25 April, 2009


Is it appropriate for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to continue to be the Department through which Anguilla relates to the British Parliament and Government? I read a transcript of the Westminster Hall Debate of 23 April 2009 with interest. The topic of the debate was the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee into the governance of the Overseas Territories by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

If you would like to read a short account of the debate, you can find it here.

The debate was three hours long. If you have the time to view a video of the entire debate, it is available here

The full text is available on the on-line Hansard here.

There were several aspects of the debate worth examining and writing about. The one I want to focus on today was an observation made by Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, and then to comment. He suggested that the FCO may not be the most appropriate British government department to have oversight of the British Overseas Territories.

This is what he had to say:

“This issue should not be under foreign affairs. They are not foreign; they are British. Why is it under foreign affairs? Why are British overseas territories — territories of Her Majesty the Queen — under the Foreign Office? They are neither foreign nor Commonwealth. They are not members of the Commonwealth in their own right. They are British overseas territories in the Commonwealth only via Britain, so they should not really be under the Foreign Office at all. They should be placed in the same Department, whichever Department that is, as the British Crown dependencies. Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the British Overseas Territories should all be placed together under one Department, but not the Foreign Office.”

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Anguilla and the other colonies in the West Indies were overseen by the committee of the Privy Council entitled, The Committee for Trade and Foreign Plantations. At that time in colonial history we were all labeled as “America”. So, there was the governor of “New York, in America”. There was the attorney-general of “Antigua, in America”, and there was the executive council of “Bermuda, in America”.

The Colonial Office replaced the Privy Council committee in 1768. It ran the colonies in the West Indies until late in the twentieth century. In 1968, with much of Africa and the West Indies having gone independent, the Colonial Office was merged with the Foreign Office.

As an aside, it seems to me that the philosophy behind the merger was straightforward. Those were the days when, as it was said, “Wogs begin at Dover”. Anyone from overseas was not really British, and was by definition foreign, or, worse, a wog. The thinking in Downing Street then, no doubt, was, we may as well lump the colonials and the Commonwealth in together with all those other wogs. So was born the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

British attitudes have changed. They do not think that way or speak that way any longer. [I sometimes think that we in the colonies learned from them too well. Many of the older ones among us, those over 30 years of age, still hold tenaciously to our juvenile race prejudices and fear of the foreigner. We think it make us culturally superior to those mongrel British who now promiscuously treat with all those foreigners. Little do we realise that it is just old-fashioned and outdated British race prejudice that we are aping.] As is so often the case with mimic-men, as Naipaul calls us, the original source of the behaviour has long changed, but we remain zombie-like, our prejudices frozen in the colonial past.

But, back to the main point. It is time for the UK to face up to the fact that Mr Rosindell highlights. It is an insult for us in the British Overseas Territories to continue to relate to the British Parliament and Government through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. A more relevant and suitable British Government Department must be found to replace the FCO in managing Britain's responsibilities in relation to the BOTs.

And, as an aside, is it not remarkable that they have their parliamentary and committee debates up on their website on the same day?

Related posts:

14 September 2007 - UK Relations


  1. Instead of nattering on about "crumbs from the master's table" and how we victims here in the colonies are so oppressed by the evil British, the APP would be better served by suggesting ways in which we can establish better communications with Parliament, which includes more than a few good people who want only the best for us.

    As we see in TCI, it is not the British who have victimised the people but those the people have elected to represent them.


    Mr. Mitchell,

    Who are you speaking for? Certainly not Anguillia.

    I am an Anguillian and live in Anguilla. What does it mean to be British? Surely there is some EU regulation that defines that?

    Signed: ANNOYED

  3. Yes, some Anguillians revel in their ugly underbelly of racism and prejudice. You see it in the above post by Annoyed. She knows that I was criticising her views. She is responding by suggesting that, in denouncing racism, I am not qualified to speak for real Anguillians. A real Anguillian, she suggests indirectly, enjoys being prejudiced and racist. Anything else, in her view, is a betrayal of Anguilla.

  4. Congratulations on publishing this information. The debates at Westminster Hall have not been reported here in the Channel Islands and so it is especially ironic that I learn about them from you, 3000 miles away.
    The need for a thorough reform of the relationships for all the OTs and the other "British" with London and the EU is urgent and the collapsing Finance industry makes it desperately so. How to get this information more widely known?

  5. It is election year, Mr. Mitchell, so we must expect to see a lot of deceitful stupidness from candidates and their supporters who attempting to build a career on inspiring hate or fear of foreigners, or investors, or the British. It's a way of saying "white people" without sounding like racists.

    And of course if we question them, they will attack our patriotism as Anguillians. We have either sold out to the British or have been brainwashed by them.

    They make Bunton look like a statesman.


    The British conspiracy against the “overseas territories” in the Caribbean gathers speed and now takes on its true sinister form.

    First THE BRITISH imposes a system of bad governance on the Turks and Caicos Islands and permits rampant corruption.

    Then THE BRITISH screams corruption. Then the BRITISH pretends to have a reason for the ANNEXATION of the remaining Caribbean Territories on the basis that they “cannot have a repeat of Turks and Caicos Islands,

    “British attitudes have changed. They do not think that way or speak that way any longer” (Don Mitchell’s statement)

    That is rich!

