HC Deb 05 April 1965 vol 710 cc173-98

10.15 p.m.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Walter Padley)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order, 1965, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 24th March. The present Order is required to give effect to an Agreement concluded on 12th March, 1965. This Agreement would require us to confer certain privileges and immunities on S.E.A.T.O. and persons connected with it. The Agreement is not reciprocal, nor is it necessary that it should be so, because the other members of the Organisation have already accorded to S.E.A.T.O. appropriate privileges and immunities, either unilaterally or under an agreement with the Organisation.

Britain has, of course, been a member of S.E.A.T.O. since the Manila Treaty was signed in September, 1954. Her Majesty's Government are only now preparing to grant it the treatment already enjoyed by other comparable organisations, such as N.A.T.O. and C.E.N.T.O., because, for the first time since it was established, S.E.A.T.O. is to meet in Britain. The meeting—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

Order. There are too many conversations going on. I cannot hear the Minister addressing the House.

Mr. Padley

The meeting is the Annual Council meeting of the Organisation at Ministerial level. This will be preceded by a meeting of the military advisers of the member countries. The Council meeting is due to begin at the end of April and will last a week. It is expected that similar meetings will take place in the United Kingdom once every 10 years—I repeat, once every 10 years, which shows the magnitude of the Order which I am moving.

Since S.E.A.T.O. has no establishments in Britain the Order will have little effect when the meeting is over except in rela- tion to acts done in the course of the meeting and in so far as casual official visitors may come here from time to time. For this reason the Order is rather simpler in form than usual. I am sure that hon. and right hon. Members will be glad that it is simpler in form than is usual.

So far as representatives of member States are concerned, the Order has essentially the same effect as Section 4 of the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950, which provides that representatives of foreign sovereign powers convening in this country should enjoy the immunities of an ambassador. Equivalent treatment is available to the representatives of Commonwealth countries under a separate Act. Thus, even in the absence of an Order, the principal representatives, military advisers and Council representatives attending the Conference—there will be 21, just 21, of them in all—would be immune from the jurisdiction of the English courts.

But it is appropriate to adopt the usual procedure and to include the representatives in the Order, because we must at the same time confer privileges and immunities on the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation and the members of the Secretariat. For this we need an Order under the 1950 Act. The Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General will, in general, be equated with the ambassadors in the matter of immuities. The Secretariat—there will be under 20 coming to London for the Council meeting—will have immunity only in respect of their official acts.

There remains the question of fiscal privileges under the Order. The representatives and the Secretariat will be exempted from Income Tax on their salaries. In fact, the exemption will hardly affect them, since during their short stay in this country for the conference they would not in any event be likely to become liable for tax in respect of emoluments which they receive from an Organisation functioning in Bangkok. British representatives and representatives of United Kingdom nationality are specifically excluded under the Order from the benefit of privileges and immunities.

The privilege of which the senior representatives and the high officers may well avail themselves is the exemption from Custom duties on imported goods. Such exemption is used mainly for official entertainment. Clearly, during the course of a short conference of about a week the amounts imported will not be large. The commitments which we assume under the Order seem to me the most modest in the 15 years I have been in the House, and I therefore ask the House to approve the S.E.A.T.O. (Immunities and Privileges) Order.

10.20 p.m.

Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)

The Minister of State has explained this lengthy Order, for which we are grateful to him. I say on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends that we, too, welcome the Order, because it gives effect to the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities in the United Kingdom of S.E.A.T.O. which was signed in Bangkok on 12th March. It is necessary, because we all look forward to making welcome here in London S.E.A.T.O.'s representatives for their very first meeting, although it was way back in 1954 that the Agreement was first signed. It was then called the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and was changed in 1955 to the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. I understand that the military advisers will meet on 29th April and the Ministers from 3rd-5th May.

The House is always careful of the extent of diplomatic privileges conferred, and the Order is subject to the affirmative Resolution and therefore cannot be amended. It must either be accepted or rejected as a whole. It gives opportunity to hon. Members to question the nature and scope of the privileges conferred. As I understand it, there is no extension of these immunities and privileges beyond those required by the Agreement and authorised by the Act. It is not unusual that an Order of this nature should come into operation on a date to be notified in the London Gazette. There are one or two questions that I should like to ask the Minister of State. I believe that a good many hon. Members, perhaps on both sides, would also welcome this opportunity of putting questions to him. Therefore, we all trust that he will seek the leave of the House to speak again to reply to these points.

If and when the Order is approved here and also in another place and the date is named and published in the London Gazette, under Section 2 (1, a) of 1950 Act, will there also be a complete list of the persons entitled to these immunities and privileges? The hon. Gentleman told us that he thought that only 21 persons would be involved. Section 2 lays down that where these numbers are increased or diminished through any cause these shall also be made public. I should like confirmation of that fact.

