By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent
The constitutional arrangements of the Cayman Islands and other UK Overseas Territories with Britain are to be reviewed in a new British parliamentary inquiry.
The UK Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee(PACAC) will examine whether the relationship is satisfactory and appropriate in the 21st Century.
According to a UK government statement, “The interaction between the Overseas Territories and the UK Parliament and Government was brought to attention during the passage of the Sanctions and Money Laundering Act 2018, where the unusual step was taken to extend the Act to cover their jurisdictions.”
The PACAC Committee said is it seeking evidence on how the UK Parliament and the Civil Service engage with the Overseas Territories and across different Government departments. It is also looking into how the OTs interests are represented in UK Parliament, and how the rights of British overseas citizens are protected.
UNIQUE CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION
William Wragg MP, Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee(PACAC), said: “The UK Overseas Territories are an important part of the UK family. With ten territories permanently inhabited by British nationals and all fourteen represented at the international level by the UK, we cannot deny their unique constitutional position.”
While ten of the UK’s Overseas Territories are self-governing, the British government retains responsibility for their defence and foreign relations.
Noting that each territory has its own legislative processes and bespoke relationship with the UK, Mr Wragg however pointed out that “with no official representation in UK Parliament, these constitutional arrangements are often misunderstood or overlooked.”
He added: “We recognise that there is no ‘one size fits all’ framework for relations between the UK and the Overseas Territories, but by better understanding how existing arrangements operate in practice, we can better assess whether they are satisfactory and appropriate in the 21st century.”
The Committee is inviting submissions from the governments, public, private and civic organisations, along with the wider public in the UK Overseas Territories(OTs) on a range of issues.
• Are the UK’s current constitutional arrangements as regards the overseas territories satisfactory and appropriate in the 21st Century?
• What is the UK Government’s relationship with the overseas territories?
• What is the UK Parliament’s relationship with the overseas territories?
• How is legislation made in the overseas territories and what role does the UK Government and UK Parliament have in these processes?
• Are effective mechanisms in place for the interests of the Overseas Territories to be represented internationally?
• Are the rights and interests of British overseas citizens effectively protected by the current constitutional arrangements?
The deadline for submissions for this latest inquiry is Monday 4th September.
PREVIOUS INQUIRY INCONCLUSIVE
Many of these issues were addressed in a 2018 inquiry into relations between the UK and the OTs carried out then by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee(FAC).
The FAC in its report titled ‘Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship’ had concluded: “We are aware that many people in the Overseas Territories feel that they do not receive the attention in Parliament that they might expect and that the Foreign Affairs Committee has not carried out a major OTs inquiry since 2008.”
But it also flagged then that “given the competing pressure of other policy areas, and the requirement to scrutinise the whole gamut of the Foreign Office’s work, it is difficult to envisage another major OTs inquiry in this Parliament.”
When that report was published in 2019, the FAC called for “serious consideration to establishing a formal mechanism by which members of the Foreign Affairs, Justice, International Development, EFRA and other relevant Committees are able collectively to scrutinise the UK Government’s administration of, spending on and policies towards the OTs.”