On the 8th June I spoke in the Backbench Business debate on the work of the Council of Europe.
You can read the transcript and watch my full contribution below.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) on securing this important debate. I am a proud member of the delegation to the Council of Europe—it is a real honour—and thank him for all the work that he does. The delegation is cross-party and comes from both Houses, so we are working collaboratively—work that people outside the House do not see. When we work together, we achieve better goals and better outcomes for all of us.
The Council of Europe was established following the end of world war two to promote democracy and protect human rights and adherence to the rule of law in Europe. The UK was one of the 10 founding signatories to the Council of Europe statute, and the UK continues to play an active role in all parts of the organisation. The role of promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law is so important because that is what we are here to do.
Since the Council of Europe’s creation, it has adopted more than 200 treaties and conventions, with the best known being the European convention on human rights. The ECHR is an international treaty between states of the Council of Europe. The United Kingdom was one of the states that drafted it and was one of the first states to ratify it in 1951. That is really important. Some MPs have raised concerns about the ECHR’s impact since the rights set out in the convention were incorporated into British law by the Human Rights Act 1998. Some interpretations of that by British courts and the European Court of Human Rights have led some MPs to call for the UK to leave the ECHR altogether. That would be completely the wrong thing to do. The most notable and recent of those cases was when the European Court of Human Rights blocked a deportation flight to Rwanda in 2022.
I am a proud Welsh Italian. I have had the opportunity to travel across Europe and across the world, and I am a languages graduate. The opportunity to be a part of the UK Parliament delegation and to speak Italian and French with our counterparts is a great honour. The work we do is reflected in committees, as it is in this House. I sit on the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. Only last week, we held a session here in the UK Parliament on protecting human rights in sport, moderated by Lord George Foulkes of Cumnock, who is a great person and politician to have on that committee. It was heartbreaking to listen to Olivia Jasriel, the founder of the Olivia Jasriel Foundation for athletes, and Patrice Evra, the former Manchester United captain and French international, who, like Olivia, is an abuse survivor. They both campaign against abuse in sport and beyond.
These are domestic and worldwide issues around sport that impact directly on our lives, and the lives of our constituents, in particular young people. How governing bodies are held to account is very important to me. I have spoken in this House about misogyny and sexual abuse in sport. In the wake of what has happened in UK gymnastics, Yorkshire cricket and—I have spoken on this before—Welsh rugby union, the work of such committees is relevant to everybody and needs to be spoken about.
I take this opportunity to thank the hon. Member for Henley for his work on the Istanbul convention, which is very important to all of us across the House. The UK delegation has done some great work on that and I thank him for it, because tackling violence against women and girls is at the heart of everything I do. I am also pleased that the UK delegation supports Kosovo’s application for membership of the Council of Europe, so I thank him for his work on that, too.
I also thank some really key players: Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, who I have already mentioned; my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd), who leads the Labour delegation; and Lord Griffiths of Burry Port. I think the hon. Member for Henley would agree that they are the glue that holds the delegation together, with their expertise and knowledge. I thank Nick Wright and his staff who support us; they are absolutely wonderful.
The whole delegation, including those here today speaking in this debate, are very proud to be part of the Council of Europe. I am very proud to be a part of it and we should talk about it more in this House. We may have left Europe, but the UK Parliament delegation is still extremely relevant and a big player in the Council of Europe.
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