    The reality is that THE BRITISH are up to the biggest con job in the 500 year history of the Caribbean - the effective annexation and re-colonization of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands.


  7. Post your psychosis here. No waiting!

  8. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are
    being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any
    --Reichmarshall Hermann Goering

  9. Perhaps Samuel Johnson's most famous quotation is "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." The point, as I always understood it, is that appealing to loyalty to one's own country is the act of a demagogue, of one who will say and do anything to gain public approval and political power. Primarily, it casts those who disagree as unpatriotic, hostile to the institutions and interests of their own country. Honest disagreement becomes character assassination. Underneath the appeal is the exploitation of bigoted or prejudiced feelings of the masses.
    ..................James Leroy Wilson

  10. Mr.Mitchell,

    I am trying to find out what it means to be British!

    Why do you have to attack me and call me a “she”? That is not very British of you, and it is also un-Anguillian!

    Perhaps if I knew what it is to be British I will like it. Is it fox hunting? I prefer boat racing. Is it playing cricket? I prefer basketball. Is it drinking beer from a mug or eating fish and chips? What is it?

    If it is values like freedom and democracy, count me in. Anguillians and the British Foreign Affairs Committee would then be reading from the same page and singing from the same hymn sheet. That would make me 100% British and 100% Anguillian and there is nothing wrong with that!

    Most people in Britain seem determine to remain English, Irish, Scottish or Welch, as WE are determined to remain Anguillian.

    Signed: ANNOYED (now amused)

  11. Jersey is reading!


  12. The transcript of the debate is fascinating - thanks for the link. There were two sections of the debate that I thought stood out:

    1) Mike Gapes, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in his introductory remarks commented:

    "Our inquiry received allegations about corruption in other overseas territories, including in Bermuda and Anguilla. The Committee recommended that the Government should encourage the Anguillan Government to introduce anti-corruption measures and to hold an independent inquiry into the allegations that Ministers accepted bribes from developers. The Government have declined to do so and have told us that
    'no substantive evidence has come to the Governor’s attention that Anguillian Ministers have accepted bribes from developers. The Chief Minister of Anguilla has publicly rejected the allegations. Nevertheless, the Governor will ask the Government of Anguilla to explain how they plan to deal with the allegations made to the Committee.'

    In a letter to the Committee, the Anguillan Government commented that they were
    'not disposed to sanction a system of governmental accountability based on gossips, rumour and unproven innuendo'.
    They requested that the Committee provide more evidence for the allegations.

    Given that we were told originally by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that there were lots of allegations in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but that there was no evidence, I am not reassured by the position that has been taken so far. Will the Minister reassure us in her remarks that the Government are looking closely at these matters?"

    2) Given the recent arrival of Alistair Harrison as Anguilla's new Governor, the following comments by Gillian Merron, FCO Minister with responsibility for the Caribbean, spoken in response to the above comments of Chairman Gape, are also particularly interesting:

    "We have also revised the requirements on those being appointed to governorship to ensure that they have the right capabilities for the job and that they are clear about their responsibilities for good governance. We have also made it clear—I hope that this will be welcome—that Governors who raise concerns about good governance will have support from the FCO."

    Does this mean that Governor Harrison is likely to take a more activist role in taking up the cause of transparency and good governance in Anguilla?


    Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I will not detain the House long, because my two colleagues have covered a lot of territory, in more ways than one, and very effectively, but I want to pick up one or two points. What disturbed me—I think you will share my view, Mr. Bercow—is the uncertainty of our assumption that the House is ultimately the Parliament for all the overseas territories. They may have delegated legislatures, but if the House decides to go to war, those territories go to war. They do not have an op-out. This is their Parliament, and the UK Government can rescind and vary their constitutions as and when they wish.

    An Order in Council varying the constitution of a territory, whether extending powers or rescinding them, is a grave matter and should be subject to full consultation, with plenty of time, by the Select Committee. Parliament should have an institutional mechanism so that there is good time for variations in constitutions, whether by Order in Council or any other method. We should have adequate time to examine such orders in detail and to assure ourselves that there is acquiescence not only by the territory Government, but by the Opposition parties when they exist in those overseas territories.

    The issue underlines the wholly inadequate arrangements for oversight by the House of our legal and moral responsibilities for people in the overseas territories peppered around the world. It is a disgrace that, when we call ourselves a democracy, some people are denied access to this place. I regret that I could not persuade my colleagues to incorporate a robust recommendation in the report, but I invite them and the House to reflect on the matter. It is unacceptable that the overseas territories have no representation in or access to this place. As I said—I am not being flip—if we go to war, they go to war, yet they are denied that access. That is almost unique for overseas territories.

    ENJOY THE CONSTITUTIONAL EXERCISE And Mitchell's assurance of what the UK Government will do for Anguillians

  14. "Does this mean that Governor Harrison is likely to take a more activist role in taking up the cause of transparency and good governance in Anguilla?"

