffered during their journey to Hong Kong, and the conditions in which they live there.

In 1983, I was on a police launch in Hong Kong when we rescued one of those boats. I saw the utmost squalor. There were open fires burning on the deck and it was one of the most primitive sights that I have ever seen.

I also saw the boat people in April this year, when I visited one of the camps in Kowloon with the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. But despite that background, I cannot see any alternative for the Government but to take the steps that they are taking to return boat people compulsorily whence they came.

I have listened to every moment of the debate but, with the best will in the world, I cannot for the life of me understand why illegal immigrants into Hong Kong from Vietnam are different from other illegal immigrants in other countries. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) sought to give some sort of explanation. He said something about the boat people being settled in camps, but they are not. They are not settled anywhere. They are held in camps preparatory to something being done with them. They have been there for some time, but it seems to me that that does not make them any different from the illegal immigrants in other countries whom we have discussed.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that for the past 15 years the West has had a programme of encouraging Vietnamese people to leave the country and settle in the West? That programme and expectation did not exist for the Chinese people, and that must be one factor that makes the boat people different.

Mr. Jopling

That issue was covered a little while ago. For many years it has been the policy to help people who had been of assistance to the Americans during the Vietnam war. That is a totally different issue.

No one in the House tonight has adequately explained why the boat people are different from the Mexicans or the Haitians who enter the United States, or the Chinese who enter Hong Kong illegally.

Mr. Lester

The reason is that for the past 10 years Vietnam is the only country which, for whatever reasons, has had economic sanctions taken against it when it already had a poor economy. That has made its people among the poorest in the world.

Mr. Jopling

That is not enough to justify these people being regarded as different from the others. If it is right to return illegal immigrants from Haiti, Mexico or China, I cannot see why those from Vietnam should not be treated in much the same way. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) said that they should have some sort of judicial review. I have not heard him or any other Opposition Member say during the past few years that judicial reviews should be used by illegal Chinese immigrants to Hong Kong or even by people who come to Heathrow airport who are turned back if they have come illegally.

I hope that the Government will press on as soon as possible with the policy that they began last week, and send as many as possible of these illegal immigrants back home. I was hugely impressed by the speech of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), and I agreed with much of what he said. The message that he gave the House was about the urgency of the problem. The House ignores that urgency at its peril.

When my hon. Friend the Minister appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee last week, he told us—I was not there, but he told the Committee—that, at the present rate, it would take two years to screen all the illegal Vietnamese immigrants to Hong Kong. Two years just will not do. The Government must ensure that more people are engaged, so that screening can be conducted a good deal more quickly. It must be completed in far less than two years.

I believe that the screening process is fair and reasonable. As my hon. Friend told the Select Committee last week, the scheme was devised in conjunction with the UNHCR who have unmatched experience. It is essential that the Government continually make it clear to the world and to the British people that the rules agreed with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are being closely followed.

The more successful we are at finding somewhere for these immigrants to go, the more others will be tempted to make the journey to Hong Kong. The House must ask itself a simple question. When we are faced with the proposition of giving the right of abode in Britain to an indeterminate number, so far, of citizens of Hong Kong, would we prefer to provide the right of abode for Hong Kong British dependent territory citizens who are fearful of the Chinese takeover in 1997 or to give such opportunities to illegal entrants, who are not refugees, from Vietnam? If we have space here, I would rather give it to the British dependent territory citizens of Hong Kong than to illegal entrants from Vietnam.

Mr. Foulkes

The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood. The purpose of giving the right of abode here to the people of Hong Kong is to encourage them to stay in Hong Kong to keep the colony prosperous. The right hon. Gentleman seems to assume that they will all come to the United Kingdom. He had better get his argument straight.

Mr. Jopling

I understand that that is the case. The hon. Gentleman is correct, but however many passports or rights of abode we give to Hong Kong people, they may not come at once. It may be intended that they will not come at once, but the House should not forget that they could come at some time, and in huge numbers. The right hon. Member for Yeovil is one of those who say that we should give the right of abode to everybody in Hong Kong. I hope that, when he argues that in future, he will stop talking about 3.25 million people coming, as paragraph 410 of the Select Committee report makes it clear that we are talking about 5.25 million people. It should be understood in the country that the policy being pushed by the right hon. Member for Yeovil means that there would be an opportunity for rather more than 8,000 people to come to every constituency in Britain. That is what the figures break down to. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not thought about that before, but it is the truth.

