Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth
1. This Memorandum is in response to the
request from the Foreign Affairs Committee for written evidence
covering the background to and purpose of the British Overseas
Territories Bill, and how the Government is pursuing or intends
to pursue non-citizenship aspects arising from the review of the
overseas territories set out in the 1999 White Paper "Partnership
for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories"
2. The results of a review of the relationship
with the overseas territories were reported to Parliament in the
1999 White Paper. Consultations had revealed a wish among the
people of the Overseas Territories to hold British citizenship
and the rights flowing from it, in particular the right of abode
in the United Kingdom. There was a sense of grievance that these
rights had been lost as a result of legislation enacted in the
1960s and 1970s, with immigration controls imposed on people having
only British Dependent Territories citizenship.
3. The Government had examined how to address
these concerns and had concluded that British citizenship, with
the right of abode in the UK, should be granted to British Dependent
Territories citizens who did not already enjoy it and wished to
do so. Those not wishing to take up British citizenship would
be able to renounce it and retain their existing British Dependent
Territory citizenship. This commitment was set out in the White
Paper, subject to certain exceptions. The White Paper envisaged
that those whose British Dependent Territory citizenship arose
from a connection with the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus or the
British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) would be excluded from the
offer of British citizenship. But following a High Court ruling
in November 2000, the Government decided to include British Dependent
Territory citizens connected with BIOT in the citizenship offer.
4. The White Paper consultations also revealed
a widespread view that it was inappropriate in the modern era
to continue to refer to the territories as "Dependent Territories".
The Government and the territories wished to develop their relationship
as a partnership, with mutual responsibilities. In the White Paper,
therefore, the Government announced that the "British Dependent
Territories" would in future be known as "British Overseas
Territories". That name is now in common usage but there
remains a need to update references to the "Dependent Territories"
5. The purpose of the British Overseas Territories
Bill is therefore:
(i) To effect the change of description from
"British Dependent Territories" to "British overseas
territories" and "British Dependent Territories citizenship/citizen"
to "British overseas territories citizenship/citizen".
(ii) To confer British citizenship on all
holders of British overseas territories citizenship from qualifying
6. The first purpose is covered in Clauses
1 and 2 of the Bill. These Clauses change the relevant references
in the British Nationality Act 1981; introduce the term "British
overseas territory" into the Interpretation Act 1978, so
that it can be conveniently used in future legislation; and state
that references to the old names in any other existing legislation
are to be read as the new.
7. The citizenship provisions of the Bill
are covered by Clauses 3 to 5 and Schedule 1. The Bill provides
for British citizenship to be conferred on all existing British
overseas territories citizens (as renamed) automatically on commencement.
It also enables those who become British overseas territories
citizens after commencement of the legislation to acquire British
citizenship by registration. Finally, it makes the necessary amendments
to the 1981 British Nationality Act to enable the future acquisition
of British citizenship by virtue of a personal or ancestral connection
with the Overseas Territories. Exceptions from these provisions
are persons whose British overseas territories citizenship derives
solely from a connection with the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus.
8. Clause 6 and Schedule 2 of the Bill repeal
provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981 and the British
Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983 which are overtaken by
the provision of the Overseas Territories Bill.
9. The provisions relating to citizenship
(Clauses 3 to 5, Schedule 1 and the related repeals) will come
into force on a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State,
by Order made by Statutory Instrument. This is in order to ensure
that the practical arrangements for implementation, such as arrangements
for issuing British citizens' passports to those who wish to take
up their right to hold one, are all in place before commencement.
The non-citizenship provisions (the changes to nomenclature referred
to in paragraph 6(I) above) will come into force on Royal Assent.
10. The Government is committed to the principle
of developing a modern relationship with the overseas territories
based on a more collaborative partnership. The foundations have
been laid through changes in structures, practices and attitudes.
Progress has been made but much remains to be done. There remains
a perception in the Overseas Territories, which needs to be addressed,
that the balance in the partnership may be too heavily weighted
in the Government's favour.
11. Many of the recommendations made by
the Committee in its Interim Report of January 1998 on the review
of the Overseas Territories have been implemented. Responsibility
for the Overseas Territories has been unified in the FCO and a
Minister for the Overseas Territories designated. A structured
political dialogue has been established, with annual meetings
of UK Ministers and Territories' Chief Ministers and their equivalents
at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council. The third such
Council was held from 24-26 September 2001.
