Submission from Mr Kedell Worboys, Chair,
The United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA)
UKOTA welcomes the opportunity to give evidence
to the Committee for its Inquiry into Overseas Territories. However,
it asks the Committee to bear the following in mind:
UKOTA's role is to act as a representative
for the Overseas Territories in the UK and it is on this basis
that this evidence is submitted.
The views expressed follow consultation
with the individual territories.
Evidence given by UKOTA should not
be seen as a replacement for evidence given by the individual
UKOTA cannot comment on the affairs
of the individual territories.
2.1 UKOTA succeeded the Dependent Territories
Association following the 1999 White Paper, Partnership for
Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories
which sets out the policy on the Overseas Territories.
2.2 The members of UKOTA are: Anguilla (Representative:
Robert Williams), Bermuda (Representative: Marc Telemaque), the
British Virgin Islands (Representative: Dawn Smith), the Cayman
Islands (Representative: Jennifer Dilbert MBE), the Falkland Islands
(Representative: Sukey Cameron MBE), Gibraltar (Representative:
Albert Poggio OBE), Montserrat (Representative: Janice Panton
MBE), St Helena (Representative: Kedell Worboys), the Turks and
Caicos Islands (Representative: Tracy Knight) and Pitcairn Island
(Representative: Leslie Jaques OBE).
2.3 The Governments of the Overseas Territories
are represented on UKOTA, in the main, by their official representatives
in the United Kingdom; Bermuda and Pitcairn send representatives
to attend meetings when possible. The strategic direction for
UKOTA is provided by the UKOTA Political Council which comprises
the political leaders of the Overseas Territories.
2.4 Officers rotate annually. The current
Chair is Kedell Worboys, the St Helena Representative. Tracy Knight,
the Turks and Caicos Representative, is the Treasurer and Janice
Panton, the Montserrat Representative, is Secretary to the Association.
2.5 The Objectives of UKOTA are:
To provide a forum for exchange of
ideas and discussion of relevant issues of common interest.
To work for the mutual benefit of
the signatories to the Mission Statement.
To share information about issues
of interest and benefit to the signatories to the Mission Statement.
To make recommendations to the Governments
of the Overseas Territories on appropriate courses of action where
To develop relationships, as a group,
with HMG, the European Union, the Commonwealth and other appropriate
organisations and institutions.
To share best practice in relevant
To defend the collective interests
of the Members and to represent those interests.
2.6 UKOTA understands that the focus of the
Inquiry is the exercise by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(FCO) of its responsibilities in relation to the Overseas Territories
and the FCO's achievements against its Strategic Priority No.10,
the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories.
We believe that for the Committee to obtain a good understanding
of this, it is vital that the views of the Overseas Territories'
Governments and their official representatives in the United Kingdom
are taken into account.
2.7 It should be noted that while the Government
of Gibraltar is an active member of UKOTA, it is not affected
by many of the issues that UKOTA is addressing in its evidence.
Its views are not therefore represented in this submission.
2.8 The principal relationships between
the FCO and the Overseas Territories are strong and the proposition
from the 1999 White Paper that the basis of that relationship
be one of partnership is supported by the Overseas Territories.
It is with this principle in mind that this evidence has been
2.9 Many of the proposals made by the Overseas
Territories to the Select Committee during evidence taken in preparation
for the 1998 report were accepted by the Committee and then by
the UK Government. These included the right to full UK citizenship
with no reciprocal arrangements, the change in nomenclature from
Dependent Territory to Overseas Territory, the closing of the
Barbados Secretariat and the establishment of the Overseas Territories
Consultative Council and its annual meeting. The Overseas Territories
warmly welcomed these changes and were grateful to the Committee
for its support.
3.1 While the day to day relations with
the Overseas Territories Directorate of the FCO are good, we are
sometimes surprised at the attitude of other government departments
where there is a lack of understanding about the status of the
Overseas Territories. There are two current examples which typify
the issue: pensions up-rating and National Health Service quotas.
