§ 10.30 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. William Rodgers)
I beg to move,That the Chairman do now report to the House that the Committee recommend that the International Organisations Bill [Lords] ought to be read a Second time.This Bill is designed to improve and bring up to date the legislation under which international organisations function in the United Kingdom. Its objects fall under three broad headings: first, to remedy technical defects in existing legislation; second, to make more adequate legislative provision for the implementation of our international obligations; and, third, to make it possible to bring United Kingdom practice nearer
§ to the practice of our fellow members of international organisations. It is a practical and unspectacular Measure but one which recognises the developing rôle of international organisations in world affairs and the wish, I am sure, of all of us to play a full part in them.
§ May I underline the basic philosophy behind the Bill before we get lost in detail or sidetracked by certain aspects of it looked at in isolation? At least since 1945, it has been the consistent policy of Governments of both main parties to support the creation and maintenance of international organisations to carry out inter-governmental functions. The United Nations with all its agencies is the outstanding example. We all believe in 1257 collective and co-ordinated activity in the economic, social, technical and political fields, and the area of it is increasing. But if we in Britain welcome the growth of international co-operation we must provide the means to make it effective and keep in step with the approach and practices of other countries. That is the purpose against which this Bill must be judged.
§ There; is also the question of encouraging international organisations to set up their headquarters or permanent establishments in this country. If we are genuine in our enthusiasm for international co-operation, we should be ready—perhaps even eager—to welcome organisations here. To be more hard-headed, the financial and political and perhaps commercial advantages are obvious. But if we want to act as hosts, we must treat international organisations properly and offer conditions comparable with those which other countries are prepared to offer. This Bill is designed to enable as to do just that.
§ The Chairman
Order. I regret to inform the hon. Member for Rhondda, East (Mr. G. Elfed Davies) that he is not a member of this Committee. I must ask him, please, to withdraw.
§ Mr. G. Elfed Davies (Rhondda, East)
All I can say, Mr. Probert, is that I have had a notification to be here.
§ The Chairman
In the circumstances, perhaps the hon. Member will kindly withdraw for the moment. I will have it checked, but he is certainly not on my list.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I hope that international organisations which we may welcome here will order their affairs more clearly than we appear to have done.
There is one further important point, which, I think, is the heart of this Bill, and that is that it is an enabling Bill. In this it follows the basic structure of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act of 1950. The principal Clauses—Clauses 1 to 5—contain powers enabling Orders in Council to be made to give effect to agreements relating to particular organisations and their staff. These will require an Affirmative Resolution of the House. Thus Parliament will exercise direct control over each agreement. Only Clause 6, which 1258 contains similar provisions relating to conferences, which are obviously in a different category, requires an Order subject to the negative procedure.
I have mentioned " immunities and privileges " and will do so again. It is a phrase which I know from experience tends to make the hackles rise. It conjures up for some a vision not unlike that of a wartime profiteer—sleek and well-heeled, a cut above ordinary men, living on cheap petrol and cheap gin. But immunities and privileges applied to diplomats or consular staff or the staff of international organisations are much more prosaic in their origin and rational in their intentions and reflect the mutual needs of the Governments or organisations concerned. They are designed to provide the appropriate degree of independence for organisations so that they can perform their duties effectively and in the interest of all their members.
Even the hoary old issue of wines and spirits free of Customs duty derives directly from the sound rule that the host Government should not tax other Governments through their representatives. In the case of international organisations, it is surely right that the host Government should not seek to gain a fiscal benefit from the presence in its territory of the staff of an international organisation financed by many Governments.
There is, in fact, a vital principle involved in the functional independence of international organisations. There are three main aspects of that. First, an international organisation needs a status which protects it against interference by any one government in the discharge of its responsibilities to all its member Governments. There is, first, that need for protection. Secondly, no one Government should derive undue financial advantage by levying taxes or charges which are borne ultimately by collective funds. Again that is a wholly defensible principle. Thirdly, an international organisation should be accorded immunities and facilities for the conduct of its official business, which represents and reflects the sovereign character of its individual member States.
