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Draft International Atomic Energy Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023

Debated on Wednesday 28 June 2023

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Edward Leigh

† Afolami, Bim (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)

† Ansell, Caroline (Eastbourne) (Con)

† Brennan, Kevin (Cardiff West) (Lab)

† Cox, Sir Geoffrey (Torridge and West Devon) (Con)

† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)

† Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds North East) (Lab)

† Harris, Rebecca (Comptroller of His Majesty's Household)

† Lavery, Ian (Wansbeck) (Lab)

Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† Mackrory, Cherilyn (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)

† Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con)

† Morris, James (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

† Morton, Wendy (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con)

Osborne, Kate (Jarrow) (Lab)

Ribeiro-Addy, Bell (Streatham) (Lab)

† Trevelyan, Anne-Marie (Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

† Wright, Sir Jeremy (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)

Paul Owen, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 28 June 2023

[Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Draft International Atomic Energy Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft International Atomic Energy Agency (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2023.

The draft order was laid before Parliament on 5 June in accordance with section 10(1) of the International Organisations Act 1968; a correction was made on 7 June to amend an error in a date to which it referred. The order is subject to the affirmative procedure and will be made once it has been approved by both Houses, before being put to the Privy Council.

The primary purpose of the draft order is to correct an omission in the privileges and immunities granted to the International Atomic Energy Agency under the International Atomic Energy Agency (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1974. In the 1959 agreement on the privileges and immunities of the IAEA, which was signed by the UK in 1961, the UK agreed to provide privileges and immunities to representatives of agency members attending

“any international conference, symposium, seminar or panel convened by”

the agency. In the 1974 order, this language was not entirely reflected. The amendment we propose will allow the UK to fulfil its obligations to provide privileges and immunities to representatives of members attending events in the UK convened by the agency. It will also clarify that “representatives of members”, as defined in the 1959 agreement, include

“governors of the Agency’s Board of Governors and representatives, alternates, advisers, technical experts and secretaries of delegations”.

The Government consider these privileges and immunities both necessary and appropriate to deliver on the interests and commitments that the UK has towards the agency. They are within the scope of the International Organisations Act and are in line with UK precedents. The amending order will confer no new privileges and immunities but will expand the range of meetings to which they apply, in line with the 1959 agreement. The provisions of that agreement have previously been applied operationally, and meetings of the agency have been held in the UK without incident. However, we cannot continue to bear the risk of our domestic legislation’s provisions being at odds with our international treaty obligations. It is therefore right that this amending order be passed to enable the UK fully to meet its commitment to provide privileges and immunities to representatives of members attending agency meetings in the UK.

The agency was established in 1957 to enable the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. It plays a critical global role in developing and promoting high standards of nuclear safety and security, in verifying that nuclear technologies are being used for peaceful purposes, and in supporting nuclear science and research. The UK fully supports the agency’s work. The agency is an important partner in achieving UK objectives on global security, non-proliferation and energy security. It provides an important forum for the UK nuclear industry to share its world-leading expertise and to collaborate with international partners.

One example of our commitment to collaboration is that in October this year we will be pleased to host the 29th IAEA fusion energy conference in London. The fusion energy conference represents an important opportunity to showcase the UK’s world-leading fusion energy research, institutions and scientists. Researchers from around the world will gather to discuss the theory and practice of fusion energy, including the pathway to industrial deployment.

Correcting the omission in the 1974 order will allow the UK to meet its internationally agreed obligations and ensure the successful delivery of the IAEA fusion energy conference in the UK. It will also facilitate the continued hosting of a wide range of agency events here in the UK, allowing the UK nuclear industry to continue its close collaboration with nuclear researchers and operators from around the world. I commend the draft order to the Committee.

I thank the Minister for setting out the draft order for the Committee. The International Atomic Energy Agency is a vital international body, as we have heard, and has played a significant role in nuclear non-proliferation. His Majesty’s Opposition recognise the important work that it does in ensuring that nuclear technology is used for peaceful purposes. As the order has our support, I will keep my remarks and questions brief.

As has been outlined, the draft order will correct discrepancies in a 1974 order that implemented a 1959 immunities agreement with the IAEA. The 1974 order gives immunities and privileges to representatives attending a limited range of events, but the 1959 treaty agreed that these should apply for a much broader range of visits.

My questions for the Minister are about why it has taken almost 50 years to realise the error in the original order, whether anyone has been incorrectly prosecuted as a result of the original error, and finally—I think she has already answered this question—how the Government are preparing to support the 29th fusion energy conference, which will be hosted by the IAEA in London in October.

Could the Minister also tell us how the discrepancy was discovered 49 years after it occurred—obviously, there have been various Governments in between—and was so serious that it needed to be rectified today?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, which was precisely the one that I was going to ask at the end.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their contributions and their support. The error was spotted during a review of the terms of the IAEA invitation in order to host the forthcoming conference. It was then agreed that the correction should be made to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations under the 1959 agreement.

I am unaware whether there have been other conferences since 1974 when we might have noticed and did not, but I will happily test that with officials and ask them to write to colleagues, as required. I trust that the Committee will support the order.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.