Mr. Ashdown

I wonder whether the right hon. Member heard the speech of the Minister of State at the weekend when he said that the more passports are issued, the less chance there is of their being used. That is the point.

Mr. Jopling

I did not have the advantage of hearing what my hon. Friend said. I should be surprised if the number of passports that are issued had any effect on what the Select Committee described as the Armageddon scenario—that which would cause a huge number of those people to come here.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Heathrow airport is adjacent to my constituency. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the prospect that he has just outlined causes deep anxiety to my constituents and many other people in west London?

Mr. Jopling

My hon. Friend is right to make that point, and I hope that he will make it often when we debate that issue.

Mr. Ashdown

I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the statement made by the Leader of the House when he was Foreign Secretary. He said that if the Armageddon scenario arose, Britain would have to accept responsibility for all of them. The difference between the Government's stance and mine is quite simply that we would accept these people as full citizens capable of investing in Britain beforehand whereas the Government would accept them under the Armageddon scenario as penniless refugees—as the Vietnamese boat people writ large.

Mr. Jopling

I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that on the radio this morning. My wife wondered why I exploded when I heard it. I was present last July when my right hon. and learned Friend the former Foreign Secretary told the Select Committee that, if the Armageddon scenario came about, the international community would have to take a responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman has twisted that to say that Britain should bear the responsibility. My right hon. and learned Friend was very clear about that.

What should the Government do? Above all, they should concentrate on doing everything possible to stem the flow of illegal entrants from the south. How should they do it? First, they should use every opportunity to obtain better co-operation from the Chinese. I understand only too well how difficult relations have become with the People's Republic of China since the massacre in Tiananamen square earlier this year, just after the Select Committee was in Hong Kong.

It is intolerable that the Chinese should support boats that port-hop up the coast. It is even more intolerable that a number of these illegal immigrants come overland by bus to the Pearl river estuary and take the short hop by water to Hong Kong. Despite the difficulties, we must do everything that we can to persuade the Chinese not to support and encourage those people.

Secondly, the Government must try to do more to help and encourage voluntary repatriation to Vietnam. Evidence was given to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that those who are voluntarily repatriated to Vietnam are given a greater cash incentive than those who are compulsorily returned. We should increase the cash incentive given to those who go voluntarily. I hope that the compulsory repatriation scheme will be restarted properly and that it gets going as soon as possible. As more and more people are compulsorily returned to Vietnam and it is seen in the camps that the rest of them will inevitably be returned in the immediate future, I hope—

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)


Mr. Jopling

I shall just finish my sentence. If there is then seen to be a greater cash incentive to go voluntarily, there may be a considerable increase in illegal immigrants prepared to return to Vietnam voluntarily.

Mr. Allason

If my right hon. Friend is advocating an increase in the existing money given to each returnee—which is about $620—rather than to the North Vietnamese authorities, that will have the reverse effect and be entirely counter-productive. It will encourage more people to make the journey, because $620 is an enormous amount of money to such people. If we increase the money and give it directly to the people, we shall increase the numbers.

Mr. Jopling

It costs a vast amount of money for them to go there in the first place. There is a huge extortion racket among those who provide the travel to Hong Kong. We should have to keep the matter in perspective to ensure that the policy does not have a counter-effect. We have some leeway to encourage voluntary repatriation.

Mr. Maude

In case there is any misunderstanding, I shall clear up the point. The vast bulk of the money given as part of the reintegration package goes not to the individuals or families, but the communities to assist the reintegration. Only a small part of it goes into the pockets of the families involved.

Mr. Jopling

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for explaining that. I hope that he will consider my point.

I hope that the Government will be firm and will press on with the compulsory repatriation scheme as soon as possible, increase the pace of screening and tell the United States that this House regards the attitude of the United States Government as hypocritical and unreasonable. The Government should realise that a by-product of that firmness is that it will be a good way of demonstrating to Hong Kong that Britain still cares deeply about the problems in Hong Kong and recognises that the Vietnamese boat people are only one of those problems.

