§ 1. Mr. Alexander
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received about the right to a British passport of members of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for defence and I have received a number of representations about the allocation of passports to locally entered uniformed personnel serving in the military garrison in Hong Kong.
§ Mr. Alexander
Bearing in mind that we are dealing with members of a unit of the British Army, many of whom have served up to 22 years, during which time they have paid British taxes, and bearing in mind that we are talking about a maximum of 1,300 individuals, most of whom would not want to come here in any case, should we not make an exception in their case?
§ Mr. Hamilton
As my hon. Friend will know, there is a residual number of passports, of which we hope to secure a high proportion for many of these people, who I agree have given dedicated service to the Crown. I very much accept what my hon. Friend says and we should like to do everything that we can, within the allocation, to get as many of the passports as we can for those locally entered personnel.
§ Mr. Cox
Is the Minister aware that there is widespread support throughout the House for the point made by the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander)? Those personnel have loyally served the country and feel threatened by the changes in Hong Kong in 1997. They are in a very different position from other people such as prison officers or the police. I ask the Minister seriously to consider their request.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I very much accept what the hon. Gentleman says. They are indeed in a different position, and one of the things that make their position different from that of the police, prison officers, and so on is that their jobs will not continue after 1997. As I have already said, we are doing our best to secure as many passports as we can from the remaining tranche available. I take the point that many of those people do not want to come to this country, but they want the guarantee so that their 808 futures will be secure. We hope that their fears of persecution when the Chinese take over in Hong Kong are unfounded, and we have every reason to believe that they will be very fairly treated.