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Hong Kong

Volume 982: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what will be the United Kingdom expenditure on the defence of Hong Kong in 1980–81; and how this compares with the figures for 1979–80.

The United Kingdom share of expenditure is assessed under the terms of the defence costs agreement as £16 million in 1979–80, including reinforcements. Preliminary estimates for 1980–81 suggest expenditure in the region of £16 million, excluding reinforcements.

Is it not a waste of the taxpayers' money to pretend that we can defend a Chinese city 10,000 miles away? Against whom are we supposed to be defending it?

Our commitment, as I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before, is to the integrity and security of Hong Kong. I believe that we get good value for the money that is spent.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his decision will be greeted as being in the national interest? Will he give an assurance that the British Government will continue to make certain that the internal security of Hong Kong is maintained and that its frontiers and integrity are maintained, particularly in view of the problems that are faced regarding refugees?

There are particular problems concerning illegal immigration from mainland China. I am glad to report to the House that the number of illegal immigrants has come down to about 25 per cent. of the figure for December of last year, partly as a result, obviously, of the reinforcements that we have sent. That is very good news for the people of Hong Kong.

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is unfortunate that neither in Volumes I or II of the White Paper, nor in the Defence Estimates, is the fact explained that as a result of the agreement reached by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) with the Hong Kong Government about 80 per cent. of the cost is borne by that Government? Should this not be shown explicitly in the White Paper or in the Estimates?

It is true that the defence costs agreement negotiated in the past means that, under the assessed costs, 75 per cent. are met by the Hong Kong Government. At present, this defence costs agreement is being reviewed.