§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Davies)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read.a Second time."
This is a short and simple Bill, but it is none the less important. It is important because it is essential if we are to carry through our obligations undertaken in connection with the Council of Europe. Since the opening of this Parliament, this House has been sailing through the choppy seas of controversy, but today we should sail in calmer waters, as both sides of the House support the Council of Europe and are represented at its deliberations. It is to protect the rights and privileges of those who attend the Council as members of the Consultative Assembly that this Bill is introduced.
Under the Statute of Europe, which was ratified by the United Kingdom on 26th July, 1949, it was agreed to grant certain immunities to persons attending the Council of Europe. An agreement on privileges and immunities of the Council was drawn up and issued as a White Paper which was laid before this House. This agreement set out the details of 1408 what these privileges and immunities should be, and all this Bill does is to enable that agreement to be carried out by empowering His Majesty, by Orders in Council, to provide such privileges and immunities.
The Council of Europe, as hon. Members are well aware, is unique. It is unique because it has two bodies, one the Committee of Ministers and the other the Consultative Assembly. There is no international precedent for the Council of Europe, and it therefore is not surprising that present legislation never envisaged such a body, and makes no provision whatsoever for it. An especial and unique feature of the Consultative Assembly is that it is like a national Parliament in some senses; that is to say, those people who serve on the Consultative Assembly do not represent His Majesty's Government but represent the Members of both sides of this House; all parties are represented on the Consultative Assembly.
At the outset I should make it quite clear that it is only in connection with the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe that any additional powers are now required and are now being sought. The existing Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Acts of 1944 and 1946 are quite adequate to cover the Council itself viewed as a juridical entity, and of course the Committee of Ministers of the Council. But under the existing Acts it would not be possible to extend any immunities and privileges to the Consultative Assembly itself; that is to say, the present Acts, in so far as they deal with representatives, only envisage persons who are representatives of Governments and none others; they only cover people who are representing their Governments at the various conferences, and so on, which take place.
The Acts then contain a proviso, under which no privileges can be conferred by Order in Council on anyone who represents a Government of the United Kingdom; in other words, the existing Acts only enable privileges and immunities to be granted to the representatives of foreign Governments. That, of course, is common practice, and it is generally accepted that it is right that that should be so. It is quite right that persons who represent the United Kingdom on international bodies should not have 1409 privileges and immunities within the United Kingdom. The purpose of all the other agreements about immunities and privileges is not to protect the representative in his own country but only to protect him when abroad.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
Does that mean that when a Member of this House goes abroad, the Bill will give him diplomatic privileges at, for example, Strasbourg?
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Member will wait a little, he will find that I shall be dealing fully with that in a few moments. Even in connection with the Council of Europe, we do not want power to grant privileges and immunities within the United Kingdom to anyone who represents the United Kingdom on the Committee of Ministers. What we want is to provide that those privileges and immunities shall be provided for representatives on the Consultative Assembly. That answers the question which the hon. Member has just put to me.
§ Sir H. Williams
No. I want to know in what way any Acts of this House can give its Members diplomatic privileges when they are overseas?
§ Mr. Davies
The Bill does not cover diplomatic privileges overseas. It is to cover diplomatic privileges and immunities, when they return to this country, for anything which British representatives may have said whilst attending the Assembly in Strasbourg.
One of the fundamental ideas of the Assembly is that those attending it are not representatives of their Governments acting on orders of their Governments. They are free in the Consultative Assembly to criticise their Governments just as Members of this House are free to criticise His Majesty's Government; and just as much as here, on both sides of the House, they are not inhibited or frustrated in so doing, so in the Consultative Assembly at Strasbourg all representatives are free to exercise their right to express their views in whatever form they desire. It is desired to give to representatives on the Consultative Assembly much the same immunities to secure unfettered freedom of speech and discussion as Members of this House enjoy. This object would not be achieved if the immunity of British representatives at the Assembly did not apply in the United Kingdom as well as in foreign 1410 countries. This is, in effect, the only point of substance in the Bill. I venture to hope that it will commend itself equally to both sides of the House because of the interest and participation of both sides in the Consultative Assembly.
The immunities of members of the Consultative Assembly are set forth in Articles 13 to 15 of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe, to which I have already referred. Article 13 does not have to be considered in connection with the present Bill, since the obligations under it can be fulfilled by administrative action. They refer, of course, to the restrictions on the free movement of representatives to the Assembly, to and from the place of meeting, and deal with Customs and Exchange control and so on, all of which can be dealt with by administrative action.
Article 14 is the essential provision, because this is the safeguard of freedom of speech. It provides for freedom for representativesfrom official interrogation and from arrest and all legal proceedings in respect of words spoken or votes cast by them in the exercise of their functions.Article 15 then provides that representatives.at the Assembly, whether or not they are Members of Parliament on their national territory, shall enjoy the immunities accorded there to Members of Parliament during the actual sessions of the Consultative Assembly. It is for that purpose that provision has to be made, and is made, in the Bill.
Members of this House are very well aware of their immunities in respect of arrest under the law of this country. I take the following brief statement of them from Halsbury's "Laws of England," and I believe that Erskine May says very much the same thing:Whilst Parliament is sitting and during the time within which the privilege of Parliament extends, it is claimed by resolutions of both Houses that no Peer or Member of the House of Commons may be imprisoned or restrained without the order or sentence of the House of Lords or House of Commons as the case may be unless it be for treason or felony or for refusing to give security for the peace. Neither House of Parliament claims or has ever claimed freedom from arrest of any of its Members who is charged with a criminal offence.That is the statement of the privileges laid down concerning this House as they are generally accepted.
1411 Article 15 of the General Agreement, to which I have already referred, provides that the Consultative Assembly can itself waive the immunity of any of its members under this particular Article 15—immunities which are, of course, far less than full diplomatic immunity—and they are covered by Clause 1 (2) of the Bill. This subsection extends the provisions of the two previous Acts to representatives whether of Governments or not:to representatives (whether of governments or not) on any organ of such an organisation.It thereby makes it quite clear that privileges and immunities can be extended to persons who represent a country but who do not represent the Government of that country. Once that is provided for under the provisions, which are not changed, of the Act of 1946, there is power by Order in Council to give to these representatives anything up to full diplomatic privilege. Full diplomatic privilege covers everything that has to be given to representatives of the Consultative Assembly under Articles 14 and 15 of the General Agreement.
The Bill, therefore, gives adequate powers for His Majesty, by Order in Council, to prescribe in accordance with the Agreement exactly what the representatives of the Consultative Assembly should have. It leaves untouched, of course, the proviso in the earlier Acts that no Order in Council is to confer any immunity on any person who represents His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. This proviso will not operate, of course, on members of the Consultative Assembly because, as I have already pointed out, these representatives, although they represent the United Kingdom, do not represent His Majesty's Government. The proviso, however, will still render it impossible, for instance, to give by Order in Council immunity to a United Kingdom representative on the Committee of Ministers who does represent His Majesty's Government, or to all the other persons who represent the Government in other international organisations.
It may be asked why the Bill gives wider powers than actually are needed for the purpose for which it is introduced, and why it does not prescribe exactly what representatives on the Consultative Assembly are to have. The answer is the 1412 same as that which has been given and accepted in connection with the two Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Acts, namely, that it is quite impracticable, without producing a Bill of great length and complexity, or without presenting a special Bill in regard to every individual international organisation, to prescribe by a Bill in detail exactly what privileges and immunities are to be accorded to the various classes of persons concerned with each individual organisation.
The present Bill follows the scheme of the existing Acts, which is to prescribe the maximum that can be granted by Order in Council. Individual Orders would have to be made for each organisation, and thereby the details peculiar to each organisation can be regulated, while the same pattern can, of course, be generally followed. I should like to renew the undertaking which was given here by my predecessors in connection with the previous Bills that Orders in Council will not be made giving privileges and immunities wider than are necessary to fulfil the obligations of His Majesty's Government under the relevant international agreements.
I would also remind the House that all Orders under the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Acts, including the present Bill, have to be laid before Parliament and may be annulled by negative Resolutions. In other words, Parliament will remain supreme and it is quite clear that if that undertaking were departed from there would be an opportunity of challenging it in this House and action being taken.
I have now dealt with all the substance, and will just say a word concerning subsection (1) of Clause 1. This involves no matter of substance but is one of drafting to bring the 1944 and 1946 Acts into line with the constitutions of existing organisations. It has been found that the language of the Act of 1944, which was enacted when the now defunct U.N.R.R.A. was the only international organisation which had then taken shape, and that the language of the Act of 1946, which had in view particularly the United Nations and the International Court of Justice and which was passed when most of the present international organisations which go by the name of Specialised Agencies were not yet in being, is not 1413 apt, having regard to the form which constitutions of these organisations have taken.
For instance, the Acts of 1944 and 1946 refer to organisations of which His Majesty's Government and the Governments of other foreign sovereign Powers are members. In the constitutions of the different organisations, in some cases the members are described as being States and sometimes the Governments of States. There is not really any difference of substance here whether the member is described as a Government or as a State, but it is well not to leave room for any technical points, however ill-founded, and it is particularly desirable to leave no scope for such a technical point here when, as I have pointed out already, it becomes necessary to distinguish between the representatives of Governments on an organisation and representatives of States on an organisation who do not represent their Governments at the Consultative Assembly.
