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White Paper review

Statement in regards to the 1999 White Paper by the Hon. W. McKeeva Bush, OBE, JP Presented in the Legislative Assembly on the 7 September, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly address this Honourable House on a matter that is of great importance to our Country, and to the Overseas Territories as a whole. I also welcome this opportunity to have this information placed in the public domain.

At the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) in November 2010, the United Kingdom advised that they were in the process of reviewing the relationship with the Overseas Territories, and framing a new strategy to guide this relationship in the future.

Madam Speaker, the last full scale review of the relationship between the UK and the Overseas Territories resulted in the publication of the 1999 White Paper: Partnership for Progress and Prosperity. Since its publication many advancements have been made, including the modernisation of some of the Overseas Territories Constitutions, in our case including a Bill of Rights, establishment of institutions promoting good governance, and the granting of access to full British citizenship.

However not all of the aspirations of the 1999 White Paper have been delivered. In the sphere of ‘peace and order’ we have unfortunately experienced a rise in the level of crime throughout the Islands. In the area of ‘good government’ one shortcoming has been that audited financial records have not been delivered for the past several years. My government has now made a huge step forward to correct this anomaly.

Madam Speaker, there is no desire on the part of the Government or the UK to change the fundamental structure of our relationship, but this does not rule out constitutional evolution or reform where it may be necessary.  In a letter from Mr. Henry Bellingham, the Minister for the Overseas Territories, the following three strands were proposed in order to take the strategy forward:

  • Strengthening the engagement and interaction between the Territories and the UK by not only the sharing of expertise, but also by pursuing partnerships between local governments, the private sector, NGOs and professional bodies in the UK and their counterparts in the Territories.
  • Collaborating with Territories to strengthen public financial management, economic planning and good governance arrangements where necessary.
  • Improving the quality of support from the UK.  For example, strategic investments in those Territories where the needs are greatest.

In preparation for 2011 OTCC the Government is undertaking a review of the 1999 White Paper and the current relationship with the UK and is inviting views on the proposed strategy, as well as suggestions of other topics that should be addressed. This feedback is necessary as it is the UK Minister’s intention to discuss with each territory the detailed substance of the relationship with the UK and to create opportunities for exchange of views and discussions, offer suggestions/advice and propose alternative strategies that will enhance the relationship.

Cabinet’s approval will be sought for the formation of a committee that will spearhead the review process for our Country. This committee will consist of one representative from the Chamber of Commerce, one from the Cayman Ministers Association, one from the service clubs, one from the Civil Service Association Management Committee, one from Cayman Finance, representing the Financial Services Sector, and two representatives from the general public as well as two from the Sister Islands. Given the importance of this exercise, Government has committed to appoint a competent Secretary to ensure the business of the Committee is properly managed and recorded. It is envisioned that the Committee will produce an interim report in 60 days from the start of the meetings of the committee, in preparation for a meeting to be held between the FCO Minister and Heads of Government from the Overseas Territories.

Honourable Members are accordingly now advised that this substantial undertaking is to commence and should consider themselves now put on notice to participate in a meaningful way in the process. For clarity, let me emphasize that it is a two-part process; the first must commence immediately, for input into the defining terms that are proposed to guide the evolution of the new strategy.

The second part is geared towards more detailed review and input into the new UK-Overseas Territories agreement. The initial timetable was that new framework was to be agreed by June 2012. However, the UK has now suggested a radical shortening of this timetable, which would call for agreement to be reached by the spring of 2012. I am seriously concerned that this would prejudice the prospects of Territories, including ourselves, to put forward our best position, and accordingly intend to robustly challenge this new timetable.

I look forward to the support of all Honourable Members in this important matter.


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