May I emphasise today, as I did on the Consular Relations Bill some time ago, the obvious element of reciprocity? This is not a one-way traffic in which we give and gain no advantage. The United 1259 Kingdom benefits from the practical application by other Governments of the principle of the functional independence of international organisations, since it is in the United Kingdom's interest that the organisations should be effective and should give good value for the money contributed by members. We, too, must play our part by providing suitable conditions for the operations of international organisations in the United Kingdom.
This is a matter of practical need and not, as is sometimes argued, a mere matter of enhancing the personal status of the individuals who work for international organisations. Their status is not for their own enjoyment but for the benefit of the organisation to whose service they are pledged, that is to say, ultimately for the benefit of all the members, which, of course, would include the United Kingdom.
International organisations and their officials are relative latecomers to the world scene, but the immunities and privileges, as I must call them, of diplomatic missions—although established generally in international law for two centuries—have been codified only as recently as 1961 by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which I know is familiar to some members of this Committee. It is not surprising, therefore, that so far there has been no comparable codification in respect of international organisations.
This is one of the subjects on the Agenda of the International Law Commission of the United Nations, and, on a United Kingdom initiative, a study of the subject is also going on in the Council of Europe. Eventually these studies may lead to the conclusion of a general international Convention laying down the guidelines for the grant of immunities and privileges to international organisations and persons connected with them. I hope so. Meanwhile, we need legislative power to give effect by Order in Council to the separate Agreements with international organisations which we have at present or may wish to conclude.
The basic structure of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950 has been retained in this Bill. The most important innovations are to be found in Clauses 2 and 3.
1260 The purpose of Clause 2 is to give power to reduce the existing discrepancy between the treatment which we give in the United Kingdom to senior staff working at the headquarters of a Specialised Agency of the United Nations and the treatment which their colleagues of the same rank in the Headquarters of other Specialised Agencies enjoy in other countries, for example, Italy, France, Switzerland or Canada. Under bilateral headquarters agreements between other Specialised Agencies and their host States, senior staff are given an entitlement to virtually all the privileges and immunities of diplomats.
We are not able to follow suit as, under the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950, we have no power to make any distinction of treatment between the senior professional staff of the headquarters of a Specialised Agency and their secretaries or their clerks. The only distinction of treatment possible under the 1950 Act is that between a "high officer"— that is, an officer in one of the top posts —who is equated for this purpose to the head of a diplomatic mission—for example, an ambassador—and all the rest of the staff. We cannot at the moment make any greater distinctions than that.
The proposals in Clause 2 deal only with privileges. As I have said, they do not change the position whereby staff members other than high officers are immune from the jurisdiction of our courts only in respect of their official acts—and I emphasise that.
By introducing into the existing arrangements an improved régime for senior professional staff, a structure of privileges would be created for the headquarters staff of a Specialised Agency which would be not unlike that which is applied to diplomatic missions under the Diplomatic Privileges Act, 1964. With diplomatic missions, the scale of privileges is reduced progressively from that applied to the head of the mission, the Ambassador, via the scales for the diplomatic staff—whose privileges are rather less than those of the head of the mission —and the technical and administrative staff right down to the domestic service staff.
1261 Clause 2 proposes no change in the privileges of the high officer or officers, or of the technical, administrative or service staff. The domestic service staff of international organisations have in most cases no entitlement whatever to immunities or privileges. But it would interpose a new scale of privileges for officials whose duties and responsibilities are comparable with those of diplomats. Again I would emphasise that there is comparability between international organisations and missions of one country in another. It would give power to accord to these officials the same qualified exemption as is given to diplomats in respect of the taxation of income or capital gains arising overseas, and in respect of rates, and the same customs privileges as are given to diplomats.
We regard this proposal to bring the United Kingdom practice nearer to the practice of other member States of the United Nations as a necessary and obvious improvement for a country which is most concerned to prosper international co-operation and to support the Agencies of the United Nations. Only one Specialised Agency of the United Nations, the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation— I.M.C.O.—has established its headquarters in this country. That organisation does valuable work mainly in maritime safety. It is the organisation dealing principally with the problems which have arisen internationally as a result of the Torrey Canyon incident. We are concerned to provide the members of its senior staff with something nearer the "diplomatic" standard of treatment which they could expect to enjoy if the headquarters of the organisation were situated in another country.
