Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 1 November 1995


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. BARRY JONES

Amess, Mr. David (Basildon)

Atkinson, Mr. David (Bournemouth, East)

Bendall, Mr. Vivian (Ilford, North)

Bright, Sir Graham (Luton, South)

Clark, Dr. Michael (Rochford)

Conway, Mr. Derek (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

Davis, Mr. David (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Davis, Mr. Terry (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

Gardiner, Sir George (Reigate)

Kennedy, Mr. Charles (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

Lloyd, Mr. Tony (Stretford)

Mans, Mr. Keith (Wyre)

Mitchell, Mr. Austin (Great Grimsby)

Olner, Mr. Bill (Nuneaton)

Porter, Mr. Barry (Wirral South)

Prentice, Mr. Gordon (Pendle)

Purchase, Mr. Ken (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry (Bradford, South)

Mr. M. Hennessy, Committee Clerk

3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 1 November 1995

[MR. BARRY JONES in the Chair]

Draft Vienna Document 1994 (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1995

4.30 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document 1994 (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1995. The purpose of the order is to confer privileges and immunities on observers, inspectors, evaluators and auxiliary personnel, in accordance with the provisions of the 1994 Vienna document of the negotiations on confidence—and security—building measures. The Vienna document 1994 was adopted in Vienna on 28 November 1994. It integrates a new set of confidence—and security—building measures with measures adopted in the Vienna document 1992, which it supersedes and with which hon. Members will be familiar. The Vienna document 1994 marks a further step in advancing military transparency and predictability in Europe, thereby helping to reduce the risk of confrontation and tension. A necessary component in any arms control regime is the ability to monitor compliance with the regime's obligations. In the case of the Vienna document 1994, that is done by means of observations, evaluations, and short-notice, on-site, challenge inspections, carried out by representatives of individual states of the organisation for security and co-operation in Europe. The document requires that certain persons—observers, evaluators and inspectors, together with accompanying auxiliary personnel—are granted, during their mission, privileges and immunities in accordance with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. Such missions rarely take place in the United Kingdom. We are liable to receive up to three inspections and two evaluation visits a year. Observations are by invitation and are linked to the size of military exercises, demonstrations of new types of military equipment and visits to combat air bases. This order is necessary for the United Kingdom to give effect in domestic law to those provisions on privileges and immunities.

4.32 pm

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford): The order is not contentious and the whole Committee will welcome its adoption today. However, I want to take this opportunity to put one or two questions to the Minister. One of the patterns of conflict and conflict prevention, not just in Europe but globally, is that conflicts tend not to be international but often involve civil war or internal conflict of one sort of another. Confidence and security-building measures, while they are useful on the wider European plain, have little relevance in a conflict such as that in Chechnya. We must deal with the 4 problems that arise when a country such as Russia is involved in an internal conflict but does not comply with the Vienna procedures. Will the Minister comment briefly—or at length, if he prefers—on the relevance of these measures to the position in the former Yugoslavia? As I understand it, Serbia and Montenegro are not signatories to the overall agreement. That has obvious relevance, especially if the talks being held in the United States lead to a properly brokered ceasefire and peace process. Such monitoring activity will be required as part of an overall confidence-building structure in that region.

4.34 pm

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill): As my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) said, we all want to approve this statutory instrument because we want to facilitate the arrangements for monitors and observers engaged in the disarmament process in Europe, which is to the advantage of all of us. I want to press the Minister on a detailed point in the statutory instrument. In layman's language, section 2 provides for people who are designated as observers, inspectors or evaluators to be given diplomatic immunity. Of course, that is understandable and acceptable to all of us. Section 3, however, says that "persons designated … as auxiliary personnel" should also be given that status. It states that such auxiliary personnel may be engaged in administrative and technical services—which, of course, we can understand. The observers, inspectors and evaluators would no doubt need to bring some technical expertise with them, but the order then goes on to include people engaged in "domestic services". Will the Minister explain what is intended to be covered by the phrase "domestic services"? Is it expected that the monitors will bring with them retinues of domestic servants? What kind of servants would they be? I can understand that it might be to a monitor's advantage for the driver of his car to be given diplomatic immunity, in case he is involved in an accident, but I am not sure that a driver is a domestic servant. The words "domestic services" smack of maids, cleaners and chefs—or perhaps we should just say cooks. Would all those people be accompanying the monitors? Would they be citizens of other countries or citizens of the United Kingdom, who happen to be engaged for the purpose of cooking the meals of those evaluators, monitors and observers? The order becomes even more anomalous, because if we read it through, as I have several times, we can find no reference to the spouse of an evaluator, observer or monitor. If an inspector brings a husband or wife with him or her—

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): My hon. Friend should be aware that some of those people will be French and could, therefore, be bringing mistresses and all sorts of hangers-on into the country.

Mr. Davis: I refuse to pander to my hon. Friend's chauvinism, but certainly some of them would bring—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) want to say something? I am making a serious point. A Government Minister once encouraged business men who were travelling abroad to 5 take their wives with them. We, in the United Kingdom, would welcome such people bringing their husbands and wives with them and I can understand that they would be given diplomatic immunity, but why is there no references in the document to the inspectors' husbands and wives, only to their domestic servants?

