§ 2.48 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT rose to move to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that it is necessary to declare that the number of persons entitled to diplomatic or kindred privileges has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. The noble and learned Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion that stands in my name, which to many of your Lordships will have a somewhat familiar ring. The language, of course, is borrowed from George Dunning's great Motion of 1780 which, according to Lecky, was the most serious blow that Lord North's Government had sustained and led to the fall of that Government. I can assure your Lordships at the outset that I do not intend, even if I could, to use this Motion as a vehicle to bring about any sort of disaster to her Majesty's present advisers.
§ I notice on the list of speakers that everyone save myself has had, or has, some connection with the Foreign Office. I therefore need all the support I can get from those of your Lordships who are 564 not, and have not been, members of the Foreign Office, and in that connection I am delighted to see such an ample supply of the Spiritual Peers present; I shall certainly need their prayers in carrying out my task. As I have said, there is no sort of attack on the Government involved in this Motion; indeed, I am not seeking to make any Party point at all. If the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, ought to stand in the dock, then it is assuredly true that I ought to stand there, too—indeed, I am just as guilty as he is about this matter. But I think it is desirable to take an opportunity of considering the whole problem quite calmly and dispassionately in this context, divorced from any particular Order in Council which we are asked to approve.
§ As your Lordships know, when we have an Order in Council before us we are asked to pass an Affirmative Resolution. But the circumstances in which we are asked to pass that Affirmative Resolution are that an agreement has been entered by Her Majesty's Government to grant this immunity. The Order then comes to your Lordships' House, and it is exceedingly difficult for your Lordships to say "No," because, even if the position has not been prejudged, yet it has at least been considered, and it would seem perhaps ungracious for us to refuse the Order to some worthy institution whereas we have granted similar immunities to other institutions. I think we have to consider in this context the same question of diplomatic privilege.
§ I need hardly say that I am not at all opposed to diplomatic privilege. Diplomatic privilege is an ancient tradition which is part of our Common Law, and the Act, which I think was an Act of 1708, was merely declaratory of the Common Law. It is a concession which has always been, and I hope always will be, observed between civilised nations, and it is a tribute to the importance which any representative of a foreign country receives and always will receive in our country. The only question is, to what extent diplomatic privilege has gone. The number of persons entitled to it has increased very remarkably. That is undoubted. That it is increasing, I think, is undoubted too; and, judging from the speech of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in another place the other day, he thinks 565 there ought to be what he called an improvement in this matter—and, by "improvement" he meant a diminution in the numbers. I respectfully agree with him in thinking that the list has now grown too large, too cumbrous (I will give your Lordships the figures presently), and that there ought to be some diminution of numbers entitled to the privilege.
§ Not only have we to consider diplomatic privilege as such, but we have to consider the new system which has arisen under the auspices of the United Nations Organisation whereby there are a large number of organisations—I think the number now extends to about twenty-one—whose members are given diplomatic privilege in this country. It is impossible, of course, to say how many people are affected. I will investigate that in a moment, because what is contemplated is that conferences of these bodies may be called over here, and there may be large numbers of people attending those conferences. When they come to these conferences every one of the people attending them enjoys, to a lesser or greater extent, diplomatic privilege. I fully realise that there are two sides to this question. On the one hand, I am most anxious to say nothing to indicate that I do not desire to support the organisations of the United Nations, just as I hope I have said nothing against the diplomats who come to this country.
§ Here again, however, we have to consider whether there is not a danger that this concession may be distributed too far and too wide, because, after all, it is obvious that a privilege granted to one man means a diminution of rights of somebody else. If a privilege is granted to a diplomat and he cannot be proceeded against in our courts, it means that one of the lieges is in a worse position than he otherwise would have been.
THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF READING)
It is true of an immunity more than of a privilege.
§ EARL JOWITT
Immunity—I quite agree. Therefore, the position has to be considered from both points of view. I am not foolish enough to say that I should withdraw privileges or immunities which have already been granted. But I do say that in this matter we ought to try to hold a balanced point of view. We ought 566 not to broadcast this immunity or grant it indiscriminately. We ought to realise the point of view of those people who are adversely affected by the granting of the immunity. In short it comes to this—and I hope the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, when he comes to reply, will be able to accept this view: that the Government must realise that this is a serious matter; that it calls for anxious consideration, and that it is a question of drawing a balance between two lines. Speaking for myself, I think in the past we have been inclined to go rather too far in this matter. I am happy to say that I said this when I was Lord Chancellor, so I am being perfectly consistent in this point of view.
First of all, with regard to the number of persons who are entitled to what is called diplomatic privilege in the ordinary way, I wrote to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and he knew, of course, that I was going to use his figures for the purpose of this debate, and I take it that he does not mind my quoting the figures he gave me. It is interesting, I suggest, to go back to the year before the First World War. Let us look at the year 1913—those bad old days or good old days, whichever you like to consider them. In those days, there were 39 foreign diplomatic missions, 9 of them embassies and 30 of them legations. The staffs of those missions amounted to 543 persons, who were officially regarded as being entitled to diplomatic immunity. If my arithmetic is right, with 39 missions and 543 persons entitled to the immunity, the average number of persons in each mission would have been about 14. That was the situation before the Kaiser's war. Now pass on, if you will, to consider the position before the Hitler war. I take the year 1938. The number of missions had increased from 39 to 54–16 embassies and 38 legations. The number of the entitled staff had doubled, or nearly doubled: there were now 1,084, as opposed to 543. Again if my arithmetic is right, the average number of people in each of those 54 missions to whom diplomatic immunity was granted was 20, as opposed to 14.
Now come to the present time. We have in London to-day 72 foreign missions—55 embassies and 17 legations. The staffs amount to 2,532 persons. If I am right again in my arithmetic, that is an average of 35, so that the average 567 per mission has moved up from 14 to 20, and now to 35; and, of course, there are a larger number of missions. In addition to that, I suppose I am right in saying that there are, if I may so call them, ancillaries—the staffs, their wives and their children. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not suppose that the figures he has given me include the families or domestic servants. They also, I believe, in the case of an envoy, enjoy diplomatic immunity. I do not suppose they are included in the 2,500, and there may in that way be a whole cloud of people, in addition to the 2,500, who are entitled to diplomatic immunity.
We have also to consider the question of the High Commissioners who are, of course, quite rightly, conceded corresponding rights. I must say that the figures here are startling. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in his letter reminded me of the existence to-day of the seven High Commissioners of the Commonwealth countries and the Embassy of the Irish Republic, which have between them staffs totalling 1,517. That is an average, if my figures are right, of 190 per mission. So that, if you add the 2,500 to the 1,500, you get a total of 4,000. Then you have to consider, of course, all the extra people, the servants, the wives and the children, all of whom are entitled to diplomatic immunity. So that the 4,000 is expanded—I cannot tell your Lordships to what extent, but manifestly to a very considerable extent: I suppose it might well be doubled. All those people are entitled to diplomatic immunity.
I should be the first to say that I think that, thanks to the standard which the Corps Diplomatique have laid down in this country, we have an exceedingly fine body of people whom we are privileged to receive here. It would be a completely fallacious attitude to suggest that they are a lot of gangsters or thieves, or anything of that sort; of course they are not. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a statement in another place recently in which he gave some figures about this subject. He said that the total number of the Diplomatic Corps (he was dealing with the 2,500 persons) who had got into trouble with regard to minor offences—motoring 568 offences, for instance, such as exceeding the speed limit and so on—was 105. That is 4 per cent. of the 2,500. That seems to me a pretty fair proportion.
I believe that the Automobile Association, with whom I have been in communication, say that their members do not break the law to anything like that extent. The number of people who get into trouble to do with parking, speeding or anything of that sort represents less than 2 per cent. of their membership. They are, of course, a very select body of persons—their President is in front of me—but then, equally, the Corps Diplomatique is a very select body of persons. I think they are roughly comparable. I confess that 4 per cent. seems to me a goodly proportion, but it is for your Lordships to judge. We are only told about these minor offences and I can well believe, from what I know of these people, that there were no more serious offences at all in the course of that year.
Then there is the problem of civil cases and debt, because those holding diplomatic immunity cannot be sued in the courts for their debts. We were told that, of these 2,500, there were 35 cases in which a problem was reported to the Foreign Office. That is only 1½ per cent. Added to the 4 per cent., it gives a total of 5½ per cent. Those are cases actually referred to the Foreign Office, and a good many cases in which trouble arises are not referred to the Foreign Office. The last thing I want to do is to make an attack on the integrity of the Corps Diplomatique—I do not—but I give those facts to show that there are two sides to this question. I suggest that if we can limit the number, and, to use the Under-Secretary's phrase, "improve the position," we should try to do so. I recognise that, by a Bill introduced recently, the Government are trying to improve the position. I wish them all success in so doing.
We come now to the various organisations. I do not for a moment want to take an insular point of view. I will give my belief about this matter very simply. I believe that unless in the course of the next fifty or hundred years we can evolve some system of world government, or something like it, we shall have an absolute disaster. I do not see much chance of a system of world government at the present moment, but I hope to goodness 569 that minds will change and that it will come. But if it ever does come, and if it is to be controlled by a lot of bureaucrats, bureaucrats in the unpleasant sense of the word (that is to say, people who regard themselves as superior to the ordinary lieges and who can ride roughshod over them) then it will surely fail. From that point of view, I do not think the grant of diplomatic privilege or diplomatic immunity is at all a desirable thing for those people who, if that happy event of a form of world government ever comes about, will control our destinies. I should very much rather they were like you and me and the rest of us, subject to the law in all that they do and, I might add, in all that they say.
