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Hong Kong

Volume 178: debated on Tuesday 23 October 1990

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10.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Peter Lloyd)

I beg to move,

That the draft British Nationality (Hong Kong) (Selection Scheme) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 15th October, be approved.
Subject to approval in this House and in another place, the order will come into force on 1 December.

The order sets out the scheme that the Governor of Hong Kong proposes to use to select up to 50,000 key people whom he will recommend to the Secretary of State for registration as British citizens under the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990.

The selection scheme that the Governor has presented to the Home Secretary, which is before the House tonight, is a complex one. Comments and suggestions have been received from a wide range of bodies with interests in Hong Kong's continued prosperity and stability, and both Houses examined outline proposals for the scheme during the passage of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act.

During those discussions, the Government made it clear that they intended to listen with an open mind to suggestions for ways in which the scheme might be improved. That is precisely what we have done. I believe that the detailed proposals now before the House represent a thorough, fair and objective means of selecting those Hong Kong residents whom it would be most damaging for the territory to lose and to whom we hope to give confidence to remain.

I have already written to more than 60 right hon. and hon. Members who were fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the debates in this House, and to those who served on the Committee, to explain how the scheme now proposed by the Governor differs from the one envisaged in the explanatory notes that the Government made available during the passage of the Act.

For the benefit of others, I should like to say a few words about the scheme and the principal changes that have been made. The broad structure remains as envisaged in the explanatory notes. Subject to approval, the scheme would consist of four classes, each of which would be given a share of the 50,000 places. The general occupational class receives 36,200 places to be allocated among the 20 occupational groups specified in annex 1. Some 7,000 places go to the disciplined services class, covering the nine services set out in article 18 of the order. The sensitive service class—those in the public or private sectors serving the interests of the Crown or involved in other activities of a sensitive nature—will receive 6,300 places, while 500 places are reserved for the entrepreneurs class, in which the Governor will recommend those whom he considers to have made a special contribution to the economy of Hong Kong. The criteria that the Governor will take into account are set out in article 24.

With the exception of those in the entrepreneurs class, the available places will be distributed in tranches, the size of which will be set out in directions by the Home Secretary. About 87 per cent. of the places will be awarded in the first tranche.

If the order is approved, applications for the first tranche will be invited from 1 December with a closing date of 28 February 1991 and will take some two years to process. The rest of the places—some 13 per cent.—will he awarded nearer 1997.

Applicants under the general occupational class and the disciplined services class will be selected on the basis of a points system. The broad criteria against which points will be awarded, and the maximum number of points available for each criterion, remain as set out in the explanatory notes.

Concern was expressed, especially in Committee, about the 150 points available for "special circumstances", in particular the amount of discretion available to the Governor in awarding up to 50 points for individual merit. Article 14 of the order now makes it clear that up to 30 of those points will be tied objectively to occupation-related merit or achievement—for example, local or international awards. A further maximum of 30 will be available for unpaid service with specified voluntary agencies or institutions in the social, medical or educational field and up to 20 points will be awarded for officially recognised and rewarded acts of bravery or gallantry.

Since the whole focus of the scheme is to discourage people who are prone to do so from emigrating, the Governor needs greater flexibility to recognise particularly high rates of emigration within occupational groups. The number of special circumstances points available for that purpose has therefore been increased from 50 to 75.

The final 50 points for modifying age, qualifications or experience to reflect the needs of a particular occupation or group remain unchanged. The total number of points that can he awarded to any individual under the special circumstances heading is still capped at 150.

On the question of age points, we considered very carefully with the Governor whether the criteria should be adjusted to give more points to those over 40, as some suggested during the passage of the Act. We have concluded that the proposed scale should not be changed. Maximum points are justified for those aged 30 to 40 because people in that age group would be moving into key positions in the years up to 1997 and immediately after, and a particularly large number of them are now emigrating. There is also, of course, as I said earlier, some extra flexibility available where age is concerned under the special circumstances heading.

Concern has been expressed in some quarters—particularly in the British business community in Hong Kong—about the number of points which can be awarded to those employed by British firms. We have been urged to increase them. But the award of those points is not designed to guarantee success for all applicants working in British companies. It would be wrong to rig the system in such a way that employees of British firms won places at the expense of others who were better qualified and therefore arguably more key to Hong Kong as a whole.

