§ 4.58 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of the Bill is quite simple, but, as in so many cases, when one seeks to draft a measure one ends up with a highly technical Bill. This is certainly one of those cases. If I were to explain all the clauses in detail I fear that I should make a very long and burdensome speech. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I will deal with the main provisions of the Bill, and if any questions 881 are raised later on other clauses I can either deal with them in reply or on the Committee stage.
My Lords, Parliament has always been concerned about the increase of privileges and immunities, particularly within the Diplomatic Service. I think one should make it quite clear that these privileges and immunities do not mean that those who enjoy them can ride roughshod over the laws of the land. As I said on Tuesday, all persons entitled to diplomatic immunity are under a duty to respect the laws and regulations of the State in which they serve. The immunities accorded to Consuls are intended to give them a degree of protection from the jurisdiction of the receiving State necessary to enable them to perform their functions effectively and without hindrance; immunity from jurisdiction in respect of acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.
I think I should stress that the immunities in this Bill are more limited than those of the Diplomatic Service. These immunities of which I have spoken also reflect the sovereign immunity of the State on whose behalf the functions are performed. A Consul should always be treated with special courtesy and respect due to an official agent of another State. Fiscal privileges derive from the principles that a Government should not tax another Government through its representatives, and a Government should not seek to gain a benefit from the presence in its territory of an agent of another Government for official purposes. Immunities and privileges are also based on the principle of reciprocity.
In considering immunities and privileges to be accorded to foreign Consuls in the United Kingdom, it must be borne in mind that there are places in the world and circumstances in which our interests and those of our nationals would be seriously prejudiced if consular posts and personnel were not accorded a special, protected status. But the main purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to enable effect to be given to certain other agreements entered into by the United Kingdom, and to make consequential provisions in relation to the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.
882 The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations codifies the general rules of International Law concerning consular relations immunities and privileges. It was adopted at a conference of some 92 States held in Vienna in 1963 under the auspices of the United Nations and entered into force on March 19, 1967. So far, 27 States have become parties by ratification or accession, and 33 others, including the United Kingdom, have signed the Convention but have not yet ratified it. This Convention, like the Vienna Convention of 1961 on Diplomatic Relations, to which effect was given by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, was based on a draft prepared by the International Law Commission, a body consisting of highly qualified legal experts representing the main legal systems of the world and charged under the Charter of the United Nations with the codification and progressive development of International Law. The United Kingdom has always supported and encouraged this work.
The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations is the counterpart in the consular field of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, but in drawing up the Consular Convention the International Law Commission and the Vienna Conference were faced with a task which was in many respects more difficult, because the rules of International Law were considerably less well developed, and the, practice of States was less uniform, in the consular than in the diplomatic field. The Convention to which this Bill gives effect therefore represents an important step in the process of codifying International Law. The Bill will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Convention and to claim the benefit of it for our consular posts in other countries.
The form of the Bill is similar to that of the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, though unlike that Act it deals not only will privileges and immunities but with mach else besides. Following the precedent of the 1964 Act, subsection (1) of Clause 1 of the Bill gives the force of law to those Articles of the Convention which are set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill. Many of the provisions of the Convention can be implemented by executive action and do not require legislation. The provisions for which legislation is 883 needed are those concerning the immunities and privileges of consular posts and persons connected with them.
There is very little existing legislation on the matters covered by the provisions in Schedule 1. The immunities and privileges at present accorded to foreign consuls in this country depend very largely on the Common Law doctrine that International Law is part of the law of the land, and on administrative practice. The Bill, like the Convention, will therefore have the great merit of legislating in a field where hitherto there has been considerable room for uncertainty. There are, not surprisingly in the circumstances, some departures from existing practice, but I hope to satisfy the House that these should be accepted.
The nature of the innovations can best be appreciated by comparing the terms of the Vienna Convention with the rules accepted in the bilateral Consular Conventions entered into by the United Kingdom. In view of the previous state of uncertainty regarding the rules of International Law, and in order to ensure proper treatment for our consular posts overseas, we concluded between 1951 and 1965 14 Conventions with other States. In the matter of immunities and privileges these followed a fairly standard pattern, with minor variations only.
