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Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and International Committee of the Red Cross (Status) Bill

Volume 838: debated on Friday 17 May 2024

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, before moving to the substance of the Bill, I will say how much I welcome, with a heavy heart, the valedictory speech of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who has been a stalwart on the Cross Benches for many decades. We hope very much that he will continue to talk and write on those subjects in which he has long experience and great expertise. I look forward to that, but, as I say, with a heavy heart.

This is a short and, I trust, uncontroversial cross-party Bill which has come to this Chamber having passed Second Reading unanimously in the other place. In brief, the Bill seeks to alter the legal status of two international organisations: the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, in respect of which I declare an interest as a member of the executive committee; and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Both organisations have their own unique constitutional arrangements, reflecting their specific mandates, which now need to be updated.

The Bill will enable the Government to treat the CPA and the ICRC in a way comparable to other international organisations—for example, the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Swiss law and the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie in French law. Prior to the Bill, this was not possible because neither organisation fell within the scope of existing powers under the International Organisations Act 1968, as neither organisation is an inter-governmental body.

At present, the CPA operates as a UK-registered charity regulated by UK charitable law. It is sometimes perceived as a UK institution, rather than an international one. The organisation builds support for parliamentary democracy by recognising, with a non-partisan approach, the national and sub-national contexts of its members. The organisation, reflecting the wider Commonwealth, with 108 member Parliaments, wishes to have the freedom to undertake wider activities in promoting democracy and protecting the values and principles set out in the Commonwealth charter. In so doing, the CPA secretariat would be able to enjoy privileges and immunities, as set out in Part 2 of the Schedule, similar to those of the Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth of Learning and any number of other international organisations.

The ICRC operates in accordance with its international mandate of strict adherence to principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, as well as its working method of confidentiality. This necessary confidentiality extends to court testimony and is accepted by the UK informally. However, UK law, unlike that in other countries in which the ICRC operates, does not provide statutory protection for this fundamental working practice, most especially in conflict zones. The Bill is therefore crucial in enabling ICRC life-saving humanitarian activities, in conformity with its fundamental principles.

This paving Bill, having six clauses and one schedule, creates the power, by means of an Order in Council, to confer the legal capacity of a body corporate on the CPA and the ICRC. Clauses 1 and 2 specify the secretary-general of the CPA and named officers of the ICRC who may be accorded privileges and immunities. These privileges and immunities do not extend to those other than the secretary-general of the CPA and do not affect branches. In the case of the ICRC, the Bill allows for certain confidential information that the ICRC shares with the UK Government to be exempted from legal disclosure requirements, whether in civil UK court proceedings or in tribunals. It grants both organisations certain privileges and immunities commensurate with each of its functional needs, and it provides that references to international organisations in general legislation henceforth include the CPA and the ICRC.

The Bill will allow bespoke enabling powers, by means of secondary legislation, for the CPA and the ICRC to operate as international bodies in the UK, with the attendant privileges and immunities. The powers specific to each organisation will be subject to the monarch’s approval and draft affirmative parliamentary procedure, which requires the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

The exact privileges and immunities for both organisations, their property, information and personnel, set out in Parts 1 and 2 of the Schedule, will be drawn up by the Government according to the functional needs of both organisations and will be detailed in separate written arrangements. Those arrangements will be agreed with both the relevant organisations through prior consultation. These privileges and immunities would normally refer to immunity from such things as legal process, inviolability of archives and premises, and exemptions from tax and duty, as set out in Article 23 of the 1961 convention articles.

There are clear reasons why this status should be conferred on both the CPA and the ICRC. The CPA’s current legal status has been a contentious topic of discussion for many years within the CPA, and many previous attempts to remedy it have led to frustration and even threatened the CPA’s stability due to possible fragmentation. Several member countries have said that membership fees might be withheld if action such as that set out in this Bill was not forthcoming. Given that the CPA is almost 90% dependent on membership fees for its operations, this would be a serious blow. The CPA governing body agreed at the CPA’s annual conferences of 2022 and 2023 that should a new legal status fail to be achieved, the headquarters should be relocated to a member state that would provide the organisation with such legal recognition and the related privileges and immunities. Given that the overwhelming majority of other Commonwealth organisations are headquartered in the UK, this would affect the UK’s involvement, in part due to its regular links with the number of Commonwealth diplomatic missions based in London.

The new legal status would strengthen the influence of the CPA and provide for a more authoritative international presence. For example, at a time when the international order, parliamentary democracy and human rights generally face serious challenge, a new status will encourage members to work together on a level playing field and occupy equal standing in international forums. Above all, gaining international status would enable other parliamentary strengthening partners to see the CPA as a credible, and possibly even preferred, partner for those legislatures involved in capacity building.

The ICRC’s unique international humanitarian mandate and mission have been recognised by more than 110 states, which have accorded it international organisation status. This Bill would ensure that equivalent treatment was given to the ICRC within the UK legal system. The relevant privileges and immunities granted are crucial if the ICRC is to continue its UK operations in accordance with its international mandate.

I very much hope that this paving Bill will have an uncomplicated passage in your Lordships’ House. There will be an opportunity later in its passage to thank all those who have long worked to bring it to this advanced stage and, with luck, on to the statute book. Meanwhile, I beg to move.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, on sponsoring the Bill and on her cogent explanation of its importance. I also congratulate my right honourable friend Dame Maria Miller on her leadership on this Bill in another place, where she secured cross-party and government support.

I strongly support the Bill. It is right that the Bill should change the status of the CPA and the ICRC to ensure that the Government can treat them in a similar way to that in which they treat international organisations of which the UK is a member. Currently, neither organisation falls within the scope of existing powers, as the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, explained. Therefore, the Government cannot confer on them the legal capacities of a body corporate unless this Bill is passed, nor grant the organisations and their staff privileges and immunities that are appropriate for their functional needs.

