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Edward McMillan-Scott

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Edward McMillan-Scott

Edward McMillan-Scott
Member of the European Parliament
for Yorkshire and the Humber
In office
14 June 1984 – 2 July 2014
Preceded by Neil Balfour
Succeeded by Amjad Bashir
Personal details
Born (1949-08-15) 15 August 1949
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats (2010–present)

Conservative Party (1967–2009)

Spouse(s) Henrietta McMillan-Scott

Edward Hugh Christian McMillan-Scott (born 15 August 1949) is a British politician. He was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Yorkshire and the Humber constituency. He was elected four times as European Parliament Vice-President, 2004–2014. His main portfolio was Human Rights and Democracy. He was first elected as an MEP in 1984. McMillan-Scott was a Conservative until a dispute over the move of the Conservatives to a newly created, then moderately eurosceptic parliamentary group, the European Conservatives and Reformists; he was expelled from the Conservatives, and eventually joined the Liberal Democrats in March 2010.

On 22 November he was voted a Patron of the European Movement at its London AGM (see European Movement website).

McMillan-Scott was leader of the Conservative MEPs 1997–2001. He was re-elected top of the Yorkshire & Humber regional list in the 2009 election. McMillan-Scott is a lifelong pro-European.[1] Following David Cameron's decision to withdraw the Conservative MEPs from the centrist European People's Party in order to form the European Conservative and Reformist's Group, McMillan-Scott objected. When the composition of Cameron's new ECR group was announced after the European elections of 2009, McMillan-Scott protested.[2] The new group was described by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as "a bunch of nutters, homophobes, anti-Semites and climate-change deniers".[3] He successfully stood as an independent Vice-President against the nominee of the ECR Group, Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, criticising Kaminski's alleged past links to extremism, confirmed inter alia by the Daily Telegraph.[4] He is the only Vice-President to have been elected without an official party candidature.[5] As a result of this protest, he had the whip withdrawn and was subsequently expelled from the Conservative Party.

In March 2010, he joined the Liberal Democrats with whom he had usually worked closely on democracy and human rights issues. In May 2010 he became a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament.[6] He then sat as ALDE Vice-President of the European Parliament.[7] In January 2012, he was re-elected as Vice-President for the fourth time.[8] He once again received the portfolio for Democracy and Human Rights as well as additionally gaining the Sakharov Prize Network, which underpins the parliament's annual prize for freedom of expression and responsibility for transatlantic relations. In the 2014 election he lost his seat as an MEP in an election that saw nation-wide gains for the UK Independence Party, and the Liberal Democrats lose all but one of their seats.

Early life

McMillan-Scott was born 15 August 1949 in Cambridge, England,[9][10] one of seven children of the late Walter, an architect, and the late Elisabeth McMillan-Scott, née Hudson. He was educated privately by Dominican Friars.[11] He worked across the continent, the USSR and Africa as a tour director for a US company for several years. He speaks French, Italian, some German and Spanish. From 1973 he worked in public affairs and in 1982 set up his own Whitehall consultancy. His clients included the Falkland Islands Government. He became a member of the Conservative Party in 1967[10][11] and joined the European Movement in 1973. He was one of the joint regional coordinators for the Yes to Europe campaign in the 1975 referendum on EC membership.

European Parliament

McMillan-Scott was elected as the MEP for York from 1984 to 1994,[12] then MEP for North Yorkshire from 1994 to 1999,[12] and an MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber from 1999 until 2014.[13][14][15][16]

Roles and responsibilities

McMillan-Scott was leader of the British Conservative MEPs between September 1997 and December 2001, and attended the Shadow Cabinet on European issus.[10] On 23 July 2004 he was elected fourth of the 14 Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament.[10][17] He was re-elected a Vice-President in 2007, 2009 and 2012.[17] McMillan-Scott's special responsibilities as Vice-President included relations with national EU parliaments[10] and the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly,[18] which brings together 280 MPs from the EU, North Africa and the Middle East.[19] After re-election as Vice-President in 2009, his responsibilities as Vice-President were Democracy and Human Rights, relations with national parliaments, and chairing the European Parliament's Audit Panel. After re-election in 2012 he continued with the democracy and human rights portfolio and additionally the Sakharov Prize Network and transatlantic relations.

