HC Deb 20 June 1955 vol 542 cc1043-61

Order for Second Reading read.

3.50 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. H. Turton)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill arises from the Bonn Conventions, which were debated in the last House in 1952, and from their amendment, which was part of the Paris Agreements and was duly considered and approved in the debate of 17th November and 18th November of last year.

The Conventions entered into force on 5th May of this year, but hon. Members may remember that there were certain Articles dealing principally with immunities, privileges, the taking of evidence, and Customs procedure, which require specific statutory authority. This Bill has, therefore, been introduced as soon as possible after the assembly of Parliament to give this authority. As I will shortly explain, it has a very narrow and restricted scope, but it is none the less important as it is part of the process of carrying out the Agreements, which we have duly ratified. The nature of this subject is complicated and technical, but I know that the House will wish me to explain it in detail and I will do my best to make my explanation as clear as the subject permits.

Clause 1 deals with the immunities and privileges required for three tribunals established under the Bonn Conventions. I will explain in detail the nature of each tribunal and then what the Clause proposes. First, the Arbitration Tribunal: this is established under the Convention on relations between the three Powers and the Federal Republic of Germany to deal with certain disputes arising out of the Bonn Conventions, but is not competent to deal with any dispute involving the retained rights of the three Powers, such as Berlin, the stationing of forces, the reunification of Germany or the peace settlement.

The Tribunal is to consist of one member of each of the three Western Powers, three Germans and a President and Vice-President from other countries than these four. Clause 1 (1) gives these members and agents and counsel appearing before them immunity from legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their office or duties. Clause 1 (2) provides for the grant of diplomatic privileges and immunities to the foreign members of the Tribunal, should the Tribunal ever sit within our jurisdiction.

Next, the Supreme Restitution Court. This is established under the Convention on the settlement of matters arising out of the war and the Occuption. Its function is to hear appeals from German courts in cases governing the restitution of property to the victims of Nazi oppression.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

And compensation?

Mr. Turton

No. That is dealt with entirely by the German courts. The function to which I have just referred was previously discharged by the Supreme Restitution Court in the British Zone of Occupation and by comparable bodies in the other two Western Zones. The Supreme Restitution Court is to have three divisions. Each division will have not fewer than five judges assigned to it. Two of these will be nominated by one of the Western Powers, two by the Germans and one from another country than these four.

Clause 1 (1) gives these judges, State counsel appearing before the Court, and Clerks of the Court immunity from legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their office or duties. As the Court will sit in Germany, no diplomatic immunity is conferred outside the Federal Republic.

Finally, the Arbitral Commission on Property Rights and Interests in Germany. This is established under the same Convention as the Supreme Restitution Court. Its functions are to adjudicate in specified categories of dispute which are set out in the Convention and include restitution of United Nations property rights and interests which were subject to discriminatory treatment during the war, pre-war contracts, war damage compensation, and similar matters. The Commission is to consist of nine permanent members. One is being appointed by each Western Power, three by the German Federal Government and three from countries which were neutral in the war selected by agreement between the four Governments.

Clause 1 (1) gives these members, agents and counsel appearing before them, and parties, immunity from legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their office or duties or in the presentation of their case. Clause 1 (2) provides for the grant of diplomatic privileges and immunities to the foreign members of the Commission, and Clause 1 (3) enables evidence for use of the Commission to be taken in due form in English law before a court in this country.

Clause 2 arises from the provisions of Article 35 of the Convention on the Rights and Obligations of Foreign Forces in the Federal Republic of Germany. That Article lays down the rights to exemption from Federal Customs duties or taxes of the members of the Forces. It provides that the British Service authorities may, for our convenience, exercise Customs control at our chief crossing points on the Federal frontiers over members of the forces, their dependants, civilian employees and their dependants, and employees of such organisations as the N.A.A.F.I., and, in return, that they should ensure observance of German Customs regulations as amended by the terms of the Conventions. As a result, the British military authorities may have to confiscate contraband.

