Ministerial Statement by the Premier and Minister of Finance, The Hon. David Burt, JP, MP
Thank you, Mr Speaker:
Mr Speaker, I rise today to update this House on my participation last week in the Joint Ministerial Council of UK Ministers and elected Leaders and Representatives of the Overseas Territories.
Mr Speaker, I was honoured to represent Bermuda and all Overseas Territories as President of the Political Council of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association.
Chaired by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the objective of the meeting was to uphold and strengthen the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories.
Together, the UK Overseas Territories represent a quarter of a million people through the Caribbean, Mid Atlantic, South Atlantic and Europe. As Prime Minister the Rt. Hon Theresa May stated, the Overseas Territories are a part of what defines a true Global Britain.
Mr Speaker, I had an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister along with my fellow Overseas Territories Leaders at No. 10 Downing Street.
The Prime Minister was keen to show her support for the Territories in view of recent catastrophic hurricanes Irma and Maria and to outline her Government's commitments to address the long-term sustainability for the Territories impacted.
As President of the Political Council it was important that on behalf of the Leaders I indicated that there is no better example of the need for long-term sustainability than Montserrat, which has been waiting for twenty years for the rebuilding of vital infrastructure after the devastating volcanic eruption, and which still remains dependent upon British Aid. Certainly, all Territories desire to be self-sufficient and most of our discussions at the JMC focused on this.
Mr Speaker, One feature of the JMC is the opportunity to dialogue with Ministers from all Departments across Whitehall. This year we welcomed the Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon Boris Johnson; newly appointed Secretary of State for Development, the Rt. Hon Penny Mordaunt; Minister of State for the Department for International Development, the Rt. Hon Lord Bates and Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Rt. Hon Mel Stride. We were also joined by Ministers from the Department of Health and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Mr Speaker, Under the Chairmanship of Lord Ahmad we agreed commitments and obligations under the 2017 Communique for a cross-Whitehall approach to supporting the Territories. In particular, we agreed the following items:
- Self Determination, particularly as it relates to the sovereignty claims of the Falklands Islands and Gibraltar;
- Disaster Recovery, with the UK Government committing to put in place plans and structures for the longer term reconstruction and sustainable economic recovery for those Territories impacted by recent Hurricanes;
- Environment and Climate Change, to ensure that the priorities of the Overseas Territories are reflected within negotiations at international fora;
- Tax and Transparency, to review the effectiveness of the arrangements under the Exchange of Notes for law enforcement for the exchange of Beneficial Ownership Information;
- Extension of the UN Convention Against Corruption to those Territories where it has not already been extended;
- Governance, Human Rights and Child Safeguarding, where we have committed to Codes of Conduct on human rights institutions, sound public financial management and a strong effective and diverse public service. We reiterated our commitment for clear Codes of Conduct for Ministers, elected officials and civil servants where they do not already exist and to the highest standards for protection of children and promotion of children's welfare.
We are encouraged by the overall support from the UK Department for Health in partnership with Public Health England, particularly their immediate involvement and support to those Territories impacted by recent Hurricanes, and to address concerns across all Territories with regard to obesity and mental health issues. We have also secured support from the UK Government to raise awareness of the importance of mental health issues.
Mr Speaker, Within the margins of the JMC I engaged with other key MPs and Committees. The week commenced with a breakfast briefing with influencers who can uphold Bermuda's global reputation regarding Tax and Transparency.
I was accompanied by Jeremy Cox, CEO of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA), Bradley Kading, CEO of Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), and Ross Webber, CEO of Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA).
Key influencers joining us included the Rt. Hon Dame Margaret Hodge MP, a British Labour politician and the key voice aligned with the Non-Government Organisation community on tax-transparency, and Kwasi Kwarteng, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond.
We are confident that Bermuda's team were able to successfully demonstrate that Bermuda is not a place to hide money, given its Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and Country by Country (CbC) automatic reporting regimes and membership in the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS). In addition, I was proud to sign the United Kingdom – Bermuda Country by Country Competent Authority Agreement while in London.
It is notable that Bermuda is the first and only Territory to enter into such an agreement with the UK.
Mr. Speaker, I was also able to build relationships with the Chairman of the Committee on Exiting the European Union, the Rt. Hon Hilary Benn MP, and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat MP, who is most keen to engage on behalf of and represent the issues of the Overseas Territories in the UK Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, Our approach of high level engagement in the UK is the right and most effective one. It is my desire that this continues.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.