The British Conservative MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and is a long-time advocate for the interests of British Overseas Territories, has repeated his call for better and equitable representation for those territories.
Speaking recently at a dinner for the Friends of the British Overseas Territories (FOTBOT ) in London, Rosindell said it was time that all BOTs are treated as equal partners in the British family, making the case for one UK government minister to deal with all issues relating to BOTs and for “overdue parliamentary representation”.
Rosindell, who chairs the FOTBOT and sits in a senior position on the various committees relating to the British territories, said it was wrong for them to be dealt with by the British Foreign Office because they are not foreign, according to reports from his supporters who attended the dinner.
Despite his embrace of Britain’s former colonies and his calls to bring them closer into the British family Rosindell is an enthusiastic Brexiteer and even campaigned at times for Brexit in the referendum alongside some of the UK’s more extreme right wing political characters, such as Graham Williamson, a former member of the National Front.
Nevertheless, Rosindell has been a long-time advocate for the rights of BOTs and supports more equity for them as well as more streamlined governance.
Most of the British Overseas Territories are dealt with by Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth at the Foreign Office, while three are dealt with by Sir Alan Duncan, Minister for Europe and the Americas, and the Crown Dependencies fall under Dominic Raab, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice. The Lord President of the Privy Council, Andrea Leadsom, also has a responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, meaning that four ministers have roles regarding the territories, which commentator and Rosindell supporter, Anthony Webber, said has led to a lack of continuity and real cohesion in policy.
Rosindell has called for the territories to be dealt with by a single UK government department and recognised as equal members of the British family, and when disaster strikes in the territories, as it did this hurricane season, the British government should act as they would for a natural disaster in the UK. He said it was wrong that there was such a slow response to the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean.
Rosindell argues that with the move to devolution in the UK, it was important all parts of the British family have equal rights to vote for their own representatives in the national UK Parliament and BOTs should have MPs. He has called for legislation to allow that representation but in the meantime they could be given representation in the House of Lords, the UK’s upper chamber.
The Conservative politician and his supporters in the UK and across the territories believe that when the House of Commons debates and decides on all national and international matters, as well as issues which affect the territories, the citizens should have the right to elect constituency MPs, as is the case in the French, Danish and Dutch overseas territories.
The UK House of Commons has 650 constituency MPs for a population of 65.6 million people, while the population in the primary 14 BOTs and the Crown Dependencies is around 500,000 citizens. Rosindell and Webber believe nine parliamentary seats should be created with constituencies based on UK population electoral commission guidelines:
They have suggested that Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man and the Caribbean territories of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos should have one MP each, while the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat should have a shared representative, as would be the case for Gibraltar, Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas and British Indian Ocean Territory, and another seat for St. Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, Pitcairn Islands, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and British Antarctic Territories.
All that needs to be done, Webber has stated, is for the UK government to approach the British territories to submit names of people to be considered for membership of the House of Lords and for a parliamentary bill to allow for the new BOT constituencies in time for the next UK General Election.