BGIPU History

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was established in 1889 by two backbench MPs: Frederic Passy from France, and William Randal Cremer from Westminster, with the British Group having been founded a few months prior. The Group have been actively involved in international relations since that time under the leadership of the individuals listed below:

BGIPU Office-Holders from 1889 to present:
 

Presidents/Chairs

Honorary Secretaries

Lord Weardale (1889-1923) President (P)
Lord Treowen (1923-1928) P
Sir Robert Horne MP (1928) P
Duke of Sutherland (1929-1936) P
Lord Glenravel (1928-1936) (1936-1937) Chair (C)
Col. J. Sandeman Allen MP (1936-1939) C
Col. Sir Arthur Evans MP (1939-1945) C
Viscount Cranbourne (1940-1947) P
Mr Rhys Davies MP (1945-1947) C
Lord Milner (1947-1951) C and P
Lord Mathers (1949-1950) P
Viscount Ruffside (1950-1957) P
Col. Sir Malcolm Stoddart Scott MP (1951-1958) C
Sir John Tilney MP (1959-1961) C
Sir Herbert Butcher MP (1961-1965) C
Sir Edward Mallalieu MP (1965-1967) C
Mr Albert Roberts MP (1967-1970) C
Sir Barnett Janner MP (1970) C
Sir John Hall MP (1971-1973) C
Sir Harwood Harrison MP (1973-1974) C
Sir Thomas Williams MP (1974-1976) C
Mr Ben Ford MP (1977-1979) C
Sir John Page MP (1979-1982) C
Mr Peter Temple-Morris MP (1982-1985) C
Sir David Crouch MP (1985-1987) C
Mr Michael Marshall MP (1987-1990) C
Dr Michael Clark MP (1990-1993) C
Mr John Ward MP CBE (1993-1994) C
Dame Jill Knight MP DBE (1994-1997) C
Mr David Marshall MP (1997-2000) C
Mr Allan Rogers MP (2000-2001) C
Mr John Austin MP (2001- 2004) C
Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP (2004-2007) C
Dr Roger Berry MP (2007-2010) C
Mr Robert Walter MP (2010-2013) C
Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP (2013-2015) C
Mr Nigel Evans MP (2015-present) C

Sir William Randal Cremer MP (1889-1908)
Mr Frederick Maddison MP (1908-1925)
Mr Duncan Pirie MP (1908-1910)
Sir James Agg Gardner MP (1910-1914)
Lt. Col. Sir K. Vaughan Morgan MP (1925-1930)
Mr Rennie Smith MP (1930-1932)
Lord Scone (1932-1936)
Mr Victor Raikes MP (1932-1936)
Mr R. A. Cary MP (1936-1937)
Wing Commander Wright MP (1937)
Captain L. Plugge MP (1937-1942)
Mr Rhys Davies MP (1942-1945)
Sir Adam Maitland MP (1942-1945)
Mr Charles Watney (1943-1945)
Mr V. Le T. McEntee MP (1943-1945)
Sir Peter Macdonald MP (1943-1945)
Captain A. Marsden MP (1946)

General Secretaries

Lt. Commander C. Powell (1945-1949)
Sir Drummond Shiels (1950-1954)
Mr A. G. Michelsen (1953-1954)
Major General W. A. Dimoline (1954-1965)
Sir Andrew Noble (1966)
Brigadier M. J. A. Patterson (1966-1973)
Brigadier Paul Ward (1973-1978)
Mr G. W. Baker (1979)
Captain Peter Shaw (1979-1990)
Mr David Ramsay (1990-2001)
Mr Kenneth Courtenay (2001-2011)
Ms Dominique Rees MBE (Acting: 2011-12)

Director

Mr Rick Nimmo (2012-present)


A historical overview of the first 100 years of the BGIPU was written by James Douglas in 1989 to mark its centenary.  This publication features the activities and achivevements of many of those office-holders listed above and can be downloaded here in PDF format: A Century of Parliamentary Diplomacy: A Short History of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union 1889-1989

1885
Randal Cremer MP

1885 – William Randal Cremer elected as MP for Haggerston. 

"There is still a great work before us.  The advocates of peace are, however, no longer regarded as idle dreamers, and I trust that I have convinced you that our course has, especially of late, made wonderful progress and that we nearing the goal of our hopes.  The world has passed through a long night of tribulation and suffering, millions of our fellow creatures have been sacrificed to the demon of war;  their blood has saturated every plain and dyed every ocean.  But courage, friends, courage!  The darkness is ending, a new day is dawning, and the future is ours."