May I emphasise that those who now work for this organisation, from which we, as a member State, gain many benefits, would be substantially better off if its headquarters were situated elsewhere. That is one of the principal anomalies which we think should be cleared up by this Bill. Equally, we think that those who work for an organisation of that importance should have standards more nearly approaching those of diplomats serving on behalf of foreign countries in the United Kingdom.
1262 We wish to follow the established practice of other host States to Specialised Agencies of the United Nations by concluding a bilateral headquarters agreement between Her Majesty's Government and I.M.C.O. A resolution was adopted by the Assembly of I.M.C.O. in 1963 approving the principle of a supplemental Agreement based on accepted principles governing the United Nations Specialised Agencies, to be concluded between the organisation and the United Kingdom. I am glad to say that the resolution also mentioned the co-operative spirit of the United Kingdom during the organisation's formative years—a cooperative spirit to which we are hoping to give continuing effect in this Biill.
As a result of this resolution, there have been talks, followed by negotiations, which both Her Majesty's Government and I.M.C.O. are concerned to bring to a conclusion in the near future. A draft of the proposed Headquarters Agreement has been drawn up and has recently been approved by the Council of I.M.C.O.; but it cannot be signed unless power is given in this Bill to make the privileges of senior staff comparable to those of their colleagues in the headquarters of other Specialised Agencies in other countries. If the Bill reaches the Statute Book, we intend to lay before Parliament a draft Order in Council applying the provisions of Clause 2 to I.M.C.O. so that the headquarters agreement may be concluded.
Clause 3 replaces and amends the European Coal and Steel Community Act 1955. The High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community has been subsumed in the new Commission of the European Communities, which is the joint executive organ of the European Economic Community, the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Coal and Steel Community—a change with which all Members are familiar. The references in the 1955 Act to the Chief Representative of the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community are no longer appropriate. The Delegation has remained in London representing the Commission of the European Communities, and our law should reflect this new situation.
Clause 3 would also give power to accord to the senior professional staff of the Delegation of the Commission of the 1263 European Communities certain privileges additional to those provided by the European Coal and Steel Community Act, 1955, to which I have just referred. We need this authority to empower us to give staff of the Delegation whose duties and responsibilities are equivalent to those of diplomatic agents—I return once again to this important point-parity of treatment with the treatment which the members of the United Kingdom Delegation to the European Communities enjoy in Brussels by courtesy of the Belgian Government. Again, we have the important principle of reciprocity. We benefit, and we ought to offer to others the benefits which we expect for ourselves.
If the Bill becomes law, we intend to lay before Parliament a draft Order in Council regulating the status of the Delegation in the United Kingdom of the Commission of the European Communities.
There are five further points about the Bill which I think it would be helpful for me to speak briefly at this stage so that there will be no question of my not having put the picture as fully to the Committee as I can in the time which it is reasonable to take.
Section 3 of the 1950 Act gives power to confer immunities and privileges on judges, suitors, counsel and so on, but only in regard to the International Court of Justice. Clause 5 of the Bill extends this provision to cover comprehensively persons participating in proceedings before any person or body exercising judicial, arbitral, fact-finding or conciliatory functions under the terms of an international agreement. This would enable the United Kingdom to become a party to a proposed Council of Europe Agreement, which I know that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) and others will approve, and it will relate to persons participating in the proceedings of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights.
The 1950 Act provides for the inviolability of premises only when these are occupied as offices. International agreements do not in general contain a comparable limitation. As more international organisations are established for scientific and technical purposes, difficulties could arise in relation to premises used 1264 as laboratories or workshops. Paragraph 2 in Schedule 1 of the Bill would remove the limitation, and enable the United Kingdom to meet its international obligations in respect of premises. We would do everything, of course, to ensure that any organisation which set up an establishment in the United Kingdom was placed under an express obligation, so that the needs of safety and public health as well as of law and order are safeguarded. I give that undertaking.