We have looked at the issue with particular care and believe that it would be a mistake to increase the maximum of 35 points that is available under this heading. Competition for places in the general occupational class will be fierce and there are bound to be groups of applicants bunched around the qualifying mark. In those circumstances, even a handful of points for those serving British firms will ensure that they are placed higher up the list than their counterparts who are, in all other respects, equal.

We have, however, agreed a change in the way in which the points should be awarded. They will be given to current employees of British firms for any previous periods of service with a British firm or firms or with other British institutions. We have dropped the requirement envisaged in the explanatory note that such service should have been continuous.

We have considered very carefully how a "British firm" should be defined for the purpose of awarding those points. Adopting a narrow definition, restricted, for example, to firms with headquarters registered in the United Kingdom, would have rendered ineligible some of the major firms in Hong Kong which are generally regarded as British and which have extensive trading links with this country going back over many years. Looking therefore to the wider interests of Hong Kong, we have used the term "British undertaking" in the order and defined it as a company or firm which the Governor is satisfied has a close connection with the United Kingdom. In reaching his decisions, he will be assisted by a committee in which our senior British trade commissioner in Hong Kong is expected to play a leading part.

As a result of discussions in Committee which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) will recall as he was interested in this, arrangements will be made for the steering group to advise the Governor on the use of special circumstances points on the basis of information from which the names of individuals have been removed.

As I have said, this is a complex order because selecting 50,000 people for British citizenship from a pool of many tens of thousands who could claim to be "key" to Hong Kong's future prosperity and stability is a complex task. The fact that so many different people from so many different walks of life will be eligible to apply demonstrates that this is not, as some had earlier suggested, a narrow, elitist scheme. It is one based on merit and achievement. The criteria are both fair and objective and the scope for bias or corruption has been, as far as humanly possible, eliminated.

The principal aim behind the scheme is to rebuild confidence in Hong Kong. To this end, those recommended by the Governor will, if acceptable, be registered on the Home Secretary's behalf by a team of officials based in Hong Kong. I hope that those selected under the scheme, and other British citizens in Hong Kong whose passports need renewing, will take advantage of the arrangements that are being made to issue British citizen passports in Hong Kong. Those will be standard machine-readable passports and identical to full passports issued elsewhere.

This scheme will, I believe, serve Hong Kong well and, by extension, the interests and responsibilities of the People's Republic of China and of the United Kingdom—as we both have a duty and a concern to maintain the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong in the years immediately ahead. I therefore commend the order to the House.

10.38 pm

The Opposition will not divide the House on this order tonight. We opposed the scheme and the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990 because the proposal is flawed in concept, and we set out our position in some detail in the Standing Committee. However, if we are to set up such a scheme, it can operate only on a points system. We must understand that any points system will result in difficulties and will undoubtedly in some cases result in significant unfairness.

I visited Hong Kong briefly after the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Bill received its Royal Assent earlier this year at the invitation of the Hong Kong Government. I repeat the assurance that I gave there and in Standing Committee: a Labour Government would honour all passports issued under the Act. We shall review the way in which the scheme has been operating when we come to office as the present Government have said they will. All passports granted under the scheme will be honoured by us.

The Minister said that some changes were made after the scheme was originally opposed. By and large, those changes are an honest attempt to improve the way in which the scheme operates. I believe that the Minister has made a valiant effort to try to meet some of the criticisms that were made, although, as I said, I do not believe that he has succeeded in doing so completely.

The Minister referred to article 14, which deals with special circumstances. Although the Committee and civil servants in Hong Kong did their best to eliminate discretion on the part of the Governor by allocating a set number of points for the various qualifications set out under the scheme, it is the case, and it is bound to be the case, that judgments will have to be made as between one applicant and another. As a result of that, it is inevitable that some people will feel hard done by. It is particularly difficult to follow the Government's route on British firms. We have a responsibility to the entire colony in Hong Kong, not just to British firms. France in particular has favoured French firms, but we should remember that the entire colony, not just British firms, is the responsibility of Britain.

We should understand that the new Act was never designed as a safety net for the majority of the population of Hong Kong. It was never designed to ensure that the whole population would be able to leave or to get out in the event of some danger, although many people at the time thought that that was what it was supposed to do. The Act was an attempt to keep in the labour market those with skills that were in short supply in the colony, and, by definition, those who could migrate quite easily. People in that position could usually find jobs elsewhere. For that reason, the scheme can never be entirely fair because it tends to favour people who already have choices.

