1 Government response |
Letter to the Chair of the Committee from the
Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs and First Secretary of State
I welcome the interest and attention that the Foreign
Affairs Committee continues to show in the Turks and Caicos Islands
(TCI). Since this latest report was published, Andrew Rosindell
MP has visited TCI, and we are grateful for his report which we
have considered and discussed with him. The Minister for the Overseas
Territories, Henry Bellingham, visited the territory in September
and met the members of the Advisory Council and the Consultative
Forum, the leaders of the two main political parties, representatives
of the Haitian community and local business people.
My department has studied the Committee's Report
carefully. Henry Bellingham wrote to you to explain the delay
in replying. This Government needed time to take stock and assess
the steps taken to ensure TCI receives the support and resources
it needs to underpin its return to elected government. This letter
sets out our formal response to the Committee's recommendations.
A number of the Committee's recommendations propose
the UK Government directly funds certain activities in TCI. I
should explain at the outset that our policy is based on enabling
the TCI Government to fund its own criminal justice system and
public service. The focus of our financial support is therefore
to stabilize, reform and bring greater efficiency and control
to the management of public finances within TCI Government. We
think this is the right way to set TCIwhich is not a poor
jurisdictionon the path to sustainable financial independence.
We recommend that the Government should supply
us with a memorandum
setting out in detail what support is provided by the UK Government
to each of the individual Territory Governments to assist them
in tackling corruption and maintaining standards of good governance.
We recommend that, should the need be identified,
close personal protection should be provided to the Special Prosecutor
and the members of her team, and that the cost of this protection
should be wholly met by the UK Government.
The security of the Special Investigation and Prosecution
Team (SIPT), while it carries out its work in TCI, is the responsibility
of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force (RTCIPF). The
RTCIPF carries out regular assessments of the security situation
in TCI and reports to the Governor and the regional law enforcement
adviser. The RTCIPF would provide close protection should it deem
that the threat warranted this. If a need was identified for
close protection which the RTCIPF could not provide from within
its existing resources, the UK Government would give careful consideration
to any request from the TCI Government for technical or financial
We recommend that the UK Government fully fund
the work of the SIPT or risk severely undermining its own credibility
in its use of reserved powers, both in the TCI and in all of the
It is generally for territory governments to fund
commissions of inquiry and criminal investigations within their
jurisdictions. Making sufficient budgetary provision for the criminal
justice system is part of good governance. However, the FCO funded
the initial costs of the SIPT to ensure that the Special Prosecutor
could start her work as soon as possible. At a press conference
in TCI in April, the Special Prosecutor announced that the SIPT
was at full strength and that its work was on schedule. Ms Garlick
estimated that 18 months was a reasonable time for the inquiry
to be completed. The team now has a permanent presence in the
territory. In a statement issued on 29 September, Ms Garlick
confirmed that the SIPT was continuing to make good progress and
was confident of meeting the targets and deadlines that it had
set and agreed with the Strategic Oversight Group which was established
to oversee the progress of the investigation and the management
of its budget. She said that if the SIPT succeeded in its aim
of bringing successful prosecutions, it was her intention to ensure
that the TCI recouped most, if not all, of the costs.
We will ensure that sufficient safeguards are in
place to protect the SIPT's funding from the TCI Government budget
for as long as it is required.
We recommend that the Government respond positively
to the Governor's requests and fund the required number of additional
British police officers through the DFID budget.
DFID's focus in TCI is in the key area of public
financial management. In a Written Ministerial Statement on 1
July, the Secretary of State for International Development announced
plans for the provision of a temporary package of financial support.
Work to put this package in place is currently underway. This
support is conditional on the TCI Government strengthening its
capacity and systems to manage its public finances, and balancing
its budget within the next three years. To address the immediate
shortfall, DFID provided a loan of £9.7 million to TCI between
June and August, and have agreed to provide a further loan of
up to £10 million to cover the period September to November.
The TCI Government allocated an additional US$ 4
million to the RTCIPF earlier this year and has recruited four
experienced UK police personnel in the fields of Community Policing,
Criminal Investigation, Crime Analysis, and Scenes of Crime/Fingerprinting.
They started work in the Territory in June and have already made
a significant impact. In addition, Canada has offered to provide
police training which we expect to start later this year. In
response to a recent increase in violent crime, the Governor has
announced that the TCI Government is strengthening the penalties
for gun related crime and the illegal possession of guns and pursuing
short term assistance from the UK for the police specifically
to target, investigate and arrest those responsible for violent
crime and the illegal possession of guns. The UK Government is
currently dealing with this request for assistance.
We further recommend that the UK Government provide
the capital and running costs of the Integrity Commission for
an initial period of three years.
A budget (US$500,000) for the Integrity Commission
has now been agreed by the TCI Government. The Commission, chaired
by Sir David Simmons, the former Chief Justice of Barbados, has
met three times, most recently in September. Persons in public
life listed in the Integrity Commission Ordinance will now have
to provide declarations of income, assets and liabilities and
it will be the Commission's responsibility to examine these and
verify their accuracy. The implementation of a proposal for the
development of an executive arm is under consideration. The Governor
has appointed a temporary Chief Executive Officer and hopes to
be able to appoint one or more investigative officers later this
year. Some funding from the FCO's Overseas Territories Programme
Fund may be available to assist with start-up costs.
We recommend that the Government take all reasonable
and necessary steps to reassure the people of the TCI that a new
constitution will not be put in place, nor elections held, until
there is absolute confidence that the necessary reforms have been
I agree it is important that all necessary reforms
are fully embedded before elections take place. That was a major
consideration behind the announcement by the Minister for the
Overseas Territories in September to postpone elections beyond
The Constitutional and Electoral Reform Adviser undertook
a series of public consultations in June and produced a paper
setting out her initial recommendations for changes to constitutional
and electoral arrangements in TCI. The paper was published on
30 July and its suggestions included alternatives for a new voting
system. The Adviser has recently completed a second round of public
consultations in TCI and will be revising her recommendations
as necessary. We regret that the political parties have not engaged
in this process so far. We have encouraged them to do so.
We further recommend that, in response to this
Report, the Government set out clear criteria as to what must
be achieved by way of these reforms before elections take place.
The Minister for the Overseas Territories will issue
a Written Ministerial Statement by the end of this year setting
out remaining milestones which must be met before elections can
take place. FCO and DFID ministers have established a Ministerial
Steering Group which held its first meeting in September to ensure
a joined-up strategy towards TCI. We are working hard to ensure
that the key elements of good governance and sound public financial
management detailed in the recommendations of the Commission's
report are well embedded before elections take place. Other immediate
challenges that must be addressed include: setting public finances
firmly on the path to a balanced budget within three years; cutting
the cost, while improving the capacity of the public service;
stabilising the economy; preparing for elections in light of the
outcome of the constitutional and electoral review process; and
further progress on the criminal investigations recommended by
the Commission of Inquiry.
We recommend that our successor Committee in the
next Parliament continue to monitor developments in TCI and the
Overseas Territories closely.
I welcome the FAC's support and interest in TCI and
hope this will continue.
15 November 2010
1 See Annex below. Back