1887

Randal Cremer presents to the US President a resolution signed by 234 MPs urging America to sign a Treaty with Britain to agree that disputes between them which could not be settled by diplomacy should always go to arbitration.

Summer 1888

Randal Cremer and Frederic Passy meet in Paris to discuss inter-parliamentary cooperation to promote peace.

31 October 1888

First meeting takes place between English and French Members of Parliament to discuss arbitration and peace questions.

30 June 1889
Attendance sheets of the 31 October 1888 Conference

The founding act of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference and therefore, indirectly, of the Union is signed. This provided the origins for today's form of institutionalised multilateral co-operation and advocated the establishment of corresponding institutions at the inter-governmental level - which eventually came into being as the United Nations.

1899

IPU helps establish the Permanent court of Arbitration.

1903

Randall Cremer is awarded the Nobel peace prize.

1906

The British Group of the IPU adopts for itself a Latin motto ‘Pro Patria per Orbis Concordium’ (for the country through world harmony)

1908

The IPU established with an elected Executive Committee of 5 Members and a paid Secretary General

1910

First delegations, from Russia and Turkey, invited by BGIPU, visit Westminster.  Lunch with the Russian delegation was attended by Prime Minister Asquith. 

1919

The precursor to the United Nations, The League of Nations is established some 30 years after the IPU.

1921

The IPU Headquarters is permanently established in Geneva

1943

An IPU meeting in London establishes a European Sub-Committee. This Sub Committee is now known as the 12+ Group within which the BGIPU operates at Multilateral Assemblies.

1945

Just a few months after the cessation of hostilities, the IPU recommences its work with substantive meetings in 1945 and 1946 before covening its 36th Assembly in Cairo in 1947 to discuss the new challenges facing the world in the wake of WWII.

1947-57
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UK Peer Lord Stansgate (formerly the UK House of Commons Member and wartime Secretary of State for Air, William Wedgwood Benn MP) elected to the Presidency of the IPU in the crucial post-WWII period and ensures the organisation's work continues and flourishes with the resumption of annual IPU Assemblies.

1957

The London Conference opening ceremony is televised for the first time with Richard Dimbleby.  Sir Winston Churchill sends a message to the Conference:  

‘Our Parliament has survived because it made itself the spokesman not of government but of the people.  In the fiercest clash of debate we have jealously guarded the right of every Member freely to speak for his constituents and for himself.  If your Conference will follow this tradition, it can make a significant contribution to toleration between ideologies and understanding between nations.  Thus alone can freedom endure and mankind live in peace’.

1962

The Inter-Parliamentary Conference takes place in Brasilia during the Cuban missile crisis and adopted a resolution on the crisis, to which President John F Kennedy responds personally.

4 September 1975
The Queen at 1975 Conference

Her Majesty the Queen addresses the inaugural ceremony of the IPU Assembly in London:  

"The parliamentary approach to world affairs offered the best hope of winning that concord between nations which had been sought for so long.  It enabled change without violence, because it’s essence was a respect for the other person’s point of view and a passionately-held belief in his right to express it"

April 1984

The British Delegation to the IPU Assembly in Geneva lunched with the Argentineans attending the Conference for the first time in many years and thereby established the first post-Falkland’s parliamentary bridge with that country.

December 1984
Mr Gorbachev with BGIPU Chair, Peter Temple-Morris MP, and UK Parliamentarians

BGIPU delegation from the USSR to Westminster, led by Politburo Member Mr Mikhail Gorbachev 

Prime Minister Thatcher's letter thanking the BGIPU Chair for Mr Gorbachev's historic visit is here

15 March 1985

The BGIPU hosts lunch for a delegation from Egypt led by HE President Muhammad Husni Mubarak.

May 1986
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BGIPU delegation to the USSR led by The Rt Hon Viscount Whitelaw CH MC, including round table talks with Mikhail Gorbachev 

6 September 1989
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Prime Minister Thatcher addresses the IPU Centenary Conference in London. In her address she said the following; 

"People will not be persuaded to make the sacrifices necessary for economic reform to succeed unless they are given their political rights and the opportunity to take part in decisions affecting their future."

Click here to read the full text of her speech. 

