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 18 June about Bermuda's Constitutional Review. We shall certainly keep you informed of developments as the review progresses.

  You raise the more general issue of Orders in Council with respect to the Constitutions of the Overseas Territories. You propose an informal arrangement whereby the Committee are shown draft Orders before they are made.

  I have given careful thought to this. Although Parliament has not required prior scrutiny of such Orders, I recognise its role in overseeing HMG's stewardship of the Overseas Territories, and accept that there may be merit in what you propose. I shall therefore make arrangements for the Committee to be shown, where appropriate, draft Orders on Overseas Territory Constitutions for information before they are made.

  I would not intend, however, that this should delay the making of such Orders. We must pay heed to the perspective of the Territories themselves. The 1999 Government White Paper is based on the principle of partnership with the Territories and allowing them to run their own affairs as far as possible. Against this background, the constitutional review process has, for the first time, been opened up to public consultation. The preparation of draft Orders in Council is therefore the result of consultation and agreement with representative opinion in the Territories, most of which have their own elected legislatures and governments. It will be important that the Committee respect this.

  There may be occasions where it would not be appropriate to show the Committee such draft Orders, for example on occasions of urgency or when confidentiality is imperative. The suspension by Order in Council of ministerial government in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1986, following a Commission of Enquiry, is an example of such a contingency. But such occasions should, I hope, be rare.

Secretary of State

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

12 July 2002

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