Before I refer to certain Articles of the Vienna Convention, I must draw your Lordships' attention to one important point. The Convention is divided into Chapters, as shown in Schedule 1 to the Bill. Chapter II, which begins at Article 31 on page 13, applies only to career consular officers and posts headed by them. Chapter III, which begins at Article 58, on page 21, applies to honorary Consuls and their posts. There is no definition of "career" and "honorary", but I understand that in practice there is no difficulty in distinguishing between them. Generally a career officer is one in full-time career employment of the sending State, whereas an honorary Consul is usually a local resident employed on a part-time basis only. What I now have to say about the immunities and privileges accorded by the Vienna Convention relates, unless I state otherwise, only to career Consuls.
I will deal first with the questions of inviolability and jurisdictional immuni.
884 ties As regards inviolability of premises, Article 31 in Schedule 1 imposes greater restrictions on the rights of the local authorities to enter consular premises than we have hitherto accepted. It provides that they may enter only with the consent of the appropriate officer of the sending State, though consent may be assumedin the case of fire or other disaster requiring prompt protective action".In the matter of personal immunities, Consuls have usually not enjoyed the degree of immunity in respect of both official acts and private acts accorded to diplomatic agents, and the Vienna Convention preserves this distinction. Article 43 in Schedule 1 gives consular officers and employees immunity from jurisdiction only in respect of acts performed in the exercise of consular functions. It does not extend to any acts of a private character; nor does it extend to third-party claims for damage caused by a vehicle, vessel or aircraft. This, therefore, is fully in accordance with our present practice.
There are, however, two respects in which the scheduled Articles give a greater degree of personal immunity than we have hitherto accorded. First, Article 41 provides that a consular officer shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and with a warrant. A "grave crime" is defined in Clause 1, subsection (2), as meaning:any offence punishable (on a first conviction) with imprisonment for a term that may extend to five years or with a more severe sentence".Secondly, Article 44 provides in effect that when a consular officer declines to give evidence, even on a matter not connected with the exercise of his official functions, no coercive measures may be applied to him. He is not, however, relieved of his obligation to give evidence except where official matters are concerned, and should he fail to do so appropriate diplomatic action can be taken.
The Vienna Conference held that consular officers should be accorded the increased immunities which the Vienna Convention provides. Having regard to the conditions prevailing in many parts of the world to-day, I think your Lordships would accept that the immunities conferred by the Convention are not in excess 885 of those which consuls require to enable them to perform their duties effectively and without hindrance. Indeed, it seems increasingly doubtful whether they are not in effect unduly restrictive.
Turning now to the field of privileges, I would point out that the fiscal privileges provided by Article 32 concerning taxation of consular premises, by Article 49 on taxation of consular personnel and by Article 50 on exemption from customs duties are, in general, no more than those which we have been prepared to accord—indeed, have accorded—by our bilateral Conventions. The only addition of note is that under paragraph 2 of Article 49 members of the families of consular officers and employees will be entitled to certain tax exemptions not enjoyed by them hitherto.
However, the main effect of the Bill in the field of taxation will be to extend exemptions which hitherto have been granted only on the basis of a bilateral agreement to the consular posts and personnel of States with which we have not yet concluded such an agreement. But this is a necessary consequence of accepting the Vienna Convention as a codification of the general rules of international law, and it will, of course, bring reciprocal benefits to our posts and personnel in other countries. The exemptions involved include rating relief for consular premises and the residence of the head of a post under Article 32, exemption of consular officers and consular employees and members of their families from income tax on overseas income under Article 49, and continuing customs privileges for consular officers under Article 50.
I should like to say a few words here regarding rating relief. The relief accorded by Article 32 does not extend to such dues or taxes as represent payment for specific services rendered. This means that the posts and officers entitled to relief must nevertheless pay what has been known as the "beneficial" portion of the rates. This is the element in the rates which relates to the local services which are of direct benefit to the post or officer concerned. Furthermore, arrangements are made whereby the cost of the relief does not fall on the local authorities but is borne by the Treasury. The Treasury pay the authorities the full general rate on the premises and then recover the beneficial portion from the 886 occupier. These are the arrangements which apply in respect of Embassies and which were explained to the House when the Diplomatic Privileges Bill was before Parliament in 1964.
