410: Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Chris Bryant MP, Parliamentary
Under- Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
overseas territories: memoranda
Clerk of the Committee has requested up-dates on recent developments in the
Overseas Territories ahead of the Committee's meetings with Overseas Territory
leaders on 10 December and with the Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands on
8 December. I am replying as Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories.
attach two memos addressing the issues that you asked us to cover together with
additional information that the Committee might find helpful.
am having bilateral meetings with all Territory leaders while they are in
London and will be chairing the Overseas Territories Consultative Council
meeting on 9 December. I am also hosting a reception for Territory leaders and
guests at Lancaster House that evening to which you and Committee members have
been invited. I hope you will be able to join us.
30 November 2009
recent developments in the uk's overseas territories
memorandum is provided in response to a request from the Foreign Affairs
Committee for information on recent developments in the UK's Overseas
Territories in preparation for the
Committee's meeting with Overseas
Territory leaders on 10
Anguilla Paragraphs 1-3
Bermuda Paragraphs 4-10
Virgin Islands Paragraphs 11-12
Islands Paragraphs 13-18
Islands Paragraphs 19-28
Gibraltar Paragraphs 29-40
Montserrat Paragraphs 41-44
Pitcairn Paragraphs 45-50
Helena Paragraphs 51-52
Island Paragraphs 53-55
da Cunha Paragraphs 56-59
Antarctic Paragraphs 60-61
Georgia and South Sandwich Islands Paragraphs 62-64
Indian Ocean Territory Paragraphs 65-68
& Financial Issues Paragraphs 69-76
Remembrance Service Paragraphs 77-78
Territories Consultative Council Paragraphs 79-81
and Caicos Islands (Points if raised) Paragraphs 82-83
No formal discussions are scheduled at present. The Government of Anguilla have requested that we wait while they undertake
local consultation on their proposed amendments to the constitution. We have
prepared a position paper and this was handed to the Chief Minister in July
The global economic crisis has badly affected the Anguillian economy
with a reduction in tourist numbers and an impact on the construction industry.
Anguilla did build up its reserves, but not
sufficiently. It is now faced with a
difficult economic situation and it has sought borrowing permission, despite
already being in breach of agreed borrowing guidelines. The UK agreed to allow some flexibility
in the guidelines to alleviate the crisis on the understanding that the
Government of Anguilla would pursue widening its tax base to provide more
revenue predictability. The FCO is supporting an independent revenue study
to ensure this is dealt with urgently and effectively. The Government of Anguilla is also seeking to
restructure existing debt through concessional borrowing from the Caribbean
3. The Government of Anguilla
passed a Proceeds of Crime Act in 2009 to help combat financial crime. The UK
Government continues to encourage Anguilla to
make progress on those tax, regulatory and anti money laundering/counter
terrorism financing issues identified in the recent Foot Review and also the
Caribbean Financial Action Task Force evaluation completed in July 2009. The
Government of Anguilla are committed to
meeting international standards on tax transparency. They have signed four Tax
Information Exchange Agreements to date and have sufficient texts initialled to
allow them to meet the standard once signature has taken place.
4. The bilateral relationship between
and the Government of Bermuda is generally good but has come under some strain
this year as a result of the Uighurs issue.
5. HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of
Edinburgh visited Bermuda from 24-26 November 2009, en route to CHOGM, to help
Bermuda to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first settlement
The Foreign Secretary accompanied.
The visit was enthusiastically received by the people of Bermuda.
of Former Detainees from Guantanamo
6. In June 2009 the Government of Bermuda
(Premier and Immigration Minister only) negotiated secretly with the USA the transfer of four former detainees
("Uighurs" - Chinese Muslims) from Guantanamo
Bay to Bermuda without consulting the UK. The released detainees arrived on 11 June and
have been housed in a guesthouse under Bermuda Government supervision
since. The former detainees are not
subject to travel restrictions on the island but do not have travel documents
enabling them to leave. They have been
given (temporary) work at one of the island's golf clubs.
7. The Government of Bermuda
acted outside their competence, as external affairs and internal security are
matters reserved to the Governor under Section 62 of the 1968 Bermuda
Constitution. HMG has also reviewed the
1968 General Entrustment which delegates authority to the Government of Bermuda
to conduct external relations in certain limited areas. In addition to notifying and consulting the UK on
any plans to engage in bilateral negotiations, the Government of Bermuda is now
also required to provide an annual report summarising the activities which have
taken place under the entrustment. The
new entrustment takes effect from 1 December 2009.
8. The arrival of the Uighurs from Guantanamo
led to much public concern on the island, culminating in an attempted vote of
no confidence in the Bermuda Government in the House of Assembly, which the
Government survived by 22 votes to 11.
The Social Affairs Minister, Mr Dale Butler, resigned.