I remember the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, asking me, when I was Lord Chancellor, about a shocking case of a gross libel published by some paper called Tass, and we could do nothing about it. Let us always remember that, as I have said before, it is a question of balancing the risks. If you give these people absolute privilege in the way of libel then, whatever they say about a man, it is said and published—it is just too bad, but he can do nothing whatever about it. It is no good his saying that what was published was untrue and was published in malice; that the man who published it knew there was no truth in it. It does not matter. It is the same privilege which is inevitably accorded to the judges of the highest courts of this land. The public convenience is that they should be able to do these things and the corollary is that there is no redress. That is a very serious matter.
Some of these organisations are plainly entitled to diplomatic immunity. That the Secretary-General of the United Nations and those working immediately under him should be entitled to diplomatic immunity seems to me to be plain. I certainly do not raise any question at all about that. All I would say is this: let us look carefully at these things, realising what is involved. In the year (I think it was) 1950, when I was Lord Chancellor, my noble friend Lord Henderson, who was then at the Foreign Office, proposed that immunity should be accorded to the Postal Union. The Postal Union is an admirable body of people. They meet from time to time, generally I think at Berne, but they can meet elsewhere and I 570 hope that one day they will meet in this country. They meet together and decide about letters: what proportion of postage fees shall go to this country and what proportion to the country of destination; what proportion to the country through which the letter has to travel. They have conducted this business with great success ever since the year 1874 and no one ever suggested that the Postal Union or the officials of the Postal Union should have any diplomatic immunity. They got on exceedingly well without it.
But in 1950 a proposal came before the House that they should be granted diplomatic immunity. Lord Henderson proposed the Motion, and the text of it was quite simple: it conferred a complete immunity on the high officials of the Union, and a limited immunity on not only everybody who was attending a conference, but their advisers, their technical experts and the secretary to the delegations. Those people had this privilege conferred upon them.Whilst exercising their functions as such and during their journeys to and from the place of meeting, immunity from personal arrest or detention and seizure of their personal baggage …I draw attention particularly to the wordsimmunity from personal arrest or detention.I was Lord Chancellor at the time and I remember Lord Simon expressed a forceful view on the matter. As, unhappily, he cannot he here to say this himself, I will quote the words he used. After all, Lord Simon was not only a great lawyer but had been Foreign Secretary, and therefore was a man who was able to look at this matter from both points of view. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 160, col. 558]:Suppose you have a foreign gentleman passing through this country on his way to a meeting of the Universal Postal Union at Berne. He lands, it may be, at Liverpool; he is on his way to Dover and is going across the Channel to travel by train to Switzerland. The effect of this provision, as it will be if we approve it, is that if that gentleman, in his high-powered motor car, chooses to drive across England in the course of his journey to Berne, and by criminal negligence runs over and injures or kills a citizen in this country, he is by our own act assured of, and has, complete immunity from personal arrest or detention.The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who was sitting opposite to me said that he could recollect occasions in his ministerial career upon which he had often gone 571 abroad on missions. He said that he had never had diplomatic immunity and that he did not want diplomatic immunity. I myself, when I was Lord Chancellor, remember being sent by Mr. Bevin on two occasions on foreign missions. I had the good fortune to go to France. My host is present in this House to-day and he looked after me most admirably. But if I had kicked over the traces and had been minded to go out and make a fool of myself at a night club—I do not think it was very likely; I cannot imagine it—I had no diplomatic immunity. Many of your Lordships sitting opposite have gone on similar missions. Lord Reading travels all over the world. I am glad to see him here from time to time. He has no immunity; if he got into trouble at a night club nothing could save him—I will give him that warning straight away. So on that occasion Lord Swinton said that he certainly would not support this measure.
Then I, as Lord Chancellor, rose and said that it was quite true that I had not known about this matter beforehand. In those days the Government had to be very careful about the way they behaved in your Lordships' House—we were here rather on sufferance. I said I thought we had better withdraw the Motion and think again. I hope I am not being indiscreet, but I strongly suspect (I put it no higher than that) that when that Motion came before this House for granting diplomatic immunity to the members of the Universal Postal Union, it had never been considered by Ministers at all; it was simply introduced as a matter of routine, as part of a kind of settled policy to which the Foreign Office were committed.
§ EARL JOWITT
And I do not think the Foreign Secretary of the day had ever considered this precise question, as to whether or not this diplomatic immunity should be extended to the Universal Postal Union, which had been carrying on ever since 1874 without it.
A sequel, so far as I was concerned, was this. A distinguished chief constable 572 came to see me and asked me certain questions. He asked me, "If this Motion is passed, what am I to do in the following circumstances? Supposing (if you can imagine such a thing) there has been a meeting of the Postal Union and it has been a dull meeting, and one of the experts or technical advisers goes out whilst the meeting is on and has what I think is called 'a quick one.' Supposing he did that several times—the meeting being still rather a dull meeting—and at the end of the meeting, when he is on his way home, he is seen to get into his car and to start driving his car; and the car is seen wandering about from this side to that side of the road." He asked me to tell him what he was to do. He said to me: "I cannot detain him; I cannot stop him. Am I to let him go on home, hoping to goodness he does not kill anybody on the way? And if he does kill somebody on the way, what is going to be my position? I shall be asked, 'Didn't you know that this man was unfit to drive a car?' And I shall have to answer 'Yes'." My Lords, that may be a fanciful case, but I warn Her Majesty's Government that if such a case ever happened it would not be regarded as at all fanciful by the people who suffered as a result. I merely say that this is rather a serious matter, and it is much better to consider it before anything happens rather than to deplore it after it has happened.
The net result of that debate here was that I decided to withdraw that particular Motion from the House. It was withdrawn and it was, as I hoped, forgotten. Four years passed and we heard no more about the Universal Postal Union; and they got on perfectly well without diplomatic immunity. Then one day Lord Reading came to this House and asked us to approve diplomatic immunity for the Universal Postal Union, which, as I say, was established in 1874, the International Telecommunications Union, which had been going perfectly happily ever since 1860, the Customs Co-operation Council, the World Meteorological Organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Payments Union and the International Sugar Council. No doubt some of those organisations are perfectly worthy of this concession. But is there any reason why the Universal Postal Union or the International Telecommunications Union or the 573 World Meteorological Organisation should be lifted above the ranks of the ordinary people and given diplomatic immunity? I say that a little more paring would be useful in this matter.
The answer we always get, however—this is the dilemma is: "Well, you know, you have given this immunity to the Universal Postal Union. We are a union to consider (what shall I say?) "the influence of rabbits on agriculture, and we are going to have a big meeting in London. We are just as important as the Universal Postal Union, and if you give them that privilege, why should you withhold it from us?" It becomes a matter of prestige, and if one agency have not got it they think they are being ill-treated because some other agency have had it granted to them. I would warn your Lordships that we shall get this system gradually extending until the time conies when there is a conference of these bodies in London; and when that time does come we had all better be very careful how we travel along the roads.
We can stop this development only by raising a Motion of this sort, for when Her Majesty's Government are committed and an agreement has been made, and the Government come to this House and say, "Please pass this," it is too late for anything to be done. I have grave doubts whether other nations understand the point we have in mind. I do not think that those in the United Nations who press for this immunity realise what a double-edged sword it is. I wish they would think of it not merely as a grant of diplomatic immunity but as a deprivation of privilege. I do not suppose that what is said in this House will get as far as the United Nations, but it will at any rate reach the Foreign Office. I wish that we could get into the minds of those at the Foreign Office, if I may say so most respectfully, this proposition: that when they go to these conferences and are asked to give way and agree to this almost common form clause they should say, "Do not ask us to do that, for we shall have great difficulty when the matter gets to the House of Lords who care greatly about the rights and privileges of ordinary people." I am fairly certain that, if that were done, they would get their concessions, and whatever was needed, without this offending clause.
That is my case, my Lords, and that is why I want this matter considered now, 574 when we have no particular case in mind. I quite realise that in the modern world one must have immunities, just as one must have a large diplomatic staff. But I urge the Government: please try to improve matters by limiting the diplomatic staff and by refraining from extending this immunity to all these organisations almost as a matter of course. If the question is considered from both these points of view I hope that it may be possible to resist the temptation, which undoubtedly will be laid before your people, to grant this privilege in almost every case. That is the position I beg to raise before your Lordships. I believe that I have made my proposition and established that the number of persons involved has increased (of that there can be no doubt) and is increasing; and I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that it ought to be diminished. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that it is necessary to declare that the number of persons entitled to diplomatic or kindred privileges has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.—(Earl Jowitt.)
§ 3.22 p.m.
My Lords, this debate has started with what I believe is called, in boxing parlance, "a straight lead from the Left." If I read the list of speakers aright it will later develop into an affray on the Cross Benches, and I shall therefore detain your Lordships for only a brief period. In supporting the noble and learned Earl, I must put in a plea for the position of the Party to which I have the privilege to belong, whose function for generations has been to safeguard civilians from positions which arise out of over-privilege and too much power in wrong places. It is perfectly obvious that there must be a considerable breadth of privilege in the diplomatic field in order that that field may work properly. I merely ask the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, to note, as I am sure he does, that there is a general feeling in the country that, unless we are very careful, this practice is likely to enlarge itself, rather than contract as I believe most people would wish.