It is the purpose of this subsection to make absolutely clear that the Act applies to organisations whose members are States as well as organisations whose members are Governments. At this stage it is not necessary to go into further details about this subsection because it can be considered more in detail when we reach the Committee stage of the Bill. I repeat, there is no question of substance in this subsection; it is merely the adaptation of the intention of the old Acts to the constitutions of the international organisations that have now come into being.
If right hon. and hon. Members find two Acts followed by a third rather confusing to read and consider, if they find this legislation by reference, by amendment, difficult, I am sure that most hon. Members of the House have full sympathy with them. I would add that full consideration is being given to the consolidation of these three Acts under the special procedure available for purely consolidating Bills, and a consolidation Act would render the position as clear as any Act of Parliament can usually be. As a matter of fact, the procedure here followed of introducing a third Measure to amend the previous Act is a step towards consolidation. Once this Bill is on the Statute Book, it would be possible to 1414 introduce a consolidation Bill through the consolidating machinery.
This Bill is necessary for us to carry out obligations undertaken in connection with the Council of Europe, obligations which I know hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to fulfil. if the Bill were not passed, the United Kingdom representatives would not only be at a disadvantage as compared with their continental colleagues, but it would not be possible for us to ratify the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe into which we have already entered. Our representatives would then be in an invidious position at Strasbourg this Summer.
The Bill is not for the benefit of any individual but to enable our representatives freely to carry out their functions at the Council of Europe. I know it is the wish of both sides of the House that they should do so. Its application is, therefore, limited to those who attend the Consultative Assembly. I know there was some concern during the passage of the Acts of 1944 and 1946 that diplomatic privileges would be widely extended. In practice, this has not turned out to be the case, and only 91 persons have obtained immunity under these Acts who otherwise would have been unable to obtain it.
As hon. Members are well aware, legislation concerning diplomatic privilege in this country dates back to an Act passed in 1708 in the reign of Queen Anne. From that date on, this country has meticulously honoured its obligations as regards diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately, that is not true of all countries today. One expects diplomatic privilege and immunity to be roughly on a reciprocal basis, and for the most part it has been up till now. In certain countries, however, respect for diplomatic privilege and immunity has diminished and one cannot but take a grave view of that state of affairs. That, however, is no concern of this Bill, and I mention it by way of contrast, because those who have entered into agreements to provide these immunities in connection with the Council of Europe are democratic countries of like mind as ourselves and can be trusted beyond doubt to carry out the obligations into which they have entered. We do not wish to lag behind in this respect in the 1415 Council of Europe, and so I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 11.26 a.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Northants, South)
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, began by describing it as a simple Bill but, at the end of his speech, he referred to it as a confusing one to read. I feel that the last description is the more accurate one and that the majority of hon. Members who look at this Bill will find it extremely difficult to understand what it is all about. I wish the hon. Gentleman had given some reason for the omission from the Bill of any Explanatory Memorandum. There is usually an Explanatory Memorandum indicating the purpose which the Bill is intended to achieve, and I do not see why that has been departed from in this instance. Indeed, such a Memorandum might have served a useful purpose and made the objects of the Bill clearer than the speech of the hon. Member. Nor is there a Financial Memorandum. Are we to take it that the passage of this Bill will not impose any financial burden? Both those matters ought to have been dealt with.
It is a somewhat curious fact that, notwithstanding all the propaganda in recent weeks about equal shares, the first Bill this Government introduces into this House of Commons in this Parliament is one under which the Government seek to obtain power to confer privileges on individuals. It is, in fact, the second Diplomatic Privileges Bill introduced since 1945 and the third since I have been a Member of this House. All have the same common object, to implement an agreement entered into by the Government of this country with governments of other countries to extend diplomatic privileges and immunities to members and staffs of international organisations to which this country and other countries belong. As the hon. Gentleman said, the basis of this is that the extension should be reciprocal.
We cannot, by anything we do in this House of Commons, confer any privileges upon our representatives when they go to Strasbourg. It should be made quite clear that all this Bill does is to confer on the Government power to extend 1416 diplomatic privileges and immunities to people within Great Britain. It must be reciprocal, as the hon. Gentleman said and it is essential that similar privileges and immunities should be extended by other countries to British nationals attending meetings of these international bodies and British nationals on their staffs.
While we in this country have, since 1945, extended diplomatic privileges into new fields, at the same time the normal area of diplomatic privileges in many countries have been very considerably restricted. The answer which the hon. Gentleman gave yesterday, shows in what a very small area in certain countries our diplomats can now enjoy any freedom or diplomatic privileges. Today we are concerned with the extension of diplomatic privilege to people who come to this country and I am sure the House will agree that any proposed extension of privileges and immunities should be the subject of very close and careful examination. In one of his more effective moments the Minister of Health said—and it is perfectly truthful and. I entirely agree:when we confer immunities upon certain people we take away rights from British subjects."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th Sept. 1944; Vol. 403, c. 364.]We on this side of the House do not dissent from the object of this Measure; that is to say, to extend privileges and immunities to the Council of Europe, to the representatives of its members and its secretariat. The Statute of the Council of Europe was very clear and concise in its terms. It was made on 5th May last year and I would remind the House of what it said. The relevant paragraph reads as follows:The Council of Europe, representatives of Members and the Secretariat shall enjoy in the territories of its Members such privileges and immunities as are reasonably necessary for the fulfilment of their functions. These immunities shall include immunity for all representatives in the Consultative Assembly from arrest and all legal proceedings in the territories of all Members in respect of words spoken and votes cast in the debates of the Assembly of its committees or commissions.That was followed by the Agreement to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, the General Agreement on privileges and immunities, Command Paper 7780. That is also a very clear document. The object of this Bill, we understand, is to implement that Agreement, but it is a 1417 curious fact that there is not a single reference in it to the Council of Europe. I do not understand why this Bill is so dissimilar from the Bill introduced by the Socialist Government in 1946. The Title to the 1946 Act reads as follows:An Act to amend the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1944, in connection with the general convention of privileges and immunities of the United Nations approved at the first General Assembly thereof and in connection with certain resolutions taken at the said General Assembly.As I say, this Bill contains no reference to the Council of Europe, but is merely to amend the Diplomatic Privileges Extension Act, o 1944. Why was not the Title of this Bill, "to amend in connection with the general agreement on privileges and immunities of the Council of Europe "? I fear that the answer is that while the principal object of the Bill is to enable the General Agreement to be implemented, the Bill in fact goes further than that and will, I understand, enable His Majesty's Government, by Order in Council, to axtend diplomatic privileges and immunities not only to the Council of Europe, its representatives and its secretariat, but also to any organisation of which the United Kingdom, or His Majesty's Government and any foreign sovereign power or its government are members.
Under this Bill power could be taken to extend diplomatic privilege to any other such organisation. I think that is quite clear. Have the Government any other organisations in mind? If they have, what are they? If not, why is it that this Bill is not drafted in the same way as was the 1946 Bill, which related in its Title to the United Nations? Why is it of a more general character in this instance? If there are no other organisations in mind, it would appear that the Government are seeking to take wider powers than they themselves really require. If this Bill became an Act in its present form, it would be possible, by Order in Council, to extend diplomatic privileges to our representatives on and the international staff of the General Postal Union set up under the Treaty of 1874. I do not think it will be possible to extend it by Order of the Council to the International Federation of Trade Unions, or' anything of that sort, but we would like to be clear on the precise scope of this Measure 1418 On reading the Bill in conjunction with other statutes, it appears that the Government are seeking to gain a general power for extending diplomatic privileges and immunities to any organisation of which the United Kingdom and another country are members and not just to extend it to the Council of Europe and the Consultative Assembly.
What exactly is meant by the phrase:an organisation of which … the United Kingdom is a member"?His Majesty's Government is a member of the Council of Europe. They were parties to the Statute and I am not sure at the moment whether there is any real importance in the inclusion of the phrase:an organisation of which … the United Kingdom is a member, and I am not at all sure to what kind of organisation this application is limited.Bearing in mind the departure from the form of the 1946 Act, I suggest that this power to apply the powers under this Bill to other organisations is of particular importance. I wish to ask the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up this Debate, if this Bill becomes an Act, how the powers granted under it will be exercised. How will it operate? There will have to be an Order in Council. If one looks at the Schedule of the 1946 Act one sees that the categories are divided into three. First, there is the organisation itself, in subsection 1 (2, a) and then there are the higher officers of the organisation and the representatives of member governments, which will be amended by this Bill to include those who are representatives but not of the member governments. That is the second category, and the third is a lower category of officers and servants of the organisation. Representatives of this country to the Consultative Assembly would obviously come into category two. One sees, by reading the Schedule of this Bill, that that category, number two, is extended to cover them.
