51.The Air Services Agreement between the UK and Iceland (the Air Services Agreement) was laid on 22 February 2021, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 13 April 2021. It was considered by the Committee on 24 March 2021.
52.The Agreement replaces the air services arrangements between the UK and Iceland under the Agreement on the European Economic Area (the EEA Agreement), which ceased to apply to the UK on 1 January. The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum (EM) notes that it provides “continuity of rights available to airlines of both sides and ensures the continuity of air services between the UK and Iceland”. To benefit from the Agreement, in addition to meeting the relevant regulatory requirements, airlines must be majority-owned and effectively controlled by the UK, EU, or EFTA states, or by their nationals.
53.The Agreement provides for both Parties to operate unlimited scheduled services:
54.Airlines can also fly across the other Party’s territory without landing, or make stops for non-traffic purposes in the other Party’s territory. Unlike the recent UK air services agreement with Norway, cabotage journeys are permitted.
55.The Agreement also sets out terms and conditions on related matters, including fair competition, pricing, customs duties and charges, aviation security, safety, code-sharing arrangements, aircraft leasing, and environmental protections.
56.The UK and Iceland signed a memorandum of understanding on the continued provision of air services on 12 December 2017. This has meant that the new Agreement could be applied in practice from 1 January, pending the completion of ratification procedures.
57.The EM notes that no new legislation is required to implement the Agreement.
58.Article 21 sets out that the Agreement can be amended by the Parties and that amendments will enter into force on exchange of diplomatic notes. The EM does not set out whether such amendments would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.
59.We refer to our previous recommendation that the explanatory materials should spell out the types of amendments the Government expects to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, and await proposals from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on how amendments will be notified.
60.The EM explains that the Agreement extends to the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
61.While air services are not a devolved matter, the EM acknowledges that the Agreement has an impact on the Devolved Administrations, “and the Devolved Administrations have been kept aware of the programme to transition EU-negotiated air services agreements”, as have the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. It is not clear from the EM whether they were consulted on this specific Agreement, and whether any significant concerns were raised.
62.The EM notes that regular consultations have taken place with the UK aviation industry on the roll-over of EU-negotiated air services agreements and that the industry was supportive of the UK-Iceland Air Services Agreement for ensuring “long-term continuity of the legal basis of air services”.
63.We welcome the Government’s confirmation that it has engaged with the UK aviation industry, and that the industry supports this specific Agreement. We however refer to our previous recommendation that the Government’s EM should include information about any significant issues raised by the DAs, or alternatively confirm that no significant concerns have been expressed.
65.The Headquarters Agreement between the UK and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (the Headquarters Agreement) was laid on 19 February 2021, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 25 March 2021. It was considered by the International Agreements Committee on 24 March 2021.
66.The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is an international mega-science project to build the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, comprising a series of telescopes located in South Africa and Australia. The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum (EM) notes that UK scientists and engineers have been involved in the SKA from the project’s inception in the early 1990s. In 2014, the UK Government announced funding of £100 million for the project and made a successful bid to host the global headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (the SKA Organisation) in the UK at Jodrell Bank, near Manchester.
67.The SKA Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation established under an international treaty—the Convention establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory—to oversee the delivery of the SKA. As such, it is comparable to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) or the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The UK Government ratified the Convention establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory in 2020, and that Convention has been in force since 15 January 2021. Among other things, it conferred privileges and immunities on the Organisation and on specified categories of individuals connected with the SKA Organisation. The Convention was laid under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 in 2019 and scrutinised by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC), which reported it as an ‘instrument of interest’ on 6 September 2019.
68.The SLSC noted that:
“The UK … plans to contribute around 16% of operating costs (around £85 million to 2025). The SKA will generate 35,000 DVDs-worth of data every second and, therefore, presents unprecedented technology challenges. The UK is leading consortiums for two SKA Work Packages—Signal and Data Transport, which handles the volume of data, and the Science Data Processor (SDP), led by Cambridge University, which is focusing on the technology that is needed to turn the data collected into useable science products. The Explanatory Memorandum laid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office states that the changes that SKA will inspire in high-performance computing are expected to alter the computing landscape for generations, with huge potential for societal and economic benefit.”
69.Fourteen countries are members of the SKA Organisation: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The cost of the SKA, including construction and the first 10 years of operations (2021–2030), is estimated to be around €1.9 billion.
70.The new Headquarters Agreement concerns the hosting of the Organisation in the UK and will regulate the relationship between the Organisation and the UK. The EM notes that its purpose “is to enable the Organisation to establish the Premises in the UK and operate at the Premises, and to ensure the efficient functioning of the Organisation, with a view to giving effect to the Convention”.
