Overseas Territories — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:35 pm on 31st October 2013.

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Photo of Baroness Howells of St Davids Baroness Howells of St Davids Labour 6:35 pm, 31st October 2013

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking in the gap. I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for initiating the debate. I have decided to concentrate on Anguilla, although it has been mentioned by every previous speaker.

Anguilla previously experienced strong growth during the period 2004-07. Its GDP stood at 12%. Now recession and the dreaded APD tax have hit the country. It relies heavily on its tourism sector. This has created a very worrying time for the island, with high unemployment, home foreclosures, and growing levels of poverty and business failures.

While it is accepted that there is the need to diversify—agriculture, fisheries, finance services and ICT are cited as possibilities—it takes a lot of time to diversify on tiny islands. Consequently, there is a need to invest in the facilities and infrastructure, which will improve access to Anguilla and enable the island to benefit more from tourism while diversification takes place.

We know that Anguilla is ready for overseas development assistance, according to the OECD’s co-operation list which defines the poorest countries in the world. However, DfID has not provided any development assistance to Anguilla for many years. In the 2012 White Paper, the coalition Government set out a vision to support all the overseas territories in order to make them flourish and free from financial dependence. Overseas territories also have “the first call” on DfID’s budget.

Despite these facts, DfID does not provide any direct funding to Anguilla and does not have the machinery to re-evaluate the economic status of a territory once it decides that the territory should not get any support. This means that, despite six successive years of economic decline, DfID has been unwilling to entertain any conversations about re-evaluating Anguilla’s status for DfID support, despite the fact that Anguilla remains very much in need of help by official development assistance. The UK Government are committed to contributing 0.7% of their national income in aid, but it appears to be without regard for the overseas territories.

The Government of Anguilla are keen to diversify its economic base, but to do so at this time requires effective long-term thinking. While the economy remains in a negative state, it is difficult for the Government to focus human resources on this task. DfID has yet to offer effective assistance to facilitate that process. I ask the Minister to address these concerns and to give a reassurance as to what assistance will be afforded this small island, which is profoundly loyal to the British Government.