Then one sees that those coming in that category can have the following immunities and privileges set out in Part II of the Second Schedule (B) of the 1946 Act:The like immunity from suit and legal process as is accorded to an envoy of a foreign sovereign Power accredited to His Majesty.The like inviolability of residence as is accorded to such an envoy.The like exemption or relief from taxes as is accorded to such an envoy.1419 I hope that the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but it would appear to me that the effect of passing this Bill in its present form would be that these exemptions and privileges could be extended to all our representatives on the Consultative Assembly.
At what moment will those representatives begin to enjoy the privileges which will be conferred upon them under an Order in Council? Under this Bill there must be an Order in Council, the contents of which we shall see. Our representatives have been nominated—I am not sure if that is the right word. The Prime Minister yesterday announced who they would be. At what moment will the privileges commence to operate? Will it only be when they leave these shores or the airport? At what moment will they cease to enjoy those privileges? That ought to have been made clear to us when the Second Reading of the Bill was moved. I suggest for consideration before the Committee stage that, bearing in mind the amendment made by this Bill to the First Schedule of the 1946 Act, it will also be necessary to make some amendment to the heading of Part II of the Second Schedule (B) of the 1946 Act, as amended. I have mentioned that point so that the hon. Gentleman can give consideration to it; it is really a Committee point.
We ought to be told the precise effect of the Bill in regard to taxation. If the conferring of diplomatic privileges upon our representatives on the Consultative Assembly affords any relief from the present heavy burden of taxation, I am sure there will he great competition for appointment.
I wish now to say a word or two about staffs and the officers of the organisation. In moving the Second Reading I thought that the hon. Gentleman—I may have heard him wrongly—represented that this Bill only extended to representatives on the Consultative Assembly. If he looks at the Schedule to the Bill he will see that it extends beyond that to cover the staffs of such representatives also. Under Section 17 of the General Agreement I see that the Secretary-General can specify the categories of officials to which the provisions of Section 18 shall apply. I am not sure whether this Bill as at present drafted will enable an Order in Council 1420 to apply to the categories of officials so specified by the Secretary-General. I should like to know whether that is so or not.
Section 18 sets out the various immunities which those officials so specified will be entitled to have. I would ask whether the procedure which is contemplated means that His Majesty's Government will have to grant those immunities to all persons so specified by the Secretary-General? Does it mean that this House is parting with its power in that matter or will each official be specifically referred to in an Order in Council against which we can pray if we think fit? We ought to be clear upon that point.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman's observations about consolidation. A case fur a consolidation Measure will certainly arise immediately upon the passage of this Bill. I hope that consolidation will be done very promptly. I would also say that strong as is the case for consolidation, there is a much stronger case at the present time for a review and reconsideration of the whole field of diplomatic privilege. Have the Government any power now to restrict the area in this country in which diplomatic privileges can be exercised? There was recently a decision it the High Court in which the plaintiff sought damages for a gross libel published in a weekly newspaper, and he was unable to obtain any satisfaction for the grave injury he had suffered because it was held that the publishing agency, the Tass Agency, was a Department of a foreign State and was immune from process.
A newspaper published in this country by a British printer in a foreign language for a foreign embassy might contain a libel. In that case the embassy would be immune under diplomatic privilege, but the printers would still be liable for the libel. I do not consider that to be a satisfactory position, and I am glad to know that last autumn an Inter-Departmental Committee was set up to consider it. It is unfortunate that that committee has apparently not reported in time to enable this Bill to amend the law with regard to that matter.
In the last few years diplomatic privilege has grown quite a lot in this country. It might interest the House to be reminded that in 1939 there were 294 cars which were entitled to bear the letters "C.D." upon them; in 1949 that number had 1421 risen to 780. Privilege has also been extended considerably in the field of taxation. In the 1944 Act, largely as a result of the efforts made by the present Minister of Health and the Minister of Works, a provision was inserted in the 1944 Act to the effect that there should be no exemption from taxes or rates upon any person who is a British subject and whose usual place of abode is in the United Kingdom. When the 1946 Measure was introduced that provision was deleted, and we said something about it at the time. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman if he can tell us how many British subjects whose usual place of abode is in this country have been relieved from taxation since 1946 in consequence of that alteration. I should also like to ask how many are likely to be relieved under Orders in Council made under this Bill? I think we ought to be told a little about that.
I wish to say a word about the undertaking to which the hon. Gentleman referred in moving the Second Reading. I am sorry he did not quote the undertaking accurately; it was far wider than he said. It is set out in volume 426 of HANSARD, and the then Minister of State said this. This is the undertaking:His Majesty's Government will not make an Order in Council under the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill now under discussion, giving privileges and immunities which could not be given under the 1944 Act in favour of any existing international organisation (other than the United Nations itself), unless and until the privileges and immunities of the organisation in question have been unified in accordance with the Assembly resolution on this subject, or in favour of any new international organisation unless that international organisation has been brought into relationship with the United Nations organisation and the procedure of the Resolution of the United Nations Assembly has been applied to determine its immunities and privileges."—[OFFICIAL REPORT: 25th July, 1946; Vol. 426, c. 375.]That was a very general undertaking, and in my view no privileges could have been conferred upon anyone attending the Consultative Assembly, or the Council of Europe, apart from further statutory provisions without a breach of that undertaking.
I hope the hon. Gentleman when he winds up this Debate will answer all the questions I have put to him. I would reiterate that it is our desire to see privileges and immunities extended to the Council of Europe, its representatives and secretariat, but we are concerned to see 1422 that this Bill does not go further than is necessary to achieve that purpose. if the hon. Gentleman can satisfy us about all those matters I think I can say to him that this Bill will have a smoother and a less prolonged passage than the one in 1946.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
There are two points I wish to raise. I think that the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) brought in a little confusion by his reference to the Tass case. Of course, the Tass case had nothing at all to do with diplomatic privilege.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me, I never said it was diplomatic privilege; I said it was immunity from process.
§ Mr. Paget
I accept that correction. Of course, it is quite a different question. Our courts do not claim jurisdiction over the action of foreign governments, whether we recognise them diplomatically or not. De facto, a government exercising authority is not something over which the courts exercise jurisdiction. I entirely agree that it is a matter which might very well be reconsidered, and now that governments do go in for such purely trading activities I feel that our courts ought to exercise a wider jurisdiction in that respect. But that is nothing whatever to do with this Bill.
The question I wish to raise is that diplomatic privilege does not merely give somebody immunity from acts of the government. It also gives immunity from process brought by a private citizen. For instance, if somebody has diplomatic privilege and drives on the right-hand side of the road, as he is accustomed to do in his own country, and knocks somebody down here, that person who is injured cannot bring an action to recover damages against the person who knocked him down, even though, in effect, the defendant is really a British insurance company. That difficulty is overcome by the government in question waiving diplomatic privilege.
Here we understand that protection is not only to representatives of governments, but to representatives of countries. I am not quite certain what that means. If a man is accredited and given diplo- 1423 matic privilege because he represents France, but is not a representative of the Government of France, who then is in a position to waive diplomatic privilege in the sort of case which I have mentioned—the case where a private individual is injured?
There may be a perfectly simple answer to this, but I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us. Of course, one way of getting over it might be that when the Order in Council is introduced it might be confined to diplomatic privilege with regard to an act of government, but not extended to process brought by an individual for individual injuries. I am not quite clear how it works, but I feel that it is a point which ought to be borne in mind.
§ 11.57 a.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I listened with care to the unintelligent essay read out by the Under-Secretary which, I imagine, had been prepared by the "back-room boys" in the Foreign Office. I think we ought to make speeches in this House and not read essays. The Foreign Office are always a little unfortunate when they go in for legislation because they have had very little practice at the job. When the essay was being read out, I thought I was just waking up from a sleep which began in 1944, when I heard a somewhat similar essay read by Sir Donald Somervell, then the Attorney-General.
I think it was I who started the criticism of the Bill of 1944. We had a very happy time on that day. We had the notable assistance of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Health and the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Works. I am also delighted to see present today the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) because he joined in the fray, and we had a most successful day. Very soon the then Secretary of State my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was in such a state of confusion that he thought the best thing to do was to move the adjournment of the Debate. Then we had a six-week interval, I think until they had collected, from Hot Springs, or Dumbarton Oaks, or wherever he was, the right hon. Gentleman who is now one of 1424 the Conservative Members for Hull. As a result of 'this long time, the Foreign Office realised that the original Bill was thoroughly bad. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) also took an active part in improving that Bill.
I want to know what this Bill is about, because the essay which was read out was not very informative. I sat in the Library for an hour the other day trying to read this Bill, and the 1944 Bill, and the 1946 Bill; and I was not very successful. I could not turn it into any kind of coherent English. That may be because I have not been trained as a lawyer. Hon. Members who look at the Bill will see that originally it was, "His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom." Then in this Bill they have turned it round and the reference is to "the United Kingdom or His Majesty's Government." I do not quite understand that. What is "the United Kingdom"? I know of no corporate body called "the United Kingdom," unless it is the Crown. When we go abroad, if we are chosen to go on these missions, do we represent "the United Kingdom"? If so, what do we represent? So far as I know, it is embodied in the Crown.
