Letter from the Foreign Secretary to the
Chairman of the Committee
Thank you for your letter of 18 June about Bermuda's
Constitutional Review. We shall certainly keep you informed of
developments as the review progresses.
You raise the more general issue of Orders in
Council with respect to the Constitutions of the Overseas Territories.
You propose an informal arrangement whereby the Committee are
shown draft Orders before they are made.
I have given careful thought to this. Although
Parliament has not required prior scrutiny of such Orders, I recognise
its role in overseeing HMG's stewardship of the Overseas Territories,
and accept that there may be merit in what you propose. I shall
therefore make arrangements for the Committee to be shown, where
appropriate, draft Orders on Overseas Territory Constitutions
for information before they are made.
I would not intend, however, that this should
delay the making of such Orders. We must pay heed to the perspective
of the Territories themselves. The 1999 Government White Paper
is based on the principle of partnership with the Territories
and allowing them to run their own affairs as far as possible.
Against this background, the constitutional review process has,
for the first time, been opened up to public consultation. The
preparation of draft Orders in Council is therefore the result
of consultation and agreement with representative opinion in the
Territories, most of which have their own elected legislatures
and governments. It will be important that the Committee respect
There may be occasions where it would not be
appropriate to show the Committee such draft Orders, for example
on occasions of urgency or when confidentiality is imperative.
The suspension by Order in Council of ministerial government in
the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1986, following a Commission of
Enquiry, is an example of such a contingency. But such occasions
should, I hope, be rare.
Secretary of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
12 July 2002