HL Deb 21 December 2000 vol 620 cc907-8

4.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1999–2000].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation—EUTELSAT—is based in Paris. It was established in 1977 and ranks as one of the world's leading satellite operators, with reach across Europe, Africa, large parts of Asia and connectivity with America. EUTELSAT provides TV and radio broadcasts and pioneered the delivery of Internet services. It also provides capacity for corporate networks, satellite news gathering, telephony and mobile voice, data and positioning services. Forty-eight countries are shareholders in EUTELSAT, the largest being Italy, with 20.3 per cent, followed by France, with 20 per cent, and the UK, with 19 per cent.

The draft order will enable the Government to notify their acceptance of the amendments to the convention and the operating agreement relating to the European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation—EUTELSAT. These amendments were presented to Parliament, in Cm. 4572, in February 2000, under negative procedure, by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The present draft order is made under the International Organisations Act 1968 and will give effect in UK law to those additional privileges and immunities, which we are obliged to confer under the convention and operating agreement, as amended.

As an intergovernmental organisation, EUTELSAT already enjoys the usual privileges and immunities, including tax free status, under the EUTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1988. Agreement was reached in 1999 for EUTELSAT t o be split into a privatised French company and a residual, three to four person, intergovernmental organisation to oversee its obligation to provide public service telephony. The former will be called EUTELSAT SA (Societe Anonyme), to distinguish it from the latter which will retain the title EUTELSAT.

The draft order will exempt the residual intergovernmental organisation, after EUTELSAT is put on a commercial footing, from all customs duties on goods and publications of the organisation imported by the organisation into the UK in the course of its official activities. It does not apply to or affect employees of EUTELSAT or any other individual connected with EUTELSAT. The newly formed commercial company, EUTELSAT SA, will not enjoy any privileges and immunities.

In accordance with Section 1(6)(a) of the International Organisations Act 1968, the privileges and immunities conferred by the draft order are no greater in extent than those required by the convention and operating agreement, as amended, or those authorised by the Act.

I very much hope that your Lordships will approve this modest, non-controversial order. I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 30th October be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1999–2000].—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.