§ The Minister of State (Mr. Richard Law)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 13, leave out from "shall," to end of line 17, and insert:to such extent as may be specified in the Order, have the immunities and privileges set out in Part I of the Schedule to this Act, and shall also have the legal capacities of a body corporate.I indicated on Second Rcading that it was the intention of the Government to move Amendments the effect of which would be to set out clearly on the face of the Bill the maximum immunities which were to be given under the Bill. This Amendment is the first of two or three 2771 Amendments which will give effect to that intention. The Committee will observe that it brings within the general framework of the Schedule the immunities which are intended under the Bill. I do not think the Committee will expect me to give a further explanation. Our intention is, I think, quite clear, and I did explain that intention on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Douglas (Battersea, North)
The Amendment proposes that these organisations shall have the legal capacity of a body corporate. Will that entitle them to take legal proceedings in this country against British citizens?
§ Mr. Law
I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, leave out "persons," and insert:such number of officers of the organisation.The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the Order in Council lays down the actual number of individuals who are entitled to the immunity described in the Schedule. Under the Bill, as it stands, it would only apply to high officers, and, theoretically, any number of officers of whatever rank, as was laid down, would be entitled to the immunity. This Amendment, and the succeeding one, enable us to define, in the Order in Council, not only the high officers concerned, but the actual number of individuals who will receive immunity.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)
May I ask for some kind of indication of what number of officers the Minister has in mind? When we had a Debate on this some time ago, we were rather perturbed because we thought a great number of people might obtain these very high privileges. Personally, I have never seen the necessity for the Bill, nor do I now. The Minister has made a number of concessions, but I think he ought to say what number of people the Government have in mind. Is it a dozen, or five, the heads of departments, or one from each State? What conception is in the Government's mind?
§ Mr. Law
I think I can oblige my hon. Friend on that. Of course, the number concerned will naturally vary with different organisations. Take the case of U.N.R.R.A. Our proposals would be to 2772 give these immunities to officers of the rank of Deputy Director-General and upwards. As I explained on Second Reading, in the case of U.N.R.R.A., there might be seven or eight officers of that rank, of whom probably not more than three or four would ever be in this country at one time, and it is the purpose of this Amendment to ensure that, if we give organisations immunity for these Deputy Directors-General, the number of such Directors-General is limited.
§ Sir H. Williams
This is quite different from any other form of diplomatic privilege we have ever had. Diplomatic privilege is something accorded to the representative of the head of a foreign State, and certain other people in his building, and, as a rule, the building—the Embassy itself—is deemed to be part of the foreign country concerned. But, now, we are going to have, it may be, a dozen people, Directors-General or upwards—I do not know what the title is above that—and you are going to have them in a building which is not part of another State, though it may have a measure of diplomatic immunity, a number of people who are citizens of several different countries. You will have the extraordinary situation of Mr. A., who comes from one country, and Mr. B., who comes from another country, in the same building, both having diplomatic privilege and being immune from certain legal processes. But are they immune from legal processes one against the other? You are going to have the extraordinary situation of a Czech gentleman and an American gentleman working in adjoining rooms, or in the same room, and each having diplomatic privilege. The one is not living in part of Czechoslovakia, and the other is not in part of the United States. They are living in a building in London which is not part of another State. What is their status? It is a very extraordinary situation. We have never had this situation, except in a building which is deemed to be part of another country. I do not know where we are going.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Law
I think the point raised by my hon. Friend, though extremely interesting, is rather outside the scope of this Amendment, the purpose of which is to put some limit on the numbers of individuals who get immunity under 2773 Part II of the proposed Schedule on the Paper. With regard to my hon. Friend's general point, I think it is obvious that those individuals will have diplomatic immunity one against the other, and, unless it was waived, that immunity would stand. I did make it clear on Second Reading that, in cases of crime, or breaches of the peace and so on, we would expect that diplomatic immunity to be waived, and, in fact, that is the custom in international organisations of this kind.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
May I ask how these Orders in Council will be arranged? Will the Government present to the House an Order in Council whenever one of these new organisations is established in this country, and will the Orders have to be modified every time there is a change in the number of officials in any particular organisation? According to the wording of the Amendment, it is now incumbent upon the Government to specify the number of persons who are considered to be high officers of any particular organisation.