The Minister of State told us that no reciprocal arrangements were necessary because apparently these are already in force, I take it, with all the signatories to the original Manila Treaty. On the Order itself, I should like to put a question about Article 3. This refers to the Organisation and points out The Organisation shall have immunity from suit and legal process, except in so far as in any particular case the Secretary-General"— seeks to waive immunity. It goes on expressly to say No waiver of immunity shall be deemed to extend to any measure of execution. When we turn to Parts II and III which concern the representatives and the officers who also in certain cases will enjoy immunity from legal suit and process, there is no specific mention of whether such immunity shall or shall not extend to any measure of execution. I think that in past debates hon. Members have been interested to know, when diplomatic immunity is waived and legal process can be undertaken, whether the person in question can also be made to supply the damages if, indeed, that is the award of the court.

The other question I should like to ask concerns the Annex to the Agreement. It will be seen under paragraph 4: The Organisation shall also be accorded such other similar facilities as can be accorded administratively in the United Kingdom. I should like to ask the Minister of State where this paragraph 4 of the annex can be found in the Order, as I find it a little confusing to follow and no doubt the hon. Gentleman has it at his finger tips.

We welcome the S.E.A.T.O. representatives to London now in particular. These are anxious days. As was pointed out in the foreign affairs debate, if Thailand is invaded the whole S.E.A.T.O. Alliance is involved in Article 4 of the Treaty. I should like to know whether that is, in fact, an automatic involvement. We know that S.E.A.T.O. has brought stability to a troubled area and economic development where grievously needed. It is an assurance that where freedom is threatened there are always strong allies ready to defend it.

10.27 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

My noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has been very generous to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in asking for a clarification of his speech. In the time that I have been in this House I have rarely heard an Order moved in such a scurrilous, offhand manner as the way in which the hon. Gentleman moved this Order. It was obvious—and, as a Member of this House, I take very great umbrage—that he thought it was purely a matter of form, that no one was listening to what he said and that it did net matter what he said. He was offhand, waving his arms about, and he did not think anybody was taking the slightest notice of what he said.

In fact, every Order of this sort which comes before the House is of very great importance to the nation, to the House and to the dignity of Parliament, and I think the hon. Gentleman owes an apology to the House for the way in which he moved the Order. I have never in all the time that I have been in this House—and I have been pretty critical of some of my colleagues—seen a Bill or an Order moved in such a deplorable manner as the hon. Gentleman moved this Order tonight.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

I have no desire to oppose this Order, but I should like to say a word or two on it.

As long as we are members of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation, of course I recognise that it is necessary to extend the hospitalities which are suggested in this Order, but I am sorry that the Order should be necessary and that it should be expected that a meeting in this country of this Organisation at a time when the Vietnamese crisis—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I am afraid we cannot discuss the issue of S.E.A.T.O. itself or the Vietnamese crisis. All we can discuss is whether the diplomatic immunities mentioned in the Order be given to the members of this Organisation.

Mr. Newens

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I want to point out in this connection that the hospitality which we are extending to the gentlemen who will be coming to this country contrasts very badly with the treatment which has been handed out to other people who have been desirous of visiting the country, such as Delgado, who was seeking to come here some time ago.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. What the hon. Gentleman is saying may be perfectly true. I make no comment on its truth or otherwise, but it has nothing to do with this Order.

Mr. Newens

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I want to reiterate that I have great misgivings about the Order being introduced at this time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] My misgivings are based upon the fact that the people who will be coming to this country will be discussing matters which in my view, and in the view of many hon. Members—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to get his speech in order. Whatever they will be discussing is not the business of the House tonight. The Question before the House is whether they are to have the diplomatic immunities given under this Order, and if the hon. Gentleman cannot get into order I must ask him to cease from speaking.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

On a point of order. The noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) referred to S.E.A.T.O. on a broader context and was not brought to order.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am quite willing to admit that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) at the end of speaking about diplomatic immunities said a word of good will to the Organisation. As it was at the end of her speech I did not trouble to call her to order.

