Commonwealth - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:26 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 5:26 pm, 16th March 2017

My Lords, I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly during the gap, and declare an interest as a member of the executive committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Commonwealth. I have also had the privilege of participating in bilateral visits to Commonwealth countries, as well as of attending the international assemblies organised by the CPA and building friendships and channels of communication—soft power, soft diplomacy, call it what you will.

Given all the talk about trade today, which is of course of great future significance, I wish to emphasise the importance of the democratic process, effective parliaments and parliamentary co-operation. After all, many, although by no means all, Commonwealth country parliaments are based on the Westminster model, so we have an undeniable special interest. The noble Lord, Lord Luce, said that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association had not been mentioned so far. My intention in speaking in the gap was to mention it. I believe that it is fundamental, and the United Kingdom branch has played a leading role in developing parliamentary relationships, not only through bilateral visits but by setting up workshops, seminars and round tables to enable the exchange of information on parliamentary procedures and practices and ways of holding Governments to account—especially in encouraging more women to participate in parliamentary work. My noble friend Lady Berridge referred to that.

I therefore hope that the United Kingdom branch of the CPA will be recognised for the important work that it carries out, permitted to participate in the preparation for the CHOGM agenda, and guaranteed a place at the meetings—as well as being involved in appropriate fringe meetings. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give assurances on that.

As a postscript, and something else that has not yet been mentioned, I refer to the overseas territories—those tiny territories that are also part of the Commonwealth. I hope that they, too, can have suitable representation and presence at the CHOGM in London next year.