I should like to put one small practical point to the noble Marquess for consideration and I would ask his forgiveness for not having sent it to him in writing. The noble and learned Earl made the point that privilege in one 575 quarter means deprivation in another. I believe there is in this country a feeling that a citizen who has suffered damage and, because of this diplomatic immunity, has no remedy, is in a very unfair position. I suggest that there should be some arrangement, a Treasury fund or some reciprocal arrangement with other States, through which a civilian who has suffered damage should not be at a personal disadvantage because the other person concerned has the great privilege necessary to his career and position. With those few words I would express my support for the Resolution moved by the noble and learned Earl. I hope it will commend itself to your Lordships.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, I am glad that this Motion has been brought, because if there are prides of lions there can be proliferations of privileges. We must remember that diplomatic privilege was meant for diplomatists, and I can well remember the days when it was only grudgingly extended to consuls. That was much too narrow. Now I believe we have gone too far in the other direction. As the noble and learned Earl has said, these privileges are now extended to some twenty organisations, some of which are only very dimly connected with diplomacy, and some not at all. During his speech the noble and learned Earl referred to the good or bad old days before the First World War. I might carry that thought a little further. In the Chancelleries of our foreign missions abroad there hung a complete list of all personnel everywhere, as one of my colleagues the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, may well remember. At the great embassies there was an ambassador, a counsellor and four or five secretaries. We gradually tapered off to a minister with one or two secretaries and ended with a minister with a clerk and nothing more. It was our earnest prayer that we should not finish up in such a place ourselves. Of course those days are now far gone and none would think of returning to them. No doubt a vast expansion has been necessary; but if we want to measure this growth we must look at our own practice.
I have just finished reading a most admirable book edited by my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Strang. Therein are recorded the name and work of some 576 10,000 people of all grades and departments now engaged in the foreign service. They may be indispensable, but we must take care lest the Diplomatic Corps should turn into an army corps. This army has already captured the heights of Carlton House Terrace and I hear, on the worst possible authority, that reconnoitring parties have been sighted further afield. I hope they will stop, for I believe we have reached saturation point. Similarly, in our great embassies abroad, such as those at Paris and Washington, the total personnel (again including all grades and departments), runs into hundreds. It may be argued that they are indispensable. But our mission to Moscow, for example, costs us £1 million a year. Is that really necessary?
To-day marks the close of another conference at Geneva which has ended in failure. I take advantage of that to ask whether we cannot now edge a little away from the extravagances of diplomacy by conference, with all its concomitant apparatus, and get back a little nearer to diplomacy pure and simple, which I assure your Lordships is far cheaper and can be worked with a smaller personnel. That, at least, is worth remembering. Though some of your Lordships may disagree with me, I take this opportunity of affirming that the Geneva spirit is "hooch" and if one drinks too much of it one goes blind. I suggest, as a modest beginning, that we might reduce a little our missions behind the Iron Curtain. That would certainly save the public a great deal of money and I do not believe that there would be any failure of performance by a smaller body. It has to be remembered that other people have been doing what we have been doing—"and then some."
I could multiply examples very easily, but I will give your Lordships just one out of hundreds. Going back again to those old days, how many of our embassy missions had a military and a naval attaché? I notice that on the current list of the Soviet Embassy there are twelve Service attachés. That, I think, is really beyond reason. It is also a wide open secret that some members of these inflated staffs indulge in activities which are not only unrelated to diplomacy but are directly contrary to diplomacy. I have brought this matter up several times in this House, and have drawn attention 577 to the fact that some of these people are often occupied in bullying refugees—I have a stack of evidence about it. If there is no amendment in it (certainly I received a very satisfactory answer from the Government the other day), if some of these missions do not mend their ways in this respect, I shall have to bring up the matter again in your Lordships' House. I hope—indeed I am confident—that all your Lordships would agree that it is really too bad that these inflated staffs should first claim diplomatic privilege and then break every rule and canon of diplomacy. That is altogether wrong. If we could reduce their numbers this should help. Their numbers, I consider, are in certain cases very much an abuse, and some of their functions are an abuse too. If we could reduce the first, then we could reduce the second v ith very great benefit.
May I give an example of what is going on under the very noses of the West? As your Lordships remember, Dr. Adenauer was persuaded to exchange diplomatic representatives with Moscow. It was part of a bargain, and so far Dr. Adenauer has been swindled on the bargain; but that is not my point to-day. Having got thus far, the Soviet Government then committed a great breach of diplomatic courtesy. They appointed to Bonn a man called Zorin. I do not know whether he has been accepted or not—I wish they would not take him. Zorin was ambassador in Prague in 1948, and he had a considerable hand in engineering the coup which deprived Czechoslovakia of her liberties. Again, that is not my point. My point is that this man is now asked to go to Bonn, not with a modest staff, not even one of 100, but with hundreds of people, and everyone in Western Germany knows what those agents are for. I understand that the people there are objecting. I hope very much that they will continue their objections. It would be an excellent thing if Western Germany would put her foot down and reject these tainted and tainting hordes. It would be a lesson in sound common sense, I think, to the West. And the West is really in need of some such lesson. We all recognise that diplomatic privilege is a necessity and that it must be infinitely wider now than it was in our young days. But I think and hope that there will be general agreement that it has already gone too far, or, as a minimum, that it should go no further.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD HARVEY OF TASBURGH
My Lords, having spent a number of years—and that until fairly recently—at the receiving end of these privileges, which seem to be so unpopular, I feel it is my duty to attest that they do bring real benefit to our own people who are serving abroad, whether they are in the regular Foreign Service, are representatives of other Government Departments, attached to embassies abroad, are members of the various international bodies, or are attending conferences. I am sure that real inconvenience, if not hardship, would occur if they were deprived of these privileges. Your Lordships must remember that these officers and officials are often sent abroad for a short time. There is a lot of coming and going, and it is, therefore, difficult to fit them into normal conditions as if they were spending their lives, or at any rate a substantially long time, in the countries concerned. So exemption from the legal processes and the various administrative requirements really saves great inconvenience in the case of officials, and it saves a good deal of their public time. If they had not those privileges, I think it would be to the detriment of the public service.
I do not believe that there is very serious abuse. I think matters work very much the same in all countries. Cases of infractions of regulations or offences by diplomats are brought by the police authorities—the home authorities—to the attention of the Foreign Office in the country concerned. The ambassador of the mission in question is sent for, and the case is put to him that one of his staff has misbehaved. It is then for him to put the matter right. And I should have thought that in most cases the right thing is done—certainly it is done in the case of the self-respecting countries.
Naturally, I can well understand the concern of the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition at the length of the list and the lengthening of the list of those to whom the privileges apply. But I think—as indeed the noble and learned Earl has mentioned—that we must remember the increase in the number of States which exist officially since the war, and also the increase in the number of international organisations. It may be a pity, but there are now some 579 seventy-odd States. There really is not anything to be done about it. We must recognise them as separate States and, in consequence, accord them all the privileges and rights which are usually accorded to independent States. And, of course, all the missions, as the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, has said, have very much increased their staffs since the war. That applies to ourselves just as much as to the other countries. It is not the occasion now to go into the question of whether it is possible to reduce them, but I understand it is much more difficult to start reducing staff than one might think. When I was in Paris I did my best to prune and reduce, but it was difficult. It was not the case that the members of my staff were idle: they were fully exercised, and the work on which they were engaged was work which apparently was required.
In addition to the new States there are also these new international bodies like N.A.T.O., a very extensive organisation covering all services, and the Western European Union, a union which has agencies in various countries. There are the different bodies of U.N.O., and these bodies all over the world represent the policy of Her Majesty's Government. To support them, therefore, we must allow them such privileges as seem conducive to the conduct of their business. It might be possible to reduce some of the categories who are engaged in those different missions—some of the lower categories, perhaps—and certain conferences such as those which the noble and learned Earl mentioned might be excluded. I do not know. But certainly it is very important that no action should be taken on a unilateral basis. Any agreement which is sought should be on a bilateral basis or, at any rate, arrived at by means of general agreement.
§ EARL WINTERTON
May I ask the noble Lord a question which I am sure noble Lords would like to hear answered? Arising out of his very great experience, could he tell us whether he agrees with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, who also speaks from great experience, about the activities of some members of these missions? Does he not think that there are some cases in which members of these swollen staffs of the missions of other countries are put there, not for the purpose of 580 carrying out diplomatic work, but for very sinister reasons, and have there not been public examples of that in recent years in Australia and elsewhere?
§ LORD HARVEY OF TASBURGH
No doubt what Lord Vansittart has said is quite true. I do not exactly know what is to be done about it. We can have an arbitrary cut in the numbers of missions. Then, of course, similar missions of ours in the countries concerned would be reduced.
