asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will take steps to 14W ensure that UNESCO is not subjected to controls or regulations concerning foreign exchange or fund transfers in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement;
(2) if he will take steps to ensure that UNESCO is immune from certain legal process in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement;
(3) if he will take steps to ensure that UNESCO continues to have the capacity to acquire and dispose of immovable and movable property in the United Kingdom and to receive income therefrom without tax liabilities;
(4) if he will take measures to ensure that UNESCO retains in full its capacity for entering into contracts in the United Kingdom protecting it from future limitation by a law or an act affecting the judicial personality of bodies corporate;
(5) when he hopes to be able to announce a decision on the granting of privileges and immunities to UNESCO comparable to those it normally enjoys in the states that are not parties to the convention on the privileges and immunities of the specialised agencies; and if he will make a statement;
(6) if he will take steps to ensure that UNESCO has access to the same facilities in respect of communications in the United Kingdom as those accorded to foreign Governments; and if he will make a statement;
(7) if he will introduce measures to ensure that members of the executive board, staff members, experts or other persons travelling on UNESCO business may freely enter, transit through and exit from the United Kingdom without restrictions, and may be immune from legal process in respect of acts performed by them in their official capacities; and if he will make a statement;
(8) if he will take steps to ensure that representatives of member states of UNESCO can attend meetings convened by UNESCO in the United Kingdom without impediments or restrictions on a permanent rather than an ad hoc basis.
§ Mr. Eggar
The United Kingdom is a party to the convention on the privileges and immunities of the specialised agencies of the United Nations, and, pursuant to its terms, has undertaken to apply its provisions in respect of most of the specialised agencies of which it is a member. Our record in this respect is better than that of many other countries. Effect is given to the convention in United Kingdom law by Orders in Council under section 1 of the International Organisations Act 1968. The principal order is the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1974 (S.I. 1974/1260). The Act only allows such orders to be made in respect of organisations declared by order to be organisations of which the United Kingdom is a member.
When we ceased to be a member of UNESCO, the order ceased to have effect in respect of that organisation; and we therefore no longer had the legislative powers to apply to UNESCO the terms of the specialised agencies convention. We accordingly notified the Director-General of UNESCO on 13 December 1985, and also the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that the United Kingdom intended to withhold from UNESCO the benefits of the said Convention.
In the light of concern subsequently expressed by UNESCO, the head of the UNESCO observer section of our embassy in Paris wrote to UNESCO on 17 March 1986 to clarify our reasons in detail and to assure the organisation that in our opinion the practical 15W consequences for UNESCO and its staff would in fact be minimal. To avoid any possible misconceptions, he drew particular attention to the following points:
- (i) Whilst in theory the withholding of privileges and immunities would render inapplicable to UNESCO exemption from foreign exchange control regulations, in fact the United Kingdom does not operate foreign exchange controls.
- (ii) Although it is possible that in some cases secretariat officials who have income liable to United Kingdom tax may not enjoy quite the same degree of tax relief as hitherto, it is unlikely that any British citizens working for UNESCO will be regarded as resident in the United Kingdom for tax purposes, and for this reason such individuals will not be liable to tax on their salaries from UNESCO. Furthermore, even if there were any UNESCO officials who are resident in the United Kingdom for tax purposes, they will, under certain conditions, be able to claim exemption from tax on their earnings where their duties of employment are performed either wholly or partly outside the United Kingdom.
- (iii) The withholding of privileges and immunities will not, in general, make it more expensive for UNESCO to purchase goods in the United Kingdom. In practice, any goods exported from the United Kingdom are not liable to value added tax. Our understanding is that the volume of equipment purchased by UNESCO in the United Kingdom for use in the United Kingdom itself is extremely limited. In any case, in the United Kingdom the supply of goods and services incidental to the provision of education, training or retraining is, subject to certain conditions, exempt from value added tax.
At the same time we assured UNESCO that we had publicly confirmed our willingness to consider any particular issues or cases where it could be shown that withdrawal of privileges and immunities could be an obstacle to any continuing co-operation which UNESCO may wish to have with bodies in the United Kingdom. The secretariat has not so far drawn any such cases to our attention.16W
At its May 1986 session UNESCO's executive board invited the Director-General to initiate negotiations with the United Kingdom:with a view to securing from that State an assurance that UNESCO will be granted the privileges and immunities the Organisation normally enjoys in States that are not parties to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialised Agencies".
I wrote to the Director-General of UNESCO on 11 July 1986 suggesting that this matter be pursued by the secretariat and the Head of our UNESCO observer section. Many of UNESCO's member states are not themselves parties to the convention and I added that as a first step it would be helpful if she could be informed precisely what is meant by the phrase used by the executive board.
On 7 April our observer received a letter from the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO proposing an arrangement based on the provisions of the headquarters agreement between the United Kingdom and the International Maritime Organisation. On 15 May 1987 the head of our UNESCO observer section informed UNESCO that we do not consider this an appropriate parallel and repeated our request for clarification of the phrase used by the executive board in its decision, that is,the privileges and immunities the Organisation normally enjoys in States that are not parties to the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialised Agencies".We await a reply.
It is noteworthy that in a press release issued by UNESCO on 19 June it commented as follows:Negotiations between UNESCO and the UK are going forward satisfactorily. They concern questions arising from the UK withdrawal from the Organisation, the costs of maintaining observer status, conditions of UK contributions to certain UNESCO activities and the diplomatic privileges and immunities of UNESCO and its personnel when in the UK. Mr. Michel de Bonnecorse UNESCO's Deputy Director-General, who is personally in charge of these negotiations, stated at a press conference held on 5 June that these talks were taking place in a cordial and apolitical atmosphere which he was sure would lead to positive results.
While we stand ready to consider any practical difficulties which arise for UNESCO and its staff arising from the absense of privileges and immunities, we are not prepared to amend our domestic legislation for the benefit of an organisation of which we are no longer a member.