HL Deb 09 September 2003 vol 652 cc277-9

11.17 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Deanrose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this order was laid before the House on 3rd July 2003, together with an Explanatory Memorandum, now required for all affirmative statutory instruments.

The purpose of the order is to confer privileges and immunities on observers, inspectors, evaluators and auxiliary personnel in accordance with the United Kingdom's political commitments under the Vienna Document 1999 on the negotiations on confidence and security building measures.

The order is necessary for the United Kingdom to give effect in domestic law to these provisions and it is being made under Section 1(2) of the Arms Control and Disarmament (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1988.

Adopted on 16th November 1999, the Vienna Document, which came into effect on 1st January 2000, is the latest version of a package of measures that first took shape in the Stockholm Document 1986. Its purpose is to increase military transparency and predictability. The original competence and security building measures agreed in Stockholm were primarily concerned with the monitoring of certain military activities of the Warsaw Pact and the NATO countries. The Vienna Document 1990, which was followed by the Vienna documents of 1992, 1994 and 1999, built up, upon those confidences, security building measures. The Vienna Documents have evolved since 1986 and keep pace with the changing political map of Europe.

The Vienna Document 1999 contains a number of revisions and enhancements, including expanding the possibilities for exchange of information between states, encouraging states to promote regional measures tailored to specific regional needs, and promoting a wide range of military contact activities and seminars between states parties.

The Vienna Document deals with conventional but, I stress, not nuclear forces, and applies to all 55 of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe states. As the House is well aware, a necessary component of any arms control regime is the ability to monitor compliance with the regime's obligations. Under the Vienna Document that is done by means of observations, evaluations and short-notice on-site challenge inspections carried out by representatives of participating states.

The document requires that certain persons are granted privileges and immunities in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The number of missions to the United Kingdom is not likely to be high. Since the competence and security measures began in 1987, the UK has received three inspections, hosted three observations and received 15 evaluation visits. These events were completed successfully, without any complaints or objections from participating states.

The present order gives effect to the provisions of the latest version of the Vienna document. However, the privileges and immunities accorded to the observers, inspectors, evaluators and others are unchanged from those provided in the earlier documents. Those privileges were conferred by a 1992 Order in Council, which the present order revokes. It has regrettably taken a while to implement the privileges and immunity provisions of the 1999 document, but, as far as we are aware, the delay has not caused any practical difficulties. There have been no instances where inspections or evaluation teams have sought to invoke immunity. The present order ensures that there can be no doubt about the status of individuals involved in carrying out the inspections, evaluations and observations in the United Kingdom.

I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. Accordingly, I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean.)

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be relieved to hear at this late hour that I have no objections to and no queries about this order. It is part of a confidence and security-building set of measures which we must fully support to allow the process to go forward and be implemented. That is all I have to say on the matter.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, resisting with difficulty the temptation to ask the noble Baroness to recite at speed the names of the 55 states which are members of the OSCE, on these Benches we welcome this document, which extends a very useful process of peace confidence-building among an important number of states.

On Question, Motion agreed to.