British Overseas Territories debated in the House of Lords

16 March 2011

Lord Ribeiro made his maiden speech in the House of Lords on Thursday 10 March in a debate on British overseas territories

The debate was opened by Baroness Hooper. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford), responded on behalf of the Government.

Lord Ribeiro

The 14 overseas territories left to the UK, fell into three categories: military bases, areas of biodiversity and financial interests, Lord Ribeiro said.

Within the military context, the strategic defence and security review not only undertook to ‘defend the UK and its overseas territories’ but stated the need for ‘an independent ability to defend the Overseas Territories militarily.’ Lord Ribeiro said he hoped ‘events over the past few weeks in North Africa’ had not ‘reduced our resolve to defend these territories from opportunistic attack.’

Lord Ribeiro said that the protection of bird life in the overseas territories was essential to maintaining biodiversity. He congratulated the Government on its contribution to the eradication of the rats from Henderson Island to protect the eggs and the chicks of the native birds.

Lord Ribeiro sought the Government’s assurance that loan guarantees made to the Turks and Caicos Islands would lead to the announcement of elections in the foreseeable future. The tax havens provided in the Caribbean, ‘have benefited many, but not always the indigenous islanders, many of whom came originally from Africa,’ he said. As ‘a child of the empire and an African,’ he had sympathy for the citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the majority of whose population are of African descent. Having ‘tasted a period of self-rule’, they  found that elections ‘promised for July 2011’ were ‘now postponed, with no date set for further elections.’  

Further information

The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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