Following a recent working visit to the United Kingdom, which focused on strengthening the role of the UK in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in the post-Brexit era, PACE President Rik Daems highlighted the excellent engagement of the UK Parliament in the Assembly’s work.
In the course of his meetings with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and Lords Speaker Rt Hon Lord McFall of Alcluith, President Daems commended the model work carried out by the Chairperson of the UK Delegation to PACE, John Howell, in reporting back systematically to the capital on work carried out in PACE and questioning members of the government on follow-up and implementation.
The issue of possible revision of the UK Human Rights Act was addressed in the course of meetings with the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights Vice-Chair Joanna Cherry QC and Justice Ministry representatives. President Daems emphasised the importance of the UK continuing to ensure strong compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Strasbourg Court’s case law, commending the UK‘s current approach. In that context, the PACE President underlined that the Assembly and the Council of Europe as a whole stood ready to provide expertise and engage in discussions with UK politicians after the government’s response to the independent review is published.
In-depth discussions were also held on the issue of the pending ratification by the UK Parliament of the Istanbul Convention, including with the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Rt Hon Caroline Nokes and Minister for Safeguarding at the Home Office Rachel Maclean. President Daems commended the extensive measures taken by the UK to combat violence against women and domestic violence as well as the importance attached by the UK government to this subject. At the same time, he regretted that the UK had failed to ratify the Istanbul Convention ten years after signing it. During meetings with governmental and parliamentary counterparts, the PACE President received firm assurances that the principal obstacles have already been addressed in national law and that the remaining issues should be resolved very soon, thus opening the way for ratification.
President Daems also emphasised, including with Minister for Europe Wendy Morton, that the UK may play a unique role as a gateway to the British Commonwealth countries, where awareness of Council of Europe values and standards can be raised and accession to relevant conventions promoted. During the meeting with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA UK), Ian Liddell-Grainger and Lord George Foulkes, it was agreed to develop structural co-operation between PACE and the CPA UK.