As a member of CPA UK, I have been impressed by the opportunities we are given to liaise with and learn from fellow parliamentarians across the Commonwealth. In particular, I commend the training relating to membership of Select Committees. In addition to having discussions in Westminster with members of other visiting Commonwealth parliamentary select committees, I was a member of a small delegation to Botswana to meet members of several of its parliamentary select committees. Throughout this process, we were learning from each other. As Chair of the International Relations and Defence Committee of this House at the time, I found that very productive.

The CPA advises us that, as a UK charity, it is limited in its ability to carry out certain activities that would assist in promoting democracy, human rights and democratic values within the Commonwealth. It is therefore all the more important to pass this Bill, which would enable the CPA to widen its activities and participate in an even more active promotion of democracy.

The importance of the work of the ICRC is very well known. Within a month of being appointed as a Minister for Human Rights about 10 years ago, I visited its headquarters in Geneva and met Peter Maurer, its then president. Under his redoubtable leadership, the ICRC carried out humanitarian work in more than 80 countries. That invaluable work continues apace today.

Until now, the UK has not taken steps to grant the privileges and immunities to the ICRC that have already been granted by more than 100 other states. We can put that right by passing this Bill and protect its ability to act as, and be perceived as, a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian actor that protects the confidentiality of its work where it is appropriate to do so. I note that parts of Clause 2 put into effect an amendment that was agreed in another place to provide for protected ICRC information to be exempt from disclosure except in circumstances where there was a court order in criminal proceedings or where information had been published by the ICRC. That seems an appropriate way forward, and I cannot see the need for any further amendments to the Bill.

I am keenly aware of the trust put in those who work for the ICRC by people who live in traumatic circumstances, enduring armed conflict and other situations of violence around the world. Privileges and immunities are indispensable tools for the ICRC to carry out its vital work.

I join the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza—I call her my noble friend—in looking forward to hearing from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. My only disappointment is that it will be his valedictory speech. He has been a stalwart Member of this House, maintaining high standards of informed contributions to our debates and to the work of all-party groups such as that on Sudan and South Sudan. I thank him.

I support the Bill and wish it swift progress through this House.

My Lords, the noble Baronesses, Lady D’Souza and Lady Anelay, have outlined out in some detail why this Bill is necessary—I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, on sponsoring it. We should also congratulate Maria Miller in the Commons, who has brought this issue forward time and again and been persistent in ensuring that progress was made. It is clear from what has been said already that we need this legislation to give extra protection to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and I want to say a few words about why the CPA is worth supporting and assisting in this way. It is unusual legislation, as has been mentioned, but it is justified, and I am really pleased that this issue will be resolved.

I think that many Members know that I had a long parliamentary career in another place. During that time, I did not have a great deal of contact with the CPA; I did not go on many delegations, but I occasionally met people who were here. That was partly because I had young children; it was also because I was on the Front Bench—the successful one and the other one on different occasions. That is very time consuming—I see the Whip nodding—and Members of Parliament do not always get the time to think of these wider issues in the way that they would wish.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, especially when I was Minister for Defence and International Security, I did travel—and on those ministerial visits you very often meet other Ministers and members of the Executive, or speaking at conferences. All that was very useful and could be productive; it could be frustrating, but it was productive at times as well. During my time on the Back Benches in this House, I have had the time and privilege to be a member of two or three CPA delegations and I have to say that it opened my eyes to the fact that a CPA delegation—parliamentarians to parliamentarians—is actually somewhat different from any other contact that we have, whether as Ministers or in any other role.

Perhaps it is hard to put a finger on it, but you can see areas of joint concern, such as codes of conduct, registrations of interest and things of that kind. That two-way discussion has a different dynamic from the ministerial Executive-to-Executive discussions. It is a great help to parliamentarians, and I think it will continue to be important as parliamentarians around the world face new challenges, such as those that come with social media, which are affecting all of us and which we need to think about together as we consider how to prepare and defend ourselves in those circumstances.

Another aspect of CPA work that has been particularly valuable has been learning from each other and spreading best practice. It can be interesting and it can be challenging. I recall chairing a mock Select Committee hearing, where I was asked what I would like the topic to be. I said that I would like it to be domestic violence, because that was a particular problem in that particular country. Bringing people together and showing how a Select Committee can be constructive even in difficult circumstances was very valuable there. I recall meeting a new chair of a country’s PAC and inviting them back here to meet and talk to people here. We also have a network of clerks from the Commonwealth who reinforce each other’s experience and have a camaraderie, which is very important.

I also want to emphasise that this is not one way. When I was Leader of the House of Commons in 1997 and established the modernisation committee, one thing that we heard about was another Commonwealth country that had a second Chamber to allow debates on constituency issues and particular topics. It was that experience and that learning that led to the creation of the Westminster Hall debates, which have been very valuable for Members of Parliament. So the CPA helps us as well as it helps other people. If we are intent on protecting parliamentary democracy, we should continue to give the CPA all the support that we can.

My Lords, I shall be very brief. I put my name down to speak in this debate because I have had a long-standing interest in the work of the CPA and the commendable work of the Commonwealth and the Red Cross. I also put my name down because, as a Cross-Bencher who has sat next to my noble friend Lord Sandwich for more than 20 years, I wanted to commend him for his extraordinary work.

The Commonwealth and the CPA have achieved so much after so many years in promoting collaboration between the 56 member states, strengthening parliamentary democracy, assisting those who are sadly victims of conflict and violence and promoting humanitarian relief.

I shall briefly talk about my noble friend Lord Sandwich. He has worked tirelessly, as many noble Lords have mentioned, in international development, promoting humanitarian aid, poverty reduction and conflict resolution with countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Myanmar, Afghanistan and many others. He will be sorely missed in your Lordships’ House.

I addressed the Digital Commonwealth Mansion House summit just two weeks ago on delivering fit-for-purpose cross-border regulations on digital assets across the Commonwealth, which will hugely enhance financial inclusion, promote innovation and, just as importantly, provide more accountability. I have always had huge respect for the exceptional work of the CPA, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross. My noble friend Lady D’Souza has eloquently covered all the objectives and the provisions of this Bill, which I shall not repeat, but they are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The point was well made that, without this Bill, there would be a strong possibility that the CPA would need to relocate its headquarters outside the UK.