If I am privileged to go to Strasbourg—I have no desire to, because I do not particularly approve of the Assembly held there—I shall go representing His Majesty, which I think is a rather nice category in which to go, and my privileges may be really important. They would have to have the red carpet down. I do not think that these words mean anything. That does not surprise me in the least, because it is obvious that they did not mean anything to the Under-Secretary. When I interrupted to ask him a question, he said that he was coming to that point, but he never got there.
There is the point about when these diplomatic privileges start. The point was put most effectively by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South. Where do they start—when the people get on the plane or on the ship, or are they permanent? Are they to be Hindus of a caste, with "C.D." on their brows for all time so that we can recognise them? I do not like these "C.D.s" scattered around the country too much. They all seem to drive too fast, anyway. I understand 1425 from a French friend that in Paris people call them chiens dangereux, and that less polite people call them cochons distingués, which is an even more effective description.
We ought to know what this Bill means. I am sorry that the Minister of Health is not here. I understood from his opposition to the 1946 Act that he was afraid that they would put "C.D." on the back of his dinner jacket. We ought to have a much clearer explanation than we have had. What privileges are we conferring on Members of Parliament when they go to Strasbourg? The only point I understand is that they can make libellous statements in Strasbourg and they cannot be sued when they get back to England. If they put a few bottles of brandy in their suitcases, will privilege extend to the time when they have cleared the Customs? Will they have any privilege while they remain in the United Kingdom? If a French or Dutch member of the European Assembly comes here, will he be covered by privilege? Will he be able to put "C.D." on the back of his car?
None of these questions can be answered from the essay read out this morning. I really think that Ministers ought to master the subject of their Bills before they introduce them into this House. This is a serious assembly. We are here to legislate. If the legislation is necessary naturally we will support it, but we ought to be satisfied what it is about. The Minister ought to learn his subject before he reads out another essay to this House. There are a great many other remarks I could make, but a large number of my hon. Friends wish to speak, so I will not occupy the time of the House any longer.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
I cannot imagine that any Debate in which the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) takes part will be described as unsuccessful. In the fortnight that this Parliament has already run he appears to have emerged as the enfant terrible. Today he has entertained us with some of the roistering which I believe made him notorious on a previous occasion. I myself thought that he was unnecessarily discourteous to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who 1426 was making his first appearance at the Despatch Box as a junior Minister, and therefore was entitled to a certain amount of indulgence—not that he needed any. I do not know what uncertainties were left by my hon. Friend's speech, because he helped to clear up for me the same difficulties which the hon. Member for Croydon, East, found when he read the Bill. I confess that I read Clause 1 many times before I came to any sort of conclusion as to what it was all about. I was very glad indeed to have my hon. Friend's speech this morning to clear up my difficulty.
The immediate purpose of this Bill is quite clear. It is to confer certain diplomatic immunity upon representatives of those powers who participate in the Council of Europe when in this country, in the hope that we will receive reciprocal privileges when our representatives go to Strasbourg.
§ Sir H. Williams
If the hon. Gentleman is quite clear, perhaps he will clear up the point on which I was in doubt. I understood that the Bill conferred privileges upon our representatives when they were at Strasbourg, and that anything they said there which would have been unprivileged in England was protected. It is clear that the essay of the Under-Secretary has produced a different effect upon the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Haire
I do not claim any greater intelligence than the hon. Member for Croydon, East. It is clear to me that we in this House can only legislate for our own country. Indeed, the purpose of this Bill is to confer diplomatic privileges upon representatives of nations taking part in the Assembly when they are here. In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Northants. South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), I would say that my belief is that the Title of this Bill was deliberately left open so that we should not have a succession of similar Bills. such as those we had in 1944, 1946 and this one. After all, we in this House are given protection by reason of the fact that any increase of diplomatic privilege is brought before us as an Order in Council and we have the right to pray against it.
I should like to ask whether this Bill includes immediate immunity to members of the Military Committees set up under 1427 the North Atlantic and Brussels Pacts. If the Bill is not left open so that we can have an Order in Council to include those persons, are we to have another Bill for that purpose should the need arise? It seems to me that by omitting some such sub-title as that which the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South, said was included in the 1946 Measure, we enable this Bill to govern such further extensions.
I consider that this little Bill will fulfil a useful function as furthering the trend introduced by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary during his tenure of office to extend privileges to members of Western European democratic Powers. He has removed a number of old restrictions, such as visa requirements, and improved freedom of movement between certain countries in Western Europe. I applaud that and think that this Bill is giving a similar wise extension in the diplomatic field. It is certainly in distinct contrast to the withdrawal of freedom of movement and diplomatic privileges in certain other countries.
While I do not think that it would be entirely in order to refer to it, it is by way of illustration that I mention what is happening in Eastern Europe. Our diplomats there are being seriously restricted in their movement and demands made for our representatives to be removed. We have had a whole series of these cases in the last two or three months. We have had the Sanders and Voegler trial in Budapest which was a travesty of justice to British and American representatives. We have recently had the demand by the Hungarian Government that Mr. Southy our Commercial attaché in Budapest, and the military attaché there should be withdrawn. I regret to say that apparently His Majesty's Government have accepted that request and withdrawn these officials. We noted in an answer given yesterday the very serious restriction of liberty of movement of our diplomatic representatives which is taking place in Eastern Europe. I hope that this Bill will be an example to Eastern Europe of how we in Western Europe behave in the matter of extending diplomatic privileges.
§ 12.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I shall not trouble the 1428 House by speaking at great length because many people are interested, but I would say, in general, that I suppose that down to about 1944 the law of privilege and immunity had been pretty well worked out by a series of statutes and cases. One then had to deal with the new problem of bodies which are not State bodies but which require some protection. Attempts to do that have been made by two statutes and now by this Bill.
I should like to state what seems to be the common opinion on both sides of the House as to the line we ought to take. There is no doubt that cases like the Tass case—whether it was State privilege or diplomatic immunity does not matter—and other events which are taking place in Eastern Europe, profoundly affect our minds. Undoubtedly, they lay upon us the burden of showing a good example and not a bad one. Also, they leave on my mind the impression that I feel disposed to keep a tight hand on any extensions of privilege of this sort to see that we do not give away more than we mean to give at a given stage.
One does not want to do anything at all to impose difficulties on the Council of Europe. The immediate object of the Bill is to benefit that institution. I do not like the way the Bill is drawn. I think, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), that the Measure of 1946 was a much happier one, and I am bound to say that I think the draftsman who prepared this Bill for us has laid himself open to the criticism which Macaulay inflicted on the young Mr. Gladstone. I think most of us remember the quotation. He said:The truth is that Mr. Gladstone has fallen Into an error very common among men of less talents than his own. It is not unusual for a person, who is eager to prove a particular proposition, to assume a major of huge extent, which includes that particular proposition, without ever reflecting that it includes a great deal more.The Bill is drafted in general terms and I am very much afraid that those terms may include more than we understand, and, very likely, more than the promoters of the Bill intend. Therefore, I sincerely hope that between now and the Committee stage the matter may be very carefully considered, and that drafting of a far more precise character than we have here may be adopted.
1429 I suppose it is always difficult for legislation by reference to be clear and understandable, but when I find members of the senior branch of my own profession having great difficulty in making head or tail of it, and when I find myself, with some little experience of the law, having the same difficulty, it strikes me as being a confession that the resources of civilisation are pretty nearly exhausted. It surely ought to be possible at this time of day for Parliamentary draftsmen to tackle the matter in such a way that a Bill makes some attempt at saying what it intends to do.
The technique, apparently, is to add obscurity to obscurity, and then, at the end, to have a consolidating Act to clear the matter up. If the labour of consolidation has to be undertaken, why not do it now? Why not try to bring forward a Bill in similar terms? Why not do it by relating to the specific object what is really sought to be done? If the object is to look after the Council of Europe, it should not be beyond the wit of man or Parliamentary draftsmen to devise some words that will achieve that means without, possibly, doing a great deal more.
I do not associate myself with the ambitious suggestion of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) that a Minister should understand a Bill before he brings it forward. If a project has been through the hands of a Parliamentary draftsman, and has, therefore, been rendered almost totally unintelligible, to expect that the Minister, when the matter comes before the House, should really understand it is to expect something really impossible. The best for which one can hope is that the Minister may learn the Bill as it goes along, and that, by the time it has gone through its various stages and we reach the Third Reading he will understand it. This to my mind is a very obscure Bill dealing with what is really a very critical matter, and I beg the Minister to consider very carefully whether he cannot recast it and get it into something like shape between now and the Committee stage.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I am sure that we on this side of the House would like to welcome the first appearance at the Despatch Box of the Parlia- 1430 mentary Secretary, and to tell him that we have a good deal of sympathy with him in his attempt to explain what is a very complicated Bill. I was not surprised that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) should have made the suggestion that it would have been preferable had there been an Explanatory Memorandum. The only thing I would say about such a memorandum is that I have a feeling that it would have had to be considerably longer than the Bill it was attempting to explain.