In 1963 the Government of the day acknowledged that the United Kingdom was in breach of its international obligations in not according a qualified rating relief to the high officers of certain international organisations and undertook to introduce legislation to confer that relief. Statutory cover is now, so many years later, proposed in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 of the Bill.
The opportunity of the Bill is being taken to propose, in paragraph 13 of Schedule 1, that international organisations be exempted from United Kingdom social security obligations in respect of foreign staff. This exemption is accorded to diplomatic missions by virtue of Article 33 of the First Schedule of the Diplomatic Privileges Act, 1964. That Act is very largely concerned to remove or at least modify existing anomalies. It is an anomaly that international organisations and their foreign staffs have remained liable to pay National Insurance contributions.
My final point is about the terminology used. The references in the Schedule of the 1950 Act toan envoy of a foreign sovereign powerandthe retinue of such an envoyare delightfully old-worldly but out-of-date. In the Schedule of the Bill hon. Members will find the terms used in the Diplomatic Privileges Act, 1964 and now established in international usage—"head of a diplomatic mission" "diplomatic agent" by which we mean "agent" as we understand it, and "technical and administrative staff ". We hope that the use of these terms will make it clear that clarification, when needed, is to be found in the Diplomatic Privileges Act.
To sum up, in broad terms the Bill is designed to enable us to treat certain international organisations and their staff 1265 as well as they are treated in other countries and in circumstances similar to those prevailing for the missions of other countries and their diplomats. Our immediate intention is to carry out our obligations to the one United Nations Specialised Agency in the United Kingdom, I.M.C.O., and to regularise our relationship with the London Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities.
I have tried to make my introductory remarks short, but I shall be glad to discuss points of detail either in replying this morning, or, perhaps more appropriately, at the Committee stage. I hope that hon. Members feel that this is a useful Bill and one entirely in keeping with our support for international organisations as one means, however small, of achieving ordered co-operation in a disordered world.
§ 10.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
As this is the first time on which I, and no doubt other hon. Members, have sat in a Committee of this kind, I hope, Mr. Probert, that you will be gentle with any lapses that we may make from the established procedure.
When the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, introduced this Bill in another place he described it as a complicated Bill and I think that all of us are grateful for the Under-Secretary's lucidity which has certainly dispelled a certain amount of the confusion which existed in my mind.
During the debates in another place, the spokesman for the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Bessborough, put a number of questions to the Government spokesman. Almost all of them, I am glad to say, were answered to the complete satisfaction of my noble Friend and myself. Therefore I can promise the Committee that my speech on this occasion will be unusually short.
Recently, in this room, we discussed the Consular Relations Bill, as the hon. Gentleman reminded us, which in itself was the natural companion of the Diplomatic Relations Bill which came earlier. The Opposition clearly have no objection in principle to the bringing up-to-date of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act 1950, in order to provide, as I understand it, this modern tripod with the third leg which it needs.
1266 In order to justify the Measure, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, used these words:… we should do what we can to attract these international organisations to this country since we receive a certain amount of ' spin-off '."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 29th April, 1968; Vol. 291, c. 932.]The Under-Secretary has used slightly different words today, but he has spoken in the same sense. I understand the noble Lord was using that metaphor in the sense other than that in which it is generally understood in cricketing circles. In the cricketing sense we have recently had evidence that "spin-off" can be extremely uncomfortable.
Most of us, however, would agree with the noble Lord, and the hon. Gentleman, that it is very much to our advantage to act as hosts to international organisations and to be willing to pay a modest price in privileges and immunities for doing so. But I believe that there are two reasons why we should be a little cautious. The first has been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman—the rapid multiplication of such international organisations during the last two decades, and, as far as any of us can see, their likely similar growth in the future.
As ease of travel continues to contract the world, and as it becomes more and more plain to most of us that it is only by surrendering a greater degree of national sovereignty that nations as we at present know them can survive, we have before us the prospect of an almost infinite expansion of international organisations in which Great Britain will be expected to play her part. Therefore, we may, in the years to come, be making by this Bill a very significant addition to the total of immunities which we at present accord to those international organisations which exist at present, on top, of course, of the immunities that we accord through the other two Acts which I have mentioned. This is not to argue against making any such additions, but it is, in my opinion, a reason for doing so with caution and with a full awareness of what we are doing.
