“For the people of Hong Kong and we”—

meaning all of us in Parliament—

“have no interest, no advantage or no conceivable selfish purpose in any form of car crash with Hong Kong’s sovereign master, China. Rather, it is in all our interests, but particularly those of Britain and China in fulfilling the joint declaration, that Hong Kong continues to thrive and prosper, in a different world from that of 1984 or even 1997.”—[Official Report, 22 October 2014; Vol. 586, c. 276-81WH.]

I do not believe that anyone in this House, or indeed anywhere, could take violent objection to the thoughts and beliefs behind that statement. However, I am afraid that there was an objection, which I received today in hard copy—it had insufficient postage and so arrived only today—from Ambassador Liu of the People’s Republic of China. He expressed severe displeasure and disappointment about a letter I had written to him some 10 days before the debate, outlining my reasons for holding it.

I will recap the crucial part of the reason. As chair of the all-party China group, I believe that I have two main responsibilities, as outlined on our writing paper and clearly laid out on our website: first, to provide a forum for debate on all matters of bilateral interest; and secondly, to help to inform parliamentarians through regular visits to China. I believe that by holding the debate on Hong Kong I was fulfilling the first objective.

Ambassador Liu wrote:

‘Matters related to Hong Kong are none but China’s internal affairs, where China is firmly opposed to intervention or interference of any kind by any country or any individual, including the House of Commons’ inquiry, debate and investigation involving Hong Kong. Your insistence on having the aforementioned debate in the House of Commons has in effect meddled in such internal matters of Hong Kong and sent out a wrong signal. Such moves, exploited by the opposition in Hong Kong, will only create an impression that Britain supports unlawful activities such as ‘occupy Central’.”

I have read out excerpts from my speech, and I do not believe that any objective reader could reach any of the conclusions reached by Ambassador Liu, least of all an impression that Britain supports unlawful activities such as those of Occupy Central, which did not feature in my speech at all.

Ambassador Liu’s letter went on to state that I, as chair of the all-party China group,

“charged with the responsibility and mission of advancing China-UK relations”—

that is not strictly my mission, as I have just explained—should

“refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Hong Kong as well as China. I urge you to do more things to promote China-UK relationship, rather than disrupt or undermine its healthy development.”

It is true that relations between our two countries have improved considerably. My right hon. Friend the Minister and I were both part of the very successful delegation led by the Prime Minister to China a year ago, and earlier this summer we had a very successful visit by the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, to the UK. All of us here want to see positive relations between Britain and China for precisely the reasons I have outlined. We have much

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that is to our mutual benefit, much in the way of mutual challenges and much that we are doing together to make the world a better place.

I genuinely believe that the role of diplomats is to build bridges, not barriers; to solve problems, not to create them; to help bring our two countries closer together; and to strengthen the relationships between this Parliament and the National People’s Congress in Beijing. Let me, for the record, respond to Ambassador Liu’s comment that I should

“do more things to promote”

the China-UK relationship. For three years, I was this country’s British trade commissioner to China, and also our consul to Macau. Later, I opened the first merchant banking group office in China and listed the first Chinese company on the London stock exchange. In 1993, I was part of the Anglo-Chinese expedition to make the first ever crossing of the Taklamakan desert. During that expedition, I should, by rights, have died from amoebic dysentery. I was saved by some unbelievably strong antibiotics that meant I could not eat for five days while walking some 25 miles a day in the heat of that hitherto uncrossed desert, so every day since the winter of 1993 has, to some extent, been an extra day in my life. When I came out of the desert—so thin that my trousers fell down when I tried to pull them up—and went straight to Shanghai to open the office of my employers, I vowed that I would dedicate a chunk of my life to doing things that would continue to help relations between Britain and China.

Some two years later, my wife, Anthea, made me aware of what was happening in Chinese orphanages in Shanghai. She was, at the time, the person in charge of the welfare team of the Shanghai Expatriate Association. Many Members will know that, largely because of the one-child system, huge numbers of orphans, often predominantly female, were dumped on the doorsteps of orphanages and would spend the rest of their lives in an institution. This was a human tragedy. My wife’s dedication to helping two or three individual orphans led me to create a charitable company in Hong Kong called Children First and to get pledges of significant amounts of money from businesses in Hong Kong to support the creation of what would effectively become a foster care system in Shanghai.

At that time, talks with the Shanghai municipal government fell through, largely on the issue of trust about who would have control of the money. However, the relationship with the civil affairs bureau was so strong that when a British citizen, Robert Glover, arrived in Shanghai and was introduced to the bureau by my wife, he was able to take forward our original vision and create what is now Care For Children—the first ever joint venture Sino-British charity, now joint ventured with the central Government’s civil affairs bureau. To date, it has taken between 250,000 and 300,000 orphans out of orphanages and put them in foster homes. It is a remarkable success. I pay tribute to Rob Glover, who is in London this week, and all that the charity has achieved. I am proud to have been first its adviser and later a director.

That is one example of a personal commitment to improving things between Britain and China that I hope will show the House that far from doing things to disrupt and undermine the healthy development of the relationships between our two countries, I have consistently tried to enhance them.

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In that context, I am deeply disappointed by what happened this summer when the Foreign Affairs Committee rightly decided, owing to the events in Hong Kong and to the six-monthly update report on Hong Kong by Her Majesty’s Government, that it was time for it to write a report on the state of the relations between the UK and Hong Kong. It is very disappointing that a China that is now in every way stronger, more confident and more robust than it was 35 years ago, when first I visited, has been unable to recognise that this should be seen as a positive and encouraging development that opens doors rather than closes them, and to welcome a report that, in many ways, may turn out to be a lot more positive than it expects.

Today’s debate is unfortunate in many ways. When my visa was rejected 10 days ago, I decided not to say anything about it because I did not want to contribute to a worsening situation. It was already, to me, a huge disappointment that a body like the UK-China leadership forum—which exists precisely to have the dialogue that two countries with different histories, cultures and systems of government and parliament must have in order to overcome their differences of opinion and views on the world at large—was having to be disrupted on the simple principle that China chooses its delegation and we choose ours.

This debate is essentially about the freedom that this House must have to fulfil our duties and obligations to our constituents. Our constituents are interested in a strong relationship with China. Of course, business and the economy are a vital part of that, but our constituents are deeply interested in other aspects of the relationship, many of which relate to human rights and animal rights. We must raise those issues and they must be debated and discussed. The all-party group cannot and should not avoid them; it must discuss them. We must recognise that there will be differences of opinion, but they should be aired in a sensible, responsible way that recognises the cultural differences. This debate is all about the ability of our House to discuss and debate—and ultimately to enhance, not disrupt—relations between these two great countries.

2.6 pm

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), who made a very moving and sombre speech about his experiences in China and how sad it is that China has chosen to reject his arrival. The Chairman of the Committee, the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), gave a very full and effective explanation of what he called this unfortunate and unhappy episode—I am sure we all agree with that.

I am pleased that we have the opportunity in this emergency debate to highlight how unacceptable the actions of the Chinese Government have been in banning the entry to Hong Kong of democratically elected representatives and hampering our ability to scrutinise our own Government’s actions, as is our role as the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is very important to emphasise, as others have, that we are totally separate from Government. I think that is sometimes misunderstood by some foreign Governments, and certainly by the Chinese Government. We do not take orders from our

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own Government, so we are certainly not going to be deterred from carrying out our duties by any foreign Government, from whatever part of the globe.

I cannot honestly say that I am surprised about what has happened, because I was present when the Foreign Affairs Committee went to China during the last Parliament, as outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes). It was quite an experience. I recollect that we received a friendly welcome and had meetings with many representatives of the Chinese Government. However, as my hon. Friend said, when it became clear that we intended to visit Taiwan, we were told in no uncertain terms that this would lead to “serious consequences”. My recollection of the meeting that he described is that we were more or less thrown out; “asked to leave” would be a more polite way of putting it. As he said, the serious consequences did not arise for us, but it was an illustration of the kind of overreaction we can expect from a Government who do not understand the concept of transparency and democracy, not to mention scrutiny and accountability.

Taking the unprecedented step of refusing entry to a Select Committee takes the whole matter much further. I believe that this amounts to a diplomatic crisis. It is more than regrettable, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has publicly stated—it is totally unacceptable. I hope that the FCO will make the strongest representations on the matter and take it further with a view to seeking a change of position on the part of the Chinese Government forthwith. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about what the Government intend to do.

We as a Committee have been working hard on this inquiry for some time and taken extensive evidence to date. However, there is no real substitute for finding the facts on the ground, as we have often found in some of the most dangerous places in the world, which often lack democracy. Under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), we have sought to conduct the inquiry in a responsible manner and as inclusively as possible, preferably with the full co-operation of the Hong Kong authorities. Of course, our concern for human rights and democracy is part of that, but our inquiry is wide ranging and we believe it is timely to look at how the Sino-British joint declaration is being implemented 30 years after it was agreed by both parties.

Contrary to the views of the Chinese Government, Lord Patten told us that the terms of the 1984 joint declaration between the UK and China, agreeing the transfer of sovereignty to China and setting out “one country, two systems” principles of governance, explicitly gave the UK a legitimate interest in Hong Kong’s future. When China asserts that what is happening in Hong Kong is nothing to do with us, we should make it absolutely clear, publicly and privately, that that is not the case. We are not interfering in China’s internal affairs.

Notwithstanding all that, we have the right and the remit to scrutinise the work of the FCO throughout the world, which, of course, we do. This snub by the Chinese Government and the confrontational manner with which they have conducted themselves is an insult not only to the Committee, but to the whole House. We cannot accept it, especially from a Government with whom we have friendly and mutually beneficial relations. The FCO has pointed to the visit of the Chinese premier in

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June as an example of the positive trend in UK-China relations, but it is fundamental to our democratic system that we reserve the right to criticise our friends, and that should not have come as a surprise to the Chinese Government.

Mr Speaker, I hope you will be able to find it in your power to draw to the attention of the Chinese Government the role of Back-Bench MPs and the House’s disapproval of what has happened. If in refusing us entry to Hong Kong it was their intention to shut us up, they have achieved the exact opposite and shown to the whole world what their agenda is for Hong Kong in a way we will not be able to achieve in our report. However, we have postponed, not cancelled, our visit, so I look forward to the Committee engaging with all parties in Hong Kong in due course.

2.12 pm

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) and my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), who made a typically well-informed and moving speech.

I will start on a slightly sober note with a touch of realism. We in this Parliament are obviously not in a very strong position to influence events in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it is absolutely right that we should support human rights and democracy for the people of Hong Kong and support the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway) and his Committee in stating very clearly that the accusation of unjustified meddling in the internal affairs of China is not justified. Indeed, it is not justified either to try to inhibit the work of the all-party group on China, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester.

Richard Graham: My hon. Friend is being generous, both in what he says and in giving way, but I want to make a tiny point. He said that we may not have much influence over Hong Kong, but the whole point of this debate, of course, is that we are not trying to influence Hong Kong. We are trying to discuss the issues, but we are not trying to interfere, meddle, influence or anything else.

Martin Horwood: I understand my hon. Friend’s point and I will come back to it. There is an argument for us to comment on universal human rights and thereby try to influence their conduct throughout the world. To that extent, I think we are trying to influence events, but my hon. Friend is right to say that the focus of this debate is on, in a sense, the opposite situation, which is the Chinese Government’s unjustified attempt to curtail a parliamentary inquiry. It is true that we are not seeking in this debate to change anything in Hong Kong immediately.

