Members of the Montserrat delegation currently in London for the Joint Ministerial Council were at the House of Commons Thursday to listen as backbenchers debated the future of the UK Overseas Territories.
Premier Joseph Farrell, Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph and Head of Montserrat’s UK Office Janice Panton.
The debate was also carried live on ZJB Radio Montserrat.
Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, led the Backbench Business Debate in the UK Parliament.
According to a release from MP Kearns, the House of Commons unanimously passed the following motion: “That this House is committed to upholding the interests of British Overseas Territories and their citizens; recognises the special historical, cultural, and social bonds that bind the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories; and calls upon the Government to ensure that British Overseas Territories citizens’ rights as British citizens are upheld, to defend the sovereignty and borders of Overseas Territories from foreign powers, and to consider the unique circumstances of each Territory when formulating policies which affect them.”
The debate was well subscribed with senior MPs, including three select committee chairs, from all of the main political parties noting the special bond between the UK and the OTs.
MPs from across the House urged the Government to ensure that this years Joint Ministerial Council is a success, and that OTs are listened to, and their requests acted on. The success of the Blue Belt and Darwin Plus programmes was highlighted as was the need for every Territories right to self-determination to be respected.
MPs called on the Government to make improvements in areas such as education, accessibility, financial regulation, funding, infrastructure development and cross-departmental cooperation with OTs.
MPs offered anecdotal references to Montserrat and concerns about the island’s development post-volcano.
Dame Maria Miller, Conservative said “I remember talking to some colleagues from Montserrat, about the continuing impact of the volcanic destruction that was many decades ago now. But still continues to be felt locally.”
MP Kearns noted “There is currently no working ambulance on the whole of Montserrat. It’s basically that there is only one for whole island which is currently broken down. Could my honourable friend say what they are considering whether within the current budget or otherwise, to get an ambulance out there, or perhaps colleagues could reach out to any of the local (UK health services) they have, should they have one they can donate? But this is an urgent issue.”
David Henry Rutley Conservative Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Americas and Caribbean said “I will pick up and make sure that the relevant departments follow up on these points that have been made without question.”
MP Meg Hillier, Labour, and chair of the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee repeated her call for a look at Montserrat’s inability to scrutinize the spending of the Deputy Governor’s Office. “They’ve got concerns about some expenditure from the Governor General’s (Deputy Governor’s) Office and the way they’ve been told and I’ve been told by the British government, that that’s not it’s not possible for them to have sight of that. Well, I recognise a small jurisdictional challenges. I would be really grateful if I could talk further to the minister or the relevant Minister. about this matter because I’m quite concerned.”
In her closing remarks, MP Kearns said “I was just speaking to my Honourable friend who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee with me that perhaps the Foreign Affairs Committee could invite the Governors of each Overseas Territory to come and give evidence to us over the next year so that they can speak to us directly about the issues that matter most the Overseas Territories they represent.”
“The UK is blessed to have a global family in the Overseas Territories and our successes working together are truly impressive, not least of all in protecting millions of acres of ocean and countless rare species, both on land and sea. I was pleased to lead a debate in the House of Commons on this precious relationship and to raise the issues with the Government that OTs face. It was particularly important that the debate was held on the day of the Joint Ministerial Council so Ministers could appreciate how much support exists for OTs in the House of Commons. The debate saw many positive suggestions raised and I am full of optimism for the future of British OTs,” ended MP Kearn’s release.
Deputy Premier Dr. Samuel Joseph told Discover Montserrat the OTs are now becoming a bigger part of the conversation. We will have to make decisions on where we see our future.”