After 2 years, BGIPU’s bilateral visits resume welcoming a delegation from France
On 1-2 February 2022, BGIPU hosted a delegation of three parliamentarians from France. The visit had the purpose of enhancing parliamentary relations between the two founding countries of the IPU. It was the first inward delegation BGIPU has hosted in Parliament since the pandemic, and it was significant that the first visit was our closet neighbour with whom we share history, values and beliefs. The delegation was led by Mr Hubert Julien-Laferrière, a National Assembly Member, and he was accompanied by two senators, Mr Didier Marie and Mr Louis Jean de Nicolay.
The programme commenced with a meeting with Harriett Baldwin MP, Chair of BGIPU, who warmly welcomed the visiting delegation. She discussed matters with the delegates relating to the IPU and in particular the hope that the USA will re-join the organisation. Afterwards, the delegation met with members of the French APPG, Stephen Crabb MP (who chairs the APPG), Lord Touhig and Douglas Chapman MP. The meeting was productive and topics discussed ranged from defence, to migration, and to the limitations and opportunities with the new Turing Scheme (a replacement for Erasmus). Following this, the delegation met with Victoria Prentis MP, Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food. The delegation discussed the progress made on licenses for fishing which had been a source of contention in the months post Brexit.
In the afternoon, the delegation met with Alex Sobel MP and Anna McMorrin MP for a meeting on COP26 outcomes and follow up activities to the event. The progress made during the meeting in Glasgow was spoken about and there was an important conversation about the best way to continue this good work done during COP26 when the baton is passed on to Egypt for COP27. This was followed by a meeting with Deputy Speaker, Nigel Evans MP (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means). Mr Evans is well versed in the role of the IPU having previously served as Chair of BGIPU. The meeting focussed on the role of the IPU on the world stage and the importance of renewed USA membership.
The following day the delegation were given an excellent tour by Tim Loughton MP. After the tour, the delegates met with Lord Hannay and Lord Purvis who sit on the European Affairs Committee in the House of Lords for an in depth discussion about parliamentary engagement and post Brexit relations between UK and Europe. They also spoke about the importance of cooperation on security challenges specifically regarding NATO in addressing current threats. The delegates next went to Prime Minister’s Question to watch the fiery debate. The French Members mentioned how impressed they were that UK Members often do not have written notes when they debate and hold their leaders to account.
After a lunch hosted by former Lord Speaker and BGIPU Vice-Chair, Baroness D’Souza, the delegates met with Dame Eleanor Laing MP, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means. They discussed at length the UK’s parliamentary system and the process by which the government is scrutinised through oral questions. The visit was a huge success and an opportunity to strengthen ties between France and the UK as the pandemic draws to an end. There was a lot of interest in continuing bilateral delegations to further enhance parliamentary relations. The visit was also very important in reinforcing the strong mutually beneficial relationship between the two founding members parliaments of the IPU.