COMMONS

Government Response on UK's response to hurricanes in Overseas Territories published

24 May 2018

The Foreign Affairs Committee publishes the Government Response to the Committee’s report on the UK’s response to hurricanes in its Overseas Territories.

Need for preparedness for natural disasters in Overseas Territories

The Government accepts the Committee’s recommendations on the need for improvements to national, regional and international preparedness for natural disasters affecting the Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and on building the economic resilience of the Territories in the longer term.

However, the suggestion of separate, independent feedback on FCO performance as an alternative to the Joint Ministerial Council, is rejected.

The Response sidesteps the communication issues reported by Anguilla about the initial funding for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

And there is ambivalence about Committee hopes to press the OECD to conclude its work on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility as soon as possible, and to clarify the impact of Brexit on the Territories.

The Government recently conceded that Britain’s Overseas Territories will be forced to adopt public registers of company ownerships by the end of the decade. Backbenchers who secured the amendment said that publishing the information would help eradicate the concealment of money gained from criminal activity.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

"The Government’s readiness to accept some of our recommendations simply reflects work which is already underway at the Foreign Office.  But we note a distinct reluctance to commit to further steps which would help the OTs clarify their position now, and when the UK leaves the EU.

"The Government says it will consider publishing a new Overseas Territory strategy, but only once the UK has left the EU.  Given the implications of this change on their governance we feel this must be a matter of priority.

"There is still a question mark over defence assets available to the Overseas Territories during the hurricane seasons with the Modernising Defence Programme, due to report in July 2018. There is no sense of urgency for an early conclusion to discussion about aid. And the Foreign Office has rejected our call for an alternative route for feedback on its performance.

"The Overseas Territories are British and it is right that they should expect these reassurances from the Government – ministers have some way to go."

The Government has agreed to provide the Committee with an update on the recovery of the Overseas Territories affected by last Autumn’s hurricanes by 1 September 2018.

Further information

Image: Russell Watkins/DFID

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