Tristan da Cunha Government Abroad: Tristan da Cunha in the UK Houses of Parliament
We publish here UK Parliamentary business related to Tristan da Cunha.

Tristan da Cunha in the UK Houses of Parliament

We publish here UK Parliamentary business related to Tristan da Cunha

Tristan da Cunha is part of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The Tristan da Cunha Administrator and the St Helena Governor are both British Foreign and Commonwealth Office employees and the maintenance of the good governance of Tristan da Cunha is overseen on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by members of the House of Lords and House of Parliament, through the Foreign Secretary and other Government colleagues.

A full transcript of parliamentary business can also be found on www.publications.parliament/uk
with page specific links with each report below

Early day motion 1316 on 7th May 2014

Primary Sponsor MP Andrew Rosindell and supported by MPs Jim Dobbin, Bob Blackman and Julian Lewis tabled an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons on 7th May 2014 congratulating the Tristan da Cunha Community on its outstanding effort to support the Philippines Typhoon Appeal.

The motion reads:

That this House applauds the generosity, humanity and enterprise of the people of the world's most remote inhabited island, the British Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, for raising £3,456 for the Philippines Typhoon Appeal, representing the sum of £13 for each of the 264 residents, raised from events which included a sponsored swim by Tristan children in the island pool, equivalent to a collective round-the-island swim of 20 miles; notes that all monies have been paid to the UK Disasters Emergency Committee; and recognises that this selfless act comes as the islanders celebrate the 50th anniversary of their return from exile following the volcanic eruption of 1961, and their recent sheltering in their homes of the Filipino crew rescued from the bulk carrier Oliva, wrecked on one of the Tristan islands.

See the Hansard Record on www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1316
and check out details of the fund raising on our Philippines Fund Raising page

31st October 2013 House of Lords debate on the Economy of the UK Overseas Territories

On Thursday Oct 31st 2013 a debate in the House of Lords was instigated by Baroness Hooper on the economy of the Overseas Territories. In the course of a speech by Lord Blencathra, the Cayman Island’s UK Representative, positive mention of Tristan's economic progress was made by him in the context of the diversity and enterprise shown by the Territories in developing their economies.

Edited extracts of the speech by Lord Blencathra:

I congratulate my Noble Friend on her speech. She has had a notable track record of support for the Territories and is a stalwart defender of them. That is my first point; why should we have to defend the Territories?….they are an incredible success story. They are a great British success story. Like your Lordships House we would not invent them if we were starting from scratch today. But over hundreds of years they have worked and they still work today and even more so.

They work because they are democracies with Parliamentary Assemblies based on the Westminster Parliament, because they have the rule of law and the security provided by the Crown. They work because they have the right of self-determination but have chosen to stay British. They work because they are innovative and make the best of scarce resources and they are good for Britain because they, and the Crown Dependencies also, put a lot more in than they take out.

Now this debate is about economic diversification and the word diverse applies to the Overseas Territories. Every single one is different from Pitcairn where today 4% of its population is visiting Parliament – that is, two of them, to the Falklands, Anguilla, Bermuda and Tristan da Cunha. They are all small islands, except Gibraltar which is almost an island and they all require different solutions for economic growth.

Before moving off the word diverse I want to mention Bio-diversity. 90% of the bio-diversity of the United Kingdom is not in the UK – it is in the British Overseas Territories. What native species have we got left in the UK which has not been lost. Soon we may have no red squirrels or hedgehogs left in the UK but the OTs are packed with wildlife on land, in the air and in the sea. In the Overseas Territories we have some of the best marine parks in the world and most of our coral reefs are still intact. Of course they are under pressure and too many species are on the Red List but at least we still have them and we have to make sure that we never lose any more.

It does not require mega investment to diversify the economy of some Territories. Eco-tourism is a natural area for economic diversification and that could work in nearly all the Territories.