The effect of this Clause will be that the owner of the seized goods will have a right to sue in the United Kingdom courts if he considers himself aggrieved. It must be borne in mind that, in addition, Service personnel have a statutory right of appeal under their own codes to a superior authority, and it will be made clear to all civilians concerned that they also can appeal against seizure of their goods to the Commander-in-Chief, British Army of the Rhine.

By the terms of Article 35 of the Convention on the Rights and Obligations of Foreign Forces, the responsibilities which the British authorities have assumed in relation to German Customs regulations became incumbent on them when the Conventions entered into force on 5th May. For this reason, Clause 2 of the Bill has been drafted with effect retroactive to 5th May. We consider it important that the sanctions and safeguards which Clause 2 would provide in English law should be provided without delay.

The House will appreciate that the uncertainty about the entry into force of the Bonn Conventions, which persisted until the last week in March, and the dissolution of Parliament which followed shortly after, made it impossible to legislate earlier. Hon. Members may recall, however, that a similar Bill received a First Reading in the last House on 31st March.

After this explanation I hope that the House will regard this Bill as non-controversial in character. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House I will reply to any points that are raised so far as I am able, and I have the assistance of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General who will be able to deal with any point of law beyond my capacity.

4.1 p.m.

Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)

The Bill is rather a technical one within a narrow compass, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, but it is not unimportant for that reason. It raises some matters, about which the House should be careful, such as conferring immunity and diplomatic privileges, with respect to the three courts which are set up under the Paris Treaties, and it provides for the enforcement of German Customs law against British, American and French forces in Germany.

The provisions of the Bill are machinery and technical ones and, whatever our views of the Paris Treaties may be, it is clearly in the interest of this country to provide the machinery specified in this Bill and to implement its obligations under those Treaties. For instance, there is the provision that the members of the British forces, among others, shall be subject to German Customs law and that provision stands whatever we do about this Bill. However, the Bill provides machinery whereby members of the forces who are subjected to German Customs law shall be dealt with by the British authorities instead of by the German authorities. Clearly, therefore, nobody would suggest that Clause 2 should not be passed by this House with alacrity.

I wish to raise various points, not with a view to opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, but to obtain information about some difficulties which I felt in going through it, and doubtless some of my hon. Friends will have other difficulties to put before the right hon. Gentleman. The first arises over the question of jurisdiction. Article 9 of the Convention on Relations between the Three Powers and the Federal Republic of Germany, which appears in page 6 of Cmd. 9368, "Documents relating to the Termination of the Occupation Régime in the Federal Republic of Germany," provides that all disputes between the three Powers and the Federal Republic under the provisions of the Conventions— which the parties are not able to settle by negotiation or by other means agreed between all the Signatory States, except as otherwise provided by paragraph 3 of this Article or in the annexed Charter or in the related Conventions"— shall be dealt with by the Arbitration Tribunal.

What is excepted is set out in paragraph 3, which refers in particular to Article 2, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his opening statement. Article 2 states: In view of the international situation, which has so far prevented the re-unification of Germany and the conclusion of a peace settlement, the Three Powers retain the rights and the responsibilities, heretofore exercised or held by them, relating to Berlin and to Germany as a whole, including the re-unification of Germany and a peace settlement. That is outside the ambit of the Arbitration Tribunal, but what does it mean? Does it mean, first, that West Germany is, under this Convention, free to conduct negotiations on her own with Russia about German reunification? Secondly, does it mean that she is free to conclude a treaty for reunification with Russia on her own? Thirdly, has the Arbitration Tribunal jurisdiction over either of the two specific questions which I have just put?

I pass now from the Arbitration Tribunal to the Supreme Restitution Court and to raise what was obviously in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). From perusing this document I gather that the Supreme Restitution Court deals with the restitution of identifiable property to the victims of Nazi aggression and not, as the right hon. Gentleman said, Nazi oppression. As I understand, Nazi aggression would deal merely with people outside German territory and not with people within German territory. Therefore, there is some importance in the difference between the words "aggression" and "oppression." As I understand, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Restitution Court is confined to the restitution of identifiable property to victims of Nazi aggression.

