Highlighting FAC Inquiry Evidence

Following the JMC meetings OTs’ ministers give oral evidence oftheir submissionss with discussions

Premier Donaldson Romeo of Montserrat was the last in line during the Foreign Affairs Committee- Oral evidence: Future of the UK Overseas Territories, HC 1464 delivered on Wednesday, 5 December, 2018, Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on the said date.

The Members of the UK Government present: Tom Tugendhat(Chair); Ian Austin; Mike Gapes; Ian Murray; Priti Patel; Andrew Rosindell; and Royston Smith.

The witnesses for the occasion were four, from the Overseas Territories. They were: Hon. Victor F.Banks, Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Miss Teslyn Barkman, Member of the Falkland Islands Assembly, Hon. Sharlene Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat, as they were seated opposite the chair from left to right. (see photo taken from the video which may be seen on line at http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/oral/93391.html)

Hon Sharlene Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands

There was a second round of oral evidence was taken immediately from the other OTs present for that purpose. They were: Councilor Leslie Jaques OBE, Government of Pitcairn Islands, Councilor Derek Thomas,Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Ian Lavarello, Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha, and Councilor Keturah George, Ascension Island Council.

After he had set the tone for the sitting, Chair Tugendhat began, “…we are going to ask for two-minute statements,” requesting that the witnesses “stick to time,” “We will then get on to questions, so a lot of things may come out in questioning afterwards.” And so it did, he having asked for brevity as he said they, “…have submitted all this in written evidence, for which we are hugely grateful.”

Chief Minister Banks got off to a solid start even having to ask for and obtain time for two more points which he  punched in. He had begun saying he would, “be rather general with my comments and speak to the issue of the relationship – what it means to be British as an Overseas Territory —what it means to be British as an Overseas Territory…we have been in a relationship with the United Kingdom since 1650, and we need to know where we go from here:”

He elaborated very briefly, hitting on some common issues which throughout became speaking points: “ We are not foreign; neither are we members of the Commonwealth, so we should have a different interface with the UK that is based on mutual respect…I think it is important when we make a criticism always to make some suggestions about how best to advance our concerns. I would like us to consider a more appropriate Department to interface with Anguilla, such as the Cabinet Office, as we are neither a foreign state nor a member of the Commonwealth…I would like a Minister to be appointed with the British Overseas Territories as their sole brief.

Reclassify the Overseas Territories, separating them and introducing a new rank of countries of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the more viable and advanced British Overseas Territories…Introduce a citizens’ charter between HM Gand the citizens of the British Overseas Territories to enhance transparency and introduce accountability for the execution of the duty of care they are owed by Her Majesty’s Government, whose actions affect their lives and livelihoods. Revise the role of Governor and nominate candidates from a wider base of skills…”

His last two points: “Ensure that there is improved institutional memory and training about the Overseas Territories within HMG and Parliament, and increase awareness among the UK public as a whole, possibly through education. Finally, bindingly commit to the development of the British Overseas Territories to ensure equal life chances and standards of living for every British citizen residing in any British nation in accordance with global Britain.”

No surprise that the next ‘witness’ Miss Barkman from the Falkland Islands spoke with a different context eventually highlighting some common issues shared with the other OTs, but showing that they were more advanced in their relationship with the UK.

“It is important that the constitutional relationship between the UK Government and its Overseas Territories is routinely reviewed. It is vital that the relationship reflects the present realities in both the UK and its Overseas Territories. In the light of that, and in the light of Brexit in particular and other recent events, we welcome this inquiry,” she began.

She noted a status that was different to say, Montserrat and Anguilla: “As the Falkland Islands have developed to become internally self-governing and economically self-sufficient, our relationship with the UK has transformedfrom one of dependence to one that supports mutual benefit and low contingentliability risk to the UK taxpayer…”

FIG has a track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency…proactive in respect to resource management, human rights and good governance…” At times, however,” she said, they have not felt that this is reflected. Rather than being seen as partners, proactively a part or engaged—we are in some ways more managed by officials in the FCO.”

Along lines of many other OTs, Miss Barkman cited, “Our constitution should not be set in stone—it is a living  document…review this document to ensure it is fit for purpose.”

She developed to a close as she shared that in March 2013, 99.8% of Falkland islanders, on a turnout of92%—I am reiterating the point, voted to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. That remains the settled and very powerful voice of Falkland Islanders.