Lord Blencathra continued to announce that Tristan da Cunha had made a breakthrough as its ‘special gourmet lobster’ was now exported to the EU. In fact negotiations with the EU continue, but exports should start shortly. He went on to say that Tristan ‘is hoping to go up market also with island produced knitwear. If it could improve its harbour then a lot of diversification would automatically follow.’

MS Oliva Disaster

In response to a question from MP Andrew Rosindell tabled in the House of Commons to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The answers were published in Hansard on 4 th April 2011 and can be viewed in full on http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110404/text/110404w0001.htm

The question asked ‘what reports he has received on the effects of the oil slick at Petrel Bay, Nightingale Island; and what assistance his Department is giving to mitigate the effects of the slick.'

The reply on behalf of the Secretary of State from Mr Bellingham:

The Government are extremely concerned by the situation in Tristan da Cunha, part of the British Overseas Territory of St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, arising from the wreck on Nightingale Island of the motor vessel Oliva. We have been in close touch with the Tristan da Cunha authorities throughout and are ensuring that they have the advice and support they need from across Government and elsewhere.

We are receiving regular reports on the situation at Nightingale Island from the Tristan da Cunha authorities. Leaked fuel oil from the wreck of the Oliva has washed ashore. It has impacted on both protected wildlife and the fisheries on which the islands' economy relies. The Tristan authorities and community are working hard to help the wildlife affected by the oil. The fisheries at Nightingale and Inaccessible Islands will remain closed until testing has shown the catch to be free of any harmful effects of pollution. The longer term impacts on the wildlife and fisheries will take time to assess.

The responsibility to clean up the damage caused to this precious environment and to compensate the Tristan community for any losses they may suffer lies with the ship's owners and insurers. We are ensuring that they continue to meet this responsibility in full.

The remoteness of the site and the demanding conditions mean that this is a very difficult operation. Following the initial salvage efforts further equipment and expert personnel are now en route to the islands.

See also: MS Oliva Disaster Home Page

Question on Tristan Harbour Refurbishment Funding

The answer to a question to International Development Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell from Labour MP for East Kilbride, Strathhaven and Lesmahagow Michael McCann was published in Hansard on 3rd December 2010 and can be read on this link: http://www.publications.parliament.uk

Mr McCann asked the Secretary of State for International Development

  • for what reasons his Department decided to approve the allocation of funding to repair the harbour on Tristan da Cunha;
  • what estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of repairs to Calshot harbour on Tristan Da Cunha;
  • what information his Department holds on the (a) population of Tristan Da Cunha and (b) average per capita income per head of residents of Tristan da Cunha;
  • whether funding provided by his Department for repairs to the harbour on Tristan Da Cunha will be classified as official development assistance;
  • how much funding his Department plans to provide for repairs to the harbour on Tristan Da Cunha.

Mr Andrew Mitchell replied:

The UK is obliged under the UN Charter to promote the well-being of the inhabitants of the Overseas Territories. Without urgent repair work, the harbour on Tristan da Cunha, which was severely damaged in a storm earlier this year, could be rendered unusable during the South Atlantic winter. Without a harbour, tourism and fishing, the major sources of income on the island, would be severely reduced and the island would require a significant extra subsidy from British taxpayers every year.

To divulge estimated costs now would prejudice ongoing contractual negotiations. Final costs will be fully met by DFID and all funding will be classified as official development assistance (ODA).

The current population of Tristan da Cunha is 265. Average per capita income is £3,100.

Enhanced status and a Bill of Rights in Tristan's new constitution
Tristan da Cunha has enhanced its international status by virtue of its new constitutional title. Formerly part of the UK's Overseas Territory of St Helena and Dependencies, the Overseas Territory will now be called St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Even though the Territory's Governor will be resident on St Helena, the new constitution gives equal weight to detailed provisions for Tristan da Cunha, which encompass a bill of rights for its citizens.

The new constitution was ordered by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Court at Buckingham Palace on 8th July, laid before parliament on 15th July and will come into force on 1st September 2009.