The second reason for caution is, I believe, more important. It is clearly impossible in the case of these immunities —and I think the hon. Gentleman, although he put it in a slightly different way would probably agree—unlike the 1267 privileges we accord to diplomats and consuls, to insist on exact reciprocity. We can hope that organisations in other countries in which we are represented will be treated in the same way, but this is not the exact reciprocity which we can insist on in the case of diplomats and consuls. But before making Orders in Council under the various Clauses of this Bill, I assume, and would like reassurance on this at the end from the hon. Gentleman—I think he has already gone a good deal of the way to giving it—that the Government intend to satisfy themselves that the foreign sovereign powers who will benefit from the immunities under the Bill are prepared, or would be prepared, to accord the same privileges to our nationals in comparable circumstances.
I am not quite clear about the distinction which is made, at the very heart of the Bill, in Clause l(1)(a). between an organisation of which the United Kingdom is a member and an organisation of which Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is a member. Presumably, and I understood the hon. Gentleman's speech in this sense, the organisations with which this Bill is concerned are governmental or quasi-governmental, because there are a whole host of other organisations of which the United Kingdom is a member. It is a vast range, which deals with sport and the arts and special interests, which, I presume, would not qualify for the protection provided by the Bill.
I have acquired a long list of these organisations, some of which presumably have their main headquarters in this country. I assume that it is not the intention of the Bill, however worthy the confederation may be, to accord these privileges to the International Confederation of Accordionists, which I see is represented in this country, or indeed, the War Resisters' International or the World Peace Brigade, which I see have their office at the same address. Then there is the English Speaking Union, which is a very estimable body, but one which I would think would hardly qualify for inclusion here, and the International Council Against Bullfighting, which some of us may or may not support, but which I doubt would qualify under this Bill. Lastly, I want to mention, out of this 1268 long list, the British Empire and Commonwealth Weight-lifting Council, which has its headquarters at Oxford.
Will the hon. Gentleman, when he replies, make quite clear whether the only organisations to which the Bill refers are the governmental or quasi-governmental organisations. Perhaps, in doing so, he would also explain the apparent distinction which is made in Clause 1(1)(a) between the United Kingdom and Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.
Next, the hon. Gentleman told us about the new arrangements for the specialised agencies of the United Nations. I have been trying to find out which specialised agencies have their headquarters here. So far I have not been able to do so. Are there any at the moment in this country, and what are the prospects of other agencies coming here?
Lastly, on this point, Clause 4 is headed:Other organisations of which United Kingdom is not a member.Can the hon. Gentleman give us a little information about what privileges we are giving to organisations in which we are apparently not represented?
I do not think he went into detail about it, but I appreciate the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, of the different arrangements proposed for Orders in Council, under Clauses 1 to 5 on the one hand, and Clause 6 on the other. In the debate in another place, the noble Lord explained that most of these latter Orders in Clause 6:… will be in regard to conferences which are for a very short period, and therefore it would be cumbersome if such Orders were required to go through both Houses."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 29th April, 1968; Vol. 291, c. 936.]I understand and appreciate that point but, for the Orders under Clause 6, I notice that the privileges and immunities to be accorded under Part II of Schedule 1 can be conferred only on the nationals of a foreign power if that foreign power has attained its sovereignty.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us what has been in the past, and what is to be in the future, the position of those taking part, for instance, in a conference which is concerned with the constitutional future of a non-sovereign territory? I 1269 understand that Clause 6 deals in the main with conferences which are going to set up organisations, but does it apply to all international conferences? If so, does it apply to conferences with nations that have not yet attained their sovereignty? If such nationals are not protected, is there not a case for affording them the protection which is afforded to other temporary bodies under Clause 6?
I return to a point which I made earlier about the need for caution. Is the hon. Gentleman completely satisfied that all foreign nations, for the benefit of whose nationals we may be prepared to afford some or all privileges and immunities listed in Schedule 1, have the power to grant similar privileges and immunities in comparable circumstances for international organisations in their own countries?
