The Government tabled new clause 12 having seen and approved the intention behind the Opposition's new clause 1. In Committee, we had a useful discussion about how Parliament could keep an eye on the way in which the selection procedures flowing from the Bill and the Orders in Council to follow were progressing under the direction and management of the Governor. In Committee, I said that periodical reports from the Governor to the Home Secretary that would be available to Parliament would be useful.
Both new clauses put that suggestion into legislative form. I hope that Opposition Members will not press their proposal but will support the Government's new clause in preference because it is slightly broader. For instance, new clause 1 would probably not cover registration for wives and spouses. New clause 12 would, by contrast, cover every aspect of the Governor's functions under the legislation. I believe that that extra reach would be welcomed by the House.
I am grateful to Opposition Members for their initiative in taking me at my word in Committee and tabling new clause 1, thus providing the Government with an incentive to table new clause 12. I commend it to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister for tabling new clause 12. As he said, it is probably an improvement on new clause 1 in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself. It would be useful for the House to be kept informed as to how any scheme introduced by the Bill operates and for the Governor to report formally, as well as informally and through other channels, on how the situation in Hong Kong is progressing.
As the Minister said, new clause 12 covers slightly more points than were raised in Committee. It is not just the operation of the points scheme that I want the Governor to consider. It may assist the House if I outline two or three considerations that I believe the Governor should take into account.
The Bill is about the stability of Hong Kong and how the United Kingdom should best behave and react to the changing circumstances there. Individuals and groups of people in Hong Kong are not catered for under the Bill, and we should become more concerned about them as we move towards 1997. The question of spouses will probably be more conveniently dealt with under a later group of amendments, but there are other aspects that the Governor could usefully consider.
The Minister himself mentioned the operation of the points system. The Committee dealt with it at some length, and it is not my intention to cover that ground again, though other right hon. and hon. Members may want to do so. Suffice it to say that we have some reservations about the operation of the points system. In particular, we believe that it will cater for only a narrow section of the people living in Hong Kong—those who have other choices before them. People who are left behind or who will not qualify under the points system will feel that the Bill does nothing to reassure them.
I should like the Governor's annual report to include an indication of how the system is working in respect not only of its application but of its effect on the population of Hong Kong as a whole.
I should be particularly interested to know whether the jobs left vacant by people leaving Hong Kong are filled by others. A newspaper report two weeks ago indicated that about 40 people applied for each vacancy in the Administration. If that is so, we should be aware of it, so that we can keep our eye on the general position in Hong Kong.
There are two or three other categories of people not dealt with in the Bill but upon which we touched in Committee. The first group is those with no effective nationality. You, Mr. Speaker, were not able to select our new clause that dealt with this point, and, although it is not my purpose to raise the matter now by another means, I think that I can legitimately touch on the point in this debate, because we are discussing matters that the Governor should take into account when preparing his report.
In Committee, we raised the plight of people who will have no effective nationality after 1997. They are mainly of Indian descent. I know that the Confederation of Indian Organisations has been in touch with the Minister, and that in response to that meeting he wrote to the confederation as follows:
British nationals have the specific parliamentary assurance given on a number of occasions that if, against all expectation, any solely British national with no claim to Chinese nationality came under severe pressure to leave Hong Kong, the Goverment of the day would be expected to consider with considerable and particular sympathy their case for admission to the United Kingdom. We stand by that assurance.
For the avoidance of doubt, I gave an assurance on behalf of the Labour party in Committee that in the event of our being the Goverment at the time we would give these people the same consideration, unless their position had been dealt with elsewhere.
I mention those people because it is all very well to offer them sympathy and assurances, but that may not be of immediate help to them. The Opposition remain concerned that these people, whom the Chinese do not regard as Chinese for obvious reasons, may find themselves in a difficult position, especially if there is any upheaval or internal division in Hong Kong at or about the time that it passes to Chinese control.
Indeed, these people are excluded from holding high office under the terms of the agreement with China. I should he grateful if the Minister would give an assurance that the Governor will report on their plight, because if they are in difficulty Parliament should be aware of that, earlier rather than later, so that we can, if necessary, do something about it.
I need hardly remind the House that it is now about 20 years since the east African Asian British passport holders were given assurances following upheavals in east Africa, yet many of them are still waiting to come to this country under the terms of the assurances given by successive Governments. Many of them live in Hong Kong, and this loose end in British immigration law is unsatisfactory; people are given assurances and told they will be dealt with under an informal or even a formal system but outwith the mainstream immigration regime, yet they find themselves left in the unsatisfactory state of having only travel documents. That is what British overseas citizenship is: it does not give the right of abode anywhere other than in Hong Kong. If these people find themselves in difficulty in Hong Kong, we have an obligation to them.
The Government have said that an assurance has been given to these people, but I submit that it is not much of an assurance. The Select Committee that went to Hong Kong last year specifically raised this problem and recommended that the Government deal with it.
I mentioned two other categories with whom the Governor should deal. First, the House should be kept informed of the way in which section 4(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981 works. As the Committee heard, 180,000 people are in Crown service in Hong Kong. There have been 540 applications for citizenship under this section of the Act, of which only nine have been granted because only nine qualified under the terms of that subsection.
The Minister gave an assurance in Committee that section 4(5) would work alongside this measure, and I think that the Governor should report each year on the operation of the subsection and on whether any amendments to it need to be made. This is especially important, since Crown servants are to be relied on to keep Hong Kong going and sometimes put themselves in difficult positions because of that, so we should not turn our backs on them.
Finally, the Governor must deal with the issue of children. In Committee we did not manage to persuade the Government that children who are wholly dependent on parents but who are not minors should in some circumstances be granted citizenship so that they will not be left behind. I have in mind, for example, a family with three children, two aged 14 and 12 and one perhaps aged 19. If the 19-year-old were dependent on his or her mother or father—perhaps he was handicapped, or just living in the family unit, as children do in all parts of the world—it would be manifestly unfair if that family had to come to this country and leave one child behind. If the object of the Bill is to provide assurances and to anchor people in Hong Kong, it seems an odd way of anchoring people if one child must be left behind.
I said that family unity and the way in which minor children are referred to in the immigration rules and regulations needs consideration, because the United Kingdom is no longer in harmony even with EC regulations, where the age is 21 and not 18. That must be considered specifically with Hong Kong in mind, although clearly it might have other repercussions.
We are told that Hong Kong is a special case, and I accept that, but the Bill remains deficient in many respects. Many people living in Hong Kong have a need to be looked after rather than a pure economic need, or are in a position where it would be economically more advantageous to keep them in Hong Kong. I am concerned that I am continuing to hear reports that many of the people who will qualify under the Bill will also qualify to go to Canada, Australia and other countries. We are forgetting, or leaving behind, those who may find themselves in difficulty as we approach 1997.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, I reiterate that it remains the hope and wish of every hon. Member that conditions in China and Hong Kong will continue to improve, that the problems of 12 months ago will not recur and that the same transformation will take place on that side of the world as has taken place in Europe, particularly eastern Europe, over the past few years. We must guard against the possibility of things not going as we wish.
If new clause 1 is not accepted, I hope that the Governor will deal with those points, in recognition of the fact that there are genuine concerns among those who care not only about Hong Kong but about how the scheme will work, particularly in relation to those people whom it will not directly affect.
I endorse the comments of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling). The House hopes that circumstances will change and will evolve on mainland China, rendering the fallback positions enshrined in the Bill either irrelevant or unnecessary.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak to the new clause, which deals with the functions and duties of the Governor. It is an improvement to a certain extent, because it at least improves the channels of accountability to the House. None the less, I have grave misgivings about its workings and the criteria that the Governor will be asked to bear in mind. It is difficult to set yardsticks by which we measure our definition of the great and good residents of Hong Kong. Many hon. Members find that exercise morally excruciating and difficult to reach a firm view about, because we are being asked to do something that has proved virtually impossible in previous immigration laws and Acts of citizenship, not only in Britain but in other parts of the world.
Does not it also introduce a wholly new idea and basis for immigration? It does not say that people may come to Britain because of their attachment to it, their desire to serve it or to throw in their lot with its people; it allows them to come here precisely because they are, or may be, useful to Hong Kong.
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, but there is a piece of hard data that goes a long way towards answering his question. We see from the criteria that 50 points out of a total of 800 are to be awarded for "British links". Presumably that is the measurement by the Government and the Governor of the strength of loyalty that these citizens may have to the United Kingdom. I should have thought that, with a measure of 50 points out of 800, we can already see the pitfalls that lie in wait for anyone who tries to establish measures by which these people will be seen as worthy citizens of the United Kingdom should things go wrong in the colony.
The concept of loyalty is an equally difficult concept to enshrine in these criteria and one that I have never seen in any legislation. I am talking about the broader loyalties of a Foreign Secretary in conjunction with the Governor to those who may be under threat in the colony of Hong Kong if things go wrong and about a couple of loyalties which will not enter into the Governor's consciousness but which Conservative Members must maintain—loyalty to our party's manifesto and supporters, and loyalty to the nation. As our party has said many times, we want good community and intra-community relationships to exist and the surety that there will be an end to primary immigration.
We in this country have a moral obligation to those who will be under threat if the mainland Chinese do not honour the traditions and liberties of Hong Kong residents. Amendment No. 42, which may be discussed later in greater detail, expresses a genuine intention to define those people who may be at risk. It refers to people being
Is a schoolteacher any less of a good citizen or any less loyal to his fellow citizens in Hong Kong or to his links with the United Kingdom than a wealthy employment and wealth creator in Hong Kong? Who is more worthy? How many times have we had debates in the House about the relative merits of certain categories in society? Do we not talk many times about the extent to which we could not create wealth in this country and the extent to which there would not be rich entrepreneurs and job providers if there were no decent trainers and educators to provide the human feedstock and the skills required to generate a dynamic economy?
