Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report

Turks and Caicos Islands

Population: 30,600 (subject to levels of legal and illegal immigration)

GDP: $480 million, GDP per head: $15, 683

Key industries: tourism and real estate

Associate member of CARICOM


541.  The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) form the south-eastern extremity of the Bahamas chain and lie 90 miles north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and 575 miles south-east of Miami. The territory comprises some 40 islands and cays (pronounced keys) split into two groups by a deep-water channel, with a total land area of 193 square miles. Only six of the islands are permanently inhabited: Grand Turk (where the capital Cockburn Town is situated); Salt Cay; South Caicos; Middle Caicos; North Caicos and Providenciales (known as Provo, where the majority of the tourism development is). There are a number of exclusive hotel developments and holiday homes on smaller cays. Limited rainfall plus poor soil and a limestone base restrict the possibilities for agricultural development. The island has over 30 environmentally protected areas. There are also 200 miles of white beaches.


542.  Juan Ponce De Leon first discovered these uninhabited Islands in 1512. Locals claim that the islands were the first landfall of Christopher Columbus in 1492. For several centuries TCI changed hands between the French, Spanish and British. They remained virtually uninhabited until 1678 when they were settled by a group of Bermudians who started to extract salt and timber. Loyalists established cotton plantations after the American Revolution, but this was short lived. By 1820 the cotton crop had failed and the majority of planters moved on. TCI became a formal part of the Bahamas in 1799. In 1848 the Islanders petitioned for and were granted separate colonial status with an elected Legislative Board and an administrative President. In 1872 the Islands were annexed by Jamaica and remained tied to them until Jamaica became independent in 1962. TCI then became a Crown colony with an Administrator rather than a Governor. In 1965 the Governor of the Bahamas also became the Governor of TCI. When the Bahamas became independent in 1973 TCI got its own Governor.

Constitutional status

543.  TCI has a ministerial system of government. The 2006 constitution provides for a Governor, a Cabinet and an elected House of Assembly. The Governor is responsible for external affairs, defence, internal security, the regulation of international financial services and certain other matters but is otherwise normally required to act on the advice of Cabinet. The Cabinet consists of the Governor (presiding officer), the Premier, six other ministers and the Attorney General. The House of Assembly comprises a Speaker, 15 elected members, 4 appointed members and the Attorney General.

Evidence received

544.  The Committee received over 50 submissions from the Turks and Caicos Islands, many of which were sent in confidence.

545.  The Committee heard oral evidence from the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands in December 2007.

546.  A delegation of the Committee visited the Turks and Caicos Islands in March 2008.

Key recommendations

  • We conclude that it is wrong for some Overseas Territories to have access to the benefits of International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognition while others do not. We recommend that the FCO should make representations to the IOC about recognition for all its Overseas Territories. (para 136)
  • We are very concerned by the serious allegations of corruption we have received from the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). They are already damaging TCI's reputation, and there are signs that they may soon begin to affect the Islands' tourism industry. There is also a great risk that they will damage the UK's own reputation for promoting good governance. Unlike the Cayman Islands, where the Governor has taken the initiative in investigations, the onus has been placed on local people to substantiate allegations in TCI. This approach is entirely inappropriate given the palpable climate of fear on TCI. In such an environment people will be afraid to publicly come forward with evidence. We conclude that the UK Government must find a way to assure people that a formal process with safeguards is underway and therefore recommend that it announces a Commission of Inquiry, with full protection for witnesses. The change in Governor occurring in August presents an opportunity to restore trust and we recommend that the Commission of Inquiry be announced before the new Governor takes up his post. (para 196)
  • On 20 May we held a private meeting with Meg Munn to express our concerns about the allegations we had received during the course of our inquiry. (para 197)
  • We recommend that the Government should closely monitor the conditions of prisoners, illegal immigrants and migrant workers in Overseas Territories to ensure rights are not being abused. (para 268)
  • We conclude that although extending voting rights to non-Belongers will be politically difficult for Overseas Territory governments, the Government should at least encourage local administrations to review this issue with regard to non-Belongers who have resided in an Overseas Territory for a reasonable period. We recommend that the Government should propose that non-Belongers' rights be an agenda item for the next OTCC. (para 275)
  • We are concerned by the National Audit Office's finding that the FCO has been complacent in managing the risk of money laundering in Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands, particularly since these Territories are those for which the UK is directly responsible for regulation and therefore most exposed to financial liabilities. We agree with the Public Accounts Committee's recent recommendation that Governors of these Territories should use their reserve powers to bring in more external investigators or prosecutors to strengthen investigative capacity. (para 312)
  • We recognise that immigration policy is a matter devolved to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), but we conclude that given the scale of illegal immigration of Haitians into the Territory the FCO should accept greater responsibility for tackling the issue. We recommend that the FCO should provide a regular Royal Navy presence in TCI's coastal waters to assist with patrols and that it should consider with the Haitian government what further measures could be taken by the Haitian and UK governments in cooperation with each other to prevent Haitians leaving by boat to enter TCI illegally. (para 374)
  • We conclude that the Government has acted decisively in some Overseas Territories, for example in the investigations and prosecutions that took place on the Pitcairn Islands. However, in other cases which should also cause grave concern, in particular, allegations of corruption on the Turks and Caicos Islands, its approach has been too hands off. The Government must take its oversight responsibility for the Overseas Territories more seriously - consulting across all Overseas Territories more on the one hand while demonstrating a greater willingness to step in and use reserve powers when necessary on the other. (para 437)
  • We also conclude that the choice of Governor for a Territory, and the levels of training and support they are given, are crucial. We welcome the recent upgrading of the Governor post in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We recommend that the FCO should give consideration to opening up appointments of Governors more frequently to candidates out side the diplomatic service. We also recommend that the Director of the Overseas Territories Directorate should become a more senior post. (para 438)
  • Finally, the Committee concludes it is deplorable and totally unacceptable for any individual who has assisted the Committee with its inquiry to be subjected to threats, intimidation, or personal sanctions or violence in any form. If the Committee is informed of any such retaliatory measures being taken against any person who has submitted formal or informal evidence to this inquiry, it will take all appropriate steps within its powers. (para 439)

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