PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

DRAFT OIL POLLUTION COMPENSATION FUND 1992 (IMMUNITIES AND PRIVILEGES) ORDER 1996

Thursday 2 May 1996

LONDON: HMSO

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mrs. Ann Winterton

Arnold, Mr. Jacques (Gravesham)

Atkinson, Mr. Peter (Hexham)

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

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

Evans, Mr. David (Welwyn Hatfield)

Fatchett, Mr. Derek (Leeds, Central)

Grant, Mr. Bernie (Tottenham)

Greenway, Mr. John (Ryedale)

Jenkins, Mr. Brian (South-East Staffordshire)

Lamont, Mr. Norman (Kingston upon Thames)

Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Randall, Mr. Stuart (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Skeet, Sir Trevor (North Bedfordshire)

Spearing, Mr. Nigel (Newham, South)

Taylor, Mr. Matthew, (Truro)

Thomason, Mr. Roy (Bromsgrove)

Trickett, Mr. Jon (Hemsworth)

Watson, Mr. Mike (Glasgow, Central)

Young, Mr. David (Bolton, South East)

Mr. M. Hennessy, Committee Clerk

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3 Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation Thursday 2 May 1996

[MRS. ANN WINTERTON in the Chair]

Draft Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1996

10.30 am

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee has considered the draft Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1996.—[Sir Nicholas Bonsor.]

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central): I am delighted to speak for everyone on this side of the Committee. I know that we are solid in our support for the order. It is a pleasure to take up the Minister's challenge. He said that the order went through the House of Lords in six minutes, and as he is now at pre-Olympic level I have plenty of time to play around with. We cannot fail to defeat the House of Lords, demonstrating once again the slow and niggardly nature of the second Chamber and the need for reform. The measure is clearly straightforward. It picks up the figures in the international oil pollution compensation fund and provides the normal privileges and immunities. It will make the system work in that sense, although there are other important issues about the environment and compensation, which it would not be in order for us to discuss this morning. Parliament will want to address those issues at some stage, especially after the Sea Empress incident and the time that it took to respond to some of the problems that arose from it. The order deals with small but important points concerning immunities and privileges, and we are delighted to back it.

10.33 am

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Sir Nicholas Bonsor): A protocol amending the 1971 fund convention was agreed in 1992 and the order will establish a new international oil pollution compensation fund, which will be a separate legal entity to be known as the 1992 fund. However, for practical purposes it will have the 4 same director and staff and will work in much the same way as the existing fund. The intention is that the 68 member states to the existing fund will gradually denounce the 1971 fund convention and ratify the 1992 protocols, until eventually the existing fund is dissolved. Under the transitional provisions of the protocols, the United Kingdom will be a member of both funds simultaneously for a period of up to two years, before being required to denounce the 1971 fund convention. The existing fund's headquarters are in the International Maritime Organisation's building in London, where it operates under the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1979, which the House approved in July of that year. The 1992 fund will be based there when the protocols come into force. The draft order is necessary to give effect in United Kingdom law to the draft headquarters agreement negotiated in respect of the 1992 fund. The privileges and immunities accorded are the same as those approved by the House in July 1979 for the existing fund. I emphasise that we consider that they are no more than is necessary for the effective operation of the 1992 fund in the United Kingdom. They are granted in accordance with the limitations imposed by the International Organisations Act 1968, as amended, under the provisions of which the order is made. The scale of privileges and immunities is broadly similar to that accorded to other international organisations having their headquarters here, except that the fund's immunity from suit is more limited in certain significant respects. For example, actions may be taken against the fund in the courts of this country in relation to the convention's compensation provisions. The order needs to be formally made at the meeting of the Privy Council on 15 May 1996 so that the headquarters agreement, which will enter into force on signature, and the order, can come into force on 30 May. It is for that reason that the Order is before the Committee today. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the draft instrument and had no comments, and I therefore commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1996.

Committee rose at twenty-six minutes to Eleven o'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Winterton, Mrs. Ann (Chairman)

Atkinson, Mr. Peter

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Conway, Mr.

Fatchett, Mr.

Greenway, Mr. John

Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Thomason, Mr.

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