My hon. Friend wisely, caringly and sympathetically outlined the relative problem that schoolteachers may face. Perhaps I may illustrate his point. Schoolteachers in Hong Kong probably now teach versions and elements of British history. We have a changing regime in China; it is to be hoped that it will become more benign, but it may remain much as it is at the moment. If that happens, the teaching of British history in schools in Hong Kong may be regarded by the Chinese authorities as subversive. Although a teacher who has been teaching history under the existing regime may not be as wealthy or potentially as useful in the United Kingdom as some other citizens, he or she may be at a greater risk than them after 1997 if the Chinese Government develops as we hope they will not but as they could in adverse circumstances.
Before the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) answers that intervention, I should point out that it seems to go very wide of the new clause. The hon. Gentleman must not raise points that may have been raised on Second Reading or allude, as he did a moment ago, to amendments that are to be called later.
I am grateful to you for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I should reassure you and my hon. Friends that I have undertaken not to detain the House for more than 10 minutes, so it would not be in my interests to stray too far from the new clause.
Having noted the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I return to the criteria. A major problem lies at the heart of those criteria, which create a set of excruciatingly difficult dilemmas for the Governor, no matter how often he reports to the House through the Foreign Secretary. He is being asked to create lifeboats for key people in Hong Kong, but Hong Kong is a vessel full of people. What signal will the Governor be giving to the generality of the people of Hong Kong if he says, "Lifeboats are available only for 50,000 citizens"? How is that supposed to improve the morale of the ship's complement? That is the Governor's difficulty, and that is why I shall have grave difficulty in supporting the Government in the Lobby tonight.
The criteria are muddled. They illustrate the central moral dilemma that we have unnecessarily imposed upon ourselves, having already constructed criteria in the British Nationality Act 1981. If the proposals remain unchanged, in two or three years' time my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will have to live with some of the idiocies that the criteria entail, and although the controversy about the Bill may not be great this afternoon, the Bill will provide a framework in which we may face immense problems in three or four years' time. At that point, it will be too late for the House to reconsider its moral responsibilities, its loyalties or the practicalities of the Bill. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is genuine in his intentions, and I hope that, even at this late stage, he will consider the dilemma with which he will be confronting his successors as we move towards 1997.
As long as it remains the responsibility of the Government to look after all the people of Hong Kong, it will be possible for Britain to take a decision about their future that may benefit them, without regard to the present provisions. It will be possible for the Government to reverse their decision and for legislative provision to be made to back up any change of course that may be necessary between now and 1997.
We must address ourselves to the limited scope of the scheme and to its adequacy and consider whether the Governor's annual report on his functions, as provided in the new clause, would make a significant contribution. In my view, it is an acceptable new clause, but it does not go very far because it confines the Governor to reporting on his functions under the Bill.
The Governor's functions, according to the Bill, are no doubt capable of causing great trouble in respect of all those people who will be disappointed by the fact that they are excluded from the scheme for which the Governor and the Government will be responsible. None the less, those people are concerned about their future. If the Governor's report is intended simply to record how the scheme has operated, it will not tell us a great deal about Hong Kong or its political needs. It will certainly not greatly serve to underpin the Governor's difficult position in that country.
The new clause does not deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) about the difficult position of people who may well prove to be stateless following 1997. Those people may not enjoy the security of a right of abode in this country or the right to a proper passport entitling them to a right of abode anywhere or a right to be recognised as citizens of the People's Republic of China. They are not specifically provided for in the Bill. The Governor will have no duty to report on that predicament.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to stateless people in Hong Kong. Will he be kind enough to give us his impression of how many such people there are in Hong Kong, how they got to Hong Kong in the first place, and to what extent, given the different categories of people who are stateless in Hong Kong, the British Government and the British people have any responsibility for them?
Many are recent immigrants and some arrived in Hong Kong a long time ago. Many have come from the Indian sub-continent and there are many thousands of them. Representations have been made to many Members of this House about their predicament. They are not catered for specifically and the Government have not made any provision that will reassure them. That is a serious matter, and it is shown by the fact that the People's Republic of China, in its treaty arrangement with this Government, has not undertaken to recognise those people even as citizens of the People's Republic. The anxieties of that section of the community, for whom we have responsibility, are real and legitimate.
The hon. Gentleman is implying that some of the stateless persons in Hong Kong are possibly illegal immigrants. If that is the case, to what extent do we have responsibility for them?
If I had felt that that was the case, I would not have implied it; I would have said it. Those people are in Hong Kong and they are legally resident there. However, they do not enjoy a proper prospect of citizenship following 1997. It is frankly deplorable that a British Government, at the end of empire, should walk out on those people. I am addressing the matter in the context of the requirement of a report from the Governor about his functions. I stress that that report will be narrow and will not enable us to consider what else should and must be done.
The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) must be aware that we are not debating a fallback position. The provision will come into operation immediately. It does not depend on a change of circumstances in Peking or anywhere else. It is being brought forward now to deal with the present concern of the people of Hong Kong that Hong Kong's economy will be disrupted and the prospects of prosperity undermined if there is an exodus of people in sensitive positions in industry and commerce. Those people want the scheme on which the Government will be required to report to be drawn up quickly. They do not want to wait to see what is coming down the pike or to see whether the Peking Government become like Governments in eastern Europe. They want an assurance now. That is what the Governor will be reporting on.
This proposal is not a great concession. It is a narrow point. Although it is not something that I would dream of opposing, we must regard it for what it is—a pretty thin concession.
I welcome the new clause. Without any offence to my right hon. and hon. Friends, I have no fear about the effect of any of the measures in the Bill on British immigration policy. That is no part of my argument, and even though I have had representations from my constituents, I hope that I can take as honourable a view as I took at the time of the issue of the Ugandan Asians.
We are dealing with the annual report of the Governor and the way in which he will discharge his functions when the Bill becomes an Act. Therefore, we must recognise that the Bill is a response by her Majesty's Government to events in Peking last year as they were perceived in Hong Kong to be likely to affect the welfare of the territory in future. People in Hong Kong would have been less than human had they not been undoubtedly alarmed and concerned about what was going on in the north and the likely implications for their life style in future.
Although my hon. Friend the Minister is a Home Office Minister, I hope that he will accept that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot be totally divorced from either the contents of this legislation or the Governor's report. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will agree that relations between Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China—and, equally important, relations between her Majesty's Government and the People's Republic of China—are an essential fact of life and must be an essential component of the Governor's report to the House, as proposed in the new clause.
The report and the legislation flow directly from the 1984 joint agreement. That is the basis of legislation determining the relations of the future status of Hong Kong. Under that agreement, the British and Chinese Governments are committed to maintaining the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. My concern about the legislation has always been that, rather than maintaining stability, it may do just the reverse.
There will undoubtedly be further changes in China between now and 1997. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) will allow me to make two points that he has made succinctly and forcefully many times, and which are of fundamental importance to the way in which we look to the future of Hong Kong.
First, there never has been any form of democratic regime in China. There probably in our lifetimes—
I shall refer to that point in a moment.
There has never been any form of democratic regime in China, and the welfare, stability and prosperity of Hong Kong have never depended upon there being any form of democratic regime in China. However bestial one may perceive Chinese Governments to have been from time to time—it is quite arguable whether the present Government are more or less bestial than their predecessors—it is a fact of life that has always governed relations between Britain and China and between Hong Kong and China.
Secondly, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) has said from a sedentary position, there has never been any form of democracy in Hong Kong. Many of the unelected people—sometimes rudely known as "fat cats"—who purport to speak for the 5 million or 6 million people of Hong Kong probably have rather less knowledge of how the hawker in the back streets of Hong Kong thinks or what his concerns are than we may sometimes be led to believe.
On the Governor's report, we must recognise that the commitment of both Governments to prosperity and stability relate not only to how we and the people of Hong Kong regard the influence of this agreement on their lives, but how the people of China—the Government of China, in particular—regard the effect of this legislation on their commitment to the maintainance of prosperity and stability.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South will agree that some people who recognise the essential truth may have doubts about the following proposition. My right hon. Friend would agree that the welfare of the people of Hong Kong has always been best served when there have been good relations between the British and Chinese Governments. There has never been advantage to the welfare of the people of Hong Kong when Britain and China have been at loggerheads.
If one accepts that proposition, I am bound to say that the fact that the Bill was produced without any consultation between the British and Chinese Governments, or without the Chinese Government even being informed of Her Majesty's Government's intention to introduce the legislation, is not the best way to ensure the maintenance of good and stable relations between the two countries on which, at the moment and for the foreseeable future, the welfare of the people of Hong Kong depends.
I am worried that the issuance of passports under the Bill will deprive many Hong Kong citizens of their rights as Chinese citizens. I hope that I am not out of order if, in the light of the wording of the new clause, I remind the House of certain aspects of the two memoranda relating to passports and status which were attached to the 1984 agreement. I have the impression that not every hon. Member is entirely familiar with them.
The first was submitted by the British Government and includes the following proposition:
All persons who on 30 June 1997 are, by virtue of a connection with Hong Kong, British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTCs) under the law in force in the United Kingdom will cease to be BDTCs with effect from 1 July 1997, but will be eligible to retain an appropriate status which, without conferring the right of abode in the United Kingdom, will entitle them to continue to use passports issued by the Government of the United Kingdom.