§ Mr. Law
I think the answer to my Noble Friend's question is this. Certainly, every new organisation will have to have its own Order in Council. If, after an Order in Council has been applied to a particular organisation, there is any desire or need to extend the privileges of that organisation, or the numbers of people who enjoy those privileges, it would obviously require another Order in Council to do that.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 1, leave out "who hold," and insert:as may be specified in the Order, being the holders of."—[Mr. Law.]
§ Mr. Law
I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, leave out "or represent any," and insert:and upon any person who is the representative of aThe purpose of this Amendment is, again, to limit the immunities which are granted under the Bill. As the Bill stands, any person who represents a Member-Government on the governing body of the Committee would get this immunity. Our intention is, not that every single representative would get immunity, but only 2774 the one individual who could be described as the representative of the Government. The other members of his team, advisers and so on, would not get immunity.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 5, leave out from "organisation," to end of line 8, and insert:to such extent as may be so specified, the immunities and privileges set out in Part II of the Schedule to this Act."—[Mr. Law.]
§ Mr. Lewis (Colchester)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, leave out paragraph (c).
The purpose of this Amendment is to limit the privileges conferred under the Bill to those high officers who Come under paragraph (b) and to delete subordinate officers. I made no secret on the Second Reading of the fact that I disliked the Bill and I was sorry that the House gave it a Second Reading. But the House has done so and the principle of the Bill is accepted, and the question we have to face is the extent to which that principle should be applied. It should be confined to persons of high office in these organisations, and, if my Amendment were carried and paragraph (c) were omitted, it would have that effect. We are in a little difficulty in this matter because we do not know, and in fact have no idea at all, what number of persons would be likely to be affected if paragraph (c) remained in the Bill. No one can tell us that, because no one knows how many organisations will eventually come under the Bill nor what number of persons they may seek to employ in this country. The only possible light to be given to it is by the analogy of the present practice with regard to diplomatic rights in this country.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Salford (Mr. Stourton) on Wednesday last, the Minister gave some very interesting figures. He told us that at the present time there are some 22 ambassadors and 15 ministers accredited to the Court of St. James, and that there are some three other missions in the country who have no one of that rank to represent them. He told us in respect of these matters that there are at the present time in this country, on the staffs of these various missions, persons holding diplomatic rank to the number of 359, and further, that there are persons in subordinate positions on their staffs to the number of 325, making the very large total 2775 of 684 persons, who are more or less covered by diplomatic privilege in respect of these various missions. That is a proportion of rather more than 16 to one as between the subordinate persons and heads of missions, but I cannot see whether, in the case of these organisations we are now considering, the proportion will be smaller, higher or lower. There will need to be multiplications of these organisations and we would not go far wrong if we said that the proportion would be higher.
We are faced with the proposition that these hundreds of people are to be given immunity in greater or lesser degree from the laws of this country while they are working for these organisations. I ask the Committee to consider that very seriously, and to think whether we are wise to extend the principle of the Act to that extent. These people are being put above the law; in the words of the Government,they are to be given immunity from State and legal processes in the course of the performance of their official duty.It is not very easy to foresee exactly the precise difficulties that arise, and I have no doubt that there will be some very surprising difficulties. The unsatisfactory position we would be in with regard to the question of the traffic law was pointed out by various Members on Second Reading. Whereas British subjects, when driving motor cars, are restrained from committing offences by the fear of imprisonment, such a restraint would not operate in the case of the officials of these organisations who were going about their business.
There is the question of relief from Income Tax. I put to the Minister of State on the Second Reading what seemed to me to be a very serious dilemma, and I asked him to address his mind to the fact that what he was proposing was this. If in the same office, employed upon the same work, and paid the same salary, there were two persons, both British subjects, one domiciled in this country and one not so domiciled, according to this proposal, the one domiciled in this country would pay Income Tax, and the one not so domiciled would not pay Income Tax. With Income Tax at the present level, that would mean, in effect, that one would receive twice the amount of the other man for doing the same amount of 2776 work. The Minister was not very anxious to deal with the point, and I had to remind him again at the end of his speech, and all he could say was that he did not think it would be a very well run office if two people were employed to do the same work with such different conditions. That was a very poor answer.
