Orders of the Day — European Launcher Development Organisation (Immunities and Privileges)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th July 1965.

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11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the European Launcher Development Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1965, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 14th July. It might be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to take together this Motion and the next, also standing in my name, together. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the European Space Research Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1965 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 14th July.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

That is entirely agreeable to the Chair if the House so pleases.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Both these Motions deal with Orders concerning diplomatic immunities and privileges. I am very aware that the House is properly sensitive about any extension of these diplomatic immunities and privileges. I hope to show that both these Orders are of very limited application in terms of the number of persons to whom they apply and, more important, that both tighten up considerably the kind of immunities which are granted, and do so on the lines which the House has urged on the Government on a number of occasions. This is especially so in relation to motoring offences, about which the House has been particularly anxious on previous occasions and it is also true about arrangements for exemption from Income Tax.

The Orders themselves are required to give effect to international agreements which Her Majesty's Government have entered into conferring privileges and immunities on the European Space Research Organisation and the European Launcher Development Organisation and persons connected with them. These organisations came into being in 1964 to co-ordinate European efforts in space research and technology and in the development of a European space vehicle launcher.

I ought to say that both organisations are engaged in wholly peaceful work which enjoys the support of the House. Both have a secretariat concerned with administration and technical planning and establishments in member countries engaged on practical work. The headquarters of both organisations are in Paris. The organisations do not have establishments in the United Kingdom, nor is it presently envisaged that any will be set up here. There will be occasional visits by staff members and experts to this country and there may be meetings of organs of the organisations held here from time to time.

The numbers involved, therefore, are very small and, in fact, consist entirely of temporary visitors. In general, the orders are similar to those in respect of other European organisations, but, as I said, there are certain important modifications and limitations as compared with previous Orders.

For the first time, proceedings in respect of motoring offences and accidents are excluded from the immunity from suit of the organisations and, with the exception of the head of the organisation, of its employees. Our spokesmen at the negotiations of the protocols were insistent on these limitations. They had particularly in mind the concern which has been expressed in the House on these matters.

This will mean that the organisations and their employees will be subject to the jurisdiction of our courts in respect of proceedings, both criminal and civil, which arise out of motoring offences and accidents. I ought to make it clear to the House that while national representatives of the organisations which have no immunity in their private motoring, they will still enjoy immunity in the use of their cars in the exercise of their official functions.

The second limitation is that the organisations will not have immunity from proceedings to enforce an arbitration award made against them. Under the international agreements to which the Orders give effect, each organisation is required to include an arbitration clause in all its written contracts. It will be required to submit to arbitration disputes arising out of its non-contractual obligations, or those in which it is otherwise involved directly or through an intermediary or any member of its staff whose immunity has not been waived. This is an important modification of the immunity from suit which the majority of international organisations enjoy.

There is a further new limitation. The exemption of officials of the organisations from United Kingdom Income Tax is now to be conditional on the existence of an internal tax system within the organisations. This is the first time that this has been written into any of these Orders. This means that the salaries of officials will always be subject to tax. Either they will be subject to the tax of their own country or, when the Organisations have their own tax system, the benefit of the tax will go to the Organisations, and not to any one member State.

The House may be interested in one other novel feature of the Orders. It is that the fiscal privileges of the Organisations are expressly tied to their official activities, as illustrated under Article 9 of the Orders. Thus, under the present provisions, such privileges cannot be extended to, for example, any commercial activities which E.L.D.O. may come to have when it moves beyond its present stage of development of its prototype space vehicle launcher. A final, and more general point is that in this Order, for the first time, the application of Part 4 of the Schedule of the 1950 Act, under which all Orders are made, is entirely excluded.

This is important to the House in relation to past anxieties. It means that families of the officials of the Organisations, and also the official staff, and the representatives of the official staff, and experts, will not enjoy privileges and immunities.

I now wish to deal with the matter raised by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. The Committee has reported that the purport of these instruments calls for elucidation, and I would like to apologise to the Committee, and to the House, for what I certainly agree is some obscurity in the verbiage of the Orders. I understand that the particular point on which elucidation is considered necessary is that raised in Article 12 of each Order—relating to a permanent member of the staff of the Organisation in any of the staff categories A, B, C and L. The Orders provide that persons so described shall enjoy limited immunity from suit and legal process in respect of their official acts, and exemption from Income Tax in respect of particular emoluments. The question is whether the contents of these categories may be changed by the Organisations without reference to this House.

I should like to explain to the House why the provisions in question were drafted in precisely the present form. The House will recall that Section 1 of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950, lays down that any Order in Council made under it shall be so framed as not to confer any immunities and privileges to a greater extent than is required by international agreement. The object of the agreements, to which the present draft Orders are intended to give effect, provides that the privileges defined in Article 12 of the Order shall be conferred on categories of staff members which, and I quote, "the Council shall decide".

