(CMR) Speakers from across the British Overseas Territories called for a redefining of the role of Governors at the Commons and Overseas Territories Speakers Conference 2023 (COTSC2023) earlier this month in Anguilla.
The conference, held for the first time in a territory, was held under the theme, “Deepening Parliamentary Democracy in the Overseas Territories – Roadmap to 2030 at the House of Assembly in Anguilla from April 3 to 6.
Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands were in attendance, along with UK House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. The sessions covered included: Separation of Powers in the Overseas Territories, The Constitutional Relationship between the Overseas Territories and the UK Parliament, and The Parliamentary Building, Precincts, and Security.
In a four-page Communique after the conference, the Speakers said:
“Through various forms, the UK has had a relationship with what are now called the British Overseas Territories since the 1600s. Now in the 2020s, we need to take this relationship to a new modern and forward-thinking way of working together. We recognize that to create a modern relationship with the United Kingdom the role of Governor needs to be clearly defined and we commit to bring ideas about how this could look to COTSC 2024 after consultation with others in our territories.”
The Speakers also called for the Overseas Territories to have representatives on the Privy Council, stating:
“The role of the Privy Council has a significant impact on the British Overseas Territories, including the way our legislatures work, but we have no representation on it. We call for each territory to be given representation.”
The Speakers also stated, “Public money raised and spent by a territory’s government, or their public bodies, should be scrutinized without impediment by their Overseas Territories’ legislature. We call on the UK and each Territory government to respect and commit to this fundamental principle so that people can have confidence in their democracy.”
The Communique also indicated that the Speakers want the executive arm of Governments to have financial autonomy by 2030.
“Financial autonomy allows each parliament to function independently of other branches of government and special interest groups and ensures the focus is firmly on its core functions of law-making, oversight, and representation. This autonomy is essential to ensuring that the parliament can conduct its functions without undue influence from external forces,” it stated.
In the Communique, the Speakers also renewed their call for the British Government to provide “ring-fenced parliamentary funding so that Anguilla, St Helena, and the British Virgin Islands can have dedicated buildings in which to carry out their activities and duties; this would ensure such funding is not postponed or canceled in the face of competing priorities.”