§ LORD HARVEY OF TASBURGH
I can understand that that would be very popular, but I think it would be difficult, though it is not for me to say. I am sure that it would be a mistake for us to act alone. Nor do I think it would be necessarily bad in some countries to have a wider exemption—for instance, in countries where the administration and the law works as well and as smoothly as it does in this country. Again I think we can make a distinction between countries, apart from categories; but this is also a matter of bilateral action. I can assure the noble and learned Earl that when he paid me the honour of visiting Paris in his official capacity, had he got into difficulty, he would have enjoyed diplomatic privilege, as he came as Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Government. However, it was not required to exercise that privilege.
§ LORD HARVEY OF TASBURGH
Apart from countries like France, in other countries, such as the Iron Curtain countries, it would be a very serious matter to abandon these privileges and I think we should be careful not to expose subordinate or humbler staff to national treatment. I think that would lead only to real hardship, friction, and a great deal of frustration.
§ LORD VANSITTART
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is not a fact that at present we do not get reciprocity in this matter? More people from the Iron Curtain countries enjoy diplomatic immunity here than people of our staff in those countries. I remember bringing this point up in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD HARVEY OF TASBURGH
I am afraid I cannot answer that question. Perhaps the noble Marquess will be able to do so. I strongly urge that no action should be taken without careful reflection, and then only by agreement and not unilaterally. I think it would be a mistake to lose sight of the relatively small proportions of the problem. I do not know the exact total of those who enjoy diplomatic privileges, but I understand it must run into some thousands, and the number of cases of complaint which the noble and learned Earl mentioned runs to some 200. I do not feel that that is really an excessive number so far. I think the whole thing has a nuisance value out of proportion to its real value. I believe there is a very real danger that if we act precipitately, we may do ourselves and our own people more harm than any good we gain.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, contrary to what I understand to be the view of my noble friend and ex-colleague who has just spoken, I rise to support strongly the Resolution moved by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. I should have thought that there was no question of any precipitate action, as Lord Harvey of Tasburgh seemed to fear; Heaven knows! it is all the other way. That is one of the reasons why we are having this debate to-day. May I return to the actual words of the Resolution:that the number of persons entitled to diplomatic or kindred privileges has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished"—It has been shown conclusively to-day that they have increased and are increasing. That has been established by the figures which we have not only had to-day but which were also given during the debate in another place on October 25, when the startling figure was revealed that since 1938 the number of persons covered by this immunity has risen from 1,000 to 2,500. That is conclusive proof that the first two postulates of the Resolution are fully established. That leaves the last one, that the number "ought to be diminished." I feel strongly that they should be diminished. It is a matter of individual opinion, but I should have thought that the case put to the House by the noble and learned Earl was extremely convincing, and it was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, who 582 has a very long experience of this question.
During the Recess, I spent some time digging up some facts about this question. The origins of diplomatic immunity go back many centuries. Nobody quite knows how it started and grew, but the practice of immunity for heads of missions has certainly been established for many centuries and I do not think anybody would contest that that practice is perfectly right. It is not the practice that we are talking about to-night, but the abuse of that practice. Further, it is not so much the abuse of this privilege by members of what I might call accredited missions, though that is a point, as the extension of these immunities to bodies which not only did not exist but had not been dreamt of when this system of diplomatic immunity was established. The very term "diplomatic immunity" in regard to these international bodies is indeed misleading. It is a pity that we cannot differentiate and get some other term to cover that class of body as opposed to regular diplomats.
While I was reading about this matter during the Recess, I found in a learned paper read before the University of Geneva in 1949 by an American jurist these words:The question has become acute since the establishment of the League of Nations and the scope of the activities of international organisations to-day ranges from the standardisation of road signs to atomic energy.Since then, the number has gone on increasing. And here I should like to ask one point of the noble Marquess who is to reply: whether the figure given of an increase from 1,000 in 1935 to 2,500 covers what I might call "regular diplomats" only or whether it covers also these other bodies as well.
§ LORD KILLEARN
So it is not an "all in" figure by any means. That emphasises my point. May I concentrate then on the other bodies. On July 13, in response to an invitation from the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, I put down a Question and received a very full printed Answer. I should like to draw attention to these organisations which enjoy diplomatic immunity, though it may be 583 tautological in a sense, in that some have been mentioned before to-day:The International Labour Organisation"—probably there is a case for that—The International Civil Aviation Organisation,The International Refugee Organisation,The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation,The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation,The European Payments Union,The Council of Europe"—there may also be a case for that—The Universal Postal Union,The International Telecommunications Union"—(I hope I do not bore your Lordships by reading this list, but it is rather a telling point)—The Customs Co-operation Council,The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation"—I think there is a case for that—The International Sugar Council,The International Monetary Fund.Passing on a little, we get:The United Nations Information Centre,The United Nations Postal Administration,The United Nations Children's Fund,The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency.Can we really persuade ourselves that these bodies, or many of them, could not discharge their functions properly without having these immunities accorded to them? I, for one, cannot believe it. Therefore, to get down to my point—and I approach this general question from this moment from the point of view of these international bodies—if we could somehow get away from this habit of the more or less automatic grant of immunities to whatever international body is sprung upon us, that would indeed be something. That is really how this whole question arose, so far as I personally am concerned. I happened to be present at a debate here in this House on one of the German or Austrian Agreements, the question arose and I made bold to intrude in the debate to ask for this list, which I got. This large number I think proves my point.
As regards the other question, of what I may call properly accredited diplomatic agents, we all realise—and this has been generally accepted as a canon of International Law—that in order to discharge their functions properly heads of 584 diplomatic missions must have protection and must be placed in a position where they can act independently and without let or hindrance. Nobody would challenge that right. But whether their staffs have not become a little swollen is another matter—certainly from the figures quoted here to-day one is apt to suspect that they have. Also, in certain cases, it may be well to consider from other angles whether the staff is altogether healthy from our point of view.
To conclude what I have to say, I feel that, so far as regular diplomats are concerned, nobody can take legitimate exception to their having full diplomatic immunity, but that this immunity should be strictly limited to the head of the mission and those members of his selected staff who are essential to him for the proper discharge of his representational duties. As regards the international organisations, I feel it is a great pity, and has caused much confusion, that this phrase "diplomatic immunity" was ever extended to cover them, because they are in fact not diplomats at all and it was never contemplated that diplomatic immunity proper should be given to such organisations. I do not know how we can get away from that difficulty; I admit it is a bit late now.
§ LORD KILLEARN
I stand corrected. That is really all I have to say, but I hope that the final words of this Resolution, "and ought to be diminished," will be accepted by this House.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, I am not sure that the Motion which the noble and learned Earl has moved with such cogency of argument, and so persuasively, is of the same order of importance as that which was dealt with in the earlier Resolution, raised also in another place by another eminent lawyer, and I very much doubt whether the subject of the present Motion adequately fills the rather imposing frame which has been chosen for it. What is at issue in this matter? The subject is rather a complex one, and if your Lordships will 585 bear with me for a moment or two I should like to return to first principles and try, if I can, to simplify the subject by reducing it to three propositions.
The first proposition is this. Diplomatic envoys, as representatives of foreign States, are granted privileges by the States which receive them in order to secure for them the independence and inviolability prescribed by International Law. These privileges are accorded to them because it is universally recognised that they could not perform their duties perfectly if they did not possess them. What are these privileges which the envoys enjoy? They are various, but the main ones are exemption from criminal and civil jurisdiction, and exemption from taxes and the like. Let me take the case of immunity from civil suit. That does not mean, for example, that an envoy need not pay his debts; but it does mean that he is not amenable to the jurisdiction of the courts. However, it should be noted that it is the normal practice for envoys, in the case of a civil suit, to agree to sonic method of settlement, such as the submission of the case to arbitration; and if no such remedy is offered the person concerned can be informed that he can no longer be received in a diplomatic capacity. Experience shows—and this is vouched for by the best authorities and by our own courts—that this immunity from civil suit does not, in practice, give rise to serious abuses resulting in widespread denial of legitimate legal remedies.
The second proposition is an extension of the first. The immunities I have mentioned are accorded not only to the envoy himself, but also to what is called his retinue; that is to say, to his staff, to his private servants and to the members of his family. It is a generally recognised rule of International Law that these members of the retinue are entitled, broadly speaking, to the same immunities as the envoy himself. I say broadly speaking, because there is some difference of practice in the various capitals in regard to immunity from legal process in the case of clerical and similar subordinate staff, and a considerable difference of practice as regards personal servants. But here again, the envoy or his Government is expected either to waive immunity of his retinue or to agree to some method of settlement, such as arbitration, if a case 586 arises—and on the evidence given by the noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Tasburgh, that is what is usually done. And again, if it is not done, the person concerned can be declared to be no longer accepted as a person possessing diplomatic status.
Those are, in brief, the requirements of International Law as regards diplomatic missions, and they are, as we have been told, embodied in the law of the land. It is true that the relevant Act of Parliament was passed in the reign of Queen Anne, but the principles on which that Act was based are not dead; they are living principles. And they are not founded merely on old and hoary precedent, but have been stated and re-stated by international lawyers of the highest standing down to our own day, in the light of new developments in our changing world. As evidence of this, I would point to the Report of a distinguished Committee which was set up in 1949 under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Somervell of Harrow (as he now is). The report of that Committee was published in 1952 (Crud. 8460). One of the questions put to the Committee was whether the law or practice of the United Kingdom afforded to persons possessing diplomatic immunity an immunity wider than was desirable or was strictly required by the principles of public International Law. The reply which the Committee gave was that the immunities at present granted were either certainly or probably required by International Law; and they recommended no change except a minor one, with which I will not detain your Lordships. They also made one other recommendation, which is, I understand, to be made the subject of legislation. But the point I should like to emphasise here is that as late as 1951 this highly qualified Committee were satisfied that no change was necessary.
