HL Deb 11 June 1959 vol 216 cc981-3

3.26 p.m.

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE)rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the International Wheat Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1959, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 2nd instant. The noble Marquess said: Her Majesty's Government is a signatory to the International Wheat Agreement, signed at Washington in April, 1959, which was laid before Parliament on April 28. This draft Order in Council, made under Section 1 (i) (a) of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950, is necessary to make provision for the requirement under Article 22 (5) of the Agreement that the Council shall have in the United Kingdom such legal capacities as may be necessary for the exercise of its functions under the Agreement. The effect of the Order will be to confer on the organisation the legal capacities of a body corporate. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the International Wheat Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1959, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 2nd instant.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)


My Lords, we on this side of the House feel that we have no alternative but to accept this Order, but I should like once more to raise the question of the alarming extent to which diplomatic privileges are being permitted for all sorts of bodies and persons. It is a growing business, and noble Lords will remember that my noble and learned friend the late Lord Jowitt was very much concerned with this, and took the opportunity of raising the matter on every occasion that an Order of this kind was put forward. I recognise that the noble Marquess had no alternative but to bring this Order forward, but I feel that I must raise a note of disturbance, of apprehension, at the increasing number of people that walk about our metropolis with diplomatic privileges.


My Lords, certain inquiries have been made by my noble friend from the representatives of the Foreign Office, and I think that at least we might be told how many people are to receive the privileges and the immunities, and what immunities they receive? Do they pay local rates; are they subject to the motoring laws, and so on? I think that at any rate an answer of some kind is due to the House, and to my noble friend.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Viscount who has just spoken appreciates that I did not intend any discourtesy to your Lordships by not replying. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is well aware, we on this side are equally as anxious on this matter as noble Lords on that side of the House are. Let me assure noble Lords at once that there is no immunity whatsoever from jurisdiction involved, either for the organisation or for any of the individuals. All I have brought before your Lordships to-day is this draft Order asking for your assent to enable this organisation to have legal capacities, and nothing more than that. In addition, as I have no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is aware, there are exemptions from income tax on the salaries of such of its employees as are not citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. This exemption was conferred by Section 25 of the Finance Act, 1954, in respect of the 1953 Agreement, and it is in conformity with the exemptions granted to employees of the other Commodity Councils. There is nothing in this draft Order which is extending privileges in any way: and I think your Lordships can rest assured that we on this side of the House are just as jealous of diplomatic privileges as any other quarter of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether we may assume that this arrangement is completely reciprocal, and that like privileges are being afforded to British citizens abroad?


My Lords, with the exceptions which I have just explained, that is the case; but as the noble Lord is aware this Council has its seat in London.

On Question, Motion agreed to: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.