9. On 29 September the Premier met the Foreign
Secretary briefly at the Labour Party Conference. The Foreign Secretary told the Premier that
he expected him to work with the UK to resolve the issue of the four
Uighurs. On 1 October, the Premier met
Chris Bryant MP, Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories,
who expressed his "anger and profound disappointment" at the way the Government
of Bermuda had acted. We are in touch with the US authorities about a longer-term
solution and have made it clear to the Premier that we expect him to support
Operational Control of Bermuda
Police Service (BPS)
The Premier has campaigned for operational control of the BPS, and
criticised its performance in dealing with the current spate of gun/gang
related crime, noting that under the Constitution the Governor has
responsibility for policing. The
Governor is aware of public concern and takes this responsibility
seriously. However, it has been made
clear to the Premier that the FCO has no plans to change control of the police
in Bermuda or any other Overseas
Territory. The Governor works closely with the BPS and
the Bermuda Government to tackle crime. Police performance is improving. The Governor is also encouraging assistance to
the BPS from the West Midlands Police whose Birmingham Reducing Gang Violence
Group could provide the BPS with valuable best practice. US police forces with experience in tackling
gun/gang crime are also being approached.
British Virgin Islands
We continue to impress upon the Premier the importance we attach to the
British Virgin Islands Government engaging constructively with the Deputy
Governor. The Premier has opposed the appointment of the Deputy Governor since
she took up office in September 2008 and there has been no evidence that he or
his Government intend to cooperate with her in the Governor's absence, when she
has been prevented from holding Cabinet and National Security Council meetings
in the absence of a quorum. Gillian Merron visited in April and raised this
issue and urged reconciliation, and spoke about good governance in general,
with the Premier.
Lankan Asylum Seekers
Six Sri Lankan migrants, three of whom have been in detention in the British Virgin Islands since March 2008 and three who
have been in detention since January 2009, sent a message to the Governor's
Office on 16 August claiming asylum. Although
immigration is a matter for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Government, the
FCO is in touch with the UK Border Agency about how best to provide support to
the BVI Government to enable them to process the applications as quickly as
possible, given the length of time the Sri Lankans have already spent in
detention, and in line with international standards. A representative from the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees visited the Territory in October to carry out initial
interviews with the detainees.
There was a general election in the Cayman Islands
on 20 May 2009. The opposition United Democratic Party (UDP)
won 9 of the 15 seats in the Legislative Assembly against the incumbent
People's Progressive Movement (PPM), who kept five seats. The one successful
independent candidate elected to join the UDP. The results therefore constitute
a reversal of the 2005 election, when the then UDP administration was voted out,
with the parties taking 5 and 10 seats respectively. The next elections are due
to be held in 2014.
UK/Cayman relationship has come under some strain recently. Criticism of our position over Operations
Tempura and Cealt and government borrowing (paragraphs 17 and 18) has been
strong. Combined with our concerns about
the way the government is managing the port development project (paragraph 19),
this has led to public accusations by the Premier that the UK Government is
micro-managing and seeking to halt progress towards economic recovery. The Director for the Overseas Territories,
FCO, visited in November and met, amongst others, the Premier and the Deputy
Governor. He conveyed clear messages about the UK Government's policy on the
key issues, including good governance related topics (eg. transparency and
accountability) and confirmed UK
government support for the Governor.
The Cayman Islands Constitutional
review, which started in 2001, concluded in February 2009. The Constitution, which includes for the
first time a Bill of Rights, was put to a public referendum at the time of the
elections on 20 May and was accepted by 63% of those who voted. All six electoral districts voted in favour
of the Constitution. The Constitution
was approved by the Privy Council on 10 June and came into force on 6
Bill of Rights will not enter into force until 2012 (three years after the
Appointed Day). This will give the Cayman Islands Government sufficient time to
complete the necessary preparations to get it in place and to provide training
for public servants. In the meantime the
UK Government and the Cayman Islands Government will continue to monitor human
investigation - Operations Tempura and Cealt
16. Operation Tempura, the first phase of an
investigation into corruption within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,
which began in September 2007, concluded on 7 October with the acquittal of a
Deputy Police Commissioner on charges of perverting the course of justice and
misconduct in public office. On 12
October the Auditor General published his review of expenditure on the police
investigation. This combination of non-guilty verdicts and criticism of the
costs of the investigation attracted some criticism, including by members of
the Legislative Assembly (and in particular the opposition party, who were in
power and therefore party to the decision to request the investigation) of the
Governor's role in overseeing the investigation. This led to the tabling of a
motion calling for Cayman Islands Government (CIG) to consider taking legal
action against the UK Government and suggesting that the Governor may have
committed misfeasance in public office. The motion was rejected. Chris Bryant issued
a statement on 23 October welcoming this decision, supporting the Governor and
rejecting the suggestion that the UK Government should meet the costs of these
investigations, which are a matter for CIG.
17. The Cayman
Islands economy is heavily dependent on financial services,
tourism and related construction activity.
