21 March 2013

Bermuda MP wants parliamentary discussion on UK relations

MP Walton Brown also addressed human rights, 
secondary and tertiary education, and electoral 
reform in his first address in the Bermuda Parliament.  

Maiden Speech in Parliament

Hansard–15 February 2013

Mr. Walton Brown: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

The final point I will make, Mr. Speaker, relates to what I see as the most glaring omission—the most glaring omission—in the Throne Speech. And that has to do with an area of politics, an area of decision-making that gets at the very heart of how we make decisions and where the authority to make decisions lies. 

There was no comment, really, about the relationship between the Bermuda Government and the United Kingdom Government. We heard some earlier comments about the relationship between the Bermuda Government and the Governor, who represents the UK Government in Bermuda, with respect to the police service.

But there is a more fundamental issue, Mr. Speaker, because last December the United Kingdom Government formally established a panel of Ministers of all the Overseas Territories, a panel that the Overseas Territory Minister will himself chair. And if you read their mandate, Mr. Speaker, their mandate is to cover virtually every aspect and every area of governance for the Overseas Territories. So what you will see is—what I think I have seen and what I think has been the case since 1999—a gradual devolution of power back to the United Kingdom. 

The principle for arguing this point first came in 2003 when Lord Triesman (the Overseas Territories Minister at the time) argued that the line of demarcation between domestic affairs and international affairs was becoming increasingly blurred and, therefore, the UK may involve themselves in areas that the Overseas Territory might consider to be its exclusive domain under the Constitution—that has now been cast aside—that separation of power. 

And so what I would like to hear from the Government is what its position is with respect to its relationship with the United Kingdom. The British Prime Minister has already said he wants to take on what he calls “the tax havens.” Many consider Bermuda to be a tax haven, 

Mr. Speaker. It may well be that there are occasions when the interests of the UK are not necessarily aligned with the interests of Bermuda. And sometimes it is just plain misinformation that creates challenges for us. The most explicit example of misinformation that created a real challenge for Bermuda, Mr. Speaker, was in 2006 when the Home Office misinformed the European Union that Bermuda citizens, Overseas Territory citizens, did not have the right of abode in the UK. It was because of that misinformation, Mr. Speaker, that we were all subject to a visa regime of the Schengen group of countries in the European Union.

So as we move forward, Mr. Speaker, as this Government seeks to set out its course for our country, and as we seek to be the critical evaluators of what Government does, I ask for this Government to give real consideration to the future relationship that we might have with the UK under this new Ministerial Council, what it means, and if they could come back to us through Parliament and to the people, at some point in the not too-distant future, to outline how that relationship—in their view—is going to evolve.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.