Select Committee on Foreign Affairs First Special Report



SESSION 1997-98


The Committee requested an update on progress in the overseas territories in adhering to international standards (as set out by the Foreign Secretary on 17 March 1999 (HC Deb col 1127)).

  1.  The White Paper on the Overseas Territories "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity", published in March 1999, outlined the Government's new approach to the relationship with the Overseas Territories. Since then, we have been working with OT Governments and Governors to implement the policies outlined in that Paper. The Committee's recommendation to change the name from Dependent Territories to Overseas Territories has been implemented. We plan to formalise it in legislation through an Overseas Territories Bill which will also address the offer of British citizenship set out in the White Paper.


  (a)  Financial Regulation: All OTs with offshore financial industries have now introduced all-crimes money laundering legislation and are able to co-operate with other jurisdictions in criminal matters.

  (b)  Human Rights: all OTs have now abolished capital punishment for murder, the last being Bermuda in December 1999. Similarly, all have abolished judicial corporal punishment. Turks and Caicos Islands still retain capital punishment for treason and piracy. We are currently investigating the best way to remove this. Gibraltar retains capital punishment for piracy but has given an undertaking to remove this from the statute books. Governments of OTs where consensual private homosexual acts are currently illegal have been asked to pass legislation to decriminalise such activity. All have indicated that they will not do so. HMG will therefore legislate to do so by Order in Council before the end of this year.

Recommendation 7

  We welcome the undertaking given by Baroness Symons that the Review will address practical difficulties relating to access to the United Kingdom. We urge the Government also to address the other difficulties which we have highlighted, particularly in relation to education and training and opportunities to gain work experience. These matters are vital to the continuing economic health of some Dependent Territories, for which the United Kingdom has an ongoing responsibility. (Paragraph 32)

The Committee requested an update on steps taken to deal with the difficulties highlighted.

  2.  Administrative measures have been taken to ease the procedures for education, training and work experience, and make it simpler for people from St Helena and Tristan da Cunha to come to the UK under the Training and Work Experience Scheme and the Permit-free Employment Scheme. Working hours for students from all OTs have also been extended. Such measures will be overtaken when the offer of British citizenship is implemented.

Recommendation 10

  We expect careful and sensitive consideration to be given to the mechanism for the appointment of governors in all Dependent Territories. This should include formal and proper consultation with the appropriate local representatives prior to a governor's appointment. (Paragraph 42)

What steps taken to ensure the suitability of Governors for the territories to which they are appointed?

  3.  The appointment of Governors remains a matter for Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Foreign Secretary. Governors are given more focused training on the societies in which they are to live.

Recommendation 13

  The Dependent Territories Association has called for a thorough examination of existing methods of communication between Chief Ministers and Governors and between British officials and elected representatives in Dependent Territories. We support this call. (Paragraph 50)

How is the Overseas Territories Council operating? What level of support does it have from Chief Ministers and elected representatives in the territories?

  4.  The Overseas Territories Consultative Council held its first meeting in 1999 and the second in October 2000. Governors remain the central point of communication between Chief Ministers, or their equivalents, and the Government. But the establishment of the Council now enables British Ministers to meet political leaders from the OTs to discuss matters of mutual interest in a structured way. At the second meeting, elected representatives from ten territories were present and seven British Ministers took part. Representatives from the OTs were also invited as observers to the second Caribbean Forum held in May 2000. The Caribbean Forum is the major biennial meeting between leaders from the Caribbean region and the UK Government.

Recommendation 21

  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. (Paragraph 64)

What steps have been taken to improve wildlife conservation?

  5.  We now provide additional funding to help OTs with environmental protection and management. A major conference was held in June 1999 to bring together representatives from the OTs with experts from British environmental non-governmental organisations and others. A set of principles on which to base an Environmental Charter for each OT has been drawn up and distributed to OT Governments for consultation. An Environmental Education DVD and video has been produced for use in the OTs, and a website set up to give OTs access to expertise, source material, and advice.

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