Subsequent to the conclusion of the agreements, the Council for each Organisation has made a decision defining the categories concerning precisely the staff categories A, B, C and L. Therefore, the Orders, as they are now drafted, do no more and no less than give effect to the requirements of agreements as implemented by the decisions of the two councils. I should remind the House that a provision in comparable terms, referring to all officers of grades 1 to 10 inclusive is already included in the Central Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1962.

The present provisions, therefore, are not without precedent, although, as I have said, I apologise for the difficulties the House must have had in interpreting what was meant by these alphabetical categories of international servants. The categories in question are those employed in other European organisations. So far as possible, international organisations are encouraged to adopt standard rules in this matter.

I can go into further detail if the House wishes after other Members have spoken Perhaps it will suffice at this stage to explain that these four categories comprise all staff occupying permanent posts in the Organisations, except the locally recruited staff, on hourly rates of pay. It is possible that the content of each category may change in that, for the purposes of the application of staff regulations, persons might conceivably be transferred from one of these categories to another. I am advised that for practical purposes the possibility can be disregarded that the overall content of these four categories will ever be extended to include any of the locally recruited staff, who are at present excluded.

I would emphasise that the immunities that are given to these particular groups of members of the staffs of these Organisations are strictly limited. They do not affect the matters that normally give concern in this House, such as exemption from liability in respect of motor accidents.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of categories, by my asking a question now we may save time later. Does not the question of individuals moving from one category to another, or the number of individuals in that category increasing, relate to the question of whether the definition of the category could be enlarged by the Council after the date of the Order? Would he address his remarks to that point?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

That is what I am seeking to do. I was explaining that the only group excluded at the moment from these categories—and, therefore, from the immunities that go with them—is the group composed of locally recruited staff. I was seeking to reassure the House that it is inconceivable that any of the organisations would seek to extend the exemption categories in a way which would include the locally recruited staff. I hope that I have also been able to reassure the hon. Gentleman, who is the Chairman of the Select Committee, on this point.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the strictly limited privileges and immunities which these Orders purport to give. I am sure that he will confirm the frequent mention in both Orders of the words: … the like inviolability … accorded to an envoy of a foreign sovereign Power …". Surely one could have no greater measure of immunity or privilege than that?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I am referring to employees who do not receive immunities of that description. The immunities he describes relate only to one person in each organisation—the senior officer, the director general in one and the secretary genral in the other. They do not relate to the categories to which I am referring and which have given legitimate cause for anxiety among members of the Select Committee.

I simply wish to point out that, apart from there being little risk of an open-ended commitment being involved here, these categories contain very limited immunities. Apart from the Income Tax exemption, which is now being severely limited, as I have described, they simply have … immunity from suit and legal process in respect of acts, including words written or spoken, done or omitted to be done … in the course of the performance of official duties … These are the minimum exemptions which are required for members of international organisations to be able to perform their functions. These privileges should be readily comprehensible to hon. Members because they are similar in character to the privileges which allow us to perform our duties in this Chamber freely and without fear.

I am conscious of the fact that Orders of this type are never popular with the House. It is right that we should always carefully consider legislation which puts any person or institution in a special legal position compared with other persons and institutions.

I do not wish to delay the House, so I will content myself with saying that our representatives at the negotiations of the protocols, to which these Orders give effect, did their best to introduce into these agreements the new features which I have sought to describe. They did this precisely in response to the views expressed in past debates on similar orders, some of those views having been expressed by hon. Members who are taking part in this discussion tonight.

I hope, in the light of my explanation, that the House will welcome the Orders.

11.59 p.m.

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I are grateful to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the care he has taken in trying to explain the two Orders, which are complex and lengthy. Had his hon. Friend and colleague the Minister of State sought to do the same, I think that he would have found the House much more restive, because, on the last occasion when we discussed Orders of this nature, his hon. Friend seemed for some reason to be impatient that the House should be anxious about diplomatic immunities and privileges that are accorded. As the Minister of State rightly told us tonight, however, the House is sensitive about these matters. It is for that reason that we have the affirmative Resolution procedure, which gives hon. Members on all sides a chance to ask certain questions.

One of the first questions with which all of us must always be concerned is how many persons are involved in the Orders, in this case concerning E.L.D.O. and E.S.R.O. The Minister of State said that it would be a very small number and would concern only what he described as temporary visitors. I suggest that that is not a satisfactory explanation. The two Orders are of considerable length. They would not come before the House unless it is intended that there shall be a meeting shortly concerning important questions of technology and research in launcher development programmes. We are, therefore, entitled to have a more accurate assessment of how many persons are involved.

We appreciate that these Orders are more restrictive than any other Orders that we have recently considered, namely, those relating, for instance, to the Council of Europe, Western European Union or the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the International Development Association and the Customs Cooperation Council. We welcome the fact that the Government, through their representatives, have also sought to try to establish greater restrictions in three important categories, in response to opinions expressed by hon. Members, on all sides of the House.