This proposal under the Bill is laying down that that should be the law. We ought not to agree to the creation of such a situation with regard to the staffs and different organisations. We do not know how many there may be, but I suggest, on the figures I have quoted, we shall be dealing with the cases of hundreds of people. While we agree with the principle of these amenities for the persons at the head of these organisations, it should stop there. I cannot see that any real justification has been offered to the Committee, as yet, going any further, except perhaps that the Government have been a little hasty in their conversations with other countries and sometimes assume that the House of Commons will do whatever they ask. We should draw the line here and say, "You may have these exceptional privileges for the heads of these different organisations but we will not grant them to all and sundry."
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
When the Minister comes to reply there are two points on which I hope he will give us further information. Paragraph (c) says:To confer upon such other classes of officers and servants of the organisation … as may be specified in the Order.It will be within the discretion of the Minister or the Foreign Office to decide the people they consider it necessary to include. He may be able to give some information of a more detailed kind about what subsidiary officers and servants it would be suitable to include under the Order. The other point on which I hope that he will give us some further information is this. I do not consider that on Second Reading or at any time we have really had put forward any real justification of the necessity for including this class of official within the realm of these diplomatic privileges. So far as I remember, the main point which the Minister made on Second Reading was that it was very undesirable that a lawsuit should be brought against any high official of a foreign Government, and that if that were done, some political issue might in some 2777 way be brought in and tagged on. It does not seem to me, however, that that can reasonably apply to subordinate officials. I should not have thought that was sufficient reason for including them, and I hope that if the Minister insists on retaining this section, he will now give us some much more definite information and more definite reason why it is necessary to include these persons.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the question of the diplomatic bag when he replies. Are all these people to have privilege for their correspondence, or will that correspondence be liable to censorship like everybody else's? It seems to me a rather serious matter if we give these hundreds of people immunity from censorship at the present time. We do not yet know exactly how and when the war will end, and there has recently been a case in which considerable anxiety was felt about leakages of a certain nature from this country through the diplomatic bag. While that was unavoidable in the case of an ordinary legation and embassy, and was recognised to be so unavoidable, it does not seem to be quite the moment when we should present a large number of stray people, here from all over the world, with the privilege of having their letters passed abroad uncensored from this country. If my right hon. Friend could enlighten me on that, and assure the Committee that that is not so, I think we should all be relieved. If it is so, I wonder whether this matter ought not to be looked at further?
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford)
I feel a good deal of sympathy with the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis). In the adjourned Second Reading Debate, I was unfortunately not able to hear the speech of my right hon. Friend, but I read it afterwards. I am bound to say that it did not remove the objections which I have felt to this Bill from the time it was first brought here from the other place. This Bill curtails in very drastic fashion the rights of a very large number of British citizens to make claims for personal injuries, for workmen's compensation and for a number of matters of that nature. As I understood what was said by my right hon. Friend on the adjourned Second Reading, his answer 2778 was: "Well, this, in practice, will not matter very much, because arrangements will be made behind the scenes with the ambassadors or the heads of these organisations who are quite willing to waive their rights in appropriate cases and with the insurance companies who are also sometimes interested in these matters. All these arangements will be made and, in fact, nobody will lose any advantage which they would enjoy if they were entitled to pursue their normal legal remedy."
That, to my mind, falls far short of the way in which we in this House ought to deal with the rights of individuals. If it be the case that in all these numerous cases where claims for personal injuries and other matters arise, the ambassadors, or whoever are the persons at the head of these organisations, are going to waive their privileges and allow claims to be made in the ordinary way, then I see no reason at all why we should include all these subordinate officials in the scope of this privilege. I should have thought that if these claims are in any event to be allowed, it would have been very much better to leave all these subordinate people outside the scope of diplomatic privilege altogether and to allow persons who have legal claims against them to pursue their claims in the ordinary way.