No one can possibly take any exception to this Bill in so far as the Council of Europe is concerned. If the Bill had merely carried out our obligations under Article 40 of the Council's Statute, there would have been no objection at all. We are anxious to carry out those obligations, and we all wish that such privileges as may be necessary should be extended to Members who go to Strasbourg. There is no dispute about that. Although I am not a legal luminary or expert in the interpretation of Bills, it seems to me, if I may say so with great respect, that this Bill goes far too wide. I ask the Minister of State. when he comes to reply, to explain to the House exactly how wide it does go.
Here we have the old tendency to demand powers far wider than are necessary for a particular purpose, and then, when challenged, to say, "Oh well, the House must leave it to the good sense of the Minister concerned not to abuse the wide powers for which he is asking in the Bill." Would the Minister of State please tell us when he replies what is the exact interpretation of Clause 1 (2) where it says:shall extend to representatives … on any organ of such an organisation and members of any committee of such an organisation. …How widely could that be interpreted? Is it, for instance, intended to extend diplomatic privileges to the various members of the different Services now engaged in Paris in fulfilment of the Brussels Treaty under the chairmanship of Field Marshal Montgomery'? When those officers, French or Belgian or whatever nationality they may be, come to England, is it intended under this Bill that they should be given diplomatic immunity? Could it be extended as wide as that? So far as I can see from the Bill, had there been an inter- 1431 national atomic energy commission, it would, in some respects, have covered the notorious Dr. Fuchs.
On the wider issue, I think the Government would be well advised to consider very carefully this continued extension of diplomatic privilege. My hon. and learned Friend gave the figures of the extraordinary increase in the number of cars in this country which are now allowed carry "C.D." plates. Between 1945 and 1950 the number of persons entitled to diplomatic privilege has increased from 1,557 to 1,795. There are all sorts of organisations whose functions are in no sense technically diplomatic which now come under the general umbrella of foreign Embassies in London in a manner which would have been unthought of and unheard of before the war.
Various hon. Members have referred to what was perhaps a test case, the libel action in which the Tass Agency was involved, where that Agency obtained a Certificate from the Soviet Ambassador stating that it was a department of the Soviet State. Their case was upheld in the courts. As the result of a Debate that took place at the end of November last year in another place, raised, I think, by Lord Vansittart, the Lord Chancellor, in replying for the Government, announced the establishment of this interdepartmental committee to inquire into the whole position. Can we be told how far this departmental committee has proceeded, when its report is likely to be published and what its terms of reference are? So far as I know, that information and those details, which are important, have never been given to the House.
The basis of all diplomatic privilege is contained in the word the Under-Secretary of State used—"Reciprocity." The Government must bear this in mind. We see the staff of the Soviet Embassy increased year by year. The position of United Kingdom representatives, both in the Soviet Union and in the satellite countries, is daily becoming more and more difficult. The facilities granted to them become more restricted. We had a whole list of restrictions in answer to a Question asked yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish). Even His Majesty's Ambassador to Moscow cannot go over 30 miles 1432 outside that city without permission, which is rarely forthcoming.
Nobody suggests that one can take that sort of retaliatory measure unless one establishes a police state. Nobody suggests for a moment that the Soviet Ambassador should be restricted within a radius of 50 miles of London. But I do beg the Minister of State to consider very carefully what sort of retaliatory measures can be effectively taken and enforced. Not only on the ground of security but also on the ground of prestige it is essential that the whole field of diplomatic privilege should be based upon this one issue of reciprocity.
I have no objection to this Bill in respect of the Council of Europe, but I hope the Minister of State will tell us exactly how wide it goes and what other organisations could be brought technically within the scope of this Bill.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Marlowe (Hove)
I should like to add my protest about the obscurity of this Measure, which has not been elucidated by the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State who opened this Debate. I congratulate him upon his appointment. I do not blame him for being unable to elucidate this Bill which has made a rather difficult issue more fogged than it was before. As the Bill involves a question of privilege, it is very right that this House should examine it closely before parting with it.
The first question I want to raise relates to the extent to which privilege is to be granted. It should be fully understood that this is a privilege Bill and that it also includes immunities which can be granted to British subjects, Members of this House, when they are appointed as delegates to the Council of Europe. That is said to be the object of the Bill, but, as I understand it, the Bill goes a great deal further than that. It enables Orders in Council to be effected which will include all kinds of representatives of other organisations. That is the explanation why the Title does not follow the lines of the previous Bill, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) pointed out. The previous Bill had a Title and a Preamble which made it clear that it was intended to cover only those affected by the United Nations 1433 organisation. This Bill has no such Title. Of course, it should have a Title saying it affects those who are delegates to the Council of Europe. It does not say so, and the Bill goes far wider than that.
The International Time-Table Conference met in my constituency last year. It meets in some different country every year. Its members fix the time-tables of trains, with the very laudable intention that they should coincide with each other. Under this Bill, would it not be possible for an Order in Council to be made giving diplomatic immunity to all the delegates attending that conference? It seems to me it would be so.
As the Bill stands at the moment, privilege can be granted by simply effecting an Order in Council, and the affirmative procedure is not in the Bill. It should be amended to include the affirmative procedure rather than that it should depend upon the negative procedure. There would be in such an Order the status of the person to whom the privilege is extended, but it would not define the extent to which that privilege goes. We should be given an answer about where this privilege begins and ends.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised a pertinent point. Suppose a motor car is used by a British delegate to the Council of Europe and he drives from London to Dover on his way to Strasbourg and is involved in a collision on that journey. As far as I can see, there would be nothing to prevent diplomatic immunity being claimed in respect of that collision, and nobody could enforce a waiver, as is done in ordinary cases of diplomatic privilege. The insurance company would be entitled to plead diplomatic privilege, and the injured person would be prevented from recovering any damages at all.
If I am right—and I think I am—that immunity would start certainly from the moment the delegate started on his journey. That would create a very unfortunate situation. There is another question. At what time does the immunity end? Suppose the delegate returns from the Continent. It seems that for all time he is protected, in respect of anything he may have said or done while attending the Council. I should like some assurance as to the time 1434 in which he ceases to have protection in respect of other matters.
The nature of the privileges is fairly well defined, but there is no indication in this Bill where they begin and end. It is quite clear there is an all-time protection in respect of words spoken or actions done at the Council, but suppose a delegate returning from the Council commits a Customs offence. I see the agreement specifically states that his baggage cannot be seized. Would he be immune from legal process in respect of a Customs offence? I do not believe the Minister of State will be able to answer these questions. The Bill does not make them clear at all, nor, I think, have they been considered for a moment.
We think these matters ought to be investigated at this stage. If the Government want to introduce a Bill to protect delegates to the Council of Europe—and it is agreed that it must be done—why not bring in a Bill which says so? Nothing would be simpler than to bring in a one-Clause Bill, containing words to the effect that the customary privileges should be extended to delegates attending the Council of Europe while they are exercising such functions. That is the only purpose, and that would be sufficient. The fact that that procedure is not adopted certainly gives this Bill a sinister ring and makes one believe its purpose is far wider than it is said to be. I am left in considerable doubt about the exact extent of the Bill and whether it is really true that it is limited to the Council of Europe. I hope that the Minister of State will deal with these questions, because at the moment I think they are disturbing a considerable number of Members.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Bell (Bucks, South)
I wish to add my expression of anxiety to those of the hon. and learned Members for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and Hove (Mr. Marlowe) on this question of waiver. It seems to me that in introducing this Bill to meet the need of the Council of Europe, the Government have introduced an entirely new principle into the old law of diplomatic privilege. As I understand it, the position will be that we shall be setting up people as ambassadors in their own right so that there is nobody who can waive their privilege except themselves. This may be an entirely 1435 inadvertent result of the Measure which the Government are introducing. I do not think they have even considered it, and I hope that the Minister will assist us on this point when he replies, although, with all respect to him, I do not think that he will be able to do so because he has been presented with a Bill the consequences of which have not been considered in this respect.
It is said that the unlimited extension of this privilege is regulated by the fact that the Minister must come back to Parliament with his Order in Council which can be prayed against. The Order in Council comes into effect the moment it is made. It lies on the Table for 40 days, and if it is not prayed against it finally becomes law. In fact, the principal Act, the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act. 1944, provides that:In reckoning the said period of forty days, no account shall be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued, or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.It is, therefore, quite obvious that if some international conference or international body of any kind were going to be held during the long Recess, it would be quite competent for the Government to put out an Order in Council covering that body, its members and the members of its committees, and the whole thing would be over and everybody would be back home having completed their tour of diplomatic immunity, before this House ever had an opportunity to consider the Order in Council. We might come back here in October and pray against it, and annul it but it would not matter very much by then.
If we pass an empowering Bill of this nature, for that is what this is, we shall be cutting out the legislative process and allowing the Government to extend the principle of diplomatic immunity indefinitely. I appreciate to some extent the inconvenience of coming back to this House every time a new international organisation is set up, but I would point out that this question of extending diplomatic privilege is a very important matter indeed, and in my opinion it should never be done except by the passing of an Act of Parliament.
