THE SCOPE OF THE REVIEW
The organisation of Government
responsibility for the Dependent Territories
52. Primary responsibility
for Dependent Territory matters rests with the Foreign Office.
However, some matters, such as provision of aid, are the responsibility
of other departments, such as the Department for International
Baroness Symons told us that the transfer of the Department for
International Development's responsibilities for Dependent Territories
to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was being considered as
part of the review. She also pointed out that interests were
shared with other departments, such as the Department of Trade
Regional Dependent Territories Secretariat
53. The Caribbean Regional
Dependent Territories Secretariat is based in Barbados. Although
the Secretariat answers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
its responsibilities include the delivery of development aid to
those Caribbean Dependent Territories which receive it. Mr Russell,
of the Dependent Territories Association (DTA), and himself a
former Governor of the Cayman Islands, was critical of the role
of the Secretariat, describing it as an "administrative nightmare."
business raises a conceptual issue. An official writing from
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to a governor or to people
in dependencies writes under the fiction that it is the Secretary
of State writing; he does it under the Secretary of State's name
or a minister's name. That fiction is perfectly supportable when
the letter is coming from London, but when it is coming from Barbados
to governors it is less discernible and does not carry the same
He considered that the role of
the Secretariat should be examined in the course of the Review.
Baroness Symons conceded that the machinery in relation to the
Caribbean territories in general was "rather cumbersome"
and told us that it is subject to review.
54. We agree that the role
of the Caribbean Regional Dependent Territories Secretariat should
be thoroughly examined in the course of the Dependent Territories
Review. We understand that, as part of the streamlining of decision-making
in relation to aid to Montserrat, it is no longer involved in
We are glad to note that both the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office and the Department for International Development recognise
the deficiencies in the present machinery. We recommend that
consideration be given to the abolition of the Secretariat.
Commonwealth Office Organisation in London
55. At present, the Dependent
Territories are handled in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
by the appropriate geographical department. As a result, four
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers each have one or more
Dependent Territories within their portfolios although the bulk
of them fall within the Ministerial responsibilities of Baroness
Symons. An alternative would be to bring all the Dependent Territories
together under one Minister: there are, as we have already observed,
a number of issues of common interest that might be more effectively
handled by a single Minister.
56. There are pros and cons
of each approach. As Baroness Symons commented:
"....it must be
acknowledged that when one looks at different dependent territories
it is important that they are viewed in their geographical context.
It is very difficult to divorce a dependent territory from its
immediate geographical context and its relationship with neighbours
over issues such as international crime, drug-running or whatever
the issues are...."
Against this must be balanced
the risk that, within a large geographical department, the special
interests of Dependent Territories will be marginalised. In consequence,
they may be liable to be subordinated, or perceived as liable
to be subordinated, to broader policy interests. The Falkland
Islands Legislative Council, though, is strongly opposed to one
department for the Dependent Territories, which it feels would
be dominated by Caribbean concerns.
57. Baroness Symons suggested
keeping Dependent Territories as they are in their own geographical
location under different Ministers, but ensuring that there is
better coordination, both within the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office and across departments.
We prefer this option, subject to our recommendation in the following
58. Baroness Symons told
us that, within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministers
meet and have discussions about some of the generic issues relating
to Dependent Territories. There is, in our view, some parallel
with relations with Commonwealth territories.
These are primarily handled in geographical departments, but
there is policy co-ordination through the Commonwealth Co-ordination
Department. We believe there is also a case for a similar specific
department to co-ordinate Dependent Territories' matters. We
therefore recommend the establishment within the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office of a Dependent Territories Co-ordination Department to
act as a focus for matters of general interest relating to Dependent
59. As Sir John Kerr's evidence
to the Public Accounts Committee makes clear, a number of government
departments have interests in different aspects of policy towards
the Dependent Territories. Sir John was unable to offer the Public
Accounts Committee an assurance that all risks had been properly
weighed and properly covered. Baroness Symons, who chairs interdepartmental
Dependent Territories Ministerial meetings,
commented that "Government departments jolly well have to
We believe there is a need for strengthening of the inter-departmental
co-ordinating arrangements. We recommend that changes to achieve
this objective must emerge from the Review.
60. The International Development
Committee has drawn attention to future sources of aid funding
for Montserrat and wider questions of the appropriate source of
funds to meet the developmental needs of the Dependent Territories.
That committee considered the United Kingdom's responsibilities
to Dependent Territories citizens to be of "a greater and
different order to our more general humanitarian responsibilities
to the developing world and involve different priorities",
and concluded that responsibilities and resources should go together.
Baroness Symons commented that "it is hard to see what department
it should be if it is not the FCO."
This proposal raises a number of complex questions and we
are therefore glad to note Baroness Symons' assurance that it
will be considered in the course of the Review.
Access and Accountability
61. Various witnesses argued
that there is what amounts to a "democratic deficit"
in the United Kingdom's relationship with Dependent Territories.
The deficit exists both for the Dependent Territories elected
representatives, who have no direct constitutional mechanism for
making representations to Parliament, and Members of Parliament,
who have no formal way of assessing the performance of the Governor
or the local Administration. Despite a notional chain of accountability
to Parliament, from the Governor through the Foreign Secretary,
there is, in our view, insufficient access for Members of this
House to examine the conduct and stewardship of either the Governor
or the local Administration. It should be remembered that ultimately
Westminster is the Parliament of all Dependent Territories, the
Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are, in many respects,
also their Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and it is in London
that their external relations, defence, and many other matters
are decided. Although some territories undoubtedly have good
and passionate advocates in both Houses, such advocates can only
reflect the views of legislatures, not present them directly.
62. We received a number
for improving the arrangements for bringing the views of elected
representatives of the Dependent Territories to the attention
of Parliament. Direct representation and direct access to Parliament
- two of the options suggested - raise a number of substantial
constitutional questions on which we have taken little evidence.
We do not therefore propose to offer an opinion on these at this
stage. However, we consider that the matter of the democratic
deficit is a serious one and we recommend that it should be a
major issue for the Review.
in the United Kingdom
63. Many Dependent Territories
enjoy permanent representation in the United Kingdom through their
own government offices,
enabling them to have a closer relationship with Whitehall and
with Parliament. In cases where territories are unable to
provide a permanent representative in the United Kingdom by reason
of cost, we recommend that consideration be given to providing
financial assistance to enable such representation to be set up,
if the territory so wishes.
64. We received evidence
from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds about aspects
of the environmental importance of some of the Dependent Territories.
St Helena also draws attention to the potential of its flora
and fauna as a tourist attraction.
The RSPB drew attention to a number of apparent obstacles to
effective wildlife conservation in these territories. We recommend
that the Government give careful consideration in the context
of the Review to ways in which wildlife conservation can be enhanced
in all the Dependent Territories, inhabited and uninhabited.
101 Q129. Back
102 Q34. Back
103 Q126, 130. Back
104 HC 267 (1997-98), para. 47. Back
105 Q131. Back
106 Appendix 12, p. 70. Back
107 Q130-131. Back
108 Q131-132. Back
109 Q131. See also Ev. p. 2. Back
110 Q130. Back
111 HC 267 (1997-98), paras. 98-101. Back
112 Q129. Back
113 See, for example, Q55-57 and Appendix 12, p. 70. See also Q145 and 148. Back
114 For example the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and St Helena. Back
115 Appendix 15, p. 76. Back
116 See Ev. p. 48 and the St Helena web-site: http://www.sthelena.se/endemic/endemic.html Back