Working for a better Europe

It is important that we have good relations with mainland Europe whatever the outcome of Brexit.  There is a lot of good history here. Since the end of the Second World War, together with the rest of Europe, we have established a world leading focus on human rights, on democracy and on the rule of law.  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.  But that Europe is much bigger than the EU and it is much older. It is a Europe represented by the Council of Europe – a body of 47 countries completely separate from the EU. I am a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council. 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 for its 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.    


John expresses concern at conviction of human rights defenders in Turkey

Following the recent convictions of the four Turkish human rights defenders - Taner Kılıç, İdil Eser, Günal Kuşun and Özlem Dalkıran - in the so-called Büyükada trial, the rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Alexandra Louis (France, ALDE), Thomas Hammarberg (

John calls for the release of Osman Kavala following court decision

In his role as a monitor for Turkey on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) John and his PACE colleague Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden) have commented on the decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to reject the appeal brought by the Turkish

John welcomes success on calls for urgent action in Turkish Prisons

John has  welcomed the adoption on 14 April of the Criminal Enforcement Law, allowing the early or conditional release of 90 000 prisoners to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in overcrowded Turkish prisons, but has expressed regret at the discriminatory approach with regard to certain

Council of Europe Monitoring in Turkish Prisons

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an expected sanitary crisis in Turkish detention centres, PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA), have urged the Turkish authorities to ensure that any early or conditional release of

Council of Europe January Session

I have just returned from a week at the Council of Europe where I represent the UK on the Parliamentary Assembly.  This body becomes more important after Brexit as it is the main body for UK parliamentarians to engage with parliamentarians from 46 other European countries.  There were a number of

EU Withdrawal Bill - Unaccompanied Child Refugees

Let me say upfront - there has never been any question over family reunion for unaccompanied child refugees. The issue has been over how this is to be achieved rather than whether it should be achieved. 

John presents honour to the French town of Suresnes

On behalf of the Council of Europe, John presented an important European award – the Plaquette d’honneur - to the French town of Suresnes, near Paris. The Plaquette d’honneur is one of the chief components of the Europe Prize awarded by the Council of Europe to the city or town which has shown th

John speaks on labour migration at the Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe debated a report from the Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons Committee which suggested that concerted action should be taken by the countries of origin of labour migrants and the European countries where they come to work, in order to all