§ LORD KILLEARN
May I just interrupt the noble Lord? I do not think there is any difference between us as regards the theory, but what about the numbers? The Committee was set up in 1949, was it not?
§ LORD STRANG
As I develop my argument perhaps that point may come up.
587 May I now pass to the third proposition? It is that similar immunities are granted to international organisations and their staffs. This is based not so much on international custom as on universally accepted international agreement. But it is, none the less, good International Law. It was laid down by the Covenant of the League of Nations that officials of the League, when engaged on the business of the League, should enjoy diplomatic privileges and immunities. The word "diplomatic" is there. Similarly, under the Charter of the United Nations, officials of the Organisation are to enjoy such privileges and immunities—this time the word "diplomatic" is not there—as are necessary for the independent exercise of their official functions. These privileges and immunities are similar to those enjoyed by envoys and their retinues, and they are subject to the same kind of safeguards. They are laid down in detail in a convention accepted by all members of the United Nations.
As regards the range of the immunities, some distinction is made as between—
§ LORD KILLEARN
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but he is referring to the general convention which he says was universally accepted. Was there not a general Convention of the United Nations Privileges?—I forget the exact title.
§ LORD KILLEARN
The point I wanted to raise is about the list of adhesions to that document, because in the copy as printed there are certain omissions—gaps, shall we say. For instance, the United States is not down as adhering to that document.
§ LORD STRANG
The convention I had in mind is precisely the one which was to give effect to the provision in the Charter. I cannot carry my mind back exactly, but it is quite certain that the United States does observe the Charter, because the headquarters of the United Nations is situated in New York, and if the United States did not accept the obligations that would not have been so.
§ LORD KILLEARN
The noble Marquess said that he could not hear. In the list of adhesions at the end, for example, the United States is not included. That is the point.
§ LORD STRANG
As I was saying, as regards the range of immunities (I am now talking about the United Nations and similar organisations), some distinction is made as between senior and subordinate staff. The latter enjoy official immunity only, and not personal immunity. Here again, I think this point is important: express provision is made for the waiver of immunity by the Secretary General, or for some other means of settlement in all proper cases. In the same way, the constitutions of various international organisations set up by agreement since the war contain provisions regulating immunities for the organisations and their officials.
What is the total extent of all these various exemptions? The figures have been quoted. It was stated in another place by the Under-Secretary that the total number of persons enjoying diplomatic immunity was 2,500, and we have now had a further figure of 1,500 or so in respect of the staffs of High Commissions. In the case of international organisations, the number of persons resident in this country—and I am talking of people resident, and not about people who come here for a conference—who will enjoy privileges will be about 160. Of course, the numbers have increased, and it is perfectly natural that they should do so. The number of independent States has increased greatly, and with them the number of diplomatic missions. In the second place, Governments have come to concern themselves more and more directly, and more and more intimately, with the management of internal affairs. That may or may not be a good thing, but it is a fact. So the volume of business which Governments have to transact with each other has grown, and with it the staff required to do the work of international negotiation has also grown. It is a perfectly logical consequence of the way the world is going. Thirdly, international co-operation on a regional basis or a world basis for a multiplicity of purposes has increased and is increasing. 589 That may or may not be a good thing—that could be argued—but those who think it is a good thing ought not to complain if it means that the number of international civil servants will grow.
It is sometimes said that diplomatic staffs and international civil servants, in the world as it is to-day, no longer require these privileges and immunities. That is not the view of the eminent jurists who declare the present state of International Law. We ought to remember that diplomats and international officials are prominent and vulnerable people, and their lives could, and might well be, made most disagreeable by vexatious actions or pressures if they were not protected.
We cannot tell what is going to happen in the world in future. It is only a brief ten years since the Nazi régime was destroyed, and such régimes may arise again in the future. Would it, I wonder, have been thought tolerable if a member of a diplomatic mission or a representative of an international agency in Berlin—even of the Universal Postal Union—who happened to be of Jewish descent had been amenable in all respects to the Nazi law? And even in the world as it is to-day, there are certainly capitals where this measure of protection is quite essential. Even in the most enlightened countries the question may still be asked whether it would be wise to weaken the protection afforded to Governmental and international representatives. Would it be right, for example, if all members of the international staff of the United Nations and related agencies in New York were made subject in all respects to the immigration and security regulations of the United States Government? If that were so there would, I am sure, be immediate protest.
In this matter, I do not think it is possible to draw a valid distinction between one properly constituted public international organisation—and that is what we are talking about now—and another: between, shall we say, the United Nations and its specialised agencies, on the one hand, and, say, the Universal Postal Union, or those which have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, as stated in the Answer given to his question, on the other. We should, I think, be careful not to get out of step with the rest of the world. If we decline to concede the customary immunities to the officials of inter- 590 national organisations established here, we can be certain that these organisations will not maintain their headquarters in London, and we shall to that extent cut ourselves off from the international community.
In conclusion, I would say this. These privileges and immunities are an integral part of the fabric of International Law. They are a branch of International Law which is firmly established and strictly observed, and it is in the interest of all Governments that it should be observed. The rule of law in international affairs is, at best, precarious enough, and this is not the time, I should have thought, to nibble away at one part of the fabric which is firmly knit. We should be wise, I think, to let well alone.
§ EARL JOWITT
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I do not want to "nibble away" at the fabric at all. I entirely agree with the noble Lord. All I want to "nibble away" is the number who enjoy the fabric.
§ LORD STRANG
I still think we should do well to let well alone. It is said that the public resent these privileges. That may well be so, but in this country we are becoming more and more prone to say that, if we cannot have this or that ourselves, then no one else shall. But these inequalities are a small price to pay for the untrammelled conduct of international relations and for the smooth development of international co-operation. If there are privileges, there are also, as I think I have shown, adequate limitations and safeguards. It should be a matter of national self-esteem that we use these honoured guests after our own honour and dignity. On grounds of International Law and in the name of international courtesy, I regret that I am not able to support the Resolution so persuasively and cogently moved by the noble and learned Earl.
§ 4.12 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, this is a question which the House, as the noble and learned Earl said, has so far discussed only piecemeal in connection with various Orders, when a relevant Bill or Order in Council has been the subject of debate. On those occasions, whether it was under a Labour or under a Conservative Government, it has become apparent that many of your Lordships look upon these privileges and 591 immunities, anyhow at their present scale, with some apprehension but also, I would venture to say, with some misapprehension as well. If I may say so respectfully to the House, I think it possible that at least some of your Lordships have in your minds rather exaggerated ideas of the scope and the consequences of the present state of affairs and that the problem has to some extent got out of focus, though I do not seek to deny for a moment that it is one which requires vigilant attention. It is, therefore, all to the good that we should discuss to-day fully a Resolution which is directed exclusively this time to this topic, and I share with the House the welcome which the Resolution moved by the noble and learned Earl has received.
I think it is convenient that I should attempt to deal with this matter of diplomatic privilege and immunity under the two separate headings under which the debate has rather fallen so far: the first, its application to members of the actual Diplomatic Corps; and the second, its extension to include members of a number of international organisations. If, in the course of what I am afraid may not be a very brief speech, I travel again over some of the ground which has been covered by noble Lords who have been opposed to the Resolution, I hope the House will forgive me, but I think it is necessary to include them if I am to produce a consecutive argument for your Lordships' consideration.
As regards the first part, the actual question of diplomatic immunity, the custom of granting diplomatic privilege and immunity to ambassadors and their retinues is, as has already been said, of very considerable antiquity. Those who desire further to investigate its origin and development in some detail cannot, I suggest, do better than pursue their quest in Sir Harold Nicolson's Evolution of Diplomatic Method. I do not propose to-day to expatiate on the historical approach beyond saying this: that the doctrine of immunity, though known to, and with occasional rather drastic exceptions observed by, the Greeks and Romans, was reinforced by the creation in Byzantium of a school of professional diplomats and by the invention on the part of the Venetians of the first organised system of diplomacy on a model 592 which they, in their turn, learned from the Byzantines.
Sir Harold Nicolson is again my authority for stating that the first resident embassy in the modern sense was that accredited to Cosimo dei Medici in Florence by the Duke of Milan in 1451. It was at one time, I think, the opinion amongst jurists that privileges and immunities were one facet of the doctrine of extra-territoriality, but modern international lawyers appear to be of the almost unanimous view that they should rather be regarded as inseparable and essential attributes of the status of a diplomatic envoy, since in order freely to be able to perform his duties such a person must be independent of the jurisdiction and control of the State to which he is accredited. Otherwise, he would be largely dependent upon the good will (or, indeed, maybe the ill will) of the Government of that State. For similar reasons, the privileges and immunities which were thus granted were extended to the envoy's family and to his retinue, as forming together his family residing with him and, as such, entitled to a similar, if not necessarily an identical, degree of protection. Failing that extension to the family and staff, the envoy himself would, of course, be exposed to possible pressure exercised upon him through his family and his staff.
