HL Deb 16 May 1950 vol 167 cc293-9

2.50 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1:

Amendments of 7 and 8 Geo. 6. c. 44

(3) In the proviso to subsection (2) of section one of the said Act of 1944 as amended as aforesaid (which proviso provides that an Order in Council relating to an organisation to which the said section one applies shall not confer any immunity or privilege upon any person as the representative of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom or as a member of the staff of such a representative), after the words "shall not confer" there shall be inserted the words "on any person any immunities or privileges greater in extent than those which, at the time of the making of the Order, are required to be conferred on that person in order to give effect to any international agreement in that behalf and shall not confer."

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (3) to omit "after the words shall not confer'" and to insert: for the words 'shall not confer any immunity or privilege'.

The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, there are, in fact, six Amendments on the Order Paper, all intended to meet the same point, and I will briefly describe what that point is. I think we all agree that Parliament is entitled to look jealously and closely at any extension of diplomatic privilege. Consequently, I have already accepted an Amendment which provides that there must he an affirmative Resolution of Parliament before any of the privileges which will be outlined in the Order in Council can be given. Secondly, I have already moved an Amendment to the effect that no privilege may be given by an Order in Council except where the International Agreement in question expressly requires that such a privilege shall be given.

It occurred to Lord Simon, who was good enough to communicate with me—and in discussion he was supported by Lord Maugham—that there was a danger lest, under the provisions of Part IV of the earlier Act, certain privileges might, as it were, be automatically carried over. We came to the conclusion that no privilege should be given to the staff or to the wives and families of any persons unless Parliament had expressly directed that that should be done. Consequently, this Amendment, though a small one, is to secure that before any privilege is conferred on any person, Parliament shall be actively concerned in so doing, and that there shall be, so to speak, no automatic privilege. It comes to this: that because you confer a privilege on A, you shall not confer that privilege on B, B having some relationship to A. That is the object of all these Amendments and, with that explanation, I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 7, leave out ("after the words 'shall not confer'") and insert the said new words.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I feel sure that the House will be grateful for the Amendment now proposed by the Lord Chancellor, which I have had the opportunity of examining and which I feel completely meets the doubt that one or two of us ventured to express. As the Bill will now be altered by these Amendments, it will be perfectly clear that no privilege or immunity will be enjoyed by any individual unless that individual falls strictly within the language of the International Agreement, which, of course, we should all wish to implement. That being so, I think the Bill is now put in very good order and, speaking personally, I am much obliged to the Lord Chancellor for the trouble he has taken about it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The other Amendments really deal with the same point. I will move them formally, one by one, and I beg to move the first Amendment at page 2, line 8.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 8, leave out ("inserted") and insert ("substituted").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 8, after ("words") insert ("shall be so framed as to secure that there are not conferred").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 12, leave out ("shall not confer") and insert ("that no immunity or privilege is conferred").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Second Schedule [Subsections (1) and (2) of section one of, and the Schedule to, the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1944, as amended]:


I beg to move the first Amendment to the Second Schedule. It is merely consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 19, leave out ("not confer") and insert ("be so framed as to secure that there are not conferred").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the last Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 23, leave out ("shall not confer any immunity or privilege") and insert ("that no immunity or privilege is conferred").—The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been dispensed with:


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read 3a.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, may I just observe that the Bill in the form in which it now stands will undoubtedly leave this House in far better shape than that in which we received it? There were two quite serious defects in the Bill as it came to us from the Commons. There was then nothing in the Bill which secured that these privileges and immunities should be limited to what was stipulated in the International Agreement, and there was nothing in the Bill giving Parliament effective control over the Order in Council which would be made under the authority of the Bill. Both these criticisms have been fully met, and I think the Bill is now in such a shape that we can all be confident that what was really intended is carried out by its language.