The Minister of State mentioned, in particular, a category of more restrictive provisions concerning motor vehicles, which has always aroused hon. Members to great personal concern. I understand that the Organisation is immune from suit and legal process within the scope of its official activities except, under these Orders, in respect of a civil action by a third party for damage arising from an accident caused by a motor vehicle belonging to, or operated on behalf of, the Organisation, or in respect of a motor traffic offence involving such a vehicle". That is an advance. Article 11 applies also, I understand, to the Secretary-General or his representative if he is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and it applies also to a permanent member of the staff of the Organisation in any of the staff categories A, B, C and L. I shall refer later to these categories, which are the result of comments by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments.

First, however, I think that I am right in saying that these greater restrictions on motor offences also apply to experts who are under contract to the Organisation, to any expert who is a member of any committee or organ of the Organisation or is employed on a mission on behalf of the Organisation". Therefore, one is bound to ask the obvious questions: how many of these committees are there, how many organs are there, what is meant by "organ" and which organs are they? These questions of motor traffic offences always arouse strong feeling.

We must welcome the greater restrictions that apply to tax. I understand that whether or not one is a citizen of the United Kingdom or Colonies, no person shall receive exemption from Income Tax in respect of emoluments until these are subject to taxation by the Organisation itself. These, again, apply to the categories, A, B, C and L, but for some reason they do not apply to experts. Therefore, I should like to know, why not?

Then we come to arbitration, which once more is more restricted. Article 3(1,c) lays down that the Organisation within the scope of its official duties shall have immunity from suit or legal process, except in respect of the enforcement of an arbitration award made under Article 25 or Article 26 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the Organisation …. That being so, it means, as I understand it, that the Organisation itself can be made to submit to arbitration disputes arising out of contracts entered into by it, otherwise involving its responsibility or that of its staff.

I should like to turn to the question commented on by the Minister of State which concerns the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments in a Report dated 27th July. It referred, of course, in particular, to Article 12, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) will refer to this if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. What the Minister of State pointed out was that both the Orders, in referring to Article 12 and the particular immunities and privileges enjoyed by the staff, refer to categories A, B, C and L.

But in no instance is reference made to any document in which those categories are defined. I myself have examined the Protocols; I have examined the Conventions; I went to the Library to search. In none of those documents was it possible to discover what those categories A, B, C and L are. I suggest to the Minister of State that it is not sufficient to bring Orders of this kind before the House if we cannot have either a definition order or else a schedule defining these particular categories. I am well aware that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in reply to the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, pointed out that these categories applied on the whole to permanent staff and not to those locally recruited.

That is so, and it has been reinforced by the Minister of State tonight, but I would suggest to him that even if we pass these Orders tonight—as I hope we shall, because they are more restricted in their general application—nevertheless, he should consider whether it would not be possible to bring forward an amending Order which would clearly define, for all who study these matters, exactly what is meant by the words "categories A, B, C and L". Surely, as it stands, this is not the way by which we can easily understand legislation.

That was one point. The second one was where the Committee wished to be assured that Article 12 in each Order does not legislate by reference to a category the content of which may change. This is very important, because in the official reply to the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments the Secretary of State pointed out this fact: There seems to be no possibility that a decision taken by either council would have any substantial effect on a distinction between the staff presently included in the categories specified in Article 12 and other staff of the Organisation. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say: This means in effect, that no person who was excluded under this Article from privileges and immunities would be likely"— I emphasise those words, "would be likely"— to be brought within the scope by any subsequent decision of the Organisation. I submit to the House that those words are very vague. It does not say that it is impossible to bring in other categories or to change staff from one category to another, and I think that the House needs reassurance on this point.

The Secretary of State sought to assure the Select Committee by pointing out that a precedent exists under the Central Treaty Organisation Immunities and Privileges Order which, incidentally, is wrongly numbered in the exchange of correspondence as 133. I suggest to the Minister that he should correct that, because it causes trouble to our librarians. The real number is 137.

All this Order says is that the staff refers to Grades 1 to 10 inclusive, and no one is any the wiser. How is one to know what is meant by Grades 1 to 10 inclusive, or by Grades A, B, C and L? I suggest to the Minister that it would not be too difficult to bring forward a short amending Order for the purpose of defining the categories clearly, and, secondly, to make quite sure that there cannot be a variation between the categories without control of Parliament, because that is really the point at issue.

Paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of the Orders set out the various privileges and immunities in respect of the official activities of the Organisations, and their official activities are set out in paragraph 9 of the Orders. If one takes the first Order, that of the European Launcher Development Organisation, paragraph 9 says that the official activities of the Organisation shall be its administrative activities and the design, development and construction of prototype space vehicle launchers. The definition in paragraph 9 of the Order relating to the European Space Research Organisation says that the official activities of the Organisation shall include its administrative activities and those undertaken in the field of space research and space technology in pursuance of the purposes of the Organisation as defined in the Convention for the Establishment of the Organisation. When one looks at the Conventions one observes how large and growing are these particular activities. For instance, it is suggested that the European Space Research Organisation shall aim during an initial eight-year period to achieve, the firing, at a rate building up to a steady level of the equivalent of about 65 medium sized vehicles per year by the third year of its existence, of a variety of types of fully-instrumented vertical sounding rockets containing mainly nationally financed experiments;(b) the successful launching, annually, from the fourth year of its existence, of two fully-instrumented small satellites in near-earth orbits;(c) the successful launching, from the sixth year of its existence, of two fully-instrumented space probes or major satellites (i.e., requiring large launching vehicles). The location of the establishments from which these launchings shall take place or the administrative locations are to be in the Netherlands, in the German Federal Republic, in Sweden, and in Italy.