The global economic slowdown has affected all three, with the result
that the CIG's revenues were severely reduced. This led to a large and
unforeseen deficit putting CIG in breach of borrowing guidelines which are
agreed between the FCO and Overseas Territories Governments. In October, following assurances from CIG
about its plans to address the economic downturn and restore public finances,
and subject to a number of conditions, including that CIG undertake an
independent assessment of options for new revenue measures, the FCO approved a
request for further borrowing of CI$275m. This permission was granted on the
clear understanding that, other than in very exceptional circumstances, the UK
Government would be unlikely to be prepared to agree any further borrowing
within this financial year.
Port Development Project
18. The Cayman
Islands Government has announced plans to develop cruise ship and
cargo berthing facilities. Whilst we welcome initiatives to reinforce one of
the Territory's key revenue streams, and understand CIG's desire to achieve
this as quickly as possible, we are concerned about the way this project has been managed, in particular the
tendering process and the impact that it will have on the marine
environment. Latest reports indicate
that the first phase of work may start in the first quarter of 2010, although
an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has not yet been completed.
The new Falkland Islands Constitution, on which the FCO Minister for the
Overseas Territories was in correspondence with
the Committee, came into force on 1 January 2009. Elections were held on 5
November 2009 under the terms of the new Constitution and all eight elected
members changed on the back of manifestos largely based on domestic issues.
between the Falkland Islands and Argentina
continues to challenge the UK's
sovereignty of the Falkland Islands at every
opportunity, and have reiterated their position of not wishing to co-operate on
areas of joint economic interest, such as fisheries and hydrocarbons.
21. However, two long-planned
Argentine next of kin visits took place on 3 and 10 October 2009. The governments of the UK, Argentina
and Falkland Islands worked extremely closely
to ensure that the visits passed off well and with humanitarian objectives in
mind. There was positive media coverage both locally and in Argentina, with consistent praise
for the warm welcome, handling and organisation of the events by the Falkland
Islands Government, MOD and the islanders in general.
The Government remains committed to
supporting the Falkland Islands in developing
their hydrocarbons sector.
In 2008, the UK Government approved the Falkland Islands Government's
request to resume Open Door licensing for offshore oil exploration and
production in five blocks. Companies
have completed 2D, 3D and, in some cases Controlled Source Electro Magnetic
(CSEM) surveys in preparation for drilling exploration wells. They have
also conducted environmental surveys to assist with the preparation of
environmental impact assessments that require approval before exploratory drilling
consent is given.
24. Desire Petroleum exchanged a letter of intent
with Diamond Offshore Drilling (UK) Ltd on 10 September 2009, for a unit to
undertake an exploratory drilling campaign in the North Falkland
Basin, starting in
25. Both the FCO and the Ministry of Defence
(MOD) recognise the airbridge's importance to the social and economic
development of the Falkland Islands and south Atlantic Overseas
Territories. However, the MOD is required to recover the
costs of providing the airbridge service to the South Atlantic
Islands. The under-utilisation of seat allocations by South Atlantic
Islands resulted in a MOD
review in mid 2009. After consultation
and negotiation with the FCO, the decision was made to increase fares, albeit a
lower increase than initially planned.
These fare increases will apply from 1 December 2009, but will continue
to be reviewed quarterly.
submission to UN CLCS for Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South
26. On 11 May 2009, the UK submitted a claim to the UN Commission for
the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for an extended continental shelf
around the Falkland Islands, and around South Georgia and the South
Sandwich Islands. Argentina
also submitted a claim to the CLCS, in respect of its extended continental
shelf, on 21 April 2009. The Argentine
submission contains data which covers the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia
and the South Sandwich Islands and an area
appurtenant to the Antarctic.
On 6 August 2009, the UK
lodged a note verbale with the United Nations, containing our
observations on the submission made by Argentina, and reaffirming our
sovereignty position. The CLCS
announced on 1 October 2009 that it will not examine the Argentine data in
respect of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands or the
continental shelf appurtenant to Antarctica. Effectively those parts of the submission
will be put on hold.
November 2008, other States Parties to the Ottawa Convention (anti-personnel
mine ban convention) granted the UK
a ten-year extension to our March 2009 deadline to clear the mined areas in the
Falkland Islands. The Government decided to proceed with the
clearance of four mined areas in the Falkland Islands. A procurement process began almost
immediately. The Falkland Islanders were fully consulted during this
procurement process, and they have a seat on the National Mine Action Authority
(NMAA) which oversees the project.
Following a rigorous procurement exercise, the government signed a
contract with BACTEC International
Limited on the 9 October. The government also appointed C.
King Associates (through competitive tender) to set up a De-mining Project
Office (DPO) in the Islands. Their
job is to run the accreditation process for BACTEC before work starts and
to carry out quality control and assurance checks during the project to ensure
the land is cleared safely and to the required depths. The DPO is an
important link between the Falkland Islands
community, the FCO and the project. Both teams recently arrived on
the Islands and are undergoing accreditation
procedures, with work expected to start in the last week of
November. The project should be complete by April 2010.