If I may follow the historical thread only a little further, without appearing, I hope, to lecture the House on the subject, I would say that it is not perhaps without interest that, as has been mentioned, the first statutory provision regulating these matters in this country is to be found in an Act of 1708, of the reign of Queen Anne, to which the noble and learned Earl referred,for preserving the privileges and immunities of Ambassadors and other Public Ministers of Foreign Princes and States.It may not be without interest, or indeed relevance, just to read the Preamble to that Act to your Lordships. It reads as follows:Whereas several turbulent and disorderly persons having in a most outragious manner insulted the person of his excellency Andrew Artemonowitz Matueof ambassador extraordinary of his Czarish Majesty Emperor of Great Russia her Majesties good friend and ally by arresting him and taking him by violence out of his coach in the publick street and detaining him in custody for several hours in contempt of the protection granted by her Majesty contrary to the law of nations and in 593 prejudice of the rights and privileges which ambassadors and other publick ministers authorized and received as such have at all times been thereby possessed of and ought to be kept sacred and inviolable. …Apart from the facts of the particular case which produced this Act, the statement of the general principles set out in the Preamble as long ago as 1708 are not without interest and applicability to the matter we are discussing. I do not know exactly how many ambassadors there were in London at that time, but I doubt whether it could have been more than five or six; and, of course, as the figures given by the noble and learned Earl in his opening speech showed, that number has increased enormously over a period of years. I am not sure that the figures I originally gave him in a letter were exactly correct, because actually I told him 72 missions, which seems to have been an over-statement; it ought to be 69. The embassies are 55 and the legations 14, instead of 17, as I originally told him. But I do not think that that affects the principle we are discussing. Then, of course, there are also the High Commissioners. Not only has the number of missions increased—
§ EARL JOWITT
That struck me as a remarkable figure for the High Commissioners. There are only eight of them in all and the average figure of the people concerned is 190.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
It is a large figure, but there are a large number of points of contact between them and a large number of affairs of quite differing character over which we deal with them—more than in the case of the embassy of a foreign country. My Lords, I certainly do not propose to recapitulate the figures, but when people say that the number of missions has greatly increased in the course of years, looking back to the period taken by the noble and learned Earl of 1913, I would point out that, to take the Middle East alone, one is perhaps apt to forget the transformation that has come over that part of the world in the last thirty years: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Israel are all newcomers in that part of the world. If one turns to South East Asia one has to consider Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, all of which again have now acquired a changed status from that which they occupied only ten years 594 ago. So one has to bear in mind, when one is looking at what at first sight looks rather inflated figures, that, for various reasons, and largely as the results, immediate or indirect, of two wars, the number of countries has itself increased on a marked scale.
Moreover, diplomatic missions are to-day called upon to undertake duties which their predecessors of only half a century ago would have regarded with what the lawyers call "hatred, ridicule and contempt." I suppose it would have been unthinkable t hat a Victorian ambassador should so demean himself as to go closely into matters of trade—still worse, matters of labour or the Press. Yet to-day many of our missions and those of other countries include as a matter of course a commercial section and very often a labour section and a Press section, and other sections as well. Then there are air attaches, in addition to their naval and military colleagues, and in some cases a civil air attaché is also required.
The reason for these increases is really manifest. As life in general has become more complex and many sided—no one is likely to dispute that—-so have the points of international contact themselves multiplied. And as the technical achievements of modern times have developed, so have specialists entered the international field in order to handle them. But I would agree that the total of persons in this country who are receiving various degrees of diplomatic privilege and immunity is certainly both absolutely and relatively large. The scale of privileges and immunities granted by different countries has had some minor variations, but over the whole field it is substantially constant. I agree that as far as possible it should be reciprocal, and there is at this moment in another place a Bill to which some reference has been made, the purpose of which is to empower Her Majesty's Government to apply reciprocally to foreign missions here such restrictions as are imposed upon Her Majesty's representatives in the countries which these missions represent in London.
That Bill, if it be approved in another place, will in due course find its way to your Lordships' House. Knowing something of the prevailing opinion in your Lordships' House, I have recently considered with my advisers—I admit rather 595 as a theoretical and propitiatory exercise, for I did not from the first believe it to be a practical operation—whether I was in a position to suggest to your Lordships that it might be possible to lay down some arbitrary scale of representation, something in the nature of what the Services call an "Establishment" for each mission here and insist upon its strict observance. The suggestion has been made, but even if such an expedient were in accordance with International Law or custom, I can think of no method better calculated to make the worst possible blood between the Foreign Office and the foreign missions with whom we deal. Who is to fix the scale, and on what basis? What are to be the penalties for exceeding it? And how are they to be enforced? I can see nothing but endless friction and perpetual incidents arising from such a scheme, and it would surely inevitably lead to retaliatory action against our own missions abroad, which might well have the most disruptive effect upon their activities.
Another suggestion that has been made is: are we to draw a line at some point in the list of members of a foreign mission and insist that those above the line shall be given privilege and immunity and those below the line shall not? But here again, unless there is a fixed "establishment," which is in my view impossible, there is nothing to prevent a Government from up-grading the staff of a mission and describing all the clerical staff as third secretaries for this purpose, thereby effectively defeating the whole object of the manœuvre. It is also important that those who even in a clerical capacity have access to secret documents should be protected against arrest.
Frankly, there seems to me only one possible method of approach to the problem of reduction, and that is by negotiation and ultimate agreement. That method I am prepared to try. I should like to consider whether the approach should be individually to certain selected countries, or whether it should be, if that course appeared more advantageous, raised in some suitable international body—whichever seems to be likely to be the more fruitful. But it is only right that I should warn your Lordships that I should not expect such an approach to have far-reaching results. I think it is true to say that the great majority of countries 596 attach high importance to these privileges and, since they desire to receive them abroad, are correspondingly willing to extend them to members of foreign missions in their own countries.
Some people who have discussed this matter with me have condemned the scale and the scope of the privileges as being simply based on prestige. I do not contest for a moment the fact that prestige is involved, but it is prestige designed not to inflate the ego of a particular ambassador and his staff, but to demonstrate the standing of the particular country which they represent abroad; and it is not likely to be readily abandoned. Nor can I conceive that your Lordships would wish Her Majesty's Government's representatives in foreign countries to be degraded to a lower level of diplomatic status than their colleagues. In the Bill to which I have already referred, which is before another place, provision is made to put into force a further recommendation of the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Somervell of Harrow, to the effect that in future any local nationals holding a position in a foreign embassy—which includes domestic servants—shall not enjoy personal diplomatic immunity. Here I may answer the question which the noble and learned Earl raised on figures which he was quoting. Those figures do include domestic servants but do not include wives and children.
Having dealt to some extent with the general question of diplomatic immunity, I hope acceptably to your Lordships, I now turn to the other aspect—the position of international organisations. The noble and learned Earl, in introducing this Motion, said he looked forward to the time when there would be a World Government, and that that possibility should not be frustrated by the presence of a bureaucracy. But the way to achieve a World Government, if it is to be achieved, is surely by an ever-increasing measure of international co-operation. That will not be secured unless one accepts the responsibilities and terms offered by the remaining countries involved in a matter of this kind and unless one undertakes, in turn, responsibilities which they are prepared to undertake. The extension of privileges and immunities to members of international bodies, is not a novel practice, though that appears to be the view of some people 597 who have spoken to me on the matter. It is not a practice introduced since the end of the last war, for as long ago as 1899 The Hague Convention included a stipulation that diplomatic privilege, specified as such, should he extended to the arbitrators; and similar provisions found a place in the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1920. Perhaps those examples are a little apart. The first instance of what may be called international civil servants being brought within the scope of diplomatic privileges and immunities is also to be found some time ago. It goes back to Article 7 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
During the Second World War, the Government of a number of the countries allied with Great Britain and overrun by Germany took refuge in the United Kingdom and established themselves there for the period of the war. By the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1941, certain privileges and immunities were extended to members and high officials of those Governments. In order to get the historical sequence, it is necessary to go into what is, perhaps, a rather tedious list. That Act was followed by the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1944, which was passed under the war-time Coalition Government. That Act made provision for privileges and immunities for international organisations of which Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and foreign Governments were members. It conferred privileges and immunities on the staffs of such organisations and representatives of member Governments. It also clarified the position of representatives of foreign Powers, and their staffs, attending international conferences in the United Kingdom; so that this question of international conferences was not a new thought within the last few years, but goes back as far as 1944.
The next step was the inclusion in the Charter of the United Nations of Article 105, which provides that officials of the United Nations, as well as representatives of members of the United Nations, shall enjoy such privileges as are considered necessary for the independent exercise of their functions, although the Charter does not stipulate for diplomatic privileges and immunities. This matter was discussed at the First General Assembly of the United Nations, in February, 1946, when 598 an international convention on the subject was adopted. As a result, the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1946, was enacted, its purpose being to amend the 1944 Act so as to bring it into line with the new United Nations Convention. Then, in November, 1947, as the result of an earlier resolution, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted another international convention, which provided for the unification, so far as possible, of the privileges and immunities to he enjoyed by the various Specialised Agencies.
Then came the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe, and the 1944 Act, passed here, was further amended by the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1950. Later, in 1950 (and this is the period to which we normally go back), the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension.) Acts, 1944 to 1950, were repealed and replaced by the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, a Consolidation Act to which we have had frequent reference. The next and only remaining step was the Act of 1952, the purpose of which was to extend immunity from suit and legal process, and inviolability of residence and other things, to representatives of Commonwealth countries and the Irish Republic.