We hear a great deal about privilege from the benches opposite. We some- 1436 times hear about hereditary privilege and things like that. But what we are seeing nowadays is the coming into existence of a new privileged official class, which is growing every day. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) referred to the increasing number of people entitled to put "C.D." on their backs or fronts. We are coming to the position when those of us who are not ambassadors will have to wear tallies round our necks, showing our status of subordination and villeinage. I am not losing sight of the fact that the Order in Council may confer a kind of junior diplomatic immunity upon these representatives—making them not quite the same as an ambassador but a sort of minor ambassador—but I think that the unlimited extension of this class of people without reference back to this House should not be encouraged.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will take this Bill back to his Department and seriously consider it before bringing it to this House again. Measures to extend diplomatic privileges are not in the same category as other Acts of Parliament. By this Measure the Government are setting up a class of people who are above the law, and such a class should only be extended by a deliberate legislative Act of all the organs of the Legislature.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Basil Nield (City of Chester)
From the course which this Debate has taken it seems to me to be quite clear that hon. Members in all parts of the House are in agreement with the general purposes of the Measure as explained by the Under-Secretary of State—that is to say, to extend special privileges to the Council of Europe. I intervene only to express some doubts whether this Bill as at present drafted is best designed to achieve that purpose. It is a short non-controversial Bill, but none the less it is one of very great constitutional importance, and I agree so much with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bucks, South (Mr. Bell) has just said, namely, that where there is a proposal to extend diplomatic privilege and immunity it must have the most careful consideration by this House.
One has but to look at some of the fundamental privileges and immunities which attach to the diplomatic agent to see how important it is not to extend 1437 these rights to other categories without the greatest care. There is a right of personal inviolability. Then there is the legal fiction which makes the house of a diplomatic agent, for example an embassy, to be regarded as within the territory of the country from which he is accredited. The position is that such an agent is not subject to the Government of the receiving Power. Several of my hon. Friends have pointed out that he is exempt from taxation, from certain local rates and from civil jurisdiction. He cannot sue or be sued, neither can his goods be seized, and he is also exempt from criminal jurisdiction.
A short survey of the situation makes it very clear that we ought to be very careful in extending these rights and privileges. The Under-Secretary in presenting this Bill and moving the Second Reading reminded the House of the first statutory recognition of such rights and privileges—a statute in the reign of Queen Anne. He did not, however, remind the House of the reason why that enactment was passed, but it may be recalled that it was because the Russian Ambassador of that day had been arrested for some trifling debt, and as a consequence that statute was placed upon the Statute Book. I think the Preamble might be of interest to the House. It says:Whereas several turbulent and disorderly persons having in a most outrageous manner insulted the person of His Excellency Andrew Artemonowitz Matueof, Ambassador Extraordinary of His Czarish Majesty. Emperor of Great Russia, Her Majesty's good Friend and Ally, by arresting him, and taking him by violence out of his coach in the public street, and detaining him in custody for several hours in contempt of the protection granted by Her Majesty contrary to the Law of Nations, and in prejudice of the rights and privileges which Ambassadors and other public Ministers, authorised and received as such. have at all times been thereby possessed of, and ought to be kept sacred and inviolable. …Those were the reasons for the first statutory recognition of these rights and privileges in public Ministers. Then the classification of public Ministers was undertaken by international agreement in the early part of the nineteenth century.
I would point out, if I may, some of the other more recent examples of extensions of such privilege, because not all of them have been mentioned so far in this Debate. I shall be as brief as I can.
1438 The first modern example came at the end of the First World War when, in the Treaty of Versailles, there were requirements that special rights should be accorded to representatives of the members of the League of Nations and to officers of the League when engaged upon the business of the League. The way in which that was put into effect was this. The Treaty was laid before Parliament and then there was a short enactment giving to His Majesty power by Order in Council to put the Treaty into effect. That is one way in which these matters can be done.
The much more recent example of further extension came in 1941 when, as the House will well recall, we received in this country Governments or provisional Governments or national committees of foreign countries which had been overrun and occupied. There again this House accorded to representatives of those bodies a measure of diplomatic status. The last two examples before the present Bill have already been mentioned—in 1944 an extension specially, as I understand it, for the benefit of U.N.R.R.A. and in 1946 for the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. What I am anxious to do at this moment, arising out of some points which have been made by hon. Members, is to remind the House that by the Act of 1944, Section 4, this question of reciprocity, which is plainly causing concern to many hon. Members, is dealt with. By that Section it is provided:Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this Act shall be construed as precluding His Majesty from declining to accord immunities or privileges to, or from withdrawing immunities or privileges from, nationals or representatives of any Power on the ground that that Power is failing to accord corresponding immunities or privileges to British nationals or representatives.It is made plain by statute that this principle of reciprocity is one which is recognised and one which, it may well be thought by this House, should be used without hesitation in appropriate circumstances.
Finally, on this subject of the statutes which have preceded the present Bill, the Title and indeed the Preamble of the 1946 Act, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said, made it plain as to the exact category of persons who were to have the benefits of the privileges 1439 and made it plain what was the purpose of the enactment, namely to give those privileges to the United Nations and to the International Court of Justice.
I would submit that from an examination of the problem there emerge three very important principles. The first is that when this House is considering the further extension of such privileges it is absolutely essential to make clear and to identify beyond any doubt those who are to become entitled under the Measure. Secondly, it is also often necessary to insist that they shall be entitled to the privileges only during such time as they are engaged upon the business of the organisation in question. Thirdly, on the principle of reciprocity—and I have referred to the 1944 Act—this principle should be maintained and safeguarded.
My doubts about the present Bill are really these. It gives to a much wider category of persons than necessary the special privileges which are envisaged in the 1944 Act. I cannot myself see why we should not introduce here, either by Title or by Preamble or both, some clear explanation of who is to become entitled to the privileges and also the real purpose of the Measure. I hope the Minister of State will consider that point before the Committee stage. Further, would the Minister of State be good enough to give us some assurance that the operation of these privileges is to take effect only while those who become entitled are upon the business of the Council of Europe? I think that must be so and I ask not because I have any doubt about it, but because I do not think the Bill says so.
In conclusion, I would add my plea for a little clearer draftsmanship, if it can be achieved. We all know the difficulties and I am afraid that most of us have been guilty of approving obscure language in the past. I ask this not because such language is not without its use to members of my profession; the point is that these Bills sometimes go through rather quickly. I hope it may be possible to clarify the position as the time goes on and I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary refer to the possibility of consolidation. For my part, I would repeat that I support in full the purpose of this Measure, but I hope to see a good deal of clarification and simplification as the Bill proceeds upon its way.
§ 12.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Foster (Northwich)
The 1946 Act was in one respect a model for all Parliamentary Bills because in the Schedule to the 1946 Act amendments to the Act of 1944 were reproduced so that one could see exactly how the Schedule stood as amended. On several occasions the draftsmen were congratulated upon having done that in the Act of 1946. Is it not possible to add a Schedule to this Bill which would incorporate the amendments which this Bill makes in the Act of 1944? It was done in 1946 and was of inestimable benefit. It would also go more than half way towards the consolidation which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned in his speech introducing this Bill. Incidentally, I should like to join in congratulating the hon. Gentleman upon his appointment.
When we have a whole succession of these Acts, I think it is very necessary to roll them into one as we come to the last. Out of that, I think, arises the difficulty with which this House is confronted today. We had extensions in 1941, 1944, 1946, and now in 1950. One hon. Member opposite said that this Bill would avoid the necessity of further Bills. We do not think the Government need apologise for bringing in a number of Bills, one after the other, on the subject of extensions of diplomatic privileges because we think it is an important matter which should be subject to Parliamentary consideration. Therefore, as new organisations are created, the Bills should be brought in.
One difficulty which I think confronts the House here is that under this Bill wider powers are taken than are necessary to carry out the agreement with regard to the privileges of the Committee of Ministers and the representatives at the Council of Europe. For instance, the point was raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) about the possibility of a representative—I think he was assuming a British representative—knocking somebody down. It is quite clear, I think, that if only the agreement in the White Paper is carried out, that difficulty will not arise because there the British representatives have the privileges accorded to Members of Parliament. The foreign representatives have immunity from arrest and detention 1441 In that connection the point raised by several Members does arise. Suppose we have a foreign representative on the Council of Europe who is in England and who, we will say, drives dangerously while the Consultative Assembly is going on. He is, I think, clearly entitled to immunity from arrest and detention. Who is to raise his privilege? That is a very important point, I think, because in the case of diplomats, ambassadors in many, many cases refuse to accord them privileges which have been created, and which are lowered in connection with diplomats, not by themselves but by their ambassadors or governments. In the case of a foreign representative to the Council of Europe, however, who happens to be in England while the session goes on, he is privileged from criminal proceedings, as I read the agreement; he is not privileged from civil proceedings.
I imagine that the answer of the Minister of State will be that this Bill is intended to carry out the agreement which was arrived at on an international basis. However, I wonder whether he will tell us if he agrees that, taken literally, wider immunity could be given by this Bill—could, not will? That is the point that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield) made, that this Bill goes further than is necessary. Would he then, if he agrees with that, consider it desirable to cut down the powers accorded by this Bill to conform more closely with the international agreement? He may answer that we should require another Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill in a short time, but I do not think that is a valid object, for the reasons given by my hon. and learned Friend.