The accusation of unjustified interference is wrong on two counts. First, as many hon. and right hon. Members have pointed out, we are party to an international agreement—the 1984 joint declaration—which refers in article 3(12) to the

“basic policies of the People’s Republic of China regarding Hong Kong”.

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Article 3(4) states:

“The chief executive will be appointed by the Central People’s Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations to be held locally.”

That is not the strongest wording in the world, but it is repeated in the Basic Law that was also implemented by the joint agreement. Article 3(12) goes on to state that those policies would

“remain unchanged for 50 years.”

We are clearly within that time scale, so the British Parliament has a perfectly legitimate right to look at how the Basic Law and joint agreement are being interpreted in practice in Hong Kong, particularly in the light of the Beijing Government’s announcements in August.

The second reason it is wrong to criticise the Foreign Affairs Committee is that we are all party to the United Nations universal declaration of human rights, which affirms that human rights—from Iran to Colombia and from China to Britain itself—are inalienable for all members of the human family. It is legitimate for any member of the United Nations to look at, comment on and take an interest in the conduct of human rights worldwide, and no Parliament or democratic assembly anywhere in the world should feel inhibited from doing so. It is common for this Parliament to comment on human rights in a variety of countries. Indeed, the Government publish an annual human rights report, in which they comment on human rights in many countries around the world.

As Lenin once said, what is to be done? First, we have to be clear that the Foreign Affairs Committee should continue to highlight the issues raised by events in Hong Kong, to investigate them thoroughly and to draw reasonable conclusions without fear of intimidation. We need to be clear that everyone in this Parliament supports its right to do that and encourages it to continue its inquiry.

Secondly, it is important that the British Government continue to raise concerns about China’s interpretation of the Basic Law and the joint declaration, and in doing so draw on the expertise of the Foreign Affairs Committee and its eventual report.

Thirdly, this country needs to adopt a deeper and more sophisticated policy towards China. Parliament and Government have tended to address China as if the only important thing we want it to do is buy and sell more widgets. The view has been that trade and capital investment are important, but almost to the exclusion of other considerations, and many hon. Members have reinforced the point that that is not the case. Trade and capital investment are important, but policies have to be wider and more sophisticated than that.

Part of that policy has to be an understanding from our side of China, its sensitivities and history, and the progress it has made. That means acknowledging that our shared history with China has not been particularly glorious on the British side on many occasions. We have to acknowledge that our role as a colonial power in events such as the opium wars was, in retrospect, disgraceful. We have undervalued contributions such as that of the 96,000 members of the Chinese Labour Corps during the first world war. They behaved with complete heroism and lost thousands of their number, but they were treated pretty disgracefully at the time and, equally

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disgracefully, their heroism and contribution to this country during the first world war have been neglected. A broad-based campaign is seeking to rectify that omission and obtain a memorial in this country to the Chinese Labour Corps. I hope that will attract Government support.

We have to acknowledge our own failure to deliver democracy in Hong Kong. We were the administrators and rulers of Hong Kong for many years, and we never delivered a Chief Executive who was elected by the people of Hong Kong without interference. We appointed colonial governors, and I am sure that some of them were very skilled, talented and caring, but in a sense it was a benign colonial dictatorship. It is difficult for us now to turn around and criticise China on how it behaves towards Hong Kong, and we have to be sensitive to that.

Sandra Osborne: It is important to remember that the Committee has not come to any conclusions about the rights and wrongs of the situation. We are protesting about being refused access to Hong Kong.

Martin Horwood: I completely accept that point, which the hon. Lady is right to emphasise. I am talking in a wider context about how we need a sophisticated approach to China. We should not constantly hector the Chinese for any failings we detect on their side, without acknowledging that over the long period of history—their approach is very much to look at the long picture—there have also been historical failings, injustices and omissions on our side. We have to be honest and acknowledge that.

A sophisticated policy towards China must include firmness in the face both of contraventions of human rights on Chinese territory, and of the militarisation and the sometimes unjustified indulgence of dictatorships in different parts of the world. That firmness should include the way in which the Chinese allow the perpetuation of wildlife crime in pursuit of markets for things such as ivory, which the International Fund for Animal Welfare has highlighted in the House of Commons only this week. In our pursuit of trade and investment, there is a risk that not only the UK but democracies all over the world will find ourselves divided and perhaps to some extent ruled by a Chinese foreign policy that seeks to intimidate smaller democracies and to influence our discussion of their affairs.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It just so happens that I had an opportunity to speak to a chief superintendent from the Hong Kong police this week. In our conversation, he confirmed that 6,500 demonstrations take place in Hong Kong. We are very fond of demonstrations in Northern Ireland, as the hon. Gentleman probably knows. Does he share my concern to ensure that demonstrations commemorating workers’ rights and other events should continue in the way they have until now, with no bother, actions or friction?

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, which underlines the fact that it is sometimes difficult to deal with the idea of free protest. It is fine in principle, but in practice even in our own country—even in Northern Ireland—it is sometimes a difficult challenge for policy makers and the authorities.

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The right of free protest is enormously important. It has been a hard-fought and hard-won right in countries all over the world, and we should certainly try to defend it in Hong Kong.

I was making the point that the free countries of the world risk being subject to a kind of divide-and-rule approach by the Chinese, with the Chinese Government using the rather intimidating tactics of trying to suppress inquiries and to inhibit activities, even those of all-party groups that are nothing to do with the British Government and are not part of this country’s Executive.

Part of the relationship building has to be to try to communicate to the Chinese Government what we understand not just by the rule of law, as has been mentioned, but by the separation of powers. In democracies such as ours, the Executive, the judiciary and the legislature are completely separate, and they have their own rights against each other, let alone in relation to other countries.

The democracies of the world must start to develop a more sophisticated approach to China, so that we can present a united front and say, “It is quite clear that you are the emerging new superpower of the world, an enormous economic force and probably a growing political force, and that you have an enormously rich and important history and a fabulous civilisation, but that does not give you the right to take smaller countries, democracies and economies and inhibit them from carrying out their proper business.”

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Our links with China should be emphasised. Historically, the first ambassador to Beijing hailed from Ballymoney—his name was Macartney—but today that link between my constituency and Hong Kong continues through the Kowloon Motor Bus Company, with Wrightbus manufacturing buses not only for London but for Hong Kong. Such economic links should be used as influence, saying, “Look, we have an economic driver that brings us closer together. Let us not be separated by this division that is currently preventing Members of Parliament from entering Hong Kong.”

Martin Horwood: I am happy that the hon. Gentleman has intervened on that point, which emphasises our strong cultural and human links with Hong Kong and with China as a whole.

Countries such as the UK must support democracies in the region, such as Taiwan. The example of Hong Kong is very important to Taiwan’s security and confidence. The language that Beijing is using about Taiwan has changed subtly in the past year or so. It is talking about the problem of Taiwan not being handed down from generation to generation, as though there ought to be some conclusion to the perpetual debate about Taiwan’s possible independence, its reintegration into the Republic of China or its continuation with its current status. That is potentially threatening to the democracy of Taiwan, as we must acknowledge. We must understand that how the one country, two systems approach has worked in Hong Kong is vital, and that that example is being watched very carefully in Taiwan.

The underlying message of this debate must be that we have to understand and respect China, but that we equally want China to understand and respect how our democracy works, including how we separate powers between parliamentary inquiries and the Executive, and

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how a Select Committee’s right to look into a legitimate area of concern—in terms not only of British foreign policy but of universal human rights—is something that we can and must defend.

2.26 pm

Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): May I first thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this important—not just important but, quite frankly, unprecedented—debate to take place? The question that has been asked is: why should Parliament allow another nation to determine the way in which we work on behalf of the people we represent? The answer is that we should not just allow that to happen without a proper debate and without making sure that our views are known.

Our Committee agreed on 22 July to hold an inquiry into the United Kingdom’s relations with Hong Kong 30 years after the signing of the joint declaration in 1984. The inquiry’s terms of reference were wide-ranging, with four pillars. The Committee planned to assess, first, the FCO’s monitoring of the joint declaration via its six-monthly reports; secondly, the Government’s relationship with the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; thirdly, business, trade and cultural links; and fourthly, the work of the British Council.

The Committee received letters from the Chinese ambassador, the Chinese Parliament and Hong Kong Government representation in London urging us to cancel our inquiry. They argued that the inquiry would constitute interference in their internal affairs and provide a platform for “unlawful propositions” on democratic reform. Indeed, the ambassador warned that our inquiry would

“ultimately harm the interests of Britain.”

As our Chairman, the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), so ably said, he informed the Chinese that we understood the sensitivities involved in our inquiry, but intended to continue with it and with the visit that we planned to make to Hong Kong at the end of the month.

The visit would have been an important opportunity to meet a range of people in Hong Kong—not just politicians or those at the top of the tree, but business people, ordinary working people and, yes, probably student protesters. The students have a point of view, and they deserve to have it heard. We would also have spoken to the people in our hotel and the people we met in the street. We were not hoping to have some high-level, closed-door discussion.

The Chinese Government have all but accused us of providing support and a platform for the protesters. That is not what the inquiry is about and it is not what our visit would have been about. Unfortunately, that is where it is beginning to head. We had never mentioned Occupy Central. We announced that we were holding the inquiry in July. The announcement about the elections in Hong Kong was not made until 31 August. That is when the demonstrations started.

At every point along the way, we have made it clear that we want the inquiry to be balanced, objective and, most importantly, evidence-based. We want to hear a range of views and perspectives from all sides, including

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the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities—I repeat, including the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities. We have made it clear that we have no intention of meddling in China’s internal affairs. That is not why we were elected as parliamentarians. However, we are focused on doing our job, which is to scrutinise our Foreign and Commonwealth Office—to scrutinise the work of the men and women of the FCO and the job that they do for the United Kingdom.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is referring to the reasons why the Chinese authorities were not happy about the visit of the Select Committee. They said that it

“may send the wrong signals to the figures of ‘Occupy Central’”.

Can he allay the fears of the Hong Kong authorities by saying that in visiting and talking to people who are demonstrating, we are not necessarily indicating that we support them?

Mr Roy: That is exactly what we had hoped to do. We had hoped to speak to as many people as possible and hear as many views as possible. We wanted to ensure that no matter what our inquiry said at the end, it was evidence-based. We were not going there to be a cheerleader for Occupy Central, but we were not going there to ignore it either.

Unfortunately, on Friday last week, we were told directly that the Chinese Government would not allow us to enter the territory of Hong Kong. As I said earlier, that is unprecedented. During this Parliament alone, the Foreign Affairs Committee has visited countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have had internal problems and which would not have been too happy about the Committee doing an inquiry. Regardless of their opinions, we were allowed to visit, to meet people and to publish our reports. In previous Parliaments, as we have heard, the Committee has visited China, including Tibet. We have never been denied entry to any country. In fact, no Committee of this House has ever been denied entry to any country.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): The hon. Gentleman says that the Select Committee has been denied entry into Hong Kong. Has the Committee considered going ahead with its proposed visit and being turned away by the Chinese authorities to show the significance of what has taken place? That would clearly show the international community the contempt with which the Foreign Affairs Committee is being treated. What hope can the demonstrators have of how they will be treated by those same authorities?

Mr Roy: There is an argument for doing that. Unfortunately, the Committee would not be allowed to board the flight in London, because it is against the law for somebody to take a flight to somewhere they know they will not gain entry to.