4.37 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell: As usual, I come to Committee rather as General Marshall was described as leaving for Europe in 1947 by an American radio station: tall, dignified and uniformed. Well, dignified, anyway. I took the precaution of asking the Library for certain information about the Vienna document. I was told that it included mechanisms for the exchange of information on military forces, including manpower, organisation, weapons and equipment. The Library's letter states: "There is also provision for prior notification of certain categories of exercises and other military activities, with observation to be invited for specified cases, restrictions on the levels of military activities to be undertaken within certain periods of time and procedures for notification and consultation in the case of unscheduled military activity". The most striking, dramatic and important piece of activity on the European level at the moment is the French nuclear tests in the south Pacific. It is clear that if those were safe, they would be carried out in the Channel Islands. It is also clear that with the typical French spirit of "je men fou" -tism, they are doing it in the south Pacific because of the growing reputation of antipodean wines, which are a threat to the French wine industry. Does the order apply in any way to the French nuclear tests? They are "unscheduled military activity". Is there any provision under the Vienna document for notification of such activity, for us to appoint observers or inspectors and for us not only to report on it but to express an opinion on the desirability of holding such unnecessary, insulting and dangerous tests in a place where we have traditional and Commonwealth interests and where we, as a member of the Pacific forum, should be able to express an opinion and support the rest of the Commonwealth? What coverage is there in the Vienna document 1994 of nuclear tests and what notification has to be given? Will the order confer immunity on people associated with those tests so that they can enter this country on future military occasions? That is an important question, given the entente nucleaire that was formulated yesterday. Talk about the nuclear family—that is ridiculous; if we are to have an increasing approximation in this sector, will our two countries' nuclear forces be covered by the immunities granted under the Vienna document?

4.40 pm

Mr. David Davis: I shall endeavour to deal in detail with the points raised. I am glad that the hon. Member for Stretford welcomes the order and I take his points about Chechnya and the former Yugoslavia. The Vienna document provisions apply to all of the military activities of OSCE states. Russia's concentration of troops and equipment during the Chechnya conflict was well above the Vienna document's thresholds and thus, under the terms of the document, should have been notified to all other OSCE states. The United Kingdom and other 6 NATO allies have, on a number of occasions, reminded Russia of its failure to meet the aspect of its Vienna document obligations. As members of the OSCE, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia are parties to the Vienna document. The hon. Member for Stretford referred to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That republic was party to the Vienna document in 1992, but its membership of the OSCE has since been suspended—as is described in a footnote to the document. We hope that one of the consequence's of the peace settlement in the region will be the resumption of that republic's OSCE membership and obligations, including the Vienna document. The Vienna document does not apply to non-state armed forces such as the Bosnian-Serbian army. The United Kingdom believes that part of the peace settlement for Bosnia should include commitments by the parties to implement the Vienna document's provisions, both interstate and intra-state.

Mr. Tony Lloyd: One of the problems with the process is evident in the Minister's remarks. In the end, there is no sanction against a failure to report. To build confidence, states must comply with the need to report; otherwise, the process is vacuous because reporting will take place only when it does not matter, not when it does matter. That puts in doubt any hope that the document will build confidence. What is intended to be done about states that do not report? At the moment there is no sanction. Are there proposals to build sanctions into the process?

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman knows that the agreement is political and therefore is not legally binding. The points that he has made are almost precisely those that have been made to the Russian Government with respect to Chechnya. The Russians want the OSCE to be effective, so the points were made with some force. I hope that they will have some effect. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) asked about auxiliary personnel. Essentially, the order covers drivers and interpreters. I do not foresee butlers coming here under the provisions. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned spouses. The point is that all those who fulfil the function of observer in the context of the order are covered by diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Terry Davis: Is there anything in the order to restrict the provision to drivers and interpreters? The Minister mentioned butlers, but it had not occurred to me that butlers would be involved. However, it is conceivable that other people would be brought along—for example, to do the laundry. Would there be any restriction on designating a person of a third nationality, for instance a Filipino maid?

Mr. David Davis: The conditions are as described in the order. The visits are, in general, short rather than long. We do not expect the rights given under the order to be abused. I have two points to make to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). First, the document deals only with conventional arms. Secondly, the testing that he mentioned is taking place outside Europe, which is the area in which the order applies.

Question put and agreed to.


Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document 1994 (Privileges and Immunities) Order 1995—[Mr. David Davis.]

Committee rose at fifteen minutes to Five o'clock.


Jones, Mr. Barry (Chairman)

Amess, Mr.

Bendall, Mr.

Bright, Sir G.

Clark, Dr. Michael

Conway, Mr.

Davis, Mr David

Davis, Mr Terry

Gardiner, Sir G.

Kennedy, Mr. Charles

Lloyd, Mr. Tony

Mans, Mr.

Mitchell, Mr. Austin

Porter, Mr. Barry

Purchase, Mr.

Sutcliffe, Mr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(2):

Atkinson, Mr. Peter (Hexham)