Mr. Newens

I will not delay the House longer than is necessary, but I should like to dissociate myself very much from the good will which was expressed by the noble Lady in her last sentence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If it were in order I should be delighted to give hon. Members opposite a full-length talk on why I consider it necessary for me to dissociate myself from that message of good will, but unfortunately I can see that it would be very difficult for me to do so in the present circumstances, and having made my protest I will withdraw at this stage.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

Unlike my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) I do not view this extension of privilege and immunity with rapture. There are about 6,000 people in this country who are above the law in one way or another and I think that it is entirely wrong and contrary to the best interests of the citizens of this country. The question of diplomatic immunity—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I am not going to allow the hon. Gentleman to initiate a debate on diplomatic immunity in general, which is a very broad subject. All that he can discuss now is whether diplomatic immunity should be extended to the people who are mentioned in the Order.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

In my view it should not. It should be confined to ambassadors only and their immediate staffs. I should like to know the Government's view on future cases of this sort and whether they will be extremely strict and keep these immunities under control. I should like to know whether they will approach other countries with a view to securing universal co-operation to ensure that no further immunities are given.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I join my hon. friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) in deploring the manner in which the Minister of State introduced this Order. I certainly hope that when the representatives of S.E.A.T.O. come here, he will give them a rather better welcome than he was able to give the Order. It is possible, of course, that the immunity which he seeks to confer on them is immunity from the criticism of his own party; one can understand that. But what he has said this evening was almost to make the Order a laughing matter. He said that it was just a little one. Of course it is. They will come here only once every 10 years, and they will be here for only a week. The Order will not have more than what he described as "little effect".

If it is such a small Order, one must wonder why it is necessary at all. I understand that it is important that we should have this meeting of S.E.A.T.O. in London, and one welcomes it. In commenting on the points which have been brought up, I should say that I have a personal interest, having seen something of S.E.A.T.O. when it was established in Manila. I have been looking into the Order in some detail. I understand that its origin was an exchange of Notes between Her Majesty's Government and the Secretary-General of S.E.A.T.O. According to this exchange of Notes, which in effect is incorporated as the Order itself, there were discussions between S.E.A.T.O. and the United Kingdom concerning the legal status of this Organisation in Great Britain.

I should like to ask the Minister of State, what discussions? Who had discussions, and when, and in what way were they conducted, and what arguments were advanced by the representatives of S.E.A.T.O. that they must have diplomatic immunity when they come here? I suspect that there were very few arguments. I suspect that when Her Majesty's Government's representatives sat down in Bangkok, possibly with a drink, with the representative of S.E.A.T.O., it went something like this, "If you fellows are going to come to London, you had better have immunity." The next thing we know is that, in due course, Parliament gets one of these pro forma Orders, moved by the Minister of State, and we are expected to take it on the nod. I do not think that we should take this on the nod.

I want to scrutinise this draft Order with some care. If the Minister will apply his mind to the document—he gave me the impression that he had not even read it—he will find that in Part II, under the heading "Representatives", it says that we shall confer these considerable privileges on three gentlemen described as the Principal Representative, the Military Adviser and the Council Representative. These three gentlemen are to have in Britain the privileges of ambassadors. Do we always do this when conferences take place in London, or when foreign organisations of which we may or may not be members hold their meetings here? Did we have an Order, for example, conferring these immunities on Mr. Gromyko when he came here? I do not believe that we did. Do we do it for representatives of other similar organisations like the Common Market, which has an office in London?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker


Mr. Griffiths

I asked this, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Whether we do or do not, the hon. Gentleman must argue whether we should or should not confer these privileges on the gentlemen mentioned in the Order.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank you for that guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My point is very simple, that if we are asked to provide these diplomatic immunities for S.E.A.T.O., one is bound to inquire whether this is a general case or only a precise case. I was simply trying to raise an analogy by asking whether we do this in the case of other organisations. If we do not, and I believe that we do not, it is a little strange that it should be applied in this case. If we apply these privileges and immunities across the board to these other organisations, there must be an awful lot of people in London who are immune from the law. If we do not do it in the case of the others, why should we do it in the case of S.E.A.T.O?

In Article 5 (2) of Part II of the Order—page 2, if the Minister of State would care to look—it is apparent that these privileges will be extended, in addition to other representatives of the member States, to any organ or committee of S.E.A.T.O., and that they shall enjoy the rights as set out in subparagraphs (a) and (b) of Article 5 (2). I notice that immunity is conferred upon them from the British law for anything which they do or say while they are here. How many people are involved in this? Is it simply the score of people that the Minister has referred to?

Mr. Padley

indicated assent.

Mr. Griffiths

It is simply those. I am glad to hear that.

What does "organs" mean? Is it to extend to the valets and kitchen staff that they may bring with them, and the secretaries and bodyguards? I am sure that these must be included towards the end of the Order in Article 7, where there is reference to staff who are not locally recruited. This must include such people as chauffeurs. Chauffeurs are extremely important. It appears from Article 6 that these people are to be given immunity from arrest during their journeys to and from their work in London. Does it mean that if they knock somebody down the British police can do nothing about it?

