Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference - A history

Origins of the Empire Parliamentary Association (EPA)

The EPA was created out of the Imperial Cooperation League. This league set up an Executive Committee consisting of senior Members of the House of Commons and Lords to consider the possibility of inviting Members of the dominion parliaments to attend George V's Coronation in 1911. 

A notable player in the League and the Committee, was a barrister by the name of Howard D’Egville. He was crucial in pushing for greater cooperation within the Empire. As Honorary Secretary of both the League and Committee he was ultimately responsible for the creation of the Empire Parliamentary Association.  In June 1911, the Executive Committee reported:

'....The League had best be directed towards the establishment of an association to be called under some such title as Empire Parliamentary Union, having branches in the United Kingdom Parliament and Parliaments of the overseas dominions, so that mutual intercourse and exchange of information should be facilitated between home and overseas members, and introductions, parliamentary privileges, travel facilities, meetings and information provided for members in respective countries...'

On the 19 June 1911, 60 overseas delegates (from what is now the Commonwealth) attended a luncheon consisting of around 500 to 600 influential political figures from the UK in Westminster Hall. Three days later these 60 delegates attended the King’s Coronation followed by a lunch in the Harcourt Room (now known as the Churchill Dining Room). However, the purpose of this visit was not solely to attend the coronation and tour the UK; it had a more vital purpose.

On the 28th June 1911, in Committee Room 15 of the House of Commons, Members of the Executive Committee as well as the 60 overseas parliamentarians met to discuss a paper proposing the formation of an Empire Parliamentary Association. The proposal was unanimously agreed. A subcommittee of 14 was established to create a draft constitution. At the final session of 18th July, the conference unanimously adopted the constitution for the association. It called for:

'The establishment of a permanent machinery to provide more ready exchange of information and to facilitate closer understanding and more frequent intercourse between those engaged in the parliamentary government of the component parts of the Empire...'

Furthermore that:

'An organisation shall be formed, having a branch in the United Kingdom and in each of the self-governing Dominions of the Empire, under the title of the Empire Parliamentary Association. Whilst the Association shall be constituted upon strictly non-party lines, it is clearly understood that members making use of the facilities afforded by the association shall not be debarred from giving the fullest expression of their political views'.