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Diplomatic Status

Volume 702: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On how many occasions in the past 12 months civil action in respect of the commercial obligations of foreign diplomats accredited to the United Kingdom has been blocked because of the respondent's diplomatic immunity; and what were the countries concerned. [HL4135]

We are not aware of any such occasions in the past 12 months. There is no obligation on the courts or parties to a civil dispute to notify us of such cases.

The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that diplomats should not practise any professional or commercial activity for personal profit. We would therefore not expect diplomats posted to the UK to become involved in civil cases of a commercial nature.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether accredited foreign diplomats may use diplomatic immunity to avoid enforcement of commercial debts and obligations incurred in the course of business trading; and what steps they take if such an individual abuses diplomatic immunity to avoid commercial obligations. [HL4136]

The Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 provides that foreign diplomats do not enjoy immunity from civil or administrative jurisdiction for actions relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by diplomats outside their official functions. It would therefore not be possible for an individual to abuse diplomatic immunity to avoid commercial obligations.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to ensure that fully accredited diplomats are present in the United Kingdom solely or principally for undertaking diplomatic activity; and whether an individual with diplomatic status may be present in the United Kingdom principally for the purpose of carrying out business activity. [HL4137]

We would take a serious view of any foreign diplomat breaching the provisions of Article 42 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that “a diplomatic agent shall not in the receiving state practice for personal profit any professional or commercial activity”.

Appointments of foreign diplomats are notified to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on forms signed by the head of mission or their designate. Where necessary, we seek further clarification on appointments from the head of mission.