Richard Graham: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if a select committee of the National People’s Congress wished to visit Britain, it is inconceivable that we would decline its members a visa?

Mr Roy: Absolutely. Think of the uproar there would be if we suddenly said to Chinese parliamentarians, “You are not coming to this country. You are not

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coming into this building.” It does not take a huge brain to work out the uproar that would result from such a ban if it were the other way around.

Sir Richard Ottaway: The hon. Gentleman might be interested to know that it is my understanding that a delegation from China is coming to Parliament this week.

Mr Roy: If they are coming this week, I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in saying that they are most welcome to attend Parliament and to have a full and frank discussion on any subject they wish to raise with any politician.

I was talking about areas that we have visited where one would imagine that there could have been problems. Several Members recently returned from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which we visited in connection with our current inquiry into Kurdistan. Like Hong Kong, it is a sub-region within a sovereign country. Kurdistan is constitutionally very sensitive for the Iraqi Government, but the Iraqis were welcoming and helpful. They understood that we were travelling there not to build on discord or to start a row, but to do a job on behalf of the people we represent and ultimately, we hope, to make more people understand the problems that there are in Iraq and Kurdistan.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said yesterday that the Prime Minister believed that the decision was mistaken. He said that it served only to

“amplify concerns about the situation in Hong Kong, rather than diminish them.”

As the Chairman of the Select Committee said so eloquently, China’s decision to deny us entry sends a worrying signal about its direction of travel regarding Hong Kong. It is also a worrying signal for the people of Taiwan and the Government of Taipei. We must be under no illusion: the people of Taiwan and the Government of Taipei will be watching this situation and asking, “Is this where we could go? Is this what could happen to us?” Who could blame them if they did?

I will be grateful if the Minister answers five questions when he sums up. First, how do the Government intend to respond to this unprecedented ban? Secondly, what meetings and conversations have Ministers sought or held with their counterparts in China in the past five days to discuss this issue? Thirdly, has the FCO called in the ambassador? Fourthly, has the United Kingdom’s embassy in China protested formally to the Chinese Government about the ban, and if not, why not? Lastly, what does the Minister think the ban says about China’s approach to the United Kingdom and the work of democratically elected parliamentarians?

The decision to ban our Select Committee is wrong and totally undemocratic. It must not go unchallenged.

2.38 pm

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway) for his robust defence of the right of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to carry out an inquiry into a subject that it has every reason and right to examine.

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The shameful action by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to deny the Select Committee the ability to visit Hong Kong in order to conduct our legitimate business is a demonstration to the entire world that China has little respect for freedom, free speech and democracy. It is a sad state of affairs, which will have grave implications for British-Chinese relations for a long time to come.

I first visited Hong Kong in 1996, when Lord Patten of Barnes was the Governor of the Crown colony. It was indeed then one of Her Majesty’s Crown colonies. The people of Hong Kong did not choose to have that status taken from them, of course; that was imposed upon them without their consent. Two years earlier, in 1982, the people of the Falkland Islands had their right to freedom and self-determination upheld by Her Majesty’s Government. Although the circumstances were very different, it cannot be denied that the people of Hong Kong were not accorded the same rights.

Today, 30 years later, the streets of Hong Kong are filled with young people who, understandably, demand freedom and democracy—basic rights that the People’s Republic of China continues to deny them. The Sino-British joint declaration made clear the expectations between the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China regarding the sovereignty of Hong Kong and how it should be governed. I am deeply saddened that over recent weeks and months, the assurances given to Her Majesty’s Government at that time have been forced into question by Beijing’s actions.

Over the past three decades, Britain and China have enjoyed a growing partnership, in which trade and bilateral relations have been strengthened. China’s behaviour this week is wholly inconsistent with the positive diplomatic trend that our two nations have observed since 1984. It is nothing short of an outrage that the Foreign Affairs Committee of this democratic House of Commons, the mother of Parliaments, should be treated in such a way by an undemocratic Chinese Government. I am gravely concerned about the aggressive and confrontational position that China has taken on a matter of such importance. In the 21st century, there is no place for such an attitude. It is an unjustified attack not only on elected British parliamentarians but on transparency and on democracy itself.

What exactly is China trying to hide from us? It is the right of the Committee to carry out an inquiry into relations with Hong Kong and to formulate its report. It is beyond question that it is within the gift of the British Foreign Affairs Committee to examine not only British-Hong Kong relations but adherence to the joint declaration. As a joint signatory, we must of course have the right to look at whether that agreement is being upheld, both in the letter and the spirit of the accord.

Denying the Committee the right to visit Hong Kong does not close the door on the issue at all, as China may have hoped. In fact, it has brought it to the world’s attention. The Foreign Affairs Committee will not back down. We still intend to visit Hong Kong, and our inquiry continues. By its actions, what China has actually achieved is to raise many serious questions in the eyes of this House and the British people—questions that must now be answered. The British Government must show no hesitation in demanding an immediate response. Will the Minister insist that the Chinese

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ambassador be called to the Foreign Office to explain his Government’s actions. I certainly hope that he will.

As many of my colleagues have stated, Britain has no interest in interfering in the internal politics of China. However, Hong Kong is different. Britain has a duty to the people of Hong Kong, and we must not abandon them. The United Kingdom owes them an allegiance—many of them served bravely in Her Majesty’s armed forces, and it is imperative that we do not back down from such an important commitment to them.

Today, there are still many former Hong Kong servicemen living in the territory, and they are seeking British citizenship. They are people who fought, and were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, for this country, and we should care deeply for their well-being and status. They are servicemen from the Hong Kong Military Service Corps and the Hong Kong Royal Naval Service who did not receive a UK passport following the handover of Hong Kong to China. Those men and their ancestors served British commitments in south-east Asia greatly. They stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain through two world wars, and in France, Burma, Korea, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, and they served the United Kingdom—King, Queen, empire, Commonwealth and country—for all those years. The British Government must surely now recognise that the decision not to give all those servicemen a right to British nationality was unjust and an error of judgment that should be rectified.

I had hoped that the Foreign Affairs Committee would be able to meet some of those loyal ex-servicemen while we were in Hong Kong, but alas, that will now not happen. The actions of the Chinese Government have highlighted why Her Majesty’s Government should now be prepared to offer all those Hong Kong ex-servicemen the right to a British passport. I ask the Minister directly whether Her Majesty’s Government will urgently review their policy on that issue.

Moreover, I believe that we are at a crossroads. We are in a position where serious decisions must be taken. Britain has to decide whether we tolerate and simply accept China’s behaviour or whether we demonstrate that we are prepared fundamentally to reconsider what until now has been a positive bilateral relationship that we share with China.

The Home Secretary recently announced that 25,000 visas would be given free to Chinese nationals. Of course we must strengthen and embolden links between Britain and China, but it is now clear that China has the ability to behave in an irrational and confrontational manner, so such special arrangements must surely be brought into question.

Alternatively, China could, even at this stage, draw back from the brink, accept that Hong Kong is different and allow the people of that territory the right to make their own choices about their own future. It must be made clear that China cannot take British co-operation for granted. Britain is a strong nation—we have the sixth-largest economy in the world, and our trade with China is largely one-sided. So we must not be afraid to stand firm for our national interests and the interests of people who were part of our British family, whom we have pledged to support, simply in fear of potential trade repercussions.

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Britain cannot and will not be bullied. If China is not prepared to honour the spirit of the 1984 joint declaration, Britain will have no choice but to conclude that the hand of friendship and trust that Margaret Thatcher held out to China 30 years ago has been betrayed.

2.48 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the passionate and robust speech of the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), which showed the concern among Members of all parties, and all Select Committees, about how the Foreign Affairs Committee has been treated. All but two members of that Committee have spoken in today’s debate, and I am sure that others will want to catch your eye, Mr Speaker. I wanted to speak after they had had the opportunity to express their views, and I am grateful to you for calling me.

I am also grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this Standing Order No. 24 debate to allow the House to discuss this matter. I have been in the House for 27 years, and I know that the standard response of most occupants of the Chair when right hon. and hon. Members ask for such a debate is to say no. You said yes, which must have come as a surprise to the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is the only time this year that an emergency debate has been granted, and although I had originally planned to come to the Chamber and speak on the Second Reading of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, I can well understand your desire to allow the House to debate the Hong Kong issue, which is urgent and important and should take precedence over all other activities and debates in the House. Thank you for allowing the debate.

I pay tribute to the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who is normally a quiet, modest individual. It is rare for him to use the House as a platform to prosecute a case on behalf of his Committee. The last time he did so, as I recall, was over the attempts to close the World Service. He led the debate on that and there was a successful outcome. I hope he will have similar success, having asked for the present debate. We wait with bated breath to see what the Chinese Government decide to do.

This is an important debate not just for the Foreign Affairs Committee, but for every Committee of the House. I hope the Foreign Office will take note of it. I do not think the House understands the huge amount of time and effort invested by the Clerks and the Chairs of Committees when we decide to travel abroad. I chair the Home Affairs Committee. By its nature it does not do much travelling, although we will be going as far as Calais on Friday; I hope very much that we will be allowed to enter Calais when we get there.

Mike Gapes: Are you going by lorry?

Keith Vaz: No, by Eurostar.

A huge amount of time is spent organising such travel by a Committee, involving everyone from the Clerk of the Committee and the operation manager in the Clerks Department to a more senior Clerk, and ending up with the most senior Clerk of all—some of the most senior Clerks sit in front of you, Mr Speaker. Then the bid comes back to the Chair because the cost is too high, and the bid has to be re-entered and we have to change all the arrangements. A huge amount of work

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must have gone into the bid by the Chair of the Select Committee and it must have taken months to put the arrangements together. To be knocked back at the end for no good reason is extremely depressing and distressing for members of the Committee.

I want to ensure that we set a precedent today and that we send out a strong and powerful message, not so much to the Chinese Government—I am not so arrogant as to believe that the entire Chinese Cabinet is sitting in Beijing watching the proceedings of the House today—but to the Foreign Office. That message was put powerfully from either side of the House, most recently by the hon. Member for Romford. When we arrange these visits, we always do so with the encouragement and support of the Foreign Office. We cannot, as Committees of this House, organise a visit to a place such as China, or even to Calais, without informing the posts abroad. In our case, in France, we have a first-class ambassador, Peter Ricketts, who has organised an incredible programme in the space of just 10 days.

I do not know our current ambassador to Beijing, but I am sure that embassy staff would have put as much effort into the proposed programme of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is not enough for the Government to say, “Well, this is Parliament, and Parliament is separate from the Government, and you must do this on your own.” I am not sure, because I did not read the press release put out by the Foreign Office, if the word “regrettable” was used. That would probably be quite serious, in the context of the words used by the Foreign Office. It is so long since I have been there that I have forgotten the hierarchy of words and which term constitutes a condemnation from the British Foreign Office, but to the public it would not seem strong enough.

A Select Committee of this House wishes to visit a country that is a friendly country and that has been visited so many times by Ministers—I think more Ministers have visited China than any other country in the world, apart from India. The Prime Minister has been there recently, encouraging many, many Chinese students to come to this country. We have 80,000 Chinese students studying in the United Kingdom. The number of applications from China since the Prime Minister’s visit has shot up, whereas the number of applications from India has gone down. Chinese graduate students make up 25% of all graduates from overseas studying in our country.