Article 7 says that any member of the staff that these persons may have brought with them is immune in respect of anything that he may say, write or do while on the job in the United Kingdom. One does not want to circumscribe these valuable and worthy gentlemen while they are on our soil—we want to welcome them and make their stay pleasant and useful—but I want to know what happens when they are not on the job. Can these persons be prosecuted if they break the British law while they are not, in fact, going to and from their office in London? The Minister must know that it is extremely difficult to make this distinction between diplomats on the job on the S.E.A.T.O. Conference and not on the job during the period that they are here.

For example, if one of the S.E.A.T.O. gentleman under the terms of the Order while here goes to a party—it might well be given by the Government and drives home a little intoxicated, let us say, is he then on the job on his way home or is he not? Under the terms of the Order he would apparently be on the job and would be immune. If he holds a cocktail party in the course of his work for S.E.A.T.O. while he is here and utters defamatory remarks about someone which would otherwise be covered by the British law, will he be able to get away with it because of the Order?

Mr. Padley

The hon. Gentleman should ask his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Griffiths

If I may comment on that interjection made from a sitting posture, the Minister, although he may not realise it, is now responsible.

These things get very difficult. I should like to mention a particular example in relation to S.E.A.T.O. in this context. A diplomat having immunity ran into considerable difficulty under American law some time ago, and because an Order of this kind had been introduced there, it was not possible to reach him, although he was off duty at the time, under the existing law. We really have to consider whether this Order ought to be extended quite so far to deal with a conference here lasting for a week. According to the Minister, it will have very little effect so far as our immunity law is concerned. But through Orders such as this one, there are getting to be far too many immune people in London. The Order adds more to the number. I am told that there are already 6,000 such people. No doubt this Order is extending—

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

Has my hon. Friend noticed that the Minister has not taken a note of a single word that he has said?

Mr. Griffiths

It is not for me to comment on whether the Minister is paying attention or not. I hope that he is, but I am not particularly confident about that. My point is that this Order is extending diplomatic immunity to a number of other people who are coming here for a very short time and it seems, on the face of it, to be unnecessary to do so.

The Minister of State has not presented us with any substantial argument as to why it should be done. He simply moved the Order, assumed we would swallow it without comment and sat down expecting us to do nothing. I have raised a number of questions and I have one or two more yet, because the point is that diplomatic immunity conferred like this is becoming just a bit of a racket. There are already far too many cars with C.D. plates in London, cluttering up the streets and depriving many people of parking space. We want to be courteous to the S.E.A.T.O. people coming here—I am sure that is one of the purposes of the Order and that the hon. Gentleman will have the support of the House in extending these courtesies.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

On a point of Order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to use this occasion as a platform for his vehement anti-Americanism?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that any anti-Americanism was so slight that I did not notice it.

Mr. Griffiths

I may tell the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) that I lived for 16 years in the United States.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Order. I was going to add that whether the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) is anti-American or not is not a point of order. Nor are his biographical reminiscences of America. Let us get back to the Order.

Mr. Griffiths

Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I should like to turn briefly to the question of immunity from taxation, set out in Part III of the Order. I understand this. Indeed, with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have in mind, I can see why S.E.A.T.O. people would not come here if they were not given immunity from Her Majesty's Government's taxation. Indeed, I have been wondering if I could join S.E.A.T.O. I should like immunity from what the Chancellor might have in mind.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. This is not an entertainment. The hon. Gentleman must keep in order. He is not a member of S.E.A.T.O.

Mr. Griffiths

I simply want to ask the Minister of State four or five questions which I hope he will answer. He has told us how many people are coming. Can he give us their names tonight or at a later stage when it is more convenient to him? Who are these 20 people on whom diplomatic immunity is being conferred? How long will they stay? What does he think this country will get out of it? What advantage do we achieve from conferring this immunity on these visitors?

Presumably we confer diplomatic immunity for a purpose, to ensure that our representatives get reciprocal privileges in Bangkok, and no doubt the United Kingdom, on balance, gains from it. I am sure that the only reason for the Order of this sort is that it is felt to be in the British national interest. I should like the hon. Gentleman to explain—he has not done so far—what, in his view, the United Kingdom is getting out of the conferment of privileges of this kind.

Does it help us in Malaysia, for example, to give diplomatic privileges to S.E.A.T.O. representatives in London? Does it help us to get peace in Vietnam? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I do not need hon. Members to advise me on this point of order. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds cannot discuss the merits or otherwise of our connection with S.E.A.T.O. All he can discuss is whether we confer diplomatic immunity on certain members of S.E.A.TO. visiting Great Britain.

