HL Deb 20 January 1972 vol 327 cc248-53

Brought from the Commons, endorsed with the Certificate from the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of the Parliament Act 1911; read 1a, and to be printed.



ORDER 1971















ORDER 1971

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the six draft Immunities and Privileges Orders, which were laid before the House on December 6 last, and the Titles of which are set out on the Order Paper, be approved. I thought it might be for the convenience of your Lordships' House if I were to speak to all these six Orders together, as briefly as possible, commensurate with the reasonable courtesy which your Lordships would expect in explaining six Orders which might on the surface appear to have little in common, and then move them en bloc. The six Orders, which have already been approved in another place, all relate to privileges and immunities. Five of the six are concerned with international organisations in which the United Kingdom participates.

With your Lordships' permission, I will first discuss the International Tin Council (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1971, since this Order is the only one of the six which will have much practical effect within the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is host to four international commodity organisations which regulate world trading in wheat, coffee, sugar and tin. The function of these organisations is to try to ensure stable prices and favourable market conditions in each commodity, to protect the interests both of the consuming countries such as the United Kingdom and of the producing countries many of which are developing countries whose economy may be heavily dependent on a particular product.

Her Majesty's Government have negotiated headquarters agreements with each of these organisations within the last few years. This is normal practice among countries which are hosts to international organisations and the scale of privileges and immunities agreed with the commodity organisations was thought by Her Majesty's Government to be fully in line with the United Kingdom policy of according to each international organisation privileges and immunities which are sufficient to enable it to perform its functions efficiently and independently of interference or harassment but which do not go beyond that point.

The Tin Council employ about twenty staff in London. The Executive Director is British and will therefore not enjoy the diplomatic scale of privileges and immunities which, under Article 15 of the Order, would be given to him if he were foreign. However, he and his staff will be given only immunity for their official acts they will he given income tax exemption, on condition that they pay an internal tax to the Tin Council itself, and customs privileges limited to the time when they move their household to this country in order to work for the organisation. Their immunity in regard to official acts will not cover motoring offences or civil suits for damage caused by a motor vehicle which they own or drive. The organisation itself may also be sued in the case of a civil suit for damage caused by a vehicle belonging to it or operated on its behalf. Another exception to the ordinary immunity of the Council concerns the enforcement of arbitration awards. The Agreement contains provisions designed to ensure that where the Tin Council is entitled to immunity from our courts it will normally be possible for the United Kingdom Government, or for a private citizen, to require it to submit the dispute to arbitration. These arbitration awards will be enforceable.

Your Lordships have already approved in 1968 and 1969 Orders, in very similar terms, relating to the International Wheat Council, the International Coffee Council and the International Sugar Council, and I trust therefore that you will see no difficulty in approving this Order, which will place the Tin Council on an equal footing with its companion organisations in London.

The Orders relating to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and the International Hydrographic Organisation confer no financial privileges and no immunity from jurisdiction. They are confined to conferring on the respective organisations legal personality, which means that they will be able, for example, to hold property in this country in the name of the organisation and to initiate legal proceedings. It will also, however, he possible to bring legal proceedings against the two organisations, so that it may indeed he said that the Orders make them more and not less subject to the jurisdiction of our courts.

The International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation, which for brevity is called "INTELSAT", is an international consortium of States established in 1964 to co-operate in the development and operation of satellites and tracking and control facilities for them. The worldwide system established by INTELSAT has now established itself as an essential element in the international telecommunications network. It is this system which has made possible live television coverage of events happening in other continents. The United Kingdom Post Office has been a major participant and investor in the INTELSAT system. The Agreements which will be ratified by the United Kingdom if this Order is approved replace interim arrangements under which the organisation has operated until now. The Order confers on INTELSAT only exemption from tax and customs duties in regard to activities authorised by the Agreement. No privilege or immunity is conferred on any person connected with the organisation.

The Caribbean Development Bank (Immunities and Privileges) Order is required to enable the United Kingdom to give effect to provisions in the Agreement establishing the Bank. We are in fact already a party to this Agreement, but subject to a reservation that we would not be able to give effect to the privileges or immunities required by the Agreement in the United Kingdom until the necessary legislation had been approved by Parliament. Your Lordships may recall that as the members of the Bank are all Commonwealth countries, special provision was required in the Diplomatic and Other Privileges Act, which was passed a few months ago, before this Order could be laid before the House. The purpose of the Bank is to provide capital for economic growth and to promote integration among the developing countries in the Caribbean. The privileges and immunities set out in the Order are based broadly on those given to regional financial organisations with comparable functions, but on United Kingdom initiative certain limitations were introduced. Your Lordships will note that immunity from jurisdiction does not extend to motor traffic offences or civil proceedings resulting from motor accidents. The immunity of the Bank (like that of the World Batik and the Asian Development Bank) does not apply in regard to its activities in borrowing, in guaranteeing obligations or in buying and selling securities. The headquarters of the Bank are in Barbados and so the practical application of the provisions in this Order will be very small.

The only Order in this group which does not relate to an international organisation is the Diplomatic Immunities (Conferences) (Nauru) Order. When a country becomes an independent member of the Commonwealth it is usual for an Act to be passed which includes provision for the name of the new member to be added to a number of existing Acts applying to specified independent members of the Commonwealth. Nauru, on achieving independence, negotiated a special membership of the Commonwealth under which she does not have the right to attend meetings of Heads of Governments within the Commonwealth and pays a smaller contribution. No Independence Bill has been found necessary in regard to Nauru, and instead her name has been added by Orders in Council at convenient times to United Kingdom legislation regarding privileges and immunities of Commonwealth countries. This is the last of the three such Orders needed. It confers no privileges or immunities in itself. But in the event of a representative of Nauru attending an inter-Governmental conference in the United Kingdom, it will enable his name to be included with those of his Commonwealth colleagues in a list which would be published in the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes. He would then for the duration of the conference enjoy the appropriate diplomatic immunity.

I trust your Lordships will agree that although we have presented on this occasion a rather large number of Orders, there is not one of them which is not based on precedent and on the principles accepted by the United Kingdom in this field, and therefore I hope they will receive the approval of your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the six draft Immunities and Privileges Orders laid before the House on December 6 last be approved.—(Earl Ferrers.)

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the House will be grateful to the noble Earl for his courtesy in explaining each of these Orders so clearly and so fully. There is no reason to take up much time, and certainly not with the more formal immunities and privileges such as those in the case of Nauru, which, as the noble Earl has said, is a pure formality, nor indeed in the case of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research and the hydrographic organisation, in which the immunities and privileges simply seek to invest the organisation with a legal personality. The INTELSAT Order will doubtless commend itself to your Lordships' House as it contains no provision for personal immunities.

There is just one point that I should like to clarify in my own mind about the International Tin Council and the Caribbean Development Bank. I am making the assumption that when the noble Earl says that this does not provide immunity from motoring offences, this includes parking offences; in other words, that the members of this organisation do not have the benefit of the immunity from parking regulations in this country as is the case with Embassies. As the noble Earl has said, there seems to be a clear precedent for each of these, particularly in the case of the Tin Council which is almost exactly similar to that of the wheat, coffee and sugar organisations, and I am sure, therefore, that all these Orders will commend themselves to your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for accepting these Orders so readily. I can allay his fears and say that these privileges do not apply to parking offences.

On Question, Motion agreed to.