HL Deb 02 May 1977 vol 382 cc879-83

6.35 p.m.

Lord GORONWY-ROBERTS rose to move, That the draft International Fund for Agricultural Development (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1977, laid before the House on 20th April, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name, the International Fund concerning immunities and privileges. I think it will be convenient if I speak at the same time to the International Monetary Fund (Immunities and Privileges) Order, as set out on the Order Paper.

These orders, which will be made under the International Organisations Act 1968, were laid before the House on 20th April. The order relating to the International Fund for Agricultural Development is required to enable us to ratify the Agreement establishing the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The purpose of the Fund, as noble Lords will know, is to finance agricultural development projects, primarily for food production in developing countries, by making resources available on concessional terms. The Fund will conduct its operations mainly through existing international and regional organisations and agencies, and so will not need a large professional staff.

The Fund's financial target of 1,000 million dollars was reached in December 1976. The United Kingdom's contribution is to be £18 million (about 30 million dollars) for which provision has been made in the International Finance, Trade and Aid Act which received Royal Assent on 31st March. It is intended that the Fund shall be constituted as a Specialised Agency of the United Nations. In the negotiations on the Agreement, however, we were able to secure the incorporation of a provision which allows Member States, in applying the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialised Agencies to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to make such modifications as they consider appropriate.

The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Development Association and the International Finance Corporation are Specialised Agencies of the United Nations, but the privileges and immunities we accord to them are more limited in scale than those laid down in the Specialised Agencies Convention. We consider it appropriate that the International Fund for Agricultural Development should be accorded a similar scale of privileges and immunities to that of these and other financial institutions, and we therefore propose on ratification to make a declaration, as permitted by the terms of the Articles of Agreement, which will have the effect of tailoring the Specialised Agencies Convention to correspond with the Agreements regulating the privileges and immunities of these institutions. The draft order gives effect to these limited provisions. In particular, I would point out that the immunity accorded to both representatives to the Fund and to officials is limited to official acts and specifically excludes motoring offences of any kind.

Initially, the headquarters of the Fund is being set up in Rome, but until a decision is taken by the governing council it is not certain whether it will remain there or be permanently installed in another country. The Fund is not expected to have an office here and the application of the order is therefore likely to be very limited. I hope that the House will approve this order, and thus demonstrate its support for the Fund in its aim of increasing food production in the poorest countries of the world.

I now turn to the order relating to the International Monetary Fund, which I shall move separately. This is required to give effect to the second amendment to the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund. The House will be familiar with much of the back- ground on this subject from the discussion of the International Finance, Trade and Aid Act to which I have already referred and which was extensively debated.

One of the results of the discussions on international monetary reform of the past few years—in which the United Kingdom played a prominent part—was the agreement to revise, for only the second time in the 30 years of its existence, the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund. The United Kingdom supported these changes, and the International Finance, Trade and Aid Act 1977 makes most of the amendments to United Kingdom legislation necessary to allow the United Kingdom to ratify the second amendment.

The original Articles of Agreement, to which effect was given in the United Kingdom by the Bretton Woods Agreement Act 1945 and the Bretton Woods Agreement Order in Council 1946, provided that immunity from legal process in respect of official acts be accorded to three categories of person, namely, the governors of the Fund, the executive directors, and the staff. The amended Articles include three further categories: members of Fund committees, representatives sent to attend executive board meetings by member countries who do not have the right to appoint an executive director, and advisers. The status of these people of course varies, but they will generally be of ministerial or equivalent rank or senior policy advisers.

The amended Articles also give the governors power to set up a council. This would be a permanent successor to the interim committee, which maintains high level political control over the deliberations of the IMF. Should the council be established, the order would confer immunity in respect of official acts on councillors and others in accordance with Schedule D to the amended Articles of Agreement. My Lords, I beg to move, in the first place, the first order on the Order Paper of this noble House. At the appropriate time, I shall move separately the second order.

Moved, That the draft International Fund for Agricultural Development (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1977, laid before the House on 20th April, be approved.—(Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

6.43 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for giving us such a clear and lucid explanation of the two draft orders. I will not go in detail into the subject matter of the orders. The noble Lord has expounded very clearly the reasons for and the meaning of these orders and the purposes for which they are presented. Certainly my noble friends on this side of the House very much welcome the setting up of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. First, we believe that this is one of the best ways of helping underdeveloped nations. Means will be given to people throughout the world to grow enough food to feed themselves and so create their own areas of self-sufficiency. This is an objective which everybody shares; nobody questions the merits of such an organisation.

Secondly, we on this side of the House believe that the most effective means of using money from the West is through this kind of international effort, using the international agencies which are already available or which will be created by a body such as the United Nations. It is absolutely essential that those who are engaged in international affairs and who are working for international organisations should be protected in the way that they are under the Vienna Convention and should be accorded the diplomatic privileges for which other international officers are eligible. Therefore we agree with the noble Lord that these orders should pass.

There is just one question that I should like to ask. It arises from the fact that the Seventeenth Report of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments is not in print today. Although the four orders which are before your Lordships' House have all been considered by the Joint Committee, their report is not available. Thanks to the good offices of the staff, we have a photostat extract from the Seventeenth Report. In paragraph 2—I do not know whether it is paragraph 2 of the whole report or whether it is paragraph 2 of this part of the report—there appears to be doubt as to whether the draft order relating to the International Fund for Agricultural Development is intra vires. Quite a long explanation is given in the extract. Evidence was also received from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am quite certain that the draft order is intra vires, but perhaps the noble Lord the Minister will comment upon this matter in order to set people's minds at rest, should this report of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments fall, when it is printed, into the hands of those who might still have doubts about the matter.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Lord Derwent)

My Lords, may I point out to the House that the second Motion has been neither called nor moved.