For a full transcript go to the Office of Public Sector website which incorporates Hansard www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/uksi and see also our Government News and Constitution pages.
 Committee Debate on Relations between in the EU and the Overseas Countries and Territories
A meeting of the parliamentary European Committee held on Monday 27th October 2008 covered a range of issues relating to relationships between the UK, EU and the Uk's Overseas Territories. The full Hansard text will provide background reading for those interested in the UK's future strategy for managing OTs, but does not cover directly any Tristan da Cunha matters.

To read the Hansard transcript go to the official website page : www.publications.parliament.uk

Overseas Territories Report Published
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office published its Seventh Report on the UK Overseas Territories on 6th July 2008.
The Report contains in full two submissions by Chief Islander Conrad Glass (see also Chief Islander's Page) and by Dr Andrew James, Managing Director of Ovenstones Agencies, Tristan's fishing company. Conrad's second submission and Dr James' submission, both made in January 2008, both advocate that the UK Government push for more preferential tariff rates being applied to sale of Tristan fish products in China. Currently such imports attract a punitive tariff rate over 50%, and a preferential tariff rate of 16.7% (enjoyed by South Africa, Mexico and Australia) is being sought.
So it is encouraging that, in its key recommendation concerning Tristan da Cunha the FCO is urged to make representations to China so that Tristan imports can enjoy the preferential benefits enjoyed by other countries.

Key Recommendation (from the FCO Report)
We welcome the Government's swift provision of assistance to Tristan da Cunha following harbour damage and an outbreak of illness on the Island. We recommend that the Government continues to provide funding for projects on Tristan da Cunha, focusing on projects that will promote greater self-sufficiency.
We also recommend that the FCO makes representations to China to try to open UK-China trade arrangements to the sale of Tristan lobster.

You can view or download the entire report (in 2 Pdf documents totaling 552 pages!) using this link:
www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmfaff.htm

House of Lords British Overseas Territories debate on 5th March 2008
Full text available on www.publications.parliament.uk

Extracts that may be of interest to our visitors, chosen by the Website Manager for relevance - feedback on this choice would be welcome to webmanager@tristandc.com

Extract from a speech by Lord Anderson of Swansea drawing attention to the lack of attention to British overseas territories:
How could one explain the overseas territories to a Martian? They range from Bermuda, with the highest GDP per capita in the world; to the Cayman Islands, where 80 per cent of worldwide hedge funds are based; to Pitcairn, which used to depend on the sale of postage stamps; to areas such as BIOT—the British Indian Ocean Territory—and South Georgia, peopled only by soldiers and scientists. The only nexus appears to be the link to the Crown, and no policy fits all.

The Martian would also be puzzled by the paradox that this Parliament spends much time debating foreign countries over which we have no control and very little time debating the overseas territories for which we have sovereign responsibility. In passing, I should add that a way to remedy this in part would be an agreement that the system under which parliamentarians can visit EU and EEA capitals should be extended at least to Gibraltar, which is within the European Union.

Extracts from a speech by Lord Jones of Cheltenham

Thirdly, I want to talk briefly about St Helena. Its airport is vital; without it, the economy is unsustainable. St Helena costs the British taxpayer a lot of money at the moment—£14 million a year—and that will only increase. We need to get that airport. I do not know whether how far the airport has got is in the Minister’s brief, but the sooner it is started, the better, otherwise we will have a generation of Saints who have lived off the island and will probably not want to go back and it will be difficult to attract people back. There are 600 Saints—as they call themselves—on the Falklands, and they inquired whether, when there is an airport on St Helena, there will be a flight from the Falklands to St Helena so that they can get back to see their loved ones.

Can the Minister give us a report on Operation Zest in Tristan da Cunha? It relates to the wall of Calshot harbour, which needs urgent repair work. I think that a ship has arrived and that the Royal Engineers are due to start work soon. It would be interesting to get an update on that. Has the fire at the adjacent fish-processing factory had any impact on Operation Zest? The factory caught fire on 13 February; the Valentine’s night dinner had to be cancelled because it knocked out all the electricity. I understand that a new generator is now working properly, but I would like to know what plans the Government have to help to get that fishing industry back on track.

