HC Deb 05 July 1977 vol 934 cc1098-9
6. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had on defence problems in the Far East with the Defence Ministers of the Chinese People's Republic.

Mr. Mulley

None, Sir.

Mr. Hooley

Would it not be useful for the Secretary of State to have conversations with the Defence Minister of China with a view to making sensible arrangements about the defence of Hong Kong? Is it not absurd to maintain a British military garrison there? It is pointless, because such a garrison could not possibly defend the territory and could only surrender if conflict broke out.

Mr. Mulley

I have no objections to having discussions with the Chinese Defence Minister. As my hon. Friend knows, we are very happy and willing to consider exchanges of various kinds. However, this is a matter more for the Foreign Secretary than for me. There is no great concern in any quarter to upset the existing status quo and the agreement with the Hong Kong Government.

Mr. Blaker

Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be useful for him to meet the Chinese Defence Minister and ascertain whether he agrees with the views of NATO experts that the doctrine, training and armaments of the Soviet forces have not a defensive purpose but an offensive one?

Mr. Mulley

If—it is extremely speculative—I had discussions with the Chinese, no doubt these matters might arise.

Mr. Cronin

Will my right hon. Friend consider the proposal that he and the Defence Ministers of NATO should have informal conversations with the Chinese Defence Minister, bearing in mind that both NATO and China have the same problem—the possibility of Soviet aggression?

Mr. Mulley

That is a most interesting suggestion. I cannot speak for my NATO colleagues, but it is a point that I would bear in mind if the occasion arose.