If one takes the Convention which governs the Statutory Instrument which we are discussing tonight concerning the establishment of the European Organisation for the Development and Construction of Space Vehicle Launchers, one perceives that the Organisation is required to undertake as its initial programme the design, development and construction of a space vehicle launcher using as its first stage the rocket 'Blue Streak' and with a French rocket as its second stage, and that the development firings of the first stage and of the complete launcher shall be conducted at Woomera, Australia. Therefore, it will be observed that what we are discussing tonight is the question whether we shall accord greater diplomatic immunities and privileges to what is without doubt a growing and important part of our technological and space research. Quite apart from the categories of persons that we have discussed, and whether or not one can enlarge these categories without reference to Parliament, or Parliamentary control, it is also important that the House should recognise that in a growing industry of this kind it is very likely that the actual numbers will grow to a very large extent.

If the Minister of State sees fit to reply, by leave of the House, I hope that he will tell us what, in his estimation, are likely to be the kinds of conference that we shall see here in London, and the number of people who will take advantage of these diplomatic immunities and privileges, and what are the numbers which are likely to increase, and for which we shall have granted diplomatic immunities and privileges without any Parliamentary control. These are matters of great concern to the House.

We welcome the more restrictive character of these two Orders and the manner in which the Minister of State has introduced them, but there are several questions which my hon. Friends will wish to probe further.

12.16 a.m.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

Before becoming critical of these two draft Orders I want to make some complimentary remarks. We welcome some of the unusual limitations upon immunities contained in both Orders. It might be worth while to group these as they appear in the Orders. There are the group of limitations on the immunities when using motor vehicles, which appear in Article 3(1,b), Article 11(1,b(i)), Article 12(a) and Article 13(1,a). These are all limitations on immunities granted in other Orders to those driving vehicles on the roads.

Then there is the limitation from immunity to arbitration, which is included in Article 3(1,c); the limitation on the immunity of the Organisation from taxes on the importation of goods, prohibitions on importation or exportation, the limitation on the immunity to cases of official activities of the Organisation, which again is a welcome limitation, and the limitations on the immunity from taxation, which appear in Article 11(1,a(ii)) and Article 11(1,b(iii)). Finally, I mention in particular Article 13(2), which excludes Part IV of the Act and therefore prevents immunities from spreading to the official staff and the high officers' families.

Having welcomed the Order containing those Articles I must now become critical in respect of Article 12, which was referred to in the Select Committee's Report. I would remind the House briefly of the duties of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. It examines all Statutory Instruments which are subject to Parliamentary procedure and is charged with the duty of reporting them to the House if it finds that there is an unusual or unexpected use of the Minister's powers in subordinate legislation; if it finds that they are retrospective, and if it finds certain other things in its terms of reference, one of which is that the contents of the Order require elucidation. It is under that term of reference which the Report on these two Orders is made.

The objection which the Select Committee found to Article 12 of both these Orders was that it included a category of staff undefined, and a category which might be changed by some document coming into existence or some decision made by the councils of these bodies at a date later than the date of these Orders.

There are recent precedents for the Select Committee's objection to this type of subordinate legislation, two recent occasions when similar efforts at subordinate legislation by reference to some future documents were brought before the House. There was the recent case future documents were brought before of the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations, 1963, Statutory Instrument 1897 of 1963, in which the Regulations required builders to comply with the British Standard code of practice, not only the British Standard code of practice in existence at the time when the Order was made, but the latest edition and any amendment thereto.

This was a reference to an existing document, but a document which might be changed by the British Standards Institution, a body not responsible to this House, and therefore able to alter subordinate legislation approved by this House without reference to this House.

The debate on that resulted in the Regulations being altered. The offending phrase was deleted. For the purpose of reference, this debate was in the OFFICIAL REPORT, of 10th February, 1964, at cols. 161–186. This was only so long ago as February, 1964. The other precedent was in April, 1964, reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 20th April at cols 1017–1054, and this was the case of the Weights and Measures (Equivalents for Dealing with Drugs) Regulations, 1964. In this case the Regulations referred to the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex, and required the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of certain drugs to apply a metric equivalent to an order expressed in grains when it referred to certain drugs, and it defined those drugs by saying those which had a monograph in the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex, and any amendment or new edition thereof". Again, this was a case of the Minister responsible to the House for the subordinate legislation abdicating his powers to some outside body, because these two documents, the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex, are produced by the General Medical Council and the British Pharmaceutical Society, and can be altered at any time by those bodies.