She closed on a common point for some others also, as she also referenced Brexit. “Obviously, we have a powerful potential area of risk with regard to trade, but we have seen that engagement from UK Ministers and senior officials, with officials and regional and local politicians abroad, has been very strong—engaging on a first-person basis. We would like to see that kind of closer direct contact encouraged and reiterated.”

Next, Hon. Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, who introduced that she was accompanied by the Turks and Caicos Islands deputy Premier. She was more brief than the others but later delved more heavily into the discussions.

She immediately addressed the TCI issue of what she termed the regression of their Constitution of several years now: “We have had a rather tumultuous relationship in the last decade or so with the United Kingdom Government. Not too long ago, we had the unfortunate experience of having our country’s constitution suspended and replaced by a regressive constitution so near our40-year anniversary of ministerial government, our concern over that time has always been that there is no genuineness on the part of HMG for progression, for a progressive constitution or for allowing elected Governments to do more.”

She added that they had recently, we submitted some constitutional proposals, “We expect to engage with the UK on that;” noting their appreciation for, “the challenges that gave rise in the UK’s mind to the suspension of our constitution, the constitution always allowed for built-in oversight by the Governor who, equally, must be held accountable for any blame or breaches.”

She noted “the rising cost of the SIPT trial is difficult for us to bear—we are approaching $100 million, which is for the SIPT trial alone, not the civil recovery programme.”

Like so many of the other OTs, she made the recurring point: “We would like to see the involvement of UK Overseas Territories in the selection of Governors, in particular looking at their backgrounds. Some of the backgrounds have literally been at odds with the diplomatic rule of government, of Governors towards local governments. We would also like to see on the review a Governor who is always in-territory during his term, while he is performing his remit under the constitution. That is important, because we do not have responsibility for external and internal security, so the police operate pretty much in silos. As elected members of Government, people look to us, but we have no recourse as such in the strategic direction—not necessarily the operational direction—of the police force.”

She addressed what, again like others BVI e.g. “We are concerned about the constitutional over-reach that transpired in the House not long ago—the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill.”

“We are a democratically elected Parliament, and we expect to be treated with much more respect in terms of looking at things that can impact negatively on our economy and way of life.”

“Finally,” she said, joining the chorus, “… we are of course concerned, as are all other Overseas Territories, with the post-Brexit loss of funding that we will experience following removal or withdrawal from the EU,” continuing to point out the benefits, pointing out needs, “as small islands, we are also prone to the worst impact of climate change, so we would expect as well that there will be some level of funding for us in the Caribbean—Overseas Territories in particular, which have just recently suffered in the storm—to rebuild, and to rebuild resiliently, looking at climate change action throughout all the Overseas Territories and at disaster risk reduction.”

Premier Romeo was last to present in the group, and of course as expected from the Montserrat scenario, though in other ways similar to others, his main concern, lamented the lack of British forward moving interest to bring Montserrat back to where it was preceding the volcanic crisis which began 23 years ago. “… Our main concern is with the way in which aid has been delivered to Montserrat over the past 23years.”

He cited: “The UK Government have said that, acting in accordance with article 73 of the UN charter, the UK has an international and legally binding responsibility to meet the urgent basic and development needs of the British Overseas Territories. To meet those legal responsibilities, the British Government’s own policies state that Montserrat is eligible for overseas development aid as a British Overseas Territory, has first call on Majesty’s $12 billion aid budget.”

“I have therefore been puzzled by the dealings of the British Government with Montserratians throughout this volcanic crisis and beyond.”

He then asked several rhetorical questions: “Why, at the beginning of the crisis, did the British Government consistently withhold from Montserratians adequate aid for basic necessities such as food and decent shelter?”

He recalled,“Some 20 years ago Her Majesty’s coroner, in his comments on the deaths of 18persons caused by the volcano, described Her Majesty’s Government’s delivery of aid to Montserrat as “unimaginative, grudging and tardy”.” “Why is that still painfully relevant?” he asked. “And if you finally accept to invest in us rather than penny-pinching us into everlasting dependency, shall we not rise to the challenge?”

