[John Bercow in the Chair] — Overseas Territories

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:54 pm on 23rd April 2009.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:54 pm, 23rd April 2009

I bow to the hon. Gentleman's superior knowledge.

I know that the debate has been going on for many years, and I am sad that we are no further forward—that because of the House of Lords ruling, we are still stuck in this situation. I am deeply unhappy that there seems to be some sort of unofficial agreement with Mauritius—that once America decides to leave, Mauritius will take what is properly called the British Indian Ocean Territory. That is not right.

The remaining territories of the United Kingdom—the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories come to a total of 21, although we might argue about the number—must not be forgotten. They are all British and they will all stay British; we need only to sort out the right kind of representation and how we should govern them. The one thing that must be done, the one thing that must be addressed, is to sort out where they fit within government. They should no longer come under the Foreign Office. They should be treated as British, perhaps through the Home Office or the Ministry of Justice, or even a new Department that included Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who can tell what the Government may decide to do? However, the overseas territories should all be included under one Department, and treated as British, not as foreign. Until we get that message across, until we change our attitude and properly sort out their representation here in this Parliament, through Government or the Department that represents them—only then can we hope to solve all the other problems that have permeated down and which were mentioned in the report.

I commend the Foreign Affairs Committee for what it has achieved. I hope that this will not be our last debate on the British overseas territories. We need a regular debate on the subject. We should not have to wait for another Committee report. Let us at least have an annual debate on the subject, just as we have annual debates on Scotland and Wales. We should do the same for the British overseas territories. From now on, we should all fight to ensure that they are treated as British and not as foreign territories.