We want a very clear response from the Foreign Office. I hope the Minister can use his best endeavours to try to persuade the Chinese Government to change their mind. After all, is the Committee going to interfere with the proper running of the Chinese Government? I have looked down the list of members of the Committee. I see no known troublemakers on the list. I see three distinguished knights of the realm among the 11 members. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), who might be considered a troublemaker, is actually a very reasonable man. He was trying to buy a slice of cake in the Tea Room earlier on. I persuaded him to take a banana so that he would not get diabetes and he readily agreed to do so. Members of the Committee are all Members who would want to make a positive contribution through their visit.

Select Committee visits are not about taking the flag and planting it in the middle of the biggest piazza in Hong Kong. That is not what they are about. The aim

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of such visits is fact-finding. The Committee is going to find out the facts about what is happening so that members can come back and write their report. That is what all Select Committees do when we travel. It is important that Select Committees travel, even though we are sometimes criticised by the press, and the number of visits and the amount of money spent are publicised. The best way to find out what is happening abroad is to go there, speak to people and ask them what is happening.

We were criticised because the Home Affairs Committee was conducting an inquiry into drugs and we decided to go to Colombia. One or two of the usual suspects in the Press Gallery wanted to know what the Home Affairs Committee was doing in Colombia. We were going to look at cocaine production and see what the Colombian Government were doing to try to stop cocaine entering Europe. Some 60% of all the cocaine that enters Europe comes into the United Kingdom. That is why we went, and our report was so much better for our doing so. That is all the Foreign Affairs Committee wants to do.

On behalf of my Committee and, I hope, other Committees and other Chairs, I can say that the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and its members have our full support. Even at this late stage, I hope the Minister can persuade the Chinese Government, through the ambassador or by other means, to change their mind and allow the Committee to visit so that it can produce a good, fair and balanced report, as the Foreign Affairs Committee has always done.

2.57 pm

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye in this important debate. I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz)—I would almost call him my right hon. Friend; he just happens to be in a different party.

We have had a sober and reflective debate and I want to add one or two points.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), I first visited Hong Kong just before the handover in 1996. I met Chris Patten, the then Governor, and his two dogs, and we had a cordial and productive meeting. I am chairman of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese and I chair Chinese breakfasts in the House and have had frequent high-level meetings with Chinese diplomats. I therefore have some insight into the Chinese character and psyche.

I have recently been conducting a quiet campaign to see whether we can align British visas with Schengen visas, not in any way weakening the British biometric visa system but aligning the two systems so that a family coming from China does not have to undergo two separate applications. I have been patiently negotiating with the Home Secretary over this issue. If we could resolve it we would get many more Chinese visitors to this country.

The right hon. Member for Leicester East mentioned that there were 80,000 Chinese students in this country. I believe the figure is over 100,000. They represent one of the largest student blocs from any country. That shows how welcoming we are to Chinese students in this country. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the number of Chinese post-graduates in the UK. Some of those students are at the university in my constituency, the Royal Agricultural university. The principal says that he

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likes Chinese students because not only do they pay well, but they work hard and teach his other students how to work. There is a lot of synergy.

At the time of the handover I discovered that the wise negotiations between Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher in 1984 recognised a number of things, including that the way of life in Hong Kong should broadly be preserved for the next 50 years. The Chinese and the National People’s Congress adopted their own system of Basic Law, and my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee cited the most important article, article 45. It is worth repeating that because it is the Chinese Government’s Basic Law—they adopted it, not us, and it states:

“The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.”

That was the Chinese Government’s own process.

Since then, there has been progress in Hong Kong. I visited just a fortnight ago, and I walked down Nathan road and saw the protesters. I have been there many times since 1996, and each time I cannot help marvelling at its progress. It is an amazingly dynamic place. Progress has been made on the democratic front with the election of Legislative Council members and there is now the aspiration to elect the new Chief Executive by universal suffrage, going from a nomination committee first of 400 people, then 800, and now 1,200. The process is going in the right direction.

Hong Kong is an important national asset for this country, and others, and the links between the economies and people of Hong Kong and the UK are huge. Some 40% of British investment in Asia goes directly to Hong Kong. That was just under £36 billion at the end of 2012, and there was £7 billion of trade with Hong Kong last year. As I know from my discussions with them, British companies are always welcome in Hong Kong and it is a fantastic place to do business. Indeed, it is reckoned to be the second easiest place to do business, whereas this country is in 8th place. One reason for that is that Hong Kong has a system of low bureaucracy, low taxation and an independent judiciary based on English law. Around 130 British companies have regional bases in Hong Kong, and many countries around the world see it through that light. Hong Kong is the economic jewel in China’s crown, and it is in China’s interest to ensure that it continues to prosper. Large businesses and capital are very portable in the 21st century and could easily move to other centres such as Singapore if financiers and other businessmen feel that the governance of Hong Kong is not going in the right direction. The importance of Hong Kong could diminish, and other competitors will overtake it.

Mark Pawsey: My hon. Friend is speaking about the attraction of Hong Kong for young people who want to set up a business and the business environment there, but in the 1984 declaration Hong Kong was intended to be “one country” with “two systems”. Does my hon. Friend believe that that principle is exemplified by the actions of the Chinese authorities in this instance?

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend makes an interesting intervention and I will address his point directly in a minute.

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It is unfortunate that we have to debate this situation, following the news that the Foreign Affairs Committee will not be granted entry to Hong Kong. As I said, I visited Hong Kong recently and paid visits to Mong Kok. I walked down Nathan road where I saw relatively few tents and protesters, and numbers were beginning to dwindle. Whether by coincidence or not, the situation seems to have flared up again in the last few days in conjunction with the proposed Foreign Affairs Committee visit.

Demonstrations have throughout been largely peaceful and without interference from the Hong Kong or Chinese authorities, and it is a tribute to both sides that they have managed to keep the protests within peaceful bounds. I absolutely understand the aims and aspirations of the demonstrators. My neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) secured a debate on Hong Kong in Westminster Hall the other day, in which I outlined the disparity between those in Hong Kong who have, and those who have not. People are finding it difficult to get on the housing ladder or get decent jobs, and in some cases it is difficult to get a decent education. The authorities in Hong Kong need to address those issues. It is not that Hong Kong is not dynamic or successful economically, it is that it is not benefiting everybody. There is a class—particularly some of the younger people—who are being left behind, and that is leading to demonstrations. People want a greater say in the way Hong Kong is run.

Wanting to ensure that relations between this country and China were not damaged, I met high-level representatives from the Chinese embassy in Parliament last week. I tried hard to convey to them a number of things, including that we have a separation of powers in this country, that right hon. and hon. Members of the House are representatives of the people and able to do exactly what they like and can form Committees to investigate matters around the world, and that my right hon. Friend’s Foreign Affairs Committee is entitled to investigate any matter in which the British Government have an interest, including Hong Kong.

I think I failed in that part of my discussions. It is hard for those in a Government run by a communist system, who say to representatives in the Communist party, “You will not do that”, to understand that Members of Her Majesty’s Government—I welcome the Minister to his place—cannot simply say to a Committee or Member of the House, “You will not do this; you will do that.”

Richard Graham: On that point, has my hon. Friend heard members of the Chinese embassy say, as they have said to me, that ultimately the Government decide what happens in Parliament, in Committees and all-party groups, and even in Buckingham palace?

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend is right—that is exactly what they think and they have conveyed that to me. Somehow we must keep on repeating the facts about how this country operates.

Mr Speaker: Order. Pursuant to what the hon. Gentleman has just said, perhaps it would be helpful for the Chinese to realise, by being told in terms, that the decision to grant this debate is the decision of the Chair, and it is not interfered with or commented on, or the subject of

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representations by the Government one way or the other. I cannot be clearer than that. I know that, the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) knows that, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House know that, and it is time the Chinese Government knew it as well.

Richard Graham: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would be in order for the Speaker’s Office to contact the Chinese embassy to put it straight on what the protocols are?

Mr Speaker: I think I have just done so, but I am happy to communicate as necessary with the Chinese, if the House would think that helpful.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I was trying to explain to the Chinese authorities how our parliamentary system works, and your intervention, Mr Speaker, has more than amply demonstrated the true situation.

The second point that I tried to explain to senior Chinese representatives was that if they allowed my right hon. Friend’s Committee to visit Hong Kong, not only would the Committee see for itself that the demonstrations were dwindling, more importantly it would see the huge economic success and dynamism of Hong Kong. As the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) said, there is nothing like seeing with one’s own eyes the true situation on the ground, and it is more likely that the Committee’s report would have been more favourable to Hong Kong. By taking this action, the whole situation has been whipped up and made far worse.

The third thing I said was that it would be better if we could keep the whole matter as low key as possible, try to avoid it getting into the press, and discuss it behind the scenes and consider what measures could be taken to avoid the problem.

We are in limbo, but the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) hit the nail on the head when she said that the best thing—I suggested this to the Chinese authorities last week—would be for the visit to be postponed. I know I am slightly at odds with the House, but I have a hypothetical situation to put to it. Suppose the Chinese authorities were about to send a high-level delegation to the UK at the height of severe riots in Chinatown, with buildings being burned down. What if we said, “Please don’t send your delegation now, but we are very happy to see you in a month or two”? I believe from my discussions that, if quiet diplomacy goes on behind the scenes, the Foreign Affairs Committee will be allowed to visit Hong Kong some time next year. That might be after the end of the inquiry—I do not know—but it is important that quiet diplomacy takes place.

I was heavily involved in the Dalai Lama affair. In the light of that, I have learned—one needs to learn in life. Had the Dalai Lama situation been handled very slightly differently, our relationship with the Chinese would have been much easier in the past two or three years.

It is important that we have good relations with the Chinese. I believe a member of the royal family will visit China next year, and we have high-level leadership visits next year both in this country and in China. Rather than meeting each other head to head, we are more

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likely to achieve what we want to achieve in Hong Kong through good relationships. There has been substantial progress.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) rose—

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I was about to wind up, but my hon. Friend is itching to get in.

Daniel Kawczynski: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work in the international department of the Conservative party, which he has done for a long time. He has told us what he said to the Chinese delegation, but will he allude to its response?

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I am more than happy to do so, because I conveyed the response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway). The Chinese delegation said in terms that, if the Foreign Affairs Committee were to press ahead with its visit, it would be barred entry. When I went to Hong Kong a fortnight ago, I did not need a visa. Therefore, the Chinese have to take other action to bar entry, such as stopping my right hon. Friend and the Committee from getting on the plane. Bearing that in mind, this is an extremely serious occurrence. The Chinese made it clear that they understood that, because they said that there would be harm to British-Sino relations. That is the response I conveyed to my right hon. Friend. He rightly took his own decision after taking counsel from his Committee—they decided to press ahead with the visit. That is the state of affairs.

I say to the House that we should have quiet diplomacy. It is in everybody’s interest that this country has excellent relations with China. That does not mean to say that we should not criticise China quietly behind the scenes over human rights, animal rights and various aspects that we do not like. I would say this to the Chinese: please follow the dictum of Deng Xiaoping; please be an internationalist country; and please do not start closing in and becoming isolationist—one or two trends have emerged in the past two months since the change of leadership. After all, Deng Xiaoping said that a flow of water must be carefully channelled. A former Prime Minister of this country said we should trust the people. I say this to the Chinese authorities: let us trust the people of Hong Kong; let us keep Hong Kong the jewel that it is; and let us include everybody in that growth and increasing prosperity.

3.13 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this important debate. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I congratulate our Chairman on the measured and yet resolute manner in which he has dealt with the matter. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will acknowledge that.

