HL Deb 29 July 1965 vol 268 cc1443-6

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Draft International Headquarters and Defence Organisations (Designation and Privileges) Order 1965, which was laid before your Lordships' House on June 30, be approved. I hope your Lordships will find it convenient if I deal with this Order and the next one on the Order Paper together, as they are to a large extent complementary. Your Lordships will recall that under the previous Administration we approved the International Headquarters and Defence Organisations Act 1964, thus enabling the United Kingdom to fulfil its obligations as a member of NATO to confer on international head quarters and defence organisation having units in this country certain capacities, immunities and privileges. To make the Act effective, however, we need to designate the bodies to which it is to apply, and this is achieved by Article 2 and by the Schedule to this Order. Three supreme headquarters, three headquarters and one defence organisation are designated. Of these, SHAPE is familiar to us all, but the remaining descriptive abbreviations are, in my view, better read than pronounced.

It is necessary to draw a distinction between the different types of organisation because of the difference in the privileges which are conferred on them. Thus, Article 3 gives inviolability of archives to all six designated bodies, but Articles 4 and 5 relate only to supreme headquarters. These two Articles are designed to meet the requirement of Article 10 of the 1952 Protocol set up pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides that supreme headquarters must be given juridical personality with power to make contracts and acquire and dispose of property, and the requirements of Article 11(2), which provides that they should also have immunity from acquisition or seizure or attachment of property and funds. These capacities and privileges are not accorded to the headquarters in Part II of the Schedule, since, as they are subordinate to supreme headquarters, they will perform all functions in respect of which these capacities and privileges are relevant as agents and in the name of the supreme headquarters.

In granting immunities of this kind, we are, as your Lordships will be aware, following established precedent. As was explained when we debated the International Headquarters and Defence Organisations Act, these particular capacities, immunities and privileges are similar to those which may be conferred on international headquarters organisations generally by Orders made under the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950. But it should not be supposed that, in consequence of the immunity which they will be accorded in respect of certain forms of process, supreme headquarters will not in practice comply with any judgments that may be made against them. Your Lordships may wonder why it is necessary to designate SHAPE and SACLANT, since they are not established in this country. They do, however, have functions to perform here. SHAPE, for example, has certain radar and communications installations here. But, quite apart from these considerations, it is desirable to designate both these supreme headquarters so that the other headquarters may be able to act as their agents and in their name. So much for the Designation Order.

As to the Visiting Forces Order, our obligations to the Protocol require us to confer upon headquarters and defence organisations, as upon visiting forces, such privileges and immunities as they need to achieve their efficient organisation and operation, and this is the purpose of the draft Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law) Order, which I summit for your Lordships' approval. This extends to the designated headquarters and the Channel Committee, in accordance with paragraph 7 of the Schedule to the 1964 Act, the exemptions, immunities and privileges enjoyed by visiting forces in this country in pursuance of Section 8 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. We have also taken the opportunity to consolidate and amend the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Orders of 1954 and 1956, bringing them up to date by including the necessary references to more recent Statutes, such as the Road Traffic Act, 1960. This Order is in part a consolidation of provisions to which Parliament has already agreed and which have been working well for a number of years; and in part it brings the previous Orders up to date by adding references to new Statutes or statutory provisions, or replacing the old ones, where appropriate.

Inevitably, and as your Lordships will observe, this makes the Order rather bulky and complicated, because we have to set out, individually, all the departures from the normal requirements of the Statute Law of which the home forces might take advantage. Thus, visiting forces and the headquarters and defence organisations listed in Article 3 of the Order will be entitled to take advantage of the benefits accorded under the remaining Articles and Schedules. The visiting forces concerned are those of the other independent countries of the Commonwealth and foreign countries which are members of NATO. Apart from countries such as the United States, which may from time to time maintain substantial numbers of troops in this country, there may on occasion be contingents or detachments of the forces of the other countries here for training and joint exercises.

I am sure it will be in accordance with your Lordships' wishes if I do not deal in detail with the remainder of the Order, since it largely reproduces provisions which Parliament has already approved. It is only right, however, that I should emphasise that the Status of Forces Agreement ensures that our forces in the countries to which the Order applies enjoy the same main privileges and immunities as are conferred by the Order. The other immunities and privileges conferred by the Order are matters of international courtesy and arrangement, and as such are also enjoyed by our forces abroad. As regards international headquarters, those British personnel who are on the staff of similar headquarters abroad already receive the same privileges and immunities as the draft Order confers on servicemen and civilians from other countries who are serving at such headquarters in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, these two draft Orders are essential if we are to continue to meet our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty and to play our full part as members of the Alliance. We are dependent upon NATO for our defence, and I am sure the House will agree that we should do everything that is necessary to enable the headquarters and forces of the Alliance to operate efficiently in this country. The Orders will, subject to your Lordships' approval, come into operation thirty days after the day on which they are made. The intention is that the United Kingdom should ratify the 1952 Protocol on the day on which the Orders are made by Her Majesty the Queen in Council, and that ratification will then take effect on the same day as the Orders come into operation. My Lords, I beg to move that the first of these two draft Orders be approved.

Moved, That the Draft International Headquarters and Defence Organisations (Designation and Privileges Order 1965, laid before the House on 30th June be approved.—(Lord Stonham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.