(CMR) Peter Clegg, dean of social sciences at the University of the West of England, has warned UK MPs that British Overseas Territories cannot be painted with the same broad brush as they are different from each other.
Clegg was speaking at the Commons Procedure Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament, which began hearings into OTs and their lack of representation in the British Parliament on Monday. Earlier this year, the UK launched a new inquiry into the constitutional arrangements of the Cayman Islands and other Overseas Territories to determine if its relationship with them is satisfactory and appropriate in the 21st Century.
Chairman of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley, said, “the UK has 14 overseas territories, 10 of which are inhabited.
“The inhabited territories have their own executive and legislature systems, but no direct representation in the UK Parliament. Our inquiry will explore Parliament’s role in creating legislation that impacts the Overseas Territories, the options for reform, and what effective representation could look like,” she said before the start of the proceedings.
Clegg, who highlighted the need for consultation in his presentation, said that OTs resent when legislation is passed broadly as the territories often do not share the same opinions.
“I think there is a great resentment, if you can call it that, when legislation is imposed in a rather non-discriminatory way,” he said.
John Davies, chief executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, agreed with Clegg, stating, “You are going to get different views on each subject and on the general principle.”
“I completely agree with Peter on consultation. As with any of us, if something is being done to you, you feel an inevitable impulse to want to have some input into that,” he added.
He added that the CPA works with the various legislatures of the OTs, each of which feels a duty to the people it represents.
“Sometimes they genuinely feel that they are not able to discharge that responsibility because they don’t have a way of inputting into that legislation,” Davies said.
Clegg said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of the importance of consent and not extending Britain’s authority too far; however, he noted that the passing of some controversial legislations has resulted in OTs discussing independence.
“I think that is an interesting issue in terms of where they are right now and where the further autonomy or further change could be given, and the British Government feels that because they have ultimate responsibility for the territories, they need the levers of power in control just to make sure things are going well,” Clegg stated.
Speaking on the awareness of parliamentarians on OT's, Clegg said there were a “small number of very committed” MPs and Lords who are aware and engage significantly, although many do not.
He suggested that there be “some kind of an exercise to just talk more to parliamentarians about the OTs, about the Crown Dependencies, about their differences, about their relationships, what the UK Parliament could do and can’t do.”
“That would be quite a concerted and long-term project, but the greater the knowledge, the greater the understanding, the easier it would be in some cases for the territories to influence and make their arguments and representations,” he added.