It is unlikely that those people would come to the United Kingdom, as I suspect that they could get rather better jobs doing the same thing in different parts of the world. I do not think that that is a particularly real fear in respect of people who are likely to qualify under the scheme. But, because of their mobility, those who qualify under the scheme can in many cases qualify for other schemes being operated by various other countries. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that, if someone already has citizenship of another country, the points system will operate in such a way as to make it less likely—in fact, very unlikely—for him to qualify under our scheme.

Perhaps it will be convenient if I answer that point now. There are negative points for those who have nationality of another country—minus 200—which makes it almost certain that they would not be able to achieve British nationality as well. The scheme is weighted heavily against them, although they will be able to enter it should they wish to do so. The knowledge that they would be "minused" in that way would encourage few of them to do so.

I am grateful for that assurance, especially as, in the four days that I was in Hong Kong, several people seemed to be under the impression that they would probably qualify for our scheme as well as other schemes on offer. Some of the people who might have applied would have liked Britain as their first choice, rather than Australia or Canada. It is important that we do not end up simply giving a large number of people passports while other people receive none at all.

The people who are likely to qualify under the scheme already have other choices available to them. Anyone who thinks that the Act or the scheme has anything to do with expanding the opportunity for people in Hong Kong to go elsewhere should the need arise should realise that the additional choices are being given to people who, for the most part, already have choices.

There is no doubt that the number of people who will be seeking passports will vastly outnumber the number of passports that are available. Because of that, there is a grave risk that there will be a sense of unfairness. With the best will in the world, any points scheme is discriminatory, and a large number of people will be disappointed. Those who operate the scheme have made every effort to avoid that possibility, but, none the less, it remains.

Under article 14—I dwelt on the matter at some length when we considered the Bill in Committee—the Governor still has much discretion. It is regrettable that the Government have sought to exclude judicial review. Individuals may feel aggrieved because their applications have been refused. They may feel that, in effect, they gave points to others who applied and were accepted, and who on the face of the applications seemed to be in exactly the same position as themselves. The risk of that happening has been reduced by spelling out the number of points that are available for certain qualifications, but it is one that remains.

It is regrettable that the scheme still maintains points for an applicant's wage level. That criterion is a classic example of the unfairness of the scheme. It attempts to equate additional value to society with higher remuneration. That is made clear in annex 3. It counters the Minister's claim that the scheme recognises merit and achievement. There are many in Hong Kong who have much merit and have achieved a great deal, but they will never qualify under the scheme because they are not at the top of the wage structure and have not achieved some other pre-eminence. Judicial review might have been an opportunity to set people's minds at ease. It might have provided an opportunity to put right some decisions that went wrong.

The Opposition do not believe that the Act and the scheme will determine the future of Hong Kong. It is obvious that the people want to stay there and will leave only as a last resort. The colony has always had a high turnover in its population, however, and that is likely to continue. The determining factor in the success of Hong Kong will be the relationship with China and China's internal development. The opportunities for investment in China and the entire Pacific basin are there to be taken. Britain could help to provide for confidence in the region through British companies. Britain does not enjoy an especially high reputation in that part of the world. The Government, through their various agencies, could do far more to show that Britain is still committed to Hong Kong to 1997 and thereafter. As in many other parts of the world, we find that Japan, France, Germany and the United States are all bidding for work in Hong Kong. British companies are in evidence, but the Government could do much more to encourage those that are firmly rooted in Britain and other parts of Europe to realise that there are tremendous opportunities in the Pacific basin if Hong Kong is used as a base. That encouragement would do much to build confidence in the colony if it believed that the Government and people of Britain still cared about it.

The future of Hong Kong lies in the hands of the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry and not so much in those of the Home Office. I have never accepted that the Act was a matter of immigration. I know, however, that those who wished to parade their own prejudices and venom in society latched on to the measure. They recognised that it gave them the opportunity that they sought. I believe that the Act relates to the confidence of Hong Kong and that it is not merely a vehicle for the granting of passports. There is much more to it than that.

I make yet another plea to the Government to think again about those who do not qualify under the scheme. I realise, of course, that the Act provides that an annual report has to be laid before the House. I urge the Government to reconsider the position of those with no effective nationality. They may well be in an extremely difficult position in 1997. I have much in mind also the concern that was expressed on Report, especially for the wives of British citizens who do not have automatic rights in respect of this country. It would be nonsensical if people were obliged to return to Britain to live here for three years to ensure that their spouses qualified. That is something that must be kept open for review.

