Ask any schoolchild where our laws come from, and they will probably say “Westminster”. That’s partially correct of course, but not the whole picture.
We all know about the House of Commons, where MPs vote, squabble and occasionally make epic speeches. We know about the House of Lords, where peers scrutinise legislation and discuss proposals from the Commons.
And we know about the European Parliament, where MEPs like Nigel Farage and Guy Verhofstadt engage in verbal sparring against each other.
But what about the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly?
What about the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – had you heard of them?
I hadn’t until relatively recently, and I consider myself pretty clued in.
The more you look into international politics, the more of these bodies seem to appear – bodies where elected officials from the UK (and members of the House of Lords) meet with representatives from other countries and discuss defence issues, human rights, environmental standards, workers’ rights, Economic Affairs, terrorism and dozens of other subjects.
These bodies have debates and votes on many issues – they generate reports and discussion documents which shape the laws and regulations that are made in Geneva, Brussels, Strasbourg and London.
To what degree, we just don’t know. From the videos they produce they seem to have a lot of power and influence:
To see who the Government sends to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to represent us click here: https://www.oscepa.org/members/member-directory/435-united-kingdom/file
To see who ‘we’ send to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly click here: http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/AssemblyList/AL-XML2HTML-EN.asp?lang=en&XmlID=NationalDelegation-uk
Note: These CoE Parliamentarians enjoy parliamentary immunity and legal protections not afforded to ordinary citizens.
To read who ‘we’ send to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly click here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/delegations/nato-pa/membership/
In addition to the assemblies discussed above, there are also serious proposals for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. I wonder who will ‘we’ send to that?
These organisations may be little more than expensive talking shops – or on the other hand, they may have very real and substantial power. But the point is that most people don’t even know these forums exist!
Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union to regain sovereignty and to ‘take back control’, it might be worth the UK public taking more of an interest in just how much power has been transferred to these other bodies and who exactly the UK government is sending there to speak – ostensibly on our behalf.