He founded the regular forum between the Human Rights and Democracy Network, more than 40 Brussels-based NGOs, and the European Parliament, whose aim is to maximise EU attention to these topics.

He sat on the Supervisory Group which oversees all the European Parliament’s democracy and human rights activities, including election observation. He has participated in numerous such missions since 1990. He was elected chairman of the European Parliament's largest-ever election observer missions, 30 MEPs, to the Palestinian territories in January 2005 and January 2006. These observers monitored the Palestinian National Authority's presidential and parliamentary elections.[10][20]

Awards and Prizes

Medal of Honour

McMillan-Scott was presented in September 2013 with the Medal of Honour[21] by the Venice-based European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation, comprising 41 universities, "in recognition of his lasting efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights". Previous winners are Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Outstanding Contribution

On 25 September McMillan-Scott won the top award, for ‘Outstanding Contribution’ in the 2012 MEP Awards[22] presented by the Parliament magazine, Brussels sister publication of Westminster’s House magazine. The citation referred to his achievements in democracy and human rights, especially his active involvement in the Arab Spring, as well as his leadership of the Single Seat campaign to end MEPs’ monthly trek from their base in Brussels to their official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg.


Democracy and Human Rights

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, McMillan-Scott founded the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR),[23] to facilitate the development of democracy and civil society in the ex-Soviet bloc[24][25] countries, and which is now directed towards the reforming Arab world and countries resisting reform such as China, Cuba and Russia.[11] The instrument makes €150 million available to those promoting human rights and democracy, often without the applicant's host country consent.

As a frequent visitor to countries of the former Soviet Bloc and its satellites after his election in 1984, where he had contacts with dissidents, McMillan-Scott was arrested and fined in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) in 1972 for visiting former religious institutions while working as a tour guide. He was present during the October 1993 attempted coup d’etat by old guard communists against President Boris Yeltsin and was the only outside politician to speak at Gary Kasparov’s July 2006 ‘Other Russia’ rally. He was the first outside politician to visit Belgrade towards the end of the Milosevic regime, where he reviewed more than 30 reformist and social projects being funded by the EIDHR.

From 2004 – 2012 he chaired the European Parliament’s informal, cross-party Democracy Caucus,[26] which was set up to campaign for a European Endowment for Democracy and Human Rights (EED). The ambition was to have an equivalent to Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy, to work at arms’-length from the EU and to be deniable, expert and flexible. The EED was set up in 2012.[27]

McMillan-Scott is one of the foremost campaigners for reform in China. After his last visit to Beijing, in May 2006, all the dissidents and former prisoners-of-conscience with whom he had contact were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases tortured. These included the Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng and environmental activist Hu Jia. McMillan-Scott successfully nominated Hu Jia for the 2008 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Expression, awarded annually by the European Parliament. He has sponsored numerous activities, hearings and resolutions focussed on reform in China. In November 2010 he met the dissident artist Ai Weiwei, co-designer of Beijing’s ‘Birds Nest’ stadium, who made a highly-critical series of comments for McMillan-Scott’s YouTube channel.[28] Ai Weiwei later spent some months under house arrest in Beijing.

Although he has no religious beliefs, McMillan-Scott has championed [30]

He has argued for an Impunity Index to be maintained by the International Criminal Court, based on the West German Salzgitter process during the Cold War, where denunciations of crimes against humanity in totalitarian states may later lead to prosecutions.