I feel there is a tendency growing on the part of Governments to expect the House of Commons to agree to these informal arrangements, and to regard an informal arrangement of this kind as a satisfactory substitute for the legal rights which the law of England vests in every British citizen. I cannot take that view, and I must say, as a matter of principle, that I should prefer to leave persons who have legal claims to their right to establish those claims, if they can, in the usual way in the courts and not to make the success or otherwise of their claims depend upon arrangements which are made, no doubt with the best will in the world, between different classes of officials or functionaries. For that reason I cannot see why this Bill should be extended to this much greater class of additional individuals to whom my hon. Friend's Amendment refers.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
There is one point among the many others I discussed on Second Reading which worried me and which still continues in 2779 my mind. I notice that immunity is given to several hundred people—maybe 1,000 or more—who are acting under the instructions of the corporation and who could not claim immunity if they acted as private individuals. What I am concerned about is that they are apparently given immunity only for the purpose of their official duties, but who is to say what is an official duty or not? The corporation. That is the point. The corporation might come in and cover innumerable acts which a private individual could not normally do in this country, and I should like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that a corporation will not constantly bring its servants under its wing and say. "Oh yes, he acted in such a way on this occasion under our instructions; we know that if a British citizen had done that he would land himself in trouble, but we will put our arm around him and say that on this occasion the act is one which we had instructed him to perform." That position might well arise in innumerable cases. In view of the answer given a moment ago to the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Douglas) we must remember that a corporation can sue a British citizen when it pleases at any time; therefore, we must see that it does not unduly protect its own servants.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The Amendment to this paragraph deals with the junior classes of officers and servants of the proposed new organisations. The Minister in a moment will introduce an Amendment to the same paragraph, and that Amendment will have the effect of introducing Part III of the Schedule on the Paper. I wonder, therefore, whether I should be in Order in making a reference now, since we are considering the general question, to Part III of the Schedule? I am not at all clear about what will happen if we pass the paragraph in this form, with the Schedule attached to it. It seems to me there will be several individuals, many of whom may be Czechs, Poles, possibly Americans, Canadians, and outer representatives of the British Dominions, many of them junior in age and of both sexes, who are going to receive immunity from rates and taxes. Presumably, diplomatic immunity will include permission to import various kinds of goods for their 2780 own use without any payment of Purchase Tax or Customs Duty.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
That is what I do not understand. The words of Part III of the proposed Schedule, Subsection (2) say:(a) "in the case of a British subject who is a national or citizen of, or who belongs to, any part of His Majesty's dominions outside the United Kingdom … like exemption from relief of taxes or rates as is accorded to an envoy of a foreign sovereign Power …That is to say, he has the same status as an ambassador. A young Canadian or South African is in exactly the same position as an ambassador. He can import wines, cigars, wireless sets, silk stockings and high-powered cars without paying Purchase Tax or Customs Duty. We seem to be getting into an extraordinary position, and I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend would explain the intentions of the Government.
§ Mr. Stourton (Salford, South)
I want briefly to support the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis). I think the House must have been somewhat surprised, when I put two Questions to the Minister of State last Wednesday, to learn that there are nearly 700 diplomatic representatives in this country who are already receiving diplomatic privileges. I suggest that we should be very sparing in extending these immunities, and should confine them, as is suggested by the Amendment, to officials holding high offices, and exclude subordinate officials. I would remind the Committee that diplomatic privileges are open to serious abuses. I do not propose to quote any, because attention was drawn to them on the Second Reading of the Bill, and again in Committee by several Members. I therefore hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept the Amendment and exclude subordinate officials from diplomatic immunity.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
I do not want to support the Amendment, but I do think a point should be made in regard to the problem which is now engaging the attention of the Committee. This discussion has brought out very clearly the fact 2781 that the whole question of diplomatic immunity has become extraordinarily complex and difficult in the light of modern world developments, and that it seems very necessary that very much more attention should be given to the problem as we move into the world of international relationships and international forms of organisation. It seems rather absurd that the methods, privileges and forms which were suitable to the old world should be perpetuated in the new world into which we hope we are moving. An hon. Member made the point that he was not satisfied that this Bill was at all necessary. For myself I would much prefer that the whole system of diplomatic privilege should be abolished if that were at all possible. But the point before us now is whether we should extend these privileges to junior and lower grade servants, as we are prepared to extend them to those in more privileged positions. I would urge the Foreign Office to make an attempt, in consultation with other Powers, to get some new international arrangement in regard to this problem. It has been pointed out that if this Amendment is lost the Government will operate Schedule III, so far as these classes are concerned. That means that certain privileges will be enjoyed, that these people will be immune from suit and legal process in respect of things done or omitted to be done in accordance with their official duties.
