HC Deb 29 November 1961 vol 650 cc423-4
12. Mr. Hale

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware of increased public concern at the growth in numbers of persons entitled to claim diplomatic privilege, and the increasing extent of the privilege claimed; and if he will take steps to reduce them.

Mr. P. Thomas

Many new foreign and Commonwealth diplomatic missions have been established in London in recent years. Unilateral or arbitrary limitation of the number of persons accorded privileges would not be practical, but continuous vigilance is exercised to ensure that diplomatic immunities and privileges attach only to persons functionally qualified to enjoy them.

Mr. Hale

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are now apparently 6,400 people in London who claim to be entitled to diplomatic privilege, that this privilege has recently been extended even to civil cases so that the persons concerned claim exemption from the liability to insure against motor accidents, that there have been cases where temporary, transient and menial employees of embassies have successfully claimed diplomatic privilege, and does not he agree that the result of the vigilance exercised up to now has been to make the position very much worse and one which is arousing very considerable public concern?

Mr. Thomas

It is inevitable that these numbers should increase as the numbers of diplomatic missions increase. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that all these privileges are reciprocal, and so we receive reciprocal immunities and privileges in the countries concerned.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

What steps is my hon. Friend taking to discuss with other countries means of cutting down this immunity?

Mr. Thomas

At the moment the matter is being considered by various countries in relation to the Vienna Agreement.