He wrote a key report for the European Parliament's foreign affairs select committee, of which he was at one time the longest-serving member, on a new EU–China strategy in 1997.[31][32] Following subsequent visits to China and pre-Olympic crackdowns he initiated a campaign aimed at an EU political boycott of the August 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.[33] In the event, the Presidents of the European Parliament and European Commission boycotted the Games, as did the EU's external affairs Commissioner.[33]

McMillan-Scott was the first politician to visit Tibet after a three-year blackout, in 1996. He has subsequently championed the cause of Tibetan independence, taking part in numerous activities to highlight oppression in Tibet. He and his staff have made many speeches and taken part in pro-democracy activities with Tibetan exiles.[34]

In October 2006, McMillan-Scott visited Cuba, where he met Sakharov prize winners ‘The Ladies in White’ and the late Oswaldo Payá as well as other dissidents and has since encouraged their campaign for political freedoms.

The Arab World

McMillan-Scott, a relation of T E Lawrence (‘of Arabia’) through the latter’s father, Sir Thomas Chapman Bt, has campaigned for reform across the Arab world since a visit to Jordan in 1993. He championed Egypt’s liberal El Ghad party from 2003, and secured the release of its leader, Dr Ayman Nour, after he was imprisoned for standing against former President Mubarak in 2005. He was the first outside politician to get to Cairo at the end of the revolution in February 2011 and made a series of visits to the region in the following months.[35] In September 2012, jointly with the leader of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, he was present at the launch of the Arab Leaders for Freedom and Democracy. The meetings were attended among others by Dr Ayman Nour, Mr Amre Moussa and interim Libyan premier Mahmud Gibril.[36]

Children's rights

McMillan-Scott campaigns for improved children's rights across the EU and has dealt with a number of cross-frontier child abduction cases.[37] He began campaigning for an EU-wide missing child alert, similar to the Amber Alert system in the USA, with Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing Madeleine.[38] A resolution to this effect, in the summer of 2008, was sponsored by McMillan-Scott and gained the support of a majority of MEPs. In the USA, the Department of Justice's Amber Alert has recovered over 500 abducted children since 2003, 80% within the crucial first 72 hours.[38] France has an identical system but other countries, including the UK, rely on a patchwork of police schemes and children's charities.


In 1999 McMillan-Scott was singled out by ‘whistleblower’ Paul van Buitenen for his role in the 1999 fall of the European Commission. After McMillan-Scott’s discovery of fraud in the EU Commission’s tourism unit during the 1990 European Year of Tourism, which McMillan-Scott had initiated, he campaigned for reform and in 1995 caused the first-ever raid by Belgium’s fraud squad on the Commission. After a report by a panel of independent Wise Men, the Commission was later accused of serious irregularities, nepotism and allegations of fraud leading to the resignation of President Jacques Santer and all his commissioners in 1999.[39]

His 'Golden Fleece' campaign against fraud and malpractice in the Costa villa and timeshare market won wide support, leading to the EU Timeshare Directive in 1994.[40][41] He has continued to campaign for more secure property rights in the EU's neighbouring states, as buyers move into the Balkans, Turkey and North Africa, where the legal framework is less secure.[42]

Single Seat of the European Parliament in Brussels

McMillan-Scott has been a member of every initiative aimed at ending the European Parliament’s wasteful monthly four-day sessions in Strasbourg since his election in 1984. In October 2010 he set up the Brussels-Strasbourg Study Group of senior MEPs to provide objective information. Its February 2011 report ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ stated that the additional cost is €180 million and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. The Single Seat campaign,[43] aims at moving all the European Parliament’s activities to Brussels. McMillan-Scott was awarded the Parliament magazine’s 2012 Award for 'Outstanding Contribution' partly for his leadership of the campaign, which resulted in a large majority of MEPs voting for their governments to address the issue.[44]

Sustainable food

Since 2008 McMillan-Scott has eaten no meat[45] because of its alleged effect on climate change and in December 2009 invited Sir Paul McCartney to a conference ‘Less Meat = Less Heat’,[46] jointly with Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[47] McCartney campaigns for less meat consumption as Meat Free Mondays. A long-term campaigner for reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, in June 2011 McMillan-Scott invited Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Brussels to internationalise the super-chef’s Fish Fight against discards. On 3 December 2013, Edward launched EU Food Sense: your right to the right food,[48] a campaign for a sustainable food policy in the EU to replace the wasteful Common Agricultural Policy.