What "official duties" mean it is difficult to say. During this war there have been a number of organisations in this country which have enjoyed immunity. They have violated certain accepted practices; they have broken certain recognised laws, and yet they have been outside the law. Before we go on bringing in big classes of people into this category there should be an examination of the question, not only by the Foreign Office itself, but by that Department in consultation with other countries. Some of these offices may very well be established in London. There might be hundreds of clerical workers, and others such as cooks, butlers and the most menial servants, who would be entitled to these special privileges. If that be so, the problem ought to be freshly considered by the Powers concerned in order that we may get a convention on this question of immunity and an organisation which fits into the facts of the modern world.
§ Sir H. Williams
We are considering paragraph (c) but we are also considering the necessity of Part III of the Schedule. Let us suppose that one of these gentlemen is driving a motor car on official duty. He is immune from suit and legal process. He can exceed the speed limit, drive past traffic lights and do things for which some of us from time to time have suffered legal processes. Suppose he was employed by U.N.R.R.A. He could say, "I am driving for U.N.R.R.A. I have gone past the traffic lights, I have bumped into somebody, I have driven on the wrong side of the road, and I had my head lights on when I ought not to have had them on." Are such people to be immune? I would like to know, because, if so, I would like to be immune myself.
§ Mr. Law
I very much wish I could oblige my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), and other hon. Members who have supported the Amendment, by accepting it on behalf of the Government. But I am afraid that if I did accept it it would render the purposes of this Bill absolutely nugatory, and I greatly fear that if we put subordinate officials outside the operation of this Bill the purposes that we have in mind in putting this Bill forward would be almost completely thwarted. Perhaps I should explain to the Committee these immunities to subordinate officials. There are two kinds of immunity—and only two—that we propose in the proposed Schedule.
First there is immunity from Income Tax. The reason why it is desirable to exempt these officials from British Income Tax, assuming that they are not British subjects ordinarily living here, is that to levy taxation upon them would really be defeating the purposes which the House of Commons had in mind when, in the case of U.N.R.R.A., it voted £80,000,000. It voted it in order that U.N.R.R.A. might carry out specific functions and perform certain operations which it seemed to the House of Commons were in the interest of this country as well as of the nations in general. If Income Tax is levied here on the servants of U.N.R.R.A., it means that we are deducting from that £80,000,000 whatever the amount may be that we are deducting in taxation. That is not in itself a very fair thing to do.
§ Sir I. Albery
When the House of Commons votes my right hon. Friend his salary and subsequently deducts Income Tax, is it not doing precisely the same thing?
§ Mr. Law
I do not think it is, because in this case it would not stop there. We give an undertaking to subscribe to the purposes of U.N.R.R.A. one per cent. of our national income for one year. Just because it happens that the office of this organisation is centred in London, within our control, we are theoretically in a position to deduct Income Tax, and therefore to give to U.N.R.R.A. for its purposes something less than one per cent. But it would not stop there because, while we might theoretically gain some trifling advantage by deducting Income Tax here, if every other country did exactly the same thing we should lose on balance far more than we gained. If we really vote money for an international organisation of this kind for certain purposes, if we intend the purposes to be carried out to the fullest possible extent of the money voted, we ought in common sense and fairness to the other contributors not to levy taxation on the salaries of the servants, which are derived from the organisation.
§ Sir H. Williams
This is an argument about taxing U.N.R.R.A. We are not talking about taxing U.N.R.R.A. U.N.R.R.A. employs a man at a certain salary. Are these foreigners going to pay the Income Tax, if there is any, of their own country? The British Ambassador at Washington gets so much salary and so much expenses. On his salary he pays Income Tax, because he is deemed to be resident in the United Kingdom. Are these employees who come from other countries going to be exempt both from our taxation and their own national taxation?
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I do not take the view of the hon. Gentleman, but I think it should be clarified. There are officers in Washington who will be exempt from American taxation. Is it the case that all that is proposed is to apply the same principle 2784 to foreign officials resident in this country? Would they not be liable to ordinary taxation as nationals of their own nation?
§ Mr. Law
The right hon. Baronet is right. I have no doubt that we shall be accorded the same privilege in New York, for example, that we are willing to accord in London. With regard to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), he said this was not a question of taxing an organisation but individuals in the organisation. I do not think there is a great deal in that argument, because the organisation has to pay the salaries of these people. It is only the salaries derived from the organisation which are involved. If British taxation was levied, the only effect would be that the organisation would have to pay higher salaries than otherwise.
