Crime, Money and Passports
Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for the Overseas Territories, hosted the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) on 17 November 2010 in London. Premiers, Chief Ministers and other elected representatives from Britain's Overseas Territories attended. The Council is held annually in London and provides a forum for consultation with British Government Ministers.
At this year's OTCC, the first under the Coalition Government, the agenda included a wide-ranging discussion on the UK/Overseas Territories relationship; as well as sessions on specific issues such as criminal justice; transport safety and security; the environment; financial services and public finances; and passport issues. UK Government Ministers from the Departments for International Development, Transport, Environment, Energy and Climate Change, the Treasury, Home Office and the Ministry of Defence attended.
Henry Bellingham said:
"This Government values its relationship with our Overseas Territories. I had meetings with all the Territory leaders on Tuesday and chaired my first Overseas Territories Consultative Council on Wednesday. I was pleased to welcome over 250 guests to a reception that I hosted in honour of Territory leaders. Our discussions at the Consultative Council meeting have been wide-ranging, open and at times, frank.
This week has been a clear demonstration of the desire of both the UK and the Territories to work closely together towards the security and prosperity of the Territories. I know that view is shared by my Ministerial colleagues. I am glad that no less than seven of my Ministerial colleagues from across Government were able to attend the Consultative Council. This clearly demonstrates that the Overseas Territories are a priority right across the Government, and not just in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."
The UK and Overseas Territories represented at the Consultative Council discussed a number of issues of mutual interest and concern. Mr Bellingham emphasised the Coalition Government's determination to improve and strengthen the UK's relationship with the Overseas Territories and to represent their interests in international fora. He also made clear that other Government Departments were now more closely involved in Overseas Territories work. The Caribbean Territories welcomed the important emergency assistance provided by the Atlantic Patrol Task (North) during the recent hurricane season. The Minister noted that the Coalition Government had restarted the vital Air Access project for St Helena and had agreed to provide assistance for Tristan da Cunha's harbour. All parties agreed on the need to work together to help the commercial and economic development of the Territories.
During the criminal justice session there were discussions about rising crime in some of the Territories; about drugs and organised crime; and about possible UK technical assistance to the Territories in these areas. In the session on transport there were discussions about maritime and aviation safety regulations; and the importance of meeting international safety standards. Territory leaders raised concerns about the cost of this and about Air Passenger Duty.
During the session on the environment, it was agreed that Territory Governments and relevant UK Departments would work together to help manage the natural environment and the impact of climate change in the Territories, including highlighting examples of good practice and successes already achieved in the Territories.
During the session on passport issues, the UK and the Overseas Territories discussed arrangements for handling the printing of passports in light of the UK Government's decision to repatriate to the UK the printing of all British passports.
During their separate session on financial services and public finances, the UK and the Caribbean Territories and Bermuda agreed:
- the importance of complying with international financial sector standards (on tax transparency, financial regulation and anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing) and that these standards must be applied without discrimination
- the importance of continuing to take action to return public finances to a sustainable footing
- to take forward work on a framework for fiscal responsibility
During their separate session the South Atlantic Territories agreed a number of areas in which they could work together more closely.
The United Kingdom's 14 Overseas Territories, spread across the globe, are diverse communities. They range from the island of Pitcairn with its 47 inhabitants, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to Bermuda, which has a population of over 62,000 and is one of the world's major financial centres. The total population of the territories is around 239,000.
The Consultative Council, held annually since 1999, is a forum for discussion of key policy issues between British Ministers and elected leaders of the Overseas Territories. The Council meets once a year in London. The Territory leaders attending this year's OTCC were:
Hon Hubert Hughes, Chief Minister, Anguilla; Hon Paula Cox JP MP, Premier, Bermuda; Hon Ralph T O'Neal, Premier, the British Virgin Islands; Hon McKeeva Bush, Premier, the Cayman Islands; Hon Dick Sawle, Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Falkland Islands; Hon Reuben Meade, Chief Minister, Montserrat; Hon Tara Thomas, Councillor, St Helena.
Henry Bellingham was joined by seven UK Ministers; at the Council meeting; Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Department for International Development; James Brokenshire, Minister for Crime Prevention, Home Office; Mike Penning, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury; Gregory Barker, Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change and Nick Harvey, Minister of State for the Armed Forces.