In this case the result of the debate was that the Regulations were amended by a simple, single Order, the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Regulations, 1964, which removed the offending words or any amendment or new edition thereof". I have spent a little time mentioning these two precedents because it has been mentioned that there is a precedent for the Orders which are before us tonight, the Central Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1962. But I would call attention to the date of that Order—1962—and to the fact that these two other precedents I have quoted were only last year, 1964, and that they have, I would say, overidden whatever might have been included in the Order of 1962. They have overridden the principle which the House did not consciously approve in 1962, because that Order did not come before it.

I think it has been clearly established that no Minister to whom the House grants the power to legislate by Order can legislate by a document which is not in existence or by any decision which has not been made, when that document or decision falls to be made by some body other than the Minister.

In the case before us, it is quite clear, both from the memorandum of the Department and from what the Minister of State said in presenting the Order to the House, that the councils of each of these bodies could alter the staff regulations at any time and thereby alter the categories which are described in the Order as A, B, C and L. That must surely mean that not only does the House not know how these categories are decided and what are the qualifications of anyone included in them—that is to say, there is no definition in either Order of the categories—but also a body outside the control of the House can vary a Parliamentary enactment to those Statutory Instruments without notice to Parliament at all.

The importance is not only that the Minister is delegating his powers of legislation to some body outside the control of the House, but that the House is also charged by the Act under which these Orders are made to see that they do not extend to certain persons. Unless we know who are included in categories A, B, C and L, we cannot say in the House that the Minister is keeping within the powers of the Act.

As the Preamble says, these Orders are made by virtue of the powers given to the Minister under the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950. Section 1 of that Act has a proviso, to which reference has briefly been made already. If I may read the actual words of the proviso, having given the Minister power by Order in Council to grant the immunities, it says: Provided that the Order in Council shall be so framed as to secure that there are not conferred on any person any immunities or privileges greater in extent than those which, at the time of the making of the Order, are required to be conferred on that person in order to give effect to any international agreement in that behalf"— and these are the important words, at the end of the proviso— and that no immunity or privilege is conferred upon any person as the representative of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom or as a member of the staff of such a representative. We cannot be sure, as the Order stands, that a member of the staff of a representative of Her Majesty's Government may not come within these categories described merely in the Order as categories A. B, C and L. If the Order contained a definition of the categories, I should have no complaint, nor should I if the Order had said that the whole staff of these organisations has immunity. But it does not define them in any definite manner like that. It defines certain categories by capital letters which mean nothing to us. The definition may be changed at any time. This comes exactly within the precedents of the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations and the Weights and Measures (Equivalents for Dealing with Drugs) Regulations.

I am sure that it would not be the wish of my right hon. and hon. Friends to delay the making of the Order in draft as it is before us. It would be a simple matter for the Minister of State to give an undertaking, as was given on the occasion of the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations and the Drugs Regulations, that he will make a simple amending Order defining these categories. I am sure that they can be defined, otherwise they would not have been stated as categories in the Order. They can be properly defined. An amending Order should be properly drafted and presented in due course. I hope that the Minister will give an undertaking that that will be done.

12.30 a.m.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I congratulate the Minister of State on the way he presented the Order. His presentation was very different from that of the Minister who presented the last Order of this type. On that occasion the House became very annoyed. I do not agree with my colleagues on these Orders. I understand that under the 1950 Act the Government are quite in order in bringing these Orders forward, but it is time that the Government, who claim that they are a great reforming organisation, approached their colleagues in the international sphere and asked them to reconsider whether this sort of Order and this extension of diplomatic immunity is necessary.

I accept that the immunity granted in these Orders is much more limited than that which has been granted in many previous Orders, but these Orders nevertheless grant some form of diplomatic immunity to another band of people. I hope that I can carry the House with me in my submission that a new look should be taken at these matters. E.L.D.O. is an international organisation because more than two nations are involved in what it is doing. Because more than two nations are involved, it has a council and it becomes an international organisation. Because it becomes an international organisation, those concerned in the organisation must have some diplomatic immunity.

If this is the case, why should not those who work on Concord have diplomatic immunity? Why should not the French people who come over here or the English people who go over to France have exactly the same diplomatic immunity as they would get under the Order if we asked the Italians or the Germans to come and join us on the project and form an international organisation?

To take the argument a stage further, the great organisation of I.C.I. is now building a complex in Holland costing £100 million. If the people working for I.C.I. there come to this country and engage themselves on a new project, why should not they have diplomatic immunity? I know that the Minister of State will probably smile at what I am saying, but the world is becoming far more international. Unless we think again about these things, within the next 20 or 30 years a vast plethora of these people will be scattered all over the world. Because it was thought right to form a governmental international organisation, the people involved in its activities are accorded some form of diplomatic immunity. But they are no more entitled to diplomatic immunity than people in any similar commercial activity in the world.

