HL Deb 06 December 1956 vol 200 cc808-10

3.12 p.m.

LORD MANCROFT rose to move, That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 1956, reported from the Special Orders Committee on November 28, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was set up to provide for a common system of defence it was necessary to make arrangements for stationing the troops of one member country in the territories of another in furtherance of common plans and designs. The detailed arrangements for the reception of these visiting forces was set out in the N.A.T.O. Status of Forces Agreement of 1951.

The obligations that this country accepted when it signed that Agreement were implemented by the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 1954. The Act and the Order are, however, limited at the moment to those countries who had ratified or acceded by early 1954. Since then, Luxembourg, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, Portugal and Italy have ratified or acceded, and we are under a clear obligation to extend our legislation to cover any forces that they might send to this country under the N.A.T.O. arrangements.

This Order, then, has two principal objects. The first and most obvious one is to extend the Order of 1954 to those six countries that have acceded to or ratified the Status of Forces Agreement since 1954. Perhaps I should say here that the only visiting forces as such which are at present permanently stationed in this country arc the Canadian and the American ones, with which forces I am glad to say our relations are cordial and satisfactory. We do not expect that any other substantial N.A.T.O. force will come here in the foreseeable future, but it is obviously desirable that we should not appear to be in breach of our international obligations in this matter.

The other principal object of this draft Order springs from the new Army and Air Force Acts which were passed in 1955. Your Lordships will remember that those Acts were the result of long and careful consideration both during the passage of the Bills through Parliament and previously in a Select Committee. They set out the basis upon which the military law of the Army and Air Force will rest for the future. It is clearly necessary that the relevant parts of this new military law should he extended to visiting forces, as were the old, and it happens that this extension must be provided for now, since the Army and Air Force Acts, 1955, will come into force on 1st January next. The draft Order therefore provides for the relevant sections of the Acts of 1955 to apply to visiting forces.

When the draft Order was drawn up the opportunity was taken of introducing new references that have become necessary awing to legislation that has been passed since the 1954 Order was made. Examples that strike the eye are those affecting the new Road Traffic and Town and Country Planning Acts; and the inclusion of references to the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956 and to the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954.

These miscellaneous references, like the others, are designed to place visiting forces in the same position as home forces and thus to carry out our obligations under the N.A.T.O. Status of Forces Agreement. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will see fit to approve this Order, which has not yet been considered in another place. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order. 1956, reported from the Special Orders Committee on the 28th of November, be approved.—(Lord Mancroft.)

On Question. Motion agreed to.