As you are aware, Mr. Henry Bellingham, minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has launched a consultation process in respect of a 2012 White Paper on the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories.
The last review of the relationship between the UK and the OTs resulted in the publication of the 1999 White Paper: Partnership for Progress and Prosperity and after debate and negotiation, this resulted in the 2009 Constitution.
In his letter dated 16 September, 2011, to me, Mr. Bellingham stated, “at this point in the history of our relationships with the Territories” the UK is interested in a strategy, which ensures the “constitutional arrangements work effectively to promote the best interests” of the Territories and the UK. The strategy involves a focus on three “practical policy goals” namely:
To strengthen the engagement and interaction between the UK and Territories;
To work with territories to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning; and
To improve the quality and range of support available to Territories.
When the relationship between the UK and OTs was reviewed a decade ago there was no public consultation. With this review, the UK requested public feedback that would be useful in improving the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands with a view to having the results published in the form of a Revised White Paper in 2012.
In response to Mr. Bellingham’s September 2011 letter. I authorised the Cabinet Secretary to organise a review committee supported by a small secretariat. The primary role of the review committee – chaired by Mr. Lemuel Hurlston and supported by a cross section of the community – was to initiate, oversee and administer the consultation process and to prepare a report. To this end, the review committee engaged in a broad public consultation process including guest appearances on radio and television programmes, hosting public meetings and discussions at colleges and high schools, hosting town hall meetings with residents and encouraging residents to submit views and recommendations on websites created for this purpose.
The report was completed on 18 November, 2011, and submitted to the governor and members of the Legislative Assembly. On the 22 November, the report was posted on the Cayman Islands government website.
At the Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting in November 2011, I, along with members of the OTs, met with Mr. Bellingham and UK Ministers representing various departments where the review process was discussed.
I received a letter dated 28 February, 2012, from Mr. Bellingham enclosing a draft copy of the proposed 2012 White Paper and a copy of the Independent Analysis for Public Consultation on the Overseas Territories. In his letter, Mr. Bellingham summarised the outcome of their own public consultation and asked I provide him with any further thoughts or input on the draft White Paper by 12 March, 2012. His intention is to publish the formal White Paper in mid-April. While as he noted the time frame provided for our input is an “ambitious” one (this gives us only two weeks to provide our comments) I will nonetheless try to accommodate him.
At this point may I say that I am grateful that on this occasion the UK government has seen it useful to involve the OTs in developing the 2012 White Paper and is seeking further input before finalising the document. As expressed in the draft White Paper the OTs “are incredibly diverse”: they vary in size, have different needs, are spread across the globe and have diverse communities. Thus any policy that is developed between ourselves and the UK government must be “tailored to meet [our] specific circumstances”. This approach is sensible, timely and appreciated. We in the Cayman Islands are therefore hopeful that there is a real desire to develop a meaningful and genuine dialogue in building consensus about the changes that we can make together to help renew trust and confidence in our relationship as we seek a more modernised partnership. I hope that this process will bring about some significant mutual education, with the United Kingdom and its people needing to appreciate and better understand the various territories and their distinct features; as opposed to a one-way process where the people of the territories merely come to terms with what the United Kingdom prescribes.
I reviewed the draft White Paper 2012 and the Independent Analysis for Public Consultation on the Overseas Territories and would like to commend the UK government for the hard work invested in preparing this document. I note there is an intention to develop a small secretariat in the UK to assist OTs with the implementation of specific proposals. It is hoped that this secretariat will strengthen the engagement, focus, links and general working relationship between the Cayman Islands and the UK government.
The draft White Paper includes a myriad of issues ranging from the positive and harmonious relationship that we in the Cayman Islands have enjoyed with the United Kingdom over the years to the inclusion of discussions regarding good governance, the increased efficiency and effectiveness in the way that public funds are spent and the exploration of options for economic resilience. I am heartened to also observe that the White Paper intends to be a lasting and workable framework between the UK government and ourselves, which sets out our mutually agreed broad aspirations.
I have already provided the Cabinet Secretary with instructions to arrange the further review of the draft White Paper to try and ensure our dynamic historical relationship is represented with integrity and to provide further feedback on the sections dealing with immediate concerns such as crime, unemployment, regaining a strong, resilient, and independent economic position and the request for the UK government’s support to actively assist with our interests in the international financial community. A focus on these issues will facilitate our access to capital, improve investor confidence and significantly contribute to the economic recovery and well-being of these islands.
Premier McKeeva Bush