The Chinese Government's brief response includes the following:
Under the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, all Hong Kong Chinese compatriots, whether they are holders of the 'British Dependent Territories Citizens' Passport' or not, are Chinese nationals.
Taking account of the historical background of Hong Kong and its realities, the competent authorities of the Government of the People's Republic of China will, with effect from 1 July 1997, permit Chinese nationals in Hong Kong who were previously called 'British Dependent Territories Citizens' to use travel documents issued by the Government of the United Kingdom for the purpose of travelling to other states and regions.
As both the British and Chinese Governments signed and accepted those memoranda, it is inconceivable that a British or Chinese Government could have introduced this legislation without recognising that they influence at least the spirit and, quite possibly, even the letter of the 1984 agreement. What has always worried me about the legislation and the way in which it has been handled is that, in the eyes of the Chinese Government, the British Government appear deliberately to have abused both the spirit and the letter of the 1984 agreement. That does not serve the people of Hong Kong well.
The Government have said that their objective in the Bill is to keep people, particularly influential and important people, in Hong Kong. Many people who oppose the Bill fear that it will have the opposite effect. So far, the Chinese authorities have made straightforward statements, but if they make it clear that if any Hong Kong Chinese who accepts British citizenship under the provisions of the Bill will not be allowed to stay in Hong Kong or China after 1997, it will drive people out of Hong Kong.
Is it appropriate or right to allow a Governor in his report to react to circumstances in China which would lead him to believe that the provisions already in the Bill would cause people to leave Hong Kong, having the completely contrary effect to the Government's intention? Should he include that in his report and, if so, should Parliament be able to do something about it?
My hon. Friend makes a sound point. It is likely that the Chinese Government would deduce that people who take up their right to passports are, in effect, giving up their right to Chinese nationality, and therefore face the choice of either remaining in Hong Kong stateless or coming to the United Kingdom. Nobody is likely to want to take the chance of remaining in a country stateless. There is a real risk that the Bill will encourage people to leave Hong Kong.
My anxieties have nothing to do with my views on British immigration policy. I am worried about the effect of such an event on Hong Kong. There have always been many people leaving Hong Kong regularly for elsewhere in the world.
I will answer my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) first, and then I shall give way.
There has always been a regular outflow of people. Clearly, it is bound to fluctuate from time to time, but inevitably the constitutional changes that will take place in 1997 will create a great deal of uncertainty. In his annual report the Governor should address the likelihood that, when the Bill becomes an Act, instead of a regular flow of people from Hong Kong, there will be a risk of creating a flood. I d o not use that word to be abusive or to imply that there will be a flood of people to Britain. However, there could be a flood or haemorrhage of people from Hong Kong all at one go.
If one is trying to maintain the stability of a territory, in what worse way could one go about it than introducing legislation that risks creating a sudden haemorrhage of large numbers of people at one time?
Does my hon. Friend agree that the last thing that the Chinese Government want—my hon. Friend is far closer to the Chinese Government than I could ever be—is to get rid of the people who are making the enterprise culture in Hong Kong work? It is pretty obvious to me that the Chinese Government are looking forward to a wonderful community that will produce vast amounts of money. I do not accept the argument that the more British passports we issue, the more people will be frightened away by a Chinese Government—quite the reverse. The Chinese Government will know that we have hand-picked those people as part of the enterprise culture, and they will do everything in their power to retain them. After all, if Hong Kong is not a thriving port, it is nothing but a little barren rock.
My hon. Friend is probably closer to the authorities in Taiwan than I am ever likely to be, but that need not preclude our agreeing from time to time on certain matters.
In a moment. My hon. Friend must let me answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) first, because it is important.
With respect to some of the Ministers, not at the Home Office but at the Foreign Office, one of the problems is that they were not around when the joint agreement of 1984 was being negotiated, let alone the months and years leading up to it when everyone knew that negotiations had to take place and all sorts of silly phrases such as "leaseback" were in the air. My hon. Friend will remember it. It is probably not too indiscreet of me to say now that I wrote my book called "All change, Hong Kong" in 1983 and had copies scrutinised verbatim by both the Foreign Office and the Chinese Government. Things needed to be said at that time which neither Government felt able to say, and I was the fall guy who said them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Test is right: the spirit of the 1984 agreement is that, basically, Chinese pride was deeply wounded by our acquisition of Hong Kong, and the ambition of successive Chinese Governments, many of whom were far more vitriolic about Hong Kong than the Communist Government have been since 1949, was the return of sovereignty. As my hon. Friend said, they wanted sovereignty to be returned but Hong Kong to be left as it was.
The Chinese are not altruistic. That is the last thing that one could accuse them of being. They are self-interested, and they want to retain the wealth and the benefits that they receive from Hong Kong. Their desire and that of the British Government to maintain stability is enshrined in the wealth and benefits that come from Hong Kong. Of course, my hon. Friend is right: the last thing that the Chinese wanted to do, or want to do now, is to drive away from Hong Kong the very people on whom its prosperity depends. My hon. Friend is perhaps implying that, by this legislation, we are likely to further the departure of people from Hong Kong rather than to still it. I believe that that is the point that my hon. Friend made, and it could well be true.
I wish to take up with my hon. Friend a relevant point. Has not a feature of Hong Kong life since 1984 been the way in which a considerable number of people, without offence to the Chinese authorities, acquired alternative rights of abode in the traditional immigration reception countries of the United States of America, Canada and Australia? Is it not important that the Governor's annual report tells Parliament what is happening about that trend? Many of us fear that, instead of acquiring rights of abode in those countries which have traditionally always welcomed immigrants, people will turn their attention to emigrating to Britain.
My hon. Friend has a point. Given the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Test, I suppose that I should have declared my interest as the chairman of the British-Chinese parliamentary group. As a member of the Select Committee on Members' interests, I am not sure whether I should have done that earlier. However, I hope that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will not give me too hard a time as I continue my speech.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South-West (Mr. Budgen) has made a valid point. Recently in Hong Kong, discussing among other matters the one that he has just raised, I discovered that the lowest going price for a passport was $HK50,000 for a passport for the Dominican Republic. Perhaps, in the report that the Governor produces to Parliament, he should also produce an annual chart of the going rate for a passport for any given country. There is nothing particularly new about that.
One aspect to which my hon. Friend did not allude but which certainly concerns me—perhaps the Governor could turn his mind to it—is whether, under the Bill, we shall create a market for jobs with British passports. There is a market in just about everything else in Hong Kong, and I cannot see any reason why jobs that carry the likely right to a passport, under the Bill, will not have a price. Personally, I have never discovered anything in Hong Kong that does not have a price.
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the Chinese authorities would ever know the identities of those who could not manage to secure a right of abode in the United Kingdom?
I had not considered that, but it is an interesting question. I do not know, but I suppose that one would have to look into the procedures. The hon. Gentleman should address to the Minister the question whether all the applications will be handled in total secrecy and how that secrecy is to be maintained. The retention of such secrets in a place like Hong Kong may not be easy—
I believe that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was looking at and referring to me when he made his intervention. Whether or not the Chinese authorities come to know about those who will have the right of abode under the provisions of the Bill—and they probably will—what is more important than that—
Well, what is more important than that is that those people who do receive the right of abode will go through their lives with the assumption that the Chinese authorities will get to know that information?
That is a somewhat esoteric point, which I had not been going to cover and on which I have no information, because there can be no information. That is an additional concern, but I am anxious—
I am not joining an attempt to filibuster the Bill. I do not like the Bill—[interruption] I do not wish to be unkind. The House voted to give the Bill its Second Reading and I gather that the mood of the House is to allow the Bill to pass, but I am anxious to put on record some of my thoughts and worries, which should concern other hon. Members, which, I am sure, bother Sir David Wilson and which I hope he will be minded to include in his report.
The last two or three points that have been made have related to the sort of place that Hong Kong is. It is a mercurial place, with one of the most irresponsible presses in the free world, for which sensation and rumour are the order of the day.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is not in his place. When he was last in Hong Kong, having read the South China Morning Post and other newspapers and believed what was in them, he thereupon made a statement about how many passports the French and West German and other Governments would offer the citizens of Hong Kong. I must advise him that it must be quite some time since any Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can have achieved such a swift response from friendly Governments, remonstrating at what a British Minister had said. Even the Canadian Government were constrained to object to the British Government about what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State had said.
Therefore, I hope that care will now be taken by Ministers and that they will recognise that, although we do not have to like or admire the Chinese, we must recognise the facts of life and that they are there and will assume sovereignty. Their good will and their interpretation of this legislation are of vital importance to the people of Hong Kong. Therefore, the British Government and the Chinese Government must stay in contact. They must talk to each other and keep each other informed of their thinking.
I have expressed in answer to an intervention my fear that the Bill will create a haemorrhage of people from Hong Kong, the very haemorrhage that the Bill is supposed to stem. I hope that I am wrong. In my view, those in Hong Kong who have clamoured for the Bill have taken a major step, some wittingly and some unwittingly, to undermine relations between Britain and China over the 1984 agreement. If I may say so, they do not and have not served well those for whom they purport to speak and by whom they have never been elected.
I am extremely concerned about the Bill. I hope that everything that I have said turns out to be entirely wrong. I believe that, in itself, it is an undermining of the 1984 joint agreement, upon which Hong Kong's future undoubtedly ultimately depends.
First, I welcome the new clause. A number of hon. Members, including myself, urged on Second Reading that an annual report should be presented. I am grateful to the Home Office and to the Government generally for tabling and introducing the new clause. I agree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) about its limited purpose and narrow intentions. Nevertheless, it provides an important peg and an opportunity for the House in the years to come, especially between now and 1997, to monitor political events and developments in Hong Kong.