Mr. Griffiths

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was simply inquiring whether the conferment of these diplomatic privileges on personnel coming to London would, in the view of the Minister of State, assist us in our policies in Malaysia.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Whether they would or not cannot be answered in this debate.

Mr. Griffiths

I come finally to the question of the sealed bags and cyphers and all the other apparatus of privilege set forth in Part II of the Order. I understand why these people needed these sealed bags and cyphers. All diplomats have to use them, but these people are coming here for a week to a conference which, so far as I know, is hardly likely to be fenced in by all sorts of secrecy and so on. Yet we are being asked to confer on these people the right not to have their bags examined, and the right to keep gold and other reserve currencies in whatever buildings they choose while they are here and so on.

I can quite see that they will need sealed bags, because some of the things which they might hear at the conference about South-East Asia from members of the Labour Party could hardly be sent on the open wire and they would not like those things to get out. I can see that it would be embarrassing for the British Government, let alone S.E.A.T.O., if they were able to transmit some of these secret thoughts publicly. But for a conference in London the Order is excessive. I would welcome the representatives of S.E.A.T.O. here, but I wonder whether this elaborate procedure is necessary for their conference.

Why is it necessary to give to S.E.A.T.O. a legal personality for the purpose of one week's stay in London? The Annex to the Order says that the Organisation shall have a legal personality, be immune from suit and legal processes and be able to hold funds in gold or currency of any kind or to operate accounts in any currency. This is a very extensive Order for a short visit.

Finally, what does paragraph 4 of the Annex mean? It says: The Organisation shall also be accorded such other … facilities as can be afforded administratively in the United Kingdom. This seems like trying to slip through a fast one. The Government are seeking not only to pass this Order to confer diplomatic immunity on these people, but are asking the House to empower them to give such other facilities as can be accorded administratively. That could be the right to do anything they liked. Surely the House will not give the Government carte blanche to confer on these people any facilities which they might happen to like.

As you will have observed, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have asked the Minister a number of questions and I am glad to say that, following the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), he has made some notes. I shall be grateful if he will deal with these questions, because we need to get these Orders a little more clearly understood and not allow them simply to slip through. I am sure that members of S.E.A.T.O. would approve of our thorough examination of the Order before they come here, because they would not want to arrive in this country and find that we had given to the Minister some half-baked powers which he had not explained to the House.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

I came here tonight not intending to intervene in the debate, but I must confess that I was surprised by the attitude of the Minister. He suddenly introduced the Order in the most cavalier fashion. There is no doubt that he sat through a number of speeches from my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite without taking the trouble to take notes of the many questions put to him. Even when my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) was speaking he paid her no attention whatever.

Mr. Padley


Mr. Royle

Many of us feel that an Order of this extent and importance should be treated with greater respect by the Minister.

Mr. Padley

To the four specific questions which the noble Lady put there will be detailed replies, because they were serious points.

Mr. Royle

I am glad to hear that, but I hope that the Minister will also reply to the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) who made a series of most important points in a thoughtful speech. I hope that the Minister will see fit to answer his questions as well.

I wish to raise a couple of points. Many people are concerned about the point made by the Minister when he said that this type of S.E.A.T.O. meeting would take place here only once every 10 years and that the people involved, of whom, apparently, there are 21, will be in this country for only a week. How do we know, however, that in time there might not be meetings every two or three years? If we extend diplomatic immunity to the 21 members of this delegation from S.E.A.T.O., an organisation which all of us on this side fully support, why not extend it to every delegation which comes to this country from any nation or organisation?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. We cannot discuss whether we give diplomatic immunity to any other delegation. We are discussing whether it should be given to the organisation specified in the Order.

Mr. Royle

Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I wish to know from the Minister whether the diplomatic immunity is really necessary and important on this occasion for this short time of only seven days for 21 people coming here, apparently, only once every 10 years.

The other aspect, to which my hon. Friends have referred, is the extent to which immunity will be extended to the servants and others of the organisation who come here, such as chauffeurs. Anyone who visits London is well aware of the way our streets are packed with motor cars and the parking difficulties thereby caused, many of them by cars carrying Corps Diplomatique plates. They stand at the kerb and they cannot be taken to court for breach of the parking regulations.

I am not objecting to this, because under the Order these cars are not covered. What are covered, presumably, are the cars of the 21 gentlemen, whose names, I understand, the Minister will let us have, either tonight or later.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

Would the hon. Member comment on the effect of 21 extra cars adding to London's traffic problem?

Mr. Royle

Yes, at great length, if the hon. Member wishes. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Deputy-Speaker would rule me out of order.

Any of us who live in London and who see a short street of, say, 100 yards in which only two or three cars are parked know that if a further 21 cars were suddenly brought into that street there would be a serious parking and traffic problem. Conferences often take place in buildings situated in short streets.

