On 31 March 2009 The Foreign Affairs Committee announced that it welcomes the action taken by the Government following publication of the Interim Report of Sir Robin Auld’s Commission of Inquiry into allegations of corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). The Committee pressed the Government for the Commission to be established following disquieting evidence received in its recent inquiry into the UK’s remaining overseas territories (its Report was published in July 2008). It will continue to monitor the situation in TCI as events develop.
The Committee’s Chairman, Mike Gapes MP, said that:
Government in the Turks and Caicos Islands and reimpose a form of direct rule, if this proves necessary in the light of Sir Robin Auld’s final report. We note Sir Robin’s comments in his interim report, that the evidence he has taken provides ‘information in abundance pointing, not just to a possibility, but to a high probability of [...] systematic venality’ involving ’systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty involving past and present elected Members of the Legislature in recent years.’ We also note Sir Robin’s view that there are ‘clear signs of political amorality and immorality and of general administrative incompetence’, and that this evidence demonstrates ‘a need for urgent suspension in whole or in part of the Constitution and for other legislative and administrative reforms’.
We consider that Sir Robin’s interim conclusions vindicate the Committee’s decision to press the Government to set up a Commission of Inquiry. We initiated our review of the UK’s overseas territories in July 2007. Many individuals from TCI wrote to us alleging corruption. They expressed concern about freedom of speech, and many submitted evidence to us in confidence because they feared intimidation.
In March 2008 a sub-group of the Committee visited TCI and investigated the situation on the ground. They reported back that they had encountered a ‘climate of fear’ on the islands. Later in that month, the then Minister for the Overseas Territories, Meg Munn MP, told the Committee that she had an ‘open mind’ on whether a Commission of Inquiry should be established, but that ’so far, there has not been sufficient evidence to proceed with one’. In May 2008 we held a private meeting with Meg Munn to express our concerns about the allegations we had received. On 6 July we published our report on the Overseas Territories, which recommended that the Government should announce a Commission of Inquiry, with full protection of witnesses. On 15 July the Government informed the House that a Commission was being set up.
The Committee awaits Sir Robin Auld’s final report. We will continue to monitor closely the situation on the Turks and Caicos Islands as events unfold. /
- The Foreign Affairs Committee is responsible for scrutinising the “expenditure, administration and policy” of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its associated public bodies. The text of all Committee publications, including Reports, can be found on the Committee’s website at www.parliament.uk/facom
- The Committee’s Report on Overseas Territories was published as its Seventh Report of Session 2007-08 (HC 147-I). On 16 March 2009 the Government announced by Written Ministerial Statement its reponse to Sir Robin Auld’s interim report (Official Report, 16 March 2009, cols 39-40 WS). Sir Robin’s interim report can be accessed at www.tci-inquiry.org.
- Committee meetings are open to the public. Access is via Cromwell Green Entrance for the House of Commons Committee Rooms and the main entrance on the Thames Embankment for Portcullis House Rooms. It is advisable to allow about 10 minutes to pass through security checks. There is no system for the prior reservation of seats in the Committee Rooms.
- The membership of the Committee is as follows: Mike Gapes (Chairman), Labour, Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrats, Mr Fabian Hamilton, Labour, Rt Hon David Heathcoat-Amory, Conservative, Mr John Horam, Conservative, Mr Eric Illsley, Labour, Mr Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrats, Andrew Mackinlay, Labour, Mr Malcolm Moss, Conservative, Sandra Osborne, Labour, Mr Greg Pope, Labour, Mr Ken Purchase, Labour, Rt Hon Sir John Stanley, Conservative, Ms Gisela Stuart, Labour.
posted 10 April 2009