In considering the situation it should not be overlooked that the privileges and immunities contained in the 1950 Act, which was passed under the Labour Government, represent the maximum privileges and immunities that can be accorded to these international bodies and that, in practice, that maximum has never been reached with any single organisation. A real effort has been made in every case not to widen the range of privilege accorded to a particular organisation beyond what was thought to be genuinely required by that organisation after the circumstances were considered. As a result, the scale varies from the very considerable privileges and immunities which are extended to the Western European Union (though even those fall well short of the statutory limit) down to the Commission for Technical Cooperation in Africa, which receives no more than conferment upon it of the legal status and capacity of a body corporate. In the great majority of these cases (and I am trying to put the whole question 599 into narrow compass, for in practice it is a narrow compass), only one or two people are given privileges and immunities on anything like a par with those enjoyed by the head of an ordinary diplomatic mission.
The position of the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations is regulated by an international convention to which we in the United Kingdom are, of necessity a signatory. We could not have stood out from that convention. We are, so to speak, "members of the club," and in submitting ourselves for election we are surely bound to agree to observe its rules.
§ LORD KILLEARN
Might I just ask, for information, whether the list of adhesions to this convention is complete?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Yes, I think that is right. The Act of 1950—again, I am not saying this in a Party spirit—was the work of the then Labour Government, and when the noble and learned Earl complains of the number of organisations to which it is now extended I think I am entitled to say this: the tendency in international affairs being not only what it is now but what it was in 1950, he and his colleagues must have realised that there was likely to be before long an increasing number of organisations of this kind, and that there was every probability that the list would continue to expand. That was the whole trend of feeling in the world. After all, such organisations do not come into existence overnight. They demand long discussion and preparation before even the preliminaries can be cleared out of the way. Surely, in passing this Act the Government of that time must have contemplated a situation in which the number of organisations to which it might immediately be applied was obviously going to be very substantially expanded.
600 The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, once more took exception to the extension of the privileges to the Universal Postal Union and to the International Telecommunications Union and one or two others. We have argued all that, certainly once and—I am not sure—probably more than once. But the position I think is plain. They had gone on without being accorded privileges or immunities during a substantial number of years. At the same time, when other bodies of a very similar character came into existence, and when, under the conventions which brought them into existence, their members were described as being entitled to privileges and immunities, it seems to me not in any way unnatural that the Universal Postal Union and other bodies of that kind, which had existed in the past before these other bodies came into existence, should say, on seeing these other bodies given privileges and immunities, "You are giving these privileges and immunities to these other bodies; though we have not had them in the past, since the practice is now being changed, we feel that we are entitled to them." I do not know what happened when the Order was first prepared in the Foreign Office. I do know that it was considered before the present Government introduced it to your Lordships' House, and we came to the conclusion that, though the privileges and immunities had not been given up to that date, the time had come when the immunities and privileges extended to other bodies should be extended to those which I have mentioned.
As regards these international bodies, it must be remembered that it is only when an organisation has its headquarters in London that the number of people involved is at all large. And very few organisations do, in fact, have their headquarters in London. I gave the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, the figures to which he has referred some time ago—in July. That figure was confined—in accordance with the Question he asked—to members of the organisations specified who were, for the purposes of their work, resident in the United Kingdom. Certainly, there are other people enjoying the same status as those who are resident in this country—for instance, visitors who from time to time attend meetings. But although that figure rose to quite a substantial number, 601 something over 1,200, in 1953, it was, of course, only for a very brief period, and the rise was occasioned merely by the fact that certain important and numerously attended conferences took place in this country.
§ EARL JOWITT
Will the noble Marquess forgive my interrupting him at this point? Take the case of the Universal Postal Union. Its headquarters are at Berne. There is no reason why it should not have its meetings in London, in which case there might be 300 to 400 people coming to London to attend that meeting, all of whom would get this rather limited immunity.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
That is right; but we have to decide a question of principle. As a question of principle, do we want to discourage the holding of meetings of this kind in London? They have their value, and it is not entirely prestige value, for they bring in a certain amount of foreign currency.
§ LORD KILLEARN
Does the noble Marquess feel that these people would not come unless they were given these immunities?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Yes, I do. These organizations—rightly or wrongly—are accustomed to receive these privileges and I do not think they would come here if we were the only country—as we should be—withholding privileges, which they could well obtain again by going to any other suitable city elsewhere. The figure I gave for 1953 was about 1,200. It has now fallen to between 400 and 500 in each year, of whom about half are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Our forecast, so far as we can tell with regard to such meetings, which have so far been fixed for the years to come, is that the figure is unlikely to be exceeded in the years up to 1958. We cannot see much further ahead than that. I hope that these figures may give some assurance to noble Lords—the fact that these immunities and privileges extend to only about 160 persons who are resident here, and the fact that the number of persons coming here under the wider application of privilege and immunity to conferences is likely to be only between 400 and 500. Your Lordships will not have forgotten that the conventions establishing these various 602 bodies normally contain express provision for the granting of the appropriate privileges and immunities. This is an age in which international bodies abound, and I do not imagine that your Lordships would like to see this country abstaining from joining a body, membership of which would otherwise be advantageous to our interests, merely because by so doing we should be binding ourselves to add to the total of bodies and persons receiving special treatment. It really would be out of focus to view the problem in that way.
It is perhaps right that having—as I think we all have done—used the words "privileges and immunities" in juxtaposition in this discussion I should briefly point out that there is a distinction between them, and what that distinction is. Immunity is a quality that, by the common consent of States, attaches to the diplomatic officer by virtue of his office and functions. It may be defined as non-subjection to process of law within the frontiers of the country where the entitled person resides for the purpose of performing his official duties. It is effective in both civil and criminal matters. It covers also freedom from arrest and inviolability of residence. The privileges, on the other hand, are certain positive advantages which the diplomatic officer enjoys over the ordinary citizen of the country of his residence. They are largely fiscal in character and include such things as exemption from income tax; from payment of customs duties on articles imported for personal or family use; from payment for motor car licences and from payment of rates levied in respect of municipal services from which the diplomatic officers are not deemed to derive benefit, such as education. They are also free from such restrictions as might otherwise be imposed upon them as aliens.
It has been said by a number of noble Lords that to confer special rights on a certain class automatically involves a derogation of the rights of the rest of the community. I do not think that applies to the privilege aspect. It is on the immunity side that that criticism can most forcefully be raised, and it is the immunity aspect, particularly the immunity from ordinary legal process, which chiefly troubles your Lordships. I recall that it was to that aspect that 603 the late Lord Simon devoted the speech to which the noble and learned Earl has referred, which undoubtedly caused a considerable disturbance in the minds of noble Lords and which, I think, has coloured much of the thinking on this subject ever since.
The picture that the noble and learned Viscount presented was certainly an alarming one, but at the same time there are certain considerations which must be taken into account before final appraisal. One can work out all sorts of hypothetical cases in which this or that most unfortunate accident occurred, and it is very difficult to guard against every kind of hypothesis and to say that in no conceivable circumstance could that particular conjunction of circumstances come about with the result which has been feared. As one would expect, there is no evidence that members of the Diplomatic Corps in London are reckless, inexpert or inconsiderate motorists. The noble and learned Earl has mentioned 105 motoring offences among 4,000 people; but these were for minor offences, for parking and speeding. I do not think we can base on them any charge of general recklessness against the Diplomatic Corps—and the noble and learned Earl did not attempt to do so.
So far as we know, there was no serious charge of any kind made against a member of the Diplomatic Corps over the same period. Nor, may I add, has any case come to the notice of the Foreign Office in which a British subject has failed to receive compensation for injuries caused by the motor car of a member of the Diplomatic Corps, though, of course, I cannot state with absolute certainty that no such case has ever occurred. What I can and do say is that no such case has come to the notice of the Foreign Office, and I have no doubt that if such a case had arisen somebody would have made it his business to bring it to the attention of the Foreign Office. It must be remembered, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said, that the head of a mission has power, if he thinks fit, to waive the immunity in relation either to himself or to any member of his staff. I personally should hope that in a matter of any importance he would exercise that power, unless in a criminal matter the alleged offence seemed to have been committed on the Embassy premises and the 604 accused person could more suitably be tried in his own country.
Noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in particular—have suggested that there should be some sort of fund. It may be some assurance to your Lordships to know (for I think many of your Lordships may not be aware of this fact) that a good many years ago an agreement was reached between the Foreign Office and the insurance companies about claims arising from motor accidents in which members of the Diplomatic Corps were involved. Under this agreement the companies recognised that when they granted a policy to a member of the Diplomatic Corps, it would be inequitable for them to plead their client's privileged position by way of defence in order to escape their full obligation under the policy. They also agreed not to call upon such of their clients as are immune, as members of the Diplomatic Corps, from civil process, to refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of the Court in connection with any claim made against them.
Members of the Diplomatic Corps who own motor cars, though under a legal obligation to insure themselves against third party risks, cannot be compelled by law to do so but, in fact, since the passing of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, all members of the Diplomatic Corps have been urged to follow English law in this respect and to take out the appropriate policies of insurance. And I have every reason to believe that this advice is generally followed. I hope that that is some reassurance that the sort of case that has been in the mind of a number of noble Lords, of members of the Diplomatic Corps careering promiscuously over the country, and spreading in their wake death and disaster for which there is no compensation payable to Her Majesty's lieges, is not one which stands the test of practice and experience. Not only is there this arrangement with the insurance companies, but there is also the fact that over the past years, so far as I know, nothing of this kind has actually taken place.