That leaves two matters which are referred to in Cmd. 9368 and for which, as far as I can see, no international court or international supervision is provided, and I should like verification of that. Paragraph (b) of Article 1 of Chapter 3 on page 76 deals with the restitution … of property seized under the National Socialist régime from co-operative societies, trade unions, charitable organisations and other democratic organisations. … That is the first matter. The second matter is referred to in page 84 and deals with compensation for victims of Nazi persecution.

Although those two important matters are included in this Convention and provision is made for them, and they are matters which are obviously of concern to us, is it correct that no international court is provided to supervise or to regulate or to have any say about either of them? If, however, a court or international procedure is provided for dealing with them, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would indicate what it is. If it is not, would he let us know the reasons of policy which led the Government to exclude those two items, which are included in this Convention, from the international supervision and the international court which obviously they need?

Now I leave the question of jurisdiction to ask what is the position about the appointment of members to these courts. As far as I can gather from this document, the appointments to the Supreme Restitution Court should have been made already. Those to the Arbitral Commission should have been made within thirty days of 5th May and those to the Arbitration Tribunal are not yet due but are due to be made within sixty days of 5th May. The appointments are obviously a matter of some importance, particularly the appointments of those to the Arbitration Tribunal, because in that case they are expected to perform a formidable task for which the qualifications are not only judicial—perspicacity and integrity—but which requires a remarkable degree of statesmanship.

I am afraid that we are moving into an era where judicial and political functions are going to be mixed up more and more as we have more and more international co-operation and provision for decision of political questions by some form of a tribunal which is expected to act in some sort of judicial capacity. I should be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he would give us as much information as he can about the appointments to these three Tribunals; and the kind of person whom he contemplates drawing upon for the offices which have not yet been filled.

Now I come to the specific provisions in the Bill itself. The first is the provision about immunity from suit. I appreciate that the Clause follows the provision in the Conventions. In so far as it says that a member of a tribunal shall not be liable to any legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in connection with judicial duties, that follows the ordinary conventionally accepted view or expression of the immunity of judges in this country.

But when it comes to deal with counsel and the parties who are also given immunity in the same terms, then is the Solicitor-General satisfied that that goes no further than the immunity which is given to counsel and parties in this country? Speaking for myself, I must say it appears to me to go substantially further, and, as far as it does that, it obviously confers a quite unnecessary immunity, because we in this country do not suffer any handicap from the more limited immunity which is given to counsel and to parties.

I should be grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman if he would clarify that and let us know whether or not these persons who are given immunity in Clause 1 other than members of the tribunal have an immunity greater than that enjoyed by corresponding persons in this country. If that is so, perhaps he would tell us the reason for it. Then there is the provision with regard to what are amusingly referred to in connection with the Arbitral Commission as "natural persons." Natural persons have a right to appear before the Arbitral Commission, but they have no right to appear before the Arbitration Tribunal which is confined to disputes between States, or before the Supreme Restitution Court.

Natural persons are given immunity in this Clause in separate terms to that which applies to counsel and agents and to representatives of parties. It is provided that a natural person shall have immunity in that he shall not be liable to any legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the presentation of his case. Why do we have these words in whereas we do not have similar limits applying to counsel who appear for a natural person but we have counsel given immunity in the same terms as the judges?

Mr. Turton

That is not in my Bill.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

A "natural person" is referred to in the Blue Book itself and that is the reason, presumably, why provision is made in Clause 1 (1) for a party to proceedings. After referring to a member of the Court, counsel and other persons, it refers to a party to proceedings who appears in person. That can only be a natural person who shall not be liable to any legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the presentation of his case. I say that that is confined to the case of the Arbitral Commission, because it is only before that Commission that a natural person has the right to appear at all.

The Blue Book, in page 109, in Article 11, says that Any natural persons appearing in person shall enjoy the same immunity as the agents, representatives and counsel, though that is not inserted in terms in the Bill. What I should like to know is, first, why the departure in the wording in the case of natural persons; secondly, why the identification of counsel and others with the members of the Tribunals when it comes to conferring immunity and giving immunity in the terms of immunity from legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their official duties; and, thirdly, whether that immunity conferred on counsel and other representatives goes further than that conferred on similar persons in this country.

