Draft International Criminal Court (Immunities and Privileges) and Draft Specialized Agencies of the United Nations (Immunities and Privileges of Unesco) Order 2001

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Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): Parliament comes first.

Mr. Chidgey: I heard that. Perhaps the votes of the hon. Members for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) and for Chesham and Amersham are not relevant to the discussion that will be taking place in another Room at 5 o'clock. I would continue to refer to that discussion, but I do not want to incur your wrath, Mr. Griffiths, even if I were to receive unexpected support from Opposition Members.

During the passage of the 2001 Act and subsequently, concern was expressed in some quarters about the slowness with which states were agreeing to ratify the International Criminal Court statute. The United States of America has expressed anxiety about the way in which the measure might affect its service personnel. Will the Minister give us an update on the discussions held by the British Government to persuade the US Government that the ICC needs the support of all the major powers if it is to work effectively? In that context, does the recent action of the US Government in allowing a US service man to face a criminal charge in Japan provide some indication of the way in which their mind is working?

I repeat that we have no quarrel with the orders. We vigorously supported the passage of the 2001 Act through the Parliament and we welcome the establishment of the International Criminal Court. We look forward to the Government using their influence to get as many countries as possible to ratify as quickly as possible.

4.44 pm

Peter Hain: May I say that my initial remark was meant as a generous offer of support and welcome to you, Mr. Griffiths? I worked closely with you in the Welsh Office and I look forward to continuing to do so in future, whatever exalted position you might hold.

It is always a pleasure to debate with the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham and it is nice to have her generous support. I thought that the usual channels had deliberately arranged the timing of the Committee so that it would be convenient for her and her hon. Friends to nip along to the hustings. Perhaps I was mistaken.

The hon. Lady asked whether the 1974 order needed to be changed. That is a legitimate question, as are all her questions. The 1974 order will apply as amended, as stated in the UNESCO order. She asked how many countries had ratified: the figure she has—36—is correct. Sixty are needed to bring the treaty into force and the prospects are good. We hope to ratify soon and, internationally, the signs are that ratifications will continue, with the possibility that the total number of ratifications will reach 60 early next year. To respond to the question asked by the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey), it is probable that the United States will, regrettably, not be one of those, but we will continue to press the US to join up and ratify along with other countries.

Mrs. Gillan: Does the Minister have a date in mind for UK ratification? Clearly, it is strongly linked to events in the Scottish Parliament. What discussions has he had on the matter?

Peter Hain: We would like to ratify as soon as possible—our objective is to do so later this year. The Scottish Parliament will consider the draft order, which falls under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 procedure, in September. It is entirely separate from Scotland's ICC Bill. The draft order will not go to the Privy Council until the Scottish Parliament has given its consent, which should happen before the end of the UK Parliament's summer recess.

The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham asked detailed questions, and she deserves a detailed response—albeit one that will not detain her for too long and will allow her to attend the hustings. We attach considerable importance to being able to fulfil our commitments under the ICC statute from day one, including affording the required privileges and immunities to its key staff. However, the statute only deals with the top echelon of personnel—judges, prosecutors and so on. The details of the privileges and immunities appropriate to other members of staff will be set out in a privileges and immunities document to be adopted by the first Assembly of States Parties, which is still under negotiation. We shall provide for the details of that agreement after the Assembly of States Parties has adopted it, but the judges, prosecutor, deputy prosecutors and the registrar need immunities and privileges to function as soon as they take up their positions. That is why we are introducing the order today.

In addition, we are considering the order today rather than waiting for the Scottish Parliament—not that we expect delay or difficulty in that respect—simply because it falls easily within the parliamentary timetable. We thought that we would get on with it, rather than wait and find ourselves in a queue afterwards. We should be able to introduce the second order at the appropriate time, which is soon after the Assembly of States Parties has met.

To respond to the hon. Member for Eastleigh in more detail, we are continuing discussions at all levels with the Administration of George W. Bush. We are making the case for supporting the ICC and we shall continue to do so. I hope that I have responded to all of the points raised, and I look forward to the Committee's support.

4.49 pm

Mrs. Gillan: Notwithstanding the generosity of the Liberal Democrat spokesman and the Minister, if I felt that detaining members of the Committee any longer was necessary, I would have taken the full time allotted to scrutinise the draft orders.

I thank the Minister for the way in which he dealt with the points I raised, but I emphasise my belief that the cart is being put before the horse. It is unseemly to have rushed through the order without waiting for the Scottish Parliament. There seems no good reason to slip the measure through in this way at the beginning of the Session, especially in view of the fact that it will be some time—although the Minister cannot even tell us how long—before the draft ICC order applies. There will be plenty of opportunities to consider it after the UK has ratified and there seems to be no reason to hurry to get the order on the books.

Having said that, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. We, too, supported the proposals for the International Criminal Court, although we had some problems with the final details. We reserve our position as to the implications for the armed forces in

this country and will scrutinise events to ensure that our armed forces are fully protected, as that was not entirely covered during the passage of the Act. However, like both other speakers in the debate, I welcome the principles behind the International Criminal Court. I am sure that, in due course, it will get off the ground and the order will come into force.

4.50 pm

Peter Hain: I do not want to detain the Committee any longer, but I should inform hon. Members that stage three of the Scottish Parliament's proceedings will take place on 12 September. It is not possible to ratify the treaty until the order has gone through, which is why we are putting it through now—not, I think, with unseemly haste but for the sake of convenience, including that of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft International Criminal Court (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2001.



    That the Committee has considered the draft Specialized Agencies of the United Nations (Immunities and Privileges of UNESCO) Order 2001.—[Mr. Hain.]

        Committee rose at eight minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Calton, Patsy
Caplin, Mr.
Chidgey, Mr.
Crausby, Mr.
Field, Mr. Mark
Fisher, Mr.
Flint, Caroline
Gillan, Mrs.
Hain, Peter
Jackson, Glenda
King, Andy
Luff, Mr.
McWalter, Mr.
Pound, Mr.

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