The Trilateral Forum of Dialogue on Gibraltar met at Ministerial level
in Gibraltar on 21 July. This represented the
first visit to the Rock by a sitting Spanish Minister in 300 years. The three
Ministers (Caruana for Gibraltar, Moratinos for Spain,
Miliband for the UK)
reaffirmed their commitment to the Trilateral process, and formally signed off
a framework document detailing six new areas for cooperation. They also agreed
a list of 8 'concrete' outcomes to be delivered before the end of the year. We
have since held the next round of official level talks in London on 16 October. At this meeting the
three parties agreed a work plan for delivery of July's commitments and the
wider trilateral agenda.
Sites of Community Interest
The Government of Gibraltar (GoG) has lodged a legal case against the
European Commission seeking annulment of a Commission Decision to the extent
that it lists a Site of Community Interest proposed by Spain (under the EU Habitats Directive) which
overlaps an existing UK
designated site and overlaps with British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. The UK has been granted permission to intervene in
support of the Government of Gibraltar's legal case and Spain that of
the Commission. The Commission has argued that GoG's case is inadmissible on
the grounds that Gibraltar cannot show 'direct
and individual concern'. The Court has indicated that it will consider admissibility
as a preliminary issue in January.
At a Habitats Committee meeting on 15 October a Decision to update the list
of sites (including the Spanish site) was discussed and voted on. We voted
against the Decision but were unable to prevent its adoption as voting was by
QMV. We have continued to express our views to the Commission and Spain on the Spanish site which the UK
does not recognise as valid.
This issue remains highly sensitive and high profile in Gibraltar.
Two cases brought in the Court of First Instance (CFI) by the Government
of Gibraltar and the UK
respectively against the Commission's decision (under the EC's State aid rules)
on Gibraltar's proposed tax corporate reforms resulted in the Court finding in Gibraltar's favour. The Commission and Spain have
appealed the CFI's findings to the ECJ. Spain is challenging the CFI's
findings in relations on both regional and material selectivity whilst the Commission's
appeal focuses solely on material selectivity. The case is of considerable
importance not just to Gibraltar but also to the UK
and the UK has intervened in
support of Gibraltar.
Age of Consent
In Gibraltar, a Private Member's Bill
in the summer aimed at equalising the age of consent was defeated. In November,
the Chief Minister and Attorney General issued Court Proceedings in which they seek
a declaration from the Supreme Court as to whether, and if so how, the
difference in treatment between homosexual men on the one hand and
heterosexuals and lesbian women on the other, as regards the differing ages of
consent for sexual intercourse, buggery and sexual activity in the Criminal
Offences Act, violates the Constitution. The case awaits a hearing.
HMG continues to take a close interest in this matter. We continue to
encourage all Overseas
Territories to take steps
where they are in breach of international obligations.
Following complaints from the Gibraltar Bar about the Chief Justice's
conduct and suitability for office, in accordance with Gibraltar's
Constitution the former Governor decided in accordance with the Constitution in
2007 to establish a tribunal to advise on whether there were sufficient grounds
to refer this matter to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for
determination. He suspended the Chief Justice from office pending outcome. In
November 2008, the tribunal, chaired by Lord Cullen, concluded that the Chief
Justice's conduct "repeatedly fell far short of what befitted the dignity of
his office" and that there were grounds to refer the matter to the Privy
Council to determine whether he should be removed from office. Following the
tribunal's report, the Governor requested that Her Majesty refer the matter to
the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to determine.
In November 2009, the Privy Council delivered their majority advice
that the Chief Justice be removed from office. In accordance with
Gibraltar's Constitution, the Governor asked Gibraltar's
Judicial Service Commission for advice on whether the Chief Justice should be
dismissed or required to resign. The Commission recommended that he be
dismissed. The Governor, on consideration of that advice, wrote to the
Chief Justice to inform him that he was dismissed from office.
Gibraltar has recently concluded 13 Tax
Information Exchange Agreements and thus substantially implemented the OECD's
internationally agreed tax standard. As a consequence it has been
removed from the OECD's 'grey list'. HMG continues to support the
Government of Gibraltar's efforts to sign further agreements.
Gibraltar's successes and achievements were
recognised in the recent UK-sponsored Independent Review of British
Offshore Financial Centres. Gibraltar is
compliant or largely compliant with 65% of the FATF recommendations and
participates in the EU's Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive. We continue to
work with the Government of Gibraltar on the introduction
of counter-financing of terrorism legislation.
Treaty comes into force on 1 December 2009, one of the effects of which will be
a shorter infractions process. This has both procedural and
resources implications for the Government of Gibraltar. They are aware
and we are working with them to ensure the systems are in place to deal
with these requirements.
Montserrat held a general election in
September 2009 following a request from the former Chief Minister for the
Governor to dissolve the Legislative Council. The former Chief Minister felt
that his cabinet did not support him or his policies. At the elections the
Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) party won 6 out of 9 seats in the
Legislative Council. The leader of MCAP, Reuben T Meade, became Chief Minister.
The constitutional negotiations between HMG and the Government of
Montserrat are at an advanced stage. The process is currently on hold due to
the pressing need to focus on development of the island. The Chief Minister,
Reuben Meade, has been provided with the latest draft of the constitution
following the last round of talks in 2008 so that he and his cabinet can
familiarise themselves with the current status.