Then there is the provision about diplomatic privileges. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell us why this con- ferring of diplomatic privileges is necessary at all. I must say I am a little puzzled about this. These people, as members of the Court, already have immunity from suit for what they have done in their official capacity. Why is it necessary to confer diplomatic privilege?

May I put it in the form of a dilemma? If it is necessary to confer diplomatic privileges upon foreign members of the Court for the purpose of enabling them to exercise their function as members of the Court, why is it not necessary to confer similar privileges upon nationals of this country who are members of the Court? It seems quite clear that the whole purpose of conferring diplomatic privilege is to enable these persons to exercise their judicial functions properly. I cannot myself see why diplomatic privilege is necessary for that purpose or, if it is necessary, why it is justifiable to make a distinction between a member of the Court who is a foreigner and a member of the Court who is a national of this country.

Then I want to refer to the scope of this diplomatic privilege. Does it cover such things as running-down cases? If a member of the Court is involved in a car accident does he have diplomatic privilege for that, or what exactly is the scope of it? Does it not go much further than is necessary to enable them to perform their functions as members of the Court?

There is one objection which arises in the case of diplomatic privilege conferred upon members of the Court which does not arise in the case of diplomatic privileges conferred upon diplomats, and it is this. The diplomatic privilege of diplomats is a privilege which is conferred upon the soverigns whose representatives they are, and the privilege can be waived by the foreign sovereign, or the matter can be dealt with through other channels by the foreign sovereign concerned. Substantial justice and substantial compensation in proper cases can be given by the foreign sovereign, dealing with the diplomat who is enjoying that diplomatic privilege in his name.

But when we come to members of this Court, I do not see that there is any possibility of any foreign sovereign waiving that diplomatic privilege at all. It becomes a hard and fast provision which cannot be dispensed with, and it seems to me to be one which goes much further than is necessary to enable these functions to be performed.

I understand that diplomatic privilege applies in the cases of the Arbitration Tribunal and the Arbitral Commission, and that it is limited to those two cases, where there may be sittings or official acts performed by the members of the Court in this country. Although it does not appear on the face of Clause 1 (2), I assume that diplomatic privilege will be limited to the time when these persons are in this country for the purpose of performing these official acts or holding sittings of these two Courts, and for no other purpose and no other time at all. I think that that must be so, but I should like to have confirmation of it.

That disposes of the difficulties that I myself feel about Clause 1, and I now come to the provisions of Clause 2, which deals with German Customs law. Here, of course, the members of the forces are made subject to German Customs law, and we are simply providing machinery to enable our authorities to enforce it, instead of having the matter enforced against members of our forces by the German authorities. Obviously, that is to our advantage. The provision is that these powers are to apply to any person … serving with the Armed Forces of the three Powers or other sending state"— and that phrase is defined in the Blue Book as a country which sends troops in association with one of the three Powers, such as Commonwealth forces, if there happen to be any, in association with the forces of this country. But is it intended that the British military authorites should have the obligation of enforcing German Customs law not only against members of the British Armed Forces but also against the forces of the French and American Governments? Are the three forces pooled for the purpose of enforcing German Customs law?

There may be good practical reasons for doing it in that way which I can well imagine, but, from a lawyer's point of view, it seems a very strange provision, and I should like to have a little explanation how it comes about and how it would work. For instance, we have in Clause 2 (2) a provision that the Customs goods may be seized by the British authorities and be forfeited to Her Majesty. How does that work, and what is really intended about it?

When we enforce German Customs laws against members of British forces and some of the goods are forfeited, what will happen? Do they go to the Treasury, although they are German Customs laws which we are enforcing, or will they be handed over to the Germans? What will happen in the case of goods forfeited from French and American forces? Do they also go to the British Treasury? What will happen about them? It is an odd provision in subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 2. There may be a very good practical reason for doing it in that way, or it may be a matter of convenience, since I appreciate that all this has been done by agreement between the three Powers and the German State. Nevertheless, it is a rather curious provision, and I should be grateful to be told how it is intended to work out.