In the course of the debate various other matters were raised and I hope that I have dealt with most of them. We were urged to say that Her Majesty's Government would go into the question of whether some sort of line of demarcation could be made between those organisations to whom privileges and immunities 605 were granted and those to whom they were not. I think that would be an exceedingly difficult exercise to carry out when matters have reached their present stage. It would mean we should have to say to any new organisations that might come into being: "Up to such-and-such a date all other organisations have had these privileges. We gave them because we thought it was right for them. Your organisation is of exactly the same type as they are, but since you have come into existence only since December 11, 1955" (or whatever date it might be), "you are not going to have them." That would be a very difficult line to take. It is very difficult to draw a distinction between organisations which receive a degree of immunity and privilege; but, as I have said before, it is important, and we do try hard, not to apply them to an excessive degree beyond the circumstances which each case requires.
I confess that I do not think that if we went to other countries for some international meeting of the United Nations, where one of these new conventions was being entered into which contained a provision that the members should receive some appropriate degree of privilege and immunity, and threw ourselves on the mercy of the other countries present and said: "You must realise that if you insist upon having privileges and immunities which you consider necessary, we shall get into trouble with the House of Lords," that would carry great conviction to the other countries; or whether, all things being equal, it would induce them to withdraw from a position which they had taken up because they appreciated it and because they thought it was necessary for these various bodies.
The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, if I may say so with respect, seemed to me to go off at an occasional tangent from the exact terms of this Resolution, but he did, I thought, in passing, rather paint a picture which seemed to indicate that the members of the Foreign Service were going up. I believe that to be contrary to the fact, and (I say this without having checked it) if the noble Lord will look at the statement which was issued by the Foreign Office in reply to certain criticisms, I think last year, by the Public Accounts Committee, he will find that the tendency of the figures is, in fact, to go not up, but down.
§ LORD VANSITTART
I did not think it had actually gone up recently; I merely thought it was too high, anyhow.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
We may perhaps go back to the time when the noble Lord had more active responsibility than he has to-day for the conduct of the Foreign Office and inquire into the state of the figures then. But a good deal has happened since then, and I have tried to give some indication of why the figures have in the interval gone up. The noble Lord also complained, in passing, that our mission in Moscow cost £1 million. I am not sure of the exact figure, but he must remember that that figure, if it be accurate, has an importance in respect not so much of the number of people involved, but of the rate of exchange in roubles which we have to pay in Moscow to keep a mission there at all. If he is going to suggest that we should withdraw the mission on that account, then I would profoundly disagree.
§ LORD VANSITTART
I never suggested that we should withdraw the mission on that account. I do not want to be misrepresented to that extent. I do not mind being misrepresented, but not monotonously. I suggested that the mission might be reduced—I did not suggest that it should be shut up, which is quite a different thing—and I suggested the same thing for other missions behind the Iron Curtain.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I do not desire to misrepresent the noble Lord. He has complained to us that this was a very expensive mission, and I was trying to give some explanation of why it was expensive. He says that he only wants it reduced; but, at the same time, the noble Lord will understand with his great experience anti his intimate knowledge of what goes on behind the Iron Curtain, that it is important to us to have adequately staffed missions in those countries. I think, on the whole, that we must be the judge of whether in any particular case a mission, in an Iron Curtain country or anywhere else, is excessive. It is, of course, something that the Foreign Office continue to watch, and increases in staff are certainly not freely or rashly made. The whole tendency is to try and effect a reduction wherever possible.
May I sum up what I have been trying to say? I think there is, on the part of 607 noble Lords who are interested in this matter, a feeling that we can do nothing to restrict the actual scope and character of diplomatic privilege and immunity as such; but whether we can reduce the number of persons to whom it applies is another matter.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
That is perhaps rather an exaggerated statement: it is one of the points, and perhaps the main point, but I do not think it is the whole point. On that, I have said to the House—and I shall carry it out, of course—that I will see what, if anything, can be done by way of direct negotiation, either with other suitable countries or raising the matter in some international body. But I did think it right to say, and I repeat it, that I should not be very hopeful of any large, if indeed of any, success as the result of those endeavours. However, that will be done.
As regards the international organisations, they have in these last few years, with the coming into being of this new spirit of international co-operation which was built up after the last war, and with the number of new directions in which international co-operation is necessary, become fairly numerous. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that some of them which came into being on a sort of temporary basis after the war have now disappeared, and the Orders which granted privilege to them have been annulled. So there are assets and liabilities in the matter; the number goes down as well as up. There was this rush in the years after the war, and although I am not for a moment going to give any sort of assurance that there will not be further international bodies of this kind, or that if there are we shall find it possible to stand out alone against the other countries who are signatories to the convention establishing them, I think it is reasonable to take the view that the first spate of these bodies has now probably, to a large extent, decreased and that such 608 additions as there are will be less in volume.
There again, as I said before, the other countries do attach importance to these matters: they like this clause to be put in the conventions which establish the bodies; and if we are of opinion that we ought for every other reason to join in these conventions and establish these bodies, surely it is out of all proportion to say that, because we do not like this business of immunity and privilege, therefore we shall refrain from deriving from those organisations the other benefits which membership of them may give. I am conscious of the problem—and not only I, but the Foreign Office, as a whole. We watch it, both from the point of view of reducing the numbers of our own staff and the staffs of other nations, and also from the point of view of the growth of international organisations. But for the reasons which I have given to your Lordships, I think still there has perhaps been a somewhat exaggerated view taken of the possible evil consequences of what has been done. I believe it would now be extremely difficut to retrace any steps as regards the principles applicable to these international bodies; but as regards the individual missions, it may be possible—though I say so without any deep-seated optimism—to make some step towards diminution. That is the most I can say, and I hope I have, to that extent at least, satisfied the noble and learned Earl who moved the Resolution which has given us the opportunity to discuss this by no means unimportant matter.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Marquess who has just spoken for the most careful, most exhaustive—and I say "exhaustive" and not "exhausting"—reply which he has made to this debate. It has not gone quite so far as I had hoped, but it has gone some way. So far as diplomatic missions are concerned, let me say frankly that the only point I was concerned with was numbers. I do not doubt that the fabric, which is a very ancient fabric, must be maintained. I do not doubt that as a matter of importance it should be maintained, and I should not wish to dispute that for one moment. The question is a very simple one. I maintain that the staffs have grown too large. I may be prejudiced. Once in my political life I was in charge of a large office with 609 an enormous staff, and at a later stage I was in charge of a small office with a very small staff. The noble Viscount on the Woolsack has had exactly the same experience. Speaking for myself, I am all in favour of a small office; and I believe better work would be done that way. I do not believe that business would suffer if our own staff abroad and the staffs of some of our friends over here became rather smaller. I agree that the noble Marquess can do no more than try, by negotiation and agreement, to make an approach. He is going to give it individual attention. He agrees that the staffs are relatively large, and, so far as that is concerned, I am perfectly content with that part of the reply.
I confess that. I am not so happy about the reply relating to these specialised agencies. Of course, they are regulated by international convention; but if a new convention comes along there is no reason why we should have this clause in it. The noble Marquess said: "If an official of the Foreign Office goes out and says that the House of Lords do not like this, they would not be much interested." I can well understand that; but he could say: "Let us realise that this grant of immunity is also a deprivation of rights to somebody else; do not let us grow into a lot of bureaucrats who are going to ride roughshod over everybody. I can tell you that at home people are getting rather disturbed about it." I want to know whether that particular point of view has been put forward. Do these international conventions ever hear the point of view which I think is agreed to on all sides of the House? If they hear that point of view forcibly expressed, they may say, "We understand that is your point of view. It is a funny, old-fashioned point of view; but, notwithstanding that, we must have this immunity." Then the dilemma arises; we have either to dis- 610 agree to a convention with this clause in it or not. I hope the point will be put, because, after all, most of the people who negotiate these conventions, from whatever country they come, can well realise that point of view and would desire to give effect to it.
There is one other point upon which I did not agree with what the noble Marquess said. He said that if they do not get this immunity they will never have their conferences in London. Is that really so? Nobody has put it to the test. Take the Postal Union. Suppose they were going to have a conference in London. At the present moment they have immunity. Suppose they did not have it: you would then have to say to them: "Remember that if, by any chance, when you are driving you car, you are the worse for liquor, you will get into trouble if you do not have this immunity." Would they rise in a body and say, "If that is so, we shall hot come to London"? I have a much better opinion of them than that, and I do not believe they would say that for a moment. If you told them, "If you are going to or from your place of meeting you must behave like the ordinary citizens, in a decent way," they of course will behave in a decent way, because they are a decent, sensible set of people. They do not want that sort of immunity any more than any of us would, and I wish that point could be tested. I believe if you put forward the argument that we in this country are disturbed about this immunity and do not like it—and it really does not mean much to them—you would find that, if the weather was nice and there was a comfortable hotel, they would still like to come to London. I am most grateful to the noble Marquess and all those who have taken part in the debate, and, with your Lordships' permission, I desire to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.