Action must be taken at once. Tonight's debate has dismayed me because the opposition to the Government's policy has been confined to hon. Members wringing their hands and expressing horror at making people who are in an illegal position do what they do not want to do. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley has, frankly, given a woolly series of uncosted, long-term hopes that do not take account of the urgency to which the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney drew our attention.

One factor that unites the critics—whether the official Opposition, the Archbishop of Canterbury or all those in between—is the demand to continue dithering. Those policies are recipes for uncertainty. The critics would command much more respect if they could provide a sensible, workable alternative that addressed itself to the serious urgency of the problem—something that the House should never forget.

8.6 pm

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

It does not seem that long ago that I remember the press in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales proclaiming to the nation that we were a haven for the boat people, and the Prime Minister welcomed with open arms the Vietnamese people who were racing from the embrace of Communism and a dictatorial society.

Britain was like an oasis, a shining star in the West. What could be more appropriate in the month of December, than the Prime Minister saying that we were a shining star in the West? We did not need three wise men; we had the Prime Minister, Reagan and a number of others saying, "Get out of Vietnam. Come to our land and we will put you in a home."

I remember the local authorities in Great Britain responding and I am delighted that they did so. In my constituency, they responded by giving homes to people from Vietnam.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the position was entirely different? The South Vietnamese had fought a bitter struggle with the Americans and, in return, the Americans gave them refuge in their country for the services rendered in that war.

Mr. Graham

I admit that things have changed, not for the better but for the worse. Like a spider's web, we have enticed many people from Vietnam. The Prime Minister has encouraged people to desert Vietnam in droves. They came to Hong Kong expecting to get shelter, aid and support to come to the West.

Some things have changed because there has been an election for a successor to Ronald Reagan, but there has been no general election for our Prime Minister. A spider's web has been set and the people of Vietnam have left their country because they thought that they could get aid, support and security in the West. Our Prime Minister has disgracefully led those people up the path and is now sending them back to a terrible and incredibly uncertain future.

I have recently read many articles about people whom this country sent back to face Stalin. No hon. Member would suggest that it was right to send back to Russia people who, it has now been conclusively proved, were executed in their millions by Joseph Stalin.

Surely conservative Members are not so naive that they see nothing wrong in sending back Vietnamese refugees to face that uncertainty. Surely they are aware of the anxiety that they feel. For years the Tory party has claimed that it is the scourge of the Communist party. Hanoi Radio recently told the western world that Vietnam is now incarcerating people because it wants to re-educate them and bring them into the fold. We do not know how long that will continue. I do not know whether it is even true or false, but Hanoi Radio has said that certain people are being taken in—

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Refugee Action estimates that 500,000 people are detained in the 150 re-education centres in Vietnam including 200 Catholic priests, 30 Protestant ministers and 3,000 Buddhists? That bears out what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Mr. Graham

I am delighted with that clarification and sad that many people find themselves incarcerated in Vietnam.

The Government are wrong to repatriate by force. I use the word "force" deliberately. Even the Evening Standard clearly states that Vietnamese people are being repatriated by force. The police come to them, armed to the teeth, in the middle of the night. What do I mean by armed to the teeth? They do not need to have guns or other weapons, they just need to be strong and fit and able to throw a bloke. If somebody in Glasgow were stronger than me and he twists my arm up my back, that would be by strength and arms. Many refugees are being forcibly repatriated by the power and strength of the police. They are being forced on to planes. If any hon. Member wishes to contradict me, I shall be happy to show him that it is true.

The Evening Standard has never been famous for supporting the Opposition; it usually supports the Government. One woman—a wife—told her story. She said: I suddenly felt something bad was going on and something was going to happen. I saw riot police carrying truncheons and shields. They beamed their flashlights at everybody and surrounded the bed. We were told that 21 people from the hut were to be moved immediately to another camp and we had one minute to collect our things. Is that what this country is now about—threatening men and women in the middle of the night? Do we use truncheons and searchlights to bully people? This newspaper is not Labour Weekly, Tribune or The Times. I am quoting from the front page of the Evening Standard, a well-known supporter of the Government.

Britain faces international revulsion—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) is laughing. Would he want to be a refugee in one of those camps tonight, not knowing whether the police would arrive in large numbers with batons and searchlights to drag him away? Would he smile if his family had to face that tonight?

