THE influential House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has thrown its full weight behind Governor Chris Patten's democracy crusade in a move they hope will strengthen his hand in dealing with an angry Beijing. But the committee also put itself on a collision course with China by rejecting a hostile letter from the National People's Congress which demanded the committee steer clear of mainland human rights issues. Backing for Mr Patten comes ahead of tomorrow's Downing Street summit on Hong Kong when ministers will discuss the strategy for the second-stage bill on political reform. Senior Foreign Affairs Committee members said yesterday that their keynote report, to be published this Easter, was now certain to include strong support for Mr Patten. Recommendations will include a call for a new system of monitoring human rights in Hong Kong after 1997. This may lead to an independent human rights commission being set up. The committee is also considering recommending closer monitoring of human rights in China. Sources said the National People's Congress last week warned that the committee had no right to investigate China's human rights record. The committee's report is also likely to caution Beijing against linking economic issues to the political reform dispute. ''The trade balance between China and Britain is 2-1 in China's favour. They also want to join GATT [the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] and, although we're in favour of this, we can play the trade card too, if the going with China gets rough,'' one member said. Senior members said two hours of evidence by Mr Patten last week removed any lingering doubts about the wisdom of the course the Governor was pursuing in Hong Kong. ''He won the committee back from [Sir Percy] Cradock,'' said one in a reference to the former foreign affairs adviser's controversial appearance last month when he criticised Mr Patten's stance and backed Beijing's objections. The decision came as hostilities between Sir Percy and the Governor reached new heights. The former foreign affairs adviser accused Mr Patten of recklessly gambling with Hong Kong's future, and not caring about the territory's long-term interests. ''If you say there is a chance that China won't carry out its threats then you are taking an indefensible gamble with Hong Kong's liberties,'' Sir Percy said. ''It is one thing to expect the Chinese to break windows but, if you know they're going to undermine the building then it's wise to stop and think, if you care anything about the long-term interests of Hong Kong.'' The comments were Sir Percy's first to a challenge from the Governor to make clear his true beliefs. Mr Patten repeatedly attacked Sir Percy by name while giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee last week, and said that ''if we put some panes of glass in the window and China decides that she wants to smash them'' then Beijing would have some explaining to do. But Sir Percy yesterday accused the Governor of ''totally side-stepping the real issue'' of what would happen after 1997. ''It's easy to be heroic at someone else's expense,'' he said. ''It's one thing to defy people when you are facing the consequences yourself but to do so when someone else has to pick up the pieces, and someone who stands in a position of trust to you, is indefensible.'' Meanwhile Downing Street sources revealed that Prime Minister John Major would abolish Sir Percy's former position of foreign affairs adviser. The post has played a crucial role in handling Hong Kong affairs. Sir Rodric Braithwaite, Sir Percy's successor, retired earlier this month, and will now not be replaced. ''This Prime Minister gets on perfectly well with the Foreign Office and so no longer feels any need for an independent source of outside advice on foreign affairs,'' a Downing Street source said. Foreign Office officials described tomorrow's 10.30 am Cabinet Committee meeting on Hong Kong as a ''stock-taking session'' at which Mr Patten would report back, and seek authority to prepare a second-stage bill. A provisional timetable for its introduction to the Legislative Council may also be discussed. Those at the meeting will include Mr Patten, Mr Major, Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, Minister for Hong Kong Alastair Goodlad, Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, and President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine. Mr Patten has also won some support from former foreign secretary Lord Howe, one of the principal architects of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Lord Howe told the Sunday Morning Post the Governor was ''leaning over backwards'' to bring the Chinese back to the negotiating table.