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Hong Kong (Overseas Public Servants) Bill

Volume 569: debated on Thursday 22 February 1996

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7.31 p.m.

Read a third time.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

I explained at Second Reading that the Bill is an enabling measure which will allow the Government to offer a package of benefits to certain overseas Hong Kong officers. In particular, we propose to make schemes, by Order in Council, to pay officers compensation for loss of their career prospects and to provide Hong Kong overseas pensioners with a measure of protection for the sterling value of their pensions. Officers will also be allowed to retire prematurely before 30th June 1997 and he entitled to resettlement help.

The Bill was considered in Committee. Noble Lords who spoke recognised the contributions that Hong Kong overseas officers have made to the success of Hong Kong and that they should receive benefits similar to those provided to their predecessors in 42 former British dependent territories. It is gratifying that no noble Lord questioned the object of the Bill. There was some discussion also of the proposed pension safeguard scheme which the Government propose to implement, by Order in Council, after enactment of this legislation.

I explained in some detail the considerations which underlie the proposed scheme and why the Government consider that it is fair to Hong Kong pensioners and to British taxpayers. The Bill passed through Committee unamended, and I have no government amendments to propose. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Chesham.)

My Lords, I thank the Minister and the other contributors who discussed the Bill. I should like also, as I did on Second Reading, to pay tribute to the Hong Kong Civil Service and its overseas members. They have worked with great efficiency and commitment to Hong Kong and its future. I should like also to wish them well in the months leading up to the handover, and for those who intend to remain in their posts over that period and beyond, I express my hope that the transition will be as trouble free as it possibly can be.

The Labour Party has been happy to support the Bill throughout its consideration in this House and another place. It provides the security needed for retiring civil servants in Hong Kong. We know that it is acceptable to them after a long period of negotiation which we are sure they will be glad is now over. It is consistent with the 42 other similar schemes, and as such, again, is highly acceptable to us. I look forward to the Bill receiving its Royal Assent and being implemented.

My Lords, we on these Benches echo the sentiments of the noble Baroness with regard to the commitment of Hong Kong civil servants who are soon to be pensioners. Although I failed to make any impression on the Bill or to change the Government's mind, this is a worthy piece of legislation. I hope that it is enacted well.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their support for the Bill. We too would like to pay a great tribute to the overseas civil servants in Hong Kong. We wish them the very best, and hope that everything goes as well as it possibly can. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill passed.