12. In the spirit of strengthening the co-operation
between the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories, and between
the Territories themselves, the Government has encouraged and
facilitated regular meetings between specialist personnel from
the Territories' administrations and their equivalents in the
UK. For example, annual conferences have been held between Attorneys
General, Financial Secretaries, Police Commissioners and Prison
Governors, which have been useful opportunities for tackling common
problems and spreading good practice.
13. The Government takes seriously the need
to ensure that Governors carry out their difficult and sensitive
role in representing the Government's interests in the Territories
and the interests of the Territories in London and externally.
The FCO will continue to take the greatest care to ensure the
suitability of Governors to the territories to which they are
appointed and to support the development of close working relationships
between Governors and the Territories' administrations. At the
Overseas Territories Consultative Council in September, Chief
Ministers argued for greater Overseas Territories involvement
in the selection and appointment of Governors. The Government
agreed to consider this again.
14. The Government also recognised the need
to improve the structures underpinning its own co-ordination and
management of Overseas Territories business. Annual Governors'
Conferences have been established to review and co-ordinate business
at official level between the territories and spread best practice.
And, as foreshadowed in the Government's Response to the Committee's
Interim Report, dedicated Overseas Territories Departments were
established in the FCO and in DFID in July 1998, which have improved
inter-Departmental co-ordination on Overseas Territories business.
15. As recommended in the Committee's Interim
Report, the Government has encouraged the territories to review
their constitutions with the assistance of UK Government experts.
The reviews take full account of the Government's obligations
to uphold the rule of law and the principles of good government,
and to ensure that legislation and practice in the Overseas Territories
complies with the United Kingdom's international obligations in
areas such as financial regulation and human rights. Reviews are
now underway in Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the Falklands Islands,
Gibraltar and St Helena, and are in preparation in Montserrat
and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The British Virgin Islands are
working to consolidate earlier constitutional reviews. Future
reviews will be undertaken as and when circumstances in the territories
permit, and when the territories express a wish to see constitutional
16. Observance of human rights has also
been promoted through the abolition of capital punishment by all
the Territories for all crimes. Judicial corporal punishment has
also been abolished throughout the Overseas Territories. Legislation
to decriminalise private consensual homosexual acts was enforced
by Order in Council. A debate on domestic violence and abuse has
been opened up in several territories.
17. The Government continues to work for
improvements in the observance of human, civil and political rights
throughout the Overseas Territories. An FCO/DFID group has been
established to identify strategies to help the territories to
meet their human rights commitments and to assist in training
development, policy formulation and reporting regimes. Two major
programmes of work have been commissioned. National Childrens'
Homes (NCH) Caribbean, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Eastern
Caribbean Court, are working with the local governments of the
Eastern Caribbean Territories and TCI to help revise legislation
and services for the protection of families and children. A second
programme covering all the Overseas Territories has been commissioned
to assist territories in raising human rights awareness throughout
the community and to identify priority areas for action and help
strengthen civil society to take these forward.
18. Recognising the value of independent
and competent media in maintaining human rights, the Government
has supported the establishment of an independent media trust
for St Helena, and has supported the training of media personnel
and the establishment of independent media in other Territories.
19. Steps have been taken to ensure that
the Overseas Territories with significant financial sectors meet
international standards and good practice with respect to financial
regulation, money laundering and international co-operation. The
1999 Overseas Territories White Paper recommended a view of financial
regulation in the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda.
The review was commissioned and funded jointly by the United Kingdom
and the Territories themselves, and was completed in October 2000.
20. The review identified three priority
areas for action: the establishment of independent regulatory
authorities, comprehensive anti-money laundering systems, and
measures to enhance international regulatory co-operation (compulsory
powers). The Overseas Territories are now engaged in implementing
the recommendations all of which are to be put in place soon on
the basis of plans submitted in February 2001. Regular meetings
with Overseas Territories Financial Regulators have taken place
over the last year. A further meeting is schedule for October
2001 to assess progress on the priority areas and other recommendations
that remain to be addressed.