I am almost tail-end Charlie, and time is beginning to press, so I will dwell on a couple of points that have not been covered in the debate. It has been said outside this place that China does not fully understand how our system works, and that the Foreign Affairs Committee is basically a part of the Government. Hon. Members know that that is clearly not the case. If anybody seriously believes that any member of the Committee is a mouthpiece for the Government, they have no idea

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how Parliament works. They need take only a cursory glance at what happens in Parliament to get a more accurate picture. That leads me to suggest that the situation is not a result of negligence, an accident or a simple misunderstanding, but a result of a fundamental wish to ignore the facts. A country with the size, wealth and intelligence of China cannot fail to understand that the Foreign Affairs Committee is not the mouthpiece of the Government or involved in the Government in any way. Our job is to scrutinise. Some of us take our responsibilities more seriously than others, but there is no doubt about the Committee’s role.

There are repercussions for both parties when a treaty is not respected. There is no doubt that the Sino-British joint declaration is an international agreement. It is a treaty and was lodged with the UN—if there is any doubt, the treaty number is 23391. This is therefore not about interfering or meddling in the internal affairs of China. China very willingly signed up to the agreement and is a counterparty. Let us be clear about what the agreement says. It mentions Hong Kong having a high degree of autonomy, and rights, freedoms and lifestyles remaining unchanged for 50 years. The fact that China has reneged on that treaty—there is no other way of putting it—has repercussions for both sides, because it takes two to sign a treaty.

As has been mentioned, the repercussions for the Chinese will be profound, although perhaps not immediate. What message does the situation send to the world? What message does it send to Taiwan? If China wants Taiwan to return to the fold, this is not the way to go about it. Not only reneging on the treaty but stopping us entering Hong Kong shows weakness rather than strength. China has shot itself in the foot.

There are also repercussions for the UK. I suggest that the UK has a moral responsibility to do what it can to ensure that China respects its commitments not only to the treaty and the spirit of that treaty, but to everything that follows. That includes allowing access by democratic bodies to visit Hong Kong.

The term “honourable” is an old-fashioned one, but I believe it remains a strong word, as I hope most hon. Members do. We should live our lives by it. We risk being dishonourable as a country if we do not hold China to its commitments. We know that the joint declaration lacks an arbitration clause and that, therefore, little process or recourse is allowed to check China if it transgresses, but there is little doubt what the treaty tries to achieve.

It is clear that China has reneged on the treaty, but we have that honourable responsibility to hold China to account. We must be clear that there is a danger that the term “dishonourable” could be applied if we are not careful. We need to look carefully at the UK Government’s response to events so far. Hong Kong 2020, a pro-democracy group, has described the UK as “sleeping on watch” with regard to the weakness of its response to the Chinese treaty transgressions. Human Rights Watch believes our response has been “shamefully weak” so far. I put it to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that we need to look at how we are responding to China’s treaty transgressions. The treaty places obligations on both sides, and we must do what we can to ensure that we hold true to our end of the treaty and act in a totally honourable way.

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Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): My son is in Hong Kong working as a banker. He tells me pretty much the same thing: that there is concern that the British Government have perhaps been slower than they might have been. I accept the sensitivities around this issue, but is it not the case that the demonstrators have behaved in the most extraordinarily restrained fashion? I believe they have put up huge notices saying, “We apologise for the inconvenience caused” and cleaned up all the litter. This is not the sort of demonstration we are accustomed to in the western world.

Mr Baron: Absolutely right—my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. This is not mob rule. The protests could not be described as any flagrant breach of the law. People are exercising the rights that we ourselves suggested they should have when we signed the Sino-British joint declaration. The action they have taken so far has been totally within the declaration, yet the Chinese have transgressed on that agreement. Our response has been very weak indeed. I would like to hear more from the Minister on what the British Government will do to make it clear that the Chinese entered the agreement in good faith, as did the British, and that all rights, responsibilities and freedoms under the law should be upheld by the Chinese authorities.

Just as China has shot itself in the foot by taking the action it has so far—not just with regard to banning the Committee from entering Hong Kong, but in transgressing on the agreement—we, too, have a downside risk in this affair. By not protesting enough—by not holding the Chinese Government to account and by continuing to be somewhat weak in our response in defence of the protesters who are operating within the law and the terms of the agreement—our reputation will suffer. We must not allow that to happen. This House must not allow it to happen. I look forward to hearing from the Minister how the British Government intend to toughen up their response to this outrage.

3.23 pm

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I echo my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) in thanking you, Mr Speaker, for granting this emergency debate, and in commending the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), for the way he has behaved throughout this inquiry, and as I am sure he will continue to do as it moves forward.

The Chinese Government have said that my Committee has no business being in Hong Kong. They are wrong on three counts, the first of which is legal. The United Kingdom has a treaty obligation to the people of Hong Kong, to which the People’s Republic of China is a signatory. We have heard that over and over in this debate. This is very much our business. The Sino-British joint declaration of 1984 is lodged with the UN and commits China to maintaining the Hong Kong way of life until 2047. Until the treaty expires, we have a duty to ensure that the Chinese are meeting their obligations, both to us as co-signatories and to the people of Hong Kong as beneficiaries of the joint declaration. China has shown that it is committed to upholding the international order and that it places great emphasis on the principle of national sovereignty. By undermining a

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treaty, signed with another sovereign state and registered with the UN, it is undermining the very international order to which it claims to belong.

Secondly, the Chinese Government are wrong to exclude us, because it is counter-productive to do so. My Committee is not just looking at the joint declaration, but considering UK-Hong Kong relations as a whole. The UK and Hong Kong have extremely close ties of history, culture and commerce. Other hon. Members have spoken eloquently on the first two, so I will confine my remarks to the third. We are Hong Kong’s eleventh biggest trading partner. More than 560 British companies operate there and the region accounts for 35% of all UK investment in Asia—although my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) has told me that the figure is 40%. This year, a record number of Hong Kong students—more than 4,000—received offers to study at British universities. As a major financial centre, we co-operate closely on global financial governance. Of course, we both have a key role to play in helping China internationalise its currency, the renminbi. This is a time when we should be deepening and strengthening that relationship, because all parties have so much to gain. We should be over there, meeting businesses and universities, asking what more we can do to increase our mutual prosperity. Instead, we are here, debating whether China is ready to be a responsible member of the international community.

The third reason why the ban is wrong is that it is misguided. The Chinese Government have decided that they do not like our conclusions before we have even had a chance to make them. That means that they will not have a chance to tell their side of the story. It also means they will not see a House of Commons Select Committee in action. That is a shame, because if the Chinese saw what we do, they might find that our Committee system had a useful application within their own Government. Independent committees, with the power to hold public bodies to account, could go a long way towards tackling China’s corruption problems, for example. Rather than a lecture, however, the inquiry could have been a genuine exchange of ideas.

We in this House have a lot to learn from Hong Kong and what can be achieved when backing business and getting behind free markets. Hong Kong is one of the best examples we have that Britain has been a force for good in the world. We signed the joint declaration because we believe in the rule of law, free speech and individual rights. With the important exception of representative democracy, Hong Kong is a living embodiment of our values. For that reason alone, we have a clear and legitimate interest in the future of the region. We do not seek to tell the Chinese how to run their country, but rather to ensure that they are holding up their side of an international agreement, an agreement which has been of great benefit to them. If we cannot be there in person, what we can do is send a clear message to the people of Hong Kong that this House believes in their aspirations, shares their commitment to liberty and the law, and calls on their Government to safeguard their way of life in line with their international obligations.

3.27 pm

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): We are grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this debate, and grateful to the right hon. Member for Croydon South

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(Sir Richard Ottaway) for making the application for the debate under Standing Order No. 24.

As we have heard, the House is united in its concern—indeed, its unhappiness—that the Foreign Affairs Committee has been prevented from visiting Hong Kong. We have also heard that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) was denied a visa for the all-party group on China’s visit to Shanghai, causing that visit to be abandoned at short notice too. The hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), among others, referred to what he described as the Dalai Lama affair, when there was concern about the Prime Minister being refused a visa to visit China after his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Speakers in today’s debate have also raised wider concerns. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) highlighted issues relating to press freedom and the repression of journalists, and spoke of the problems she encountered on an earlier visit to China. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), a long-serving member of the Select Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) spoke about their attempts to visit Taiwan. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) spoke of his apprehension about the future of Hong Kong when he was there at the time of the handover, and the hon. Member for Gloucester told us of his substantial experience of working in the region and on fostering Sino-British relations, including by setting up a charity. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) focused on how we should not let our desire to trade with China, and the importance of China as a potential trading partner, deter us from raising other issues, such as human rights, animal welfare and wildlife crime.

Select Committees are an integral part of our parliamentary democracy. The FAC’s reports are always informative and make an invaluable contribution to the scrutiny of the Foreign Office, and as the Chair detailed, overseas visits are an important part of the Committee’s work in that they offer a greater insight into the countries being visited and the opportunity to foster bilateral relations. As stressed by several speakers, independence is a fundamental feature of Select Committees. It is not for the Government or the Opposition to seek to interfere with their inquiries or determine with whom they can or should meet—or indeed where they should visit.

Neither is it for other Governments to intervene or seek to ward off Committee members. Over the summer, I was therefore troubled to read the letters from the Hong Kong Government, the Chinese foreign affairs committee and His Excellency the Ambassador explicitly requesting that the Committee cease its inquiry and intimating there would be serious consequences for UK-China relations if it did not do so. The ambassador’s letter warned that the Committee’s inquiry

“will ultimately harm the interests of Britain”,

and the letter from the Chinese equivalent of the FAC advised Committee members to

“bear in mind the larger picture of China-UK relations”.

We value a strong relationship with China, as several speakers have said, and we do not believe that the independent decisions of the FAC should affect this. It is important to emphasise, as others have done, that its

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inquiry is in no way intended to interfere in the sovereign affairs of China. The operation of “one country, two systems” and the implementation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law are matters for the Governments of China and the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, as I made clear to the Vice-Minister in the International Department of the Communist party of China’s Central Committee when I met him this morning. The Committee’s interest in Hong Kong does not signify any latent imperialist tendencies on the UK’s part. I think we are all very aware, when we take an interest in other countries’ affairs, particularly where there is a direct British colonial legacy, that we should avoid giving such an impression.

We should also recognise that the joint declaration specifically affords Hong Kong

“a high degree of autonomy”.

However, it is a matter for the UK, working with China, to ensure the continued success of the Sino-British joint declaration signed by our two countries 30 years ago, and it is also a matter for the UK to honour the joint commitments it made to the people of Hong Kong to facilitate the handover in 1997. Accordingly, the FAC decided to scrutinise the Foreign Office’s implementation of and respect for the agreement.

The joint declaration states:

“Rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief will be ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”

As a signatory to a binding, international treaty, the UK must speak up if the agreement is not fully upheld. It is deeply troubling to hear that the Chair of the Committee was told that China regarded the joint declaration as no longer in force and as having ended at the time of the handover. We all noted the contribution from the former Foreign Secretary, who made it clear that this was not the intention when the agreement was entered into.