The Government of Montserrat have
drafted a Proceeds of Crime Act. They are currently passing this legislation
through the House of Assembly in preparation for their Caribbean Financial
Action Task Force evaluation scheduled for February 2010. The UK Government
continues to encourage Montserrat to meet the
highest international standards in their (small) financial services
industry. HM Revenue and Customs is
providing technical assistance to facilitate the signing of Tax Information
Exchange Agreements with other countries. Montserrat,
however, is not a priority country for other jurisdictions so finding
sufficient partners to negotiate agreements is proving difficult.
Work continues to progress on the development of a new capital town (Little
Bay) in line with the Government of Montserrat's Sustainable Development plan
2008-2010. The Department for International
Development is supporting a number of projects under the Tourism
Development Plan to help attract the tourist market. These include the preservation and
restoration of historical buildings and the development of walking tours. These
projects are implemented by the Montserrat Tourist Board and the Montserrat
National Trust. In addition, DFID through the Government of Montserrat
continues to provide support to the Montserrat Development Corporation in the
development and sale of land to allow developers to begin building houses,
condominiums, a hotel and other businesses. A new long-term
ferry service is due to begin in December 2009 for the tourist season, and the
construction of a port continues to be of importance to enable private craft
and larger tourist boats to arrive on the island. There are other smaller infrastructure
projects continuing alongside these which are important for the people of Montserrat including education, health and roads
We are currently consulting with the Pitcairn Island Council on a new
Constitution for the island. The new Constitution would replace a 1970 Order
(as amended) with a document that is better able to serve the modern needs of
Pitcairn. It includes a Bill of Rights, and recognises the role of the Island
Council. The Minister wrote to the Committee on 15 September providing more
detail and attaching a draft copy of the Constitution. We will contact the
Committee again when next steps are clear.
46. At the
beginning of April 2009 a new governance structure was established for
Pitcairn. The new structure devolves more local government responsibility to
the Island Council. Systems have been established to improve government
recruitment and introduce performance management, and policies covering child
safety and other important areas have been refined.
and Infrastructure Development
47. The Pitcairn Island Government has entered
into an agreement with a contractor to provide a new, more frequent
and predictable shipping service to Pitcairn. The service will make eight
passenger calls at Pitcairn each year, and four freight services direct from New Zealand.
The new service will substantially improve access to the island.
48. HMG (led
by DFID) continues to work with Pitcairners to plan two major infrastructure
projects: a wind power system for which DFID expects to sign a design and
installation contract with a Tasmanian firm early in 2010, and a new harbour
development project to be co-financed with the EU.
We commissioned a further review of child safety on Pitcairn, which was
undertaken by independent UK
expected in January - March 2009. Their report made clear that more work needed
to be done to ensure the safety of children on Pitcairn and made a number of
recommendations for improving safeguarding measures. We have already
implemented several of their recommendations and are actively working on the
The Pitcairn Compensation Scheme awarded a total of just over £160,000
to eight women who suffered criminal sexual abuse on Pitcairn, and who
cooperated with the authorities in bringing the assailants to justice. The
Minister wrote to the Committee on 21 July to inform them of the successful
conclusion to the scheme.
A new Constitution Order for St Helena, Ascension and Tristan
da Cunha was approved by the Privy Council on 8 July 2009,
following extensive consultations on the three islands and expressions of
support from the three Island Councils.
The support was unanimous on Ascension and Tristan da Cunha and a
majority in the case of St Helena. The Order came into force on 1 September
2009. Under the new Constitution, the
Territory is no longer known as St Helena and Dependencies but is known as the Territory of St Helena,
Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. For the first time, the Constitution contains
a Bill of Rights and has separate chapters for Ascension and Tristan
da Cunha. Ministers for the
Overseas Territories wrote to the Committee with
more details on 18 May and 2 July this year.
On 8 December 2008 the Secretary of State for International
Development announced a pause in the negotiations on the airport project to
allow consideration of issues of concern in the light of the changed economic
climate. A consultation exercise was
then held from 9 April 2009 to 30 July 2009 with all interested parties invited
to participate. The Consultation Report
was published on 29 October 2009. The
Secretary of State for International
Development is now considering the results of the consultation carefully and it
is his intention that a decision will be made by the end of the year.
See Para 51 St Helena Constitution.
A new Ascension Island Council was elected on 14 October 2008 and sworn
in on 27 October 2008. The Council
approved the new Constitution Order, has been working on a review of Ascension
Island Government, and has been active in giving advice on various pieces of
A dispute between the MoD and Ascension Island Government (AIG) is
having a serious impact on AIG's budget.
The dispute is a long running dispute over the amount of property tax
paid by MoD. The FCO is doing all it can
to facilitate a resolution to the dispute, including a dialogue at Ministerial
level. AIG is making a series of
efficiency savings but more drastic cuts to services will be needed to prevent
insolvency if no resolution is found to the dispute. More details were given to the Committee in
an email dated 3 November 2009 to the Second Clerk of the Committee.
