Minister for the Overseas Territories Henry Bellingham met leaders from the Overseas Territories for the Overseas Territories Consultative Council on 17 November.
The UK and Overseas Territories represented at the Consultative Council discussed a number of issues of mutual interest and concern. Mr Bellingham emphasised the Coalition Government’s determination to improve and strengthen the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories and to represent their interests in international fora. He also made clear that other Government Departments were now more closely involved in Overseas Territories work. The Caribbean Territories welcomed the important emergency assistance provided by the Atlantic Patrol Task (North) during the recent hurricane season. The Minister noted that the Coalition Government had restarted the vital Air Access project for St Helena and had agreed to provide assistance for Tristan da Cunha’s harbour. All parties agreed on the need to work together to help the commercial and economic development of the Territories.
During the criminal justice session there were discussions about rising crime in some of the Territories; about drugs and organised crime; and about possible UK technical assistance to the Territories in these areas. In the session on transport there were discussions about maritime and aviation safety regulations; and the importance of meeting international safety standards. Territory leaders raised concerns about the cost of this and about Air Passenger Duty.
During the session on the environment, it was agreed that Territory Governments and relevant UK Departments would work together to help manage the natural environment and the impact of climate change in the Territories, including highlighting examples of good practice and successes already achieved in the Territories.
During the session on passport issues, the UK and the Overseas Territories discussed arrangements for handling the printing of passports in light of the UK Government’s decision to repatriate to the UK the printing of all British passports.
During their separate session on financial services and public finances, the UK and the Caribbean Territories and Bermuda agreed:
- the importance of complying with international financial sector standards (on tax transparency, financial regulation and anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing) and that these standards must be applied without discrimination
- the importance of continuing to take action to return public finances to a sustainable footing
- to take forward work on a framework for fiscal responsibility
During their separate session the South Atlantic Territories agreed a number of areas in which they could work together more closely.