What will the people covered by the Orders do? Their work is no more confidential or deserving of diplomatic status than what goes on between the French and the English aircraft manufacturers producing the Concord. They are doing virtually the same thing, though the result of the efforts of one lot will go up into space and the other will fly horizontally. They are dealing with the same sort of problems and technological questions, yet one group of chaps will have diplomatic privilege if they come over here for a conference while the other group will not, being treated as ordinary commercial people not deserving of any sort of diplomatic status.

There is a real point here. I am inclined to think that hon. Members on both sides who have experience at the Foreign Office get into a sort of miasma on this subject and think that people connected with anything which has an international label attached ought automatically to have the status of diplomats. But we are coming to a stage when the growth of international co-operation between two nations, or sometimes three, on various projects will be so much the normal state of affairs that a fresh look will have to be taken at the whole question of what justifies diplomatic immunity.

As I understand, all the activities on these two projects go on outside this country. There is no question of people coming to a plant in this country so secret that they ought to have protection on that account. If they come here, the most that they will do will be to attend a conference round a table, with nice pencils and pads for notes put out by the Foreign Office each morning. But they will be discussing the same sort of technical problems which are being discussed between the French and English working on the Concord.

I am convinced that the right answer is that neither group should have diplomatic protection, They are not doing anything which needs protection. They are not in possession of information beyond the sort of information which every commercial firm dealing with a large new project has and tries to protect all the time in its international dealings. I am sure that the I.C.I. complex in Rotterdam will have just as many secrets which the company would not like to get out, and I am equally sure that I.C.I. would love to be protected by diplomatic immunity.

It is only too likely that, during the next, 10, 15 or 20 years, this sort of development in international co-operation will mushroom into virtually the normal state of affairs as more and more enterprises of this kind involving projects beyond the ability of one nation alone are undertaken. This is the time to look at the matter again with a severely critical eye to consider whether the previous concept of diplomatic immunity is right to be carried into the future.

We are already very disturbed in this country about the number of people who have some diplomatic status, and I am sure that all the other countries which help to form these associations would take the same view. Nothing in these industrial or technological projects justifies diplomatic immunity. I shall not oppose these Orders tonight—they are covered by the 1950 Act—but I take this opportunity of raising the question and asking the hon. Gentleman to consider the whole matter afresh. The problem will grow, and the issue will become a very live one quite soon. Both sides of the House would be wise to direct a searching eye into it now, knowing how likely it is that so many vastly expensive new projects will not, as in the past, be one-nation projects but will be undertaken in co-operation between two or three. There is certainly no reason why one should have diplomatic immunity and the next one should be excluded. I beg the hon. Gentleman to have another look at this.

12.40 a.m.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

I very strongly endorse and support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), who has said much that I would like to have said far better than I could ever do it.

I would ask for the indulgence of the House to broaden the subject a little and introduce a feature which has not been mentioned in the debate. According to the title of the Orders, we are dealing with diplomatic and international immunities and privileges. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look again at the point which I mentioned in my intervention earlier when I referred to the number of times in these Orders—it is a total of eight, four in each Order—when individuals belonging to E.L.D.O. and E.S.R.O. are accorded inviolability equivalent to that of an envoy of a foreign sovereign power.

The Orders, as we have heard, are based on the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950. That is accepted on all sides of the House. But surely that Act and, therefore, these Orders have been overtaken by a Measure passed last year, the Diplomatic Privileges Act, which gives the force of law in this country to, and ratifies, the provisions of the Vienna Convention on International Relations which was originally signed and initialled by about 97 countries in 1961 and covers diplomatic immunities and privileges in their most general form wherever these are applied.

Does the hon. Gentleman consider that when we deal with matters described as diplomatic and international immunities and privileges they should in the ordinary meaning of words come within the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations? I believe that if hon. Members will look at the Convention in the light of these Orders and the 1950 Act they will perhaps come to the conclusion which I have, which is that the Orders should come under the Vienna Convention. If this is so, it seems to me that the right, or international, side of the Foreign Office does not seem to know what the left, or diplomatic, side is doing if it has happened that these two Orders based on the 1950 Act have been made without any reference to, seemingly without any knowledge of, the existence of the Vienna Convention.

Both Measures give immunities and privileges to different people in different ways. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) have already drawn attention to certain anomalies in this respect. I will give certain examples. In these Orders representatives of E.L.D.O. and E.S.R.O. have immunity, for example, from seizure of personal baggage. How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that with Article 36(2) of the Vienna Convention, where diplomatic agents within the definition of that Convention are subject to search of their personal baggage by Customs authorities when there is good reason to believe that they are carrying dutiable goods?

The Minister of State claimed that there are certain innovations in these Orders. He referred to motoring offences and said that the immunities have been tightened up. Admittedly motoring offences are not covered in the Convention. Conversely, I ask why the ability to search a diplomat's baggage in the Customs is not covered in the Orders. Would that not be an equivalent tightening up to that which he described in relation to motoring offences?

