Henry Bellingham, Minister for the Overseas Territories gave the following speech on a visit to the Cayman Islands on 19 April 2012. Although it is aimed at a Caribbean audience, it has points of interest for people interested in any of the overseas territories.
“Your Excellency, Honourable Premier, you know that I am an absolute passionate advocate for the Overseas Territories. I’m a very lucky minister because I’ve always been incredibly passionate about the OTs. And when I was appointed to the Foreign Office in May 2010, I was determined that one of the portfolios in my brief was going to be the Overseas Territories. For me it was a dream that came true. I’m delighted to be here in your beautiful, beautiful country. I’m only sorry that the pressures of my diary mean that I cannot visit Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I hope to have the opportunity to do that on my next visit.
“I’ve really seen, Honourable Premier, firsthand the famed hospitality and warmth of your welcome. I’d like to say a really big thank you to those people who have given me such a marvellous welcome so far. And also to your, Honourable Premier for your welcome you gave me at the airport, your welcome at the meeting this morning, and your generosity in organising this wonderful reception this evening.
“I had a chance to go on a tour around the island in a police helicopter, which gave me a bird’s eye view of some of the fabulous beaches and some of the sites that I’ve only previously only heard about. But what a beautiful country you’ve got. And I’d like to also say that from the point of view of the UK you have been very successful. You’ve got that creativity, you’ve got that vitality and you’ve got people who have worked together to make these islands such a success story. You have, as you’ve alluded to, Honourable Premier, you have a world class financial services centre that is the envy of so many other countries and is also an absolutely vital part in the operation of the city of London. You have amazing tourism. And I’m very impressed, Honourable Premier, by your plans to diversify your economy and to drive growth because as you pointed out, without growth you do not have prosperity. Without growth you do not have the income to be able to afford those caring services that you aspire to: better education, better health, better social services. I’m also impressed that you’re trying to do this in a way that is sustainable to the environment and you are looking also at things like renewable energy.
“I’d like to congratulate you on what you’ve done but I’d also like to say something about the UK’s plans and our aspirations as well because I was very pleased, honourable premier when you said that you were delighted there was a change in government in the UK. I was also delighted because I was fed up with opposition.
“One of the first discussions I had with our Foreign Secretary William Hague and with our Prime Minister was actually about the Overseas Territories. We decided when we came into government that what we would do is we would have a look at our relationship with the Territories. So we decided to embark upon a strategic review of the Territories and our policy towards them. And we looked at the 16 Territories, which are all different, they’re very diverse and we worked out that Britain’s relationship with them is multifaceted. The Territories, many of them are of key strategic importance. Many of them are absolutely vital in terms of Britain’s reputation for the environment and biodiversity. Did you know that 90 percent of the UK’s biodiversity is in the Overseas Territories? Furthermore, the world class nature of financial service centres in a number of the Overseas Territories but particularly this one, but also Bermuda and the BVI, is an absolute vital part of the UK’s economy. In fact the city of London would not be able to operate how it does without these overseas financial centres.
“And we decided also that the links in terms of people, in terms of culture, in terms of sport, it was a partnership. And we worked out that we wanted to really work together in a proper partnership that is based on trust.
“We are going to engage the Territories far more. We’re going to take them seriously. And we also take the view, as well, and this is very important, if you want to remain British, we won’t regard that as something to hide away or be embarrassed about. We will cherish that. We take the view, if you want to be part of a single realm that is very, very good news. So unlike other governments we’re not going to say to Territories please go off and try to find your way for independence. Of course we believe in self determination. That is incredibly important with the Falkland Islands. But we also take the view that if you decide to remain in the single realm, in the family, then we will engage you, we will work with you, and we will invest in you.
“Now as along as that engagement is concerned, I do want to see more trade between Britain and the Territories. But I will also say that where things go wrong, we will invest. We have invested very heavily in the Turks and Caicos Islands where as you know there was a terrible financial scandal. Without DFID, that is the Department for International Development, without DFID coming up with a loan guarantee of a quarter of billion dollars, the TIC government would not have been able to continue. We’re building a new airport on St. Helena, we’re investing in Montserrat, in Pitcairn. We’re really putting our money where our mouth is.
“We want more UK companies to engage with the Territories and that is why, Honourable Premier, I was so pleased when you talked about trade and investment. Of course you must invest in new business with companies in this global economy. But we want more UK companies to come here. We want to see increased links between organisations in the UK and the Territories, between schools and colleges, and professional bodies. And we want more partnerships as well between Britain and the Territories.
“Of course we will secure your defence and we’ll put your security way, way up there as an absolute a key priority. We see our responsibility for defence and security and safety of the Territories as a core task of government. Indeed the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Fort Rosalie is a tangible example of our continuing commitment. I’ll be meeting up with the ship in the BVI and learning about their preparations for the hurricane season. She will also be visiting the Cayman Islands in the early summer.
