HL Deb 10 July 2002 vol 637 cc765-7

7.44 p.m.

Baroness Amos

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 23rd May be approved [31st Report from the Joint Committee]. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this order was laid before the House on 23rd May 2002, together with an explanatory memorandum now required for all affirmative statutory instruments. It confers full diplomatic privileges and immunities on the permanent representatives, or acting permanent representatives, of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) member states and on the holders of five posts at divisional director level. Members of their families forming part of their households will enjoy the same privileges and immunities.

The draft order is the culmination of a lengthy dialogue with the IMO, which is the only specialised agency of the United Nations based in this country. It brings the United Kingdom into step with accepted practice for UN specialised agencies based elsewhere in the world and will allow senior representatives and officials at the IMO to enjoy the same status as they would enjoy if attached to UN specialised agencies in, for example, Paris, Geneva, Vienna or Rome.

The IMO is an important international body that plays an invaluable role in promoting the safety of life at sea and preventing pollution from ships. All major shipping nations are members of the IMO, and we are very pleased and honoured to have the IMO headquarters based in London. We should accord the senior representatives and officials of the IMO the status that is recognised internationally as being appropriate for them to carry out their duties effectively.

The legal basis for the order and the legislative context and existing legal position are set out in the explanatory memorandum laid before the House. The order will enable the Government to give effect to the agreement contained in an Exchange of Notes with the IMO (command paper 5473) and to accept the revised Annex XII to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations, which was approved by the IMO Assembly on 22nd November 2001 (command paper 5474).

The order also consolidates and updates five previous orders made under the International Organisations Act 1968. Those orders are revoked and are listed in the schedule to the present order. I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 23rd May be approved [31st Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Amos.)

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. As before, in principle we have no dispute with the perfectly sensible and straightforward proposal in the order. It does, indeed, confirm full diplomatic privileges and immunities on the personnel of the International Maritime Organisation.

The organisation is extremely valuable and we applaud the dedicated work that it does and the vast responsibilities that it carries in relation to maritime affairs and, in particular, to aspects of pollution and safety on the high seas. Therefore, we have no wish to stand in the way of this proposal.

Again, perhaps I may ask two small questions. Am I right in saying that the order covers only an additional seven officers of the International Maritime Organisation and that all the other staff of the organisation here in London already have immunity from other sources? If that is so, this is a very modest extension. Is seven the right number? Again, is there any figure for the loss of revenue involved? I should be grateful for answers to those questions, if not now, then in due course; otherwise, we have no difficulty with the order.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, we, too, are obviously very happy that the International Maritime Organisation is based in London. We believe that the order is entirely appropriate and are happy to support it.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their comments. I shall deal with the specific questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The noble Lord is absolutely right. An extra seven people are involved. Five are in the IMO Secretariat at divisional director level and two are permanent representatives, or acting permanent representatives, who do not already enjoy such status from accreditation to their London diplomatic missions.

Three countries are involved: Russia, Liberia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which maintain independent missions to the IMO. The Liberia permanent representative is cross-accredited to the Liberia Embassy. Therefore, we are talking of Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea plus the five divisional directors.

I do not have the answer to the noble Lord's second question but I shall be happy to write to him. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.