The Bill as a whole is one which is based on the Paris Treaties and various provisions in these Conventions. It is obviously to our advantage, and for that reason we certainly welcome it and shall support it as a Bill which carries out an obligation which this House decided we shall enter into. Nevertheless, in applying it there are difficulties, and we shall be concerned to know what the answers to these questions are with a view to formulating the course which we shall have to take when the Bill comes to the Committee stage.

4.26 p.m.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

I rise to make a mild protest at the extension of diplomatic privilege once more. The rest of us do not get these privileges. The bulk of the population, when they go through the Customs, have to pay the duties like other men and women, and have all the inconveniences in connection with the examination of their baggage. We have to pay tax on our drinks, and if we have an accident with a motor car, and are responsible, we have to appear before the magistrates.

These privileges are accorded to a vast array of foreigners coming to this country. We have had list after list of them in this House, and we have another list before us at the moment. On the Order Paper today are four immunities and privileges Orders, which are to be dealt with shortly, concerning the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa south of the Sahara, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, Western European Union and the World Health Organisation. Now, a vast number of people are covered by Clause I.

In the past, the Foreign Office has always judged every case on its merits, and we have been forced to agree. The development of the United Nations and all its satellite organisations has been a justification for doing it, and it is impossible to oppose every case officially in the House. None the less, this is a new fashion. Before the war, the only diplomatic immunity and privilege that was given was that accorded to the ambassadors of foreign States. The clerks, officials and others were treated like the rest of us. It was a real privilege given by the Government on behalf of the Sovereign, and we accepted similar privileges in return.

There now seems to be a headache of international courtesy, with which we cannot disagree in theory, but which seems to me now to be vast in quantity. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend how many foreigners may now come into this country as members of this new postwar privileged class, however justified each individual case may be on its merits.

I do not object to Clause 2. In spite of its somewhat unusual character, I think it is right, and it will certainly be convenient for the British forces in Germany. I see every Foreign Office reason for Clause 1 (1), but I wonder why it is necessary to include "parties." I can understand the reasons for judges and counsel not being liable to any legal proceedings in respect of acts performed in the exercise of their official duties—one expects lawyers to be respectable people—but is it really necessary to give the same freedom from legal liability to the parties to disputes who may come to this country to plead their cases? I hope I am right in saying that only the members of the Arbitration Tribunal or Arbitral Commission are covered by diplomatic immunity, and not the counsel, clerks, agents, lawyers and parties referred to by my right hon. Friend in dealing with Clause 1 (1).

Naturally, I cannot oppose the Bill because the Foreign Office has justified it, as it always does these cases, on its merits. However, I want to enter this mild protest about this extension of diplomatic privilege, which is a precious thing which we ought to extend to foreigners entering this country with some reluctance and the greatest possible care.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

As I see it, Clause 2 gives power to the Service authorities acting in Germany to seize or detain goods which are being imported or exported in contravention of the German Customs law. To put it in simpler language, and, I hope, not incorrectly simplifying, if British soldiers, sailors or airmen or their dependants try to smuggle goods in or out of the Federal Republic, it will be in the power of the Service authorities to confiscate the goods which they are trying to smuggle. Also, if I understand the provision aright, the Service authorities will not have any power to impose any further penalty for the attempt to smuggle than confiscation of the goods, for I see no further power referred to in the Clause.

If my interpretation of the Clause is right in that respect—I make no complaint about it—it will lead to a rather remarkable position. I should imagine that a citizen of the Federal Republic attempting to smuggle goods in and out of his country might, in certain circumstances, be liable to heavier penalties than confiscation of the goods, and British subjects who try to smuggle goods in and out of this country can be subjected to heavier penalties than confiscation of the goods.

The Clause would appear to create the situation that British Service personnel or the other persons listed in subsection (3) who try to smuggle goods in and out of Germany can do so in the knowledge that the worst that can happen to them is that they will have the goods taken away. I should like to know whether that is, in fact, the effect of the Clause. There appears to be nothing in the Clause about the imposition of any further penalty than confiscation for attempted smuggling. I shall be quite happy if that is the position, but we ought to know exactly what it is.