The position is appalling, and Britain faces international revulsion. My late father served for nine years as a Royal Navy service man. He was fully involved in the war. He said to me, "Thomas, son, there is one thing that we pride ourselves on in Britain, and that is being a democratic nation. The other thing that we pride ourselves on is sheltering people who suffer prejudice from other nations." We must, as a nation, support international brotherhood and womanhood.

The Government are betraying in principle the whole morality of refugee status. They are betraying the principle of the United Nations. We must do something to restore Britain, in the eyes of the world, as a free nation committed to democracy and to the right to life. One hon. Member earlier made a nonsensical statement about the United Nations. I thought that this Government had the most absolutely special relationship with America. I thought that the American Government would understand the difficulties faced by the British Government.

We must remember the Vietnamese conflict, the involvement of America in that conflict and the billions of pounds that it spent to keep that tragic war going while millions of people died. I thought that Britain had a special relationship with America that allowed us to discuss the problems of the Vietnamese refugees and the boat people, yet we are told by Conservative Members that it is all to no avail. Despite all its sins during the Vietnamese war, America has told the Prime Minister to get stuffed. It will do nothing. It says, "Leave the refugees to languish in the mud. You deal with the problem." That is abominable, and it is equally abominable that the Government still claim to have a special relationship with America.

I shall end with a number of points—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down".] I am appalled that Conservative Members should find something funny in what I have said. Let them reflect that 50,000 people do not know what life holds for them in the new year.

I am pleased to note that the Pope has expressed worry about the situation and has urged Britain to take steps in the matter. Also, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Runcie, has spoken out on the issue. Although I see some Conservative Members smiling at what I am saying, I feel that others among them are sincere in hoping that this problem can be resolved amicably. I trust that Members in all parts of the House appreciate that I am sincere in speaking passionately about this issue.

I do not have the solutions to the problems of the world—of dictatorship and of all the other ills that beset mankind—but I offer the suggestion that we, as members of mankind, should do all we can to protect mankind. We should make sure that people have the right to life and we should fight for that right, however much it costs. We in the West, above all, should fight against the oppression of Communism and against other forms of oppression.

As we approach the new year, let us remember what Robbie Burns said about man's inhumanity to man. I hope that, whatever steps result from this debate, they will not result in the Vietnamese being returned to insecurity, prison, a deteriorating standard of life or even death.

The British Government have it in their power to bow to the wishes of international religious and other leaders who have said, in effect, "Please give hope for life to the ordinary men and women who have escaped trials and tribulations and who have sailed the seas in all sorts of weather to reach the security of Hong Kong. Please allow them to live in the West in freedom and security.

I urge the Minister not to be cynical. People in Hong Kong tonight rely on his judgment and sincerity. Let him forget the platitudes that have been used by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. We are looking for a miracle tonight so that folk may have the right to life.

8.22 pm
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude)

Seven days ago the Foreign Secretary told the House that we had begun to put into effect a policy, long adopted by the British Government, to return to Vietnam those Vietnamese in Hong Kong who were not refugees. That decision gave pleasure to none and I acknowledge that it has caused anxiety to many, and many of those anxieties have been expressed in this debate.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) opened the debate in a responsible and measured tone. That tone has not always been reflected in the subsequent contributions, but his speech and a few others captured the underlying feeling of the House. I refer in particular to the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling).

All those distinguished Members of the House come to the issue with long and distinguished experience of government. All of them are used to the assumption of responsibility and I appreciate their expressions of personal sympathy and support for my right hon. Friend and myself.

Those contributions were in stark contrast to that of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). He ended what I regarded as a grossly irresponsible speech with an allegation about the Government's motivation in this matter that I bitterly resented. It was an allegation that will have earned him the contempt of the whole House.

It is clearly essential for the House to understand fully the background to last Tuesday's return and the basis on which the decision was made. The House will be familiar with much of the background.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, many thousands from South Vietnam fled the persecution of a victorious and vindictive regime. The West responded with generosity and compassion. The first Geneva conference, called at our instigation in 1979, agreed that those who fled Vietnam in boats could be assured of first asylum wherever they landed, and that from there they would be resettled in the West.

