HC Deb 12 March 1997 vol 292 cc340-1
4. Mr. Jamieson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the funding of the education of employees of the Hong Kong Government being educated in British independent schools. [18299]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)

Policy on the payment of education fees for the children of employees of the Hong Kong Government is a matter for the Hong Kong Government.

Mr. Jamieson

Is the Minister aware that education is a highly valuable British export and that some foreign Governments, such as Hong Kong, are paying for pupils to attend private schools here, some of which—for example, the Quantock school in Somerset—have been shown by the Office for Standards in Education to be seriously deficient? What measures does he propose to ensure that the Hong Kong Government receive the Ofsted report on Quantock school and, more importantly, what does he propose to do to make sure that the good reputation of many excellent schools and universities in Britain is not undermined by a small minority of seriously deficient private schools?

Mr. Hanley

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we make available information about British schools and colleges to countries throughout the world, not least through the British Council. As for the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, what the Hong Kong Government choose to read is a matter for them. Perhaps it would be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, however, if I say that the Quantock school is not on the list of FCO-approved schools.

5. Mr. Davidson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of China about the future of Hong Kong. [18300]

Mr. Rifkind

I met Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on 14 February. Most of our discussion focused on Hong Kong.

Mr. Davidson

Is the Minister aware of the great concern among Opposition Members about the Provisional Legislature and that many of us take the view that the Provisional Legislature as presently constituted is in breach of Sino-British agreements? What steps is he taking to make sure that the Chinese are aware of our position, which is that the role of the Provisional Legislature should be minimised until a proper legislature can be elected?

Mr. Rifkind

We very much agree that the proposal to replace the elected legislature by a provisional one is at the very least contrary to the spirit of the joint declaration, and may be in breach of it. The joint declaration provides for an elective legislature, not one appointed by people who have themselves been appointed by the Chinese Government. We made that clear in a firm statement last December and said that we would be willing to have the matter tested by the International Court of Justice. That requires the agreement of both parties to a dispute and, so far, the Chinese have declined to agree to the ICJ being invited to rule on the matter.

Mr. Redwood

Does my right hon. and learned Friend intend to pass the £40 billion of reserves in Hong Kong as a free gift to China at the date of transfer, or would he consider levying a success fee on the colony to reflect the many good years of British administration, which has been so successful in building up the prosperity of the colony, as some of that money would be most welcome here?

Mr. Rifkind

While I understand my right hon. Friend's question and have some sympathy with the thought behind it, the reserves of the Hong Kong Government belong to Hong Kong. Therefore, I regret to inform my right hon. Friend that, when sovereignty passes to China, the reserves will pass with them, hopefully to the benefit of Hong Kong.

Sir Russell Johnston

Did the Foreign Secretary have an amicable meeting? If he were an independent-minded journalist in Hong Kong, would he feel confident after that meeting that he would be able to pursue his trade unfettered after the handover?

Mr. Rifkind

The Hong Kong economy remains remarkably robust. Economic growth has slumped to just 6 per cent., which people in most parts of the world would think fairly satisfactory. Confidence in Hong Kong is fragile because there is unavoidable uncertainty. I believe that Hong Kong opinion has welcomed the statement by the chief executive designate that all the senior officials of the Hong Kong Government are to continue in office. We also welcome that. However, some other developments, particularly on human rights, have been disturbing.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Bearing in mind this country's continuing legitimate interest in Hong Kong after 30 June, will my right hon. and learned Friend give serious thought to the establishment of a special committee of both Houses to monitor developments in Hong Kong up to 2000 and for the remainder of the 50 years written into the joint declaration?

Mr. Rifkind

Our interest in Hong Kong will certainly not cease on 30 June. Under the terms of the joint declaration, the Joint Liaison Group, which consists of British and Chinese officials, will continue to meet until at least 2000. We shall therefore have a continuing legal responsibility to help monitor the implementation of the joint declaration. I shall certainly undertake to give serious consideration to my hon. Friend's suggestion.

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