Tristan da Cunha
See Para 51 St Helena Constitution.
Sustainable Development Plan
Tristan Government developed a Strategic Sustainable Development Plan (SSDP) in
March 2009 with the support of an FCO funded consultant. The plan includes a
number of objectives for securing long-term financial self-sufficiency. Priorities
include increasing existing income streams (including tourism, stamps and
coins), renegotiating the lobster concession on more favourable terms, and
restructuring Government. A comprehensive review of the Tristan public sector
was completed by an FCO funded consultant in May 2009. This is now informing
Government reform work.
Tristan Government, supported by the FCO, is making good progress towards
gaining access to EU markets for the sale of Tristan lobster. This is an
important goal for Tristan as it looks to get the best return from its primary
DFID-funded contractor successfully completed some further rehabilitation work
on Tristan's harbour in August 2009. This work followed the emergency repairs
that the MOD Joint Task Force completed in March 2008. It is anticipated that
further European Development Fund money will become available in 2010 for more
rehabilitation and maintenance work.
A draft Antarctic Bill was published for pre-legislative scrutiny and
public consultation on 10 November and runs until 12 February 2010. The draft Antarctic Bill implements a new
Annex to the Protocol on Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies
(Liability Annex), and enhances the provisions of the 1994 Act to provide
additional protection to the Antarctic environment and those travelling to the
continent. Early ratification of the Liability Annex will help maintain the UK's influential status and also reaffirms the UK's
strong commitment to the Antarctic Treaty and its Environmental Protocol.
Marine Protected Area
61. The UK proposal
for a marine protected area (MPA) in the South Orkney
Islands was endorsed by the Commission for the Conservation
of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) at its meeting in
November. This is the world's first high
seas MPA and, at over 90,000km2, is about four times the
size of Wales. Fishing
activities and discharge or refuse disposal from fishing vessels will be prohibited
which will allow scientists to better monitor the effects of human activities
and climate change on the Southern Ocean.
and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI)
62. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the South Georgia fishery is agreed and set at CCAMLR. The UK
secured a good outcome for the fishery at CCAMLR this year. South Georgia
received a reduced catch limit for both toothfish and icefish, in line with the
own assessment of fishing stock. These catch limits will help ensure the future
economic and ecological sustainability of the South
Georgia's fishery, while safeguarding her sovereign integrity. 80%
of SGSSI's revenue is generated through sale of commercial fishing licences,
making the fishing industry the most important sector to the Island's
Stewardship Council Toothfish re-certification
63. In September 2009, the Marine Stewardship
Council (MSC) re-certified the South Georgia
toothfish fishery awarding an average score of 93%, making it the third highest
scoring MSC certified fishery in the world. South Georgia
has established a market for sustainable toothfish, making MSC re-certification
important to the economic viability of the fishery, as well as reinforcing the
Government's reputation for sound environmental management.
64. The Government of SGSSI is currently in the
process of carrying out a Legislative Review, in order to provide effective
safeguards for the management and protection of the Territory's rich natural
heritage. The GSGSSI hope to enact a
Wildlife and Protected Areas Bill in the New Year, subsequent to obtaining FCO
advice on the draft and following that, a targeted public consultation.
The Committee will be aware that on 22 October 2008, the Law Lords gave
judgment in the Judicial Review of the 2004 BIOT Orders in Council and upheld
the validity of the BIOT (Constitution) Order 2004. The two Orders in Council made for the British Indian Ocean Territory in 2004 therefore stand
and provide that no person has a right of abode in BIOT or the right to enter
the Territory unless authorised.
Following the judgment of the Law Lords, the Government has no plans to
resettle the Chagossians in the Territory.
The Committee will also be aware that
the Chagossians have since taken their case for the right of return to BIOT and
for further compensation to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The Government is defending its position at
the ECtHR because:
courts have previously ruled that the ECHR is not applicable in BIOT, that fair
compensation has been paid and that the UK has no legal obligation to pay
any further compensation.
· The highest UK court has
also already ruled on the issue of right of abode in BIOT and decided that the
BIOT Constitution is lawful.
Government concluded on the basis of the 2002 independent feasibility study
that lasting resettlement would be precarious and, if sponsored by the
Government, would entail expensive underwriting by the British taxpayer for an
· Full immigration control over the
entire territory is necessary to ensure and maintain the availability and
effective use of the territory for defence purposes of both the UK and the US,
particularly in light of a change of security circumstances since 2000 and our
treaty obligations to the US.
· British citizenship has been
granted to a large number of Chagossians under the British Overseas Territories
Act 2002 who have a right of abode in the UK.
the Government's assessment as to the admissibility and merits of the case, it
had no proposals to make in regard to a friendly settlement.
by Chagossians to the Territory
The Committee will wish to be aware that following the Law Lords'
judgment and Ministerial pledges to consider carefully future visits to the
Territory by Chagossians, there have been two such visits. In November 2008, a group from the Diego
Garcian Society in Crawley visited Diego
Garcia and the outer islands of Peros Banhos and Salomon. In October/November 2009, a group of
Chagossians from Mauritius led by Mr Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugees
Group visited the Territory and laid wreaths in the cemeteries on Diego Garcia
and Peros Banhos and Salomon on the occasion of All Saints Day.