It is noticeable—and the attention of both E.L.D.O. and E.S.R.O. should be drawn to this—that their classifications of individuals who come within the categories to which these privileges and immunities apply are quite different in each case. The Vienna Convention has three basic categories of individuals—diplomatic agents, administrative and technical staff and service staff.

In these Orders we have another three categories. First, there are representatives, who are given the status of envoys in certain cases. Secondly, there are officers, who are also given the status of envoys in certain cases. Thirdly, there are the so-called experts who are a kind of minor envoys in the way in which they are to be given diplomatic immunities and privileges.

Why could not these Orders have defined experts as "technical staff", for example, and so brought them within the provisions of the Convention? Why is there no mention of this international Convention to which we rather belatedly subscribed a year ago? I ask the hon. Gentleman to clear up these points, which bother me very much, as other and associated points bother my hon. Friends. I should be most grateful if he could give proper elucidation of these rather complex matters.

12.47 a.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

By leave of the House, perhaps I may answer hon. Members, beginning with some of the questions of fact.

The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) asked if I could try to be more precise and said that I owed a duty to the House to be so about the numbers involved. I will gladly give her all the information I can. I was imprecise because it is very difficult to give any sort of accurate assessment about this. E.L.D.O.—to use the biblical-ish title—has 175 employees in the categories that come within these immunities; E.S.R.O. has 500.

As I have said, neither organisation has any establishment here and these Orders simply apply to casual visits for one purpose or another. This is the difficulty in arriving at an estimate. The best estimate I can give—and, quite honestly, it is only a guess—is that perhaps there will be 50 or 60 visitors a year here for varying short periods who may come within the scope of the immunities in the Orders.

The hon. Lady asked if I could give the House more information about the committees and organs mentioned in the Protocol and the Orders. E.L.D.O. has two committees with seven members each and one organ—the Council—with seven representatives. E.S.R.O. has four committees with up to 13 members each and one organ—again the Council—with 13 members.

The hon. Lady also asked why the tax exemption provisions do not apply to the experts and there were a number of other questions about experts. In looking up this matter before the debate, I tried to find out the legal definition of an expert and found that it is somewhat difficult to discover. The other day I heard another current definition of an expert as being a man who had flown over a country by day. Perhaps that is relevant to some of the doubts which have been expressed. I remember once signing the visitors' book in an African country and finding that the man who had signed the book before me in the column marked "Occupation" had written the one word "expert". I thought that that was the final accolade. The reason why experts are exempt from the various provisions of these Orders is simply that by description they are men employed part time on short-term contracts of one kind or another.

The main point made by the noble Lady and by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) was that raised by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments—the question of elucidation of these alphabetical categories which are used in the Orders. I can give the House fuller information about what the categories involve. Category A includes staff engaged in administration and professional work; category B the executive, technical and clerical staff; category C the staff in minor technical and service grades and category L translators and interpreters.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

The people covered by these Orders seem to be those without technical or secret knowledge. The people who are excluded are the experts, the people with some secret or technical knowledge. All the others are administrative officials.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The experts are excluded only from the taxation provisions. They enjoy the other immunities and I was going on to say why these immunities are granted to people of these types. Perhaps I may finish trying to give the House more information than I am conscious hon. Members were able to get from the Orders about the categories.

These categories were established in 1957 by international agreement, to which we were a party, between the Council of Europe, N.A.T.O., O.E.E.C. and Western European Union in order to standardise the grading structure and salary scales. In an extremely erudite speech, the hon. Member for Crosby raised very large issue of delegated legislation with which, frankly, as a Foreign Office Minister, I am not competent to deal adequately. If he will allow me, I will refer some of the main issues which he raised to my right hon. and learned Friends the Law Officers.

However, he asked whether there might be some possibility of an amending Order including some more precise definition on the lines which I have just given to the House. There would be difficulties about that. The trouble, as I think we are all agreed, is the danger of the existing area of immunity being extended more widely. I have explained that, to put it at its very least, this is unlikely—I do not think that it is likely at all—because the only exclusions are local employed, hourly-paid workers and it is inconceivable that any international organisation would try to bring them within the ambit of immunity. The difficulty about laying down descriptive definitions, therefore, in the Order, as the hon. Gentleman wished, is that any time an international organisation wished to change the definitions within the categories enjoying these immunities, it would be necessary to introduce a new Order, which would greatly complicate our procedure.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

That is what I say is absolutely necessary constitutionally in the case of the Building Regulations and the Drug Regulations. The hon. Gentleman's argument is rather like that of the housemaid when she had an illegitimate child—it is only a very small one—only very few people are likely to be involved. But constitutionally it is a very important matter and if these groups were defined in 1957 by the international organisations themselves, cannot we use that definition now in some amending Order?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I hesitate to cross legal swords with the hon. Gentleman, but I think he argued that there were precedents in relation to this, in the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations and in the Weights and Measures Regulations. I followed with great interest the argument he put on this point, but with respect, I do not think that they are exact precedents, because both these cases dealt with matters of domestic legislation as distinct from matters involving, if I may so call it, international legislation. In the Building and the Weights and Measures Regulations one was dealing with an outside council inside the United Kingdom. Here one is dealing with an international body, in which we are partners, and to which we are bound by the kind of international agreements made in setting it up.

