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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, we welcome these orders in so far as they represent an international obligation which we can hardly avoid. However, I wonder whether the immunities and privileges granted under these orders are being kept to the minimum within our international obligations. I also wonder whether they will be fully reciprocated by other states, where appropriate.

It may be outside the remit of these orders, but does the Minister agree that the levels of taxation paid by international civil servants should be not lower than the local levels being set? I am also tempted to raise the thorny issue of parking, but as it is not contained within these orders, I feel obliged not to.

Lord Carter: My Lords, perhaps the number of questions asked is what happens when one agrees to move an order that is apparently simple and technical. There have been many questions, but I shall deal first with that asked about the total amounts involved by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. We estimate £700,000 in the financial year 1999 to 2000 to meet claims for this and past years, and thereafter the estimate is an annual sum of £260,000.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, asked about the claims. They are submitted and have to be repaid. The provisions apply not to the personal travel arrangements of staff but only to official duties.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked why there was a separate draft order for INTELSAT. The INTELSAT order, in addition to providing for refunds of IPT and APD, provides for relief from non-domestic rates and for members of staff participating in INTELSAT'S social security scheme exemption from the United Kingdom's social security provisions. It was felt that a second order was appropriate as the exchange of notes with INTELSAT went beyond simply providing refunds of IPT and APD, as in the first two orders.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also asked about the number of organisations involved. Headquarters agreements of some international organisations already cover exemption from IPT and APD. Seventeen exchanges of notes were necessary to provide a refund of taxes to those organisations which were not entitled to them under the wording of their existing agreements. It is proposed that the relief will apply to 43 international organisations, although only 26 are specified in this order. The legal complexities are being

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addressed, and amendments to headquarters agreements and legislation as necessary will follow in due course for the other organisations.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does that mean that the £700,000 will have to be increased to cover the difference between the 26 organisations mentioned in the schedule to this order, and the total number of 43?

Lord Carter: My Lords, one has to be frank in these matters, and I do not know the answer to that, but I see that there is a note on its way. The answer appears to be that the sum covers all 43 organisations. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, appeared hostile to these orders, and I shall enjoy reading this part of my brief.

Ministers in the previous government approved the protocol department's recommendation in December 1996 that we should refund IPT and APD to all international organisations of which the United Kingdom is a member and which have headquarters or offices in the United Kingdom and to those others, although not based here, to which we are legally obliged to give relief from such taxes and duties. According to our international obligations, we are continuing a policy approved by the previous government.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I should add that the International Copper Study Group is not based in the United Kingdom. The only obligation on the United Kingdom under the terms of reference of the organisation is to confer the legal capacity, and to compile a list of all refunds would be a complex and lengthy task. However, I shall write to him on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was kind enough to tell me that he would ask me whether the tax benefits are reciprocal. International organisations do not function on the basis of the principle of reciprocity. It is established international practice that one state should not derive undue fiscal benefit from the funds subscribed to an international organisation by its members or other states as a result of the presence on its soil of the organisation. Thus international organisations that are based in other states also benefit from refunds on taxes and duties of this nature.

I was also asked about the tax rates paid by international civil servants. None of these orders provides for exemption from income tax for staff of international organisations. The orders which the International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Miscellaneous Provisions Order amend mostly provide for exemption from income tax for staff who are participating in the internal tax system for the benefit of the organisation concerned. This is in accordance with established international practice, and of course it benefits all the members of the organisation by resulting in lower financial contributions.

I think I have answered all the questions that I was asked. If I have not, I shall write to noble Lords concerned. I am extremely grateful for the interest that has been taken.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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INTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 1999

12.10 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th July be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

International Copper Study Group (Legal Capacities) Order 1999

Lord Carter rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order confers a legal capacity as required to fulfil our obligations under the terms of reference of the ICSG, which the Government provisionally accepted on 5th June 1998. ICGS is an inter-governmental organisation formed in 1989 under the auspices of the United Nations. There are currently 17 member states--including France, Germany and Italy--and the European Union. The headquarters are in Lisbon, where the study group meets formally twice a year. My brief helpfully informs me that Lisbon is in Portugal.

UK industry firmly believes that there is considerable value in membership of the group; indeed, it says that it is enormous. It provides market transparency and is a forum to bring together industry and governments. The UK is among the world's top 10 consumers of copper, so it is logical that we should be members. Membership will ensure that the UK and the copper industry are not disadvantaged by the activities of the ICSG, and will be able to influence the future direction of the study group, which provides a useful vehicle for regular dialogue on a wide variety of issues affecting copper.

It is a straightforward order, just to deal with the legal capacity. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Genetically Modified Crops Bill [H.L.]

Report received.