Extract from a speech by Baroness Verma:

Although the United Kingdom currently remains responsible for the 14 overseas territories, each choosing to remain under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the territories have full independence and enjoy a large degree of autonomy. Their economic survival currently depends on one or two core industries. Although they are not constitutionally part of the UK, most citizens of these territories have been entitled since 2002 to full British citizenship and the right to reside in the UK. The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, highlighted this.

The last report by the National Audit Office in 1997 considered the key factors in the relationship between the UK Government and its territorial counterparts. Among the points raised by the report was the effectiveness of UK government departments’ work with the territories’ governments, and despite the territories being a UK-wide responsibility it appears that much of the burden of responsibility falls on the Department for International Development and to a lesser extent on the FCO. Currently, DfID and the FCO have a total of 60 or so staff between them but maintain separate teams. Yet the need for other departments to take their share of responsibilities must be addressed if individual territories are to put processes into place that will build capacity holistically. My noble friend Lady Hooper spoke of the need to ensure that other departments play a far greater role.

The 1999 White Paper, Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories, laid down the future principles for the relationship between the UK and the overseas territories. These include mutual responsibilities, whereby the UK has the right to expect the highest standards of probity, law and order, good government and the encouragement of sustainable development. Although some of the territories such as Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands are developing and promoting good governance and implementing sustainable processes, huge improvements need to be made by others such as St Helena, Montserrat and Pitcairn, on which £28 million of the £48 million of UK funding is spent.

Does the Minister agree with the report that, in order to ensure that the British people have confidence in good governance in the overseas territories, all governing authorities must deliver timely public accounts and the legislatures must exercise proper in-depth scrutiny over the acts of the executives? The report found that in some of the territories, standards lagged woefully behind those expected in the UK, due to lack of capacity and the experience of local participants. The FCO and DfID should promote the appointment of ex officio members with relevant skills. Will the Minister say whether the Government will look into this recommendation?

Although the United Kingdom Government remain responsible for the citizens of the territories, it is also vital that the territories do not become financially dependant on the UK. As I said earlier, some are better than others at managing risk, monitoring territory public finance and diversifying economically. Will the Minister say what measures the Government have put into place to foster economic development in the territories such as Montserrat to reduce dependency? In 2005-06, Montserrat and St Helena received £28 million out of the total £48 million spend on overseas territories.

Many of the territories are at great risk from both natural and manmade disasters. Indeed, these have had an adverse impact on the Caribbean territories’ major sources of income, often through tourism. Will the Minister tell your Lordships what plans the Government have to ensure joined-up thinking in disaster planning, particularly with regard to fulfilling all elements of the disaster-management cycle of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery, and to ensure that local measures in the territories accord with international good practice? The UK’s exposure to risk in relation to the territories is varied, and includes meeting international obligations, funding liabilities and deficits and ensuring that the areas of regulation in sectors such as transport and the financial services are implemented. Although the report recognises that there has been a degree of improvement in the regulation of off-shore financial services, much remains to be done in centres that have weaker controls.

Only 10 per cent of the governors, deputy governors, desk officers and London managers have had any experience of the overseas territories, as has already been mentioned. Does the Minister recognise that this remains a weak link in trying to establish better governance, and that further steps need to be taken to establish a clear career path? Does he agree that the challenges faced by governors and territory officials often have cross-over issues, and that the promotion of shared practices and personnel exchange, such as short-term secondments, could improve the way in which some of the less efficient territories manage themselves?

Extract from a speech by Lord Bach

The FCO and DfID, who are responsible for the delivery of development assistance, share a close working relationship on many of these issues. For example, they are working jointly to influence European Union funding levels for the overseas territories. More recently, the two departments have worked very closely with the Ministry of Defence to deliver essential medical supplies to the remote island of Tristan da Cunha.

