FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE UPDATE
TO FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORTS
SECOND REPORT: DEPENDENT TERRITORIES REVIEW:
The Committee requested an update on progress
in the overseas territories in adhering to international standards
(as set out by the Foreign Secretary on 17 March 1999 (HC Deb
1. The White Paper on the Overseas Territories
"Partnership for Progress and Prosperity", published
in March 1999, outlined the Government's new approach to the relationship
with the Overseas Territories. Since then, we have been working
with OT Governments and Governors to implement the policies outlined
in that Paper. The Committee's recommendation to change the name
from Dependent Territories to Overseas Territories has been implemented.
We plan to formalise it in legislation through an Overseas Territories
Bill which will also address the offer of British citizenship
set out in the White Paper.
(a) Financial Regulation: All OTs with offshore
financial industries have now introduced all-crimes money laundering
legislation and are able to co-operate with other jurisdictions
in criminal matters.
(b) Human Rights: all OTs have now abolished
capital punishment for murder, the last being Bermuda in December
1999. Similarly, all have abolished judicial corporal punishment.
Turks and Caicos Islands still retain capital punishment for treason
and piracy. We are currently investigating the best way to remove
this. Gibraltar retains capital punishment for piracy but has
given an undertaking to remove this from the statute books. Governments
of OTs where consensual private homosexual acts are currently
illegal have been asked to pass legislation to decriminalise such
activity. All have indicated that they will not do so. HMG will
therefore legislate to do so by Order in Council before the end
of this year.
We welcome the undertaking given by Baroness
Symons that the Review will address practical difficulties relating
to access to the United Kingdom. We urge the Government also to
address the other difficulties which we have highlighted, particularly
in relation to education and training and opportunities to gain
work experience. These matters are vital to the continuing economic
health of some Dependent Territories, for which the United Kingdom
has an ongoing responsibility. (Paragraph 32)
The Committee requested an update on steps
taken to deal with the difficulties highlighted.
2. Administrative measures have been taken
to ease the procedures for education, training and work experience,
and make it simpler for people from St Helena and Tristan da Cunha
to come to the UK under the Training and Work Experience Scheme
and the Permit-free Employment Scheme. Working hours for students
from all OTs have also been extended. Such measures will be overtaken
when the offer of British citizenship is implemented.
We expect careful and sensitive consideration
to be given to the mechanism for the appointment of governors
in all Dependent Territories. This should include formal and proper
consultation with the appropriate local representatives prior
to a governor's appointment. (Paragraph 42)
What steps taken to ensure the suitability
of Governors for the territories to which they are appointed?
3. The appointment of Governors remains
a matter for Her Majesty The Queen on the advice of the Foreign
Secretary. Governors are given more focused training on the societies
in which they are to live.
The Dependent Territories Association has
called for a thorough examination of existing methods of communication
between Chief Ministers and Governors and between British officials
and elected representatives in Dependent Territories. We support
this call. (Paragraph 50)
How is the Overseas Territories Council operating?
What level of support does it have from Chief Ministers and elected
representatives in the territories?
4. The Overseas Territories Consultative
Council held its first meeting in 1999 and the second in October
2000. Governors remain the central point of communication between
Chief Ministers, or their equivalents, and the Government. But
the establishment of the Council now enables British Ministers
to meet political leaders from the OTs to discuss matters of mutual
interest in a structured way. At the second meeting, elected representatives
from ten territories were present and seven British Ministers
took part. Representatives from the OTs were also invited as observers
to the second Caribbean Forum held in May 2000. The Caribbean
Forum is the major biennial meeting between leaders from the Caribbean
region and the UK Government.
We recommend that the Government give careful
consideration in the context of the Review to ways in which wildlife
conservation can be enhanced in all the Dependent Territories,
inhabited and uninhabited. (Paragraph 64)
What steps have been taken to improve wildlife
5. We now provide additional funding to
help OTs with environmental protection and management. A major
conference was held in June 1999 to bring together representatives
from the OTs with experts from British environmental non-governmental
organisations and others. A set of principles on which to base
an Environmental Charter for each OT has been drawn up and distributed
to OT Governments for consultation. An Environmental Education
DVD and video has been produced for use in the OTs, and a website
set up to give OTs access to expertise, source material, and advice.