We have all seen the scenes in Hong Kong: the clashes between protestors and the Hong Kong police and the authorities’ use of force. The protestors have sought discussions with the Chinese authorities and a resolution to the different views within Hong Kong on the best form of universal suffrage there. Reports indicate that their negotiating team has previously been prevented from travelling to China for talks—another worrying sign—and it should be noted that the joint declaration refers to freedom of travel being ensured by law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Following the violence in recent days, one of the student leaders has now announced a hunger strike in an attempt to secure talks with the Hong Kong Government. We believe this situation can only be resolved by dialogue involving the Chinese Government, the Hong Kong authorities and representatives of the pro-democracy campaigners. However, while the response is a matter for the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments, it is appropriate to raise our concerns. Members would be concerned by reports of pepper spray, batons and water hoses being used, whether in a city in this country or anywhere else around the world.

As the Opposition, we would also be calling on the Government to speak with their overseas counterparts if we had concerns that basic human rights were not

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being upheld, as we do now. The UK’s responsibilities under the joint declaration add to the imperative to do so. The Government were right to seek assurances from China regarding the police response over the past few months, and we hope that the Minister will continue to do so.

Parliament also has a particular interest, because we now know that the tear gas was supplied by British companies. Indeed, it seems that the Committees on Arms Export Controls have elicited a change in policy—or perhaps just a confused policy—from the Government. The Business Secretary wrote to the Chair of the Committees on 28 October to confirm that he had accepted the advice of the Foreign Secretary that the use of tear gas

“was an uncharacteristic response... not indicative of a wider pattern of behaviour”.

No licences were revoked or suspended. It has been reported, however, that the Business Secretary told the Committees yesterday that he would “urgently seek advice” on the issue. It is not clear why it has taken so long for him to investigate such a serious matter. We hope he will take it very seriously indeed.

The Government have a role in offering their support for dialogue and calling for the basic freedoms and rights of all people to be respected and protected. It is vital that Hong Kong can preserve these fundamental rights, and everyone in the House hopes to see all the parties in China and Hong Kong reach agreement on universal suffrage and deliver Hong Kong’s vision for democracy. That would be the most fitting way to celebrate 20 years of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy within China in 2017. Well before then, however, we hope that the FAC will have the opportunity to renew and strengthen its friendly ties with the FAC of the National People’s Congress and that its members will have the opportunity to visit.

As the Prime Minister’s official spokesman has said, the travel ban

“only seeks to amplify concerns about the situation in Hong Kong, rather than diminishing concerns”.

We are all disturbed by these latest developments. UK-China relations are best served and strengthened by a spirit of transparency and co-operation, which I hope the Foreign Office will be able to promote. It would be hugely disappointing if the Committee’s inquiry was allowed to affect the bilateral relationship between the UK and China, and I hope the Minister will use his influence to bring this matter to a speedy and satisfactory resolution—one which allows the Committee to continue its inquiry unimpeded. I hope to visit Hong Kong in the near future.

3.37 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this important debate, which no doubt will be watched closely here in London, in Beijing and in Hong Kong. The fact that this is only the fifth debate under Standing Order No. 24 to be granted in this Parliament shows the seriousness with which the House takes this issue and demonstrates a clear and strongly held concern that stretches right across party lines.

I share that concern. The decision to refuse the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee—all of whom, bar one, have been present this afternoon—entry

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into Hong Kong as part of their inquiry is wholly unjustified, counter-productive and, as the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy) and others reminded us, unprecedented. It is also not consistent with the positive trend in UK-China relations over the past year and does not reflect the fact that the UK and China have considerable shared interests in respect of Hong Kong. Nor is it in the spirit of the Sino-British joint declaration. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), the Chair of the FAC, said, the declaration was signed in good faith in 1984 by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang. It is lodged at the United Nations and still remains central to Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms.

The Chinese Government have made clear their opposition to the FAC inquiry on the basis of what they say is “interference” in China’s internal affairs. I am aware of the efforts of the FAC to establish a constructive dialogue with the Chinese embassy and the Hong Kong Trade Office, and the British Government have repeatedly explained to the Chinese authorities that Parliament is completely independent of the Government. As the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) rightly reminded us, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, as a Committee of this House, is also rightly completely independent of Government. The FAC inquiry scrutinised UK Government policy towards Hong Kong. Indeed, that is clear from its title: “The UK’s relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration”. It is the Committee’s role in our democracy to hold the Government to account.

I have made clear to the Chinese ambassador on more than one occasion that the Government would not and could not try to prevent the Committee’s inquiry or its visit to Hong Kong. There are numerous precedents for the FAC visiting Hong Kong—in 1998, 2000 and 2006, each time engaging with the broad range of society in a wholly constructive spirit. When I met Guo Yezhou, Vice-Minister of the Communist party international liaison department yesterday morning, I repeated my concerns. I pointed out again that barring the Committee from Hong Kong is unjustified and, as the Prime Minister has said, “counter-productive”. What is more, it runs counter to the positive trajectory in our bilateral relations over the past year, which have witnessed a welcome increase in dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.

It is perfectly reasonable for Members of Parliament to want to visit Hong Kong as they scrutinise the British Government’s policy and quite properly hold us to account over it. Barring them from going simply makes it more difficult for them to hear from all sides in order to make an accurate and fair assessment—a point well made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), a former Foreign Secretary.

In a little over two weeks, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the Sino-British joint declaration on the question of Hong Kong, which set out arrangements for the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China under the “one country, two systems” principle. It is, as its name implies, a joint declaration to which both parties made a solemn commitment. As a co-signatory, the United Kingdom has both a legal interest and a moral obligation in the monitoring and implementation

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of that treaty—a treaty that enshrined a high degree of autonomy and basic rights and freedoms for the people of Hong Kong. These are at the heart of Hong Kong’s way of life, and it is vital that they are fully upheld.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): One thing the Minister might like to mention to the Chinese ambassador, or for that matter to any Chinese delegation on Hong Kong, is that in the early ’70s when China was not popular with the Nixon Administration, Coventry city council made visits to China and started to link up with the country, which resulted in trade deals.

Mr Swire: Indeed, and there are many Members who have dedicated their parliamentary careers to furthering relations with China.

Richard Graham: My right hon. Friend mentioned that this year is the 30th anniversary of the signing of the joint declaration. What plans may there be to celebrate this important event?

Mr Swire: I shall look to my hon. Friend for inspiration as we look forward to commemorating the signing in good faith of that declaration. I am sure he will be full of ideas.

As I said in the Westminster Hall debate on Hong Kong on 22 October, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) secured, we strongly believe that it is the “autonomy, rights and freedoms” guaranteed by the joint declaration that underpin Hong Kong’s success. He is right, by the way, to raise the regrettable incident recently when he, too, was refused a visa, this time to China itself, and when he and other members of the UK-China Leadership Forum felt they had no choice but to postpone their to visit Shanghai for talks with the Communist party. We again made it clear to the Chinese authorities our view that refusing visas is no kind of solution. It is clearly counter-productive that these talks have not now taken place. The important thing is to pursue dialogue on issues, even where we disagree.

I would equally emphasise my understanding that the FAC inquiry is focused on the promotion of economic, cultural and educational links, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) stressed the importance of the economy and trading links. Last year, Hong Kong was the UK’s second largest export market in Asia Pacific, and Hong Kong was the UK’s 12th largest investor. In addition, Hong Kong is an important factor in the UK’s dynamic relationship with mainland China—for instance, as Hong Kong and London work together to develop the financial service infrastructure for the internationalisation of the renminbi. These links are beneficial to the UK, China and Hong Kong, and absolutely deserve the attention of the FAC.

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) raised the issue of former British servicemen in Hong Kong, and we will look into this, although it is more properly a matter for the Home Department. It is the case, however, that around 250,000 British citizens live in Hong Kong, and a further 3.4 million people—approximately half the population—hold the status of British nationals overseas, giving us a clear consular interest.

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For these reasons, I can assure the House and those following this debate that the Government have been emphasising the context and importance of the inquiry at senior levels through official channels in Beijing, Hong Kong and London. I am grateful for the suggestion made in the press today by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) that the Foreign Office should be engaging with our Chinese counterparts on this matter. I can tell her and others who raise it that that is precisely what we have been doing: our ambassador in Beijing, our consul-general in Hong Kong, myself and the Foreign Secretary have done so repeatedly.

Mr Baron: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Swire: I must make progress, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

We cannot, of course, ignore the context of political protests in Hong Kong, which have now been going on for over two months. We have publicly welcomed the Hong Kong police’s stated commitment to exercise tolerance and restraint. As I have said before, it is essential that Hong Kong citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, including of assembly and demonstration, continue to be respected, as guaranteed by the Sino-British joint declaration. We have consistently called on all sides to ensure that the demonstrations are peaceful and in accordance with the law.

The issue at the centre of the protests is of course Hong Kong’s democracy, and specifically the arrangements for election of the Chief Executive in 2017. We believe that a transition to universal suffrage will safeguard Hong Kong’s future prosperity and stability, in line with the Basic Law and the aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. That is why we continue to encourage the Governments of Hong Kong and China to find a consensus that offers a genuine choice to the people of Hong Kong and gives them a real stake in the 2017 election for the Chief Executive, and then in due course for the elections to the Legislative Council in 2020.

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Of course, the detailed arrangements for reform are for the people of Hong Kong, and the Governments of Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China to determine. The United Kingdom has consistently called on all parties to engage in dialogue within the parameters of the August decision by the National People’s Congress. We believe that there is scope for a consensus that will deliver a meaningful advance for democracy in Hong Kong, consistent with the commitments that have been made.

As Premier Li himself has said, we have an “indispensable” relationship with China. We have many shared interests, from our bilateral trade to our co-operation on global challenges such as Ebola. It is important for that relationship to be conducted with mutual understanding and respect based on open and honest dialogue, and we will continue our endeavours to that end.

3.49 pm

Sir Richard Ottaway: I am grateful to the House for the debate. Four things have emerged from it. First, the joint declaration is still alive and well, and this Parliament will continue to take an interest in it. Secondly, it is the view of Parliament that China is the loser in this situation, from both a commercial and a strategic point of view. Thirdly, although bilateral relations will suffer in the short term, we are quite capable of rebuilding them; the question for the Chinese is, are they? The Foreign Affairs Committee remains willing to visit Hong Kong if agreement can be reached. Fourthly, the hon. Member Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy) posed a number of questions in his speech, and we should be grateful if the Minister could give us answers to them in writing.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I thank you for your unfailing support for this process. The winner in it is Parliament, and the quality of the debate has justified your decision.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the ban by China on the Foreign Affairs Committee visit to Hong Kong.

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Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Second Reading

3.50 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The threat that we face from terrorism is serious, and it is growing. The Security Service believes that since the attacks on 7 July 2005, about 40 terrorist plots have been disrupted. It is thanks to the hard work and dedication of our security and intelligence services, the police, and our allies overseas that almost all those plots have been thwarted, and countless lives have been saved. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to those men and women, whose work so often goes unreported and unrecognised as they strive to keep us safe.

Today, however, the threat from terrorism is becoming ever-more complex and diverse. Last year we saw the first terrorist-related deaths in Great Britain since 2005: Fusilier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by Islamist extremists, and Mohammed Saleem, an 82-year-old Muslim from Birmingham, was stabbed to death by a far-right extremist who then tried to bomb mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton.

ISIL and its western fighters represent a clear danger. This summer, partly in response to that threat, the independent joint terrorism analysis centre raised the threat level for international terrorism from “substantial” to “severe”. That means that JTAC considers a terrorist attack to be “highly likely”. We face the very serious prospect that British nationals who have fought with terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq will seek to radicalise others, or carry out attacks here. We have already seen the appalling murder of four civilians outside the Jewish Museum in Brussels, and the recent attack on the Canadian Parliament was a shocking reminder that we are all targets for these terrorist organisations and those whom they inspire.