While agreeing with the principle of the Bill and its necessity, my hon. Friends and I were concerned when we considered the Consular Relations Bill that, as far as possible, there must be a quid pro quo and that we should not be willing to extend—I think that the hon. Gentleman will give us complete satisfaction on this—the widening field of immunities unless it is clearly in the interests of this country to do so.
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I intervene briefly because, in the past few years, I have participated on both sides of the fence in this issue. Hon. Members are particularly jealous on this question of privilege and immunity and we must be careful on this occasion that we do not remove from the House itself, or certain Members of the House—I do not regard this as a matter of party dispute—what some of them may regard as a fundamental matter of Parliamentary importance.
This is the first time that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and I have sat in Committee under these new rules. It may well be useful to carry out the procedure in this way, but we must safeguard this point which I know from past experience is one on which a large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House of Commons feel very strongly.
Except sometimes for those given to ourselves, Parliament, for a long 1270 time, has been very jealous of giving privileges and immunities. It has been particularly jealous of giving them to people who come from overseas. I do not think that this arose before the war in any substantial way, but since 1945 there has been a considerable growth in the number of international organisations and of individuals who are not, in the proper sense of the word, diplomats.
I think that it is quite clear to the public outside, if they ever have this matter brought to their attention, that this Bill does not extend in any way the privileges and immunities of diplomats as such. There is a strong feeling, which I share with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) that certain diplomats have taken undue advantage on occasions in the past of their privileges and immunities. The Bill is designed to encourage international organisations to make their headquarters in this country by giving them the solemn rights and privileges which are enjoyed by international organisations in other centres. If there is any disadvantage and there is the occasional shortcoming by individuals, I feel very strongly on balance that it is well worth while having international organisations here.
I hope that the Under-Secretary's remarks about wartime profiteering will not be ascribed to any existing international organisation or to any particular diplomatic establishment. Not having met any wartime profiteers, I am no judge of exactly what is meant by that term. I have noticed over the years that few categories, if any, of honourable and less honourable Members of the House of Commons or the public have held back from enjoying the benefits of tax-free wines. I have noticed too, if I am not out of order in saying so, that very often those who advocate stronger action —both private individuals and businesses —about having a certain amount of hospitality available for others are those individuals who most enjoy the hospitality which is offered to them from time to time by international organisations.
If there are shortcomings on occasions on the part of some international organisations, these are well offset, in my opinion, by the advantages of having 1271 them with us. It is not just some relatively small, material advantage of having them spend a certain amount of money in our country; it is the great value of having international organisations here with which we as individuals, and other organisations in our country, can co-operate, discuss things in private and work out joint projects together. This is not an advantage only for Members of Parliament or officials. It is an advantage also for private citizens, business people, and so on.
The United Nations Specialised Agencies are covered by the Bill. As far as I know there is none already established. I wish there were. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington spoke about a quid pro quo. My own experience is that foreign countries have been very forthcoming in giving diplomatic privileges and immunities to international organisations, and that is why those organisations find it better to go to other places than to come here.
When the Under-Secretary replies to the point raised by my right hon. Friend on the phrase "representatives of a foreign sovereign Power" in Clause 6(2), will he say whether I am right in assuming that that would include any member of a Commonwealth country who recognises the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth and that such members are not precluded, if they take service in an international organisation, from enjoying these privileges?
Recognising the correct jealousy of Parliament about extending diplomatic privileges and immunities, I regard the Bill as desirable. I regret that few organisations have hitherto established themselves in this country, and I am delighted that I.M.C.O. has come to rest here. I believe that our failure be as forthcoming as other countries in giving them certain benefits has discouraged international organisations from coming here. I hope that in future the Bill will cause a number of international organisations to come here. I believe that it will be to their benefit, and certainly to ours.
§ 11.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)
I welcome this significant Bill. It is significant not only in terms of the practical measures which it is putting forward but also because it 1272 gives some substance to our claim that it is our intention increasingly to work through international agencies in our foreign policy. The events of recent months have indicated very clearly that, although the pressures on Britain are no less great than they have ever been in our history and in some ways are far greater, we are no longer in the traditional position which was ours in history to police and look after our interests alone.
