BOT Speakers Call for Redefining of Governors’ Role and Ring-Fenced Funds for Parliamentary Buildings

Speakers from across the British Overseas Territories called for a redefining of the role of Governors and for funds to be ring-fenced so that Parliamentary Buildings can be reconstructed without financial hindrance.

The Commons and Overseas Territories Speakers Conference 2023 (COTSC2023) was held earlier this month in Anguilla and featured Speakers from the British Overseas Territories along with UK House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Montserrat’s Speaker Charliena White participated in the conference which was preceded by a visit of the House of Commons Speaker to Montserrat. During Sir Hoyle’s brief stop in Montserrat, the site of the new parliament building, to be funded through CIPReg was announced. Montserrat has not had a permanent legislature for over 25 years since the volcanic eruption in the 1990s.

Under the theme, “Deepening Parliamentary Democracy in the Overseas Territories – Roadmap to 2030, 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.

Site of the future Parliament Building for Montserrat.

Held at the House of Assembly in Anguilla from April 3 to 6, 2023, Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands were in attendance. This was the first time that the conference was held in a territory.

In a communique released following the conference, the Speakers 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 cancelled in the face of competing priorities.”

They welcomed the financial commitment from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for a parliamentary building in Montserrat and called for emergency action be taken to make the meeting place for the Legislative Council of Saint Helena fully accessible to ensure that Members can undertake their democratic duties.

“Strong legislatures, based within physical, separate, accessible buildings are the bedrock of democracy and essential for the development and prosperity of our citizens,” the Communique read.

The four-page statement also stated that “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 recognise 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 congratulated the Anguilla Youth Parliament for the initiative of bringing together young people from across the Territories in the first online Youth Summit. Montserrat was represented by Youth Financial Secretary Jaena Golden and Youth Attorney General Mikayla Cole.

Speakers in Attendance were:
● Hon. Barbara Webster-Bourne Speaker of the House of Assembly – Anguilla
● Hon. Dennis P. Lister, JP, MP Speaker of the House of Assembly – Bermuda
● Hon. Katherine Wilks, LLB, MP Speaker of the Cayman Islands Parliament – Cayman Islands
● The Hon. Keith Biles, JP, B.Sc., ACIB. Speaker of the Legislative Assembly – Falkland Islands
● Hon. Charliena White Speaker of the Legislative Assembly – Montserrat
● Hon. Cyril Gunnell Speaker of the Legislative Council – Saint Helena
● Hon. Gordon Burton Speaker of the House of Assembly – Turks and Caicos Islands
● Rt Hon. Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP Speaker of the House of Commons – United Kingdom
Read the full communique here.