§ Sir I. Albery
On a point of Order. The Amendment is to omit paragraph (c) and to exclude certain persons from diplomatic privileges. Some hon. Members have been referring to the Third Schedule. It is a matter which some of us wish to discuss when we come to it. May I ask whether the present discussion will in any way invalidate our right to discuss it when we come to it?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the discussion went too far it would. I was hoping that it would only he a reference.
§ Mr. Law
I think it is clear that it would be more convenient if I did, not pursue the argument further but waited until we have a chance to discuss it on the Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) asked me to explain why we had to insist upon retaining this paragraph. Almost everyone who has supported the Amendment has seemed to regard immunity from legal process in relation to official acts as precisely the same thing as immunity from legal process for all other acts. The hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. Thomas) said it was entirely limited to official acts, but who was to define what was an official and what a private act? He went on to say that obviously it was the organisation which would give the definition, and therefore the subject had no protection. I am sure in this case he is quite wrong. If an action were brought against a member of an organisation and there was some 2785 doubt as to whether the offence had been committed in pursuit of his official duty or in his private capacity, the onus of proof would be on the defendant, and he would have to satisfy the court that it was an official and not a private act.
§ Mr. Law
It would be for the court, and not for the corporation, to decide. The court would not have to accept the word of the corporation that it was an official act. The onus of proving that it was an official and not a private act would be on the corporation and, if it did not satisfy the court, diplomatic immunity would not arise.
§ 4.45 P.m
§ Sir H. Williams
Suppose the case of a person driving a motor car to convey himself and other people. He is one of the persons entitled to immunity. A policeman tells him he has broken the law, but the driver claims diplomatic immunity. The policeman, however, summons him and the person does not appear. What is the court to do in a case like that?
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)
The position is the same as at present. What my right hon. Friend said is quite right. If this privilege is claimed, somebody would go with an affidavit to the court making the claim, that the court would have no jurisdiction. If the prosecutor disputed it, it would be for the court to decide.
§ The Attorney-General
He has got to claim the immunity, and if he fails to claim it, immunity is waived.
§ Mr. Law
I was drawing the attention of the Committee to the fact that this immunity from legal process applies only to the official acts of the subordinate members of the organisation. It is quite clear, I think, that no injury can be suffered by a British subject under this Bill. As regards cases of traffic accidents which more than one hon. Member has mentioned, I endeavoured to make it clear on Second Reading that we have got the procedure so tied up that the victim of a motor accident, where the aggressor, so to speak, is somebody who claims diplomatic immunity, is at no disadvantage. More than one hon. Member on Second Reading 2786 and in the discussion to-day drew attention to the case of a German diplomat before the war who ran down a British subject, and then claimed diplomatic immunity, with the result that the British subject had no remedy. I would like to clear up one or two points on that case. It was the case of a certain Dr. Auer, who ran down a Colonel Simmonds. Colonel Simmonds got some damages from the insurance company, but they were thought to be inadequate. That event took place, not shortly before the war as was described, but in 1933. It was as the result of that case that the new arrangements were made under which it is now impossible for the victim of a road accident to be without legal or, at any rate, practical redress.
With regard to legal immunity in general. I think that the House agreed on Second Reading with my argument that it was necessary to give immunity from legal process to the organisation as a whole because, if you did not do that, you would inject into the courts, under the guise of legal and justiciable issues, a great deal of political argument which would be extremely damaging and dangerous. If the Committee accepts that argument, as the House accepted it on Second Reading, it really defeats the whole purpose of the Bill if we exempt from that immunity from legal process the subordinate officials of the administration, because, quite clearly, if we exempt the administration and do not exempt the officials, one could bring an action, not against the administration in form, but against the officials of the administration. That action, however, would in fact be directed against the administration as certainly as if one were legally able to bring an action against the organisation direct. I do not see how it is possible to get away from that position. Therefore, I would ask the Committee to accept the argument that, if we are giving immunity to the organisation, it is a necessary concomitant that we should give legal immunity to the subordinate officials of the organisation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend asked me what kind of subordinates it was intended should receive these immunities. Obviously, the kind of people we have in mind are those who could be attacked in the courts in the name of the organisa- 2787 tion. That means that they would be people who had official tasks to perform which brought them into business and other relations with British subjects. There is no intention of applying the provisions of the Bill or giving legal immunity to doormen, liftmen arid servants in the narrow sense of the word. It would be confined to people whom one could describe as officials of the organisation.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas
Suppose the doorman was carrying an important message. That would, for a particular moment, be an important function. Should he not, too, have immunity. Why not?