But it soon became clear that the nature of the exodus from Vietnam was changing. As early as 1981, it was apparent that the majority of those arriving in places such as Hong Kong were not political refugees but people seeking a more prosperous life elsewhere. None the less, despite the evidence of this new pattern, the West maintained its commitment to take in all new arrivals. The United Kingdom, of course, played a full part in that. But by 1987, the numbers were so huge that the ability of the West to take in allcomers was strained.

Of course, there were still refugees, genuinely fleeing persecution, but the ability of the West to give asylum to the genuine refugees was being eroded by the sheer weight of the numbers. Accordingly, Hong Kong decided in June last year to introduce a system of screening, and I believe that it was absolutely right to do so. It was a thorough system, developed in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose representatives can attend any interviews that are carried out under that procedure. Each applicant for asylum has a right of appeal from the initial decision and has the right to help from the UNHCR in preparing his case.

I know that Amnesty International has criticised some aspects of the process, and I am looking to see whether any of the criticisms are justified, but I believe that the procedure is fair and thorough. I know that, where doubt arises, that doubt is resolved in favour of the applicant.

The purpose of the screening is to distinguish between those who are genuine refugees and those who are not. This is an essential process, which must be carried out by every country that seeks to keep its doors open to asylum seekers. The only alternative to a screening procedure is to abandon the policy of first asylum. Hong Kong does not want that; we do not want it; and this House would not welcome it.

Mr. David Young


Mr. Maude

I will not give way, because I want t o deal with the points that were made during the debate.

It was thus that, in June this year, a second Geneva conference decided that screening should be introduced universally. That conference, attended by all interested countries, and by the UNHCR, unanimously reached two distinct decisions. It decided that all those who had arrived before the introduction of screening, and all those whom the screening process found to be refugees, should be resettled in the West within three years. Undertakings have been given by participating countries to ensure that enough places are available for all those refugees. So the West's voluntary practice of taking in all refugees has been fully and honourably maintained, and once again, we have participated in this fully.

The conference's second decision, also unanimous, was that, for those who were found after the screening process not to be refugees, there was nowhere for them to go but back to Vietnam. I stress to the House that it was a unanimous decision, agreed to by every participant at that conference, including the United States and the UNHCR.

The conference agreed that repatriation should, in the first instance, be voluntary. The UNHCR has started this process in Hong Kong, and it has made a little headway, but the numbers returning to Vietnam are tiny as a proportion of the whole. The numbers returning hold no promise that those remaining in Hong Kong will be significantly reduced, or that next year's influx will be any smaller than this year's.

It is worth reminding ourselves—indeed, hon. Members may not be aware—that, since the whole process began in the 1970s, no fewer than 170,000 asylum-seekers from Indo-China have arrived in Hong Kong. To Hong Kong's eternal honour, that tiny territory—the most crowded part of the globe—has not turned away a single one. All have been given shelter, but the burden has become intolerable. Some 57,000 Vietnamese remain in Hong Kong camps, of whom some 34,000 arrived this year alone. It is because of the heavy financial burden that this throws on to the territory that we hold this debate tonight.

In the 10-year period before 1989, the Hong Kong Government spent about £110 million on building and running camps for the boat people. In the last financial year, that increased significantly, and spending reached some £39 million as the numbers arriving rose dramatically. This year, the Hong Kong Government expect to spend £90 million, and it is partly because of that huge increase in costs that we have felt bound to assist Hong Kong.

In the current financial year, we have provided £4.5 million for emergency accommodation. I announced last week a further pledge of £10.6 million for further emergency accommodation, and a 50 per cent. contribution to a new long-term camp. We shall continue to provide Hong Kong with help for as long as it is needed. In addition to those sums, over the past two years we have pledged or spent a further £15 million to help to resolve the problem more widely. We have given the UNHCR more than £8 million, primarily in response to special appeals for boat people, and also for the construction of a camp in Hong Kong. We are making available some £850,000 this year for our bilateral repatriation programme with the Vietnamese, and for monitoring those who are returned.

We have accepted for some time that a move to involuntary repatriation was likely to become necessary. I should add that involuntary repatriation is not a concept invented by Hong Kong in December 1989, but a process that goes on day in, day out across the world—a process that, by its very nature, involves the return of people against their will to a country that they have sought to leave.

