British Overseas Territories

Posted on: 18th May 2011

Archive post:

2. Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): What services his Department provides to the residents of British overseas territories and Crown dependencies. [186584]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn): The overseas territories have a significant degree of internal self-governance. In general, the Government of each territory is responsible for the provision of services to their residents. The UK Government are responsible for the territories’ defence, external relations and internal security. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the UK’s relationship with the Crown dependencies.

Andrew George: I am grateful for that response, but how can Britain call on other countries to uphold human rights and basic freedoms when the Chagos islanders were unlawfully deported from their homes 40 years ago and denied the right to return—a right restored three times by the courts over the past seven years and appealed against by the Minister’s Department—and when Diego Garcia is being used by the US for extraordinary rendition?

Meg Munn: I make no excuses for what happened in the 1960s and 1970s. That was a dreadful situation. As for the present position, we concluded on the basis of a feasibility study commissioned in 2002 that lasting resettlement would be precarious. As the hon. Gentleman knows, however, the issue of settlement is subject to legal proceedings. We have appealed on the ground that the previous judgment would cause problems for the way in which we run our relationships with other overseas territories, not just the British Indian Ocean territories.