HL Deb 08 June 1964 vol 258 cc684-8

1. The members of the family of a diplomatic agent forming part of his household shall, if they are not nationals of the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in Articles 29 to 36.

2. Members of the administrative and technical staff of the mission, together with members of their families forming part of their respective households, shall, if they are not nationals of or permanently resident in the receiving State, enjoy the privileges and immunities specified in Articles 29 to 35, except that the immunity from civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State specified in paragraph 1 of Article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the course of their duties. They shall also enjoy the privileges specified in Article 36, paragraph 1, in respect of articles imported at the time of first installation.

3.18 p.m.

LORD SILKIN moved, to add to paragraph 1: except that—

  1. (a) immunities from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State specified in paragraph 1 of Article 31 shall not extend to acts performed outside the scope of their duties; and
  2. (b) the privileges specified in Article 36, paragraph 1, shall apply only to articles imported at the time of first installation".

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. Let me say at once that I expect the noble Lord to say that he cannot accept this Amendment, not because it is a bad Amendment and is not right, but because we have been parties to the Vienna Convention, the Schedule simply sets out the terms of the Vienna Convention and we cannot get away from it. Furthermore, I imagine he will say that the Vienna Convention was presented to Parliament, and Parliament must be deemed to have accepted it, in May, 1961. Nevertheless, I think it right that the Committee should realise what we are accepting.

The Amendment deals with the families of members of diplomatic staff. These families are in many cases given much the same privileges and immunities as the members of the staff themselves. It applies not only to members of families but also, in some cases, to members of their household residing with them; and it extends not only to cases where the activities are carried out in the course of their duties, but even outside their duties. While I do not want to argue this Amendment in detail, because I realise the futility of it, I think we should see what we are doing. Perhaps the whole House is to blame for having accepted the Vienna Convention without question, but the fact remains that we did so. I suppose the moral is that, when we get these Conventions in future we ought, before we approve them, to read them more carefully to see what we are letting ourselves in for. But there it is: the Convention was approved three years ago, and I am not asking the Committee to go back on what it agreed to then.

I move this Amendment merely to show that we have gone very much further in approving this Convention than any one of us would have wished to go if we had given any thought to the question at that time. What I am asking in this Amendment is that the immunities from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving State shall not extend, in the case of members of families, to acts performed outside the scope of their duties. Incidentally your Lordships may ask how it comes about that members of the household have duties which can be read as acts which can be done outside the scope of their duties. I am merely following the wording of another provision in the Convention where we talk of members of families as having activities outside the scope of their duties, whatever that may mean. At any rate, I have followed that paragraph. I am also asking that the privilege of being allowed to import goods free of duty should in the case of members of a household extend only to the first importation alter installation. In the case of the head of a diplomatic mission and others, they are entitled at all times to import goods free from duty, but I think, as my Amendment provides, that in the case of members of a family this immunity from payment of duty should apply only on the first installation. As I say, I think the Committee ought to know what we are doing. I am not in a position to press this Amendment, and I have to say that quite frankly. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 22, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)


The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has really made my speech for me, but there is, I think, a little more than I can add. I have, of course, a good deal of sympathy with the wish of the noble Lord, and I think others of your Lordships, who want to minimise the immunities from jurisdiction and customs privileges. That has been made clear in the Amendments and speeches we have already had on the Bill. But I am bound to oppose this Amendment, not only because it would be contrary to the terms of the Convention which was negotiated in 1961 (though I think that is the paramount reason) but also because it is in substance unacceptable. I will explain why, though I think the first reason alone is decisive because the Convention was drafted and adopted at a Conference which was representative of a large majority of States.

As I explained on Second Reading, the intention of this Convention was to codify International Law on the subject of diplomatic relations. Of course, we cannot technically amend the Convention itself, and we cannot ratify the Convention unless we are prepared to accept its terms; and the Convention contains no provision permitting reservations. In any event, we would not contemplate the withdrawal of immunity and privilege for which this Amendment would provide. I do not know exactly what the effect of limiting the immunity from jurisdiction of members of a family to acts performed within the scope of their duties would be, but I do know that the full measure of immunity for which provision is made in paragraph 1 of Article 37 of the Convention is necessary.

I do not want to detain the Committee with a long explanation, but I think all your Lordships would agree—and certainly those of your Lordships, such as the noble Lord, Lord Inchyra, and others, who have experience abroad as Ambassadors—that it is necessary to protect diplomatic agents against pressure and subversion in the interests of the security of the State. So equally is it necessary to protect members of their family forming part of their household. The kind of pressure which can be exercised through legal processes directly on a person may be applied with even greater force if directed against a member of the family. For that reason, I think we should find this Amendment in any event unacceptable.

As regards sub-paragraph (b), I think it is rather difficult to see how in practice, as opposed to theory, one could accord the privilege to import articles free of Customs duty to the diplomatic agent, without giving the benefit of the exemption to the members of his household. I think that would be very difficult indeed. The enjoyment of this privilege is necessary for the proper maintenance of our own diplomatic agents abroad, and we can, of course, only claim a benefit of this kind if we are prepared to accord it ourselves. Indeed, it may be recalled by your Lordships that, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I said that some people might think that the changes made by this Bill go further than we can afford in withdrawing protection from members of our missions in foreign countries, and that this is a point on which we might have to reflect during the passage of the Bill. We have been reflecting on this and examining the problems further, and this examination has brought to light certain limited cases in which we cannot go so far as is proposed in the Bill. We have deliberately not sought a general power for the future to make agreements extending to other States more favourable terms than is required by the provisions of the Convention as is provided by Article 47 of the Convention. But there are certain existing agreements and arrangements relating to this subject of immunity and Customs exemption for which we shall have to make provision. Every effort is being made to keep these items within the narrowest possible limits, but I think I ought to tell your Lordships that at the next stage of the Bill I shall have to put down a limited Amendment to deal with the two points I have just mentioned.

If I may say so, I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, moved the Amendment with great reasonableness, and I am sorry that I have had to give him such a very unforthcoming answer. But I would ask him and your Lordships to remember that this is, so to speak, a package deal in which, if we are going to have any of it, we must accept the things we do not like. Because of the reasons I have given, I hope that the noble Lord and your Lordships will not press the Amendment.


As I said in moving the Amendment, I do not propose to press it, and I now beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Enactments repealed]:


This repeal is consequential on the partial repeal of Section 461 of the Income Tax Act, 1952, for which provision is already made by Schedule 2. The reason is that the operation of subsection (2) of Section 2 of the Ireland Act, 1949, is dependent on the provisions in Section 461 which are being repealed. The net result of the two repeals will be that the income tax exemptions of members of all diplomatic missions—foreign, Commonwealth and that of the Republic of Ireland—will be dealt with in the same way under the Bill itself. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 11, line 5, at end insert—

(', 12 13 & 14 Geo. 6. c. 41 The Ireland Act 1949 Section 2(2)")
(Lord Carrington.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, with Amendments.