21st February 2008

Question in the House of Commons by Labour MP for Thurrock Andrew Mackinlay to Meg Munn, Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Andrew Mackinlay: What reports he has received on the recent fire at the fish-processing factory on Tristan da Cunha>; what steps he has taken to relieve hardship and protect the islanders' economy; and if he will make a statement. [187808]

Meg Munn: I can confirm that a fire destroyed Tristan da Cunha's fish-processing factory on 13 February 2008. The generators that provided the island's power were also destroyed. The cause of the fire has not been identified. Power is now being supplied from a back-up generator, until a new generator can be delivered to the island in March 2008. The hospital has 24 hour power.

Tristan da Cunha's financial self-sufficiency depends on revenue from its fishing industry. Tristan's fishing season is ending so the immediate impact on the island's economy is minimal. But the island's Administrator is working with Ovenstone, the company that runs the lobster fishing concession, supplies the island's electricity and owns the factory, to minimise the economic impact of the fire. The main concern is to maintain the revenue that the industry generates for the island and to minimise potential loss of earnings for those employed in the sector. Ovenstone are preparing contingency plans for the next fishing season, which begins in July 2008. Ovenstone has insurance cover in the event of fire and is already making plans to replace the island's power plant and build a new lobster-processing factory.

19th February 2008
Question in the House of Commons by Conservative MP for Croydon, South Richard Ottaway
to Meg Munn Secretory of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Richard Ottaway: The Minister will be well aware that the economy of Tristan da Cunha depends on the export of crayfish. Regrettably, however, despite being a British overseas dependent territory, it is denied access to European Union markets. Can the Minister explain why that is, and tell us what steps she is taking to remedy the position?

Meg Munn: It is true that the fish industry is extremely important to that territory, but I have had no recent discussions on the matter. It was not raised at the Overseas Territories Consultative Council. However, I will look into it further for the hon. Gentleman.

Uncorrected transcript of oral evidence made to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee discussing Overseas Territories matters on Monday 3rd December 2007.

Mike Gapes (Chairman) questioning The Hon Brian W. Isaac MLC, Member of the Executive Council, St. Helena, and answering questions on the possibility of a revised St Helena constitution -

Q41 Chairman: Mr. Isaac, may I take you on to some difficult constitutional issues? Without going into the history, the situation in St. Helena has become rather difficult constitutionally has it not? Why do you believe that the idea of ministerial government was rejected by the voters?

Brian W. Isaac: I find it difficult to answer that, but from the consultative poll the wishes of the people were for constitutional reform. Currently, the people of the island feel that we need to have constitutional reform, and that is on the agenda.

Q42 Chairman: So do you think that we are likely to revisit the issue as a whole, or is it going to be cherry-picked?

Brian W. Isaac: I think the wishes are to review the whole constitution, and a lot of work has been undertaken on that process. I think that people have realised the need for it, and hopefully within the next two years it will be very high on the agenda.

Q43 Chairman: Can you tell us what is happening on Ascension Island, because it is even more difficult there, is it not?

Brian W. Isaac: Yes. As elected members of St. Helena's Legislative Council, we do not have any autonomy over Ascension Island. Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha are the sole responsibility of the Governor.

Q44 Chairman: But they are dependencies of St. Helena?

Brian W. Isaac: Yes, they are, but we have very little working relationship with Ascension Island from the legislative side.

Q45 Chairman: So that is really a matter for us to address with the Governor, not with you.

Brian W. Isaac: Yes.

Q48 Chairman: At the moment, there are offices and UK representatives for the Overseas Territories. Do you think that it would be a sensible idea if the dependencies-Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha-had their own UK representatives?

Brian W. Isaac: Again, it is very difficult for me to answer that, because of the relationship with Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. St. Helena has its representative here in London, who has a very good working relationship with the island. But it is for the Ascension Island Government to take this matter forward.

