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Hong Kong Governor

Volume 208: debated on Wednesday 3 June 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the future role of the new Governor of Hong Kong.

The whole House will want to join in wishing Mr. Patten well as he prepares for this demanding job. His role and that of the Government will be to administer Hong Kong justly and efficiently until the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, and to do everything possible to lay secure foundations for preserving Hong Kong's way of life and economic success beyond that date, as provided for in the Joint Declaration.

How can Chris Patten expect or demand the respect of the Chinese Government when the British Government have failed to democratise the Government in Hong Kong? May we have an assurance that Chris Patten will not spend his expensive time collecting funds for the Tory party?

The hon. Lady is notably misinformed. The Government have begun the task of introducing democracy—directly elected representatives—in the Legislative Council. That is something that no previous Government have done but which we now have under way. The question is one of pace, as the hon. Lady knows: it is a question of how much further progress we make in 1995 and of how we ensure that the process continues after the transfer of power. The hon. Lady ought to know better than to ask such tendentious questions.

Like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I welcome the choice of Chris Patten as governor. He is a friend and colleague of hon. Members on both sides of the House and I believe that he will be an outstanding governor. Further to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just given, can he tell the House a little more about what decisions he expects to be taken regarding, for example, the future composition of the Executive Council and the number of elected members on the Legislative Council in the run-up to 1997? Obviously, those matters are of continuing and great interest to Hong Kong.

I do not think that the new governor will want to rush to conclusions on these matters as soon as he takes over. He would be wise to want—I am sure that he will want—to consult widely after his arrival, to weigh up all the factors and then to put his advice to us. That will take time. I would not expect conclusions on the kind of matters that my right hon. Friend mentioned to emerge until the autumn at the earliest.

On the specific point concerning the 1995 LegCo elections, we have said that we shall be discussing those elections with the Chinese side with the aim of ensuring as much continuity as possible. Decisions on electoral arrangements will need to take account of such discussions; they are, I think, some way off.

How can the Foreign Secretary in principle agree that a man rejected in democratic elections in this country should be imposed upon the people of Hong Kong?

Because he is a first-class man, as hon. Members know. The hon. Gentleman will know of the very wide and hearty welcome that his appointment has received in Hong Kong.