Amber Rudd is Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye. Throughout this week she'll be reporting from the plenary session of the Council of Europe.
Today is the first day of the plenary session of the Council of Europe that lasts until Friday and I will be joining fellow Parliamentarians for a discussion with our political allies at 9.30 this morning. We are led by Robert Walter MP, who has a calm expertise on all Strasbourg activities, earned after many years service on the Council. I will walk past the room containing the EPP grouping, perhaps glance wistfully inside, and then take the next door to join the Russians, Poles and others in our European Democrat Group.
At this session we try to agree positions regarding forthcoming debates and select representatives amongst ourselves to speak on behalf of the Group. This is the best opportunity to get a speaking slot as with 47 member states and over 600 delegates, it is hard to get in to speak in the conventional manner.
The morning session in the Chamber for Monday carries a report from the Standing Committee on what was observed at the Parliamentary Elections in Morocco and in the Russian Federation. Given the well publicised issues around the Russian elections this might be interesting. I am aware that some UK delegates (18 in total and cross-party) are keen to point out the flaws in the election. That should liven up the morning session.
We will have a briefing during the day from our Ambassador, Mrs Eleanor Fuller. I hope that at that meeting she will give us some clarity on the UK's wider views to be revealed during the week. Because this may be an interesting, potentially explosive week. It has been well trailed in the press that the Prime Minister is going to share the growing dissatisfaction amongst MPs and their constituents regarding judgements by the European Court of Human Rights. It is not acceptable to have the decisions of our judges on issues such as immigration or welfare, overruled by an interpretation of a Convention that was set up to protect people against real violation of human rights, such as torture.
Conservative plans for our own Bill of Rights have been delayed or scuppered entirely by our Coalition partners. But there are alternative routes to strengthen the hand of British judges. Reform of the Council of Europe could be one such route. Previously UK delegates have spoken up at the Council against the Court going too far in its interpretation of human rights and overruling our established law. I particularly enjoyed the stony silence at a session last year that greeted Claire Perry MP's contribution opposing the judgement that prisoners should have voting rights.
The difference this time is that the UK has the Presidency. This rotates every 6 months so only comes round every 25 years. We are in the driving seat and can at last seize the initiative to push for change. David Lidington, Minister for Europe is speaking on Tuesday. David Cameron will be speaking on Wednesday.
There are many good and noble issues that the Council of Europe has tackled and promoted. Extraordinary rendition for instance, was exposed and confirmed by a Council investigation. But we need to get the balance right. This week, under UK leadership, I hope to hear from our Prime Minister how we can address the uncomfortable reality of British democracy, the will of the people through their MPs, and their judges, being trapped and often undermined by the judges of Strasbourg. I think it is unlikely he will get a standing ovation from Member States on Wednesday. But he may get one from the UK delegation.