I would make this comment in general upon Clause 2. The extreme technicali- ties of the Bill ought not to disguise from us the importance of the principle involved in the Clause. It is another invasion—to my mind, a welcome invasion—of a conception of territorial sovereignty which has prevailed in Europe for the last four or five centuries. It has generally been assumed during that time that the law to which one was subject depended not on who one was but on where one was. Further back in history that was not so. For instance, if one was a merchant, priest or knight in the Middle Ages one carried certain legal rights with one wherever one went. Then came the national conception of law which meant that, whoever one was, one was subject to the law of the territory in which one was, and that has been the general rule for a long time.

Now we are beginning to invade that position. We are again saying that if one is a soldier of a certain force or the wife or other dependent of a soldier of a certain force one carries certain legal rights with one and one is not entirely subject to the tribunals of the country in which one is. That is comparable to our law which makes special provision for American troops in this country.

For that reason, I welcome it. It is one of the signs of the very gradual melting away of an old rigid concept of national sovereignty. I think that in time the Government, with the Governments of Allied Powers, will have to inquire into the whole body of principles on which this new approach to jurisdiction and sovereignty is to be made. At the moment, we are making one invasion here and one invasion there as the needs of the Atlantic Alliance or the Paris Treaties may require. What we are doing—perhaps we are not fully aware of it—is bringing back a much older conception of how law ought to be applied.

I make that general comment in welcoming the principles involved in Clause 2. I hope it may be possible for one of the Ministers on the Government Front Bench to answer the question which I put at the beginning of my remarks about the actual effect of the Clause.

4.37 p.m.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Harry Hylton-Foster)

I will endeavour to answer some of the points which have been raised and which are within my field.

I will begin with the points under Clause 2 relating to the problem of Customs enforcement. First, in answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) as to the destination of goods which are lawfully seized, one must deal with various different cases. It is the intention, because of its obvious convenience, that British military personnel forming part of the forces within the meaning of the Convention, when assisting German Customs officers to enforce shall, if necessary and proper, make confiscation from the members of Forces of our Allies.

They may well seize goods from a member of the French forces or a member of the United States forces. Should that happen, the intention is—it is purely administrative and does not require any law—that the property seized shall, with a proper report of the circumstances, be handed over at once to the superior force authorities of the person concerned, and all questions thereafter arising as to disposal or whether or not there has been a contravention of German Customs law and the like, will be dealt with by the Service superiors in the man's force.

As to the case of a confiscation by one of the members of our forces from one of the members of our forces, the intention is, always assuming the seizure to be lawful, that the goods will be disposed of for the benefit of Army funds, subject to payment of the requisite amount of Customs duty to the Germans.

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) raised the question of a member of the Services committing a violation of German Customs law and there being a penalty in addition to seizure. There is nothing in the Bill which in any way operates to prevent the ordinary Service penalties being imposed. My recollection is that where this has arisen before, and there has not been a specific order—and the intention is that now there will be—this used to be dealt with as "conduct to the prejudice" and additional penalties could be considered in that way.

It is not the intention that civilians should be subject to any penalty of court-martial in addition to confiscation, so in the case of a civilian member of the forces, within this definition, the penalty would be confiscation alone. So far as one can see, a member of the forces will be subject to his Service discipline and additional penalty under that. I hope that I have replied to all the queries about Clause 2.

Returning to Clause 1, the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East was a little suspicious, if I may use that phrase, of the way in which what the Convention calls the "natural person" and he and I call "the party" is dealt with. It was not intended in any sense to make any distinction between him and the others for the purposes of the Convention. But, without discourtesy to international conventions, I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree with me that they are sometimes a little difficult to interpret.

The Article to which he drew our attention, in page 109 of the Blue Book, talks about duties in relation to agents, counsel and representatives. The difficulty, so it seemed to us when drafting, was that a natural person does not have any duties at all, so it seemed fair and proper to express the clear intention of the Convention in the words which we have here used. That is why there is a distinction. It is not meant to effect a difference. I hope with that explanation I have covered the questions which I should answer.

4.43 p.m.