The position of honorary consulates and honorary consular officers is dealt with in Articles 58 to 67. These provisions involve only one important change, namely, the granting of rating relief in respect of consular premises. But this privilege applies only in cases where the consular post is owned or leased by the sending State. Most honorary consulates form part of the business or private premises of the consul concerned and would not be affected.
As I have said, the remaining part of the Bill is very highly technical and we could deal with this later in Committee. But I think I should say a few words before closing in regard to Clause 3. Clause 3 will enable effect to be given to agreements with other States providing for privileges and immunities additional to or less than those provided by the Vienna Convention. Subsection (1) provides for the case where a bilateral Convention accords privileges and immunities on a wider scale than the Vienna Convention. The limits within which additional privileges and immunities may be conferred under this subsection are specified in Schedule 2 of the Bill. It should also be noted that by Clause 14(1) the Order in Council necessary for this purpose will require an Affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. The powers listed in Schedule 2 are all required to give effect to existing bilateral Consular Conventions. No powers beyond those necessary for this purpose are sought.
Subsection (2) is designed to cover the case of States with which an agreement has been concluded providing for less extensive privileges and immunities than those contemplated in the Vienna Convention. It is hoped that most States will agree to accord reciprocal treatment not less favourable than that provided in the Vienna Convention; but some States are not party to the Vienna Convention, and these may decline to do so in respect of particular matters.
I have referred to the fourteen Consular Conventions already concluded in what has hitherto been our standard form. These Conventions accord narrower 887 immunities but in some respects wider privileges than the Vienna Convention. Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 2 will provide powers to enable effect to be given to these wider privileges. It is necessary that these Conventions should be retained in force because, unlike the Vienna Convention, they contain detailed provisions concerning the exercise of a wide range of consular functions, including the protection of nationals, the administration of estates, merchant shipping, and other matters. Similar Conventions will be negotiated in the future. In the matter of privileges and immunities future Conventions will naturally have regard to the Vienna Convention, but it may in the case of some countries be in the interests of the United Kingdom to negotiate some departures from the Vienna standard within the limits of the powers in Schedule 2.
Since 1965 we have signed two Conventions of a somewhat different kind, namely, those with the Soviet Union of December 2, 1965, and with Poland of February 16, 1967. Similar agreements are planned with other countries of Eastern Europe. None of the Conventions in this group, however, can be brought into force until the present Bill has become law and Orders in Council can be made under Clause 3. These Conventions contain the same provisions with regard to the exercise of consular functions and follow the same pattern with regard to privileges.
Where they differ is in relation to immunity. Provision is made for the reciprocal extension of a much greater degree of immunity from jurisdiction and personal inviolability for consular personnel, including members of consular families, and complete inviolability is given to consular premises and to the residences of consular officers. These departures from the usual standards are considered indispensable. It is essential in the countries concerned that consular personnel should receive the same full degree of protection as their diplomatic colleagues. Indeed, in some respects consular personnel working in the provinces require full protection even more than diplomats serving in the capital. Other Governments have concluded, or are in the process of concluding, agreements on similar lines; for example, during the 888 present year consular treaties have come into force between the U.S.S.R. and both Japan and the United States. My Lords, with those few words I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, that the Bill be now read 2.a.—(Lord Shepherd.2)
§ 5.21 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, we must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for having so clearly explained what is, as he said, a most complicated Bill. As he said, it gives effect to the Vienna Convention of April, 1963. I understand from the noble Lord that we did not in fact sign the Convention, but that we intend to accede to it once this Bill is passed. As I understand it, the procedure is closely in line with that followed by the Conservative Government, to give effect to the provisions of the other Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations in 1961. Many of the provisions are the same and the language of the two Bills is similar, and we on this side of the House certainly see no objection to it in principle.
There are, however, a few questions that I should like to ask the noble Lord. Clause 3(1), which I think he mentioned, foresees that in certain circumstances a Government may grant to another Government consular privileges in addition to those laid down in the Vienna Convention. These possible additional privileges are, I see, listed in Schedule 2 and are of considerable scope. Then, as we heard, Clause 14(1) provides that such additional privilges may be offered only if the necessary Order in Council has been previously approved by Parliament.