I wish to dwell for a short while on the mechanics of the presentation of the report and the opportunities for the House to perform a monitoring role. The report will be presented to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. We have had an annual debate on Hong Kong over recent years and I assume that the report will be an important part of the papers available to us when we debate Hong Kong in the future.
If the annual report is to be presented to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, it seems that that will not provide the full parliamentary scrutiny that I would like. I suggest that the Government and all the parties represented in the House consider the possibility of setting up a joint committee of the Select Committees on Home Affairs and on Foreign Affairs, which would be charged with the responsibility for monitoring political, social and economic events in Hong Kong. That would enable the Select Committee machinery to produce reports for the information of the House, and would provide the important information that Members will require when they come annually to debate the report that will be presented by the Governor and other matters relating to the affairs of Hong Kong.
The Select Committee on Home Affairs will be able to make inquiries about the annual report, but I am concerned that there appears to be no machinery to enable either the Foreign Secretary or the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs to have a locus. The House must do everything in its power to build confidence and try to reinforce confidence in the minds of the people of Hong Kong, who remain extremely anxious about their position during the years before 1997, by creating new extra-governmental institutions that will provide powers and opportunities to hon. Members to express concerns and anxieties as we proceed to 1997. If my suggestions were adopted, we would have a regular and sustained opportunity to ring the alarm bells if hon. Members or Select Committees were alarmed about anything.
The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) has great knowledge and experience of Asia, especially China and Hong Kong, and I bow to that experience. I listened intently to what he said, and agreed with much of it. However, I must emphasise what has not been emphasised in earlier debates, and certainly not today: the haemorrhage is already here. Every week 1,000 people are leaving Hong Kong, and recent events have done nothing to strengthen their confidence about their well-being and safety, and that of their families, up to and after 1997.
I do not know when the hon. Gentleman last checked the figures, but I did so six or eight weeks ago. In the 10 months after the events of June last year, there was a marginal decrease in the number of people leaving Hong Kong. I hear what he says, but if he checks the facts and figures he may find that the alarming totals of which he has spoken are not borne out in reality.
I was in Hong Kong in April, when we were given that figure of 1,000 people a week. I have just consulted my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)—who was in Hong Kong a fortnight ago—and he has confirmed that that figure is about right. We must not quibble about 100 either way; we should agree that substantial emigration from Hong Kong is now taking place. The Bill is an attempt to stem that haemorrhage now and in the foreseeable future. It does not serve us well to dwell on the minutiae of the spirit of past agreements between China and Britain when we are dealing with events after 1997.
To some extent it is not real emigration. Many people are simply trying to establish a right of abode in other countries. Having established that right, they often return to Hong Kong to carry on their business activities. There is a name for those people in Hong Kong—astronauts. In the main, they go to Canada to establish a right of abode—while safeguarding their short-term private interests—and then return to pursue their commercial activities. Their loyalties often remain to the colony, where they want to stay in the long term.
My hon. Friend is right. Let me reassure the hon. Member for Christchurch and others that, even if passports giving the right of abode are issued under the legislation—I understand the matter is being dealt with urgently—the first passports are to be issued later this year; there is no guarantee, and there should be no fear in the minds of hon. Members, that all 50,000 plus their dependants will seek to come to the United Kingdom. In my opinion, and in that of many other people whom I have consulted, not all those entitled to right of abode would wish to exercise that right. They would go to Canada, America, Australia and elsewhere, where they would be admitted.
The great urgency stems from the men and women in Hong Kong who still have vivid memories about what happened in mainland China last year and vivid recollections of what has been happening in China during the past 12 months, and they marked that in their tens of thousands in Hong Kong a few days ago. Their anxieties are about whether they will be able to live in peace and security in Hong Kong after 1997 when the sovereignty of Hong Kong is handed to China.
To pick up the point made by my my hon. Friend the Member for Workington, many of the people who are now seeking to leave Hong Kong are going abroad to obtain the right of settlement and of abode. The only way in which they can qualify for that is to leave Hong Kong to settle temporarily in one of a number of countries to obtain nationality and a right of abode which they will wish to exercise only if life in Hong Kong becomes intolerable after 1997.
The hon. Gentleman may be using the word "urgency" in an odd sense. He means that the people of Hong Kong are extremely anxious, not that the problem is urgent. As he rightly says, the problem will not arise until 1997, and in the meantime the people of Hong Kong have found another method of dealing with it—establishing a right of abode in other countries. Therefore, the problems cannot be urgent in the sense that some great disaster will befall those people if passports are not issued this year, next year or the year after. In fact, they do not need them until 1997.
The right hon. Gentleman is either being particularly obtuse or is seeking to continue his campaign which fizzled out on the night of the Second Reading debate when the votes were counted.
The urgency is to get under way the scheme that is enshrined in the Bill and to make the passports available to stop the haemorrhage that is now under way. That is why I say that the matter is urgent. That is the view that I expressed on Second Reading to explain my unwillingness to oppose the Bill even though I recognise its fundamental defects. I abstained on Second Reading and I shall be supporting various amendments tonight, but I will not oppose the Bill on Third Reading.
If I am to fulfil my promise not to detain the House for any length of time I must conclude by welcoming the new clause. I hope that it will be carried. If the Minister intends to reply to the debate, I hope that he will at least say that he is willing to consider my suggestions about the procedures of the House strengthening and reinforcing the confidence that lies at the heart of the Bill and in the minds of the men and women of Hong Kong and perhaps to have further discussion about how they may be fulfilled.
Before you, Madam Deputy Speaker, came to the Chair, Mr. Speaker was being extraordinarily kind in allowing the debate to run quite wide, I think on the basis that almost anything that might be raised at this stage might go into the Governor's report if such a report were to be made. However, I do not want to take undue advantage of that and at this stage I have only two points to make about the new clause.
I preface my remarks by saying that since the House gave the Bill its Second Reading on the night when 80 members of the governing party either voted against the Bill or deliberately refused to support it, events have moved on a little, particularly in one respect. During that debate—I do not know to what extent it influenced any of my right hon. and hon. Friends—we were told by Ministers that the Chinese Government were not upset by the measure and were quite content. The very next day a spokesman for the Chinese Government made it plain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) said, that the Chinese Government are bitterly opposed to it and regard it as a breach of the accord which was reached between the two Governments, and so it clearly is.
It is no good my hon. Friend shaking his head. The Chinese Government, who are at least as likely to have it right as this Government, regard the measure as a breach of the accord. There is no doubt in my mind that that is so. Certainly it was completely wrong for Ministers to tell the House that the Chinese Government did not regard it as a breach. After all, the only people who can say whether the Chinese Government do or do not regard it as a breach are the Chinese Government themselves, and they made their position plain.
My hon. Friend the Minister shakes his head. I think that I can confirm to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) that the Chinese Government consider the measure to be a breach of the agreement, in the spirit and possibly in the letter, and that was why I read out in detail the two memoranda.
Will my right hon Friend comment on a point on which the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) would not give way? There is one point that we should put on the record, and it should also be part of the Governor's report, because he is responsible, as her Majesty's Government's representative in Hong Kong, for maintaining that stability.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the thousands of people in Hong Kong who were demonstrating. That is their right. But under the 1984 agreement there is a vital clause of desperate importance to the people of Hong Kong, and that is that, between 1990 and 1997, the Chinese Government will not interfere in the day-to-day running of Hong Kong and meddle in its internal politics. Equally, there is a commitment that the people of Hong Kong will not meddle in the politics of China. The temptation for the latter to do so is immense, but the danger of their doing so is equally immense. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree that within the Governor's report we should have an indication that he is doing his best to make the people of Hong Kong aware of the risk that they run by constantly seeking to have their cake and eat it.
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. There is a real risk that, if the Government of China see what they believe to be constant breaches of the accord on what may be broadly called our side—the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Hong Kong—they will not feel unduly bound to stick to it themselves, and that would be a great pity. In the post-war era, every agreement that we have made with the Chinese Government has been kept. They may not have liked it at times and they may have made it plain that they did not like it, but they have stuck to their word. I regret that that Government should now see this Government, of which I was a member when the accord was made—the Government whom I support—as being in breach of an accord that has been entered into solemnly.
I did not intend to intervene in my right hon. Friend's speech, but I must do so to make it clear that the Government are quite certain and know very well that this measure is not in breach of the joint agreement and accord, and a close inspection of the quotations read by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley), which I hope will be reproduced in Hansard, will demonstrate that.
Before he moves on to other issues, why is the right hon. Gentleman seeking to apologise for that gang of geriatric murderers? Does he not recognise that many people in Hong Kong and elsewhere believe that the massacres which occurred in China last year were an excellent reason why Britain should have called an end to the accords over Hong Kong and 1997? Does he not realise that so many people were outraged by those events that they will dismiss his comments now as an obscene apology for geriatric murderers, who should not be given an inch, and that we should defend the interests of the men and women of Hong Kong in every way that we can?
I do not wish to provoke the hon. Gentleman into getting to the stage where he is asking my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to declare war on the Government of China, which would appear to be the logical extension of his remarks. I hope that he is keeping a tally of the number of people who have been shot dead in the present civil disturbances in the Soviet Union, as well as those who were shot dead in the disturbances in Tiananmen square a year or so ago.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment. I do not wish to get into a debate about the communist regime in China. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I support any communist regimes anywhere in the world, he is looking at the wrong man and the wrong side of the House. However, I do not wish to be distracted further down that road. I want to follow up some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) concerning the impact of the proposed report by the governor and how we would deal with it in the House.
