Oral Answers to Questions — Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities (Chauffeurs)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1964.

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Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East 12:00 am, 14th December 1964

asked the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs how many chauffeurs of the nationalities concerned are officially attached to the Soviet, Czechoslovak, Hungarian, and Bulgarian Diplomatic Missions in London; what degree of privilege and immunity in excess of that laid down by the Vienna Convention is accorded to them by Her Majesty's Government; and what is the corresponding number of British chauffeurs attached to Her Majesty's Embassies in Moscow, Prague, Budapest, and Sofia, respectively.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The number of chauffeurs employed at the Soviet, Czech, Hungarian and Bulgarian Missions in London and having the nationality of the country concerned is, respectively, nine, four, three and four. These persons enjoy no privilege other than the Income Tax exemption required by Article 37(3) of Schedule 1 to the Diplomatic Privileges Act, 1964. They continue to enjoy a comprehensive immunity from the jurisdiction of the courts of this country under the special arrangements referred to in the Notice published in the London Gazette of 2nd October, in accordance with Section 7 of that Act. No British chauffeurs are attached to Her Majesty's Embassies in the four countries concerned.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

Is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman's Department by bilateral arrangement has given a status of ambassadorial immunity to these 20 Communist chauffeurs but that there is no reciprocity in the foreign capitals concerned? Is not the remedy perfectly simple—to require these diplomats to use British chauffeurs in London in the same way as they require foreign nationals to be employed by our diplomats in the countries concerned?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Yes, Sir; there is a reciprocal agreement dating from 1956 extending diplomatic privileges and immunities to people other than the main diplomatic personnel in embassies. This covers a whole range of categories and we feel that we get as much advantage from it as the Soviet Union does. In regard to the employment of British chauffeurs in foreign embassies in this country, under the Vienna Convention we have no power to insist on this.