First Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation
Tuesday 16 September 2003
[Mr. Nigel Beard in the Chair]
Draft Vienna Document 1999
(Privileges and Immunities) Order 2003
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document 1999 (Privileges and Immunities) Order 2003.
The order was laid before the House on 3 July 2003, together with an explanatory memorandum now required for all affirmative statutory instruments. The purpose of the order is straightforward; to confer privileges and immunities on observers, inspectors, evaluators and auxiliary personnel in accordance with the United Kingdom's political commitments under the Vienna Document 1999 of the negotiations on confidence and security-building measures. The order is necessary for the United Kingdom to give effect in domestic law to these provisions and is being made under section 1(2) of the Arms Control and Disarmament (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1988.
The Vienna Document 1999, which was adopted on 16 November 1999 and came into effect on 1 January 2000 is the latest version of a package of measures that first took shape in the Stockholm Document of 1986. It is designed to increase military transparency and predictability. The original confidence and security-building measures agreed in Stockholm were primarily concerned with monitoring certain military activities of the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries. The Vienna Document of 1990, which was followed by the Vienna Documents of 1992, 1994 and now 1999 built upon those confidence and security-building measures. The Vienna Documents have evolved since 1986 to keep pace with the changing political map of Europe.
The Vienna Document 1999 contains a number of revisions and enhancements, including expanding the possibilities for exchange of information between states, encouraging states to promote regional measures tailored to specific regional needs and promoting a wide range of military contact activities and seminars between state parties. The Vienna Document deals with conventional, but not nuclear, forces and applies to all 55 states of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
As the House is well aware, a necessary component in any arms control regime is the ability to monitor compliance with the regime's obligations. Under the Vienna Document 1999 and previous documents, this is done by means of observations, evaluations and short-notice on-site challenge inspections, carried out by representatives of participating states. The document requires that certain persons—observers, evaluators and inspectors, together with accompanying auxiliary personnel such as drivers or
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interpreters—be granted privileges and immunities in accordance with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations during their missions.
The number of missions to the United Kingdom is not likely to be high. Since the confidence and security-building measures regime came into operation in 1987, the United Kingdom has received three inspections, hosted three observations and received fifteen evaluation visits. These events were completed successfully and without any complaints or objections from participating states.
The present order gives effect to the provisions of the latest version of the Vienna Document. However, the level of privileges and immunities accorded to observers, inspectors, evaluators and auxiliary personnel is unchanged from that provided for in earlier Vienna Documents. Privileges and immunities were conferred by a 1992 Order in Council, which the present order revokes. Regrettably, it has taken a while to implement the privileges and immunities provisions of the 1999 Vienna Document. But the delay has not, as far as we are aware, caused any practical difficulties and there have been no instances where inspection or evaluation teams in the UK have sought to invoke immunity. The present order ensures that there can be no doubt about the status of the individuals involved in carrying out inspections, observations and evaluations in the United Kingdom by ensuring that we update legislation to refer to the 1999 Vienna Document.
I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European convention on human rights. I trust that this important measure, which reinforces existing provisions, will have the full support of the Committee.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): I thank the Under-Secretary for setting out the order and I am pleased to be able to support what he said.
The OSCE performs excellent work throughout Europe and the Vienna Documents have been vital to promoting security and confidence-building measures across Europe. It has done much to ensure that there is peace and trust between European countries. As the OSCE says,
''mutual security relations should be based on a cooperative approach.''
It is correct to say that
''co-operative security requires a true partnership based on mutual accountability, transparency and confidence at both the domestic and foreign policy levels.''
I am happy to support this worthy organisation in its work. However, I have one or two questions for the Under-Secretary, to which he may wish to respond by letter. He will be aware that the 1999 Vienna Document adopted a chapter on regional security. Does the order relate more directly than he described to that initiative?
In respect of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's suspension from the OSCE, will Serbian and Montenegrin officials enjoy the immunities and privileges conferred by the statutory instrument? I
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am grateful to the Under-Secretary for explaining how the 1999 document differs from the 1992 document in terms of expanding information. This matter is utterly non-controversial and I am happy to accept what he says.
The OSCE is a widespread organisation, stretching from Portugal to Tajikistan. It is likely that more countries will join the OSCE. Would participation in the organisation involve the same sort of immunities and privileges conferred on it under the existing structures?
Mr. Colin Breed (South-East Cornwall): The Liberal Democrats wholly support this sensible measure. Probably it will have to be revised regularly, which is a testament to the fact that international relations are moving in the right
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direction. Such confidence-building measures need to be kept up to date, and we very much support that.
Mr. Rammell: The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) asked about regional security and I can tell him that the work in regional areas is not defined. Serbia and Montenegro have been re-submitted, but I shall follow up both of these questions in writing. On the question of the OSCE members, they are now party to the 1999 document. I hope that reassures the hon. Gentleman.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Vienna Document (Privileges and Immunities) Order 2003.
Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Three o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
Beard, Mr. Nigel (Chairman)
Allen, Mr. Graham
Murphy, Mr. Jim
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe and Linesdale)