If we regarded Hong Kong as an asset to build upon rather than as a liability, we could do far more for the colony and the entire region than I suspect that we shall do under the scheme. A positive attitude on the part of the United Kingdom in Hong Kong and in China is essential if the Hong Kong agreement is to be fulfilled.

10.49 pm

At this stage in our consideration of this legislation there is no point in attempting, even if it were not for the fact that it would be out of order, to go over the general principles of the Act. It is curious, however, that we can scarcely discuss details without reflecting upon the Act as a whole. Some of the provisions that are before us may appear to be erratic or peculiar, but they are based upon an Act which is both erratic and peculiar in the literal meanings of those words. So having swallowed the camel we must not strain at the gnat of the order.

I do not propose to detain the House long this evening but it is a great pity that my hon. Friend the Minister could not bring us some news when he introduced this statutory instrument of the further reaction from Peking to the legislation. It would have been comforting for those of us who opposed the Bill to be told that we were wrong in our assessment of the reaction of the Chinese Government and that the British Government were right. Unhappily the reverse is true. The Chinese Government have made it clear that they regard the legislation as an insulting interference in their affairs and have made it plain that it is an obstacle, rather than an assistance, to the further improvement of relations between Great Britain and the People's Republic of China. That is sad, but I guess that we shall have to live with it now, as the legislation has been passed.

I have to reflect somewhat lightheartedly on the sheer joy of seeing the various valuations that are placed on certain individuals in Hong Kong. Who am I, above all, to disagree with the view that a qualified kindergarten teacher qualifies for exactly as many points as someone who has a bachelor degree in law? It seems to be one of the better assessments of social work that we have had for some time, although I realise that not everyone would agree with me on that.

The instrument contains one curiosity which I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister can explain. If he turns to page 17 he will find that if one is a journalist with a bachelor degree other than in journalism or communications one scores 45 points. Does that mean that if one is a practising lawyer with a bachelor's degree one is given 10 points but if one is a journalist with a bachelor's degree in law one is given 45 points? If so, that is curious and extraordinary in the extreme. It underlines the remarkable nature of this complex legislation, built upon a piece of bad legislation which is a minefield and a trap for anyone trying to find their way through it with common sense.

My hon. Friend the Minister might reflect on one person who, as far as I can see—although I have not checked out the numbers in detail—would probably have qualified under most of the criteria in the statutory instrument. He was a distinguished business man in Hong Kong. In fact, he was the chairman of the Hong Kong stock exchange. I take it that the fact that he has now been convicted of criminal offences will disqualify him. What an extraordinarily good thing that he was not given his British passport before he was convicted.

10.53 pm

The order is not amendable and therefore there is a limit to the value of criticisms of any part of it. I want to use this opportunity, however, to ask the Minister about the effectiveness of the scheme at present and his perceptions of the response in Hong Kong to its provisions.

On the face of t, the scheme is not serving the purpose for which it was dreamt up. The prevalent anxiety in Hong Kong is about a breakdown in law and order. Those anxieties were referred to by Sir David Wilson in his speech to the Legislative Council two weeks ago, and I should be astonished if the Minister was unaware of them. It has been admitted that 150,000 members of the Triad organisation are no longer the subject of special attention by a division of the Hong Kong police, and that is causing great anxiety. Public service recruitment has been frozen and the staff targets for the police—a disciplined service specially referred to in the order—have not been met and have fallen short by about 50 per cent. Can the Minister say whether that is due to emigration? Are there any other reasons for that shortfall?

What is most alarming, as the Minister will be aware, is that Sir David Wilson has predicted that emigration will rise to 62,000 this year. It does not appear that the Government's efforts to stabilise the population are meeting with the sort of success that can be the only justification for the scheme set out in the order.

In common with he right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), I shall not enter into the merits of the Bill. The Minister is aware that I opposed it in principle in the belief that if the population retained in the colony was to be sufficient to guarantee the economy more people should have been eligible under the Government scheme.

We are entitled to know what value the Government place upon the scheme on the basis of the evidence of recent months since the Bill's enactment. It is difficult to agree with the Minister that bias will not enter into the consideration of entitlement under the scheme. Bias is built into the scheme. Indeed, the Minister spoke of the consideration given to whether there should be an adjustment of the points awarded on age. It is clear that the scheme leans heavily towards the 30 to 40-year-old group. It is therefore biased against some people who may have given great service to this country and to the colony for substantially longer than those in the aforementioned group. That older generation may feel a great sense of grievance.