There are two questions I want to ask him about the privileges accorded by the international agreement. He will remember that his hon. Friend who introduced the Bill said it was to carry out the agreement and Articles 13, 14 and 15. Now, Article 13 is an administrative concession, but the Minister will notice there that it says that representatives or their substitutes at Strasbourg shall be accorded, in the matter of exchange control, the same facilities as are accorded to senior officials serving abroad on temporary official duties. Does the Minister think that that was the policy adopted by His Majesty's Government at the last session at Strasbourg? Does he think that all substi- 1442 tutes were accorded the same exchange control facilities as senior officials privileged abroad on temporary duty? Did His Majesty's Government suddenly revoke senior officials' exchange control facilities in the presence of a lot of foreigners on the steps of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg?
The second thing is that Article 14 is an international agreement which accords immunity for words spoken by representatives. Is there, perhaps, a danger there? For instance, consider a person who has been a Communist or a supporter of the Communist Party, and who may have disavowed his Communism—but, of course, people who disavow Communism do not necessarily cease to believe in it—or have been, perhaps, ordered by the Communist Party to disavow it. Assume such a person, who disavowed Communism, to be a representative of the British Parliament nominated by the British Government to go to the Council of Europe. Suppose he got up in the Council of Europe and revealed the secrets of the atom bomb in furtherance of Communist policy, or that he did something else which was contrary to the Official Secrets Act, or which evidenced the intention to commit treason. Assume that representative at Strasbourg were to do that. As I conceive it, he would be entirely protected. Well, that would be a fact which would have emerged from this agreement.
Is there a danger in that? Have the Government considered it? It is an international agreement, and obviously we have to implement it, but if it ever comes up for review, or if limitations are agreed between the signatories concerning it, this matter could be borne in mind—that there should be some provision to take care of people whom we do not necessarily suspect as Communists or supporters of the Communist Party but who may have disavowed their Communism but about whom we still cannot be certain. I should like the Minister to enlighten us about that.
I add my plea to the point which has been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South. This Bill should not go further than is necessary. I think I see the point about Clause 1 (1). I must say it is not desirable to go one step further than is necessary under the international agreement.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)
Though I have to speak to benches—at any rate for a moment—somewhat empty, I should like to thank hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate for having treated this Bill in a very reasonable way. I myself was present during the Debates in 1946, and I read the Debates on the Bill of 1944; and there was a certain amount of heat engendered and a good deal—I think, on looking back—of misunderstanding of what was intended first by the Coalition Government and then by the succeeding Labour Government.
This is a technical and thorny problem, and I think some of the things that have been raised would be more appropriately dealt with at the Committee stage; nevertheless, I agree that it is right that this House should examine with the greatest care any Bill which proposes to extend, in however small a way, the privileges which are to be enjoyed either by our own nationals or by foreigners in this country, and I make no complaint of the close examination which this Bill is obviously getting. I was glad to note that the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) in his opening remarks said he would raise no dispute about the avowed purpose of the Bill, and subsequently confined himself to the question whether we had adopted the right method of achieving the purpose. That was repeated by several other hon. Members.
Therefore, I think I need not go very much into the purpose of the Bill, except to say that the intention is really a simple one. It is, first, that proper privileges and immunities should be made available for those who come as representatives to the Consultative Assembly at Strasbourg. That is really the main object of the Bill, and the main reason why the Bill had to be brought in without delay. Secondly, it is to make it clear, if it was not already clear—and this is something of a technical point—and at any rate to put it beyond doubt, that our system of immunities and privileges can cover international bodies of which the Members are described as States and not Governments.
1444 It is questionable, perhaps, to what extent that Amendment was necessary, but I think it raises no real question of principle. The statutes of different organisation are expressed in different ways. In some cases the State is referred to as "the Member" and in other cases the Government of a State, and I think it is as well that there should be no confusion.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that this particular Bill is to enable other international organisations to be covered, in addition to the Council of Europe?
§ Mr. Younger
Perhaps I may come to that in a moment. I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I shall deal with that point.
First, I should like to say a word on the question of obscurity. I have suffered, like other hon. Members, from having to sort out the provisions of this complicated Bill, because, short as it is, it is as a matter of drafting not very easy to follow. I am sorry that no Explanatory Memorandum was provided, though I do think there was some substance in the point made by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), that it might have been difficult to provide an Explanatory Memorandum that was not at any rate as long as the Bill itself. Perhaps there should have been an Explanatory Memorandum, and I should like to say to the House that I am sorry we did not think of having one.
So far as the complaint of obscurity refers to the fact that this Bill is drafted by reference to at least two other Acts, I think the point is covered by the explanation made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary—that we regard this as preliminary to consolidation. I can assure the House that that is not just a pious hope; that we are in fact fairly far advanced in consideration of a consolidating Measure, and I have every reason to believe that there will be one introduced before very long, if the House agrees to this particular Bill.
§ Mr. Younger
I could not answer, without notice, how far back it will go. I understood it was only the more recent Acts, but perhaps it will include any other 1445 Statutes that go further back. Of course, not all the law relating to privileges and immunities is included in Statutes at all, as the hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware.
As regards the method of doing this by means of a rather general Bill followed by more specific Orders in Council, this has been the subject of some criticism, on both this and on previous occasions. On this occasion my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary repeated the undertaking given on the earlier occasions, that the Orders in Council would not in the granting of privileges and immunities go beyond what it was necessary to grant in fulfilment of His Majesty's Government's obligation under relevant international agreements.
§ Mr. Younger
I am sure I know what the hon. and learned Gentleman is going to say. I shall refer to Part II, which the hon. and learned Gentleman read out, but so far as the question of the use of an Order in Council is concerned, my hon. Friend did give the necessary assurance. Perhaps the best thing I could do—and I will, by so doing, answer a number of questions which have been raised—is to read out the two quite short Articles of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe, upon which the Order in Council, which will have to be made if this Bill becomes law, will be based so far as the Consultative Assembly is concerned. This will, I think, make clear what are the privileges it is intended to grant to the representatives to the Consultative Assembly should this Bill become law. They are contained in Articles 13, 14 and 15 of the General Agreement.
Article 13 requires only administrative action and has no relationship to this Bill. Article 14 reads as follows:Representatives to the Consultative Assembly and their substitutes shall be immune from all official interrogation and from arrest and all legal proceedings in respect of words spoken or votes cast by them in the exercise of their functions.I would point out, lest there should be any misunderstanding, that the first part, the immunity, is in respect of words spoken or votes cast, and only in that respect.
1446 Article 15—and this answers some of the questions, particularly in regard to the times during which the immunities which this Article grants will apply—reads:During the sessions of the Consultative Assembly, the representatives to the Assembly and their substitutes, whether they be Members of Parliament or not, shall enjoy:—(a) on their national territory, the immunities accorded in those countries to Members of Parliament.That is to say, a British representative to the Consultative Assembly would enjoy in this country only privileges corresponding to those enjoyed by Members of this Parliament. It goes on:(b) on the territory of all other Member States, exemption from arrest and prosecution.That is the immunity which we would be asked to grant to foreign representatives to the Consultative Assembly if they came to our country during the sessions of the Consultative Assembly. The Articles goes on:This immunity also applies when they are travelling to and from the place of meeting of the Consultative Assembly. It does not, however, apply when representatives and their substitutes are found committing, attempting to commit, or just having committed an offence. nor in cases where the Assembly has waived the immunity.If hon. Members will consider the text of those Articles they will see that that text answers a good many of the points which were raised.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am most interested in what the hon. Gentleman has just said, but I should like to ask two questions on it, if I may. First, what happens with regard to the sittings of the committees? Secondly, if what he is saying is right, does it follow that Part II of the Second Schedule, as amended, of the 1946 Act will not apply, except to a very limited extent, to these representatives? I read Part II out before. Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that there will be no inviolability of residence given to the representatives or the staff, and no exemption or relief from taxes?—because under the Bill as it is drafted there will be power, whether or not the earlier Acts are amended, to give those three immunities set out in Part II of the Second Schedule, as amended, of the 1946 Act. If the hon. Gentleman has the Act in front of him he will see what I am referring to quicker than if I read k out. If 1447 that be so, if it is only to cover this restricted area, it strengthens our suggestion that this Bill should be redrafted.
§ Mr. Younger
It is the case, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, that the proposed Order in Council will contain only the immunities which are required by the Articles I have just read out, and we do not intend that they should cover the points set out in the Second Schedule to the 1946 Act, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has just referred, except in so far as it is necessary to do so for this agreement. The basis of the Order in Council is not the whole scope of the immunities and privileges which could be granted under that Schedule. The basis will be the Articles to which I have referred.