Q49 Chairman: But the people living there are not actually represented in any real sense by St. Helena's representative in the UK?

Brian W. Isaac: No.

Q50 Chairman: Thank you. That is important.

Chief Islander Conrad Glass made a written submission to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee in October 2007 - see Chief Islander's Page for details

Question in the House of Commons on 13th December 2007

Tristan da Cunha: Overseas Aid

Sarah Teather(Brent East, Liberal Democrat) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance his Department is providing to the people of Tristan da Cunha; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Mr. Jim Murphy replied that
"
Tristan da Cunha is financially self-sufficient and therefore does not receive any direct budgetary assistance from the Government. The Department for International Development (DFID) is providing £60,000 for some off-island training activities and a review of options for Tristan to diversify its economy and increase its revenue. DFID provides a resident doctor, and a visiting dentist and optometrist, under its health programme for St Helena. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID are funding £107,000 this financial year from their Overseas Territories Environment Project budget for a number of small-scale development projects. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is also working closely with DFID and the Tristan Government on the emergency repairs of Calshot Harbour.

A recent viral outbreak on Tristan da Cunha has triggered a rise in the cases of asthma on the island. The island has enough stocks of the necessary drugs for this not to be an emergency situation now. Following close liaison with the Administrator on Tristan, DFID, the Ministry of Defence and others, however, we are making arrangements to provide an additional supply of drugs in advance of the next regular ship’s visit to the island at the end of January 2008. We hope to be able to deliver these supplies to the island on a Royal Navy vessel around 15 December."

Andrew Mackinlay MP seeks improvements in the governance of British Overseas Territories

Extract from a speech in the House of Commons on 6th November 2007 in response to the Queen's Speech in the House of Lords earlier in the day.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab):
"I now come to my final point. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs has embarked, to some extent at my prompting, on a review of our overseas territories. I think that the House has abdicated its responsibilities to the few thousand people peppered around the globe in the very small, residual, United Kingdom territories. People say, “Well, they have their own legislative councils.” Indeed they do, but their Parliament is this Parliament. If our country goes to war, the people of Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Falkland Islands do not sit it out; they are committed by the actions taken by our Government and Parliament.

There is great disparity in the wealth of our overseas territories. Some are demonstrably wealthy and self-sufficient, although the distribution of that wealth leaves an awful lot to be desired in some places; there are great disparities within those territories. Other territories are dependent on funding from London, and their people are in what you and I would consider to be poverty, Madam Deputy Speaker. They are out of sight and out of mind. The House should put aside some time for the subject, and there should probably be an institutional committee with ongoing oversight of the conduct, stewardship and governance of our overseas territories. At present we are singularly failing. That is in contrast to other countries: the United States, France, Spain and the Netherlands have the equivalent of overseas territories, but they give them some limited representation in their national legislatures. We are not fulfilling our moral obligations to people in our overseas territories, and it is time that the House did so."

Question in the House of Lords on 29th October 2007

Lord Jones of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty's Government: "What assessment they have made of the erosion of and consequent damage to the landing area in the harbour on Tristan da Cunha and whether they have any plans to carry out urgent repairs and improvements to the landing area."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Vadera) replied that "Halcrow Group has recently carried out a site survey and physical modelling of Calshot Harbour, Tristan da Cunha, on behalf of the Department for International Development (DfID). Halcrow Group is due to submit designs and cost estimates for the rehabilitation of the harbour by the end of October 2007. DfID will then seek expressions of interest from construction firms to carry out the work.

In addition to the rehabilitation work, Halcrow Group has recommended urgent repairs to the wave wall, dolosse slope, fishing quay davit and west breakwater, which cannot wait until the rehabilitation work has been tendered. DfID has instructed Halcrow Group to seek contractors to carry out the emergency repairs as soon as possible."

Tristan Administrator David Morley is awaiting firm news of the emergency work being carried out.