HL Deb 13 July 1967 vol 284 cc1281-3

4.21 p.m.

Debate continued.


My Lords, in view of the statement which was made by my noble friend Lord Walston in reply to the Private Notice Question, I agree with what the noble Earl has just said: that there is little point in pursuing the various aspects of what we call the "Algerian scandal". I do not know whether this is something that should be explained by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, or whether it is a political point, but this Convention was signed I think six years ago. Only six of the contracting parties have ratified. How long are we going to wait before the Convention itself comes into full operation?

Having regard to the subject matter, it is not an encouraging outlook that a vitally important Convention is apparently not taken seriously by those who signed it. I wonder whether, in due course, my noble friend could tell us which are the six countries that have in fact ratified so that we may know which are in default? On the other hand, it seems to me that, so far from denigrating the concept of the Convention, what has happened with regard to the two British pilots in Algeria intensifies the need for a Convention of this kind to be signed and ratified by every member of the United Nations—not that that is always followed by deeds. Just as all Member States, 124 member countries, have signed their adherence to the Charter of the United Nations, I hope that the Government will consider ways and means (I do not know how practical it is) of making this eventually into some kind of United Nations official Convention. Under Article 21 of the Convention, presumably it should be eventually registered with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. But I take it that that will not be done until it is operative; and it will not be operative until at least 12 signatories have ratified.

What an extraordinary position we are in! Five or six years after the vital Convention is discussed and drafted and signed, the whole thing is blown up into the light of publicity by the grossly unlawful act which took place on board this aeroplane and which at the moment is shrouded in mystery. In these circumstances, I would merely say that I strongly support the concept on which this Convention is based, and express my congratulations to the noble and learned Lord, who I believe led the British delegation at the Conference, upon a fine piece of work. I would only regret—no doubt I share his regret—that to some extent it is still something which is in the realm of theory. I hope that when next we come to discuss this problem we shall have made a good deal more progress than we have to date.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, to reply briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Rowley, and acknowledging his kind remarks about the Convention, I have here a list of the ratifying States which is good up to June 23 of this year. It includes the three Scandinavian States, Sweden, Norway and Denmark; then Portugal, the Philippine Republic and the Republic of China—that is, Formosa. Of course, I and all those who worked on this Convention entirely shared his sentiment in wishing that this Convention should be brought into force as soon as possible. I know that Her Majesty's Government, unofficially, when the way is open to them, encourage other States to come along and ratify; but, of course, legislation is necessary to bring the Convention into force. This takes time, and one may perhaps hope that out of evil good may come, and that as a result of this Algerian incident there may be a rush of signatures and ratifications which may bring the Convention speedily into force. I do not think there is anything else that I need to add.

On Question, Bill passed.