Such a report would be a nice thing to have. It will make a nice piece of work for someone to write an article about in The Times or even talk about on Sky television where perhaps it would get a larger audience—[HON.MEMBERS: "What about the Evening Standard?"] Yes, even the Evening Standard—there are many newspapers which are well worth reading.
How will the report be useful to us in the House? Let us suppose that the Governor's report contains material which we regard as a suitable subject not merely for debate but for a critical debate or even for a vote. What would we vote on? What would be the motion? What effect would it have?
Indeed, as the hon. Gentleman says we could have a take-note debate, but that is all that we would be able to do about it.
Although I welcome the new clause, we should not have any misunderstandings that it will make any difference whatsoever to anything that the Governor does in the name of this House, as we have no control over him if we enact the Bill in its present form.
Will my right hon. Friend consider a suggestion for how we might discover the attitude of the Chinese Government? It seems that there have been many suggestions in newsprint about what they believe, and whether the Bill constitutes a breach of the 1984 agreement. If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is correct, it is easy for him. Our Government are in constant touch with the Government of China. He could produce a document from the Chinese Government, duly authorised by them explaining that they do not regard the right of entry, which will be granted by the Bill, as in any way a breach of the 1984 agreement. We need not correspond through newsprint. If what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary says is true, the Chinese Government will be open, and will say so in an official communication.
I do not want to be taken too far down that line, but it is quite clear that if the Government of China heard the accusations made by their own spokesman in the press saying that the Bill is in breach of the undertaking, naturally, as a Government having friendly relationships with our Government, they would have been the first to make a statement correcting it, and would have sent a telegram to the Foreign Office—I am not sure whether the Foreign Office communicates with the Home Office about such matters—setting the record straight. It could have been laid upon the Table and we would all have been comforted by it.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West made an impassioned denunciation of the old men in Peking, and we all agree that on the Richter scale of beastliness, it would be hard to find anyone who registers more than they do at the moment. But surely that is not the point. Our responsibility is to the people of Hong Kong and to the real world. The Chinese Government are the people with whom we have to deal, like it or not. Of course we all wish that the Government of China were more like the Government of Luxembourg, but they are not and we have to deal with matters as they are.
That is absolutely true. There is little chance that by berating those old men in this Chamber we will do anything to bring a beneficial change in China. As my hon. Friend says, it will make matters worse.
One other subject has been mentioned in connection with the amendment which I do not think was covered very well by the Labour amendments which have been selected; that is the position of people who may become stateless after 1997. I am not clear about the attitude of the Government towards those people. It would be helpful to all of us if the Under-Secretary were to make the Government's stance absolutely clear. Is it that, if any such persons are left stateless after 1997, they will be automatically granted either British citizenship or rights of abode, or do the Government have some other position?
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said that many such people had come from the Indian sub-continent. If that is where they came from, they might have a right to return.
As I understand the position in regard to people who went to Hong Kong from the Indian sub-continent, they gave up any rights that they might have had to return when they agreed to take British citizenship offered in Hong Kong. I think that it is far from satisfactory that the British Government should now be taking a position whereby those people will be left with no proper passport or home following 1997, unless amendments are made to the Bill.
My hon. Friend has a good point. If those people were induced by the British Government to go to Hong Kong by the issue of a document which deprived them of their nationality and will prevent them from returning to the countries from whence they came, it seems, even to me—I am not notably soft on immigration issues—that there is a case for saying that they should be found a home. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give an estimate of the numbers concerned, and we could deduct that from the numbers which would otherwise be admitted under the provisions of the Bill.
Those people who are properly resident in Hong Kong can apply for British dependent territory citizenship now. In 1997 British dependent territory citizens of Chinese descent will automatically become Chinese citizens. There is a question mark beside those who are not of Chinese descent. If they do not become Chinese citizens—that is a matter for the Chinese Government—they will be British overseas citizens, carrying a British overseas passport which will enable them to travel round the world to every country where there are residents who hold such passports. They will not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom, but they will have the right of abode in Hong Kong, and that will be guaranteed to them under the joint agreement.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making it clear that they will not be left as flying Dutchmen—perhaps flying Hong Kongmen would be a better expression—for ever circling the world and never being allowed to alight anywhere. If my hon. Friend can assure me that under the terms of the agreement the Chinese Government accept that they will have a right of abode in Hong Kong, it seems to me that there is no need for us to make specific provision for them. In the event of the Chinese Government not carrying out the undertaking, for some reason, there would be an emergency. We could deal with it in the way in which we always deal with emergencies. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for clearing up that point.
I intend to speak on the two subjects raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). The first related to urgency. I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) that the matter is urgent because of the brain drain, which has grown worse, in absolute numbers, compared with a couple of years ago. If one talks to representatives of British companies operating in Hong Kong, or with interests or investments in Hong Kong, it immediately becomes clear that they are beginning to feel the damage that is caused by the acceleration of the brain drain.
I have been told of key managers leaving Hong Kong to go to Australia, Canada and the United States. We are familiar with the recent raid by Qantas Airways in an attempt to take away 250 mechanics from the Hong Kong aircraft engineering industry Fortunately, the raid was unsuccessful, or had very limited success. That is an example of what we shall face in the future if we do not do something about it now. It is essential, therefore, that Parliament should pass the Bill.
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) referred to the fact that many Hong Kong Chinese go to Canada or other countries to get the right of residence there, either through themselves or their families, and that many of them come back to Hong Kong. I know that many want to return to Hong Kong, but many of them, I fear, having established residence in Canada and having sent their children to school in Canada—for example, in Vancouver, which is a very agreeable city—find it much more difficult to return to Hong Kong and work there than they had expected when they left to go to Canada. We should not be too encouraged about the numbers who return to Hong Kong in those circumstances.
That is why this Bill is important. It provides a passport for 50,000 heads of families without their having to go and reside in another country for several years, with the consequence that most of them will not return to Hong Kong.
I ask my right hon. Friend to transpose himself and think of himself as a successful Hong Kong Chinese citizen who is quite well-to-do and who has enough money to take his family with him, after having been offered a British passport. If he were to take the view that life after 1997 under a Hong Kong Chinese Government would be unacceptable and not in the best interests of his family, would he wait until 1997, or would he get out now so that he could re-establish himself and his family and his children's education at the first possible opportunity?
I should certainly stay. I do not see why my hon. Friend thinks that I would want to exchange 15 per cent. income tax for 40 per cent. income tax, or that I should want to exchange the agreeably warm climate of Hong Kong for the sometimes chilly climate of England. My hon. Friend is right off the rails.
I refer the hon. Gentleman back to the question of emigration to Canada. The reason why people are going to Canada now and returning in the way that the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that they are, but which I know they are, is the nature of the Canadian scheme. They have to go now. If they had the option of delaying their emigration to Canada, they would surely do so. It is not that they go to Canada uniquely to establish a right of abode; often they set up businesses in Canada and then return to their businesses in Hong Kong. Frequently those companies intend to trade.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's main point, although our assessment of how many people return to Hong Kong is different.
My second point relates to the Eurasians and Indians in Hong Kong. The Under-Secretary of State knows that I have been in correspondence with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the matter. I do not intend to repeat everything that I set out in that correspondence. It is right, however, that the matter should be raised, since I hope that I shall receive reassurance on the point from my hon. Friend at the end of the debate.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already explained that the people to whom I refer will have neither British passports nor Chinese passports: they will have British national (overseas) or British dependent territories citizen passports. The Eurasians and the Indians are concerned that they will not have a right of abode elsewhere. They fear—whether they are right or wrong I do not say—that after 1997 they will not be so generously treated as they were during the period of British rule.
I have received representations from Mr. Eric Ho, a distinguished former senior civil servant, the president of the Welfare League which looks after the interests of the Eurasians. He refers to the great loyalty to the Crown and to this country of the Eurasians in Hong Kong. He quoted an extract from the dispatch by General Maltby after the capture of Hong Kong by the Japanese in December 1941.
General Maltby said:
In closing my despatch I wish to pay especial tribute to the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps … To quote examples seems almost invidious, but I should like to place on record the superb gallantry of No. 3 (Eurasian) Company at Wong Nei Chong Gap".
That is a striking example of the loyalty that the Eurasian population of Hong Kong have always had to this country. Mr. Ho estimates that only 1,000 passports would be required, not for heads of families but for individuals, to provide for the needs of the Eurasian population.
Will my right hon. Friend address his mind to a point that keeps worrying me during the debate: that 50,000 passports will largely go to 50,000 influential, articulate people who know their way around? Is my right hon. Friend willing to contemplate the following proposition: if by giving such an advantage to people who are in a position to apply we thereby destroy the atmosphere for the remaining 5 million Hong Kong citizens who are not so articulate and well connected, shall we be serving all the people of Hong Kong well?
That is not my assessment of the likely effect on the morale of those who remain in Hong Kong. It is a difficult problem, but I believe that we are right to do what we are planning to do. In my view, it would be possible to put the figure a little higher than 50,000 heads of families, but that proposal is not before us.
On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend referred to the Tootal case. He said that it wants to bring 25 heads of household to this country. Given the number of managers who are eligible, and given also the number of applicants that there are bound to be, it is most unlikely that all 25 managers will be successful in their applications. How can my right hon. Friend take the view that that will be good for the morale of the Tootal work force, let alone for the work forces of other companies, if that should prove to be divisive? What about the other managers that Tootal has not chosen for selection but who consider that they should be selected? The proposal will be totally divisive when it comes to the management of work forces in Hong Kong. It cannot possibly have the result for which the Government hope.