In conclusion, it is rare, ahead of a forthcoming general election, that there is cross-party support for a Bill. In this regard, I wish the Bill a speedy passage.

My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Commonwealth. Like others, I am greatly looking forward to hearing the valedictory speech from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I cannot quite understand why he is going, actually—he seems to be quite a young man to me. His speeches are very young indeed, and of course we shall miss them, because he covers the whole world with great acumen and perception.

Like others, I warmly welcome the Bill. I shall talk entirely about the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association aspect and leave others to deal with the ICRC. I know it may not excite headlines, but there are some important messages about our future and the world ahead contained in this legislation. I congratulate Dame Maria Miller on her persistence in bringing it forward—because of course it is not a new Bill or a new idea—and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, on promoting it in her excellent opening speech.

There are those who belittle the Commonwealth as a yesterday affair, but this really betrays a total misunderstanding of the way in which the world is going and the Commonwealth is evolving, and of its centrality to Britain’s position in an utterly transformed world. The CPA is a network within an even bigger—indeed, gigantic—network covering almost a third of humankind. Our late Queen called the Commonwealth an entirely new conception and

“in many ways the face of the future”.

Obviously, it is so statistically, since 66% of its 2.6 billion members are under 29. Far from declining or failing, it is actually growing in membership, with more states applying or interested all the time. In fact, it has become, and has been described by experts as, a haven for independent nations, large and small, young and older—the so-called “neo non-aligned countries”—in what is seen as a divided world of great power hegemonies, from both of which they want to stay as clear as possible.

In a multipolar and populist-driven age, international organisations are becoming much less the monopolies of Governments and remote officialdom and far more the province of popular involvement and influence of peoples as well as Governments—that is, of soft power and understanding as against openly aggressive positions and disputes. So here is an increasing middle ground between citizens and the state, the public and the Executive, with dwindling trust on either side. On that middle ground sit parliamentary institutions of many shapes and sizes. So it is vital that Commonwealth Parliaments should have their proper status and platform in the changing global democratic architecture, both drawing from it and giving strength to it, as the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, rightly emphasised. The Bill greatly helps to consolidate that status.

I know that diplomats, even in our own great Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, are sometimes puzzled by the Commonwealth’s status, being half a people’s affair, half governmental and official. They are puzzled by where and how it fits in to the transformed international order, if order is what we call it. The Bill will remind everyone that in this new landscape, the associations and alliances of peoples that endure will be those that are voluntary, like-minded, not overcentralised, and generally upholding the rule of law, implemented by independent judiciaries.

Maybe Commonwealth Governments and leaders differ and argue, as they do, on specific issues, but what unites them is now becoming stronger all the time than what pulls them apart, because it is rooted in the ancient principles emanating from this old nation of ours, established painfully over centuries; namely, free speech, parliamentary government and democratic practices, which of course means not just elections but the behaviour of democracies, by which I mean the upholding of human rights, courtesy, honesty in presenting issues to the people, respect, good manners—very important—and many other qualities you cannot actually enshrine in law but are essential to make democracies and parliamentary systems work. Of course, most of the Commonwealth is bound by the common language of English, which is now the protocol of the planet.

Parliaments will pay a bigger role in preserving our freedoms in the future, or at least they will if they reform themselves, adjust to the new age of internet governance and use much smarter methods to call the Executive to account than we do at present. We will find that the Commonwealth will play a larger, not a smaller, role in the future international networks of the parliaments of this planet. This Bill brings that future, clouded though it may sometimes seem by the present turmoil and troubles, a little nearer and it deserves our strongest support and commitment, without doubt.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, with his staunch support of the Commonwealth. He is a former president of the Royal Commonwealth Society, of which I am a friend. I declare my interests as set out in the register, as the former chair of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for introducing this very important Bill in the Lords, and the right honourable Member for Basingstoke for her championing of the Bill in its legislative journey.

The Commonwealth of Nations, as a unique non-treaty organisation, is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. Its great value is its incredible diversity. If the Commonwealth has a superpower, I think it might be the rich insight that its diversity brings to its 2.6 billion citizens. Commonwealth nations comprise some of the world’s largest and smallest nations geographically; some of its richest and poorest countries economically; and some of its most populous nations and some countries with among the smallest populations in the world. Yet, despite these incredible differences in scale, history, climate and economy, they work together with common values in pursuit of shared goals. Its members are bound together by adherence to certain shared values and principles, as set out in the Commonwealth charter.

In my previous career as a publisher, I was privileged to visit more than 40 Commonwealth member states. I spoke at several conferences of Commonwealth Education Ministers, one of which happened just this week, as well as attending many of the important Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. This experience has enabled me to see, first-hand, the fantastic work done and contributions made by many of the 87 Commonwealth-accredited organisations. This particular and important legal status is conferred on certain bodies by their being intergovernmental organisations; for example, the excellent Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth of Learning.

This brings me, not too belatedly, I hope, to the purpose of the Bill. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—CPA—plays a pivotal role in the promotion of democratic governance across the Commonwealth of Nations. It is the glue that binds these diverse nations together and one of the oldest organisations within the Commonwealth. The CPA’s constitution requires it to pursue the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy, and the core values and principles of the Commonwealth on democracy, development, equality, gender, human rights and the protection of the environment, as declared by the Commonwealth charter. The CPA has played an essential role in promoting these values, and in training Commonwealth parliamentarians and their staff to embody and uphold them.

The CPA currently supports some 17,000 elected members and their staff. It operates in all the Commonwealth regions, across 180 branch legislatures and in nearly all the member nations. It is something of an anomaly, then, that the CPA does not have the status of an international organisation, because technically it is not intergovernmental. It is, in fact, a UK-registered charity, as mentioned by several noble Lords, headquartered here, within the Westminster Parliamentary Estate. The Bill seeks to resolve this issue. Changing the status of the CPA to make it an “international interparliamentary organisation” will strengthen the organisation and enable its staff to avail themselves of additional immunities and privileges, as several noble Lords have said, as they strive to uphold the values we all hold so dear, in sometimes challenging environments.