I should like to ask the Government in what circumstances they believe that it may be desirable to grant to foreign consuls privileges wider than those agreed under the Convention. The Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 contained no such provision for additional privileges. I should like to ask the noble Lord to clarify that point a little further for us.
Secondly, I should like to ask the noble Lord a question which concerns the case of Mr. Gerald Brooke, who is in prison in the Soviet Union. Article 36(c) of the Convention, which the Russians signed, provides that consular officers 889 shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison. It is true that this provision is not among the Articles of the Convention which are quoted in the Schedules to the Bill. As the noble Lord knows, not all the Articles in the Convention are quoted in the Bill. This is a little confusing to me. But am I not right in saying that whatever our view of the Convention which the Russians have signed, the Soviet Government are in breach of accepted international practice in refusing such visits? I understood from the reply by the Under-Secretary of State in another place on November 6 that they certainly are in breach of such practice, as well as behaving in a most inhumane way.
Mrs. Brooke, who came to see me here yesterday and with whom we must all, I think, have the deepest sympathy, last saw her husband in February, 1966. She tells me that while she receives her husband's letters he is not allowed food parcels, although his health has always been such that he has tended to require a certain diet. And of course the consul has not been allowed to see him since last December. I am sure that in this case all your Lordships would like to be associated with a further urgent appeal to the Soviet Government to release Mr. Brooke; but that if he is not released, he should be treated in a humane way and, if he is ill, as one report has it, that he should be given the appropriate medical treatment.
Having visited the Soviet Union on various occasions and knowing a number of distinguished Russians, including First Secretary Brezhnev and many others in official diplomatic, scientific and even Parliamentary circles, I hope that your Lordships will join with me in making this further appeal. I know that representations have been made in the highest quarters; that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, our Ambassador, Sir Alec Douglas Home, and others in another place have taken up the case over and over again, but I am sure that your Lordships would like to be associated with them in this.
I should also like to ask the Government a question or two on the Chinese attitude to the Vienna Convention. As we know, the British representative in Shanghai was manhandled and his house was sacked in May, 1967. Even if he 890 were not technically a consular officer, it appears that he had certain consular duties. Communist China was not, I think, even represented at the Conferences which concluded either of the two Conventions. If this is the case, may I ask whether anything is being done bilaterally to safeguard the position of consular, indeed of all, diplomatic officers in China?
There are only one or two other questions which I should like to ask the noble Lord, but which perhaps might be more appropriately dealt with in Committee. However, if the Government are able to give a satisfactory answer this evening, then that may obviate raising them in Committee. One refers to Clause 8 of the Bill, which provides that the Treasury may authorise the refund, under certain conditions, of the duty on petrol. On the face of it, this seems odd, since there was no similar provision in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. Why is it necessary to include this clause in the Consular Relations Act, but not in the Diplomatic Privileges Act?
I have given the noble Lord notice of this question, and I hope that he will be able to give me an answer. But I should like him to tell us to-day what is the position about petrol used by diplomats. What is the estimated cost of this concession? And why is it applied to hydrocarbon oils and not to other articles on which there is an Excise duty, for example, whisky or gin? Does this mark a further extension of the boundaries of diplomatic and consular privileges? I hope it does not. No doubt the noble Lord has a satisfactory answer to that.
Finally, Article 32 of the Convention, which is also included in Schedule 1 of the Bill, provides, among other things, that consular premises shall be exempt from municipal taxesother than such as represent payment for specific services rendered.It seems that consular premises would pay the element in the rates arising from refuse collection, street lighting and so on but not for the element which goes towards services that the Consul would not use, for example, schools. I should think this a most difficult line to draw. How do the Government distinguish between these elements in the rates? Incidentally, is there any scheme for reimbursing municipal authorities for the loss 891 which they may thus suffer on consular premises? The granting of this privilege to diplomats would, of course, affect only one or two London boroughs; but the extension to consuls would involve a much larger number of local authorities. I think all your Lordships must be deeply concerned about the position of consuls in many parts of the world, when they have their windows broken or are otherwise treated in a most uncivilised fashion. Who would want to be a consul in these circumstances?