I strongly share the view which the Lord Chancellor expressed in Committee on the Bill and which is reported in Column 187 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for May 9, when he said: I myself feel that we have gone perhaps a little too far in this idea of extending the whole doctrine of diplomatic privilege to include all sorts of people who take part in international discussions. He was good enough Ito go on to say that he agreed with me that we should cut down the principle or, at any rate, not extend it unnecessarily. There is this very important difference to be borne in mind. When there is a privilege or immunity that is granted by custom and by international law to an ambassador and to his staff or entourage, if some grave event occurs by which one of our own subjects may suffer or which is not consistent with proper behaviour, we have an immediate remedy in that we can complain to the State from which the ambassador comes and, indeed, in an extreme case, can say of a diplomat that he is no longer persona grata; and thereupon the offender is removed. Indeed, as a rule the foreign State recognises that it is a case for compensation and adjusts the matter accordingly.

But if you extend this class of privilege too widely and freely to a large number of individuals who are not the representatives of their State at all but are selected as individuals to discharge no doubt important functions in an international conference, no remedy of that sort is available to you. While, therefore, I should be among the first to accept that these international organisations are of the greatest importance, and it may be that the future of the world will largely depend upon the way in which they act, I doubt very much whether it is necessary to confer this class of privilege with too lavish a hand. I do not think that any harm will happen to any of us if we attend international conferences without being armed with these privileges. While it may be right, within limitations, to provide for this new kind of privilege, I would respectfully agree with the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor that there is great danger in going too far. We have now secured, by this Bill, that whatever is done in future in this class of matter will be under the effective control of Parliament—which is as it should be. That being so, I feel that we have done a useful piece of work, and perhaps I may be allowed to repeat that I feel a great deal of gratitude to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for the care which he has shown in revising this extremely complicated measure, which I hope will shortly appear in a more intelligible form in a Consolidating Statute.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, as one who had a good deal to do with this question of immunity, both when I was at the Bar and when I was on the Bench, may I say that I fully agree with what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said on a previous occasion—which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, has supported today? We have to remember that in the old days, as the system of immunity grew up, the people who received it were members of large States who were presumed, if not always correctly, to be inspired with feelings of honour and dignity appropriate to representatives of such States. The world has changed a good deal since then. I suppose that when the state coach of the Russian Ambassador was arrested in the reign of Queen Anne there were probably some ten or twelve other nations who had representatives here. Their numbers grow all the time. The people who agreed to the great Pact of Paris, the Kellogg Pact, were sixty-three in number, and they represented separate States. I have forgotten how many members there are of U.N.O. at the moment; my belief is that there are over eighty. A good many of these delegates are from distant parts of the world, and their counties are not very large. I should be sorry to have to pass an examination as to the exact places where two or three of them are situated. All those countries are entitled to immunity for representatives whom they may choose to send here. That, it seems to me, is an additional reason why we should be very careful not to extend the principle of immunity. Indeed, I am inclined to think that the persons who can obtain immunity ought to be somewhat less numerous than at present.

I would add that it is not to be supposed that these questions did not often arise. In the last two or three years I had this experience. A lady with whom I was well acquainted had let her London house to a person from quite an important country who was entitled to immunity—the name of the country I will not When the term of this man's lease had expired and he was requested to go out, because the lady needed immediate occupation of lie premises herself, he said that he would plead immunity. I advised the lady that the best thing she could do was to go to the Foreign Office. This she did. The Foreign Office rose to the occasion, and in a very few hours, as the result of representations made to the country which had produced this person who was entitled to immunity, he was obliged to turn out. He turned out because he would have lost his job if he had refused. But I can conceive of a case where a person claiming immunity would not care two straws about the job which he held on behalf of his country. Then all sorts of other legal difficulties, with which I need not trouble your Lordships, would arise. That is an example of the kind of things that occur under the doctrine of immunity. Most people, I believe, will feel that we ought to be careful that that sort of thing does not happen very often, and that our own subjects are not made to suffer by the implementation of a doctrine which is perfectly just and proper provided that it is confined to the right people.

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the assistance which you have given in the passing of this Bill and in getting it into proper form. I adhere entirely to what I said in the course of the speech which has been quoted to-day. I feel that there has been a tendency, for which we are to blame, to give this diplomatic immunity as an act of courtesy or politeness. I think that is wrong. We must watch carefully what is done in the future in this matter. For the rest, may I say—and I hope that I shall not get into trouble for saying it—that I think that this House has performed a very useful piece of work in putting the Bill into a proper form?

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.