3.2 The UK Government's policy on this issue
is that it up-rates the UK State Pension of those living abroad
where there is a legal requirement to do so or where there is
a reciprocal agreement in place. Up-ratings are currently paid
to all UK pensioners living anywhere in the EU, including Gibraltar
and Switzerland. It is also paid in a number of individual countries
and territories where reciprocal agreements are in place, including
Bermuda and Gibraltar (although the latter's agreement has largely
been superseded by European law). However, there are a number
of countries where UK pensioners live where there are no reciprocal
agreements including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South
Africa. Pensioners in these countries have run a campaign for
a number of years calling for a blanket up-rating agreement on
the basis that they have worked in the UK and made the requisite
payments and therefore should have right to the up-rating. This
is a call that the UK Government to date has resisted on the grounds
of cost and its declared focus on pensioners in the UK. However,
in addition to pensioners living in the major commonwealth countries,
UK pensioners living in the other Overseas Territories do not
receive an up-rating. The UK Government's reasoning for this is
that it would not be appropriate to single out the residents of
the British Overseas Territories with UK pensions as any more
deserving of the up-rating provisions than those living in former
colonies or Commonwealth countries.
3.3 In fact UKOTA believes that on the contrary
the Overseas Territories should be given special consideration.
Unlike the Commonwealth countries or former colonies, the Overseas
Territories are sovereign British Territory. Therefore any UK
citizen living in an Overseas Territory should not be discriminated
against by any UK law. Indeed, this argument was accepted by the
UK Government when it changed the basis on which tuition fees
were charged to students from the Overseas Territories. The change
recognised that the Overseas Territories were a special case and
that the requirement for a certain period of residence in England,
Scotland or Wales should no longer apply. As a result Overseas
Territory students are now charged the same as UK resident students
by UK universities and colleges provided that they have resided
in an Overseas Territory for a period of three years prior to
the 1st of September in the academic year in which they are to
commence their studies in England, Scotland or Wales.
3.4 In terms of numbers, the up-rating would
currently affect about 600 people. According to an answer given
in the House of Lords (June 2007), the cost would be just under
£500,000 for 2007-08 on the assumption that the frozen pension
is brought up to the current value and then up-rated. We believe
that by acceding to this request the UK would not be setting a
precedent either for other countries or in terms of law.
Given the unique status of the Overseas Territories,
low cost and small number of people concerned, the UK Government
should up-rate the pensions for UK citizens living in the Overseas
Territories and in receipt of UK state pensions.
3.5 There are currently reciprocal agreements
in place to allow British Overseas Territories' citizens to be
treated in the UK by the National Health Service (NHS) and for
British nationals to be treated in the Overseas Territories in
the case of primary care. However, there are significant disparities
when it comes to secondary care. Some Overseas Territories are
allowed an annual quota of patients who can be treated in the
UK, some are allowed to have as many as necessary to be treated
and some have no quota at all.
3.6 There are signs that the Department
of Health is now questioning this system querying the value the
Overseas Territories bring to the British taxpayer to allow its
justification. It is a question that does not make sense. If British
visitors are in need of primary medical assistance in the Overseas
Territories they will receive it as the reciprocal agreement indicates.
In the case of secondary care, British citizens would receive
it in the UK. Overseas Territory citizens themselves only travel
for secondary care if they cannot receive it in the territory
itself so there can never be reciprocity in the way that the Department
of Health envisages. Indeed, the standard wording in the agreements
requires that the patient sent to the UK must be " . . .
in need of hospital care, for which, in the opinion of the competent
authority . . . adequate facilities do not exist in the [name
of Overseas Territory]". It should also be noted that under
the various agreements, the Government of the Overseas Territory
sending the patient(s) is responsible for all their transportation
and living expenses while they are staying in the United Kingdom.
3.7 All Overseas Territory citizens have
the right of abode in the UK and the right to a British passport.
If they were to move here they would gain automatic access to
the NHS, based on residency, so it seems strange that the Department
of Health is questioning the quota system.
3.8 It is not in the interests of the Overseas
Territories to flood the NHS. Like most people their patients
would prefer to be treated closer to home where they can be visited
by family and friends. However, there are cases where this treatment
is not possible and where, therefore, UK assistance is required.
It seems unnecessarily harsh to impose an inflexible quota system
which dictates that the best chance of accessing secondary care
on the NHS is to become ill early in the year rather than later.