(See his (Premier Romeo) full presentation in this issue)

Like the other witnesses and the UK members present the Premier joined, supporting in the deliveries on the many points which for the most part dealt with the different ways, the discussion, “the time has come to modernise the relationship completely and treat all territories equally as British…”

Q185 Andrew Rosindell: How can it be effective for you as British citizens in British territories to be lumped into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when you are not foreign and you are also not members in your own right of the Commonwealth? You are appearing in front of a Foreign Affairs Select Committee in a Parliament in which you have no say and no influence on anything, where laws can be imposed upon you without any democratic accountability. Do you not agree with me that the time has come to modernise the relationship completely and treat all territories equally as British?

Following are excerptfrom thee interesting discussions and exchanges which followed –

Q167 Priti Patel: … Could you please, in the few minutes you have, extol the virtues, if there are some, of being a British Overseas Territory, whether or not you consider your territory to be part of the United Kingdom? As we will unpack during this evidence session, where do you think the areas off blockage exist on the very points you have already made in your representations? Premier, why don’t we start with you?

Donaldson Romeo: I would say the policies declaredb y British Government and already in place are perfect; in Fact, some refer to Montserrat particularly. However, Majesty’s Government are not implementing the policies as they state them. Having first call on British aid is atremendous advantage, but it does not really happen in real life.

Donaldson Romeo: (Later) I support Andrew Rosindell’s keen desire to see Montserrat and other Overseas Territories better represented. I think there needs to be some action in that direction, such as a special committee that focuses on us, allows us to present questions to Parliament and the like.I really think something needs to happen. However, please realise thatpoliticians on your end make decisions for your constituents and your voters,and we are forced to live with them, although it affects us politically.

Q187 Andrew Rosindell: I have not mentioned that today. I am talking about which Department you belong under. You mentioned Liverpudlian, Scottish and English earlier. The Falkland Islands and all the Overseas Territories may be British, but in so many ways they are not treated the same as the rest of the British family.

Barkman: It is not what you can do for us; it is what we can do for ourselves a bit more.

Q188 Chair:I was very interested to hear you say you were happy under the Foreign Office.

Barkman: It is the best—

Chair: It is the best fit.

Barkman: It is the most suitable Department, but the door is a bit wider open.

Donaldson Romeo: The negative impact of the name is not the name itself; it is how you are treated. (Here he refers to a call – That is all the more reason for the British Government to be kind in implementing the policies that favour giving adequate and timely aid to Montserrat in particular…

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Following the JMC meetings OTs’ ministers give oral evidence oftheir submissionss with discussions

Premier Donaldson Romeo of Montserrat was the last in line during the Foreign Affairs Committee- Oral evidence: Future of the UK Overseas Territories, HC 1464 delivered on Wednesday, 5 December, 2018, Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on the said date.

The Members of the UK Government present: Tom Tugendhat(Chair); Ian Austin; Mike Gapes; Ian Murray; Priti Patel; Andrew Rosindell; and Royston Smith.

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The witnesses for the occasion were four, from the Overseas Territories. They were: Hon. Victor F.Banks, Chief Minister of Anguilla, Hon. Miss Teslyn Barkman, Member of the Falkland Islands Assembly, Hon. Sharlene Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Hon. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat, as they were seated opposite the chair from left to right. (see photo taken from the video which may be seen on line at http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/oral/93391.html)

Hon Sharlene Robinson, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands

There was a second round of oral evidence was taken immediately from the other OTs present for that purpose. They were: Councilor Leslie Jaques OBE, Government of Pitcairn Islands, Councilor Derek Thomas,Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Ian Lavarello, Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha, and Councilor Keturah George, Ascension Island Council.

After he had set the tone for the sitting, Chair Tugendhat began, “…we are going to ask for two-minute statements,” requesting that the witnesses “stick to time,” “We will then get on to questions, so a lot of things may come out in questioning afterwards.” And so it did, he having asked for brevity as he said they, “…have submitted all this in written evidence, for which we are hugely grateful.”

Chief Minister Banks got off to a solid start even having to ask for and obtain time for two more points which he  punched in. He had begun saying he would, “be rather general with my comments and speak to the issue of the relationship – what it means to be British as an Overseas Territory —what it means to be British as an Overseas Territory…we have been in a relationship with the United Kingdom since 1650, and we need to know where we go from here:”

He elaborated very briefly, hitting on some common issues which throughout became speaking points: “ We are not foreign; neither are we members of the Commonwealth, so we should have a different interface with the UK that is based on mutual respect…I think it is important when we make a criticism always to make some suggestions about how best to advance our concerns. I would like us to consider a more appropriate Department to interface with Anguilla, such as the Cabinet Office, as we are neither a foreign state nor a member of the Commonwealth…I would like a Minister to be appointed with the British Overseas Territories as their sole brief.