In our increasingly dangerous world, with autocracy on the rise, the CPA will play a vital role in supporting Commonwealth parliamentarians and the soft power of the Commonwealth in ensuring that we hold firm to the essential values of the charter. It will help keep the flame of hope alive, providing a beacon against the deepening political darkness and ensuring that we can light the way for our diverse family of nations, so that the next generation of politicians can continue fighting for our shared values: respect for all other states and peoples, concern for the vulnerable, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I hope noble Lords will join me in supporting the Bill.

Before I sit down, I just wish to say that, as a relatively new Member of this House, I have not had the pleasure of meeting the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, but I really look forward to hearing his valedictory speech, which I regret will be his last.

My Lords, I welcome this Bill and I commend the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for sponsoring it. It is a privilege to speak before the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. As a relatively new Member of this House, I look forward to his speech and I am sorry that it will be a valedictory speech.

I will focus my remarks on the ICRC. Of the two institutions, it is the one with which I am more familiar, both through my practice at the Bar and through my work as an international law academic. In fact, my academic home for many years was the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law in Cambridge, which hosted the ICRC and British Red Cross researchers who worked on the Customary International Humanitarian Law Project. Promoting and working for the faithful application of IHL is one of the core functions that the ICRC has under the Geneva conventions, but of course most of the ICRC’s work is on the ground. Its key functions under the conventions include assistance to victims of armed conflict and, very importantly, serving as an intermediary between parties to armed conflicts. It is especially for this work that the ICRC needs at least some of the privileges and immunities normally accorded to international organisations.

That said, the grant of privileges and immunities is not something that should be agreed to lightly. It means, in effect, that organisations, individuals and their activities are placed outside the reach of the law. The approach of the Bill, quite sensibly, in my view, is to look at the International Organisations Act 1968 as the model. That means that the specific extent of the privileges and immunities that are to be granted to the ICRC and to the CPA is going to be set out in an Order in Council. There is, however, one important difference. Section 1(6) of the International Organisations Act provides that the Order in Council

“shall be so framed as to secure … that the privileges and immunities conferred by the Order are not greater in extent than those which, at the time when the Order takes effect, are required to be conferred”

under the relevant treaty; in other words, in deciding how much immunity and how many privileges are to be granted to an international organisation, His Majesty’s Government would begin by looking at what the relevant treaty says. These treaties will normally be very complex and detailed legal documents such as the UN Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies.

In the case of the CPA and the ICRC, we do not have a treaty that sets out all of the detailed provisions. In paragraph 4, the Explanatory Notes say:

“It is proposed that the Government will conclude written arrangements with the ICRC and CPA which will set out the parameters of the status change. They will include the privileges and immunities which the Government has decided to confer on the organisations”.

Differently from the case of international organisations under the International Organisations Act, we will get the legal document that specifies the extent of the privileges and immunities after the legislation. The document will not be the result of a treaty-making process, but it will reflect what the Government consider appropriate to grant. As I said, the analogy between the ICRC and international organisations, while not a perfect fit, is the best we have. I appreciate that the approach proposed by the Bill remains the most practical one.

It is important to be reassured that the arrangements, which will eventually be agreed with the ICRC and the CPA, will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. The arrangements will not be a treaty, so they fall outside the scope of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. They do not need to be laid before Parliament prior to ratification and there will not be a ratification process in that sense. Given that the arrangements will end up shaping the extent of the immunities that these institutions will be granted under our law, it is appropriate that your Lordships’ International Agreements Committee should scrutinise them.

Others have touched on the important issue in Clause 2 around the protection of confidential ICRC information. I think the reasons for this are compelling, and the definitions of the key terms of “protected ICRC information” and “confidential” are clear and would work well. There is a separate provision on evidence in Clause 3, which mirrors a mechanism we have under other immunity statutes: that the Foreign Office can provide certificates that are conclusive as to the issue of fact relative to the question of immunity. The Foreign Office—I know this from personal experience, having worked on a number of these cases—uses the power very sparingly, and I am sure it would continue to do so. With that in mind, I very much welcome the Bill, and I too wish it a speedy passage.

My Lords, it is a privilege to be sandwiched between two younger Members of the House, and to hear what they say.

I thank my noble friend for presenting the Bill with clarity and, in doing so, I must thank her for her friendship over many years, in and outside the House. This is also my opportunity to say a few words before I retire. I thank the other speakers for what they have kindly said.

I have known of the Red Cross ever since the last war, when our home near Huntingdon became a hospital. I came to respect the ICRC soon after I joined Christian Aid in 1973, and I often worked alongside the British Red Cross during emergency appeals. On visits to Geneva, I learned more of the work of the ICRC, going back to the Battle of Solferino. It is remarkable that an organisation so skilled in secret political negotiation has not already had diplomatic status with us. The Bill is putting that right.

I strongly support the Bill and its addition of the CPA. I know the CPA to be a vital organisation, as has been said, linking Parliament with the Commonwealth. It must not be encumbered by UK charity law if it is to be a force for parliamentary work, and it should be able to make statements about parliamentary obligations. I totally agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and others have said about the virtues of the Commonwealth; I only wish that the Commonwealth itself would play a stronger role in international affairs. Perhaps this Bill will help.

I will briefly mention the work of the ICRC and Red Crescent during the civil war in Sudan, where they have 4,000 volunteers working on the front line. These aid workers are often casualties of war, as in Gaza, and two ICRC drivers were killed in Darfur only recently. One of the critical areas of work, alongside emergency aid, is the location of missing persons—an absolutely vital task. Aida Al-Sayed Abdullah, Secretary-General of the Sudanese Red Crescent, said:

“Our staff and volunteers distribute food and essential items, provide psychological support, and search for the missing. We urge the international community to increase their support …We cannot let Sudan become another forgotten crisis”.

In fact, it has been forgotten.

For many years, I have been a member of the Sudan all-party group, now energetically chaired by Vicky Ford MP. Sadly, we hear and publish regular reports of the progressive destruction of the country by two warring generals and the consequent appalling loss of life and malnutrition. A pointer for us is that the Sudan war is generating more displaced people than any other country. This means that a high number of refugees are escaping from Sudan every day, falling into the hands of traffickers on their way to small boats bringing them to this country. We are not doing enough to work with our European and Commonwealth friends to reduce these numbers.