Sir D. Glover

My. hon. Friend appreciates, I am sure, that if the conference happened to be held in the Palace of Westminster, another 21 cars in New Palace Yard would create a real problem.

Mr. Royle

I fully agree. My hon. Friend recognises the congestion that 21 cars could cause when parked in a small area.

Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)

My hon. Friend is assuming that the 21 gentlemen will bring 21 cars with them. What ground has he for making that assumption? Is there anything in the Order to prevent the 21 gentlemen bringing 21 cars each? Why should there not be a proliferation of the cars of these gentlemen in the same way as the herring proliferate during the spawning season?

Mr. Royle

My hon. Friend has made a point. It is a matter which will concern the Minister of State and I hope that he will answer it.

There is another matter which, I think, goes rather wider. In the Protocol to the S.E.A.T.O. Agreement—I hope the Minister of State will pay attention to what I am saying—mention is made of three countries, Cambodia, Laos and South Viet-Nam. Those three countries can send representatives to a meeting of S.E.A.T.O. Of course, S.E.A.T.O. is fully supported by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, though I realise that there are some hon. Members opposite who would like to see S.E.A.T.O. disbanded and the British Government withdraw from it.

Mr. Orme

Surely the hon. Member is straying into the realms of policy?

Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I hope that hon. Members will not advise me on how to conduct the business. I thought that the hon. Member was straying, and I was about to tell him so.

Mr. Royle

With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the three countries, Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam, are signatories to the Protocol of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation and, therefore, it is quite possible that at some occasion in future, or indeed, on this occasion, it might be decided by the Government of South Vietnam or by the Government of Laos, or by the Government of Cambodia, to send representatives to this meeting, and, therefore, they might make additions to the 21 members the Minister mentioned earlier. There are those of us on this side of the House who would welcome South Vietnamese representatives among a S.E.A.T.O. delegation arriving here. Indeed, all of us on this side fully support the present Government in South Vietnam.

The present Government in Cambodia—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not stray. All he can discuss is whether the three countries he has mentioned should be entitled to the diplomatic immunities proposed by this Order. Whether he likes those countries or not, or whether some other hon. Members do or do not, is not the subject of this debate.

Mr. Royle

I understand, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, First, I take South Vietnam. South Vietnam, of course, is a signatories to the Protocol to the Treaty, but at the moment does not attend S.E.A.T.O. conferences in the normal course of events, but it might well decide to send a delegation over here, and if it does send a delegation over here—

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Would the hon. Member agree with me that it never has a Government long enough to decide that?

Mr. Royle

The hon. Member has said it never has a Government long enough. It is quite clear that if the hon. Member had his way it would not have a Government at all.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

In any event, and if one of the many changes of Government were to take place, would the immunities apply to both sets of representatives? Would my hon. Friend like to ask the Minister that?

Mr. Royle

I would like to ask the Minister, if a change of Government did take place, would the diplomatic immunity apply to the Government of North Vietnam as well as to the Government of South Vietnam? South Vietnam is, after all, a signatory of the Protocol. North Vietnam is not.

We all hope that if the South Vietnamese representatives come here, either as observers or as part of the deputation, they would get the same sort of immunities as the 21 members of S.E.A.T.O. who are to come here anyway will obtain. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could give us his views on this. Will he also say what discussions have gone on between Her Majesty's Government and Saigon with a view to inviting the South Vietnamese to come as observers to the conference? Would he say what discussions the Government have had—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is getting a little wide of the Order. He must keep to the subject of the Order.

Mr. Royle

I now come to the other aspect of these diplomatic immunities which has been concerning many of us. I am glad to see that the Minister of State is now paying attention and making notes, and is clearly in a better temper than he was earlier. I even notice a smile on his face.

This is one final aspect which I should like to mention. I think that many hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the extent to which diplomatic immunity has spread during the past few years. That is why we have tried to make certain tonight that this new extension of diplomatic immunity which is incorporated in this document is carefully looked at by us all.

The Minister says that there is no extension, but this Order gives diplomatic immunity to 21 people who are coming here to attend a conference. This conference may take place only once in 10 years, and they may be here for only a week. This is perhaps a small extension of the immunity, but is, nevertheless, an extension, and, therefore, we have a right to raise this matter, and I am sure that the Minister is glad that we are paying such close attention to this Order and querying the reasons for it.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to answer those questions which I have asked, and, in particular, whether the South Vietnamese, the Laotians and the Cambodians, if they decided to attend a conference, would get the same diplomatic immunity as other members of S.E.A.T.O.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. Derek Page (King's Lynn)

Part II paragraph 3 of the Order refers to exemption from taxation. Any of the members visiting this country can use facilities which are paid for by the taxpayers of this country. There is a considerable infrastructure. Roads, the National Health Service, fire brigade facilities, and, of course, police facilities, will be available, and they have to be paid for by the taxpayers of this country. If we have South Vietnamese representatives, police protection may be particularly necessary. Why should our taxpayers have to pay for this when many of us disagree with their policies?