71.The EM highlights the fact that Chapter III of the Agreement sets out the right to have and display a flag and emblem, as well as the rights and obligations of personnel. Any relevant privileges and immunities granted under the Agreement are conferred in the interests of the Organisation, and are not for the personal benefit of its personnel.
72.The Headquarters Agreement establishes a Joint Consultative Committee to facilitate the implementation of the Agreement. Under Article 25, any dispute which cannot be resolved through consultation or an agreed alternative mode of settlement “may be submitted … by either Party to the Permanent Court of Arbitration for resolution in accordance with the terms of Article 14 of the Convention”.
73.A standard amendment clause provides that the Agreement may be amended in writing by the Parties. The EM notes that for the UK, “this would be subject to the procedures set out in Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010”.
74.The EM explains that no new legislation is needed to implement the Headquarters Agreement, since it can be implemented through the International Organisations Act 1968, the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2020 and The International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020.
75.It also notes that the Agreement extends to the United Kingdom and that the Devolved Administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland were consulted on the domestic implementing legislation. The EM states that there was no consultation with the DAs on the Headquarters Agreement, as it “implements provisions of an international agreement to which the UK is obliged to give effect as a matter of international law now that the Convention has entered into force”. We are satisfied with this explanation.
76.We report the Headquarters Agreement between the UK and Square Kilometre Array Observatory to the House for information.
56 Agreement, done at Reykjavik on 9 December 2020 and London on 16 December 2020, between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Iceland concerning Air Services, CP 386, 2021: [accessed 15 March 2021]
57 Agreement, done at Porto on May 2 1992, between the European Communities, their Member States and the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Finland, the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden and the Swiss Confederation (, 3 January 1994)
58 Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Iceland Concerning Air Services (22 February 2021) p 1: [accessed 25 March 2021]
59 The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is the intergovernmental organisation of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. It was set up in 1960 for the promotion of free trade and economic integration between its members.
60 Non-traffic stops are landings for any purpose other than taking on or discharging passengers, baggage, cargo or mail. They are usually for the purposes of refuelling or maintenance.
61 Cabotage refers to the transport of cargo, mail or passengers solely within a single country by a foreign operator. Cabotage was not transitioned in the bilateral air services agreement with Norway, see: International Agreements Committee, (7th Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 254)
62 Article 6
63 Article 7
64 Article 8
65 Article 9
66 Article 10
67 Article 11
68 Article 12
69 See also: European Union Committee, (42nd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 387)
70 Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Iceland Concerning Air Services (22 February 2021) p 3: [accessed 25 March 2021]
72 Headquarters Agreement, done at London on 3 February and Paris on 9 February 2021, between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, CP 396, 2021: [accessed 1 March 2021]
73 Mega-science projects are experiments or other projects with budgets in excess of 1bn US dollars.
74 Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Headquarters Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (19 February 2021): [accessed 25 March 2021]
75 On 29th April 2015, the Members of the SKA approved the UK HQ proposal by a majority vote. Jodrell Bank was recognised as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 2019 for its contributions to radio astronomy. See: UK Research and Innovation, ‘United Kingdom ratifies SKA Observatory Convention’: [accessed 25 March 2021]
76 Convention establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, CP 154, 2019: [accessed 25 march 2021]
77 Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (59th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 419)
78 Ibid., para 35
79 Square Kilometre Array, ‘The SKA Project’: [accessed 25 March 2021]
80 Covering members’ representatives, the Director General, members of staff and their families, and designated experts.
81 These rights and privileges extend, inter alia, to: Immunity from suit and legal process for the SKA Organisation (subject to the provisos already set out in in Article 2 of the Protocol to the Convention) (Article 4); Inviolability of the Premises (Article 8); Inviolability of Archives (Article 9 ); an exemption from “all direct taxation on its assets, property, income, gains, operations and transaction” (Article 10); Relief from duties (whether of customs or excise) and taxes on the importation of goods (including publications) imported by SKA Organisation for the purpose of its official activities (Article 11). Articles 13 and 14 extend certain rights and privileges to the Representatives of Members and to the Director-General, staff members and family members. These include immunity from suit and legal process, but this does not extend to road traffic offences and damage resulting from a vehicle driven by them. Article 19 provides that it is the duty of SKAO and all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities “to observe the laws and regulations of the United Kingdom” and sets out the circumstances where these privileges and immunities would be waived by the Organisation.
82 Article 18
83 The Permanent Court of Arbitration is an intergovernmental organisation providing a variety of dispute resolution services to the international community. It provides services for the resolution of disputes involving states, state entities, intergovernmental organisations, and private parties.
84 Article 23