A number of allegations have been made in tonight's debate about what was done on Tuesday morning last week. There was talk of handcuffs; I can tell the House that handcuffs were not used. There was also talk of force, but none was employed, and there was no resistance on the part of those who were returned to Vietnam. It was suggested that the number of escorts was excessive, but I can tell the House tha the number involved is customary worldwide for these procedures.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maude

No, I will not.

I remind the House that this was compulsory deportation: there is no escaping that. These people were being sent back—against their will—to a country that they had sought to leave, and it is inevitable that people in such circumstances should not be joyful. I assure the House, however, that there was no resistance.

Mr. Vaz


Mr. Maude

No, I will not give way.

The suggestion that a blanket of secrecy has been imposed rings rather absurd, given that live television pictures were screened worldwide. It has also been suggested that there has been widespread international criticism of our action—

Mr. Graham

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maude

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman had his say at considerable length, trying the patience of the House somewhat, and I have many points to answer.

The reality is this. The entire international community agreed at the Geneva conference in June that there was nowhere for these people to go other than back to Vietnam, and the international response to last Tuesday's events has accordingly been broad acceptance. Of course the United States has been critical—there are obvious historical reasons for that—but it has conspicuously not propounded any realistic alternative.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House last Tuesday that we were considering the resumption of aid for Vietnam. We may be able to say something about that later, but I must say to the House —as did my right hon. Friend—that it is not an alternative to repatriation. Even if it were to start tomorrow, it would not discourage people immediately from leaving to seek greater prosperity elsewhere and, in any event, the large numbers already in Hong Kong would remain.

Mr. Mullin

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maude

No. I am sorry, but I have a number of points to cover.

The aid proposal—serious though it is, and earnestly though we are pursuing it—is not an alternative to repatriation. I am bound to say that I have found some of the arguments that have been advanced a little puzzling: the same people are arguing simultaneously that Vietnam is a tyranny too monstrous to return people to, and that we should be pouring money into it to prop it up. We have, of course, looked carefully at all the many suggested alternatives to our course of compulsory repatriation, but nothing has emerged that has not either been done already or been universally rejected.

I should like to look briefly at some of the suggested alternatives. It is said, for instance, that we should renew efforts to increase voluntary repatriation. We are doing that, but it is inconceivable that it could suffice on its own. It is also said that we should increase the United Kingdom's quota of refugees but, as I have pointed out, places are already pledged for every refugee. In any case, that suggestion in itself provides no answer to the problem that we are addressing—the problem of those who are screened out as non-refugees.

The richest absurdity, however, has been the Labour party's so-called three-point plan. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said that he would introduce a screening procedure with independent appeal: that is the first of the three points. Can he really be unaware that it already exists? He also suggests an international agreement to resettle all political refugees. Can he really be ignorant that such an agreement has already been reached, and that places have been offered for all refugees? As for his third proposal, it was thrown together in contemptuous disregard of the realities. In an interview in The Independent, yesterday, he said: You get on with the screening [of refugees] … you launch international discussions to see whether it is possible to find in the southern Pacific area a territory where a holding centre can be provided for screened economic migrants from Vietnam. The Philippines has been named as one; possibly Indonesia another. When asked whether the Philippines or Indonesia would be prepared to provide such a centre, the right hon. Gentleman replied: Yes, well, I had a considerable discussion a short while ago with Mr. Dukakis …who is very heavily involved in the possibility of the Philippines. I was encouraged to believe it might work.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Maude

No, I will not. I have four minutes to go.

It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman, as well as talking to Mrs. Dukakis, did not bother to talk to the Philippines or to Indonesia. That possibility has been canvassed on several occasions, and I have news for the right hon. Gentleman. It should not be news, because he should have studied the position. I can tell him that, on every single occasion, every possible participant has rejected the idea unequivocally.

Even if it worked, what would be the substance of this great liberal alternative? It is that people should be removed from one closed camp in Hong Kong to another elsewhere.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Maude

No, I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The right hon. Member for Gorton accepts that that alternative could provide only a temporary pause on the way back to Vietnam. I noticed that, in the same interview, he was asked whether he would like the refugees to settle in this country. What was the answer from this great liberal?

No, we've got lots of people who can open restaurants without having Vietnamese economic migrants who are basically peasants—fishermen and farm-workers and so on.

