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Local News 18 May, 2023 Follow News


By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent

There was strong support for Cayman and the Overseas Territories with calls for them to be ‘treated with respect’ and shown ‘more love’ during a debate in the UK House of Commons on Thursday May 11th.

The cross-party backbenchers’ debate heard repeated demands for the British government to take its far-flung territories more seriously and acknowledge the role they play within the UK political and economic sphere. The backbencher’s debate can influence British government policies towards the territories.

During the session, there were several direct mentions of Cayman in a positive light.

Conservative Alicia Kearns who had requested the meeting, made this observation while addressing the issue of implementing public registers of beneficial ownership.

“In the Cayman Islands, for example, the central register has a 24-hour response time to information requests from law enforcement, and $8.8 billion dollars of Russian assets were frozen following the illegal renewed invasion of Ukraine. We know how important such information is to support sanctions against not just Russia but all terrorist and autocratic actors.”

Former Minister for Overseas Territories, Amanda Milling (Conservative) recalled her visit to Cayman last year to deliver COVID supplies donated by the British government.

“I will never forget being at the airport in the Cayman Islands when the British Airways flight landed in early 2022 with booster vaccines on board. That was a very good example of our support for the British family.”

Labour Party MP Stephen Doughty cited Cayman in recognising the role of the OTs in climate change and the environment.

“Our overseas territories play a crucial role, whether that be the marine protected area in the Pitcairn Islands, the national climate change policy of the Turks and Caicos Islands, St Helena’s blue-green agenda, Montserrat wanting to invest in renewable energy and dealing with the legacy of the volcanic eruption, or the Cayman Islands’ conservation efforts. They play a crucial role not only in contributing to our climate change agenda and biodiversity but dealing first-hand with the impact of climate change.”

Also mentioning Cayman while calling on the UK government to pay more attention to the unique circumstances of the OTs, was Conservative MP, David Jones.

“Each territory is, of course, unique, as we have heard and as the motion acknowledges. The Cayman Islands and Bermuda have populations in excess of 60,000 and Gibraltar has a population of some 34,000, while Pitcairn has a population of only 40 to 50. The Government have a responsibility to take each territory’s individual circumstances into account when deciding on its future arrangements, and that is what I believe they do.”

There were also suggestions for citizens of the OTs to have the option of integrating into the UK if they desire; more input by the OTs into UK government decisions that affect them; a department to deal exclusively with the OTs’ issues; and questions of whether the territories should even be placed under the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on the basis that “they are not foreign but family”.

The parliamentary backbenchers’ debate took place during the week of the annual Joint Ministerial Council(JMC) meetings and conferences between OT leaders and senior British government ministers and officials.

It also coincided with a new commitment by UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, James Cleverly, that he will be launching “a new OTs Strategy, which means all relevant departments will have a nominated minister for relations and policies with the OTs.”

In announcing this, Mr Cleverly had also described the OTs as “part of the immediate family of the UK”, adding that “This Joint Ministerial Council demonstrates the importance of the partnership between us - we are family and united by shared values.”

The debate was linked to a recently launched new inquiry into relations between the OTs and the UK launched in April. It’s currently taking submissions until September following which it will submit its report.

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