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Foreign Affairs Committee (Hong Kong Visit)

Volume 589: debated on Monday 1 December 2014

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I call Sir Richard Ottaway to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. He has three minutes in which to make such an application.

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration —namely, the decision of the Chinese Government to ban the Foreign Affairs Committee from visiting Hong Kong.

In 1984, Britain and China signed a joint declaration on the future of Hong Kong when the UK’s lease expired in 1997. It included a commitment to a “one country, two systems” style of government and to its rights, freedoms and way of life remaining unchanged for 50 years. In August this year, the Chinese National People’s Congress issued a decision changing the way in which the chief executive would be elected. This confirmed earlier suspicions and has led to widespread protest in Hong Kong. In the Government’s latest six-monthly report to Parliament on Hong Kong, the Foreign Secretary said:

“the important thing is that the people of Hong Kong have a genuine choice and feel they have a real stake in the outcome...there is still some way to go for consensus to be reached.”

As a result of this concern, the FAC decided in July to hold an inquiry entitled “The UK’s relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration”. In August, I was invited by the Chinese ambassador to discuss the inquiry. At the meeting, the Committee was abruptly accused of meddling in China’s and Hong Kong’s internal affairs. We were asked to discontinue our inquiry and told that we would be unwelcome in Hong Kong. The Committee gave full consideration to the ambassador’s views and decided to continue with its inquiry; indeed, we felt it would be an abrogation of our duties not to do so.

Since then, the rhetoric from the Chinese Government has intensified. Ten days ago, we were informed that some would consider our visit to Hong Kong to be of support to the protestors of Occupy Central and other illegal activities. Last Friday afternoon, I was formally informed—by the deputy Chinese ambassador, the chargé d’affaires, because the ambassador is abroad—that the Committee would be denied entry to Hong Kong. The Government have rightly said that the ban is mistaken and counter-productive. I agree. It is an affront not just to this House but to the men and women of the free world. I believe that this House should have the opportunity to express its views as soon as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely “The ban by China on the Foreign Affairs Committee visit to Hong Kong”. This is an extremely serious matter for which, I confess, I can think of no exactly comparable precedent in my 17 and a half years in the House. As is my duty, I have listened carefully to the application from the right hon. Gentleman and I am satisfied that the matter raised by him is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24.

Has the right hon. Gentleman the leave of the House?

Application agreed to.

Thank you. The right hon. Gentleman has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 2 December, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours and will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the right hon. Gentleman’s application. I hope that that is pleasing to the right hon. Gentleman, to members of his Committee and to the House.

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill: Programme (No. 3)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 24 February 2014 in the last Session of Parliament (Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (Programme)) as varied by the Order of 12 May 2014 in that Session (Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (Programme) (No. 2)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

(1) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 10.00pm at today’s sitting.

(2) The proceedings shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

(3) The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.


Lords Amendments

Time for conclusion of proceedings

Nos 97 to 107

7 pm

Nos 74 and 127 to 131

8.30 pm

Nos 1 to 73, 75 to 96, 108 to 126 and 132 to 143

10 pm

Subsequent stages

(4) Any further message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

(5) The proceedings on any further message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.