HL Deb 26 June 1962 vol 241 cc817-21

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, there are two humble Addresses which I have to move. As the Orders are both concerned with immunities and privileges, I think it might be for your Lordships' convenience if I said a brief word about both of them before moving the first. The first one is concerned with CENTO, and this is necessary in order to enable the Government to ratify the Central Treaty Organisation Statutes Agreement which was signed in November, 1960. I think we are all inclined—certainly I am often inclined—to be a little critical, and perhaps even a little resentful sometimes, about the number of persons who are accorded diplomatic and fiscal privileges who are not actually connected with Embassies but are engaged on work with some international organisation in London. Of course, we get reciprocal privileges in other countries. But I would submit to your Lordships that both these Orders are fully justified.

So far as the first one is concerned, CENTO has its headquarters in Ankara. It is extremely unlikely that any branch will be established in London, or that any officials connected with CENTO will ever come here, unless there should happen to be a CENTO Conference temporarily convened in the United Kingdom. If that should happen, except for the Secretary-General and the Senior Deputy Secretary-General, both of whom possess normal diplomatic immunity under this Order, the officials of CENTO would be liable to legal proceedings in respect of all acts performed by them in their private capacities. They would be personally answerable in just the same way as any of us or any of your Lordships would be answerable at the present moment for all misdeeds, motoring offences or more serious crimes, which were committed outside the sphere of official duties.

Perhaps I might say a word about the other Order affecting the International Wheat Agreement and the International Wheat Council. I do not think it is necessary for me to mention the advantages of our belonging to the International Wheat Council. I know that most of us were concerned when the Government felt obliged to leave that Council in 1953, and I think most of us were glad when we rejoined it in 1959. These humble Addresses, and the Order which I am asking your Lordships to approve, do not affect individuals, because in 1954, although we were no longer members of the International Wheat Council, the headquarters of the Council continued to be in London, and a special clause was put into the Finance Bill, 1954, dealing with the position of officials of the Council who happened to be in London. We are not concerned now with the Finance Act; we are concerned only with this Order which affects the Council in its corporate capacity.

What it does is to exempt the Council from payment of rates in so far as the Council are not benefiting by the services to which the rates apply. I think that is not a very large or unjustifiable privilege. I am not, as your Lordships know, anxious to extend these privileges unnecessarily. I would only remind your Lordships that the privileges which British subjects get on organisations like the Food and Agriculture Committee, in Rome, and elsewhere, are often more extensive than those which we give to foreigners residing here. I think that if we want to go on co-operating in military affairs, such as are concerned with CENTO, of economic affairs, and the very important question of putting, if we can, a floor into world commodity prices by such means as the International Wheat Council, we must give these small concessions to one or two people who are residing in London. I therefore beg to move the first humble Address which stands in my name.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Central Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1962, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on the 30th of May last.—(The Earl of Dundee.)


My Lords, it is certainly always necessary to do something about exemptions of this kind when you are getting completely reciprocal treatment—and I understand that in most of these matters, at any rate, that treatment is entirely reciprocal. On the other hand, we have had various comments in the last two or three Parliaments. I remember that my late friend Lord Jowitt, who used often to perform the duty the noble Earl is carrying out to-day, always spoke with some regret, and when he was in Opposition he sometimes stated a case against the extension. Could the noble Earl give me any idea of how many persons are likely to be involved in this general grant of immunity?


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies I should like to interject one sentence. I was immensely encouraged to hear the remark of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, about the necessity for putting a floor under commodity prices for such commodities as wheat; in other words, for having world commodity price schemes for stabilising world commodity prices. I should like the noble Earl to say in his reply that Her Majesty's Government will continue relentlessly to pursue that aim.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, so far as the first of these two Orders is concerned, it would affect only two individuals, the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General of CENTO, on the rare occasions When they might happen to come to London if a CENTO Conference happened to be held here. In respect of the second Order, as I have explained to your Lordships, individuals are already dealt with by the Finance Act, 1954, passed when we were not a member of the International Wheat Council; and now that we have become a member again it is not necessary to do anything more except to continue the appropriate section of that Act. In reply to the "unscrupulous intervention" of my noble friend Lord Boothby, I do not in any way resent At, because I have often tried to represent to your Lordships that the world economy cannot be put on a right basis until there is a proper equilibrium between commodity prices and other prices. I am putting these Orders to your Lordships on the broader basis, because they will help to make it more possible to have a rational system of world prices.


My Lords, would the noble Earl say that, where exemption is granted as regards payment of rent, the local authority in question will be reimbursed by the Government?


My Lords, I do not think that in these Orders there is any question of rental at all. It affects only rates. The noble Lord said "rent". That affects only the International Wheat Council as a corporate body; it does not affect individual members of the Council. I do not know whether the Government reimburses the local authority in these cases—I do not think it does—but the rebate of rates is given under this Order only when the local service on which the rates are spent does not benefit the International Wheat Council. They will have to pay rates for services from Which they derive benefit.


Will a general service derived from a local authority be regarded as not entitling the organisation to exemption?


They are reimbursed in those cases where the rates are remitted, but they are not remitted in all cases. The organisation will have to pay rates When it is considered they will benefit. I do not think your Lordships Will want me to go into great detail, but they are required to pay rates for services from which, as a member body, they are benefiting but have exemption in respect of services which are nothing to do with them.


My Lords, may I take it that as the International Wheat Council will be responsible for its own buildings in which it works, and whether, if it pays the expenses of living accommodation for its members or servants, it will be granted any rebate of rates in respect of those places?


No; it will pay rates. It is the local authority who is reimbursed, not the International Wheat Council.

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