Finally, I much regret having to announce my retirement on Monday from the House owing to ill health—as you can see, I get short of breath. I am grateful to my noble friends on the Cross Benches, who have literally given me a second career of nearly 30 years. I know I was chosen because I had worked with several aid NGOs, including Christian Aid and Save the Children, notably on Africa but also on India, where my wife, Caroline, and I lived for nearly a year.

My title comes from the family naval tradition, starting with Charles II’s senior admiral, Edward Montagu, the 1st Earl of Sandwich. I have also declared another important historic interest in the register: this is the family that brought you fast food, first tasted by John, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. There is one story about him which says that, when he first came into the House, he found so many Viscounts in his place that he said, “My Lords, I know not where to sit”, and so ended up on the Cross Benches. My father refused to come here from the House of Commons, and said it was stuffy—how wrong could he be?

Seeing the noble Lord, Lord Howell, reminds me of our great campaign to persuade another place to allow us to discuss foreign affairs. With the noble Lord, Lord Alton and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, we had all been pushing for this. Can you believe they would not let us do it? But it happened. I must also mention the excellent Beyond Pills All-Party Group, in which my noble friend Lord Crisp is a leading light.

I think 81 is the right age to move aside. In saying this, I urge the House to reappoint the Lord Speaker’s committee on Lords reform. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, knows all about this. The committee should look now at the incremental reforms proposed by the Norton group and the Burns report, before someone else takes over as Prime Minister and tells us what to do. Here, I am inspired by Carmen, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Llanfaes, our youngest Member, from Plaid Cymru, who is in her place and who says that she will do her duty right up to abolition.

I am grateful to all my “roommates”—predominantly the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon—and Cross-Bench colleagues who are here today, as well as to the Convenor and the usual channels, today’s smiling Front Benches, the clerks, of course, and all the doorkeepers and staff, for making this such a wonderful place to work. Thank you very much.

My Lords, I still find it very daunting to address your noble selves with my opinions on and experiences of certain things, but I feel extremely humble in the wake of what we have just heard. I am sure that there will be other occasions, too, when the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, will receive the thanks and gratitude of so many of us.

I hope that the Red Cross will not think that it has been neglected today, but I think it can be said that, whenever we have referred to the CPA, we have embraced it, because it is in the title of the Bill. The problem we are dealing with today has been a feature of both organisations and an irritant at the same time.

I had the honour of being the chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for a three-year period. Looking back, in my speech urging members to choose me as their next chairperson, I—perhaps foolishly—gave the impression that they only had to choose me and this irritant that had obstructed much of the work of both organisations would be dealt with. After my election, the question of why I had not achieved it was brought back to me all the time. Well, I congratulate Maria Miller in the other place and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, in this place on tackling this so comprehensively.

After a period of time in the original Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, we began to see a women’s organisation within it. Then, there was a separate arrangement for the small jurisdictions, which, in many cases, have wildly different issues compared with many of the other larger countries. I am thinking, of course, of those jurisdictions in the Pacific Ocean that are not just concerned with improving their quality of life on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, but are vulnerable to disappearing altogether.

The seminar is one of the features of this Parliament’s interest in the continuation of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and our membership of it. It is a great feature of what is offered to parliamentarians across the Commonwealth. I saw them coming and being asked to give their names, what they did and so on. It was very calm, but people felt nervous about coming in front of a lot of other people and they were not sure how they would get on. Five or six days later, when they had had the full benefit of this seminar, the mood among those people from across the globe was so much better. There were in-jokes between them on certain issues, and that is a pathway that has led to much better co-operation, on a continuing basis, with all the other countries and jurisdictions of the Commonwealth.

However, there was the business of not being able to have the rights that the Bill from the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, seeks to put upon them. The fact of the matter is that we could not get it through. Now, there is a unanimous feeling both in the other place and in your Lordships’ House. I have seen proof of how nations can come together and how people can begin to understand each other, for example in the smaller organisations such as the women’s organisation that I mentioned. I am also passionate about getting more young people involved, to hear from them at their level. At conferences, I have on occasion heard some outstanding speeches from young people.

The CPA is a forum in which to deal with matters that upset us from time to time, and this piece of legislation is absolutely essential. As King Charles said on adopting the post of patron of the organisation, this is a great opportunity for people to come together. We want the young people of the Commonwealth to come together, and then we can all benefit.

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to speak in the gap, first to congratulate Dame Maria Miller, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza—honorary graduate of the University of Hull—and all those other people who have made this extremely sensible and necessary Bill possible. We all turn to my noble friend Lord Howell if we want to understand the profound significance of the Commonwealth today; no one is more eloquent or articulate.

There are 180 legislatures, 53 countries and 17,000 parliamentarians in the Commonwealth. It is an odiously fractious, lawless, dangerous world: we did not think that we would see war in Europe in our generation again. This is a deeply distressing and alarming situation, in which the Commonwealth plays such a critical part. We appreciate what this legislation will do to secure it and to enable it to be even more effective.

I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, for his comments about the ICRC. Although I appreciated its work, he was fascinating in illuminating it further. My own grandfather was secretary of the League of Nations Union in the run-up to the Second World War and fell out over the issue of appeasement, with which he strongly disagreed—so I am an internationalist by background and I congratulate all those involved.

The reason I had to speak today was that one of our oldest and most admired friends, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, was giving his valedictory. People may say, “What do those unelected hereditary Peers know about the price of fish?”—although he is elected, but not by a very large constituency. I think the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, knows a great deal about the price of fish, and much else besides. He gives Parliament a good name. He is a man of intellect, wisdom, huge generosity of spirit and great modesty. We have benefited from his contribution in so many ways. In my very humble view, however hard you try to persuade people to put themselves forward for election, I do not believe that the likes of the noble Earl would do so. So if we lose the appointment process, we will do so to our loss.