The Foreign Secretary wrote to the Chairman of the Committee on 8
November about the public consultation into the possibility of creating a
Marine protected Area in BIOT. The
consultation began on 10 November and will run until 12 February 2010. The British Indian Ocean Territory
Administration is arranging for a facilitator to travel to Mauritius and the Seychelles to listen to the views
of the Chagossians. A meeting will also
be held in Crawley to hear the views of the
Chagossian community resident there. As
the Foreign Secretary assured the Chairman in his letter, the consultation and
any decision that might follow on the establishment of a Marine Protected Area
in BIOT will be without prejudice to the legal proceedings currently underway
at the ECtHR in Strasbourg. There will be no impact on our commitment to
cede the Territory to Mauritius
when it is no longer needed for defence purposes.
While the UK
has no doubt about its sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, the
Prime Minister agreed in 2008 to establish a dialogue between UK and Mauritian officials to
discuss issues relating to the Territory.
Two meetings have taken place.
The first was held at the FCO on 14 January 2009, and a further one in Port Louis on 21
July. The delegations discussed
the latest legal and policy developments relating to BIOT. Both delegations set out their respective
positions on sovereignty and the UK
also set out how the UK
needed to bear in mind its treaty obligations with the US and our ongoing need of the British
Indian Ocean Territory for defence purposes. There was mutual
discussion of fishing rights, the environment, continental shelf and future
visits to the Territory by Chagossians.
Development and Public Finances in the Overseas Territories
All the Caribbean
economies are suffering in the present economic climate. Most Overseas Territories built up their cash reserves
over the preceding period of economic growth, but the severity of the recession
made mitigation difficult for such fragile economies. Expenditure grew in
line with revenue, and borrowing increased rapidly. The Territories are especially vulnerable to
economic downturn due to their narrow economic bases (a high proportion of
their economic activity is due to tourism and financial services), and
over-reliance on indirect taxation.
While Overseas Territory governments are responsible for their own economies
and financial management, the FCO warned them where their public financial
management was unsatisfactory, or budgets unrealistic. There are agreed borrowing guidelines in
place between the Overseas
Territories and the FCO
and, if these are breached, the Territories are required to request permission
from the FCO before increasing their borrowing.
All borrowing is the responsibility of the Overseas Territories. The UK
government has made clear to Overseas
that it does not accept any liability for their borrowing.
In 2009 we have refused to permit Anguilla, Cayman and (before the
change in governance arrangements) the Turks and Caicos Islands
to extend their borrowing by as much as they had requested. They argue that the FCO is holding back their
development. They also argue that they
cannot access funding from institutions such as the IMF. The UK Government explained that we were not
convinced that they would be able to pay off such levels of debt, especially if
economic recovery was sluggish. The
Territories argue that they expect economic growth to return rapidly, despite
the generally bleak global economic outlook. The FCO has asked the Territories
to reprioritise current and capital expenditure to realise cuts, and to focus
on revenue generation. Increasing
revenue predictability by widening the tax base is necessary to improve
budgetary processes. Studies are being
carried out in these Territories to examine the impact of different options for
widening the tax base, including via direct taxation. Once completed, the UK will work with the Territories
to take these recommendations forward, where appropriate.
We are considering reviewing Overseas
guidelines in light of the recent economic crisis.
Review of British Offshore Centres
HM Treasury announced in the 2008 Pre Budget Report its decision to
review the business strategies and long term opportunities and challenges
facing the Overseas
Territories and the Crown
Dependencies. Only those Overseas Territories with significant financial services
industries were included in the scope of the Review: Bermuda, the British
Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, the Turks and Caicos Islands and
Anguilla. The independent consultant, Michael
Foot, was asked to consider financial supervision and transparency, taxation in
relation to financial stability, sustainability and future competitiveness,
financial crisis management and resolution arrangements and international cooperation.
During the Review, Mr Foot visited all the Overseas
Territories covered by the Review except
Gibraltar. His report was published on 29
October. It sets out a number of benchmarks that Territories (and Crown Dependencies)
should expect to meet on tax information exchange, financial regulation,
anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism. It also
recommends they put their public finances on a firmer footing by diversifying
their tax bases.
The Government and most of the Territories have welcomed the publication
of the report. Some Territories have made good progress especially with regard
to signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements. Bermuda, the British Virgin
Islands, the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar have
all met the internationally agreed standard.
The Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla
expect to meet the standard by the end of 2009. All Territories need to keep
pace with increasing international standards. There is still work to do across
the whole spectrum of financial and economic issues but some have a longer
journey to make than others. The report notes that the economic landscape is
shifting and all jurisdictions must adapt if they wish to maintain internationally
active financial centres. The conclusion of Agreements is a joint action
between two consenting jurisdictions. It is not just up to the Overseas Territories. They are also dependent on
internal procedures of other jurisdictions.