§ Mr. Law
It is our intention to limit the immunity to the classes of person I have described. We shall have to run the risk about which my hon. Friend is so sensitive and fearful. I would again explain that, much as I would like to oblige hon. Members—and the Government have done a good deal to meet legitimate criticism—it would not be possible to do so on this occasion without going against the whole principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Lewis
The Committee should realise how far the argument used by my right hon. Friend has taken us. He has been pressed on many occasions to give the reasons why it is necessary to extend these privileges to subordinate persons. He has been reluctant to do it, but he has now given one specific reason. It is in order that these organisations might get cheap labour, for he said that if these people had to pay taxes they would want more money. That is a monstrous suggestion. Why should they be entitled to get cheap labour in this way?
Consider what will happen. We get an organisation of this kind set up in London. A post falls vacant. It could be filled perfectly well by an Englishman or a Frenchman, or someone of another nationality. The Englishman applies for the job and he is told that the payment is so much a year. He replies that when Income Tax is taken off he could not live on such payment for work of that kind. The Frenchman applies, and when he is told what the payment is, he says that the job is worth twice as much to him. That argument shows the complete folly of this proposal. I would commend it particularly to the attention of hon. Members 2788 opposite. Are they going to vote for a proposal which, the Minister has plainly told us without any equivocation at all, is desired to enable this organisation to employ cheap labour?
§ Sir H. Williams
I still want an answer to my question. Are these people to be exempt from all taxes? The British Ambassador in Washington pays British Income Tax. Are these Americans—assuming that they will be Americans—who are coming over here to work in London and are not going to pay British Income Tax, going to pay American Income Tax?
§ The Attorney-General
It depends upon American law. The reason why the British Ambassador pays British Income Tax is that he is paid by the British Government, and Income Tax is paid on all profits which originate. Whoever you may be, whether you are an Ambassador or anybody else, you come under Schedule. The servants of U.N.R.R.A. will certainly not draw their income from the British Treasury and therefore, as I see it, will not be liable to our Income Tax. What the position is under American law is not a matter on which I can be dogmatic, but I should have thought it would be the same as under our own.
§ Sir H. Williams
Really, this is most extraordinary. A gentleman comes from the United States, and because he is working in this country he does not pay American Income Tax.
§ Sir H. Williams
If I leave this country and take a job in the United States with any organised body, I am not liable for British Income Tax if I am not resident here for six months. I take a job in an institution under the American Government, and quite properly I pay American Income Tax. We are to have people from other countries coming here to be employed by an organisation which is not a Government body. Therefore they will not pay taxes as if they were resident in their country of origin, and they are going to be exempt from taxation here also. This is most marvellous. We ought to have Gulliver with us to try to describe it to us. Nearly every kind of community is described in "Gulliver's Travels," but this is the first time I have 2789 ever heard a Minister of the Crown, a highly respectable, most learned right hon. Gentleman get up and tell us that the only place in the world to which we can go and pay no taxes is U.N.R.R.A. Let us all join U.N.R.R.A. It is the kind of thing we have all been looking for.
It is only a minute to five and I do not want to obstruct the Chief Whip, who looks at us so pathetically when we keep things going like this. What he really thinks about it he will probably tell us privately in another place; but, honestly, on this occasion I do not think we ought to part with the Amendment to-night. We have had described to us a state of affairs which seems to me quite intolerable. A man can find a job in a Government institution where he pays no taxes of any kind whatsoever. I have a lot of sympathy for Ministers of the Crown. I think they are very badly treated in matters of taxation, and I have tried for the last two years to persuade the Prime Minister to give them some relief, but, for reasons of ultra respectability, the Prime Minister and the other gods of the Cabinet have not been willing to face the criticism that they might get from the public.
§ It being Five o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.