HL Deb 11 February 1992 vol 535 cc579-81

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have yet come to a decision on the appointment of the next Governor of Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, no decision has yet been taken on that matter.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that his Answer will do nothing to diminish the anxiety caused by the delay in announcing the appointment, following the indication of the resignation of the present governor? In view of the desirability in those circumstances of creating certainty as soon as possible, will the Government expedite their decision?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the governor has done, is doing and will continue to do an excellent job for Hong Kong. He has the full support of the British Government, and a decision will be taken in due course.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a warm tribute should be paid to Sir David Wilson for the wise and balanced way in which he has conducted his duties as governor? Will the Minister tell the House what is the cause of the delay? Given that 1997 is not far away, stability and confidence are needed in Hong Kong at this time. Is the Minister aware that the retirement of Sir David, coupled with the delay in appointing a new governor, is not helping the situation there?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will join with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in thanking the governor for the work that he has done so successfully in Hong Kong. It was never intended that he should stay until 1997; he has been there for five years. As I have said, a decision will be made in the near future.

Lord Morris

My Lords, is it not of the utmost importance that the right decision is made rather than that the decision is expedited?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend is right.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, will the Minister be so good as to answer the supplementary question asked by his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter? Is he aware of the anxieties felt by people in Hong Kong, which the delay is increasing rather than diminishing?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and I have met members of EXCO and LEGCO. Indeed, we have met many people from Hong Kong, and we have heard their views.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, are the Government proposing to have consultations with the Opposition on this matter, which ought to be bipartisan? If not, will the Minister explain why?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the appointment is made by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Lord MacLehose of Beoch

My Lords, would it not be better if the Government now said that they are in no position to make an appointment until well after the election? Will they also add that this is not a good time for a change of governor in Hong Kong? With Hong Kong back on the rails after the Tiananmen incident; with a newly-elected legislative council; and with business confidence very high, why should the Government at this time throw the new element of uncertainty and misunderstanding into the pot? We might think of the uncertainty and the misrepresentation that might have been caused in Peking, let alone in Hong Kong. Will the Government say now that no change will be made before a certain date well into the second half of this year? That might help the situation.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it is most unlikely that a decision will be made before the election. However, as the noble Lord will know from his personal experience, and as he told the House recently when speaking in the debate on the Unstarred Question, his announcement of his intention to leave Hong Kong was made four months before the date of departure, and the appointment of his successor was announced only one month before.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind the sympathy that I have with all the questions that have been asked? Will he explain why the announcement about the resignation of Sir David Wilson was made at that particular time? It created not only great anger, misunderstanding and uncertainty in the colony, but great embarrassment for an outstandingly able public servant.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I do not believe that there was any anger. Certainly people were sad that the announcement was made. We believed that it was entirely appropriate that someone who had done so well should be given a Peerage, and that at the same time a decision should be made about the future.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, when the Government are considering this appointment, perhaps they will bear in mind the splendid, statesmanlike noble Baroness, Lady Dunn. I have seen her in action, as have many of your Lordships. She would make an excellent governor.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I hear what the noble Baroness says.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, will the Minister confirm whether the appointment is subject to consultation with the Government of the People's Republic of China?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the appointment is made by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Back to