Crown Dependencies - Justice Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Background to the inquiry

1. At the start of the 2008-09 Session, we conducted a short inquiry into the Ministry of Justice's performance in representing the interests of the Crown Dependencies within the UK Government's overall response to problems arising as a result of the Icelandic banking crisis.[1] That inquiry highlighted some of the problems that can arise when one partner in a relationship is charged with representing, not only its own interests, but also those of the other partners, especially in circumstances where those interests may conflict. Such was arguably the case during the negotiations with the Icelandic government which followed the collapse of that country's banks.

2. Our inquiry into the representation of the Crown Dependencies during the Icelandic banking crisis threw up broader, constitutional issues about the precise relationship between the UK and the Crown Dependencies and the role of the Ministry of Justice in administering that relationship. The current inquiry was, therefore, intended to pursue these broader questions.

3. We issued the terms of reference for the inquiry and a call for written evidence on 5 August 2009. We have been advised during this inquiry by Professor Andrew Le Sueur, of the Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London; and by Professor St John Bates, Visiting Professor and Director of the Centre for Legislative and Parliamentary Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Associate Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and Visiting Professor at the Isle of Man International Business School.

4. Between December 2009 and March 2010, we took oral evidence from Professor Alastair Sutton, an expert in the Crown Dependencies' international relations; officials from the Ministry of Justice and HM Treasury; and Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice. In February 2010, we visited Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Alderney and the Isle of Man in order to gather first-hand information from the Crown Dependencies and add depth to our thinking and, ultimately, to our report.

5. We wish to thank our specialist advisers, those who submitted written and oral evidence to the inquiry, and all those we met on our visits to the Islands. Their cooperation and assistance during the course of this inquiry has been invaluable.

Scope of this inquiry

6. This inquiry considers the administration of the relationship of the Crown Dependencies with the Crown. For reasons explained below, the Ministry of Justice is tasked with the administration of this relationship.

7. The Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man are Dependencies of the Crown, with Her Majesty The Queen as Sovereign.[2] The Sovereign is represented in each jurisdiction by a Lieutenant Governor. Although they are proud of their British associations, the Crown Dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom and are autonomous and self-governing, with their own, independent legal, administrative and fiscal systems. The Island parliaments legislate for themselves. UK legislation and international treaties are only extended to them with their consent. It has been argued that Westminster retains a residual legislative power over the Islands in order to avoid "the impossible position of having responsibility without power".[3] We are not aware of any example in recent times of such a power being exercised. The Crown Dependencies are to be distinguished from the UK's Overseas Territories, which have a different constitutional relationship with the UK.[4] The Crown Dependencies are not part of the EU or EEA but they are in the Customs territory of the EU by virtue of Protocol 3 to the UK's Act of Accession 1972 so that they can benefit from free movement of industrial and agricultural goods.[5] They are also part of the Common Travel Area (CTA), along with the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which permits movement without immigration controls for all CTA nationals.[6]

8. Her Majesty the Queen is Sovereign in each of the Crown Dependencies for historical reasons which are different for each Island.[7] In each case, however, she executes her responsibilities for the Crown Dependencies on the advice of her Privy Council and her executive responsibilities are carried out by Her Majesty's Government. Within HM Government, the Ministry of Justice is the point of contact for the Crown Dependencies, and communications in both directions are passed through its offices. Whilst this inquiry deals with the relationship between the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Dependencies, it is important to realise that their relationship is technically with the Crown and that HM Government's responsibilities are derived from this fact. As Jack Straw told us on 7 October 2008:

    The relationship between us and the Crown Dependencies is a subtle one. They are dependencies of the Crown, they are not part of the United Kingdom, so the responsibilities I have for them are as a privy councillor.[8]

9. Part XI of Volume 1 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, published in 1973 and known as the Kilbrandon Report, sets out an account of the duties of the Crown in relation to its Dependencies.[9] The Crown's responsibilities include:

  • ultimate responsibility for the "good government" of the Islands;
  • the ratification of Island legislation by Order in Council (Royal Assent) following scrutiny by the relevant Privy Councillor (at the time of the Kilbrandon Report the Home Secretary, now the Justice Secretary);
  • international representation, subject to consultation with the insular authorities prior to the conclusion of any agreement which would apply to them;
  • ensuring the Islands meet their international obligations; and
  • defence.[10]

The precise extent, and limitations, of these responsibilities are unclear, however, and we have sought clarification on these issues throughout our inquiry. This Report focuses, not only on the Ministry of Justice's administration of these responsibilities, but also on its management of the UK's relationship with the Crown Dependencies more widely, including the Ministry of Justice's role in the interactions between the Crown Dependencies and other Whitehall departments. We make recommendations about the changes which are required, in terms of both policy and practice, in order to improve the Ministry of Justice's management of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies.

1   Crown Dependencies: evidence taken, First Report of the Justice Committee Session 2008-09, HC 67 Back

2   See Appendices 1 and 2 for an overview of the geography, people, government, economy and constitutional position of each jurisdiction. Back

3   Part XI of Volume 1 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1969-1973, Cmnd 5460, paras 1370-1372; paras 1430-1434 Back

4   Foot, M., (2009) Final report of the independent Review of British offshore financial centres. Available at Back

5   Ev 69 Back

6   See UK Borders Agency's Final Impact Assessment of Common Travel Area Reform, available at; see also Back

7   See Appendix 2 for a short summary of the historical position. Back

8   Q 15, oral evidence on The Work of the Ministry of Justice, 7 October 2008, HC 1076-i Back

9   Part XI of Volume 1 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1969-1973, Cmnd 5460 Back

10   Part XI of Volume 1 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1969-1973, Cmnd 5460,
paras 1360-1363; Ev 86 

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