Clause 4 - Orders in Council

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and International Committee of the Red Cross (Status) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 6 March 2024.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 10:15, 6 March 2024

I beg to move amendment 3, clause 4, page 2, line 24, at end insert—

“(1A) Before laying before Parliament a draft of a statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under section 1, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) the Chair of the United Kingdom Branch, and

(b) the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

(1B) Before laying before Parliament a draft of a statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under section 2, the Secretary of State must consult—

(b) the President, and

(c) the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Labour, Makerfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 4, clause 4, page 2, line 37, at end insert—

“(3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament—

(a) a draft of a statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under section 1, and

(b) a draft of a statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under section 2 within fourteen days of the passing of this Act.”

Clause stand part.

Clause 5 stand part.

Clause 6 stand part.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

I stress that amendments 3 and 4 are probing amendments to allow the Minister to provide some assurances, not only to the people in this room, including myself, but to other members of the organisations we are talking about today. It is a long-standing practice that privileges and immunities are conferred by Order in Council, and that is not included in the Bill; this is merely paving legislation to allow that to happen.

The clause provides that any Order in Council made under clauses 1 or 2 is subject to the draft affirmative parliamentary procedure. Statutory instruments that are subject to the draft affirmative procedure require the approval of both Houses of Parliament before they come into effect, in the usual way. The clause also provides further detail on the scope and extent of the delegated legislation-making powers under clauses 1 and 2.

In addition, the clauses provide the enabling power, first, for the Order in Council to specify circumstances where privileges or immunities do not apply, whether because of an exception to those privileges or immunities or because they have been waived by the organisation; and secondly, for the Order in Council to specify that fiscal reliefs and exemptions are subject to arrangements or conditions imposed by the Secretary of State or the Commissioners of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, as the case may be.

I felt it was very important that we had a clear, on the record affirmation from the Government, when they are drawing up these very important subsequent documents for approval by the House, that the appropriate people are involved in those discussions. That is why I have tabled probing amendments 3 and 4.

The effect of amendment 3 is to lay down a formal requirement on the Secretary of State to consult the chair of the UK branch and the secretary-general of the CPA, and the president and the director-general of the ICRC respectively, before finalising the draft Order in Council and laying it before Parliament.

Amendment 4 would require the Secretary of State to lay the draft Order in Council within 14 days of the Act’s coming into force. Perhaps when the Minister responds, he could give some assurances regarding the Government’s intent to involve the individuals named in amendment 3 in the decisions about what is to be laid before Parliament, to ensure that the Bill works exactly in the way the relevant organisations need it to. I am sure that would always be his intention, but it would be helpful if he could put that intention on the record before we finalise proceedings today.

Clause 5 explains that the term “ICRC” means the International Committee of the Red Cross, for the avoidance of any doubt. It also ensures that the definition of “statutory provision” allows for the treatment of the CPA and ICRC as international organisations to be applied in regard to all relevant legislation, primary and secondary, including devolved legislation. That is important because the Bill gives both the CPA and the ICRC treatment comparable to that of an international organisation, so the organisations need to be recognised in the same way across all relevant legislation.

Last, but by no means least, the provisions in clause 6 extend and apply the Bill to the whole of the UK, as a reserved or excepted matter relating to the conduct of international relations. The Bill will come into force on the day on which it receives Royal Assent.

I hope the Minister will respond on those final clauses and leave me in a position where I can withdraw my two probing amendments.

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for introducing the amendments and am happy to give her the assurance that she requires. The FCDO has engaged with the CPA and ICRC throughout the legislative process. The FCDO will consult them both ahead of secondary legislation and work closely with them to agree the arrangements for the appropriate privileges and immunities for each organisation. The FCDO has already committed to lay the draft Order in Council as soon as possible. His Majesty’s Government does not, therefore, think the amendments are necessary, and I ask my right hon. Friend to withdraw them.

On clause 4, it has of course been long-standing practice that privileges and immunities are conferred by Order in Council. The clause provides that any Order in Council made under clauses 1 or 2 is subject to the draft affirmative parliamentary procedure. Statutory instruments that are subject to that procedure require the approval of both Houses of Parliament before they may have effect, as we all know.

The clause also provides further detail regarding the scope and extent of the delegated legislation-making power under clauses 1 and 2. In particular, an Order in Council made under the Bill

“may make different provision for different cases and for different persons”, and

“may contain consequential, supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving provision.”

In addition, the clause provides the enabling power for two important aspects that are fundamental to the operation and management of privileges and immunities in respect of an international organisation. First, the Order in Council may specify circumstances in which privileges or immunities do not apply, whether because of an exception to those privileges or immunities or because they have been waived by the organisation.

Secondly, the Order in Council may specify that fiscal reliefs and exemptions are subject to arrangements or conditions imposed by the Secretary of State or the commissioners of His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. This will facilitate the application to the organisations of the existing administrative schemes and processes in respect of international organisations that are administered by, among others, the FCDO and HMRC.

Clause 5, on interpretation, explains that the term “ICRC” means the International Committee of the Red Cross, as stated in clause 2. It also ensures that the definition of “statutory provision” allows for the treatment of the CPA and ICRC as international organisations to be applied in regard to all relevant legislation, primary and secondary, including the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whenever such legislation is made. This is important because the Bill gives both the CPA and the ICRC treatment comparable to that of an international organisation; therefore, the organisations need to be recognised in the same way across all relevant legislation.

Under clause 6, the Bill’s provisions will extend and apply to the whole of the UK as a reserved or accepted matter relating to the conduct of international relations, and the Bill will come into force on the day on which it receives Royal Assent.

In conclusion, I commend the contribution of my right hon. Friend in a spirit of gratitude.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the Minister’s comments. I am reassured that the Government intend to fully involve the organisations in the drawing up of secondary legislation. It is an obvious thing to say, but it is good to hear the Minister put that on the record. With that in mind and having received those assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 2, in clause 4, page 2, line 27, leave out “or privilege” and insert “, privilege or exemption”.—(Dame Maria Miller.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1 and ensures that an exemption conferred by an Order under clause 2(1)(e) can be subject to exceptions set out in the Order.

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 5 and 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.