The categories specially favoured by points will be the subject of great debate. The Minister has already drawn attention to a particular common commercial group and for every person satisfied there will be many more who are dissatisfied.

The scheme has contributed to the growing unrest in the colony and it has resulted in the increase in the numbers seeking to emigrate. That unrest must be contributing to the downturn in the growth of the colony's economy. This year it witnessed an economic growth of 2·5 per cent., the lowest in the Pacific basin. Inflation has also risen to nearly 10 per cent. and it is clear that we are judging the scheme against an unhealthy state of affairs.

In this short debate, I hope that it will be possible for the Minister to say something about how he sees the scheme contributing to the future of Hong Kong on the basis of the experience gained so far.

10.58 pm

As I have watched the events in the middle east unravel on the television screen in the past few months, I have wondered why a small enclave, Kuwait, clinging to the fringes of an alien and hostile country ruled over by a dictatorship, should command such concern here and elsewhere in the world when the liberty of its citizens is threatened. In comparison, we offer no hope or promise to the people of Hong Kong, over which this country has far more say, that should the alien power behind them decide to invade and perpetrate the crimes now perpetrated in Kuwait, we and the rest of the world will go in to defend the remnants of their liberty. Had we given those people that assurance when we last debated this issue, we should not now need to be discussing the points scheme. I have always opposed the points scheme and moves to remove the elite from Hong Kong. After all, they are the very people who may have been able to develop a system of resistance to an alien force that might decide to move into that territory.

Even now we are not meeting the understandable and natural fears of the majority of the people there. While there is still time, let us consider what more we might offer them by way of consolation, in view of our concern, as the member of an international body, for the plight of small, unprotected or difficult-to-protect groups who have strong ties with our way of justice and law and who have strong economic ties with us.

There is still time for us to discuss ways, in addition to the points scheme, of giving those people a greater sense of security and reassurance about the future. Let them, too, feel that should what has happened in Kuwait happen to them, we and world bodies would adopt the same attitude and protect their liberties. Then, perhaps not so many of them would wish to flood away from that country. After all, it is our creation. It reflects our way of life and our belief in freedom. Their energy and exuberance have created there a prosperous and free state. If they felt that we were prepared to back what we have helped to create there, in precisely the same way as we are saying to the people of Kuwait, "We shall come in and restore your liberty," that would reassure the people of Hong Kong. for they would feel that we were prepared to do for them what we are prepared to do for the people of Kuwait.

11.2 pm

We should not lose this opportunity to congratulate whoever devised this devilish scheme. I was a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and we funked the task of going into the matter in too much detail. We said:

"We appreciate the difficulties of defining coherent categories of suitable people apart from public servants … to whom a right of abode or an assurance of a right of entry for settlement might be offered."
Lord MacLehose said, when giving evidence to the Committee:
"There are people in the Home Office who are frightfully ingenious at keeping people out and I think they are perfectly capable of thinking of a formula for letting them in."
That led us to the conclusion:
"We believe such assurances could be provided to a significant number of Hong Kong BDTCs in key positions."
We would not go further than that. But it looks as though the Home Office or somebody else has come up to the expectations of Lord MacLehose and has devised a devilishly ingenious scheme. So ingenious is it that few of us can think of anything to say when faced with the statutory instrument.

But having congratulated whoever devised the scheme, I wonder whether we might hear from the Minister whether the purpose of this devilish scheme, which was to give some reassurance to the very groups of people in Hong Kong who are expected—because, in earlier figures, they were shown to be doing so—to leave Hong Kong as 1997 approaches, is being effected. We did not have such a statement from the Minister earlier, and I hope that, when he replies, he will feel able to give it.

We said in our report, which was accepted by the Government, that although between the years 1980 and 1986 the average yearly outflow was about 20,000, in 1989 it was 42,000 and this year it was expected to be 55,000. The whole purpose of the scheme, devilish or otherwise, was to try to stop that haemorrhage of great talent from Hong Kong and anchor the people there so that they would continue the success of Hong Kong, making it a great and happy place when eventually the takeover took place.