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
Or, indeed, a diplomat? As we are dealing with the Consular Relations Bill at the moment, I confined it to consuls. I think that in many cases our consuls and our diplomats have proved to be as gallant men as any in our Armed Forces. I am sure, therefore, that your Lordships will welcome this Bill. I hope that it may be possible for us to ratify the Convention as soon as practicable—I know there are problems involved—and that the Soviet Government will, at long last, hearken and taken note of what we have to say about Mr. Brooke.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I rise for one moment in order to support what the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has just said on the subject of Mr. Gerald Brooke. It seems to us on these Benches to be extraordinary that this unfortunate man should be subjected to these frightful hardships, which apparently are almost endangering his life, simply for the crime of having, as I understand it, distributed some subversive literature. I do not know whether it might be represented to the Soviet Government, and at any rate it is a good thing that we here should say this, that this, if anything, is a demonstration of the essential weakness, apparently, of the Soviet régime. If they want to give the impression to the whole world that they are really a weak Government which might be overthrown by some coup d'état or some putsch at any moment, which may be the case, then they will go on treating Mr. Brooke as they have been treating him up to now. That ought to be said clearly and firmly to them, and it might conceivably make some impression.
892 The second point is that if there is any reason to suppose that in treating Mr. Gerald Brooke in this way, and more particularly in not letting him see the consul, they are actually violating the text of some Convention, as I think the noble Earl suggested, then that again is something which, if it were proved and demonstrated by qualified lawyers, might conceivably appeal to the Soviet Government, which is nothing if not legally minded and always likes on the face of it to be carrying out the law. I have had long experience of this in the United Nations with Mr. Vishinsky and others, and if you can prove and get them to admit that it is against the law, that makes an impression. Therefore, on these two fronts the Government might be well advised to make some new attack and somehow get the conditions of Mr. Brooke improved. It seems extraordinary that a man who is not even accused of spying should be treated much worse than any spy. At the moment, apparently, spies are in a rather privileged position; they are treated well by both sides. That seems to me also to be rather paradoxical and indeed deplorable. Therefore I think we ought to concentrate on trying to get this man's lot improved.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am sure the whole House shares in and echoes the expressions of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in regard to Mr. Gerald Brooke. Perhaps I could deal with that before taking up the more detailed points addressed to me by the noble Earl. The House will know that the welfare of Mr. Gerald Brooke is a matter of very serious concern to the Government, and the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other members of the Government have on a number of occasions approached the Soviet leaders to seek clemency for Mr. Brooke and to obtain permission for visits to him by members of his family and Her Majesty's Consul, and continued pressure is being kept on the Soviet Government.
One of the purposes of Clause 3 of the Bill is to give the power to ratify the Anglo-Soviet Consular Convention. This Convention was signed on December 2, 1965, between the then Foreign Secretary and Mr. Gromyko. It was a 893 satisfactory document, seemingly well-suited to serve the, interests of both parties. Article 36 of that Convention, read in conjunction with the protocol of the Convention, regulates the right of a consular officer to be notified of the arrest or detention of a national and to have access to him. The effect of these provisions is that notification must be made within one to three days and access given within two to four days, while access must be given on a recurrent basis after conviction. These passages of the Convention would therefore be very relevant to a case such as that of Mr. Brooke if the Convention were in force. The terms of the Convention do not permit any exceptions and would therefore apply to Mr. Brooke equally as to any other British citizen.
Provided that there is no misunderstanding on this point, Her Majesty's Government would welcome the early entry into force of the Convention and would propose to take the necessary steps for this purpose. But, of course, it cannot be brought into force until this Bill becomes law. As to whether the Soviet Union is under any obligation of this kind pending the entry into force of the Convention, the answer is that she has not signed or acceded to the Vienna Convention, which also contains provisions on the matter at Article 36. Nor, apart from the Vienna Convention, is there any established rule of customary international law requiring States to extend rights of access or communication to foreign consuls. Nevertheless, many States do as a matter of normal international practice.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, asked me why Article 36 of the Vienna Convention has not been included in this Bill.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
May I also ask him whether there is no chance, for example, of an English doctor being allowed to fly out to the Soviet Union? If so, and knowing many Russians, I should be very glad to fly with him if 894 I could be of any assistance to him. I feel that we must try to get some humanity into this matter.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I very much take the point. We are at the moment—and the noble Earl will understand my very careful words at this present stage—seeking through all the channels which are open to us to see that Mr. Brooke is visited by the consul so that we can assess his physical condition. I think I had better leave it like that. But I should not like the House to be under any illusions that this matter is not being pressed in the same spirit that the noble Earl has brought to it, not only as a question of humanity but also as one of recognised international practice.