Surely it is clearly understood, as it has been on previous occasions, that we are asking for a power which, theoretically, would enable the Government to grant immunities and privileges beyond what may appear in a particular agreement relating to a particular organisation. The reason for that is that there are very large numbers of organisations involved; that the agreements relating to them are not always the same; and that it would be necessary to have a very large number of separate statutes if we simply dealt with each particular organisation, or each particular category of immunities and privileges separately. This is, of course, an old issue which has been discussed when dealing with all the previous Acts, and it is the basis of the existing Acts to which this Bill provides only a small amendment.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this before the Committee stage. This really is not the same issue as arose in any of the other discussions. Here, as I understand it, under Article 15 the immunity is to be the immunity of Members of Parliament. The effect of the Bill is to amend the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Act, 1946, and one of the immunities which can be given there is:The like immunity from suit and legal process as is accorded to an envoy of a foreign sovereign ….That, I should have thought, would not in turn empower the granting of the same 1448 immunities as are enjoyed by a Member of Parliament. I ask the hon. Gentleman to see that full consideration is given to this point before we reach the Committee stage.
§ Mr. Younger
I will certainly give that undertaking. The terms, of course, do not appear to correspond, but I think it would be found—I am only giving my personal view, and without any notice—that the privileges enjoyed by a Member of Parliament are so much less than those enjoyed by a foreign envoy that if we have the power to grant the privileges appropriate to a foreign envoy we could certainly grant those appropriate to a Member of Parliament. However, I will have that looked into before we reach the next stage.
§ Mr. Marlowe
The hon. Gentleman has referred to privileges listed in the Agreement of the Council of Europe, but that is no part of the Bill, is not contained in the Schedule, and is in no way made part of the law of this country. Those privileges would, therefore, have no effect in the courts of this country. Would the hon. Gentleman consider incorporating those privileges, as listed in the Agreement, in a Schedule or bringing them in in some way to make them effective?
§ Mr. Younger
That is the old point, which has arisen on all previous occasions. The position adopted by the existing laws, which we now seek to amend, is that the precise nature of the privileges and immunities in respect of each organisation is incorporated, not in the Act, but in the Orders in Council.
I am well aware that this is a matter on which not all hon. Members may be in agreement, but it is the system already applied to the whole of the existing code. It was accepted—it may be, in some quarters with reluctance—both in 1944 and in 1946 for the previous Bills. I think the House will appreciate that this is only an extremely small amendment to the existing code and I appeal to hon. Members to take the view that it would be quite inappropriate to attempt now to introduce something which would be wholly out of accord with the rest of the legislation quite recently approved by the House.
I should like to call attention to the final part of Article 15, to which I re- 1449 ferred, relating to waiver. I was asked by one of my hon. Friends, who would be capable of waiving, in an appropriate case, the diplomatic immunity of a member of the Consultative Assembly. The answer is. the Assembly itself.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Younger
As I understand it, there is provision for the Consultative Assembly to waive the privileges of its members.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Articles he will see that it can only be waived where the representativesare found committing, attempting to commit or just having committed an offence.If there is delay in discovery of the offence, apparently it could not be waived.
§ Mr. Younger
I do not think that is the correct interpretation. The words which the hon. and learned Member read out are an alternative to the final clause, which says:nor in cases where the Assembly has waived the immunity.The cases where the Assembly may waive the immunity are quite different from the limited and alternative class of case which the hon. and learned Member has read out.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I do not want to become involved in a technical point, but surely, the Assembly sits only once a year. How is it competent for the Assembly to exercise its waiver when an incident occurs not during its sessions?
§ Mr. Younger
This is one of the disadvantages of discussing a document which not all hon. Members may have in their possession. These privileges, as I have already made clear by the extracts I have read, exist only during the sessions of the Consultative Assembly.
§ Mr. Younger
That is a matter I shall have to look into. I am not quite clear, but it seems to me that under this Article, which we will seek to implement in the Order in Council, the only privileges which we shall be granting will be those during the sessions of the Consultative Assembly. That is a very important point, which I will examine carefully before we reach the next stage. It does not, of course, arise so much on the drafting of the Bill as on the drafting of the Order in Council which follows.
The hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) raised a rather curious point in which he suggested that there should be—I presume he meant in the Bill or in the Order in Council—some limitation on the immunity granted in respect of words spoken in the Assembly. He postulated the case where something improper, which, but for the immunities, would be of a criminal nature, might be said by a member of the Assembly. I should have thought that the answer would be that. as I believe would be the case with this House, it would be for the Assembly of which the person was a member to deal with it. I should have thought that in a proper case the immunity would he waived, and that it would be open to the Assembly to waive the immunity.
I have been asked to what other organisations, apart from the Council of Europe—
§ Mr. J. Foster
The hon. Gentleman will notice that the waiver of the Assembly does not apply to the Article 14. Why does he think that the Assembly could waive the immunity?
§ Mr. Younger
I think I am right in saying that all the immunities of the members can be waived by the Consultative Assembly.
§ Mr. Younger
I have already given way about a dozen times. We can come back to some of these minor questions, but I am trying to answer within a reasonable time the main points which have been raised.
I have been asked whether the Bill will enable the Government to extend immunities to members over a very wide range of organisations other than the Council of Europe. Mention was made of certain bodies such as the Staffs of the 1451 Brussels Treaty Powers Organisation, the Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and so on. The only extension which the Bill affords is an extension to organisations whose members are States as well as those whose members are Governments. Already, under the earlier Acts, there are powers to grant immunities to Governmental representatives on organisations of which the Governments are members. I think that the text of the 1944 Act shows that to be so.
Therefore, the particular point relating, for instance, to the Atlantic Treaty Powers has, I think, no relevance to this amending Bill. In fact, so far as I am aware, no such diplomatic privileges have been granted. No Order in Council has been submitted to grant immunities or privileges to members of those organisations. The normal procedure which would be adopted in the case of any new international organisation—
§ Mr. Younger
In each case, when an organisation comes up for consideration an Order in Council is submitted; comes before the House, and the House has an opportunity to judge upon it. So far as I am aware, no objection was taken from any side of the House in the last Parliament to any of the Orders in Council submitted since the 1946 Act.
It is not asking too much of hon. Members to accept the proposition that no Government wishes unnecessarily to grant large numbers of diplomatic immunities to members of international organisations. The Government would only do so where there were international commitments so to do, in which case Members on all sides of the House would wish the Government to implement that international commitment. Since the House does in any event on each separate occasion get an opportunity of considering the organisation in question and the nature of the immunities and privileges which it is proposed to grant under the procedure of the previous Acts, I hope that hon. Members will not think that that issue is particularly relevant to this Amending Bill.
If there is any complaint to be made it is against the Acts of Parliament already 1452 on the Statute Book and not against this Bill. There have been complaints about what has been called the steady growth of diplomatic privileges and the number of people who now enjoy them compared with formerly. Reference has been made to a committee which is reviewing the question of privilege and immunity. I would ask hon. Members to appreciate that while there may in individual instances be reason to think that some group is becoming unduly inflated, that there are more Members claiming privilege than might be strictly necessary, the basic cause for the increase in the number of persons is that there is far more international and commercial business and a far wider range of business dealt with through diplomatic channels now than in the past. That is, of course, in addition to the great growth of international organisations. We are well aware, however, that this matter must be watched.
I have not the text with me, but I will tell the House in general terms what are the terms of reference of the Committee sitting under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Somerville on this question of immunity. The Committee is considering, first, the present law of the United Kingdom with regard to State immunity and whether it is wider than it need be, secondly, the law with regard to diplomatic immunity and whether it has gone wider than is strictly necessary.
That is a fairly wide field of investigation. Unfortunately there is no likelihood that the committee will be reporting within the next few weeks, and it will be some little time before we can expect a full report on this exceedingly complicated problem. It seemed wrong, therefore, in respect of that alive and active body, the Council of Europe, which is the immediate cause for our bringing forward this Bill, to wait until possibly another assembly at Strasbourg had taken place.
One question addressed to me by the hon. Member for Northwich indicated that he had not been entirely satisfied with all the diplomatic immunities which might have been granted to some of the representatives on the previous occasion. I cannot answer that because I do not know the details but, if he is correct, 1453 it provides another argument for me in suggesting to this House that the sensible thing to do is to produce, before the next assembly at Strasbourg, the necessary amendment to the Acts to enable us to cover that session before the consolidation of this branch of the law takes place.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I asked the hon. Gentleman to deal with two questions relating to taxation. Can he say specifically that no relief from taxation will be given to any British subject under this Bill, and can he tell me how many British subjects have had relief from taxation in consequence of the alteration made in the 1944 Act by the 1946 Act?
§ Mr. Younger
I can answer the first question quite definitely. There is no proposal to exempt any British subject, or anyone, from taxation under this Bill. As regards the numbers of persons who may have received some exemption under the earlier Act, I did not come armed with that information, but I will get it for the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir H. Williams
If an accident happens on the day the Assembly adjourns and there is no one to grant a waiver before 12 months have gone by, what happens?
§ Mr. Younger
I suppose one could conceive of a case where an offence did not get reported until the day after the Assembly adjourned, but the immunities granted would not apply to the kind of cases mostly mentioned. Mainly they were cases of a relatively minor nature, motoring offences, and so on, where there would not be in the ordinary way any question of arrest, whereas the immunities relate to arrest. I would also refer the hon. Member to the final sentence of Article 15 which says that the immunity does not apply when representatives and their substitutes are found committing or attempting to commit or have just committed an offence. That goes quite a long way.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Royle.]