Reclassify the Overseas Territories, separating them and introducing a new rank of countries of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the more viable and advanced British Overseas Territories…Introduce a citizens’ charter between HM Gand the citizens of the British Overseas Territories to enhance transparency and introduce accountability for the execution of the duty of care they are owed by Her Majesty’s Government, whose actions affect their lives and livelihoods. Revise the role of Governor and nominate candidates from a wider base of skills…”

His last two points: “Ensure that there is improved institutional memory and training about the Overseas Territories within HMG and Parliament, and increase awareness among the UK public as a whole, possibly through education. Finally, bindingly commit to the development of the British Overseas Territories to ensure equal life chances and standards of living for every British citizen residing in any British nation in accordance with global Britain.”

No surprise that the next ‘witness’ Miss Barkman from the Falkland Islands spoke with a different context eventually highlighting some common issues shared with the other OTs, but showing that they were more advanced in their relationship with the UK.

“It is important that the constitutional relationship between the UK Government and its Overseas Territories is routinely reviewed. It is vital that the relationship reflects the present realities in both the UK and its Overseas Territories. In the light of that, and in the light of Brexit in particular and other recent events, we welcome this inquiry,” she began.

She noted a status that was different to say, Montserrat and Anguilla: “As the Falkland Islands have developed to become internally self-governing and economically self-sufficient, our relationship with the UK has transformedfrom one of dependence to one that supports mutual benefit and low contingentliability risk to the UK taxpayer…”

FIG has a track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency…proactive in respect to resource management, human rights and good governance…” At times, however,” she said, they have not felt that this is reflected. Rather than being seen as partners, proactively a part or engaged—we are in some ways more managed by officials in the FCO.”

Along lines of many other OTs, Miss Barkman cited, “Our constitution should not be set in stone—it is a living  document…review this document to ensure it is fit for purpose.”

She developed to a close as she shared that in March 2013, 99.8% of Falkland islanders, on a turnout of92%—I am reiterating the point, voted to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. That remains the settled and very powerful voice of Falkland Islanders.

She closed on a common point for some others also, as she also referenced Brexit. “Obviously, we have a powerful potential area of risk with regard to trade, but we have seen that engagement from UK Ministers and senior officials, with officials and regional and local politicians abroad, has been very strong—engaging on a first-person basis. We would like to see that kind of closer direct contact encouraged and reiterated.”

Next, Hon. Premier Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, who introduced that she was accompanied by the Turks and Caicos Islands deputy Premier. She was more brief than the others but later delved more heavily into the discussions.

She immediately addressed the TCI issue of what she termed the regression of their Constitution of several years now: “We have had a rather tumultuous relationship in the last decade or so with the United Kingdom Government. Not too long ago, we had the unfortunate experience of having our country’s constitution suspended and replaced by a regressive constitution so near our40-year anniversary of ministerial government, our concern over that time has always been that there is no genuineness on the part of HMG for progression, for a progressive constitution or for allowing elected Governments to do more.”

She added that they had recently, we submitted some constitutional proposals, “We expect to engage with the UK on that;” noting their appreciation for, “the challenges that gave rise in the UK’s mind to the suspension of our constitution, the constitution always allowed for built-in oversight by the Governor who, equally, must be held accountable for any blame or breaches.”

She noted “the rising cost of the SIPT trial is difficult for us to bear—we are approaching $100 million, which is for the SIPT trial alone, not the civil recovery programme.”

Like so many of the other OTs, she made the recurring point: “We would like to see the involvement of UK Overseas Territories in the selection of Governors, in particular looking at their backgrounds. Some of the backgrounds have literally been at odds with the diplomatic rule of government, of Governors towards local governments. We would also like to see on the review a Governor who is always in-territory during his term, while he is performing his remit under the constitution. That is important, because we do not have responsibility for external and internal security, so the police operate pretty much in silos. As elected members of Government, people look to us, but we have no recourse as such in the strategic direction—not necessarily the operational direction—of the police force.”

She addressed what, again like others BVI e.g. “We are concerned about the constitutional over-reach that transpired in the House not long ago—the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill.”

“We are a democratically elected Parliament, and we expect to be treated with much more respect in terms of looking at things that can impact negatively on our economy and way of life.”