People who get elected want to please their constituency. What I particularly like about the House of Lords is that I do not have to please anybody; I can be as unfashionable and unpopular as I believe to be right. If I had to go back and speak to my constituents and please them, and be cross-questioned on all my unpopular views, I dare say that I would have to trim my sails.

There is one serious problem about the noble Earl: he is a contemporary, albeit a little older, of the Father of the House of Commons. They were at university together. We are friends from the Isle of Wight, and we both hugely revere his wife, Caroline—although we are quite frightened of her, from time to time. The noble Earl has said that it is time for retirement. He is forbidden to go anywhere near Worthing, where the Member of Parliament standing for re-election is not yet 80, but he may be by the time of the election. I hope that the noble Earl will keep his ideas to himself, or at least away from West Sussex.

The noble Earl will be very greatly missed. He has been a huge force for good over many years, and we wish him well.

My Lords, I commend the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, on ensuring that the Bill will, I hope, have a smooth passage. I took careful note of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, on some of the detail of how the Orders in Council are prepared. I very much hope that they will also be scrutinised by Parliament.

I commend our friend the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and indicate that we will miss him. I hope he does not mind me saying that he joined Christian Aid before I was born and entered this House while I was studying. Since I have been here, over the last decade, he has been possibly the most consistent and sincere advocate for international development, and has given the most reasoned and precise arguments. I had the opportunity of looking at his maiden speech, to complete the circle. In 1995, he talked about the need for support for development assistance. He said:

“Let us not pretend that overseas aid is just giving something away to others, as some of its critics say. It means a more equal sharing of ideas, more understanding, advocacy and educational work, and diplomacy through involvement”.—[Official Report, 16/11/1995; col. 39.]

His involvement in this House will be greatly missed, but we have the advantage of Hansard to ensure that his words will remain. I will spare the blushes of the Minister and not read other parts of the noble Earl’s maiden speech, because he went on to criticise government aid cuts, which he has also needed to do over recent years. He will be greatly missed.

To some extent, I also wondered why these measures have not been in place already. Nevertheless, it is right to respond to the concerns of partner Parliaments that have asked us to act—and I am pleased that we will do so—to recognise the unique characteristics that should be provided to the ICRC and the Commonwealth.

I start with the ICRC. It is 160 years since the First Geneva Convention. It is of deep concern to me that, almost every week over the last year, including just yesterday, I have been referring to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the need for protections for civilians in conflict, which continues to grow. The proportion of civilians dying in conflict is a growing trend; therefore, regrettably, the Geneva conventions and the work of the ICRC are even more relevant now than we would have hoped. The recognition of its work is important, as the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, said.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said that the value of the CPA is that we learn from each other, and I could not agree with her more. In the decade that I have been in this place, my work in Parliament has been informed by the relationships between and learning from fellow Commonwealth parliamentarians. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, indicated, the Commonwealth is young. Not all parliamentarians in the Commonwealth are young, but many are reflecting on the huge challenges that afflict the Commonwealth. Parliamentarians have to be part of the solution and not considered to be part of the problem—there are too many times when that is the case.

This year marks the centenary of the first CPA conference—then the Empire Parliamentary Association —held outside London, in southern Africa, including in Lesotho. Next week, there will be a CPA UK visit to Lesotho, which I hope will cement the deep relationships that we have with our partner parliamentarians. As the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, indicated, it is also about the clerks, and, I would add, librarians and those in the wider parliamentary staff. It is now not just about procedures but, increasingly, about standards, the conduct of Members, staff relationships and the very contemporary issues of how democratic Parliaments should function.

When I chaired a commission with the Nigerian Trade Minister on trade and development in the Commonwealth, a witness told me something that has stuck with me since. She said that the Commonwealth has two great advantages: the first is that America is not a member, and the second is that neither is China. This means that, when we look at its member countries—including the most populous democratic country, which is going to elections as we speak, and the least populous country, which will also have elections this year—we see that the Commonwealth is a unique institution. When we learn, we learn from huge countries facing enormous developmental challenges and from tiny countries that have their own circumstances and challenges because of their scale. There is no other organisation like the CPA on the planet that allows parliamentarians to discuss, as equal partners, how we collectively address those challenges.

I will support anything that can be done to strengthen the CPA as an institution going into its next centenary of conferences. I hope that the Bill has safe passage through the House.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for introducing the Bill. I also acknowledge the hard work of Dame Maria Miller; after her first attempt, it got through on her second attempt, so she has done a great job in ensuring that it arrives here.

I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I have long admired his work in this House—we have worked together on many debates—and his complete dedication to putting forward the case for a more just and fairer world. After many years of debating together, what I did not realise was just how much work he did before he came here, and which he continues to do, for many NGOs and other organisations, particularly Anti-Slavery International, Save the Children, and CARE International. He has also done a huge amount of work for Christian Aid. This week is Christian Aid Week, and I have participated in a number of events to support the work of that organisation. I admire the noble Earl and am very sad that he is retiring. One thing I know is that his work will continue and he will ensure that those organisations get support—so I thank him very much.

I am pleased to support the Bill today on behalf of the Opposition. I thank all those who work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I am not the only one who has benefited from its expertise, experience, networks, contacts and global stature, which are recognised and valued here in the UK and across the Commonwealth. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and my noble friend Lady Taylor reminded us, many of us here have, at some time or another, relied on its support, whether when visiting Commonwealth countries or our overseas territories and Crown dependencies, or when welcoming parliamentarians here, which I have had the opportunity to do many times.

At a time of deep global uncertainty, our relationships through the Commonwealth—and, indeed, inter-parliamentary relationships—are crucial, and the CPA secretariat, which is hosted here, plays a critical role. I pay tribute to the former Member of Parliament, our friend Stephen Twigg, who is the secretary-general. He is doing excellent work and is seeing this through. I also put on record that Labour is extremely keen to ensure that the CPA headquarters stays right here in Westminster, in London, as the Bill intends.

We recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Commonwealth, which, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, has grown from a group of eight countries in 1949 to a much greater, diverse body of 56 countries. We have had new members join us, which we have to recognise; today it has a population of 2.5 billion. It is an important part of how we bring this very difficult world together and share the same sort of values, and we need to continue that work, particularly with the CPA.

Labour is very proud of the CPA’s ongoing role in bringing together and liaising between parliaments in the Commonwealth family from the building that inspired the way in which most of the Commonwealth is governed today. It is important that the CPA is granted privileges and immunities similar to those enjoyed by comparable organisations such as the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth of Learning, as my noble friend Lord Leong highlighted. That enhanced status will undoubtedly strengthen the influence of Commonwealth parliamentarians and give the CPA a more authoritative presence internationally. I know that parliamentarians across the Commonwealth will welcome this. Holding a status akin to that of our parliamentary strengthening counterparts should enhance the organisation’s standing.

I also commend the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which obviously plays a critical role globally, working tirelessly and meticulously to support civilians working in conflict and war zones in the most difficult situations and circumstances around the world, and upholding the key responsibilities in relation to the laws of war and humanitarian law.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is a neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organisation, mandated by the international community to protect and assist victims of armed conflict and other situations. It is right that the ICRC has been granted privileges and immunities by 109 states, but the UK is not one of them. That is why it is important that it is included in the Bill, and I very much welcome that.

It is important that we support and speed the Bill through. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, said about how we scrutinise the next part that comes through in the Schedule, and I certainly support his view that it is an opportunity for our parliamentary committees to properly scrutinise it.

I conclude by commending the work that has gone into the Bill by MPs and Peers from all sides. Once again I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for introducing it and ensuring its safe passage through this House. I am confident that there is a will on all sides to ensure that the Bill succeeds.

My Lords, I join all noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for tabling the Bill and for her important opening remarks in detailing the various provisions. Like others, I also thank my right honourable friend the Member for Basingstoke, Dame Maria Miller, for her dedicated work as chair of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the UK’s branch, and for her tireless work to ensure the Bill’s passage through the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, talked about the second attempt; I have been Commonwealth Minister for seven years, and I look to my dear friends, my noble friends Lady Anelay and Lord Howell, who have also advocated for this. They say that persistence pays, and I am pleased to say that the Bill carries the Government’s full support. We have worked closely with Dame Maria Miller to ensure the passage of the Bill to where we are today.

Before I go any further, I, like others, turn to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, first thanking him for his guidance and insights. I am grateful to his noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, who brought to my attention some of the noble Earl’s notable insights and said that the first question he asked here as an Earl and a hereditary Peer—this is quite a tribute to him—was about legroom on public transport. As a former Transport Minister, I am told that we are very much seized of that issue even today. His final question was, aptly, on South Sudan. That shows the depth and the breadth of the consistent insights that he has brought to debates across development policy and foreign affairs.

Certainly, as a Government Minister for Foreign Affairs I have sought, I hope to the best degree possible, to answer the questions he has posed to me in his very courteous way. He has brought many insights, as we have heard, such as presenting the challenges on the development portfolio. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say, as a Government Minister who has often been on the receiving end of the noble Earl’s insightful but quite direct challenges, that we have sought to always develop a relationship based on and steeped in respect. He has articulated all his contributions in that way, and I am truly grateful. I join other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lady Bottomley, in saying that his wide-ranging experience will be sorely missed in your Lordships’ House.

I am pleased that the Bill enjoys cross-party support. Indeed, it is the second Private Member’s Bill that we are discussing this morning that carries support across your Lordships’ House. I am grateful for the advocacy of many across both Houses, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said. I join him in acknowledging and paying tribute to Stephen Twigg. I enjoy a good relationship with Stephen and know that he has been a powerful advocate, as has my noble friend Lord Haselhurst. I was looking through the number of people who have raised this issue over the years, and I pay tribute collectively to them all.

As the Minister of State for the Commonwealth, I assure noble Lords that we will continue to work with both the ICRC and the CPA to ensure the Bill’s safe and speedy passage. It is hugely important. Both key organisations have waited for this status for a long time, and it comes at a particularly crucial time for both the CPA and the ICRC.

The ICRC, as my noble friend Lady Anelay once again reminded us, has been at the centre of international humanitarian work in recent years. As we look at granting this status to the ICRC, with wars raging in Ukraine and the Middle East, it is perhaps an entirely appropriate time to ensure that it continues its important work.

Equally, as other noble Lords said, in March we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the creation of the modern Commonwealth. We continue to work together in partnership with our Commonwealth family on vital issues such as empowering women and girls, bolstering the rule of law and good governance, and protecting the freedom of the media. Both my noble friend Lord Haselhurst and the great advocate for the Commonwealth, my noble friend Lord Howell, reminded us of this. Indeed, my own engagements earlier this week included a discussion yesterday with His Majesty on our planning for CHOGM and his focus on small island states, and earlier in the week a logistical discussion with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on planning for the CHOGM in Samoa. So, again, this is an entirely appropriate time for us to move forward with the Bill.

The UK values its partnership with the CPA and is proud to support work being done by the CPA and its regional branch, CPA UK. This includes developing benchmarks as indicators of parliamentary democracy and addressing modern slavery in supply chains and gender-based violence with parliaments and parliamentarians across the Commonwealth. The noble Lord, St John of Bletso, reminded us of the important work of parliamentarians, as did others.

The organisation’s current status as a charity has meant that the CPA has been prevented from operating fully across the Commonwealth and international fora. As Minister for the Commonwealth, I know how highly valued this organisation is. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, drew on her wide experience of the important role of the CPA, as did the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Leong. I agree with all of them, particularly on the point about the rich diversity of parliamentarians, in terms of both age and insight, that was provided when we hosted the CHOGM summit. Having the CPA meeting in advance of CHOGM was a valuable tool; we have shared that experience with subsequent hosts, including Rwanda.

Without this legislation, there would remain a high possibility that the CPA would look to relocate its headquarters outside the UK, an outcome that I assure noble Lords neither I nor the Foreign Secretary—indeed, no one—would like to see happen. That is why the UK has supported this Bill coming forward.