We know that this is the second draft of the scheme and there has been much discussion in Hong Kong about the scheme's detail. It would be encouraging to hear from the Minister that the number of those leaving is already beginning to turn down. If the scheme is not having that effect, something more will have to be done. We do not want to have to keep coming back to the House at such a late hour to consider even more devilish schemes, which is the way that the gentlemen in the Home Office, who are so skilled at devising such proposals, will be forced to proceed if what we have done so far shows absolutely no signs of success. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to give us some reassurance on that, because, apart from reassuring us, he will comfort the people of Hong Kong who are probably just as puzzled as most of us appear to be by the way in which the categories have been worked out and the numbers allocated.

11.7 pm

A number of points have been raised and I shall try to answer each of them in turn as best I can.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) talked about British firms and wondered whether any extra points should be given for British firms in Hong Kong. He shakes his head, which means that I must have missed his point entirely, and I would be grateful if he would tell me what he meant.

I was commenting on the fact that I thought that the Minister said that he had devised a formula that would make it slightly more favourable for people employed by British firms. I was simply making the point that Britain is responsible for the whole colony; people there work for firms that are owned by many countries—it is an international community. I do not think that favouring British firms has as much merit as the Minister was hinting at. We have responsibility for the whole colony, not just for people employed by British firms or, as he said, firms that might have some connection with Britain.

I did understand the hon. Gentleman. In my opening remarks I said that we had broadened the definition of British firms so that many firms in the colony would be accommodated. Secondly, I said that we had decided not to increase the number of points for British firms beyond 35 so that it would act merely as a tie breaker between those who were equally qualified. As it is a British passport and British nationality being given, it seems right that British firms should, when everything else is equal, be the ones to benefit, not least because, as the hon. Gentleman said, firms of other nationalities in Hong Kong are generally taking steps to look after their own employees in that way. Therefore, we are doing little more than evening up matters.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of those who already had choices being given more choices. That is the basic intention of what we are doing. It is those with choices who are leaving. Those who do not have choices are staying in Hong Kong. We are trying to ensure that those who have the choice to leave have another choice to take up British passports and nationality, and stay in Hong Kong, which British nationality will give them the confidence to do.

The hon. Gentleman also said that pay levels should not be taken into account. He is mistaken in his belief as to how widely they are to be taken into account. There is only one group to which they relate—business men and managers. It is only one measure among many that will go to make up the number of points that they can score. As ability to earn is one of the characteristics of a successful business man it would be wrong, in fact one would be blind, not to take it into account, at least for some of the points that he may earn.

This is the provision that I find offensive. It seems to me the most dangerous example of one law for the rich and one for the poor that I have ever seen. I hope that when this matter is reconsidered we can get away from this provision. It does not make a spectacular difference, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has just said, but if it were on the statute book it would be a very unhappy state of affairs.

That is very misguided of my right hon. Friend. Of course, in the business sector, one of the indicators of success is the amount that people earn. If my hon. Friend does not want to face that, or believes that we should not face it when we determine the key people who should be anchored, he is facing the problem in a blind way, as it cannot and should not be ignored. Those are the sort of people whom we want to anchor in Hong Kong. As I told the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, those are the people who find it easiest to emigrate. That is why the provision is in the Bill, and it is right that it should be.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central also mentioned special circumstances points. As I said in my opening remarks, we have tried to make them as objective as possible. The hon. Gentleman says that it is not quite objective enough for him, but if he reads the rules carefully he will understand that, although the Governor has the opportunity to change the balance of special circumstances points, according to the needs of a certain class or category, nevertheless he has to apply them similarly to everyone in that category. So, as far as the category is concerned, the points are applied objectively.

My hon. Friend is not quite correct. Article 14(2), on special circumstances, states:

"The Governor may allocate up to 75 points to an applicant if he considers that there is an exceptionally high propensity to emigrate amongst those serving in the relevant occupation or amongst a particular group of persons serving in that occupation."
I do not want to push the matter to the extent of saying that the "particular group" could be people called Lee, or Lloyd, or something like that, but it gives the Governor a pretty enormous discretion to specify a particular group.

My right hon. Friend entirely misses the point. The whole purpose of the scheme is to anchor those people in Hong Kong who have a particular propensity to emigrate; and enabling the Governor to take into account the greater propensity of a particular group to emigrate underlines the object of the points system.

My hon. Friend misunderstands me. I know that the Act is based upon partiality and favouritism. The amount of discretion in exercising partiality and favouritism which is extended to the Governor is quite enormous. He can even decide, according to the order, not to give points for a particular qualification if he does not like it; he can add qualifications which are not included if he likes them. That is part of the Act.

