By Daniel Toft, Communications Assistant
The second annual Commons and Overseas Territories Speakers’ Conference 2023 (COTSC) gathered in Anguilla from the 3rd to the 6th of April to discuss the theme “Deepening Parliamentary Democracy in the British Overseas Territories - A Roadmap to 2030”. Hosted by the Anguilla House of Assembly Speaker Hon. Barbara Webster-Bourne, Speakers from the Assemblies and Parliaments of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, St Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Gibraltar, all attended the three day conference, as well as the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, Speaker of the House of Commons.
Following the inaugural COTSC in 2022, hosted by the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP in Westminster, discussions surrounded the the use of parliamentary buildings, with an emphasis on ensuring “emergency action” was taken to ensure the Legislative Council of Saint Helena was accessible to its democratically elected members and the wider public, as well as a call for funding for dedicated legislative buildings in Anguilla, St Helena and the British Virgin Islands to support the work of their respective legislatures. Following the conference, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association noted that “over a series of sessions, deliberations provided a roadmap to deepen parliamentary democracy and support good governance in each Overseas Territory.
Their full press release of the event can be found here.
In addition, the conference discussed the role of the Governor in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories, asking that members bring potential proposals to COTSC 2024 on how the role could be clearly defined moving forward as part of a modern and dynamic UK-OT relationship. Other agenda items included conversations surrounding parliamentary security and disruptive protests, and the financial affairs of assemblies and parliaments within the Overseas Territories, particularly stressing the importance of the legislative process to be autonomous financially, thereby ensuring that it does not accept “undue influence” from third parties.
Attendees also commended the work of the Anguilla Youth Parliament, which is bringing young people from right across the Overseas Territories for an online youth summit in 2023.
The group released a joint Communiqué following the event that outlines the contents of all the group’s discussions, which you can find here.