Mr. Foulkes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. These matters were not dealt with in the debate [Interruption.]The Minister is not answering the questions that he was asked.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That may be a point of argument, but it is not a point of order.

Mr. Maude

The right hon. Gentleman ended his interview with the following ringing declaration: I wouldn't be a member of a Labour government"— prophetically, perhaps— that forcibly sent people to somewhere they didn't want to go. Again, I have news for the right hon. Gentleman. He was a member of just such a Government. During the previous Labour Government, in every single year when he was a Minister, between 10,000 and 19,000 people were repatriated from Britain. During the same years, Hong Kong, acting with the full authority of the United Kingdom Government, involuntarily repatriated tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to China. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that every single one of those people returned voluntarily? Of course not.

Those of us who have responsibilities in these matters are unable to avoid them. It is all very well for Opposition Members to wring their hands, stand on the sidelines and decry what is done, but they do not have to face the realities and accept the responsibilities. For those of us who have the responsibilities, they cannot be dodged or shirked, and we will not shirk them.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 309, Noes 219.

Division No. 25] [8.40 pm
Adley, Robert Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Alexander, Richard Browne, John (Winchester)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Allason, Rupert Burns, Simon
Amess, David Burt, Alistair
Amos, Alan Butcher, John
Arbuthnot, James Butler, Chris
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Butterfill, John
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Ashby, David Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aspinwall, Jack Carrington, Matthew
Atkins, Robert Carttiss, Michael
Atkinson, David Cash, William
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Baldry, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Chope, Christopher
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Beggs, Roy Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bellingham, Henry Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bendall, Vivian Colvin, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Conway, Derek
Benyon, W. Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bevan, David Gilroy Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Cormack, Patrick
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Couchman, James
Body, Sir Richard Gran, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boswell, Tim Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Bottomley, Peter Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Day, Stephen
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Devlin, Tim
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Dicks, Terry
Bowis, John Dorrell, Stephen
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dover, Den
Brazier, Julian Dunn, Bob
Bright, Graham Dykes, Hugh
Emery, Sir Peter Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Evennett, David Knowles, Michael
Fallon, Michael Knox, David
Favell, Tony Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lang, Ian
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lawrence, Ivan
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lee, John (Pendle)
Fishburn, John Dudley Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fookes, Dame Janet Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Forman, Nigel Lightbown, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lilley, Peter
Forth, Eric Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Sir Marcus Lord, Michael
Franks, Cecil Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Freeman, Roger Lyell, Sir Nicholas
French, Douglas Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Gale, Roger MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gardiner, George MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maclean, David
Gill, Christopher McLoughlin, Patrick
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Glyn, Dr Alan Madel, David
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Major, Rt Hon John
Gorst, John Malins, Humfrey
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mans, Keith
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maples, John
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marlow, Tony
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Grist, Ian Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grylls, Michael Mates, Michael
Hague, William Maude, Hon Francis
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hampson, Dr Keith Mellor, David
Hanley, Jeremy Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hannam, John Mills, Iain
Hargreaves, A (B'ham H'll Gr') Miscampbell, Norman
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Harris, David Mitchell, Sir David
Haselhurst, Alan Moate, Roger
Hawkins, Christopher Monro, Sir Hector
Hayes, Jerry Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hayward, Robert Morrison, Sir Charles
Heathcoat-Amory, David Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Moss, Malcolm
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Mudd, David
Hill, James Neale, Gerrard
Hind, Kenneth Nelson, Anthony
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Neubert, Michael
Hordern, Sir Peter Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Howard, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Page, Richard
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Paice, James
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Patnick, Irvine
Hunter, Andrew Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Patten, John (Oxford W)
Irvine, Michael Pawsey, James
Irving, Charles Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jack, Michael Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jackson, Robert Porter, David (Waveney)
Janman, Tim Portillo, Michael
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rathbone, Tim
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Redwood, John
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Rhodes James, Robert
Key, Robert Riddick, Graham
Kilfedder, James Ridsdale, Sir Julian