This makes a material distinction between the cases the hon. Gentleman quoted and these immunity Orders. I am conscious that the House was put in a difficulty by the alphabetical definitions, and I appreciate the problems that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South had in pursuing her research in the library, although I must say that despite all her difficulties she is a very formidable researcher, and I hesitate to think how much more ammunition she would have had if we had made it easier for her to find all the information she wanted. I will do my best on future occasions, in dealing with Orders of this nature, to make sure that more adequate information on this kind of matter is provided to the House.

I do not want to be too precise in my undertaking at this stage, but what I had in mind was that there might have been a more adequate explanation included in the Explanatory Memorandum. There are far too many initials going around in the international field these days, even for those of us who try to follow them. We get very bewildered and I think we might all join in a bit of abolition of capital letter punishment, if I might put it that way. I will try to do my best on future occasions.

Photo of Lady  Grant of Monymusk Lady Grant of Monymusk , Aberdeen South

My hon. Friends are very appreciative of the trouble the Minister of State has taken to go into this matter, but he seems to imply that this is rather a complicated matter because it is subject to international agreement. Surely it is not too difficult, to have, as part of the Order, a definition clause on categories A, B, C and L. It is not necessary to have it in the Explanatory Memorandum. While we appreciate the care he intends to take in future legislation, could he not consider having a short amending Order, which would define the particular categories of these two Orders, even if we pass them tonight?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I had hoped that my assurance to look at this in the future might have satisfied the House. The difficulty about defining these categories inside the Order—it is a difficulty I have described already—is that every time these international organisations wanted to make any administrative change within the categories which enjoy immunities, without any question of extending the categories, there would need to by a fresh Order, a fresh affirmative procedure. This raises very big issues with regard to Parliamentary business and delegated legislation, and it is not a matter on which I could give any undertaking, as the House will understand.

The easy way is to try to make sure that the explanation is more adequate, so that one can understand the matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby was good enough to say that if the Order had contained adequate definitions he would have made no complaint. I will look at it in that sense. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) raised some very wide issues with regard to the growth in the numbers of international bodies. I was rather disappointed to hear him take such a gloomy view of the growth of these international bodies because I know that he is a distinguished member of one very notable such body, that which deals with the abolition of slavery.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

We have no diplomatic immunity anywhere in the world.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

In the smaller world, so to speak, in which we live, it is important to create effective international organisations. We in Britain may be proud of the rôle we play in this matter, although it is rather paradoxical to think that a country like Britain, which has done so much over the years to create international institutions, should house within this country so few of them. Indeed, the problem in regard to immunity for international civil servants is a very limited one for this country compared with some others. Many of us feel that it might be useful in certain circumstances for Britain to act as host to more, rather than fewer, international institutions.

These international institutions enjoy immunities for basically the same reason as we in the House of Commons enjoy certain privileges. It is primarily to allow them to fulfil their international functions more smoothly and efficiently and without undue outside interference. However, I entirely agree that with the spread of international organisations, which is a welcome phenomenon in the world today, we must ensure that we do not create within the general class of public servants throughout the world two classes, a priviledged international class and a very much less privileged national class of civil servants.

In this connection, the House might like to know that the Government have circulated 24 other Governments with a memorandum suggesting that fresh thought should be given to the whole problem of privileges and immunities to international organisations. The Committee on Legal Co-operation of the Council of Europe and the International Law Commission of the United Nations have the matter down for consideration. This subject is, therefore, receiving a considerable degree of attention.

I hope that these general remarks may also partly answer the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) who, as we know, has a long and deep interest in these matters. To answer his main point, I do not think that the Vienna Convention comes into the issue we are discussing.

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

If it is correct to say that the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations does not apply to these matters, what would be the position in the following example? Two Frenchmen come here from Paris. One is a representative of the European Launcher Development Organisation and has rights of immunity from seizure of his personal baggage under Article 10(1,b) of the Order applying to that organisation. The second Frenchman is a counsellor of the French Embassy, but his baggage is subject to search under Article 36(2) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Is that not the position of the second Frenchman, if it is believed that he has dutiable goods in his baggage? Is that not a paradoxical situation?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

That point is outside the scope of these Orders. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to write to him and give him a detailed answer. The general answer to the case he mentions is, I think, that the Vienna Convention applies to diplomats in the full international definition of that term. These Orders do not apply, by and large, to diplomats within the definition of the Vienna Convention, with the exception of the secretary general and the director general; the head of each organisation in each case. That is the reason for the difference, to which I have drawn attention. With the explanation I have given of the position, I hope that the House will now approve these Orders.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the European Launcher Development Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1965 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 14th July.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.

Resolved,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the European Space Research Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1965 be made in the form of the daft laid before this House on 14th July.—[Mr. George Thomson.]

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.