New Clause 5 - Report

Part of British Overseas Territories Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 6th December 2001.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 11:15 am, 6th December 2001

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. This is also my first Committee and I am pleased that there has been such consensus. So far, so good. My experience as a Minister has been brief and I am not immediately responsible for this subject. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is the immediate responsibility of my noble Friend Baroness Amos.

I have the impression that, far from being under-represented, the overseas territories are very well represented, not least by several hon. Members in the Committee. There are 200,000 people in those territories. On Second Reading, 12 or 15 hon. Members spoke with great expertise about issues ranging from the airport at St. Helena to the environmental impact of bird-lime in the Pitcairn Islands. My constituency in Exeter, with a population of 110,000, just has little me to represent it, but the residents of the overseas territories have many walking encyclopaedias, as they were described by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North. I do not think that the overseas territories need worry too much about their voice being heard.

As my hon. Friend said, representatives pay regular visits here. Next week, I am meeting a group of St. Helenians and my noble Friend in the Lords is meeting a delegation of Chagos islanders. There are always opportunities for hon. Members to secure debates on individual territories, or all of them, in Adjournment debates in Westminster Hall and for the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs to scrutinise our work. Indeed, there may be an argument for the Committee to invite annual delegations to give evidence on how the new legislation is bedding in and other topics. The Foreign Office publishes an annual report on human rights, which includes references to the overseas territories. I hope that the hon. Member for West Suffolk is content that that is enough and that they have full representation in the House.