21. As outlined in the Overseas Territories
White Paper, the Government is committed to ensure sound financial
practice and prudent borrowing policies in the Overseas Territories.
Guidelines setting out the criteria for approving borrowing were
circulated to the Overseas Territories in 1999 and measures are
in hand to agree overall borrowing levels with each territory.
22. A number of international tax initiatives
affecting the Overseas Territories, particularly those with significant
financial sectors, are in train, designed to prevent cross-border
tax evasion and harmful tax practices, and to promote transparency
and exchange of information. The United Kingdom ensures that the
Overseas Territories are kept informed and consulted, on discussions
in multilateral organisations such as the OECD and the EU. The
Overseas Territories have been encouraged to co-operate fully
with such initiatives.
23. Drug related crime is relatively low
in the Overseas Territories. The main threat involves the transhipment
of drugs by air and sea through the Caribbean to the US and Europe.
The Government has been working to deliver practical help to strengthen
the capacity of Overseas Territories' law enforcement authorities.
The Overseas Territories Good Government Fund (GGF) provides over
£2 million of direct assistance (eg training, equipment,
advice and personnel).
24. The FCO has funded and set up a secure
regional criminal intelligence system for the Caribbean Overseas
Territories to enhance intelligence and information sharing on
drugs and other policing matters. The FCO supports the police
air wings in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgins
Islands. An FCO-funded regional Drugs Law Enforcement Adviser
was appointed in early 2000. Based in Miami, his role is to support
local law enforcement agencies, through the preparation of national
drugs strategies and training plans, the development of multi-agency
counter-drugs units with modern equipment, and improvements to
improving regional co-operation. Training is also being provided
by the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT) based
in Antigua. Joint UK/European Commission funding has enabled personnel
from the Caribbean Overseas Territories to receive drug investigator
25. The FCO also funds the Miami-based White
Collar Crime Investigation Team (WCCIT), staffed by FBI and British
police officers, a joint UK-US initiative to tackle financial
crime, especially fraud, and to facilitate investigations with
a connection to the Overseas Territories.
26. Only two territoriesMontserrat
and St Helenacannot match revenue with expenditure and
so continue to need budgetary aid. DFID has continued to provide
considerable support to them. For both, the focus is on increasing
self-sufficiency and developing the territories' capacity to take
greater responsibility for managing their own affairs and finance.
27. DFID plans to spend £24.4 million
in Montserrat in 2001-02 and a further £47.6 million until
2005-06 which will take the Government's financial commitment
to Montserrat since the onset of the volcanic crisis beyond £200
million. Much of the money has been used primarily to develop
an infrastructure in the previously undeveloped north of the island.
There have been major projects on roads, water, electricity, housing,
schools, a hospital, police and volcano monitoring. The focus
is now moving away from infrastructure and towards building capacity
within the local government to deliver effective and efficient
public services. However, major new investments in an airstrip
and further housing development are anticipated.
28. DFID is providing £29 million of
development assistance to St Helena from 2000-01 to 2002-03. Funding
covers technical assistance (including funding for a number of
specialist personnel such as the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary,
Attorney General, Public Solicitor, teachers and others); project
aid (covering additional electricity generation capacity, water
development and waste disposal, as well as the development of
an elderly care policy); and budgetary aid, including an annual
subsidy for the cost of operating the RMS St Helena. DFID remains
committed to meeting the lowest capital cost option for maintaining
access to St Helena. The options are a new ship or an airport,
with the latter currently favoured by the St Helena government.
DFID also provides small amounts of development assistance to
Tristan de Cunha.
29. DFID financial support for activities
in other Overseas Territories is gradually reducing as their capacity
increases to fend for themselves: but technical assistance programmes
totalling some £7.25 million in FY 2001-02 are still providing
valuable development support for Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos
Islands and regionally among the poorer Caribbean Overseas Territories.
