HL Deb 19 June 1961 vol 232 cc404-9

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, the Order to confer privileges and legal immunities on the International Tin Council, which is before your Lordships' House this afternoon, is required to enable Her Majesty's Government to ratify the second International Tin Agreement, signed by Her Majesty's Government at London on November 3, 1960. This draft. Order was considered by the Special Orders Committee of your Lordships' House on June 14. The Council with which this order deals will be the successor to the first International Tin Council, which was established by the International Tin Agreement, 1954. This Agreement came into force on July 1, 1956. The duration of the 1954 Agreement was fixed at five years from the date of its entering into force, so that the Agreement is due to terminate on June 30 of this year and to be followed immediately by the second Internatioanl Tin Agreement, which is due to become effective on July 1.

The first International Tin Council established its headquarters in London. It has been agreed that the second Council should do the same. This choice of London for its headquarters is because the members of the Council regard London as the centre of the international tin market. The new Council will continue the work of its predecessor and will enjoy exactly the same legal capacities and privileges.


My Lords, could the noble Marquess say when the first International Tin Council was established and got diplomatic immunity?


Yes, I can. The Agreement was in 1954, and it became effective in 1956. So what we are doing now is going on to the second 5-year period. I will just repeat the last sentence. The new Council will continue the work of its predecessor and will enjoy exactly the same legal capacities and privileges. Article 2 of the Order would accord the Council the legal capacities possessed by any ordinary limited liability company, as, for instance, the power to own property, enter into contracts and appear in the courts. Article 3 would confer the fiscal privilege of exemption of the Council from United Kingdom tax on its premises or assets, or on profits, if any, accruing to it as a result of its dealings in tin. These profits result from the Council's operation of its buffer stock of tin which it holds to ensure reasonable stability in the inter- national tin market. The Council would also enjoy relief from that portion of the local rates leviable on its premises which is devoted to services from which it derives no direct benefit, for instance, education, public baths and paupers' burials. It will not be granted the privilege of importing supplies without payment of customs duty.

Under Article 4 officers employed by the Council who are not citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies would be exempt from income tax deductions on their official salaries. Five such persons are at present employed by the Council. The remaining eleven members of the secretariat are United Kingdom nationals who will receive no privileges under this Order. The number of officers employed may vary, but the size of the secretariat is not expected to alter when the new Council comes into being. None of the officials of the secretariat will be accorded legal immunity. I repeat that the only privileges accorded to them will be exemption with regard to United Kingdom income tax on the official salaries of the Council's employees who are not citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. To sum up, the Order for which I am asking approval does not grant any new privileges or immunities. It is a renewal Order required for the ratification by Her Majesty's Government of the Second International Tin Agreement. I beg to move.

Moved, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the International Tin Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1961, be made in the form of the Draft laid before this House on the 5th instant.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)


My Lords, this, as the noble Marquess says is a renewal of an existing Order; and that is the best case he has. But the existing Order started in 1952 and was implemented in 1954.


The Agreement was in 1954, and it was implemented in 1956.


I freely confess that I asked the question to be sure that it was not started by the Labour Government. As it happens, the answer suits me very well: it was not started by the Labour Government. I must say that I am really getting utterly sick and tired of these Privileges and immunities Orders. We have now descended to the ridiculous. The Tin Council, a predominantly commercial organisation and a business organisation, is to have diplomatic privileges and immunities.




With great respect, I am afraid the noble Lord is at fault. It is not to have diplomatic privileges.


I admit that I put that adjective in wrongly. But it is to enjoy privileges and immunities, is it not?—because that is the title.


I do not want to question whether the noble Lord was listening, but, so far as the personnel are concerned, there is only one privilege accorded, and that is the so-called privilege of not paying income tax.


And rates?


Rates apply to the business premises of the Council, not to the individuals.


But it is the Tin Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order. Why the noble Marquess wants to pick me up a second time, I do not know, because my language then was in the meaning and the words of the title of the Order. I really think this is preposterous. A Tin Council is to have these privileges and immunities. It is not to pay United Kingdom taxes. Every other capitalist organisation in the United Kingdom, so far as it cannot evade them, pays taxes. Why should not this body pay taxes? Why should it be specifically exempt by the Order of Her Majesty's Government and of Parliament? If it does not pay taxes, the rest of us have to pay some taxes to make up for the taxes this Council does not pay. I just cannot understand it.

Then, in so far as its personnel do not benefit from local government expenditure, they are not Ito pay rates. For example, the noble Marquess says that they are not to pay the education part of the costs of the local authority because they do not get anything out of it. I do not get anything out of educational expenditure—not a penny. My education, so far as the public authority is concerned, rightly or wrongly, is finished. It may be that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, whom I see sitting there, cynically waiting for an opportunity to "have a go" (though he may not), may think that my education would be improved if it did continue from the public authority; but, in fact, it has finished. I have no children who are capable of getting education from the public authority. I do not get a penny out of it. But I am delighted to pay my rates to the London County Council for the great educational service of London, which some Tory conspirators are now trying to cut up and break into pieces. I pay them with pleasure. Why should not the Tin Council pay them? It is going to employ people at the Tin Council offices, and some of those people will have benefited from education. I think it is monstrous that ratepayers like me, who are delighted to pay for the education services and for others that this authority is not going to pay for, should have to pay more because the Tin Council, of all bodies on God's earth, is to be the subject of privileges and immunities. As I say, I think it is monstrous, and I do beg the noble Marquess to take this Order back and tell the Tin Council to pay its way, both in taxes and in rates; to let them be a self-respecting body, and not a pauper body claiming to exist on the British Poor Law by way of exemption from taxes and rates.

I admit that the strength of the noble Marquess's case is that this is the continuance of an existing evil; but I wish Her Majesty's Government would reconsider their attitude on these Orders, which I think are wrong. I am sorry to have spoken with some vigour, which I know your Lordships do not like, and even on the verge of violence, which I know your Lordships like still less; but I am getting utterly fed up with these Orders coming along whereby bodies of no real diplomatic significance—indeed, the noble Lord corrected me when I used the word "diplomatic"—claim this charity, this Poor Law relief at the expense of the British taxpayer and the British ratepayer. I think Her Majesty's Government ought to put the brakes on.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask: would he prefer the Tin Council to go elsewhere?


No. But when are we going to get to the point when we have to buy the headquarters of international organisations—it might be international something else—by relieving of rates and taxes at the expense of the rest of us in order to attract them to London. There is no answer. He has not got one.

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