UK says the Overseas Territories remain a priority

Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham with the heads of delegation attending the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, 23 November 2011. (FCO Photo)

BRADES, Montserrat – Foreign Secretary, The Rt Hon. William Hague MP told the leaders of the Overseas Territories last week that they remain a priority for the UK Government. Montserrat’s Premier Hon. Reuben T. Meade led a delegation to attend the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) on 23-24 November 2011 in London.
Hague was speaking at the opening of the OTCC, which brings together the Premiers, Chief Ministers and other elected representatives from Britain’s Overseas Territories.
“My Ministerial team in the FCO and my colleagues across other Government departments will work tirelessly to ensure that our partnership promotes the best interest of all our citizens and a bright and successful future for the Overseas Territories,” the foreign secretary said.
There were also discussions on the Government’s new Overseas Territories strategy and forthcoming White Paper, as well as sessions on aviation safety; financial regulation, financial crime and taxation. Discussions also covered good governance, financial management and economic planning, with Ministers from the Departments for International Development, Ministry of Defence, Treasury and Transport attending on that day.
A further eight Departments attended the second day, with UK Government Ministers and senior officials participating from the Departments of Education; Communities and Local Government; Culture, Media and Sport; Home Office; Business, Innovation and Skills; Work and Pensions; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and Energy, and Climate Change. They discussed with Territory leaders ways to assist the Territories, in line with the new Government-wide approach to supporting the development of the Overseas Territories.

The Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham MP said “This Government has a clear vision for our Overseas Territories to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people. I had bilateral meetings with the Territory leaders on Tuesday and chaired my second Overseas Territories Consultative Council on Wednesday and Thursday. 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 have been wide-ranging and constructive.

“We have made good progress in the last year in developing our approach to the Overseas Territories. We are investing heavily in the Territories that need the most assistance, including building an airport on St Helena as well as significant development work in Montserrat and on-going work to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“We discussed global economic challenges and how the UK and Territories are taking action to strengthen public financial management and diversify economic development. We also discussed with Territory leaders ways in which we can build a stronger partnership, including by enabling the Territories to access UK public sector expertise and training – especially through secondments; and by strengthening links and engagement with the Commonwealth and EU.
“I am glad that nine of my Ministerial colleagues from across Government were able to attend the Consultative Council this week, a clear demonstration that the UK Government as a whole is supporting the Territories, and not just the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development. We will continue to work closely with the Territories as we prepare for the publication of our White Paper on the Territories next year.”
Premier Meade and the other OT representatives welcomed the inclusion of other UK Government Departments in the consultations and expressed appreciation for the support they offered, especially in these difficult economic times.
The United Kingdom’s 14 Overseas Territories, spread across the globe, are diverse communities. They range from the island of Pitcairn with its 57 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; Kitty George, Councillor, Ascension Island; Hon Paula Cox, Premier, Bermuda; Dr Hon Orlando Smith OBE, Premier, the British Virgin Islands; Hon McKeeva Bush OBE JP, Premier, the Cayman Islands; Hon Jan Cheek, Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Falkland Islands; Hon Reuben Meade, Premier, Montserrat; Rodney Buckley, Councillor, St Helena; Ian Lavarello, Chief Islander, Tristan da Cunha; Lillian Misick, Chair of the Consultative Forum and Theo Durham, Member of the Advisory Council, Turks and Caicos Islands..
Henry Bellingham was joined by nine UK Ministers at the Council: Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Department for International Development; James Brokenshire, Minister for Crime Prevention, Home Office; Theresa Villiers, Minister of State, Department for Transport; Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs; David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury; Gregory Barker, Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; David Willetts, Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; John Penrose, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport; and Gerald Howarth, Minister for International Security Strategy, Ministry of Defence.

Photo Caption: Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham with the heads of delegation attending the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in London, 23 November 2011. (FCO Photo)
Photo Caption: Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham and Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan meeting Reuben T. Meade, Premier, Montserrat in London, 22 November 2011. (FCO Photo)