11.8 p.m.

Mr. Padley

With permission, I should like to reply to the debate.

Earlier, I was impatient with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not believe that Britain's international relationships should be the subject of irresponsible party battle. I took that view when I sat on that side of the House, and I take it now that I stand at this Box.

I apologise for doing so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but when, from a sitting posture, I asked the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)—he is better known as the former Prime Minister's script writer—to ask his right hon. Friend about this, what I was saying was that this Order continued a policy on which the responsible leaders of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party agreed.

It may be good fun, when people are in opposition, to talk, at ten minutes past eleven o'clock, about Britain's allies in S.E.A.T.O., but I do not find it a spirit of fun.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

Nothing of the kind.

Mr. Padley

In this Order there are the same provisions as have been laid down by Conservative Governments over the last 13 years, and my good friend the right hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) stood at this Box and introduced quite a few of them. I have looked at them in the files.

Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)

I accept all that. I hope it does not mean that the hon. Gentleman will not answer the questions which have been put to him, because when I stood at that Box I was asked many questions similar to the questions asked of him, and I answered them. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think that because they were answered then, he is under no obligation to answer them today. There is a lot of concern in Britain about diplomatic immunity and privileges, and I think it right that the Government should make it clear why this Order is desirable. That is desirable, and I think that it is the hon. Gentleman's responsibility to explain why.

Mr. Padley

I am very glad to do that.

Sir D. Glover

Courtesy to the House.

Mr. Padley

The Order before the House follows the normal pattern of the Orders which have been introduced over the last 13 years under Conservative Governments and for the six years before that under Labour Governments, relating to the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and to C.E.N.T.O. The only difference is that this deals with a handful of people, whereas the previous Orders dealt with very large numbers.

I will now deal with the serious detailed points which have been raised. On the question of taxation, this is the normal practice but it is not affected under this Order, because the people concerned will be in Britain for such a short period that it is estimated that the Exchequer will lose no taxation.

In answer to the noble Lady, under the 1950 Act there is an obligation for lists of the high officers and the representatives to be published, and they will be published.

The noble Lady also raised a point in connection with Articles 2 and 3. This is a rather difficult matter, in respect of which I confess that I have to rely upon my legal advisers. The provision concerning execution is standard form in privilege orders. It reflects a generally aecepted rule as to diplomatic and sovereign immunity. Immunity from execution must be waived expressly and specifically. In the case of an organisation there must be an express waiver of execution, and in the case of representatives waiver of immunity implies waiver of execution.

On the point concerning Article 4, the agreement relates to privilege in respect of United Nations treatment. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the house would wish S.E.A.T.O. representatives to be accorded the same status as that which applies to representatives of the United Nations, N.A.T.O. and C.E.N.T.O.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Can the hon. Member clarify that? In referring to Article 4 of the Annex he referred to such other similar facilities as related to the United Nations. Can he detail those facilities?

Mr. Padley

It is a standard pattern which applies between Britain and other civilised nations who are members of the United Nations.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Some of us are not entirely conversant with the details, and I am sure that hon. Members would be interested to hear about them.

Mr. Padley

Frankly, my reply is that those who held any office under the previous Government should be as aware of them as I am. I therefore hope that the House will approve the Order.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

On a point of order. Is it in order for the Minister of State to refer to those who were previously in office as if the remainder of hon. Members do not count for a thing? We are entitled to have this explanation.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is new to the House. He must distinguish between what is in order and what is a matter of opinion and argument. Any Member can reply in whatever way he likes as long as it is in order, and if the hon. Member who is replying chooses to reply in the way he has done, although other hon. Members may not like it, if it is in order the Chair can do nothing about it.

Mr. Peter Thomas

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) welcomed the Order on behalf of the Opposition and hon. Members have asked many questions because there is disquiet about the extension of diplomatic privileges and immunities. I confess to being disappointed at the reply of the Minister. I would like him now to deal with what I think all hon. Members consider to be the serious questions which have been put to him.

Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to "all hon. Members" and the "serious questions" put to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I assure him that he is not speaking for all hon. Members, certainly not this hon. Member. Further, many of the points were not serious ones.

