“the only nation which does not provide national Parliament representation for their overseas territories … Indeed, the UK is on its own, stuck in a timewarp of not progressing to national Parliament representation for all its territories.”
MP Anthony Webber, proposer of controversial bill
(CMR) The Cayman Islands could have its own elected MP in the British parliament but critics warn this is not something to celebrate.
A UK bill proposing that nine elected MPs can represent the Overseas Territories in the UK parliament is causing a stir in the commonwealth and beyond. Critics argue it would not benefit most overseas territories and in fact, is likely to have the opposite effect.
Who can vote for an MP is too wide says local critics because it allows any British or Commonwealth citizen residing in Cayman to vote. Making such a fundamental change to the relationship between the UK and the territory should be one that has input from the actual territories it has been argued.
The draft legislation, entitled Representation of the People, Crown Dependences and Overseas Territories Bill, was submitted to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March. It was drafted by UK MPs John d. Penrose and Andrew R. Rosindell as well as a member of the Friends of the British Overseas Territories (FOTBOT) and former member of the States of Guernsey, Anthony Webber.
The proposers claim that the bill would give a voice to the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies who currently have no official representation in parliament who do make decisions that impacts them. They argue that other territories ran by the French, Dutch and Danish already have this greater level of presentation and that the UK is outdated.
The proposed bill would allot six MPs from the OTs and three for the Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man.
The breakdown would include one for Gibraltar, including the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory; one for St Helena and the Falkland Islands, including the UK’s southern Atlantic islands and Pitcairn in the Pacific and one for the [British] Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat; a single MP for the Cayman Islands, another for the Turks and Caicos Islands and one MP to represent Bermuda.
The UK would foot the bill for the election costs and MP salaries and expenses.
However, the Bill allows for any British or Commonwealth Citizen residing in the overseas territories the right to run for the office of MP to Westminster a point that local critics argue would not truly represent the voice of the Caymanian people.
This aspect of the proposal does not sit well with local legislators who spoke exclusive to CMR. One shared his sentiments:
“Any BOT or UK citizen living here can run and represent us in the UK Parliament if it passes. So basically we (Caymanians) are only good enough for local representatives, if we want a seat in their house they want to open up the requirements to run so their citizens can run.”
Alva Suckoo (Newlands) shared his concerns about this proposal:
“This proposed bill highlights the concerns I raised about the FAC report recommendations and why I brought my motion regarding Belongership. I think we should all be concerned when changes to who can best represent our people are proposed without the support of Caymanians and the elected local representatives. To propose changes to our electoral system without consulting the people it will impact is draconian and very troubling. What this proposal is suggesting is that it is ok for Caymanians to serve as representatives in our local Government but NOT in the UK Parliament. I cannot support that sort of thinking.”
The relationship with the UK has been strained at times including most recently with the issues of domestic partnerships and the beneficial ownership registry. No other OT or CD has gone on record as supporting this initiative. In fact, the President of the Isle of Man, Tynwald Steve Rodan MLC has shared:
“Needless to say no one in the Isle of Man has been asked if this is what we want, which is presumptuous arrogance on the part of the authors of this Bill.
It is romantic tripe on the part of A. Rosindell and his friend in Guernsey and should be discounted.”
Bermuda Tonight also addressed the issue earlier in the year: