HL Deb 13 December 1984 vol 458 cc416-7

4.37 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th November be approved. [4th Report from the Joint Committee.]

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the EUTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1984 be approved. It may be for your Lordships' convenience that I speak at the same time to the other two orders standing in my name on the Order Paper: the Inter-American Development Bank (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 1984 and the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 1984.

The convention establishing the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation "EUTELSAT" was adopted at an inter-governmental conference in Paris on 15th July 1982, and has been signed by Her Majesty's Government. But it is necessary to make an order under the International Organisations Act 1968 to give effect to Articles IV and XVII(b) of the convention, which deal with the legal personality of EUTELSAT and certain fiscal privileges, before ratification by Her Majesty's Government.

EUTELSAT will be the successor to Interim EUTELSAT, which was established in 1977, and of which British Telecommunications plc is a member. EUTELSAT's status is defined in two texts: the convention to which the United Kingdom will be a party with your Lordships' approval, and the Operating Agreement which British Telecom has signed.

The draft order confers no immunity from jurisdiction on the organisation or its staff members. A separate protocol covering other appropriate privileges and immunities will be negotiated at a later date. The draft order confers only legal capacities, exemption from income and capital gains tax, and exemptions from customs and excise duties, the latter being limited to equipment related directly to work of the organisation.

I turn now to the order relating to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group. This only deals with exemptions from social security contributions for officials of the group who are neither United Kingdom nationals nor permanently resident in the United Kingdom. The draft order would enable the United Kingdom to give effect to an exchange of Notes between Her Majesty's Government and the group concerning social security arrangements. The group already enjoys certain immunities and privileges under the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1978.

The first meeting of the group took place in Geneva in 1960 to discuss problems arising from international trade in lead and zinc. The headquarters, originally in New York, moved to London in 1977. The London office currently employs seven people, of whom five are permanently resident in the United Kingdom. The draft order before your Lordships would therefore apply at present only to the two remaining non-permanently resident employees. Her Majesty's Government attach great value to the continued presence in London of the group's headquarters and to its work in providing a forum for inter governmental consultation on world trade in lead and zinc.

I now turn to the draft order on the Inter-American Development Bank. This draft order would exempt certain officials of the bank from social security contributions and also accord limited Customs and Excise provisions on first arrival in the United Kingdom for the bank's staff members who are neither United Kingdom nationals nor permanently resident in the United Kingdom.

Your Lordships may be aware that the bank currently enjoys certain immunities and privileges under an Order in Council made in 1976—the Inter-American Development Bank (Immunities and Privileges Order) 1976. The bank was established in 1959 to promote the social and economic development of Latin American and certain Caribbean countries, including members of the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom joined in 1976 and is represented on the board of governors.

Since joining, Her Majesty's Government have committed nearly 500 million dollars to it, which is an indication of the importance that the Government attach to the valuable role fulfilled by the bank in the development field. The headquarters of the bank are in Washington. There is also a small office in London, providing direct contact with the City. The London office has a staff of two, of whom one is non-permanently resident and will benefit under the draft order.

The first of these three orders provides a very limited range of privileges; the second, social security provisions only; and the third, social security exemptions and Customs and Excise provisions. None accords immunity from jurisdiction either to an organisation or to its staff members.

I hope that your Lordships will signify your support of the work of these three organisations by approving the draft orders. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th November be approved—(Baroness Young.)

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, the noble Baroness has explained the provisions of these orders with such clarity and persuasiveness that I would only detract from both if I said anything more than that the orders appear to be extremely acceptable, and I join with her in her praise of the organisations to which she has referred.

On Question, Motion agreed to