As a country, not just from an idealistic standpoint but from a very practical standpoint in foreign policy, increasingly we shall have to work through international agencies to further our own enlightened self-interest. From this standpoint, it is tremendously important that Measures such as this Bill should be speedily implemented so that we can demonstrate our good faith.
In support of those who have already raised this issue, I hope that the responsible Ministers will never miss an opportunity to discuss with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and others the possibility of introducing into London the work of some of the Specialised Agencies.
§ 11.16 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I am sure that the Bill is worthy of a Second Reading, but there are two points upon which I wish to be reassured by the Under-Secretary.
We note that both Houses of Parliament will have direct control, through the Order in Council procedure, over the agreements with individual organisations. No sensible person objects to the immunities and privileges so authorised, but we want to make sure that everybody plays the game according to the same rules.
Unfortunately, in the past there has been considerable evidence that this is not so. For example, Ethiopia, a country which I have never had an opportunity to visit, is often mentioned in the Press and elsewhere as an undercover base, under diplomatic immunity, for all sorts of Iron Curtain and Bamboo Curtain organisations with undesirable activities in Africa. I do not know whether that is so, but it is certainly well known that many diplomatic and other missions in 1273 Ethiopia have on their staffs large numbers of persons, quite out of proportion to their requirements. That is a situation against which we in Britain have to protect ourselves. Would it be possible in each of these individual agreements to specify the number of persons authorised to be covered by them?
Secondly, when it is evident that the agreement is being abused for undercover subversion or used as an excuse for outrageous behaviour—I instance recent incidents in London concerned with Chinese so-called diplomats—what sanctions can we bring to bear to discourage and prevent such abuses?
One detail arises out of what the Undersecretary said concerning Clause 2(2)(a). It reads:… exemption or relief from income tax, capital gains tax and rates …When referring to capital gains, I thought that the hon. Member said, "arising overseas". If that is so, I am well satisfied, but I want to be sure that people covered by these future agreements do not indulge in speculation in property or in industrial equities in this country. For them to do so would be quite wrong, and it must he excluded. If I have an assurance on that point, too, I shall be well satisfied.
§ 11.18 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
I intervene only to ask a question before the Under-Secretary of State replies to this short debate. Like my hon. Friends, I am pleased that the Government are at last bringing forward this Measure. We have had to wait a long time for it in view of promises which were made a long time ago.
In this connection, what timetable have the Government in mind in relation to the Orders, which are the important point, in a sense, arising from the Bill? We shall be interested to see those Orders when they are laid and interested to see the bodies to which the provisions of the Bill will apply. Are the Orders more or less ready now? Will they be brought before the House immediately after the passing of the Bill?
§ 11.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Rodgers
May I have leave to reply? I shall try to reply to some of the points made, but I hope that the 1274 Committee will forgive me for the fact that in this new procedure it is not easy, at the end of a Second Reading debate, to deal in detail with all the issues raised, certainly not without engaging the Committee for longer than, I am sure, it would like.
I am most grateful for the welcome which has been given to the Bill from both sides of the Committee and for the clear appreciation of its purpose. I can certainly give the assurance requested by the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) about being cautious and vigilant in introducing Orders. The fact that we intend to have Orders which would require the affirmative procedure gives the House an important safeguard. In addition, we shall take every care to make sure that when we introduce the Orders they satisfy the proper concern of the House about immunities and privileges and about the behaviour of those who come here.
Further, in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), I would say that our final safeguard is the good sense of the international organisations. He mentioned an unhappy example last summer, but that concerned not an international organisation but the mission of a country with whom our relations are far from normal. We may, therefore, assume that if all international organisations here are conducted as they have been conducted in the past, here and elsewhere, there is no danger of the abuse against which he properly warned us and which might cause offence to many people.
In passing, I can also give him the assurance which he required—he was quite right—that the question of capital gains arises on investments in other countries and not on investments in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I do not think so. If an international organisation, of which we were a member, were functioning in another country, the important point is that it should be free to function as under the aegis of all member States and free to make its own decisions about the 1275 level of its staff. It would be difficult, in the first place, to set out numbers, because we should not know how many staff would be required in changing circumstances. More important, it would be a restriction which might have unsatisfactory consequences if international organisations were situated not in the United Kingdom but in other countries which were less responsible or perhaps less scrupulous. It might be a method by which they could affect the numbers of staff for their own purposes by placing this restriction on them. I do not think that it would be desirable to set out numbers, and I could not give an undertaking in that respect. At the end of the day we must rely mainly on their good sense.
