HL Deb 19 December 1989 vol 514 cc119-20

2.53 p.m.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend that the forthcoming allocation of passports to "specially valuable and vulnerable" Chinese in Hong Kong will cover at least 200,000 families.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs hopes to make a Statement in another place shortly. I hope that the noble Lord will realise that it would not be appropriate for me to anticipate the Statement today.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, will the noble Earl tell the Government at least to treble the number they first thought of in this context? Otherwise, with so many people wishing to leave Hong Kong and requiring residential qualifications elsewhere for passports, there will be a breakdown in Hong Kong before 1997. Will he ask the Government to ignore the rough element in the Tory Party who seem to have forgotten the tradition that their party once had of care for the subjects of the British Empire? Will he also tell the Government to ignore the envious element of the Labour Party who cannot bear the thought of a few industrious Hong Kongers coming here who would not be on social security and who would not vote Labour?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord seems to have taken a pretty good swipe at everyone. I shall not give an undertaking that I will tell the Government to treble the figure, as he suggests, but I shall see that his views are made known. He asked me to ask the Government to ignore the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The Government do not ignore anyone.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, will the noble Earl accept that a responsible spokesman from these Benches intends to await the Statement which is to be made?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I was temporarily wondering who the spokesman would be. I now realise that it is the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, omitted to praise my colleagues on these Benches? Furthermore, is he aware that there is a substantial though not very large Indian population in Hong Kong? Is he also aware that they were almost all brought over —either themselves or their parents —as servants of the Government, as policemen or clerks, and that they will not be given Chinese nationality after 1997? They are therefore in a particularly vulnerable position. Will he urge on his right honourable friend that special steps be taken to ensure the security of those people?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, had the noble Lord made his views known a little earlier I dare say the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, might have taken a swipe at him too! I shall see that his views are taken into account, as indeed they are by my right honourable friend. All views are taken into account because this is a very difficult situation.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, can my noble friend assure your Lordships' House that the Government will not be deterred in any way from doing what is right by Hong Kong either by the unnecessarily alarmist views being expressed in some quarters by Members of another place or by the rather opportunistic position being taken up on the issue by the Official Opposition spokesmen in another place?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government will not be deterred from doing what they consider to be the right thing.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, will the Minister give consideration to the thesis that the more Hong Kongers we import the better? Does he agree that they come from highly superior, highly intelligent, hard working, law abiding stock and that they might invigorate our decrepit economy with hybrid vigour which we badly need?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is an interesting thought. I can assure the noble Earl that the view that he puts forward is a consideration taken into account by my right honourable friend.

Lord Maclehose of Beoch

My Lords, the Government took a courageous and correct decision about non-refugee Vietnamese. Will they now take an even more courageous decision about the grant of nationality to key people in Hong Kong on a scale that would save a situation that once looked so promising?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is precisely the dilemma to which my right honourable friend is addressing himself at the moment. It would be quite wrong for me to anticipate in any way what he will say. Of course he will take the noble Lord's views into account.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, will my noble friend accept the crucial importance of a sizeable allocation in this context to avoid China's inheritance in 1997 of —and I quote the article appearing in the Sunday Times of 17th December — Skyscrapers, an excellent metro system and an economy that has gone with the wind"?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is yet another point of view which my right honourable friend will also take into account.

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