My right hon. Friend does not want to understand the system, because if he did he would say that of course the Governor has the discretion to apply different points, but he has it only to apply them to different groups. They have to apply equally to those people in those groups. Therefore, he does not select one person as against another; he recognises the reality of the position that a particular group is in.

How does one define a qualifying group? Could it be of Wykehamists or Old Etonians?

I think that if it was plain that he was doing that and that he was exercising his discretion unreasonably—my right hon. Friend will remember our debate on Report—that would clearly be a matter on which judicial review could be sought. My right hon. Friend takes his case to the point of absurdity where the Governor would be exercising his discretion not reasonably but unreasonably.

Of course, it will be in Hong Kong where common law applies and the possibility of judicial review exists, as it does here. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford made great play about the way in which the points are made up in the appendix to the rules. He forgets that lawyers and journalists are in separate groups and are not comparable. Points for professional and vocational qualifications are earned only for occupation-related qualifications. He mentioned lawyers in particular. A bachelor degree in law will be a preliminary qualification worth 10 points, but the degree holder will have other qualifications to add. My right hon. Friend should look at how the system will work as a whole rather than picking out and making a misinterpretation of how the Governor will be able to use the system.

I most certainly have, and if my right hon. Friend reads Hansard he will see that that is so, especially if he reads it in the light of his earlier remarks.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) wondered whether the scheme was already working. Of course it is not because it is not yet available. If the orders are approved it will come into effect on 1 December. The emigration rates indicate the plans that were made by people who were worried about staying in Hong Kong 18 months to two years ago. We shall not see the effect of the scheme until it is well under way and British citizenship is being granted. If the hon. Gentleman wants an example of how such citizenship can work, I suggest that he looks at the figures for Singapore. It issued some 25,000 passports to citizens in Hong Kong and very few of them have moved from there. The passports have succeeded in anchoring those people for the present. I have no doubt that British passports will do that even more effectively in Hong Kong.

Is the Minister saying that anticipation of the possibility of being one of the fortunate 50,000 is in itself of no importance and is not an anchor? I thought that that was part of the Government's argument.

I am saying that somebody who has decided that he really must emigrate because he did not want to stay in Hong Kong 18 months or a year ago would not withdraw his application, especially if he thought it might be successful in Canada or Australia, on the offchance that the Bill might become law and the order might be approved. We shall see the effect of these only in the coming years and they certainly will not affect decisions that were made 18 months to two years ago.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland also asked whether members of the police force were emigrating and said that recruitment to the police was difficult. The indications are that people are leaving the police force to go into the private sector rather than emigrating. However, it is to address the problem of retaining high-grade staff in the police and the other disciplined services that we have included a special category in the Act and in the rules.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland talked about the bias in the rules. Naturally, the whole purpose of a points system is to give additional points to people with qualities, experience or characteristics that are particularly valuable, in this case to Hong Kong. However, I do not accept what he says about bias between people. People in the same situation are treated in the same way and get a similar number of points. There is no way that under the discretion allowed to the Governor he can apply the rules other than in that manner, even if he wanted to do so which, of course, he would not. He would like the system to work in a manner that benefited Hong Kong. That is also the intention of the Act and the rules.

My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) said that she would not support a points system and would use some other method to show Hong Kong that we were concerned for it and would try to assist its stability in the years ahead. She did not say what her method would be but drew a parallel with Kuwait. Other than sending the Desert Rats to China, I am not sure what she had in mind.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) called our scheme devilishly ingenious. It is honest, straightforward and practical. I refer my hon and learned Friend to what I said to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, who wondered why the scheme was not yet having an effect. I told him that we have not even passed the Orders in Council on which the scheme depends. The decisions that are being seen by the number of people leaving—which has, indeed, increased—were made a year, 18 months or even two years ago.

The figures cited by my hon. and learned Friend and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland suggest that there is an increasing problem in Hong Kong—the problem of emigration. We badly need an Act and some rules to contribute towards the anchoring of at least some of those people in Hong Kong, especially the most able. That is why I have every confidence in the order. The Bill was passed by a large majority on Second Reading, and the principle was accepted without a Division on Third Reading. I am therefore confident that the House will back the order now.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft British Nationality (Hong Kong) (Selection Scheme) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 15th October, be approved.