Clause 1 [Consents for genetically modified organisms for agricultural purposes.]

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 15, at end insert (", and
(b) shall be deemed to be subject to automatic revocation in the event of the planting of the genetically modified organism concerned or genetically modified organisms generally being subsequently prohibited by any Directive of the

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European Commission, and the provisions of subsections (8E) and (8F) shall apply to such revocation as well as to a revocation pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subsection.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, last Friday my noble friend Lord Kimball moved an amendment in which he proposed that the Secretary of State should postpone the granting of any licences for the planting of herbicide tolerant crops until after 31st December 2001. He had also put down an amendment proposing deferment of any licences for insect tolerant crops until after 31st December 2003. My noble friend subsequently withdrew the first and did not move the second.

The significance of the two dates I have mentioned is as follows. The pressure group called Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops, known by the acronym SCIMAC, recently gave a presentation in which it announced that the first GM herbicide resistant crops would be ready for planting in 2000 and the insect resistant ones by 2002. The year 2000 is now only 168 days away.

The agro-chemicals industry may be ready to plant next year, but it would seem that public opinion is most certainly not. The Government claimed in their 1997 manifesto that no government could afford to take risks with the future. Therefore, we believe that the Government should not be ready for the industry to do so.

The Government have received conflicting advice from various sources about the possible risks of these products. Negative advice has been received in particular from their own advisers, English Nature. Yet the Government seem to be ready to go ahead.

The important point is this. The European Commission is now giving urgent consideration to the early formulation of new regulations about the planting of these crops, regulations which will protect the environment and possibly our health, regulations that will ensure that Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular shall not become the laboratory for multinational companies, which for some reason are not conducting their tests in their own backyard, where we believe United States-based companies have, as I am sure they would agree, far more space than we have.

My noble friend's two amendments were designed just to put matters on hold until the new directives were propagated. I do not understand why the Government seem so reluctant not to guarantee that they will not withhold the licences just for the time being.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, persuaded my noble friend to withdraw one amendment and not to move the other by saying,

    "unilateral action by the United Kingdom would be completely contrary to European law".--[Official Report, 9/7/99; col. 1185.]

The French Government and the European Commission are in dispute over the licensing of genetically modified organisms because of France's alleged failure to stick to EU licensing laws. Two oilseed rape varieties are being withheld from the French market, despite having cleared all legal hurdles for approval in 1997. This is due to a moratorium imposed on GMOs last July, which Brussels claims breaches EU legislation regarding the release of

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such organisms. Brussels has also given the French what it calls a final warning over their alleged failure--I might have said "refusal"--to process fresh applications for GMOs, which EU rules say should be forwarded to the Commission within 90 days. Apparently, France has not done this for over a year.

The EU is now threatening to take France to court over these alleged defaults if it does not respond satisfactorily in yet another two months. I must admit that I have no idea of the rights and wrongs of the dispute, but if the matter is to go to court there is no basis at this stage for us to prejudge the outcome. It certainly seems that the French take a more robust attitude to defending their interests against EU orders with which they disagree than our Government do.

Suppose the French are entirely wrong and Brussels is entirely right. What is happening is that the French are stalling until the law is changed, as it will be shortly. "Shortly" is an entirely relative term in relation to the manoeuvres of the Brussels bureaucracy. What is the point, however, in our Government granting licences and then being faced with having to revoke them if the European law changes, possibly after irreversible damage has been done to our environment?

I should like to stress at this point something that I said on Second Reading, which is that I do not contend that any damage will be done. We simply do not know enough at this time. There is no rush, except for the commercial interests of the agro-chemical companies. We should wait until the Government can give Parliament and the public clear and transparent evidence that these products are indeed safe.

What will happen if GMOs are licensed by the Government and are subsequently banned by the EC? How long will it take the Government to pass the necessary legislation or make the necessary regulations to carry the ban into effect? What will happen to any growing crops? Will there be a danger of an application to our courts for an order to challenge any regulations? Will there be any claims for compensation, and if so, who should pay?

The amendment answers all those questions. In the event of all GMOs, or any of them, being banned, any licence is automatically revoked, not even after the 40-day delay that is normal under statutory instruments. The amendment requires that any growing crops be destroyed and, if necessary, that the ground be sterilised. It also stipulates that no compensation should be payable, so that the loss falls where it belongs: on the producers of the products and the farmers who use them, in both cases for their own commercial benefit. Perhaps the amendment, with its admittedly stringent provisions, will be a discouragement to them to chance their arms in the premature marketing and planting of these products.

The amendment does not seem to infringe the legal point that caused the noble Lord, Lord Carter, so much worry last week. On the contrary, Brussels should be delighted that we shall be so well prepared to comply with its intended change in the law.

I beg to move.

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