Mr. Thomas

I did not hear the points which the hon. Member put. I do not know whether or not he has spoken. 1 am suggesting that serious questions have been posed. One such question I would like to ask is this. Is it right that the signatories to the Protocol—that is, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—will, if they send representatives, have similar diplomatic privileges and immunities? According to my reading of the Order that is not so, but the Minister did not mention this issue. If that is so—and the House wants to know—it is such an important and sensitive matter that the Minister should deal with it.

Hon. Members


Mr. Padley

The Members of S.E.A.T.O. are Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

11.16 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) said. I regret that the Minister has seen fit to reply in such cavalier fashion. I thought his reply both disgraceful and monstrous. If it were in order I would ask for his resignation now. It was obvious that he did not know the answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). He now has time, while I am speaking, to consult his advisers and find out. I guarantee to continue speaking while he is finding out.

I take great exception to the way in which the Minister dealt with the other legitimate questions he was asked. He tried to brush off the entire debate by saying that it was not in the interests of the country to comment further. He is responsible for bringing forward the Order for our approval. This is the House of Commons and we have every right to ask questions. If the hon. Gentleman is incapable, for this or that reason, of mastering his brief, or knowing what the subject is about, he should leave us so that someone else can answer our questions.

It is for the Government to justify what they are proposing. If the Minister cannot do that on their behalf, he had better resign and go. The way he has treated the House is an absolute disgrace. I ask him again to answer the questions which have been put to him. He still has about 10 minutes in which to do so and I am sure that the House will give him leave, for the fourth time, to speak. Fourth time lucky, perhaps.

We would like to know more on the damages issue. We take it from the Order that chauffeurs will be given immunity in respect of driving certain gentlemen. If they have an accident they will be immune from proceedings being brought against them. There is a feeling of dismay in the country about this. For example, will there be any question of people suffering damage being compensated?

That is the only point which I wish to raise myself because the remainder have been raised by my hon. Friends, but I hope that in the remaining 10 minutes at the disposal of the Minister of State he will finally answer the House in the courteous and proper manner which he should have adopted right from the beginning.

11.21 p.m.

Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)

I have been horrified tonight. I have been a Member of the House for nearly seven years and have seen many affirmative Orders put to the House and explained with great courtesy by right hon. Gentlemen both of my party and of the party opposite. But I have never seen an affirmative Order put to the House in such a peremptory, superficial manner in whole of my period of service in the House.

My hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) have put serious questions which matter very much to hon. Members and to the people of this country, and I was horrified that while they were doing so the Minister of State was either incapable of writing them down or failed to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no use hon. Members below the Gangway starting to shout. They have only just arrived and they have not heard a word of the debate. If they feel that the people of the country whom we represent will be treated in such a disgraceful manner, then it is high time that they learned a little self-respect and self-control.

The Minister of State jumped up and down in a fury while serious and responsible questions were being asked. He has been given time by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) to find some answers from the officials who could have answered some of the thorough and detailed technical points put by my hon. Friends the Members for Bury St. Edmunds, and Richmond, Surrey.

I think that his was a most deplorable display of disrespect to the House and to the country. I am sorry that he is laughing. The time will come when he will cease to laugh—and it will not be very long delayed.

11.23 p.m.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Having listened to the debate from the beginning, I am bound to say that I regret that hon. Members should be dealing with a serious matter in a manner which indicated that, far from having the high seriousness with which the Minister of State moved the Order and with which the hon. Lady the Member of Aberdeen South (Lady Tweedsmuir) replied, they caused the debate shortly after her reply to become completely submerged in frivolity.

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) asked what Britain would get out of the Order—what she would gain. I found that disgusting on an Order coming before the House to extend the normal courtesies and graciousness which we expect to give to allies. I take it amiss when everything has been done for almost half-an-hour to make a serious Order into a laughing stock.

If the debate were read in South-East Asia it would be regarded as if we were determined to be discourteous and to treat people who are coming as our guests as if they were strangers and enemies. It is most miserable that political capital should be made out of it, and I am confident that the seriousness with which the Minister addressed himself to the Order is the manner which, on reflection, the House would prefer. [Interruption.] There is no need for the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) to show the same discourtesy to me as he showed to the Minister.

I deeply regret that an Order of this character should be treated in this way because of Members who came here to make fun. Can it be seriously suggested that the matter was debated seriously when questions were asked about how many motor cars can be brought? The House is entitled to consider whether what we are having is a bit of bear-bait- ing, or an attempt being made to devalue the Minister—or whether hon. Members are giving serious attention to a serious Order. I hope that the Order will be carried, because we wish to treat these people who are coming here with courtesy and do not wish to show to the people of South-East Asia the bad manners which have been shown to the Minister.

Sir D. Glover

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member does not have leave, I cannot allow him to speak again.

Sir D. Glover


Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1965 be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 24th March.

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