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kirkhope, Timothy Roe, Mrs Marion
Knapman, Roger Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Rossi, Sir Hugh Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Rost, Peter Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Rowe, Andrew Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Thorne, Neil
Ryder, Richard Thurnham, Peter
Sackville, Hon Tom; Townend, John (Bridlington)
Sayeed, Jonathan Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Tracey, Richard
Shaw, David (Dover) Tredinnick, David
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Twinn, Dr Ian
Shelton, Sir William Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Viggers, Peter
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Waldegrave, Hon William
Shersby, Michael Walden, George
Sims, Roger Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Skeet, Sir Trevor Waller, Gary
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Walters, Sir Dennis
Speed, Keith Ward, John
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Watts, John
Squire, Robin Wells, Bowen
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wheeler, John
Steen, Anthony Whitney, Ray
Stern, Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Stevens, Lewis Wilshire, David
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Winterton, Nicholas
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Wolfson, Mark
Stokes, Sir John Wood, Timothy
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Summerson, Hugo Yeo, Tim
Tapsell, Sir Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Mr. Tony Durrant and
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Mr. Alastair Goodlad.
Temple-Morris, Peter
Abbott, Ms Diane Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, Graham Clay, Bob
Alton, David Clelland, David
Anderson, Donald Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cohen, Harry
Armstrong, Hilary Coleman, Donald
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Corbett, Robin
Ashton, Joe Corbyn, Jeremy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cousins, Jim
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Cox, Tom
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Crowther, Stan
Barron, Kevin Cryer, Bob
Battle, John Cunliffe, Lawrence
Beckett, Margaret Cunningham, Dr John
Beith, A. J. Dalyell, Tam
Bell, Stuart Darling, Alistair
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)
Bidwell, Sydney Dewar, Donald
Blair, Tony Dixon, Don
Blunkett, David Doran, Frank
Boateng, Paul Douglas, Dick
Boyes, Roland Duffy, A. E. P.
Bradley, Keith Dunnachie, Jimmy
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Eadie, Alexander
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Eastham, Ken
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Buchan, Norman Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Buckley, George J. Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Caborn, Richard Fatchett, Derek
Callaghan, Jim Fearn, Ronald
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Fisher, Mark
Canavan, Dennis Flannery, Martin
Flynn, Paul Michael, Alun
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Foster, Derek Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Foulkes, George Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fraser, John Morgan, Rhodri
Fyfe, Maria Morley, Elliot
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
George, Bruce Mowlam, Marjorie
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mullin, Chris
Golding, Mrs Llin Murphy, Paul
Goodhart, Sir Philip Nellist, Dave
Gordon, Mildred O'Brien, William
Gould, Bryan O'Neill, Martin
Graham, Thomas Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Patchett, Terry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pendry, Tom
Grocott, Bruce Pike, Peter L.
Hardy, Peter Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Harman, Ms Harriet Prescott, John
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Quin, Ms Joyce
Heffer, Eric S. Radice, Giles
Henderson, Doug Randall, Stuart
Hinchliffe, David Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Reid, Dr John
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Home Robertson, John Robinson, Geoffrey
Hood, Jimmy Rogers, Allan
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Rooker, Jeff
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howells, Geraint Rowlands, Ted
Hoyle, Doug Ruddock, Joan
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Short, Clare
Illsley, Eric Sillars, Jim
Ingram, Adam Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Kennedy, Charles Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Kirkwood, Archy Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Lambie, David Snape, Peter
Lamond, James Soley, Clive
Leadbitter, Ted Spearing, Nigel
Leighton, Ron Steel, Rt Hon David
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Straw, Jack
Lewis, Terry Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Litherland, Robert Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Livingstone, Ken Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Livsey, Richard Turner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Vaz, Keith
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Wall, Pat
Loyden, Eddie Wallace, James
McAllion, John Walley, Joan
McAvoy, Thomas Warden, Gareth (Gower)
McCartney, Ian Wareing, Robert N.
Macdonald, Calum A. Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
McFall, John Widdecombe, Ann
McKelvey, William Wigley, Dafydd
McLeish, Henry Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Maclennan, Robert Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
McNamara, Kevin Winnick, David
McWilliam, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Madden, Max Worthington, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice Wray, Jimmy
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Martlew, Eric Tellers for the Noes:
Maxton, John Mr. Frank Haynes and
Meacher, Michael Mr. Alan McKay.
Vleale, Alan

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That a further supplementary sum not exceeding £1,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1990 for expenditure by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on other external relations.

MR. SPEAKER then proceeded, pursuant to Order [15 December], to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Estimates appointed for consideration this day.