Vietnamese Refugees

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th January 1979.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South 12:00 am, 17th January 1979

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the cutting off of supplies by the Hong Kong Government to refugees on board the 'Huey Fong'. I have just returned from Hong Kong, where I have been looking at the problem of refugees in general and of the refugees on board the "Huey Fong" in particular. First, this matter is specific because there are 2,700 people, including 1,000 children, stranded just outside Hong Kong. They have been there since 23rd December. They have been sustained by food, water and medical supplies by the Hong Kong Government, but their condition is now deteriorating.

One man has died, and an increasing number of the refugees are ill. A few hours ago, a correspondent informed me that the Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong Government has threatened that the Hong Kong Government intend to cut off food, water and medical supplies to the refugees. I submit to the House that the cutting off of these vital supplies means cutting the lifeline of the refugees, and that it would be a shocking and inhumane decision. I suggest that no civilised society can permit 2,700 people to perish on the high seas by a calculated act of Government policy, no matter how harassed that Government may be.

Secondly, I submit that this matter is important because these refugees should be allowed to land temporarily in Hong Kong and take their place in the queue with other refugees. It is also important in order to enable us to recognise the splendid record of the Hong Kong Government and to try to ease their burden, because they have behaved magnificently on refugee problems. But we should not ease the burden of that Government at the expense of the refugees on board the "Huey Fong".

Thirdly, this is an international problem requiring an international solution, and I submit that we need to press all countries to accept a quota of the refugees. I hope that, if you, Mr. Speaker, agree to my request, we can convene an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations Commission on Refugees, so as to ensure that this growing flood of refugees should not become flotsam and jetsam destined for disaster.

Finally. I submit that my application is urgent because it is literally a matter of life or death owing to this threat to the refugees, and I therefore submit that nothing could be more important.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Gentleman asks leave, under Standing Order No. 9, to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely, the cutting off of supplies by the Hong Kong Government to refugees on board the 'Huey Fong'". The hon. Gentleman gave me notice this morning. I have listened with great care to him, and the House knows that I do not decide whether this matter shall be debated. I merely decide whether it must be debated tonight, in place of the business before the House, or tomorrow night. I regret that I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.