Since the Second Reading debate I have had conversations with Mr. Geoffrey Maddrell, the managing director of Tootal, on that precise point. My hon. Friend is wrong to say that Tootal wants to bring 25 managers to this country. Tootal wants them to stay in Hong Kong, and that is what they want to do; indeed, most of them are working in south China. However, Mr. Maddrell acknowledged that there would be a problem if all the 25 are unable to obtain passports. Nevertheless, he believes that it is preferable that some of them should obtain passports rather than that none of them should. That, I believe, is a tenable position.
Reverting to the question of the Indians, it has been suggested that they were induced by a former British Government to Hong Kong, but that was not the reality. After the second world war, they made a choice between going for British nationality in Hong Kong or for Indian nationality. The Indian population has played a distinguished role in Hong Kong, particularly in commerce, and has been important to the colony's economy. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) suggested that there are many thousands of Indians in Hong Kong, but he was overstating the case.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary says in a letter to me:
If, against all expectations, any solely British national with no claim to Chinese nationality came under severe pressure to leave Hong Kong, the Government of the day would he expected to consider with considerable and particular sympathy their case for admission to the United Kingdom.
He was referring explicitly to the Eurasians, but I believe that he was intending a similar assurance to be given in relation to the Indians. Can my hon. Friend the Minister reaffirm that assurance, and perhaps go further in his response today?
I cannot go beyond my right hon. and learned Friend's assurance, because it was intended to cover, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said, Eurasians and other Asians—the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong who may not have Chinese citizenship after 1997. Who they will be is unclear because those who have Chinese citizenship is not something for us to determine—it is a matter for the People's Republic of China.
Those belonging to the ethnic minorities who are not included and who are legitimately in Hong Kong not only have the opportunity of becoming British overseas citizens, as I described earlier, with their situation guaranteed under the joint declaration, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear—and I am happy to repeat now—that if pressure is put upon them despite the joint declaration and their rights under it, and if it became difficult for them to lead their lives in Hong Kong, we would look most carefully at any claim to right of settlement here, outside the rules.
I am by no means satisfied that those who will have British overseas passports and British overseas status after 1997 will be welcome in Hong Kong. The Chinese are not noted for their welcome of other ethnic groups within their own society. I have no reason to believe that the Chinese Government will take a particularly sympathetic view of the presence of the Indian members of the Hong Kong community after 1997.
It is unfortunate that the Government have come to the House today without being able to give precise figures for how many such people there will be. We have a duty to bring them here if we have to do so, so I fear that we may expect substantial extra numbers after 1997, over and above those catered for in the Bill, to whom we shall have to offer homes in this country. It is important for the House to know how many people there may be, and that that estimate should be incorporated in the overall total being considered today, rather than have us return to those people at a later stage—as I warn the House we shall inevitably have to do.
It is extremely important that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary reports regularly to the House, as the hon. Member for Bradford, West, (Mr. Madden) suggested, when the Governor reports to him. Nothing in the Bill says that he has to do so. I should like a categorical assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that the Home Secretary will report at least annually in detail to the House on what he has been told by the Governor. That is the least assurance that the House should seek.
I am delighted to hear it. Perhaps I misunderstand the new clause. I thought that it only required the Governor to report to the Home Secretary—but if I have misunderstood the new clause, I am delighted.
It is also extremely important that the Governor should report on the speed and percentage of take-up in each category. I share the belief of the hon. Member for Bradford, West that there will be a sense of urgency among those in Hong Kong to make their applications for inclusion in the categories—not least because of the number of applications likely to be made against the number of available places. As soon as the Bill becomes an Act, the Government will face a deluge of applications. There is a great danger that, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary comes to the House next year with the Governor's first report, all 50,000 places will have been filled, which would be a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister agrees.
I again ask my hon. Friend to tell the House what guidance will be given to the Governor on the speed which he should fill the available places. If the scheme is to be successful, and if it is to be spread among the people whom we are attempting to benefit and to persuade to remain in Hong Kong, there must be an annual quota.
Residents aged 30 to 40 are more than likely to have young teenage children. My understanding is that, as soon as those children reach 18, they will cease to qualify under the Bill and therefore will be separated from their families, should their families decide to come to this country to live. That cannot be something that the Government envisage. It would impose enormous extra pressure on any Hong Kong citizen with a BDTC passport who wants to make an application under the scheme. If residents have children who will shortly be 18, they will rush to make an application.
When one considers the number of people involved against the number of places available, it is horrifying to think that anyone would seriously propose that the scheme have a stabilising effect on Hong Kong. I refer to the guidance on the working of the Act, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) attempted, rightly, to have incorporated in the Bill. Unfortunately, that amendment is not before the House today.
In the business and management category, 342,800 people are eligible under the scheme, but only 19,703 will be allocated places. In engineering, there are 57,300 possible candidates but only 3,230 places. In medicine and science, 44,700 would qualify but only 2,584 would be offered places. Members of my old profession, lawyers, will do particularly badly. Less than 1 per cent. of the 3,700 eligible will be allocated one of the 323 places. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too many".] I agree that we could do without further competition, but how will it stabilise the legal profession in Hong Kong if only 323 of their number will be offered passports? I await with breathless excitement to hear how my hon. Friend the Minister will satisfy me on that point.
The Governor will also have to report on the categories for residents in sensitive service and in the disciplined services. The number of places stated in the Bill to be available to those who have given outstanding service to the Crown, and who might be in danger if they remain in Hong Kong after 1997, is 6,300. Where does that figure come from? Is my hon. Friend the Minister satisfied that 6,300 is the number of heads of households who fall into that category? Nothing in the Second Reading or Committee debates, which I read in great detail, sets out how that figure of 6,300 was arrived at.
If the House accepts that the 50,000 places will be rapidly allocated and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) will be among those asking for more categories of people to be admitted, are we not debating the beginning of the minimum bid, from which the bidding will go up when we come to debate the Governor's reports in years to come?
I agree. When the 50,000 places have been filled and an awful lot of people in categories to which places clearly must be allocated have been left, then the 50,000 which the Government have undertaken as a maximum will have to be breached. That is one of the reasons why I am worried and why it is essential that regular reports to this House show how we are progressing, so that we can take whatever steps are necessary either to allow more people in—I would find that difficult—or somehow to stem the flood in other categories and to alter the way in which we choose those who will come.
I hope that the Minister will tell me how the 6,300 figure miraculously appeared and how—there is nothing in the memorandum to tell us—if there are more than 6,300 in this category, a choice will be made between them. If I read the memorandum correctly, the points system does not apply to this group.
The points system does apply, however, to the disciplined services. Seven thousand places have been allocated to those services, spread across eight separate services on a proportional basis. Here, too, it is inconceivable that many of these services will have enough allocated places to satisfy the demand or to stabilise the position in Hong Kong, the latter being one of the two fundamental requirements that the Government seek to meet in the Bill.
I am sorry to say that I am profoundly disturbed by the proposal that the memorandum should be adopted, but I welcome the new clause, because it will at least give the House a regular report on how the measure is being implemented.
I have followed my hon. Friend's argument, which he has expressed with a certain elegant scepticism, but I am left wondering what the logical conclusion of it is. It seems to me that it can either be that more people ought to be offered more places or that no one ought to be offered any places, which brings us back to the Government's point of view.
In my view, there are two categories that we have an honourable commitment to allow into this country: first, people who have done service that will put them in danger after 1997. I have dealt with them in some detail. Secondly, there are those who will be left stateless or with inadequate passports after 1997—especially people from the Indian subcontinent, about whom I spoke earlier. If we gave the right of abode and citizenship to those two categories, we would fulfil our commitment to Hong Kong and the commitment that the Government have given to the people of this country, which was outlined so eloquently on Second Reading by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). In that way, we should avoid flooding this country with immigrants from other places, given that we are an overcrowded island experiencing great difficulties already with assimilating the immigrants whom we have taken in in the past 30 years.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) for tabling the new clause in answer to some of the debates that took place in Committee. I admire the courteous and professional way in which he and my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) conducted our debates in Committee, which greatly helped the passage of the Bill.
Although I welcome an annual report, it has already been pointed out that the new clause is deficient, in that the report is to the Secretary of State, not necessarily to Parliament. So the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) will not get his way if the new clause is passed without amendment.
Such a report may well go to the Secretary of State for the Home Department; the Home Department is not known for releasing the least bit of information that could possibly be classified as confidential. I very much doubt whether the report will see the light of day outside a few offices and desks in the Home Department—unless the Home Office carries out what I understood to be an undertaking from the Minister that he would present the report to the House. That presentation and the report's contents are important.
If I understand the Government's argument aright, the report will contain no reference to categories of people not accommodated under the Bill—the Eurasian and Indian population, and the spouses who will be dealt with in an amendment to be moved later. Categories not dealt with in the Bill will be dealt with exactly as they would be under the British Nationality Act 1981. So the categories for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker), in a caring and understandable way, sought exemption cannot possibly be included in such a report.
The argument that they should be accommodated by the Bill and dealt with in the annual report is symptomatic of the chaos that the Bill will create in Hong Kong because of the jealousies and hard feelings that will be generated when one person is selected and another is not. One category, for whom we have already heard special pleading on the Floor of the House, will not be accommodated by the Bill. The whole process of trying to select one person in preference to another is divisive and will profoundly undermine confidence in the future of Hong Kong.