Mr. Turton

With permission, I want to deal with some of the less abstruse legal questions posed by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas). The position about the Arbitration Tribunal is as is stated in Article 2 of the Convention, which is that matters relating to the reunification of Germany are excluded and that the Arbitration Tribunal will deal only with disputes between the parties on other matters. The hon. and learned Member put to me a number of questions about West Germany's freedom and about what at first sight appeared not to be matters that could be brought before the Arbitration Tribunal. No doubt they could be matters that might well arise in another connection outside the scope of this debate—whether, for example, they were in conformity with undertakings given by the present German Federal Republic. However, those would be outside the scope of the Tribunal.

He then asked me about the Supreme Restitution Court and asked me why there was no international supervision of the restitution of trade union property. My answer is to remind him of a directive issued in 1947 by the Quadrupartite Control Council, under the Potsdam Agreement. That directive enjoined that trade unions and other democratic organisations were to receive back their property which was still held by the Nazi Party. In 1948, in the time of his Government, responsibility under that directive was given to three German Commissions one of which was to handle trade union claims, and more than 400 claims have been decided. So the answer is that that matter has been handed to German Commissions and the working out of these claims has proceeded far and satisfactorily and there has been no complaint.

Another question he asked related to the German compensation law, the compensation of victims of Nazi oppression. That is not subject to this Court, because again it was decided that it should be settled by German law and German courts. I do not think that I can say that the matter has proceeded as speedily as I should have hoped, but it is under constant attention by the Federal Government. They have set up a working party to see whether the law could not be improved. They are trying to speed up the appeals and I can assume the hon. and learned Gentleman that this matter has my constant attention, but this is outside the Supreme Restitution Court's jurisdiction.

The next question which he put to me and which has not been answered concerned appointments. The answer is that we have not yet announced appointments, but we have made considerable progress towards that and the passing of this Bill will no doubt speed the progress. I do not think that anything can be done quickly about the Arbitration Tribunal; for the Restitution Court we are considering names, and quite clearly those who have taken part in the work of the Court's predecessor will obviously be included in that consideration. The same applies to the Arbitration Tribunal. We have, in fact, made provisional nominations, but I do not want to make them public this afternoon, and we have a list of neutrals whom we think eligible for the three bodies, but in their case we have to get the agreement of the Powers and of Germany.

I want now to deal with the question of diplomatic privilege, which was raised by the hon. and learned Member and by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan). The hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether these privileges were really necessary and, if they were really necessary, why British persons did not also participate. The answer to the first question is that they are necessary. Here are tribunals which are normally situated outside this country and for certain purposes people may have to come into the country. Diplomatic privileges to be given include exemption from Income Tax, but not from water rate; immunity from arrest—it would be highly inconvenient for these people to be arrested on a visit; Customs immunity and inviolability of residence.

These are granted to foreign members and not British, because that is the common procedure. It is quite right that every British person should pay his Income Tax and it is very unfortunate when we find people evading that Income Tax. Equally, Customs immunities should not be granted to them. The immunities are given under the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1950, so we are acting on common form in this question of the immunities granted to international organisations and no question of waiver arises.

I assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Angus that we are watching very carefully, as did our predecessors, the number of people receiving diplomatic immunity. We believe diplomatic immunity to be most necessary in the case of these gentlemen presiding over tribunals who come for short periods to this country. However, I must say that the large number of people who receive diplomatic immunity does need consideration, especially to see whether such immunity is reciprocal and that we are merely giving what we are receiving. The Somervell Committee, appointed by the Labour Government, made a most interesting Report which the Government are duly considering.

Captain Duncan

My right hon. Friend did not give the numbers of people who are entitled to diplomatic immunity. If he cannot do it now, will he do it when he submits the four Orders which are on the Notice Paper?

Mr. Turton

I do not think that it would be in order to give the number of all those enjoying diplomatic immunity on an Order which merely deals with some matters in the South Sahara.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

Am I right when I ask whether we have not many more British subjects in international organisations and tribunals abroad who receive diplomatic immunities than we are ever likely to have foreigners here who receive immunities from us?

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. R. Allan.]

Committee Tomorrow.