Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Correspondence between the Chairman of the Committee and the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to the Foreign Secretary

  Thank you for your letter of 23 May in response to mine of 9 May, about the Bermuda constitutional review process.

  The Committee has asked me to write again, requesting that we be kept in close touch with further developments in the review process.

  More generally, the Committee is concerned about the Order in Council procedure under which constitutional changes and related decisions affecting the Overseas Territories are made. As you know, such Orders are subject to no parliamentary procedure, and there is therefore no formal mechanism for amending them or for requiring their revocation. Neither, as far as I am aware, is there any informal opportunity before these Orders are presented for views to be expressed within Parliament, which retains responsibility within the United Kingdom for holding the Government to account for its stewardship of the Territories. As your letter makes clear, a draft Order in Council is "recommended to Her Majesty in Council", before being made.

  The Committee takes seriously its role of monitoring the Government's activities in respect of Overseas Territories, which are not themselves represented in Parliament. It therefore wishes to see such draft Orders in Council before they are made, so that it may decide whether they merit debate or scrutiny in the public forum of Parliament, before they are approved by Her Majesty in Council. I believe that such a system of scrutiny could work very well under an informal understanding between the Government and the Committee. It might prove useful, both for the Government and for the House, to have some form of Parliamentary input before the Orders are made.

  I would welcome your thoughts on these matters by 10 July, if possible, so that the Committee may consider them further before the Summer recess.


Foreign Affairs Committee

18 June 2002

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