But I can give the right hon. Member for Bridlington an undertaking that the privileges and immunities in the Bill will not apply to bull fighting, draft resisting or weight lifting. A distinction is made between States and Governments, but that has no practical significance. It is a formula which merely follows that already used, which varies from time to time in Agreements reached between States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), in welcoming the Bill, said that he hoped that we should not miss an opportunity to attract other organisations here. In my speech I said that the only one of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations at present in London is I.M.C.O. If we found it possible—and it may prove easier under this Bill—to attract other Specialised Agencies to London to establish their headquarters here—we should certainly seek to do so.
There are some international organisations of which we are not eligible to be members. They are often organisations of a regional character. For example, there is an inter-African coffee organisation which, for very good reasons—and it might be in our commercial interests that it should do so—might want to establish a headquarters or a mission of some kind here. But as the Committee has seen, in the Bill the privileges and immunities for such an organisation would be of a very restrictive kind, and at present none is given to any organisation.
The right hon. Gentleman made some points about Clause 6 and conferences 1276 which I will consider further. However, the answer to him is that any people attending these conferences, wherever they may come from, will be protected under the Bill, although the Bill does not apply to the Commonwealth, which has its own arrangements, and we can see that new international organisations for Commonwealth co-operation are encompassed by the Commonwealth Secretariat which is dealt with in separate legislation.
I am afraid that I cannot at the moment give the right hon. Gentleman Chapter and verse about how far other countries have the power to grant the facilities envisaged by this Bill. But, as I said, if we consider the present Specialised Agencies of the United Nations—for example, F.O.A. in Rome; U.N.E.S.C.O. in Paris; I.L.O. in Switzerland; and the International Aviation Authority of Canada—we see that in all these cases they receive privileges and immunities which are at least comparable with those which are set out in this legislation.
We shall, of course, seek to introduce the Orders as soon as possible. I am sorry that at the moment I cannot give a date for them. But I will try to help my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) at the Committee stage. It is sometimes wise in the conduct of Parliamentary business, even with non-controversial Bills, to consider getting the Bills through first before being hard and fast about the likely time-table. If I can help my hon. Friend I will certainly do so when we reach the next stage of the Bill.
I am grateful for the attention which has been given to this Measure this morning. It has been grasped that the object is to equate the immunities and privileges of international organisations— which have, as I said, rational foundation—more nearly with those available to the organisations elsewhere and with those available to diplomats in this country.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West said, the Bill gives some substance to our claim that we wish to use the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations as far as possible and to give them our full support. I hope 1277 that the Bill will now receive the Committee's approval.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Mr. Rodgers
Under the procedure which we follow, I have a privilege which would be denied me on Second Reading on the Floor of the House—the privilege of thanking you, Mr. Probert, for your patience in presiding over our proceedings this morning and for enabling us to
|THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:|
|Probert, Mr. (Chairman)||Luard, Mr.|
|Binns, Mr.||McKay, Mrs.|
|Blenkinsop, Mr.||Marten, Mr.|
|Booth, Mr.||Maydon, Lieutenant-Commander|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest A.||Park, Mr.|
|Dodds-Parker, Mr.||Rodgers, Mr. William|
|Evans, Mr. loan L.||Wall, Mr.|
|Hamilton, Lord||Walters, Mr.|
|Judd, Mr.||Wood. Mr.|
§ get through the business in such a temperate way at such an early hour.
§ Mr. Wood
I hope that I may be forgiven for speaking a second time in order to second that expression of thanks. May I thank you very much, Mr. Probert, for presiding over the Committee and express regret that the only executive action which you were called upon to perform was the removal of an hon. Member who, in fact, was not a member of the Committee. As the Under-Secretary said, I hope that we shall examine very carefully our own immunities and privileges.
§ Committee rose at twenty-nine minutes past Eleven o'clock.