“One of the other key aspects of this White Paper is we want other government departments to really engage with the Territories. I mentioned DFID. I mentioned the MOD. You’ve obviously heard about the work done by the Home Office and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. There are many other government departments across the whole of Whitehall. What has impressed me and encouraged me is when we said to these Ministers that we wanted their help, their advice and their guidance on how they could add more to what’s going on in the Territories. How they could actually leverage their expertise and their knowledge to help the Territories. Rather than being reluctant, they were incredibly positive.
“And, I think, Honourable Premier, you were impressed yourself at the last Overseas Territory Council when you saw the number of different ministers who came to give us speeches and advice and joined in the seminars. We ought to tap into that expertise across government, across local government, and civil society. There is that enthusiasm to see and find out ways which they can work more closely with the Territories. That, I think, is incredibly important. It is, of course, imbedding expertise, it’s giving advice. For example, when you had those terrible murders in the Cayman Islands a few months back. We were able to, very quickly, to send a number of Peace Officers over to help with the investigation.
“I’m also delighted, in this vein, that we were able to welcome your Master of Ceremonies this evening, the new Deputy Governor and Head of the Civil Service, Mr Franz Manderson. He came to London last November to talk to his counterparts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and indeed in other parts of Whitehall. Now I understand that the visit was very worthwhile and you really put in place a number of new ideas and procedures that you discussed with my colleagues in London.
“We’re keen to see further visits from senior public servants because these benefit all of us. We also, Honourable Premier, want to build stronger political level links between the UK and the Territories. We recognise that the elected leaders, you Premier and your colleagues, are the driving force for change in the Territories. We therefore want to strengthen the workings of the annual meeting between Territory leaders and UK Ministers in London to help us push forward the implementation of the strategy.
That is why in the future we are going to have a joint ministerial council that will be able to meet and there will be a reinvigorated Overseas Territories.
“We believe that we are doing a great deal more than what has been done in the past. We believe we are making that commitment. In return, we also want a few things back. And you mentioned good governance, Honourable Premier. We are indeed very keen to see good governance. We are keen to see the responsible, fiscal, financial management. That’s why I’m delighted you signed the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility last November. That framework for responsibility is not nuclear physics. It simply points out that in this very tough global environment, we all must try and live within our means. We must all try and have in place our check and balances when it comes to our budgets. We must also have in place proper check and balances on procurement, the world class checks and balances in place when it comes to procuring major projects.
“I think it’s incredibly important, we are not going to lecture the Territories on issues like human rights, we’re not going to do that because we do recognise that all of these Territories are unique. But what we are going to say is we what shared values in place between Britain and the Territories based, as you pointed out, Honourable Premier, on Christian principles. So my message is very simple, on good governance is that the UK expects the Territories to abide by the same basic standard of governance as in the UK. I don’t think that’s asking very much. As these Territories follow your lead and become more prosperous and invest in more infrastructure and more and better public services, I believe the pursuance of those values, of those basic standards will be an absolute given in the future.
“Honourable Premier, you know this is a landmark year in the history of or single realm. There are two events that will project the United Kingdom across the world. The first of these is obviously the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen. She is only the second monarch after Queen Victoria to have reigned for over sixty years and it is absolutely right that we mark this remarkable milestone and all those years of loyal, dedicated and unswerving service in a way that befits this achievement. The climax of the Jubilee will be in London over the first weekend in June and I hope that you, Honourable Premier, and Mrs Bush and other leaders from the OTs will be able to join these amazing celebrations.
“The second event, of course, are the Olympic Games, which are going to be the greatest sporting event on the planet. 1948 was the last time that the UK hosted the Games and we fully intend to produce the best games in Olympic history. The venues are ready. London is gearing up. We passed the 100 day countdown yesterday: there are just 99 days to go and the excitement is building up.
“I hope very much the Cayman team do the Territory proud, hopefully with medals but, above all else, to come away from the Games with never-to-be-forgotten memories that they’ve taken part in something truly remarkable. Honourable Premier, I hope you will be at the Games as well. I hope between us we will see those athletes from the Cayman Islands in action at the Games.
“Your Excellency, Honourable Premier, we live in a troubled, volatile, and unforgiving world. No one owes us a living. No one owes the UK a living. We have no divine right to keep our AAA rating. We can only do that by having credible economic policies. You have no divine right to keep your AAA rating. You can only achieve the securance if that AAA rating through having the right policies in place and by making sure the markets are comfortable and (inaudible).
“I do believe over the next few years may be the rest of our political lives, Honourable Premier. We are going to be seeing many, many tough and difficult challenges. The world economy indeed may take a number of years to recover. Who knows what natural disasters are going to be thrown at different countries. No one know. What I do know, is that we can either stand alone or we can work together. We can go forward together shoulder to shoulder. The UK doesn’t want to be your tutor as such or your regulator or your enforcer. We want to be your partner. We want to actually be working with you, shoulder to shoulder in what is going to be an ever more challenging, ever more difficult world. And that is why we can either go alone or we can work together in a partnership.
“I want to work together with you in a relationship of trust, in a mature relationship, one based on a true partnership.”