Is not the House coming to a general agreement that the Bill is custom designed to alienate more people than it placates? Are we not setting in train a series of rather unpleasant rows for the remaining years until 1997? Is this a way to draw up legislation and immigration and community relations policy in the colony? Will we not have to come back to the House in coming years for rows about categories of people who have not been successful, about further categories that should be considered and about further numbers? Surely the House should think again, even at this late stage, about the time-bomb that we are priming for future rows?
My hon. Friend is entirely right, and it will be worse than he has said. Although there is no appeal process, the people of Hong Kong are well educated and perfectly capable of sending letters. Most of those whom I have met—some of them from humble backgrounds—are capable, for instance, of writing to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South to outline their dissatisfaction, which I am sure he would then bring to the attention of Ministers.
I believe that the Minister introduced the idea of the annual report because of the constitutional outrage contained in clause 1(1), which specifies:
the Secretary of State shall register as British citizens up to 50,000 persons recommended to him for that purpose by the Governor of Hong Kong".
It is quite wrong that a governor in a colonial country should be able to register people as British citizens without reference to an elected Minister who is responsible to this House.
By introducing the annual report—I trust the Minister's undertaking that he will produce it for the House's inspection and debate, but that is not certain—the Minister will be accountable for the actions and decisions taken by the Governor and his appointed sub-committees. That is an outrageous innovation, to which we shall regret. That is the kind of ingenious and generous way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham has tried to meet the point. The Bill is difficult for him. He finds it difficult to change one jot or iota because of the consequences of so doing for immigration policy, particularly the interpretation of our law as enshrined in the British Nationality Act 1981.
I hope that the report will state how many people applied for British citizenship, how many were refused and why they were refused. Many of these applications will be made by private sector companies and groups and even by people within the civil service, but there will be no explanation of why others have been left out. That will cause much resentment, and I hope that the report will explain why they have been left out.
Equally, the report should say how many people have been accepted and why they were accepted. The Bill has a specific purpose—to retain those in the service of the Government or of private sector businesses in Hong Kong. We need to know why they were offered British citizenship. We want to know how many people stayed, having been offered British citizenship in Hong Kong. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South and many people from OMELCO—I am glad to see that we welcomed the leader of OMELCO—believe that, once people have been granted British citizenship, they will remain in Hong Kong. But someone with young children who wishes them to continue their education will wish to move to Britain soon after they receive citizenship.
We should see whether the Bill is working as the Government said it would—whether it is retaining those people in Hong Kong up to 1997 and beyond. Surely the argument is they should stay beyond 1997 and continue the amazing success of Hong Kong.
My hon. Friend is on the verge of making a point that has not been picked up by every hon. Member. Once these people are granted British passports, they are British citizens, but we would have no record of whether they have come to live in Britain, because we do not keep a record of British passport holders entering Britain. All we would know is whether they had left Hong Kong. We would not know where they had gone, whether they were intent on staying away or whether they intended to reside here. Many of them will be highly talented people, which is why they are being selected.
I can imagine the advertisements in the Hong Kong newspapers from British companies, once it is known that they have British passports, seeking to recruit them to work in Britain. They would be good employees for those British companies and they would have the right of abode here because they would be full British citizens. The door would be wide open for massive emigration from Hong Kong—the complete opposite of what the Government say they want.
My right hon. Friend is entirely right, and shares my concern. These people, once they have a British passport enabling them to travel freely, will have the opportunity to offer their services to many of the highest bidding companies not only in this country but elsewhere in the world.
We have been assured by the Minister that the Hong Kong Government keep a record of those leaving the colony and of their destination, but they would not know whether they got off the plane on the way back to Britain or, as my right hon. Friend says, whether they had arrived here and are still here. It is essential that the report records those who have stayed in Hong Kong and those who have not, so that we can judge whether the Government's action is working as they said it would.
As we all know, the success of Hong Kong depends not on our giving 50,000 heads of households a British passport and citizenship but on the development of relations with China. If the purpose of the Bill is to try to reinforce confidence in the future of Hong Kong, the annual report should record and detail how relationships have been conducted between Hong Kong and China, not only at ministerial level, about which I hope we will hear, but at official level. With robust, continuous and persuasive effort and contact with the Chinese Government, confidence will build and hon. Members will be able to ascertain whether the Hong Kong Government are fulfilling the job we expect them to do—to try to get on with China, for the benefit of Hong Kong's future, as well as they can. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley).
The Bill's success will depend on whether the Government of Hong Kong have made the right proposals for democracy and a directly elected legislature in Hong Kong to replace the British Government, who have provided the Government in Hong Kong so successfully over the years. The successful functioning of that body and the participation of the Hong Kong people in leadership decisions will ensure that Hong Kong continues to operate as a capitalist enclave under democratic government, as the agreement of 1984, which we are treaty-bound to honour, sets out.
Hong Kong has succeeded despite there being no worthwhile democratic institutions there. As a matter of debate, will my hon. Friend comment on two points? First, why would changing that improve Hong Kong? Secondly, as the joint agreement calls for the maintenance of stability and prosperity, why does my hon. Friend think that fundamental change to the democratic institutions is in accord with the 1984 agreement?
Let me take the last point first. We are committed, by the treaty, to an elected legislative assembly and an elected or indirectly elected president or chief executive. Hong Kong has not had a directly elected assembly, and I have been a critic of that for many years, without success.
I have not been successful because the Hong Kong formula has worked. It has worked because those administering Hong Kong on behalf of the Crown have been responsible to this Chamber through the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It has been possible to change the chief executive and the Civil Service. That offered an in-built means of preventing corruption from taking place. The tradition and culture of officials of the Hong Kong Government who are of British origin were also in-built. For that reason, they built houses and took account of the social conditions of Hong Kong, which is why we can see the culture and social ideas that have been a feature of this country repeated in Hong Kong. That is part of the great success of Hong Kong. Hong Kong's present problem is how to replace that. It must be done by treaty, democracy and a directly elected assembly.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be a little unfair to criticise the Government, as has been done implicitly or explicitly by both sides of the House, for provoking the Chinese by giving 50,000 passports to their future citizens and at the same time criticise the Government for not provoking the Chinese by moving towards democracy much faster than Peking wants and, incidentally, risking destabilisation of Hong Kong on a much broader and deeper scale than is risked by the Bill?
I do not accept that analysis. I am confused about the reason why the Government are prepared to offend the Chinese Government. The Chinese Government have issued press releases and sent letters saying that they regard this action as, in spirit, an abrogation of the treaty that they signed. They believe that we are not working in accordance with the spirit of the agreements.
On the other hand, the British Government are not prepared to press the Chinese Government on the issue of democracy. When the Foreign Affairs Select Committee visited Peking, we went into this question in great detail, and the result is recorded in the Committee's report. Just before the events in Tiananmen square, the Chinese Government said that they were prepared to let democracy develop at the speed at which those in Hong Kong wanted it to develop. After Tiananmen square—I am not saying that it was a little lily-livered and in two minds before then—OMELCO came forward with support for the establishment of democracy on a much faster time scale than has now been agreed.
I can only welcome the assertions by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that he will work to persuade Chinese Ministers to accelerate that programme so that there is a directly elected assembly and directly elected chief executive before 1997, so that the people of Hong Kong can begin to breathe life and credibility into those institutions and fulfil the work of governing Hong Kong democratically. I hope that progress on that democracy, which is essential for confidence in the future of Hong Kong, will be reported upon.
There should be a report on the economy and the way in which the private sector is acting. Much of the Bill has been stimulated by the private sector in Hong Kong being unwilling, understandably, to have some of the crucial skilled people and leaders in companies leave. I should like to be able to test the private sector's commitment to the future of Hong Kong. I should like to see in the report a paragraph stating how many of those people continue to reside and trade in Hong Kong, how many of the companies have sought different places for their headquarters and the extent to which these people, who are asking us to make this sacrifice, are prepared to make sacrifices for confidence in Hong Kong's future.
It is essential that we get the emigration numbers straight, and this should be clear in the report. There is confusion, as the House has demonstrated. Looking at the numbers purely in raw terms, the emigration figures this year are down compared with last year. Emigration from Hong Kong has always taken place, but in making a judgment on these matters, it is important to consider the categories emigrating. Whether the Bill is a success or not will depend on whether that emigration is stemmed and whether it is stemmed in particular categories.
The report must include a record of the Chinese Government's attitude to the future of Hong Kong. The future of Hong Kong and its people rests increasingly with the attitude, work and confidence-building measures of the Chinese Government to build Hong Kong under two systems, one country.
I share the surprise of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) about the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not appear to have any final power to override the Governor's recommendations as to who might be admitted. I am surprised that the Home Office agreed to that. I should have thought that there were circumstances in which such a power would be necessary. I should like to hear an explanation from my hon. Friend the Minister as to why this provision is not included in the Bill.
I should like to comment on what I believe would be an important part of a report from the Governor. The idea of such a report is welcome and I am glad that the report is to be made available to the House. When the Government first published their scheme, I was concerned because, in 1981, I had been heavily involved in the passage of the British Nationality Bill.
The principle embodied in that legislation was that British citizenship was to be based on a number of criteria, all of which implied close involvement in Britain. Those criteria were birth, descent, residence or marriage, and descent did not stretch far back into the past. I was afraid that the scheme might be used as a convenience by people in Hong Kong who would see it as a way of, to put it crudely, establishing a bolthole, and who would come to Britain to exercise their citizenship but might then disappear fairly rapidly for other parts of the world. That seemed to be a problem and a sense in which the scheme might be out of line with the philosophy behind the British Nationality Bill.