The FCO provides support from its Good Governance Fund (GGF) for
the Overseas Territories (£3.2 million annually), from a
newly-created Economic Diversification Fund (£1.5 million
over three years) and from the Environment Fund for the Overseas
Territories (see below). The Economic Diversification Fund is
designed to assist the Overseas Territories to exploit regional
and global trade opportunities in a sustainable way. Particular
focus in on small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking seed-corn
funding, or improving the business environment in the Overseas
Territories (eg through the provision of assistance with telecommunications
liberalisation) or assistance with government economic planning
and development. The Fund was launched in 2001 and assistance
has already been provided to or is planned in Anguilla, Turks
and Caicos and St Helena. An FCO-funded study into the feasibility
of settlement in the outer islands of BIOT continues.
30. The conferral of British citizenship
through the Overseas Territories Bill, and with it the right of
abode and removal of immigration restrictions, will also improve
access to education, training and work experience in the United
Kingdom and other countries of the European Union. This should
also help to boost the economic and social development of the
31. At the recent Overseas Territories Consultative
Council, the representatives of the territories expressed deep
concern about the impact of the terrorist attacks in the US on
their economies. The Government will keep this under close review.
32. The Government has undertaken a major
consultation with the Overseas Territories which has resulted
in the participation of the Territories in relevant international
agreements and the production of a Charter on the protection of
the environment in the Territories, which was signed at the recent
Overseas Territories Consultative Council by the representatives
of eight of the Territories present (Anguilla, Bermuda, the British
Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falklands Islands, Montserrat,
St Helena and the Turks and Caicos Islands). The Government hopes
that the remaining territories will follow suit shortly, with
the exception of Gibraltar, which has expressed support for the
principles of the Charter, but will not sign the Charter, on the
basis that the environment is a defined domestic matter. The Charter
sets out for the first time the roles and responsibilities of
HMG and the Overseas Territories regarding the environment. The
Overseas Territories have participated enthusiastically in the
development and use of an Overseas Territories environmental database.
The FCO and other government departments hold six-monthly meetings
with a range of non-governmental organisations under the umbrella
of the Overseas Territories Conservation Forum.
33. Progress on extending multilateral environmental
agreements to the Overseas Territories has been slow, but will
shortly be given a boost shortly with the extension of the Convention
on Biological Diversity to cover Bermuda and the Falkland Islands.
The Government is giving consideration to the provision of more
capacity-building assistance to the Overseas Territories to enable
them to tackle the complex legislative issues involved in enacting
the provisions of the international treaties. But a wide range
of actions in support of international Environmental Treaties
has been undertaken by Overseas Territories and UK Government
Departments. In relation to key provisions of the Convention on
Biological Diversity, for example, research has been carried out
into coral mortality in the Chagos Archipelagoa Darwin
Initiative project on in situ conservation of turtles in
Ascension is underway and DFID is funding a coastal resources
monitoring project on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Overseas Territories
have also participated in UK delegations to conferences on multilateral
environmental agreements. The Cayman Islands attended the Eleventh
Conference of the Parties to CITES, and the British Virgin Islands,
Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla attended the Fifth Conference
of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
34. The FCO has continued to provide support
through its £1.5 million Environment Fund for the Overseas
Territories, launched with the publication of the White Paper.
More than 30 projects have been funded, covering capacity building,
environmental education, networking, baseline research, pollution
and habitat regeneration. Additionally, £0.5 million has
recently been provided for habitat restoration on Ascension Island.
DFID is looking at how best to take forward the commitment given
in the White Paper to provide more help to poorer Overseas Territories
in addressing global environmental concerns. It hopes to secure
funding for Overseas Territories environment work in FY 2002-03.
35. The Government attaches importance to
ensuring that the administrative and legal arrangements of the
Overseas Territories give them the best possible basis for responding
to emergencies, especially natural disasters, a point highlighted
in the Committee's Interim Report. The Government has encouraged
all the Overseas Territories to appoint full-time, properly resourced
disaster management co-ordinators and to exercise their emergency
plans regularly. In order to provide expert advice and spread
best practice, the Government has appointed a DFID-funded Disaster
Management Adviser for the Overseas Territories, who will initially
be based in the British Virgin Islands. The Government also has
mechanisms in place to provide urgent assistance in the event
of a disaster.
36. The Government recognises the unique
nature of the relationship with the Overseas Territories, and
remains firmly committed to strengthening that relationship by
implementing the agenda set out in the 1999 White Paper. The introduction
to Parliament of the Overseas Territories Bill, which has been
widely welcomed, is evidence of that commitment.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office