State Immunity Act 1978

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1978 c. 33


State Immunity Act 1978

1978 CHAPTER 33

An Act to make new provision with respect to proceedings in the United Kingdom by or against other States; to provide for the effect of judgments given against the United Kingdom in the courts of States parties to the European Convention on State Immunity; to make new provision with respect to the immunities and privileges of heads of State; and for connected purposes.

[20th July 1978]

B e it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

I Proceedings in United Kingdom by or against other States

Part I

Proceedings in United Kingdom by or against other States

Immunity from jurisdiction

Immunity from jurisdiction

S-1 General immunity from jurisdiction.

1 General immunity from jurisdiction.

(1) A State is immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United Kingdom except as provided in the following provisions of this Part of this Act.

(2) A court shall give effect to the immunity conferred by this section even though the State does not appear in the proceedings in question.

Exceptions from immunity

Exceptions from immunity

S-2 Submission to jurisdiction.

2 Submission to jurisdiction.

(1) A State is not immune as respects proceedings in respect of which it has submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United Kingdom.

(2) A State may submit after the dispute giving rise to the proceedings has arisen or by a prior written agreement; but a provision in any agreement that it is to be governed by the law of the United Kingdom is not to be regarded as a submission.

(3) A State is deemed to have submitted—

( a ) if it has instituted the proceedings; or

( b ) subject to subsections (4) and (5) below, if it has intervened or taken any step in the proceedings.

(4) Subsection (3)( b ) above does not apply to intervention or any step taken for the purpose only of—

( a ) claiming immunity; or

( b ) asserting an interest in property in circumstances such that the State would have been entitled to immunity if the proceedings had been brought against it.

(5) Subsection (3)( b ) above does not apply to any step taken by the State in ignorance of facts entitling it to immunity if those facts could not reasonably have been ascertained and immunity is claimed as soon as reasonably practicable.

(6) A submission in respect of any proceedings extends to any appeal lout not to any counter-claim unless it arises out of the same legal relationship or facts as the claim.

(7) The head of a State's diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom, or the person for the time being performing his functions, shall be deemed to have authority to submit on behalf of the State in respect of any proceedings; and any person who has entered into a contract on behalf of and with the authority of a State shall be deemed to have authority to submit on its behalf in respect of proceedings arising out of the contract.

S-3 Commercial transactions and contracts to be performed in United Kingdom.

3 Commercial transactions and contracts to be performed in United Kingdom.

(1) A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to—

( a ) a commercial transaction entered into by the State; or

( b ) an obligation of the State which by virtue of a contract (whether a commercial transaction or not) falls to be performed wholly or partly in the United Kingdom.

(2) This section does not apply if the parties to the dispute are States or have otherwise agreed in writing; and subsection (1)( b ) above does not apply if the contract (not being a commercial transaction) was made in the territory of the State concerned and the obligation in question is governed by its administrative law.

(3) In this section ‘commercial transaction’ means—

( a ) any contract for the supply of goods or services;

( b ) any loan or other transaction for the provision of finance and any guarantee or indemnity in respect of any such transaction or of any other financial obligation; and

( c ) any other transaction or activity (whether of a commercial, industrial, financial, professional or other similar character) into which a State enters or in which it engages otherwise than in the exercise of sovereign authority;

but neither paragraph of subsection (1) above applies to a contract of employment between a State and an individual.

S-4 Contracts of employment.

4 Contracts of employment.

(1) A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to a contract of employment between the State and an individual where the contract was made in the United Kingdom or the work is to be wholly or partly performed there.

(2) Subject to subsections (3) and (4) below, this section does not apply if—

( a ) at the time when the proceedings are brought the individual is a national of the State concerned; or

( b ) at the time when the contract was made the individual was neither a national of the United Kingdom nor habitually resident there; or

( c ) the parties to the contract have otherwise agreed in writing.

(3) Where the work is for an office, agency or establishment maintained by the State in the United Kingdom for commercial purposes, subsection (2)( a ) and ( b ) above do not exclude the application of this section unless the individual was, at the time when the contract was made, habitually resident in that State.

(4) Subsection (2)( c ) above does not exclude the application of this section where the law of the United Kingdom requires the proceedings to be brought before a court of the United Kingdom.

(5) In subsection (2)( b ) above ‘national of the United Kingdom’ means a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, a person who is a British subject by virtue of section 2, 13 or 16 of the British Nationality Act 1948 or by virtue of the British Nationality Act 1965 , a British protected person within the meaning of the said Act of 1948 or a citizen of Southern Rhodesia.

(6) In this section ‘proceedings relating to a contract of employment’ includes proceedings between the parties to such a contract in respect of any statutory rights or duties to which they are entitled or subject as employer or employee.

S-5 Personal injuries and damage to property.

5 Personal injuries and damage to property.

A State is not immune as respects proceedings in respect of—

a ) death or personal injury; or
b ) damage to or loss of tangible property

caused by an act or omission in the United Kingdom.

S-6 Ownership, possession and use of property.

6 Ownership, possession and use of property.

(1) A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to—

( a ) any interest of the State in, or its possession or use of, immovable property in the United Kingdom; or

( b ) any obligation of the State arising out of its interest in, or its possession or use of, any such property.

(2) A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to any interest of the State in movable or immovable property, being an interest arising by way of succession, gift or bona vacantia.

(3) The fact that a State has or claims an interest in any property shall not preclude any court from exercising in respect of it any jurisdiction relating to the estates of deceased persons or persons of unsound mind or to insolvency, the winding up of companies or the administration of trusts.

(4) A court may entertain proceedings against a person other than a State notwithstanding that the proceedings relate to property—

( a ) which is in the possession or control of a State; or

( b ) in which a State claims an interest,

if the State would not have been immune had the proceedings been brought against it or, in a case within paragraph ( b ) above, if the claim is neither admitted nor supported by prima facie evidence.

S-7 Patents, trade-marks etc.

7 Patents, trade-marks etc.

A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to—

a ) any patent, trade-mark, design or plant breeders' rights belonging to the State and registered or protected in the United Kingdom or for which the State has applied in the United Kingdom
b ) an alleged infringement by the State in the United Kingdom of any patent, trade-mark, design, plant breeders' rights or copyright; or
c ) the right to use a trade or business name in the United Kingdom
S-8 Membership of bodies corporate etc.

8 Membership of bodies corporate etc.

(1) A State is not immune as respects proceedings relating to its membership of a body corporate, an unincorporated body or a partnership which—

( a ) has members other than States; and

( b ) is incorporated or constituted under the law of the United Kingdom or is...

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