It is important that we have good relations with the wider Europe. That can be best achieved through the Council of Europe – a non-EU organisation set up after the Second World War to oversee democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Europe. These three things underpin the stability and security we all feel across the continent. The Henley constituency is part of this; it forms a part of our everyday lives. That Europe is much bigger than the EU and it is much older. It is represented by 47 countries completely separate from the EU. I am very pleased to be the Leader of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and a Vice-President of it. The UK delegation is cross-party.
The Council covers key issues of importance to us all such as climate change. the treatment of refugees and child sexual exploitation. In France, for example, it is helping fund ground breaking cancer research. The Council meets four times a year and I have personally spoken on protecting whistle-blowers, treatment of migrants, violence against women, on extending the ombudsman schemes, and on how to run referenda. It is the Council which has led the way in gender equality, in fighting racism and antisemitism, in fighting violence against children, and, in ensuring we have access to good quality medicines and health care. All of these are important to the people of this constituency.
I have also had the honour of representing the Council itself to award a prize to the French town of Suresnes and to Germain-en-Laye for their work in human rights, in democracy and the rule of law. It is a prize which has also been won in the past by the town of Coventry.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council is drawn from parliamentarians across the wider Europe including Russia, Israel and the Palestinians are associate members.