Financial services are, to varying degrees, a matter for Overseas Territory governments. However, failure
to meet the highest international standards in financial services, which the
Report helps to identify, carries a reputational risk to the UK
Government which has to defend actions
taken by Territories in a range of international fora. The Territories need to
make demonstrable progress on those issues identified in the Report. We want to
work with the Territories to take forward the recommendations. The
Minister for Overseas Territories
has written to territory governments to open discussion
on how to implement the recommendations.
The issue will be covered at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in
77. In its July 2008 report on the Overseas Territories,
the Committee recommended that Overseas
Territory representatives in London be allowed to lay a
wreath at the Cenotaph Service on Remembrance Sunday. The FCO noted in our
response that we understood the wish of Territory representatives to
participate in the Service and that we would consider the matter further.
78. We have since reviewed the situation again
with relevant Whitehall
departments and the Palace. The Government fully recognises the contribution
and sacrifice made by citizens of the Overseas Territories
during time of conflict. However, after careful
consideration and consultation with all concerned, it has been decided that
there should be no change to existing arrangements at the Remembrance Sunday
Service. The Foreign Secretary, as a senior member of the Cabinet, will
continue to lay a wreath on behalf of all the British Overseas
Territories at the
Cenotaph Service on Remembrance Sunday.
Territories Consultative Council
79. The eleventh
Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) will take place in London on 8 and 9
December. Leaders from all the populated Territories, except Gibraltar
and the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas, will attend. At the request of Territory leaders at last year's OTCC,
the first day of this year's conference will be devoted to a Forum to discuss
the 1999 White Paper "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity" - ten years
on. The White Paper set out the
principles on which the UK's
relationship with the Overseas
Territories is based.
80. The OTCC will be on 9 December. Issues to be
covered include the need to ensure the highest standards of governance,
improved economic management and financial regulation and greater political
commitment to comply with international human rights obligations, including the
need to equalise the age of consent between homosexual partners. We intend to
make the point that if the Territories are not prepared to act on this issue,
we will legislate on their behalf where that is an option (the UK cannot
legislate for Bermuda, except by primary legislation, but will monitor closely
their current review of their Human Rights Act to see if relevant provisions
81. In the past two years, Territory leaders have
helped set the OTCC agenda and led many of the sessions. Their closer
involvement was a major factor in the success of those meetings. We have again
consulted Territory governments about the format and agenda for this year's
and Caicos Islands (Points if raised by
is being provided separately for the Committee's meeting with the Governor of
on Tuesday, 8 December. The following points are provided in case TCI issues
are raised by Territory leaders.
suspension of parts of the TCI Constitution was a serious step which the UK
Government did not take lightly.
- It was
essential to ensure that the principles
of good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management are
restored, allowing elections to
take place as scheduled in 2011, if not earlier.
former TCI Government is responsible for the present financial crisis in the
Territory. When the Interim Government took over in August, it
inherited a Territory debt of $135 million. Dealing with TCI's financial
problems and restoring sound financial management has been its top priority.
- In the three months since the Interim Government
took office, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by the Governor
with the help of the public service and with the advice from the Advisory
Council and Consultative Forum.
- Since August a number of significant steps have
· Full review of TCI government financial management
practices completed. Stabilisation Plan now being implemented (restructuring
public service, strengthening government finance management and control
systems, revenue study, updating legislative framework)
· 2009/10 budget completed. Public sector expenditure
cut by $74 million compared to 2008/9
· Introduction of strict expenditure controls
· Payment of dues and taxes monitored and enforced
· Discussions with banks to secure consolidated loan
facility to enable Government to manage its repayments over a longer period
· Review of existing revenue system started in
· Overall collection efficiency and capability of the
Customs Department is being improved
· Work begun on new Crown Land Policy and order being
restored to Crown Land Unit
· Arrears identification exercise completed and
procedures put in place to begin proceedings to recover unpaid arrears (over
$3m of arrears for conditional purchase leases)
· Backlog in Land Registry being processed
· New multi agency Informal Development Task Force to
tackle the spread of informal settlements on Crown Land.
· Working Group on tourism promotion established
· Major restructuring exercise of Public Service to
improve efficiency and value for money completed.
· Inspection and review of police force completed.
· Helen Garlick (ex UK Serious Fraud Office)
appointed as Special Prosecutor of the Special Investigation and Prosecution
Team, and management team in place.
· 37 hurricane reconstruction projects totalling over
$3.5 million have been approved.
· Advisory Council and Consultative Forum created and
established regular meetings.
83. But much
work remains to be done. To support the
efforts of the TCI public service the UK
has provided a number of UK
funded advisers: experts in tackling the types of challenges TCI is currently
facing (eg customs, crown land, good governance). Their appointment is part of the UK's
commitment to assist TCI.
 See OT 406.
 See www.turksandcaicosislands.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/nov-statement.