5 July 2007
PN 31 (06-07)
For Immediate Release
ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEW INQUIRY: OVERSEAS TERRITORIES
The Foreign Affairs Committee today announced a new inquiry with the following terms of reference:
The Committee will inquire into the exercise by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of its responsibilities in relation to the Overseas Territories and the FCO's achievements against its Strategic Priority No. 10, the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories. In particular, this Inquiry will focus on:
Standards of governance in the Overseas Territories
The role of Governors and other office-holders appointed by or on the recommendation of the United Kingdom Government
The work of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council
Transparency and accountability in the Overseas Territories
Regulation of the financial sector in the Overseas Territories
Procedures for amendment of the constitutions of Overseas Territories
The application of international treaties, conventions and other agreements to the Overseas Territories
Human rights in the Overseas Territories
Relations between the Overseas Territories and the United Kingdom Parliament
The Foreign Affairs Committee last reported on these matters in January 1998, at the time of the Government's Dependent Territories Review. The Committee has since produced several Reports on Gibraltar, but this will be the first time it has considered the Government's overall policy on the Overseas Territories since 1998. The National Audit Office (NAO) is currently carrying out a review of the effectiveness of the FCO's work in relation to the Territories. The NAO is expected to publish its Report in the Autumn.
The Overseas Territories are: Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory (BAT), the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT/Chagos Islands), the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena and its Dependencies (Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus, and the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI).
Oral evidence sessions are expected to commence in November 2007. Those intending to submit written evidence are asked to do so by Monday 15 October.
Guide to submitting written evidence
Written evidence should contain, if appropriate, a brief introduction to the persons or organisations submitting it (perhaps stating their area of expertise, etc.), and any factual information they have to offer from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions (or which could be put to other witnesses for their reactions). It is also helpful to include any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the witnesses would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.
There are no rules about the form written evidence should take; what follows is simply guidance based on what Committees have found useful in the past. If written evidence is very brief, it can be sent as a letter, but otherwise it is helpful for the evidence to be in the form of a self-contained memorandum, with any request to give oral evidence, etc., in a covering letter. If longer than one page, memoranda should have numbered paragraphs (if a memorandum is later printed, page numbers will change, so it is helpful to be able to refer to paragraph numbers). If long, a memorandum should include a one-page summary of the main points, and a table of contents.
If witnesses wish the whole, or part, of their evidence to remain confidential to the Committee, they should state this clearly in their covering letter, giving reasons and, if necessary, discussing the matter with the Clerk. The decision on whether to accede to that request is a matter for the Committee itself.
Supplementary material (leaflets, articles from periodicals, etc.) may also be sent, but it is helpful if the memorandum itself is self-contained (summarising the main points made in the supplementary material if necessary). This is because material published elsewhere is not usually reprinted by Committees.
The preferred form of submission is by e-mail attachment to the Committee's mailbox address (email@example.com). It should be in MS Word or Rich Text format; this makes it easier should the Committee decide to print the memorandum, and produces more accurate copy . Memoranda can also be submitted on a disk. If a memorandum is submitted by e-mail, a letter should also be sent validating the e-mail.
Once written evidence has been sent in, it is for the Committee to decide the manner and timing of its publication. However, the Committee has agreed that witnesses may publish their own written evidence before it is published with the Report. Witnesses intending to do this should first contact the Clerk of the Committee.
1.The Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for scrutinising the "administration, expenditure and policy" of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its associated agencies. The text of all Committee publications, including Reports, can be found on the Committee's website at www.parliament.uk/facom
2. Committee meetings are open to the public. Access is via St Stephen's Entrance for the House of Commons Committee Rooms and the main entrance on the Thames Embankment for Portcullis House Rooms. It is advisable to allow about 10 minutes to pass through security checks. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in the Committee Rooms.
The membership of the Committee is as follows: Mike Gapes (Chairman), Labour, Mr Fabian Hamilton, Labour, Mr David Heathcoat-Amory, Conservative, Mr John Horam, Conservative, Mr Eric Illsley, Labour, Mr Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrats, Andrew Mackinlay, Labour, Mr Malcolm Moss, Conservative, Sandra Osborne, Labour, Mr Greg Pope, Labour, Mr Ken Purchase, Labour, Rt Hon Sir John Stanley, Conservative, Ms Gisela Stuart, Labour, Richard Younger-Ross, Liberal Democrats.
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