§ Sir G. Nicholson
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the principles governing the grant of diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom, the classes of person eligible to enjoy such immunity, and the extent to which the immunity is granted; and whether he is satisfied that the practice of Her Majesty's Government is reasonable, having regard to considerations of reciprocity.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
It is a basic and traditional principle of international law that an accredited diplomatic representative is entitled to the protection of diplomatic immunity in order that he may discharge his mission with the necessary freedom and independence, and that this immunity should be extended also to such a reasonable number of his suite as may be necessary to assist him in his duties. This principle is accepted and applied by Her Majesty's Government in common with most other States.201W
In accordance with the provisions of the Diplomatic Privileges Act, 1708, 7 Anne Cap. 12, a list is maintained in the Foreign Office of the names of those persons who are officially regarded as entitled to claim full diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government include in the list the names of Heads of diplomatic Missions and the names of the members of their diplomatic staffs. In addition, the names of any other officials performing clerical or similar duties at a diplomatic Mission are customarily included in the list.
Her Majesty's Government require to be satisfied that each individual nominated for inclusion in the list is engaged on duties of a diplomatic nature under the direction and supervision of the Head of a diplomatic Mission in his diplomatic capacity. The names of servants employed by the Head of Mission in his personal household or in the offices of his Mission may be included in the official list at the request of the Head of Mission. All persons named in the list are regarded by Her Majesty's Government as entitled to claim, in the United Kingdom, immunity from arrest and detention and from suit and legal process, though the possibility of a waiver of immunity by the Head of Mission in appropriate circumstances is not excluded.
As a matter of policy, Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to regard as entitled to diplomatic immunity any persons who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and their names are not included in the official list. This policy is without prejudice to the position of persons recruited as servants whose names were included in the list before 27th August, 1952. No person is eligible for inclusion in the list who has private business or trading interests in the United Kingdom in addition to his diplomatic duties. The jurisdictional immunities described are customarily regarded as extending to the wife of a Head of Mission or of a member of his official staff and also to those members of their families who are dependent upon them. The personal inviolability of the Head of a diplomatic Mission and of his suite and their families is fully recognised by Her Majesty's Government.
In the light of the conclusion expressed in the Report on Diplomatic Immunity made in 1951 by the Inter-departmental 202W Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Justice Somervell that the immunities ordinarily granted by Her Majesty's Government "are either certainly or probably required by international law", my right hon. and learned Friend is satisfied that the standard practice of Her Majesty's Government in this matter is reasonable.
Nevertheless Her Majesty's Government have taken power in the Diplomatic Immunities Restriction Act, 1955 (4 Eliz. 2 Ch. 21) to apply the principle of reciprocity in the administration of diplomatic immunity. The Act provides for the withdrawal of personal immunity from any class or classes of persons employed in a foreign diplomatic Mission in this country if it should appear that these immunities exceed those accorded in the territory of the foreign State concerned to the corresponding classes of persons connected with Her Majesty's diplomatic Mission there. This provision has been applied in respect of over five hundred persons in diplomatic establishments, though they retain under the Act immunity in respect of things done or omitted to be done in the course of the performance of their official duties. This principle of immunity in respect of official acts is one to which Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance.
As parties to agreements establishing international organisations of various kinds, Her Majesty's Government have undertaken to grant to a limited number of the senior officials of such organisations an immunity resembling that enjoyed by the envoy of a foreign sovereign power. The enabling legislation in this respect is the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Act, 1950 (14 George VI Ch. 14) and the power conferred by that statute has been exercised from time to time by Order in Council.
The extent of the immunities due to the representatives in the United Kingdom of Commonwealth countries and the Republic of Ireland is defined in the Diplomatic Immunities (Commonwealth Countries and Republic of Ireland) Act, 1952 (15 and 16 George VI and 1 Eliz. 2 Ch. 18), for the administration of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is responsible.