Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT Rights launches major new inquiry

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT Rights has this week (Tuesday 20 July) announced a major new inquiry into breaches of LGBT rights worldwide.  The group was set up last month by MPs and Peers across the political parties and is the first of its kind in the UK Parliament.

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The APPG's Chair, Nick Herbert MP, announced the inquiry at a packed event held in the Speaker’s House at the House of Commons to launch the group.  The Speaker, John Bercow MP, has agreed to become Patron of the APPG.

The guest list of 150 included parliamentarians from the Lords and the Commons, businesses and NGOs.  30 MPs and Peers have already joined the group.  The Chair of the newly created Commons Select Committee on Women and Equality, Maria Miller MP, and the Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, were among many senior parliamentarians present at the event.

Entitled “The UK’s stance on international breaches of LGBT rights”, the inquiry will consider the most effective policies to champion and protect LGBT rights worldwide.  The APPG has invited written evidence from individuals and organisations across the private, public and third sectors, after which it will conduct a series of oral evidence sessions with experts.  The final report is expected to recommend a series of measures that the UK government, businesses and NGOs can take to enhance LGBT rights worldwide.

The terms of reference for the inquiry state: "When the rights, and indeed lives, of LGBT people are under threat, the international community has a moral and legal responsibility to act.  However, there are many competing and sometimes conflicting views as to what action should be taken.  As its first major initiative, therefore, the APPG LGBT will work to build an understanding of the most effective responses to breaches of LGBT rights through an APPG inquiry."

Speaking at the launch, Nick Herbert MP (Conservative), Chair of the APPG, said that the group had deliberately chosen a broad initial inquiry to scope the scale of the problem and identify the issues which needed to be addressed.  He said that this approach would enable the group to hear from experts and civil society, and provide a solid evidence base for future work.  The APPG would work closely with interested NGOs but would set up its own secretariat.

He said: “Parliamentarians are at our most powerful when we are speaking on behalf on those who cannot speak for themselves, on behalf of those against whom terrible injustices are being done, for those who do not have a voice.  We are joining together and saying that these injustices cannot be allowed to stand.  We do not intend that this All Party Group will be a talking shop: we intend to make a difference, and to help to secure the advancement of rights that are being abused in other parts of the world."

Lord (Michael) Cashman (Labour), Vice Chair of the APPG, said that the event was “an historic moment” and said: “We should pay tribute to everyone who has made this APPG a reality.  It has been generations in the making and I want to pay homage who have had the courage to stand up, names that will be not noted, faces that will not be remembered but because of them, on their shoulders, we go forward.”

Stewart McDonald MP (SNP), Vice Chair of the APPG, said: “This group is the only group I ever had any intention of joining when I came to this Parliament because there is a lot of work to be done, but it is work I look forward to doing.  I look forward to this inquiry, to working with you all, and most of all to making progress on these critically important issues.”

Baroness (Liz) Barker (Liberal Democrat), Vice Chair of the APPG, highlighted the convening role of the APPG: “Our role is to bring together an unprecedented level of resource for different disciplines, from government, from the private sector, from the voluntary sector, from religions, to take us all forward and to a place that we never imagined in our lifetime would ever get to.”

Philippa Drew, Chair of the Doughty Street Group of NGOs concerned with the persecution of LGBT people around the world, said: “From where we were when I started my career, the idea that there might now be an All Party Parliamentary Group on LGBT Rights, and that we would celebrate its launching in the Speaker’s State Apartments, was utterly unthinkable.  It is an extraordinary journey that we have all been on and I do want to say a big thank you to everyone involved in establishing the group.”  

The Speaker of the House of Commons said: “I think it is a fantastic thing that this group has been established.  In at least 71 jurisdictions around the world, possibly more, it is still criminal to be 'you'.  There is a huge journey still to be undertaken and the challenge in this Parliament, and in others all around the world, is to try to broker the change of attitudes that is necessary to bring about reform.”

ENDS

NOTES

  1. See the APPG’s news release of 26 June 2015 “MPs and Peers form New Group to Champion LGBT Rights around the World”: http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/637/mps-and-peers-form-new-group-to-champion-lgbt-rights-around-the-world.
  2. Terms of reference for the APPG Inquiry can be found here.
  3. Caroline Lucas MP (Green – Brighton Pavilion) also serves as a Vice Chair of the APPG, Lord (Ray) Collins of Highbury (Labour) serves as Treasurer and Ben Howlett MP (Conservative – Bath) serves as Secretary.
  4. APPGs are cross-party groups that are distinct from parliamentary select committees.  Select committees have a formal role in scrutinising government departments, while APPGs can be set up to focus on specific issues by Members of the Commons and Lords, often involving individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.  They do not receive any public funding.  Groups that register as APPGs have to conform to rules about cross-party membership and transparency about their activities and funding.
  5. Photographs at the launch event:

 i – Guests at the launch of the APPG on LGBT Rights

ii – Baroness (Liz) Barker, Vice Chair of the APPG

iii – Lord (Michael) Cashman, Vice Chair of the APPG

iv – The Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP, Chair of the APPG

v – Philippa Drew, Chair of the Doughty Street Group

vi – Stewart McDonald MP, Vice Chair of the APPG

vii – The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons and Patron of the APPG

Michelle TaylorLGBT