However, ISIL is not the only threat that we face. There are further threats related to Islamist extremism, and there are threats from far-right and Northern Ireland-related terrorism, among others. Just last week, a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee on the intelligence relating to the murder of Lee Rigby highlighted the real, and potentially very dangerous, capability gaps that exist for the security and intelligence agencies—and when our security and intelligence agencies tell us that the threat that we face is now more dangerous than at any time before or since 9/11, we must act.

We are engaged in a struggle against terrorism which is being fought on many fronts and in many forms, so our response must be comprehensive, coherent and effective. Since April 2010, in Great Britain, more than 800 people have been arrested for terrorism-related offences, more than 210 have been charged, and more than 140 have been successfully prosecuted. Only last week, Mohammed and Hamza Nawaz became the first Britons to be jailed for terrorist training in Syria, and we have outlawed groups linked to terrorist attacks in Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

We have protected the budgets for counter-terrorism policing and for the security and intelligence agencies, and, as the Prime Minister announced last week, we

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have made an additional £130 million available over the next two years to help us tackle the increasing terrorist threat. We have replaced control orders, which had been whittled down by the courts, with terrorism prevention and investigation measures, or TPIMs. We have strengthened the criteria governing the use of the royal prerogative, which allows the Government to cancel British passports to disrupt the travel of people planning to engage in terrorist-related activity overseas. I have used that enhanced power 29 times since April 2013.

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): The Home Secretary referred to the Government decision to replace control orders. One of the decisions she made when she did that was to remove the relocation powers within control orders. That was a decision of choice, not one forced on her by the courts. This Bill reverses that judgment to get rid of relocation powers. Will she now admit that it was a grave error to put the public at increased risk as a result of a political deal within the coalition, and that the fact that she is now legislating to reverse those changes shows that it was a grave error of judgment?

Mrs May: I would say two things to the right hon. Gentleman. First, as I have just been outlining, we face today a different threat background from that we faced in recent years. Also, if he looks carefully at the Bill, he will see that we are not simply reintroducing a power of relocation into the TPIMs. We have taken on board the recommendations of the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, who did propose the reintroduction of relocation, but who also proposed a number of other changes to TPIMs, which we are introducing, including the raising of the threshold for the introduction of TPIMs from “reasonable suspicion” to “the balance of probabilities”.

We have worked hard to make it easier to get rid of undesirable foreign nationals, including terrorists and terror suspects. We have changed the law to make it clear to the courts that article 8 of the European convention on human rights, the right to respect for a family life, is qualified and not an absolute right. We have significantly reformed the Prevent pillar of the counter-terrorism strategy so that it is tackles the ideology behind the threat, and we are working with the internet industry to remove terrorist material hosted in the UK or overseas. Since December last year, the counter-terrorism internet referral unit has secured the removal of over 46,000 items that encouraged or glorified acts of terrorism.

The emergency legislation that Parliament approved in the summer ensured that two important capabilities, communications data and interception, were not eroded further. Both of these capabilities are absolutely crucial to the investigation of those involved in terrorist activity.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): Is the right hon. Lady satisfied that we now have enough interception powers, or not?

Mrs May: If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the power to issue warrants on companies who offer services in the UK but who are based overseas or the holding of whose data is based overseas, we addressed precisely that issue in the legislation introduced in the Data

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Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 that this House put through under emergency powers in the summer.

So we are taking action at home, but we must also have a comprehensive strategy to defeat these extremists abroad. This involves using all the resources at our disposal: humanitarian efforts to help those displaced by ISIL’s onslaught—efforts that Britain is already leading—and diplomatic efforts to engage the widest possible coalition of countries in the region as part of this international effort.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I am glad the Home Secretary just mentioned tackling the terrorists’ narrative. Does she have in mind in that respect not only taking down extremist postings on the internet, for example, but promoting a counter-narrative that exposes the fallacies of the terrorist narrative?

Mrs May: I commend my hon. Friend because he has been resolute in promoting this aspect of dealing with terrorism for some time, and he is absolutely right that it is important to promote that counter-narrative, but I think it is also important to do something else: to take a further step back and look at the whole issue of extremism more generally. That is why we have been very clear, and the work of the Prime Minister’s extremism taskforce is very clear, that we need to introduce an extremism strategy, and the Home Office is currently leading on that. It will be a cross-Government piece of work, but the Home Office is leading on that and the strategy is being developed.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The Home Secretary is right to say that progress has been made during the past year, but will she help me on one point? Where a British citizen has been found to be involved in terrorist-related activities in a foreign country, is it right that we will no longer seek their return to this country, and that they will have to be punished and dealt with abroad?

Mrs May: No. Under the temporary exclusion power in the Bill, when someone who has been involved in terrorist-related activities—that will be considered on a case-by-case basis—returns home to the UK, that will happen on what I would describe as our terms. In other words, that return will be managed so that appropriate action can be taken here in the United Kingdom.

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): The Home Secretary has just said that we need a counter-extremism strategy. May I ask her when that might be available? I remind her that the Department for Communities and Local Government was charged with producing just such a strategy three years ago, but it has not done so. My big concern about the Bill is that it appears to have a gaping hole at its centre. We have a lot about action on individuals who are radicalised, but it has little to say about countering the narrative and countering extremism in general.

Mrs May: As I have indicated, the Home Office is leading on the extremism strategy. We will be working on that, but the right hon. Lady should not expect to see anything published before the end of the year. On the

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wider issue, when we came into power, we made two changes to the way in which Prevent operated, and we did so for a good reason. First, we ensured that Prevent looked not only at violent extremism but at non-violent extremism. Secondly, we saw that in some communities, work being done on community integration under a Prevent heading was being rejected or arousing suspicion. People saw that the work was being done under a counter-terrorism heading and thought that it was about spying on individuals, when it was actually more about community integration. That is why we separated the integration work and gave it to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has been undertaking that work.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): May I press the Home Secretary about the temporary exclusion orders that she wants to have the power to exact? They would, in effect, result in the exile—albeit short term and temporary—of British citizens, in many cases, to other countries. All history suggests that such action further radicalises people and makes them more dangerous enemies to this country. If we do so without any judicial process, as she advocates in the Bill, is there not a real danger that we will put ourselves in more danger rather than less?

Mrs May: I caution the hon. Gentleman about the terminology that he uses in relation to the power. He has used the term “exile”, but the proposal is not about saying that people cannot return. It is possible for people to return, but they will return on the basis that we have set out in the Bill. Their return will be managed and we will have some control over it.

In response to an earlier intervention, I said that the change that we were making to the threshold for TPIMs was from “reasonable suspicion” to “the balance of probabilities”. The change is actually from “reasonable belief” to “the balance of probabilities”. I apologise to the House for having given the wrong impression about that.

Aside from the diplomatic efforts that we must make and the work we must do with those in the region, I have always been clear that we would keep our terrorism laws and capabilities under review. As the House knows, the first and most important duty of Government is the protection and security of their citizens. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear to the House on 1 September, we must ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have the powers that they need to keep us safe. The Bill will strengthen our existing powers so that we can disrupt people’s ability to travel abroad to fight, as well as their ability to return to the country. It will enhance our ability to monitor and control the actions of those in the UK who pose a threat and it will help to combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism.

Part 1 of the Bill will provide the police and MI5 with two new powers that will significantly enhance their ability to restrict the travel of those suspected of seeking to engage in terrorism-related activity overseas. First, it will provide the police, or a designated Border Force officer under their direction, with the power to seize a passport at ports. That will allow them to disrupt the travel of individuals, and give operational agencies the time to investigate and assess whether long-term disruptive action should be taken, on a case-by-case

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basis. Such action could be taken through, for example, criminal prosecution; the exercise of the royal prerogative to refuse or cancel a passport; a TPIM; deprivation of citizenship; or deportation. The use of this power will be properly safeguarded through a range of measures, including the need for a senior officer’s approval; an additional check by a more senior officer independent of the investigation after 72 hours; an initial retention period of 14 days for the passport; and a court review of the ongoing need to retain a passport, where a judge can allow more time for the police to continue their investigation—up to 30 days. There will also be a statutory code of practice for officers on how to exercise the power, and we intend to publish this code for consultation shortly.

Secondly, the Bill will create a power to issue temporary exclusion orders, to which I have already referred in response to interventions. These orders can temporarily disrupt the return to the UK of a British citizen suspected of involvement in terrorist activity abroad, ensuring that when individuals do return, it is done in a manner that we control. This power will cancel an individual’s travel documents and add them to watch lists, notifying the UK if they attempt to travel. Depending on the individual case, it may also require the individual to comply with certain activities once they are back in the UK. There has been a lot of interest in the nature of this power, as we have seen already this afternoon, but I want to reassure the House that it will not render an individual stateless. All those concerned will have the right, which their citizenship guarantees, to return to the UK. But when they do, it will be on our terms—quite possibly in the company of a police officer. Once they are back in the UK, the police will interview them, in order to explore their activities abroad, and can make them subject to further requirements. We are discussing this proposal with other Governments, in order to agree how it will work best in practice. So far these discussions have been constructive, and this proposal is consistent with all our existing international legal obligations.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary clarify something so that we can understand the implications of the legislation? What are the circumstances in which she would not grant a permit to return?

Mrs May: These matters will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The point is to be able to manage the return of individuals who have been involved in terrorist-related activity abroad, and we are discussing how the power would be operated practically with a number of other Governments, as I have said. The point is to ensure that when somebody returns, they do so under control and on our terms.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): I confess that I am by no means convinced of the legality of what is being suggested under temporary exclusion orders, which will, no doubt, be known in due course as TEOs, given our enthusiasm for acronyms. What is the position of someone who declines to accept conditions of return and who is not subject to deportation by the country in which they temporarily find themselves? Are they not de facto stateless in such circumstances?

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Mrs May: They are not de facto stateless. It is open to somebody to return, but the proposal is that they would be returning on our basis, under documents that would be issued by the Government, and therefore we would be aware of their return, be able to manage that return and, as I have indicated, take appropriate action when they return to the UK. So this is not rendering people stateless.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I understand the system that my right hon. Friend is putting in place of managed return, but what is not clear in the Bill is the system that will be present to enable that managed return requirement to be challenged. I wonder whether she can help the House on that point. It seems to me that there must be a mechanism by which a person who is told that they have to return in a particular way can challenge it on their return to this country, and do so expeditiously, if it is not to be an unwarranted interference with their rights.

Mrs May: There will be a form of challenge available to an individual under judicial review. We will also have to notify the individual that action is being taken against them, so that they are aware that the measure is being put in place.

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): On a point that was made earlier, if an individual has the right to challenge how they are managed—I think the right hon. Lady said that it would be by means of judicial review—can we ensure that they have legal aid to do that?

Mrs May: As the hon. Lady knows, the Government have made a number of changes to legal aid, and we are looking at the position in relation to that particular issue on these new measures.

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): The Home Secretary is being very reasonable to a lot of Members who wish to get in. Let us take the position of someone subject to one of these orders who finds themselves in a friendly country such as Turkey or France. If the Governments of Turkey or France request the British Government to take that person back into the United Kingdom without going through the deportation process, is it not a fact that we would really feel under an obligation to take back such a person?

