[John Bercow in the Chair] — Overseas Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:41 pm on 23rd April 2009.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock 3:41 pm, 23rd April 2009

I will not detain the House long, because my two colleagues have covered a lot of territory, in more ways than one, and very effectively, but I want to pick up one or two points. What disturbed me—I think you will share my view, Mr. Bercow—is the uncertainty of our assumption that the House is ultimately the Parliament for all the overseas territories. They may have delegated legislatures, but if the House decides to go to war, those territories go to war. They do not have an opt-out. This is their Parliament, and the UK Government can rescind and vary their constitutions as and when they wish.

We cannot escape our responsibility, but when we embarked on the inquiry, we discovered that there was uncertainty about whether Westminster parliamentary privilege extended to the overseas territories. I have no doubt that it does, and I was deeply disappointed that there was doubt about that. That raises important constitutional issues, and when the House considers privilege in relation to other matters, there should be no doubt that, if the writ of this place has any meaning whatever, parliamentary privilege must extend to every overseas territory. I hope that that can be addressed with dispatch, not by the Government—it may suit them if parliamentary privilege is not recognised as extending to overseas territories—but by the House.