As my noble friend Lady Anelay reminded us, the UK has also supported the ICRC’s work over many years. I join her in paying tribute to Peter Maurer, its previous president; I also pay tribute to Mirjana Egger, who is doing a wonderful job at the helm of this organisation at a very challenging time. The UK greatly supports the ICRC’s work. It is an essential partner for achieving the UK’s global humanitarian objectives, having a unique legitimacy to engage all parties to conflicts and unparalleled access to vulnerable groups in conflict situations. Its specialised role in engaging with all arms bearers, including the growing number of non-state armed groups, is coupled with its direct delivery of a comprehensive range of integrated humanitarian assistance and protection programmes. It is therefore critical, as the noble Lord, Lord Leong, reminded us, to give the ICRC its correct status in UK legislation and to work together in order to deliver its objectives.

That is why this Bill and the provisions contained in it are so important. They enable the Government to treat the CPA and the ICRC in a manner comparable to that of an international organisation of which the United Kingdom, or His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, is a member. By creating through an Order in Council the power to give both organisations the legal capacity of a body corporate, as well as specific privileges and immunities, the Bill will support the functional needs of the CPA and the ICRC, including on their property, information and certain personnel.

The list of privileges and immunities that may be conferred on the CPA and the ICRC has been informed by the International Organisations Act 1968. This will allow the Government to agree a framework that is appropriate to each organisation’s unique mandate. The actual suite of privileges and immunities to be accorded, including relevant exemptions and limitations, will be determined by the functional needs of each organisation and will be specified in the Order in Council, as noble Lords mentioned. For example, as is standard practice, the arrangements will make clear that there will be no immunity from a legal suit in the case of a motor traffic offence or damage caused by a motor vehicle.

It would be remiss of me not to mention something that my noble friend Lady Anelay and the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, mentioned: the confidentiality provision in the Bill. It provides for the protection of certain information related to the ICRC’s sensitive work that it has provided to His Majesty’s Government in confidence. For example, it is protected from being disclosed in UK court proceedings—except criminal proceedings, as my noble friend said.

This provision reflects the ICRC’s standard working method of confidentiality, which is designed to protect its staff and operations in active conflict zones. The public disclosure of information that the ICRC obtains from confidential dialogue with conflict parties is likely to put this at risk. I have seen that directly in current conflicts and, indeed, through my direct engagement with the ICRC. It is important that this power is granted.

This is also a principle that underpins the ICRC’s ability to operate in dangerous locations on sensitive issues, engaging both with states and, importantly, with non-state actors. Indeed, as my right honourable friend the Member for Basingstoke, Dame Maria Miller, noted in Committee:

“There is a real risk and concern about ICRC information being used in legal proceedings—over the past 15 years, the ICRC’s confidentiality has been challenged some 20 times in the UK”.—[Official Report, Commons, 26/4/24; col. 1220.]

The Government therefore consider that this confidentiality provision is both necessary and proportionate.

The financial implications of the Bill are minimal. There will be little or no loss of revenue as a result of the fiscal exemptions or reliefs, which will be granted by delegated legislation through the provisions in the Bill. Refunds of certain taxes will be made in accordance with the separate arrangements between the Government and the CPA and the ICRC respectively, as is standard for international organisations. Furthermore, administration of the arrangements will be resourced from the existing resources responsible for managing privileges and immunities with international organisations in the United Kingdom.

I assure noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Verdirame, that the FCDO will continue to consult both organisations ahead of secondary legislation. On the proposals for those statutory instruments, the Government propose that the procedure applicable to any statutory instrument made under this delegated power should be the draft affirmative procedure. I hope that this reassures the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Verdirame, on how scrutiny of this important Bill will continue. Today’s contributions have demonstrably shown that the Bill is warmly welcomed across your Lordships’ House.

We will work closely with both organisations on a functional need basis in terms of specific arrangements detailing the day-to-day management of the privileges and immunities granted to them and other facilities. As I have already said, the FCDO has also committed to laying the draft Order in Council as soon as possible.

I conclude by thanking all noble Lords for their contributions. This Bill is an important step forward. It carries cross-party support; I pay tribute to all of the Members who, over many years, have made invaluable contributions to get us to this point in time. I again pay tribute to my dear friend, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for her stewardship and advocacy on this issue. It is important that the correct status in UK legislation is given to both organisations so that they can continue their vital international operations without restriction. This Bill reflects the Government’s strong commitment to the Commonwealth, which is extremely important in this CHOGM year, and our support of democratic legislators through our work with the CPA. It also supports our global humanitarian objectives through our work with the ICRC.

In commending this Bill to the House—I look forward to working with noble Lords on its speedy passage—I once again pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for his insights. He will be missed but, as he has demonstrated again today, he leaves appropriate challenges for the Government and for whoever holds the position that I currently hold in the months and years to come. I am sure that, now and again, he will remind us with a little note—as he often does for me, saying, “Tariq, you may need to look at this one”. We are fully supportive, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza.

My Lords, I warmly thank the Minister for his words and his support for this Bill, as with so many other issues. He should know how grateful we all are both that he has enabled this Bill to come to the fore—again, as with many other issues—and that this is likely to become law shortly.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich—or Johnnie, as I know him—for his typically sincere and moving argument. Let me say once again how greatly we will miss him, but we all hope that we will stay in touch.

Dame Maria Miller has received many accolades during the course of this debate, and rightly so. I am sure that there are many more to come in the later stages of this Bill, but I want here to acknowledge her absolute determination to get the Bill through the other place, thereby allowing it to come here.

I warmly thank all contributors for their unqualified support. It gives me hope that this Bill will shortly become law. I also thank my noble friend Lord Verdirame for his words. I completely appreciate the cautions that he presented on privileges and immunities. Much as I have been a critic in the past, and continue to be a critic, of the overuse of secondary legislation, I believe that it is appropriate in this case. Of course, I reiterate that, as the Minister said, it will be subject to affirmative procedures and will be drawn up with consultation of the relevant people in the two organisations. I do like very much his idea that the privileges and immunities will be scrutinised by the International Agreements Committee. That is all I have to say. I beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.