Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Foreign Secretary to the Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 9 May enclosing a copy of one from Warren Cabral of The Association for Due Process and the Constitution, 34 Upper Tachbrook Street, Pimlico, London, SW1V 1SW to Sir John Stanley about the constitutional review process in Bermuda.

  Mr Cabral is concerned about the Government of Bermuda's proposal to introduce single member constituencies in place of the existing 20 dual-member constituencies and wants HMG to establish a Constitutional Conference to consider the matter. There is no set precedent for any constitutional review. The process in each Overseas Territory has to be handled according to the circumstances of the territory concerned. We have assured Mr Cabral that it is our intention to encourage further public consultation in Bermuda about the Bermuda Government's proposal. We have insisted on this from the start of the Bermudian constitutional review process.

  To answer your specific questions:

    —  The Government of Bermuda has pressed HMG to amend the Constitution of Bermuda to establish single-member constituencies. They proposed a review by a local Constituency Boundaries Commission whose recommendations would have given immediate effect by the Governor once endorsed by the House of Assembly and the Premier. Instead we insisted that any report by the Boundaries Commission should be submitted to London after debate in Bermuda; an Order in Council made last July requires this. Action to implement the report, or any variation of it, would then require a further Order in Council amending the Constitution. I therefore considered that it was not necessary or appropriate to call a constitutional conference before the draft Order in Council was recommended to Her Majesty in Council last July.

    —  Once the Boundaries Commission's recommendations are known, which I understand will be in June or July, there will be a further debate in Bermuda. A constitutional conference has not been ruled out, nor the principle of a referendum (although this is not in our gift and would require legislation in Bermuda).

    —  A constitutional conference was held in 1979, on only one of the previous six occasions on which Bermuda's Constitution has been amended.

Secretary of State

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

23 May 2002

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