UKOTA recommends that where a person is in need
of medical treatment for which, in the opinion of the competent
authority of that Overseas Territory, adequate facilities do not
exist in the Overseas Territory, the person concerned will receive
that medical treatment in the United Kingdom.
3.9 It is not only across government that
knowledge of the Overseas Territories is sporadic. The same is
true across society and while the Overseas Territories do undertake
some degree of public information in the UK, there is unfortunately
a limit to what any one can achieve. If knowledge about the Overseas
Territories was communicated to school children, there would be
far greater societal understanding of the Overseas Territories,
their status and the role they play. To achieve this we believe
that more should be done to insert information about the Overseas
Territories into the National Curriculum.
UKOTA recommends that teaching about the Overseas
Territories be inserted into the National Curriculum to ensure
that over time there is a better understanding among the general
public of the Overseas Territories and the position they occupy.
In the case of both of the pensions' up-rating
and the health quotas, support has been expressed by FCO officials
but they have difficulty in persuading other departments to listen
to them or convince other departments of the duties they have
towards the Overseas Territories.
There is still a need for a greater knowledge
and understanding among other government departments and the FCO
must support this process by ensuring that the requisite communications
systems are in place.
3.11 One issue that has recently arisen
following the long awaited acknowledgement that students from
the Overseas Territories qualify for home student fees, is their
ineligibility for UK student loans and this factor may deter students
from applying for a place at a university in the UK.
UKOTA recommends that the FCO investigate the
feasibility of students from the Overseas Territories becoming
eligible for student loans from Student Finance Direct.
4. THE ROLE
4.1 The individual territories may wish
to comment in more detail. However, UKOTA asks the Committee to
note that the experience of the official representatives is substantial
and they can provide a degree of insight in pre-briefings that
the FCO and other UK Government departments may lack. As a result
the FCO frequently ensures that the relevant Representative briefs
a Governor before he/she is appointed. We believe that this practice
should be extended to other officials appointed by, or on the
recommendation of, the United Kingdom Government.
4.2 Furthermore, there is a tendency for
the FCO to use the Governors as an exclusive channel to Overseas
Territories' Governments when in fact using the Representatives
in addition to the Governors would be more efficient. This is
something, for example, which the Commonwealth and Parliamentary
Association (CPA) has recognised and as a result knowledge and
information exchange with that organisation has improved. The
Overseas Territories' Governments assume that we are kept informed
and use us to co-ordinate meetings and as a channel to the UK
Government. It is important that this is recognised by the FCO
as well and that it is a two way channel.
UKOTA recommends that all office-holders appointed
by, or on the recommendation of, the United Kingdom Government
are briefed by the appropriate Representative on UKOTA before
they leave for their respective Overseas Territory. Furthermore,
we recommend that the FCO recognises the link that UKOTA and the
Representatives can collectively and individually provide between
the UK and the Overseas Territories and acts accordingly.
5. THE WORK
5.1 The OTCC has become an important component
in relations between the FCO and the Overseas Territories. The
annual meetings give the political leaders of the Overseas Territories
an opportunity to meet their political counterparts and senior
officials in the UK, and to discuss a range of issues of interest
and concern to the Overseas Territories.
5.2 However, it may be that the time has
come for a change in format. The new Constitutions that are being
discussed and adopted give a greater degree of variation in terms
of autonomy for local governments so the "one size fits all"
approach can no longer be taken. In addition, in recent years
there have been signs that the partnership approach taken so successfully
has not been followed through by the FCO. For example, it is UKOTA's
view that any changes to the composition of the meetings should
be agreed by the political leaders of the Overseas Territories
before such changes are implemented. However, in 2005 the FCO
took the decision to invite the Governors to attend without consulting
the Overseas Territories. The lack of consultation on this proposal
not only flew in the face of the partnership approach, which had
been successful to then, but created a lot of unnecessary tension.
5.3 UKOTA believes that the format be refined
to ensure that the partnership approach is effectively continued
by the FCO.
