By Craig Brewin, Head of Research
The UK Parliament’s Procedure Committee is investigating how British Territories can be represented in UK parliamentary procedures. The inquiry’s remit initially covered the devolved assemblies but was recently expanded at the request of the Common’s Speaker to include the Overseas Territories.
Earlier this month, the inquiry published the evidence submitted since the terms of reference were expanded, and these include submissions from the Governments of Anguilla, Tristan Da Cunha, Falkland Islands, and Gibraltar. The other territories did not submit evidence, although there are submissions from individuals and pressure groups such as Disabled People’s International, the St Helena Human Rights Council, and the Gibraltar Representation in Parliament Group. Several Constitutional Lawyers, Academics, and other individuals have also made proposals.
The position of the four Governments who have chosen to submit evidence is as follows:
Gibraltar: “Our firm belief is that any new Constitution should make provision for the people of Gibraltar to be represented in one or both of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster”. “We also aspire to have such a relationship that would delist us from the United Nations list of nonself-governing territories which currently define our relationship as essentially colonial in nature.”
Anguilla: “Full participation of elected governments in the selection and appointment of local Governors.” “Form a specialised committee with representation from both Houses, tasked with overseeing UK financial allocations to Overseas Territories. Include a provision for consultation with UK overseas representatives and Overseas Territories Premiers and ministers, either directly or via teleconferencing, during committee meetings.” “The creation of a joint parliamentary Select Committee to scrutinise how Whitehall addresses issues relating to the territories.”
Falklands: “We are not interested in our own member of the House of Commons or House of Lords. Despite making this point repeatedly, formally and informally, third-party organisations and a minority of MPs and Peers continue to push this point at every opportunity. This is becoming an area of concern for us. Looking specifically at the committee structure, we feel the current system works well. However, we are aware that in the past, the question of a dedicated select committee for the Overseas Territories has been raised. We are open to exploring this in more detail.”
Tristan da Cunha: “Like other OTs, Tristan does not seek direct representation in the UK Parliament.” “Prerogative powers in relation to any Territory should only be exercised by the Sovereign once he has received the advice of ministers (or equivalents) from that Territory. This would not preclude advice from UK ministers but would add important local context. We further suggest that a UK minister who takes legislation through Parliament that directly affects a Territory should solicit and read into the Parliamentary record the views of that Territory’s elected representatives.”
The Committee is due to report next year, and the complete list of evidence submitted to it is at this link. The procedure of the House of Commons and the territorial constitution – Written evidence – Committees – UK Parliament
The first oral evidence session since the remit was expanded took place on the 16th of October, 2013, with questions being answered by Peter Clegg of the University of the East of England and Jon Davis of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The transcript and video of that are here committees. Parliament.uk/oralevidence/13674/pdf/
Another related inquiry is due to be held by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and that is still receiving evidence.