I was relieved, therefore, when the Government included in the legislation the provision that spouses and children—the dependants of those who were to be given passports—would be classified as British citizens by descent. That meant that, at least if they went overseas, they would not have the same power to pass on citizenship to the next generation and we would therefore not see the proliferation, which I feared, of British citizens living in many parts of the world who had no real links with the United Kingdom. The inclusion of that provision was one reason that led me, after much thought, to support the legislation on Second Reading.
I am concerned about one group of people living in Hong Kong who, by almost any common-sense standards, clearly have great loyalty to the United Kingdom but who may not be served by the Bill—employees of the British Council. As a vice-chairman of the British Council, I obviously have a particular interest in this matter. I am talking not about London-based employees but about the locally based employees. I understand that there were about 60 such employees in April.
These employees may well fall into one of the relevant occupational categories proposed in the draft scheme. They may be included in the information services or education groups, and of course I would welcome that. The question is whether they would score enough points under the points system. There are two respects in which they would obviously do well—command of English and British links. Those two categories would clearly be beneficial to them, but in neither case do they score highly in the proposed points system. They get only 50 points for each. There is a risk that people who are working for the British Council will not qualify under the scheme, which would be nonsense.
I am not asking for additional places; I am simply saying that these people should be allowed to qualify. No group of people in Hong Kong serves the British cause more loyally, and often for a longer time, than British Council employees. I know that a similar argument could be made for the employees of the British Trade Commission and I am aware of the great importance of promoting British trade in Hong Kong, but it is specifically the British Council with which I am concerned. I therefore hope that it will be seen clearly from the first Governor's report that those who work for the British Council who have applied for British citizenship will be well served. I would go further: I hope that we shall not have to wait for the first Governor's report to get the reassurance that we seek. I hope that we may receive it from the Minister this evening.
The Bill gives the Governor of Hong Kong a great many scarcely fettered powers. The new clause seeks to provide that the Governor should make an annual report on the discharge of his functions. My hon. Friend the Minister said that the report would he made available to the House. I trust that, in his closing remarks, he will make it clear that the report will be open to debate.
The Bill has been introduced to deal with problems that may or may not arise in the future. The future is uncertain; circumstances may change. It is vital, on an issue as sensitive as this, that as those circumstances change, the House should have an annual opportunity to debate the situation and to commend or recommend any changes that we may feel are necessary.
The Bill is about the way in which the Governor should discharge his responsibilities. I am sure that he should discharge those responsibilities in the light of commitments that have been given. Commitments have been given at many levels and by many different people. Initially— and the Bill is the result—commitments were given to the people of Hong Kong by Ministers or the Prime Minister to the effect that provisions would be introduced to allow up to 50,000 persons and their families to come to the United Kingdom. Those commitments were made by the Government; they have not yet been made by Parliament, and it is not the role of Parliament to act as a rubber stamp for what the Government say they wish to do.
We have other commitments, which go wider. We have commitments under international law. We have commitments within the European Community. We have commitments to deal with refugees and asylum. But we also have a commitment that is more important than all of those commitments put together: we have a commitment to the British people—to the people of these islands, whose only home this is. The Conservative party has made that commitment clear on a number of occasions. During our election campaign in 1970, we said in our manifesto that there would be no further large-scale permanent immigration into this country. The Conservative party won the 1970 election and has been in government for most of the time since that election. Since that time, however, we have had a migration into this country of between 750,000 and 1 million people from the third world.
I do not believe that what we have done since 1970 accords with the commitment that we gave in that year In every election manifesto since 1970, we have given a firm, powerful—and, I hope, binding—commitment to the British people that we will take account of their fears and concerns about immigration. In 1987 we said:
We will tighten the existing law to ensure that control over settlement becomes even more effective.
Yet the Bill suggests that an extra 250,000 people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds should be allowed to come to Britain, which is the only home—the already restricted space—that the British people have. To proceed with the Bill would be, should be—and will be, if the Bill is passed—a blot on the conscience of the Government.
It is true that we have many commitments, but we cannot fulfil all of them. The most important commitment that we have made is the commitment to the British people, whose Parliament this is, who supported us, who voted for us and in whose interests the Government should act.
Does not the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that this Government—and this Parliament—are also responsible, as the only Government the people of Hong Kong have, for the people of Hong Kong, and that must also be weighed in the balance?
I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman. I said that we had many commitments, and many of them are conflicting commitments. Obviously we must take account of the circumstances in Hong Kong. We have responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong and we must discharge them as best we can. I would wish the Government to do that. But the Government of Britain have an overriding commitment and it is to the people of this country. That has to come first.
The hon. Gentleman says no. I wonder whether he is aware that more than half the children in Inner London education authority schools are of non-British ethnic origin. London is our capital city. When those children grow up, they will be citizens of this country. That will mean that half our citizens—
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) suggested a number of issues which he thinks should be included in the report. It is also the intention of the Bill to keep people in Hong Kong. I believe that, if circumstances in China do not improve—indeed, if they get worse—anyone who has been offered a British passport will not delay or stay until 1997.
Such people will not keep the ship on course and their businesses running; they will seek to get out with their families as soon as possible. If they have to get out, they will get out now. If they have to re-establish a career, they will do it early. If they have to get their funds, cash and investments out of Hong Kong, better safe than sorry. If they have a young family whom they want to educate, the sooner they can bring them to a country with a different system of education and get them on the way to being educated, the better.
It is important that in each of the annual reports, the effectiveness of the Bill in fulfilling the Government's intention should be made crystal clear. Passports have been issued. How many people, having been issued those passports, will leave at the earliest opportunity? If the House has that information, we may be able to reach a view as to whether the Bill is correct and effective or whether we wish to amend it further.
In his report, the Governor should also make an account of changes in China. In the past year, the whole nature of Europe has changed; the whole nature of the Soviet Union has changed; it is to be hoped that the whole nature of the conflict between east and west—the cold war—is also changing.
The hon. Gentleman says that I am still the same. But the British people are still the same. I submit to the hon. Gentleman that my view of the Bill is shared by 90 per cent. of his constituents, just as it is shared by 90 per cent. of mine. The nature of circumstances in China 'could change, and if those circumstances change, the Bill may no longer be necessary.
Again, the House may seek to amend the provisions in the Bill. As I have said, the Governor will have unfettered power. He will have a fantastic amount of power. According to clause 1(1):
Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State shall register as British citizens up to 50,000 persons".
I presume that the Governor can decide how close to that
figure of 50,000 that should apply. If circumstances in China change, I presume that the Governor will be able to reduce that number to 30,000 or 20,000.
I am more concerned by the provision that
the Secretary of State shall register as British citizens … persons recommended to him for that purpose by the Governor of Hong Kong".
What would happen if my hon. Friend the Minister, in the discharge of his duties, was aware of the fact that a person in Hong Kong was connected with a criminal organization
such as the Triads and connected with someone who was already in Britain? Suppose the Governor had said that that person should be issued with a British passport and the Home Office felt that it was not appropriate for that person to enter Britain because of the activities in which he might well indulge and there was evidence that he might well indulge, my hon. Friend the Minister would be completely powerless to do anything about that.
I hesitate to interrupt, because I know that I might give my hon. Friend cause to continue for another 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour. However, I want to assure him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has a duty to assure himself that any recommendation from the Governor is of a person of the right character to receive British citizenship. If he is not so assured, he may not register that person as a British citizen.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says; no doubt this debate will continue for some time.
I am concerned about other issues in the Bill. The Governor will put forward a scheme which will be agreed by the House, but he shall be authorised
to decide at his discretion between persons equally qualified under the scheme;
Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister can tell us how the Governor will carry out that judgment of Solomon. Will there be a ballot? Will people draw straws? How will those details be considered?
The Governor is getting a great deal of power. For the first time in British history, a civil servant, not an elected Government or a Minister, will be entitled effectively to award British citizenship to people from outside this country. That is a matter that should cause the House a great deal of concern, and I am interested to hear what my hon. Friend the Minister has to say about that.
Although it seems a long time ago, I agree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who said that the new clause is narrow. It would help progress this evening if I were to treat it as such.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) appeared to be happy to accept new clause 12 in place of new clause 1. He raised a number of issues; and indeed every hon. Member had his own ideas about what he would like to see in the Governor's report. I have noted those points and I will consider them with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and with the Governor. However, the new clause requires the report to be on the Governor's functions under the Bill. The Governor will certainly want to set his report in the broadest context so that it is useful to the Home Secretary, to the Government and to the House so that we may all judge how our duties and responsibilities are being discharged in Hong Kong.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) were anxious that the report, which I said would be made available to the House by the Home Secretary, should be debated. That is not a matter for me or for the Home Secretary; it is a matter for the House. However, the Home Secretary and I would be pleased if the report was debated in the House because we would like Parliament to give continuing attention to Hong Kong and to the evolution of our duties and responsibilities there.
The hon. Member for Bradford, West also wondered whether the appropriate Select Committees, either the Foreign Affairs Select Committee or the Home Affairs Select Committee, would also take a close interest in these matters. Again, that is not a matter for the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary or me; it is a matter for the Select Committees concerned and the House. I hope that those Committees will interest themselves in the subject, and it would be valuable if they did.
Most of the other points that were raised in the debate either affect issues on which I cannot give definitive answers now or relate to matters that will arise in later amendments. However, I want to refer to an observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). I intervened once in his speech and I did riot want to encourage him by doing so again. He said that a Minister—I do not know who he was referring to—intimated on Second Reading that the Government believed that the Government of China were happy with the Bill. No Minister made such a statement on Second Reading. However, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that he hoped in due time that the Government of the People's Republic of China, and I hope some of my hon. Friends, would come to understand fully the intentions of the Bill and be happy with the results that it produces.