Leaving the EU: State Aid, Public Ownership and Workers’ Rights — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:05 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 3:05 pm, 11th December 2018

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I will not hold up Dr Drew for very long, but I have just a couple of points that are too long to make as interventions; therefore, I felt the best thing to do would be to speak.

To pick up on the question of rights, a number of hon. Members spoke about a bonfire of rights that will come about as a result of our leaving the European Union. However, there is another organisation responsible for protecting those rights: the Council of Europe. We ignore that at our peril. I know that it is seen as a great thing in this country that we send no journalists along to Council of Europe meetings—we send along our delegation, if they can be spared by the Whips Office, but it is always a secondary thing—and yet Laura Smith mentioned a case that was heard by the European Court of Human Rights. That does not belong to the European Union; it belongs to the Council of Europe, an independent organisation set up in 1948 with the aim of protecting human rights in Europe. The ECHR, which the Council of Europe looks after, is a unique body. It is one where we, as council members, elect the judges to serve for individual countries, so it has a democratic legitimacy.

I think back to the various meetings that we have held over the past few years, and I can assure the hon. Lady that employee rights, whether in specific circumstances or more generally, have been on the agenda for discussion on many occasions. For example, on at least one occasion we have looked at the rights of employees to access information about themselves and their cases, in order to take forward what they want to do. This conversation seems to be a bit one sided. So far it has not looked at the bigger picture or taken into account what the Council of Europe does.