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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, if such a charge is being levelled at the Government it is quite unfounded. Quiet dialogue has its place and it is

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important that we are able to engage frankly with both the SAR and Chinese Governments on this issue. That does not and has not precluded our making quite robust public statements. I remind the noble Lord that the former Lord Chancellor and Mr Rammell have put across our concerns in person when visiting Hong Kong. There was a period when such visits were not possible because of the SARS outbreak, but we have continued these exchanges at official level and we have made frequent representations. On 20th June, Mr Rammell sent a personal message to the Secretary for Security on this issue and, as I indicated in my original Answer, the matter was raised only last week by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary with the visiting Chinese Minister. We have also spoken out on this issue—not only in private but in public. We have now issued three statements—on 18th November last year and on 27th March and 30th June this year—and we have led international efforts to improve the legislation, with the US, the EU, Canada and Australia following our lead. The EU, of course, issued a statement yesterday.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, does my noble friend hold out any hope that there will be a change of heart on the part of the authorities in Hong Kong or in Beijing? What has been the Chinese response to the many representations made by the Government?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Chinese Government have responded today in relation to the statements that have been made. I have referred to the statement put forward by the EU yesterday and the United States Government have also made a statement. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that the allegations made in these statements are "unfounded" and that Article 23 is an internal matter in which foreign countries have no right to interfere. That is the public statement being made by the Chinese Government. That is why I was so emphatic in saying to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that this is not only a matter for public exchanges; there also have to be quiet exchanges between those who are able to talk frankly to each other. Of course we should say what we believe to be the case publicly but it is enormously important not to lose the value of quiet diplomacy.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that this objectionable law is likely to come into effect as early as 9th July? Does she see any prospect, in the short time remaining between now and then, of achieving changes in the sweeping provisions which are liable to affect the media, the churches and groups such as Falun Gong?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. This continues to be a matter for discussion in Hong Kong. Our representations and the representations of others have led to some changes in the original points put forward by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. We now have a period of about eight days. I have told the House what the Chinese Government have said. Your

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Lordships are in a position to make judgments, as are the British Government, about how much progress we are likely to make by shouting the odds at the Chinese Government rather than trying to pursue some well-argued points with them. In your Lordships' anxiety to do the right thing, I hope that your Lordships will not lose sight of the importance of diplomacy as well as public statements.

Lord Geddes: My Lords, I wish that the Minister's remarks had been used in the two, three or four years immediately before the hand-over. That is now history. The Minister mentioned several times representations being made in this respect to the government in Beijing. I am sure that the House welcomes that. Have representations also been made directly to Mr Tung Chi Hua, the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR? If not, could they please be made?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, yes. I had hoped that I had made that clear in my initial Answer, when I said that we had made frequent representations to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regional Government about the matter. We shall of course continue to make sure that they are left in no doubt about our views on this issue.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, given that there has been a strong statement from the White House, which the Minister has confirmed, that there has been a statement from the European Union, and also repeated representations from the British Government, will the Minister consider drawing to the attention of the Chinese Government the damaging effect on foreign direct investment that this is likely to have, if it is pursued in its present form? If Hong Kong, as the Minister indicated, does not have full recognition of its special status, there is likely to be concern among foreign investors about continuing to invest in that region.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I would add that there have also been statements made by Australia. This is a difficult issue and I appreciate that your Lordships are enormously concerned and wish to leave no stone unturned in the arguments that may be put forward. There are judgments to be made about the efficacy of what might be seen as a threat in relation to what otherwise might be seen as encouragement. I was specific in reading out what I understand is the reaction of the Chinese government.

We have to make some quite difficult judgments over the next few days about the most efficacious way to proceed. If I may say very gently to the noble Baroness, it is just possible that pointing out what might happen over foreign direct investment—which I would suggest is self-evident—might be seen as more on the threatening side, rather than on the persuasive side, of the equation.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, the original Question of noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred to the fact that the issue is about to be considered by the

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Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Can the Minister say whether the Legislative Council is in a position to amend or reject the proposed Bill, and if so, what would be the consequences?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I understand the matter, it does have some powers of amendment, although they might not be the same types of powers enjoyed, not so much by your Lordships, but by another place. The matter is under consideration and the discussions should be completed by 8th July. As I understand it, there is some room for manoeuvre. I hope that we focus on the continued good will and persuasion of those who feel that there are some outstanding issues about the effect on the Joint Declaration, and the whole point about one country/two systems and the consistency of what is suggested in the legislation, even as it stands with that principle in the Joint Declaration.

Liaison: Select Committee Report

3.14 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Second Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 126) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

    Appointment of an additional Sub-Committee of the European Union Committee

    1. At their previous meeting on 17 February, the committee considered a proposal from Lord Grenfell that two additional sub-committees of the European Union Committee be set up. This request was related to the review of scrutiny of European instruments conducted by the European Union Committee. The Liaison Committee took the view that it was at that stage premature to come to a decision on Lord Grenfell's proposal before the House had debated the European Union Committee's report and before the Government's response had been received.

    2. The report was debated by the House on 9th May 2003. At the end of the debate Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean indicated that the Leader of the House would support the creation of one additional sub-committee. In the light of this Lord Grenfell has proposed that one additional sub-committee be set up, so that the division of policy responsibilities between sub-committees might be improved; to deal better with the increase in workload of the Select Committee; and to anticipate outside pressure for an enhanced role for national parliaments in the European Union stemming from the proposals of the Convention on the Future of Europe. Lord Grenfell has indicated that the European Union Committee would be content to reduce slightly the number of Members of the House serving on each sub-committee so as to minimise the effect of the appointment of an additional sub-committee on the availability of Members to serve on them.

    3. A majority of the committee agreed that an additional sub-committee should be appointed for the reasons provided by Lord Grenfell in his original proposal. Concern was expressed, however, that the appointment of such a sub-committee might lead to an increase in the number of reports recommended for debate. Current pressure on time for debates was already very high. Concern was also expressed that the appointment of another sub-committee should not place undue pressure on the availability of Members of the House to serve. Accordingly, the committee recommends that the European Union Committee appoint an additional sub-committee with effect from the next Session; that

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    the committee exercise restraint in the number of reports recommended for debate; and that the number of Members of the House serving on sub-committees should not exceed ten.

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