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The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and International Committee of the Red Cross (Status) Bill is a Private Member’s Bill, Bill 172 of the 2023-24 session. It was introduced by Conservative MP, Dame Maria Miller and is supported by the Government.

The bill would change the status of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to mean that the government could treat them in a similar way to international organisations of which the UK is a member. It means that the Government may confer privileges and immunities on the organisations and certain personnel through an Order in Council. Before an Order in Council is made, the proposed order would be subject to the draft affirmative procedure in Parliament. 

There is longstanding support for a change in status for the CPA, and there have been several previous attempts to change its status through Private Members Bills.    The CPA is currently a registered UK charity but has been seeking to become “an international, interparliamentary organisation,” Arguing that charitable status is inappropriate for an international organisation and limits its work.  In recent years, and following reports that the headquarters of the CPA may leave the UK, the Government has committed to “working with the CPA secretariat to find an acceptable solution by legislative means if necessary.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an independent organisation that works to provide assistance for the victims of conflict and other violence. The ICRC’s mandate is enshrined in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocols, and the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. In over 110 States the ICRC has negotiated for certain legal immunities and privileges, either through “status agreements” or through legislation.  The explanatory notes to the Bill explain that conferring these privileges and immunities is:

critical to enable it to operate in the UK in accordance with its international mandate, maintaining its strict adherence to the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence and its working method of confidentiality.

The bill passed its Second Reading without debate on 19 January and was considered by a Public Bill Committee on 6 March.  It was amended to provide for confidentiality of information provided to the Government by the ICRC in civil cases.  It is tabled for its Report Stage on 26 April 2024.

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