PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

DRAFT VIENNA DOCUMENT (PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES) ORDER 1991

Thursday 20 June 1991

LONDON: HMSO

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Sir Michael Shaw

Bowis, Mr. John (Battersea)

Brown, Mr. Michael (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Bruce, Mr. Ian (South Dorset)

Couchman, Mr. James (Gillingham)

Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Hogg, Mr. Douglas (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Johnston, Sir Russell (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

Knapman, Mr. Roger (Stroud)

Macfarlane, Sir Neil (Sutton and Cheam)

Morrison, Sir Peter (City of Chester)

Oakes, Mr. Gordon (Halton)

Primarolo, Ms Dawn (Bristol, South)

Radice, Mr. Giles (Durham, North)

Raffan, Mr. Keith (Delyn)

Robertson, Mr. George (Hamilton)

Ross, Mr. Ernie (Dundee, West)

Shore, Mr. Peter (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Taylor, Mr. John M. (Solihull)

Wray, Mr. Jimmy (Glasgow, Provan)

Hamlyn, Mr. M. D. Committee Clerk

2
3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 20 June 1991

[SIR MICHAEL SHAW in the Chair]

Draft Vienna Document (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1991

10.30 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Douglas Hogg): I beg to move, That, the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1991.

10.30 am

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton): I have no objection to the order, but I should like to ask a couple of questions. In a funny way, the procedure has highlighted one of the amazing anomalies of the House of Commons. We are debating immunities and privileges to be granted to a variety of people who will be required as inspectors under the Vienna document and under the Stockholm conference document. It is remarkable that neither of those documents has been debated in the House, yet they are of considerable significance and have far-reaching consequences. Indeed, all 35 Foreign Ministers at the Conference on security and co-operation in Europe met yesterday in the wake of these significant and historic documents, yet the House of Commons does not debate them or discuss the issues arising from them. However, we have endless meetings on statutory instruments to give diplomatic immunity to small numbers of people who may come to Britain, usually 4 for no more than a day and sometimes for a matter of hours. Although I give the order every good speed I have no intention of opposing it—I hope that the Minister will comment on that curious anomaly. Perhaps it is a matter that the House authorities and the Select Committee on Procedure might like to examine.

10.31 am

Mr. Hogg: Of course, it is the custom for Ministers to respond immediately to questions raised by Opposition Members. I have not focused my mind on the hon. Gentleman's question, which is the extent to which the House discusses the contents of treaties, rather than confines its attention to various enabling powers which flow from treaties. I do not know the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, although I accept that it is important. My suspicion is that, on occasions, it is possible to debate the whole text of a treaty. The Opposition could have tabled an Opposition Supply day motion if they were so minded. Perhaps the Government could do likewise—I do not honestly know what the practices and precedents are, although it is an interesting point. I will, however, reflect further on the matter and write to the hon. Gentleman about practices and precedents. It is worth reflecting whether we should consider a more open way of discussing the contents of any treaties to which Her Majesty's Government may subscribe. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for focusing on the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1991.

Committee rose at twenty seven minutes to Eleven o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Shaw, Sir Michael (Chairman)

Bowis, Mr.

Brown, Mr. Michael

Bruce, Mr. Ian

Hogg, Mr. Douglas

Knapman, Mr.

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

Robertson, Mr.

Taylor, Mr. John M.