Mrs May: If someone were in a country such as France or Turkey, and the Government of that country requested us to take back the individual, it would be possible in those circumstances for us to act in exactly the way that we are proposing in the Bill. I am talking about managing the return of that individual. For example, they might be accompanied by a police officer who would go out to bring them back into the UK, and various actions might be taken on their return. There might be an interview with the police, the introduction of a TPIM notice or a requirement to go on a Prevent programme. Those sorts of measures could be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con) rose

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Mrs May: I will give way one further time, and then I will move on to part 2 of the Bill.

Richard Fuller: As someone who wants to protect civil liberties in this country, may I warmly welcome this measure from the Home Secretary? There are many in my constituency who would like to see people in this situation given a one-way ticket and not allowed back into the country, so she has found a balance. Does she not think that one benefit of this piece of legislation is that it empowers mothers and fathers of impressionable teenagers to have a clear conversation with them about the consequences of their mind being warped by people on the internet trying to induce them to acts of terrorism overseas?

Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. That is part of the process of trying to disrupt people from travelling to Syria and Iraq or from being active with terrorist groups. We want to get the message across to young people that if they want to help people in Syria there are better ways of doing it than crossing into the country. They can, for example, assist the humanitarian efforts in the UK to support refugees from Syria, which can be of genuine support to people in Syria. In recent weeks, I have met some very impressive women from Muslim communities around the United Kingdom. They have been working with young people and their families, developing a number of programmes, which relay the message, “Don’t go to Syria.” The #MakingAStand campaign and the work that is being done by the charity FAST are about helping families to ensure that young people get the message that they should not be going over to Syria.

Part 2 of the Bill relates to TPIMs. It gives effect to the recommendations of David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, in his most recent report on TPIMs. The changes to the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 will provide the police and MI5 with valuable new capabilities. That includes allowing TPIM subjects to be relocated to different parts of the country. We will also be raising the legal test for imposing a TPIM—

Hazel Blears rose—

Mrs May: May I make a little more progress and then give way to the right hon. Lady?

Hazel Blears: It is on that point.

Mrs May: Will the right hon. Lady at least allow me to get to the end of the paragraph before I give way?

The changes to the TPIM Act include allowing TPIM subjects to be relocated, but we will also be raising the legal test, as I said earlier in response to an intervention, and narrowing the definition of terrorism-related activity in relation to this power. David Anderson is clear that there is no need to turn the clock back to the previous Government’s control orders regime, and I agree with him.

Hazel Blears: I have a simple inquiry, as I genuinely do not understand why the clause as drafted states that if someone is going to be relocated 190 miles away that can be imposed by the Home Secretary, but if they are

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going to be relocated 205 miles away it has to be a matter for agreement. I do not understand the logic in that provision at all.

Mrs May: We looked carefully at the proposals made by David Anderson and I believe he suggested that there should be a geographical limit for the relocation.

Part 3 seeks to amend the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 to help us identify who in the real world is using an internet protocol, or IP, address at a given point in time. Changes in how service providers build their networks, made to enable them to cope with the increased demand for their services, mean that these identifiers are often shared between a great number of users. Companies generally have no business purpose for keeping a log of who used each address at a given point in time, which means that it is often not possible for law enforcement agencies to identify who sent or received a message. The provisions will allow us to require the key UK companies to retain the necessary information to enable them to identify the users of their services. That will provide vital additional capability to law enforcement in investigating a broad range of serious crime, including terrorism.

The Bill deals only with limited fields of data relating to a specific technical problem. Without the full package of data types included in the draft Communications Data Bill, published in 2012, there will still be gaps in law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ capabilities. For example, the child exploitation and online protection command in the NCA might still struggle to identify those who have been accessing servers hosting illegal images of child sex abuse. That is an issue to which Parliament will need to return after the general election, subject to the outcome of David Anderson’s statutory review of investigatory powers.

Part 4 contains measures on aviation, shipping and rail security. They will help us to stop terrorists and those involved or suspected of being involved in terrorism-related activity from travelling to and from the UK, and will mitigate the threat of an attack on those transport services. The proposals cover three main areas. First, they will require carriers to be able to receive instructions not to carry a specific passenger in a way that is compatible with our border systems. Secondly, they will establish a new framework for authority to carry schemes, commonly known as our no-fly arrangements, that will extend to new categories of British nationals and apply to outbound travel. Finally, they will enhance our ability to require carriers operating to the UK to undertake specified security measures, including the screening of passengers. Carriers that will not comply with security requirements will not be allowed to operate into the UK.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I am puzzled that the Home Secretary has just said that carriers will be required to provide some sort of security screening. How will they do that? Would that not involve additional cost?

Mrs May: Obviously, carriers in most parts of the world are already required to carry out some security screening. From time to time, we say that if someone is going to fly into the United Kingdom we wish them to adopt additional methods of security screening. At the moment, this is done on a voluntary basis, but the Bill

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takes that and puts it into statute, which will enable us to stop someone from flying into the UK if they do not adopt the security procedures.

Part 5 addresses the issue of those at serious risk of succumbing to radicalisation and terrorism. We propose a new statutory duty on certain bodies, including local authorities, the police, prisons, probation services, schools, colleges and universities, including in the private sector, to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. That will ensure that Prevent strategy activity is consistent across the country and in all those bodies whose staff work on the front line with those at risk from radicalisation. The detail of how the duty should be fulfilled will be set out in statutory guidance, which we will publish shortly.

I hope that the House will find it helpful if I take the opportunity to clarify one specific issue that the guidance will address, which is the need to create an appropriate and sensible balance between the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and the existing duty on universities to promote freedom of speech. I believe that our universities, with their commitment to free speech and the advancement of knowledge, represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies. There is no contradiction between promoting freedom of speech and taking account of the interests and well-being of students, staff and the wider community. That is already subject to guidance issued by both Universities UK and the National Union of Students. We must ensure that poisonous, divisive ideologies are not allowed to promulgate.

Yasmin Qureshi: The right hon. Lady mentioned universities and other institutions being sent statutory guidelines on Prevent. Why do the guidelines have to be in statutory format? Why cannot they just be sent, knowing that any responsible institution will follow them without their having to have legal force behind them?

Mrs May: The purpose of putting Prevent on a statutory basis is twofold. First, the statutory duty will now relate to a number of front-line institutions, as I have said, such as local authorities and universities. There is already some guidance that Universities UK and the National Union of Students apply to universities, as I have indicated. However, I believe it is important to ensure that there is that statutory duty on bodies such as universities, and the Bill allows the Secretary of State to make a direction to one of the bodies covered by that power if they are failing to exercise their statutory duty.

Yvette Cooper: Will the Home Secretary clarify what she means by that? Could she envisage a Home Secretary making a direction in order to tell a university or institution not to allow somebody to speak?

Mrs May: That is not the intention of the duty; its intention is to ensure that the university or institution has in place a policy on matters relating to extremism. For example, they might have a general policy that they apply in relation to extremist speakers coming to their institution. The purpose of the power to make a direction in the Bill is to ensure that they are doing something like that, taking their statutory duty seriously. It is for

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those institutions that are failing to comply with the statutory duty that that particular power has been put into the Bill.

Alongside that statutory requirement in relation to Prevent, the Bill will also provide a statutory basis for the existing programmes for those at risk of being drawn into terrorism, known as Channel in England and Wales. That will enshrine existing good practice and help to ensure consistency across all local areas.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): As the Home Secretary knows, the Prevent strategy falls within the competence of Scottish Ministers under the devolved settlement. Scottish Ministers have their own priorities and agenda when it comes to delivering those measures in Scotland. I know that there have been discussions with Home Office Ministers about excluding Scotland from that power, so that we can have the opportunity to consult our public bodies properly. Is she open to that type of approach, so that Scotland could be included in the measures later, when we have had an opportunity to work out what it would actually mean for our public bodies and their responsibilities?

Mrs May: I point out to the hon. Gentleman that counter-terrorism is obviously a reserved matter. He might like to know that his point relates to the very next paragraph I was about to read. It is the Government’s hope and intention that these provisions should also apply to Scotland. We are consulting Ministers in the devolved Administrations about the practical implications of our proposals, and obviously those discussions will continue with the Scottish Government.

Part 6 includes amendments to two provisions in the Terrorism Act 2000. First, it will put it beyond doubt that UK insurance firms cannot reimburse payments made to terrorists in response to ransom demands. To put that in context, the UN estimates that ransom payments raised up to £28 million for ISIL over the past 12 months alone. We need to avoid any uncertainty on that issue.

Secondly, the Bill will clarify our counter-terrorism port and border controls in relation to where goods may be examined and the examination of goods comprising items of post. That is an important part of our counter-terrorism port and border controls and the disruption of those engaged in terrorism. We must ensure that the law is clear and that the police can fulfil their duties.

The powers in the Bill are essential, but they should be used only where it is necessary and proportionate to do so. Their use will be stringently safeguarded, including through suitable legal thresholds and judicial oversight of certain measures. Part 7 of the Bill will also allow for the creation of a privacy and civil liberties board to support the important work of David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

Finally, the Bill includes a provision to ensure that challenges to refusals of applications for British overseas territories citizenship can be heard before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, so that sensitive material can be protected. This simply addresses an anomaly in existing legislation.

I have stressed the urgency and importance of this legislation. This is not a knee-jerk reaction but a considered, targeted approach that ensures that our law enforcement

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and intelligence agencies have the powers they need to respond to the heightened threat to our national security. Substantial work, in consultation with the police and MI5, has gone into drafting the clauses. Where the measures impact on those in the private sector or civil society, we have consulted the relevant bodies.

I am grateful to the shadow Home Secretary for engaging in constructive discussions on the timetable for the Bill.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): I commend the Home Secretary for the measures in this Bill, which are reasonable measures that accord with our international obligations. Does she agree, though, that there is a gap as regards communications data? I hope that we will be able to include that area in future measures as soon as possible, because although the measures she is announcing go some way towards improving national security and meet our national obligations, we must address that gap.

Mrs May: My hon. Friend is right that we continue to have a gap in relation to communications data. Although the Bill introduces the question of IP address resolution, it will still be the case that data that previously would have been available to our law enforcement agencies and security services will not be available in future. I am very clear that Parliament will have to return to this issue after the general election.

The need to introduce this legislation today is pressing, but I do not propose to rush it through Parliament in a matter of days or weeks. Parliament must have adequate time to consider these measures. Expediting the Bill’s passage over the next couple of months will enable that to take place, while allowing us to seek approval for crucial secondary legislation prior to the election. This will ensure that proper scrutiny can take place, and that the police and agencies are able to use these new capabilities without undue delay.

We are in the midst of a generational struggle against a deadly terrorist ideology. That is why we have brought this legislation forward at the earliest opportunity, and we will seek its swift passage through Parliament. We must ensure that the police and the security and intelligence agencies have all the legal powers and capabilities they need to stop people travelling to fight in Syria and Iraq, to tackle this terrorist threat, and to protect all the law-abiding citizens who believe in keeping the UK an open, free and tolerant nation. That is what this Bill will do, and I commend it to the House.

4.27 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): As the Home Secretary said, it is the responsibility of Government to protect the liberty and the security of our people, to protect our communities from extremism and terror threats, and to protect our liberty and our democratic values so that the terrorists and extremists do not win. At a time when the terror threat has grown, more action is needed to make sure that the police, the security agencies and other organisations have the powers that they need to protect us, but also to make sure that we have sensible safeguards in place—the right kinds of checks and balances to prevent abuse.