Overseas Territories

Letter to the Chair of the Committee from Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Further to my letter to you of 15 November, in response to the FAC’s report on TCI of 31 March, I am writing to update you on latest developments with regard to the Territory.

On 14 August 2009, an Order in Council was brought into force which suspended ministerial government and the House of Assembly for a period of two years (which could be lengthened or shortened) and removed the constitutional right to trial by jury. The Cabinet no longer exists and the House of Assembly has been dissolved. Members’ seats have been vacated. The Governor has charge of government subject to instruction by the Secretary of State.

When ministerial government was suspended we said our aim was for elections to be held in July 2011, if not sooner. This was when they would have been due to take place had the House of Assembly not been dissolved by Order in Council. We thought that two years would allow the current TCI Government sufficient time to restore the principles of good governance, sustainable development and sound financial management to the Territory. However, it was not until after the Constitution was suspended that the extent of the previous TCI Government’s financial mismanagement was uncovered. The full picture of the financial crisis and previous financial mismanagement has now emerged and is even worse than we and the Governor had feared. Our deeper engagement has also revealed major weaknesses in areas not fully addressed by the Commission of Inquiry, such as the police.

I have therefore decided to extend the application of the 2009 Order in Council, thus continuing the suspension of parts of the TCI Constitution. The Order will be submitted to the 15 December meeting of the Privy Council. If made, it will be laid before Parliament on 16 December. Extending the Order will, of course, enable us to postpone the timing of the elections.

As you will recall, during his visit to TCI in September, Henry Bellingham announced that elections would not take place until after July 2011 . He explained that he did not want the postponement to last any longer than necessary, and he would issue a statement before the end of the year setting out milestones which must be met before elections can be held. The milestones which we currently assess will need to be met are set out in the enclosed joint FCO/DFID Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) [1] , which will be made on 9 December.

[1] Not published. See HC Deb Column 40WS