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Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 5:03 pm, 13th January 2020

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that we will get on with negotiating those agreements simultaneously as soon as possible.

Coming back to the point made by my hon. Friend Bob Stewart about the strength of our voice in international affairs, I understand that some of our partners in the European Union will miss our voice within the Council. We have been a strong voice on issues such as standing up to Russia and the imposition of sanctions, but there are many other opportunities for us to have a decisive influence. We are still a member of the United Nations Security Council, and we are the second biggest contributor to NATO. We will play an active role in the Council of Europe and in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, where I am proud to be a member of the Parliamentary Assembly.

I want to highlight one particular organisation— I happen to be the chair of the British group—and that is the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I would encourage new Members to get involved in the IPU. It was founded 130 years ago by Randal Cremer, a British statesman, and Frédéric Passy, a Frenchman, and we have recently celebrated that anniversary. It now comprises 179 countries, and its purpose is to strengthen relations between Parliaments. It is possible to pursue issues through parliamentary dialogue that are sometimes impossible to raise between Governments, and I will give one or two examples. It was in 1984 that the IPU invited a delegation to the UK from the Soviet Union. The delegation was led by a then pretty much unknown Russian politician called Mikhail Gorbachev. That led to the meeting between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev and, as a result, it eventually led to the reform of the Soviet Union. Indeed, it led to the collapse of communism and the break-up of the Soviet Union.