4-9 September 1989
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Further talks between Senator Menem (brother of the President) of Argentina, and Michael Marshall and Lord Montgomery 

1990

The BGIPU launches a series of seminars to assist would-be parliamentarians from the newly emerged eastern European Democracies

1991-94

UK Member of the House of Commons, Sir Michael Marshall MP, elected IPU President and, upon retirement from the post, appointed Honorary Life President of the IPU.

1995
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A cooperation agreement between the UN and the IPU is signed by then UN Secretary-General Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali and President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council, Dr Fathy Sorour and IPU Secretary General Mr Pierre Cornillon.  

17-21 March 2001

The BGIPU delegation to Libya meets with Colonel Gadaffi in a tent outside Tripoli 

5 April 2001
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Fidel Castro addresses the 105th IPU Assembly in Havana and placed particular emphasis on the situation of the developing countries, noting that over the past two decades, the gap between the poor and the rich had widened dramatically. 

19 November 2002
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The IPU is granted permanent observer status at the United Nations.

January 2003
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The IPU Headquarters relocates to its new premises The House of Parliaments.   

July 2011
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The BGIPU Delegation to Chile meets President Piñera during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Chilean National Congress 

16 October 2011
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Ban Ki-moon addresses the IPU Assembly in Bern recalling that the United Nations Charter began with the words "We the Peoples …". That was why, he said,

"wherever I go, I seek out parliamentarians. You represent the peoples’ voice … the peoples’ hopes … the peoples’ will.... we must put new emphasis on preventive diplomacy to preserve peace and build healthy democracies elsewhere. Women make up half the world’s population. They represent even more of its unrealized potential. In many ways, women are the world’s next emerging economy.  We must expand women’s role in every sphere. And that means in parliament too".

20 March 2014
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The IPU marked its 125th year since being established in 1889 during its 130th Assembly convened in Geneva from 16-20 March 2014 with speeches reaffirming the commitment of the world's parliamentarians to the pursuit of peace and democracy.  In a historic vote, Martin Chungong of Cameroon was elected to replace Anders B. Johnsson as Secretary General of the IPU from 1 July 2014.  He is the eighth Secretary General since the post was created in 1892 and is the first non-European to hold the post.

10 October 2014
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UK Member of the House of Commons, Chloe Smith MP, joins other counterparts in Geneva to participate in IPU's First Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians

16 October 2014
IPU President Saber H Chowdhury

Mr Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP elected during the 131st IPU Assembly in Geneva to a three year term as President of the IPU.  With re-admission of two previous members, the IPU reaches an all-time high of 166 member parliaments.

28 March 2015
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IPU membership adopts the Hanoi Declaration calling for recognition of the key role to be played by parliaments in holding the world’s governments to account in meeting the proposed post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, Vietnam.

2 September 2015
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Fourth World Conference of Speakers, attended by Speakers from both Houses of the UK Parliament, concludes in the UN General Assembly Chamber in New York with key focus on peace, democracy and development and by agreeing key inputs for the world leaders' summit to conclude the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

5 December 2015
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The IPU and the French Parliament organized a Parliamentary Meeting in conjunction with the Climate Change Conference in Paris. The Meeting was held with a view to providing parliamentarians with an opportunity to obtain first-hand information on the main issues and approaches of COP21/CMP11.

28 April 2016
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Agreement between the IPU and the National Parliament of Bangladesh on convening the 136th IPU Assembly in Dhaka in April 2017 was signed by The Hon Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, the Bangladesh Speaker, and the IPU Secretary General, Mr Martin Chungong, in the River Room of the UK House of Lords in the presence of BGIPU Chair, Nigel Evans MP, IPU Vice-President, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and the BGIPU Vice-Chair, Lord Anderson of Swansea.

21 July 2016
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IPU SG Martin Chungong and UN SG Ban Ki Moon sign a new UN-IPU cooperation agreement at UN Headquarters in New York marking a significant step forward in relations between both organisations.

6 March 2017
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The BGIPU provided CHF 30,000 to the IPU's Parliamentary Solidarity Fund as an extra-budgetary contribution encouraging non-member parliaments to participate in IPU work and consider joining the organisation. 

4 April 2017
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Responding to a joint emergency item proposed by the United Kingdom, Kenya and Belgium, IPU members adopted at the 136th Assembly in Dhaka a resolution calling upon the international community to take immediate action to prevent a major global humanitarian crisis created by famine affecting parts of Africa and Yemen.