Leaving the Conservative Party

Before the European Elections of June 1999, the British Conservative MEPs were allied members of the European People's Party (EPP).[49] After the election, jointly with the then leader of the Conservative Party William Hague, McMillan-Scott negotiated the 'Málaga Agreement' which provided for a more detached relationship between the 36 British Conservative MEPs and the newly formed European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED) coalition.[49] This agreement remained in force until the 2009 elections when the Conservatives broke links with the EPP and formed part of the new European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.[50][51]

Following his re-election to the European Parliament, McMillan-Scott left the EPP group and joined the new ECR group in accordance with the Conservative manifesto for the election.[52] He attended the inaugural meeting of the new group, in Brussels on 24 June, where he expressed the view that he was uncomfortable with some members of the group having possible links with extremist groups.[53]

In July 2009 he successfully stood for re-election as Vice-President of the European Parliament against the nominee of the new ECR group, Michał Kamiński a Polish MEP from the Law and Justice Party,[54][55] after discovering Kaminski's past links to an extemist group in Poland.[4] As a result the Conservative whip was withdrawn.[54][55][56] McMillan-Scott was then seated as a non-attached (Non-Inscrit) MEP in the European Parliament,[57] though he remained a member of the British Conservative Party.[57]

On 10 August 2009, William Hague wrote a letter to McMillan-Scott, described by the Conservative Home website as ‘humiliating’.[58] On 15 September 2009, he was expelled from the Conservative Party without notice or reason. The doyen of the Yorkshire Post wrote a stinging attack entitled “Own goal as Tories force out a decent man”.[59] McMillan-Scott appealed and issued a series of open letters to his constituents but, after his lawyers declared that he could not expect a fair hearing from the Conservative Party, he wrote to David Cameron on 12 March 2010 outlining his reasons for resigning his appeal.[60] The vilification of McMillan-Scott by the Conservative Party included the alteration of WorldHeritage pages, in an attempt "to airbrush the embarrassing past" of Michał Kamiński, chairman of the ECR. McMillan-Scott also stated, quite correctly, that his own article had also been edited in this way. An article published in The Observer newspaper reports edits to the articles made on 25 June 2009 from IP addresses originating in the United Kingdom House of Commons.[61]

The rise of the right

McMillan-Scott has long studied totalitarianism; his opposition to the Soviet system was shared by many Conservatives. However, with the transition to democracy he found that increasingly the Conservative Party saw European Union enlargement as a means to dismembering the EU. It began to make common cause with rightist groups and factions in the new democracies.[62] Through his family's background, McMillan-Scott was alarmed at the rise of disguised extremism and forms of neo-Fascism.[63] TIME magazine's cover story after the European elections of 2009 reported that Europe had made a far right turn, covering the rise of the right in ten EU countries.[64] McMillan-Scott's rejection of David Cameron's new ECR group and his successful stand as an independent vice-president against Michal Kaminski finally led to his break with the Conservative Party.

Joining the Liberal Democrats

On 12 March 2010 McMillan-Scott joined the Liberal Democrats, as he felt that they provided a more suitable home with a focus on human rights and an internationalist agenda.[6] The Liberal Democrats are a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, which McMillan-Scott formally joined on 17 May. He was nominated by the Liberal Democrat MEPs, and then the ALDE group, as a candidate for Vice-President in January 2012 and was then successfully re-elected. He described the Coalition as 'the happiest moment in my political life: Liberal Democrats have tamed the Conservative extremists'.[65]


McMillan-Scott married a child rights lawyer Henrietta in 1972. They have two daughters Lucinda born 1973 and Arabella born 1976 and three granddaughters Edie born 1999, Esme born 2001 and Sylvia born 2012.


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External links

  • Official website
  • Profile at European Parliament website
Party political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Plumb
Leader of the Conservative Party Delegation in the European Parliament
Succeeded by
Jonathan Evans
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