The noble Earl asked why in Clause 3 we are providing the possibility of wider privileges and immunities than are within the Vienna Convention. The noble Earl, I thought, gave me the answer. He recognised the conditions under which many of our consuls are required to work, and therefore when entering into bilateral agreements, as in the case of Russia and Poland, it may well be that wider immunities and privileges should be accorded to our Consuls in those territories. It may well be that we shall be entering into other bilateral agreements. Therefore Clause 3 and Clause 14(1) give us a degree of flexibility to enter into these wider fields, but again subject to Schedule 2 and the approval of Parliament.
The noble Earl also asked me about the position in regard to China, and referred to the regrettable treatment suffered by our Consuls and representatives in Shanghai. By agreement with the Chinese People's Government, the British representative in Shanghai was technically regarded as a detached member of the British Mission in Peking. This gave him a diplomatic rather than a consular status. The noble Earl asked whether we were opening discussions with the Government of China for, perhaps, a bilateral agreement. I think he will recognise, as the Government themselves have said, that our relations at the present moment are far from normal and we are doing all we can to bring back normality. But in the present circumstances it would not seem to me very profitable to seek to make these particular overtures.
895 The noble Earl asked about Clause 8 in regard to hydrocarbon oils. The position is that the Consuls at present in the United Kingdom already receive relief from the tax on oils, so to that extent we are not making an extension. But we are, in fact, putting this provision into a Bill for the first time. The noble Earl drew my attention to the fact that it is not in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. The answer is that we intend at a suitable date to amend the Diplomatic Privileges Act to give statutory authority for the refund of duties on hydrocarbon oils to diplomatic missions and personnel. Again, this is in line with what is provided for and made available on a reciprocal basis to our Consuls overseas. The noble Earl asked me—
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I also asked the noble Lord about whisky and gin—why the arrangement applied in regard to oils, but not in regard to whisky and gin.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the point is that I am now dealing only with oils: I have not yet got to whisky and gin. The noble Earl asked me how much it would cost the Exchequer. The answer is that it is a figure of some £6,000 a year.
Since the noble Earl wishes an answer in regard to whisky and gin, I understand that, with the exception of oils which are clearly a special case, the immunities available to the diplomatic and consular services are given when the goods are imported into the United Kingdom. Of course, in the case of oils it is not conceivable that a diplomatic office would import its petrol, and that is why there is a special position in regard to oils. In practice, the goods which are normally dutiable are relieved for these officers on importation, but I understand that the general rule is that this arrangement does not apply to whisky and gin. When I asked this question yesterday, I was assured that diplomatic missions are given 896 a concession in respect of whisky and gin, because it is considered rather a good advertising proposition that whisky and gin should be drunk in the various Embassies in this country. But I understand that items like cigarettes must come out of the bond.
The noble Earl asked me about rating relief. I agree that it is hard to see how one can define what is a beneficial and what is a non-beneficial element in this matter. I have a list here, and the beneficial services include main drainage and sewerage, fire services, the removal of refuse, and highways and streets, including maintenance, et cetera. The non-beneficial services are education, police, housing, baths, wash-houses, public libraries and even cemeteries. But I am assured that this division is clearly understood in practice, and is well recognised by the various authorities.
My Lords, I think I have dealt with all the points, but if there are any technical matters which I have overlooked I will communicate with the noble Earl, which will perhaps relieve us of the necessity of having a Committee stage. But we shall wait and see. Again, I echo the feeling of your Lordships about the case of Mr. Brooke. I hope that we shall be able to find a proper settlement with the Soviet authorities, and I also hope that we shall find that all the reports about his health are not true. At the present moment, we ourselves have no evidence in that respect. In conclusion, I would pay my own tribute to the wife of Mr. Brooke, who has shown great fortitude and, if I may say so, great statesmanship in very difficult circumstances. When she has appeared in public she has always remained loyal to her husband and has never given way, and she has always, in my view, shown what a good wife should be.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.