“Finally,” she said, joining the chorus, “… we are of course concerned, as are all other Overseas Territories, with the post-Brexit loss of funding that we will experience following removal or withdrawal from the EU,” continuing to point out the benefits, pointing out needs, “as small islands, we are also prone to the worst impact of climate change, so we would expect as well that there will be some level of funding for us in the Caribbean—Overseas Territories in particular, which have just recently suffered in the storm—to rebuild, and to rebuild resiliently, looking at climate change action throughout all the Overseas Territories and at disaster risk reduction.”

Premier Romeo was last to present in the group, and of course as expected from the Montserrat scenario, though in other ways similar to others, his main concern, lamented the lack of British forward moving interest to bring Montserrat back to where it was preceding the volcanic crisis which began 23 years ago. “… Our main concern is with the way in which aid has been delivered to Montserrat over the past 23years.”

He cited: “The UK Government have said that, acting in accordance with article 73 of the UN charter, the UK has an international and legally binding responsibility to meet the urgent basic and development needs of the British Overseas Territories. To meet those legal responsibilities, the British Government’s own policies state that Montserrat is eligible for overseas development aid as a British Overseas Territory, has first call on Majesty’s $12 billion aid budget.”

“I have therefore been puzzled by the dealings of the British Government with Montserratians throughout this volcanic crisis and beyond.”

He then asked several rhetorical questions: “Why, at the beginning of the crisis, did the British Government consistently withhold from Montserratians adequate aid for basic necessities such as food and decent shelter?”

He recalled,“Some 20 years ago Her Majesty’s coroner, in his comments on the deaths of 18persons caused by the volcano, described Her Majesty’s Government’s delivery of aid to Montserrat as “unimaginative, grudging and tardy”.” “Why is that still painfully relevant?” he asked. “And if you finally accept to invest in us rather than penny-pinching us into everlasting dependency, shall we not rise to the challenge?”

(See his (Premier Romeo) full presentation in this issue)

Like the other witnesses and the UK members present the Premier joined, supporting in the deliveries on the many points which for the most part dealt with the different ways, the discussion, “the time has come to modernise the relationship completely and treat all territories equally as British…”

Q185 Andrew Rosindell: How can it be effective for you as British citizens in British territories to be lumped into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when you are not foreign and you are also not members in your own right of the Commonwealth? You are appearing in front of a Foreign Affairs Select Committee in a Parliament in which you have no say and no influence on anything, where laws can be imposed upon you without any democratic accountability. Do you not agree with me that the time has come to modernise the relationship completely and treat all territories equally as British?

Following are excerptfrom thee interesting discussions and exchanges which followed –

Q167 Priti Patel: … Could you please, in the few minutes you have, extol the virtues, if there are some, of being a British Overseas Territory, whether or not you consider your territory to be part of the United Kingdom? As we will unpack during this evidence session, where do you think the areas off blockage exist on the very points you have already made in your representations? Premier, why don’t we start with you?

Donaldson Romeo: I would say the policies declaredb y British Government and already in place are perfect; in Fact, some refer to Montserrat particularly. However, Majesty’s Government are not implementing the policies as they state them. Having first call on British aid is atremendous advantage, but it does not really happen in real life.

Donaldson Romeo: (Later) I support Andrew Rosindell’s keen desire to see Montserrat and other Overseas Territories better represented. I think there needs to be some action in that direction, such as a special committee that focuses on us, allows us to present questions to Parliament and the like.I really think something needs to happen. However, please realise thatpoliticians on your end make decisions for your constituents and your voters,and we are forced to live with them, although it affects us politically.

Q187 Andrew Rosindell: I have not mentioned that today. I am talking about which Department you belong under. You mentioned Liverpudlian, Scottish and English earlier. The Falkland Islands and all the Overseas Territories may be British, but in so many ways they are not treated the same as the rest of the British family.

Barkman: It is not what you can do for us; it is what we can do for ourselves a bit more.

Q188 Chair:I was very interested to hear you say you were happy under the Foreign Office.

Barkman: It is the best—

Chair: It is the best fit.

Barkman: It is the most suitable Department, but the door is a bit wider open.

Donaldson Romeo: The negative impact of the name is not the name itself; it is how you are treated. (Here he refers to a call – That is all the more reason for the British Government to be kind in implementing the policies that favour giving adequate and timely aid to Montserrat in particular…