UKOTA recommends that the fundamental reason
for the creation of the OTCC must remain to provide a forum for
direct discussion between the political leaders of the Overseas
Territories and their UK political counterparts in the United
Kingdom and as such, it would be beneficial for the proceedings
of the Council to include:
A series of individual bi-lateral
meetings arranged with other Government Departments around the
time of the OTCC on issues requested by the individual Overseas
Territories. Most importantly, other Departments should be briefed
on the issues to be raised beforehand so that they can prepare
A final round up meeting to be organised
with the political leaders of the Overseas Territories, the relevant
Ministers and officials.
Governors should not be in attendancethey
have a separate meeting with the FCO which the Overseas Territories'
political leaders do not attend.
6.1 Many of the Overseas Territories have
either recently completed constitutional talks or they are still
ongoing. This is huge step for all and the partnership with the
FCO has worked well. In the Overseas Territories there has been
extensive public consultation and the FCO policy and legal teams
have worked with the Overseas Territories to ensure that, so far
as possible, each Overseas Territory has the autonomy that is
required without exposing the UK's contingent liabilities.
7. THE APPLICATION
7.1 With a few exceptions most international
treaties, conventions and other international agreements which
the UK ratifies must also be transposed into law in the Overseas
Territories. Individual Overseas Territories may wish to comment
on this process. However, from UKOTA's perspective, there are
two elements which need to be brought into consideration.
7.2 Firstly, the Overseas Territories should
be alerted to such agreements at an early stage. Frequently, the
FCO only alerts the Overseas Territories at a relatively advanced
stage when it is too late for them to make representation. Such
delay can lead to a break down of trust in the relationship between
the Overseas Territories and the FCO.
7.3 Secondly, it is important that other
UK Government departments have a clear understanding of what can
and cannot be applied to the Overseas Territories and the FCO
must communicate this adequately to them. UKOTA recognises that
the Governor is the formal link between the Overseas Territories
and the UK Government. However, this does not have to be an exclusive
channel. All the UKOTA representatives maintain strong and regular
links with their individual Overseas Territory Governments and
if this channel is also utilised then messages and alerts have
a greater chance of being acted upon.
UKOTA recommends that the FCO institute a system
whereby UKOTA representatives are alerted early to prospective
new international treaties, conventions and other agreements to
ensure that Overseas Territories' Governments are informed of
such developments on a timely basis.
7.4 Secondly, the transposition of such
agreements often requires a significant amount of legal drafting
which can be difficult for Overseas Territories because, although
willing, they may have limited resources. It is important that
the FCO takes this into account when considering what it expects
of the Overseas Territories and within what timescale.
UKOTA recommends that each transposition is
taken on a case by case basis but that the FCO always consider
what legal drafting assistance the Overseas Territories might
require and provide this support if requested.
8. HUMAN RIGHTS
8.1 The UK has signed the European Convention
of Human Rights and these rights have been extended to the Overseas
Territories as part of this agreement. In addition, as part of
the constitutional review process, Overseas Territories are adding
a substantial Human Rights chapter to their Constitutions to enshrine
these rights on a Territory by Territory basis for the first time.
This has already happened in Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands
and Turks and Caicos and the other Overseas Territories are following
suit as they review their Constitutions.
9.1 Relations between the Overseas Territories
and the UK Parliament tend to be driven either by the Overseas
Territories or MPs who have a specific interest. There are All
Party groups representing most of the Overseas Territories and
one group, the All Party Overseas Territories Group, which acts
as an umbrella for all of the Overseas Territories. In addition
all Overseas Territories engage with Parliament on a regular basis
and a number arrange Parliamentary visits to ensure MPs and peers
obtain direct experience of them.
10. UK NATIONAL
10.1 There has been much improvement in
the way that national events in the UK have been expanded to include
the Overseas Territories and this is welcomed. However, there
is one area which has not. This is attendance at the Cenotaph
on Remembrance Sunday. Many Overseas Territories' citizens have
fallen in defence of Britain. The Overseas Territories all now
have democratically elected Governments who have representatives
at many international events. It seems strange and anachronistic
for their representatives to be excluded from the Remembrance
Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph.
UKOTA recommends that Representatives of the
Overseas Territories are invited to join the ceremony at the Cenotaph
and lay wreathes on behalf of their individual Overseas Territory.
10 October 2007