    It is the BRITISH who have an official secrecy act in Anguilla and will not reveal the decisions which are supposedly made on the peoples’ behalf in the Executive Council, of which the Governor is Chariman!

    Will Governor William Harrison provide a weekly report of Executive Council decisions? That would be a step in the right direction. It would go a long way on the transparancy dial.

  15. St. Helena's excellent Governor provides a detailed weekly summary of Executive Council decisions. He reads it on the radio and it is printed in the weekly newspapers. He has broken the longstanding gulf of secrecy between the people and those they elect to represent them.

    Anguilla's Chief Minister has promised to do likewise. He did it once, and since then it seems he can't be bothered to keep his word about this. I call upon Governor Harrison to fulfill the FCO's mandate to him regarding good governance. I offer him a choice. Make it happen starting tomorrow, , get Stanley to do it starting tomorrow, or do it himself starting tomorrow.

    It was mocked as Britain's "Bay of Piglets," and one war correspondent cabled Fleet Street from the battlefield: "I say, chaps, the natives are friendly."

    That was forty years ago, when then Prime Minister Harold Wilson sent a company of paratroopers to capture the tiny (35 sq. mi.) West Indies island of Anguilla, a onetime possession cutting loose its British apron strings.

    The islanders had tried and rejected a British-sponsored association with the neighbouring islands of St. Kitts and Nevis; now they wanted the status of a state separate and apart from St.Kitts and Nevis. The British would not hear of it, so the plucky Anguillans, 6,000 strong, proclaimed their independence and severed all ties with the mother country. Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister,launched "Operation Sheepskin" and sent in 340 troops, later reinforced by 80 policemen. It was the domino theory, Whitehall solemnly insisted. If one territory were allowed to go its own way, all the rest would want to go theirs.

    Prime Minister Edward Heath's Conservative government eventually came to the reluctant conclusion that the Anguillans simply would not accept an association with St.Kitts , and that colonial status for an unspecified period was the best course for the island. In 1971 a Bill was quietly introduced in Commons to make Anguilla a colony once again.

    Plucky Anguilla in 1967-1969 was referred to as the “mouse that roared”. How can Anguillians roar in 2009 with Mr. Mitchell sticking his British boot into our mouth every time we venture to open it?

    That is why I asked before and I am asking again - who are you speaking for Mr.Mitchell?

    Signed: ANNOYED

  17. After the Foreign Affairs Committee suggested to the Foreign Office that a Commission of Inquiry in Anguilla would be useful and appropriate, the Chief Minister responded that he welcomed such an opportunity to clear the Ministers' names, and he would ask that Don Mitchell and Harry Wiggins be appointed as Commissioners.

    As he often does, Mr. Fleming later changed his story and suggested that an inquiry would be insulting and unnecessary. (Percy Thomas suggested last night that Mr. Fleming speaks with two tongues as a result of a birth defect, which I thought to be rather unkind.)

    It would be a pleasant change to learn that Anguilla once again has a Governor who has some leadership qualities.

  18. “LEADERSHIP” by a colonial Governor?

    No thank you! We just want the Governor to do his job properly.

    We do not see a colonial governor as an institution. Most of the time, the problem is the Governor and his usually incompetent Attorney General, brought in from God knows where for God knows what purpose. It certainly is not for his knowledge of the law!

    What we want in Anguilla are the rebuilding and strengthening of our democratic institutions, to act as checks and balances on the Governor and his deputy when they get too arrogant and on the Executive council when it gets too carried away.

    No disrespect to the office of Governor, but we have seen all types come and go and we never know what devil is coming next.

    As for speaking with two tongues - it would take a book to deal with the perfidious antics of those with real power and authority.

    Perhaps that book should start with the promise to allow the people of the Chagos islands to return home!

  19. "Perhaps that book should start with the promise to allow the people of the Chagos islands to return home!"

    That would be nice.

    Maybe the FCO finally sent a no-nonsense, intelligent and incorruptible "governor" to deal with the problems in AXA. I'm not going to hold my breath. For too long, that is. - Scotty


    "Friends and fellow Anguillans ... I am with you and will remain with you until I am no longer required ... Do not sell your leader's birthright for a dish of porridge. Remember what Judas did to Christ. Beware of false prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing."

    9th April 1969 “Radio Anguilla’s” First broadcast- Ronald Webster

    Anguilla was the poorest island in the Leeward Islands and in derision was called “the backwater of the Caribbean.” It is this abject poverty and neglect and the unpopular union with St. Kitts, dating back to 1825, that influenced the proud and independently-minded Anguillians to strive for separation for almost a century and a half.

    Anguilla has resisted several attempts of outside plunder and domination. The historical accounts of the French invasions and raids by a party of “Wild Irish” and Carib marauders and of being abandoned by the British and left to starve after the islanders refused to be transported to Guyana and Trinidad in 1840 are evidence of the Anguillians’ struggles for survival and the protection of the integrity and freedom of their island.

    It is the only island in the Caribbean that has successfully achieved separation from any political or constitutional grouping and it has done so without bloodshed. It is now a proud, unrepentant and considerably prosperous small island state.

    It has become the British Crown Jewel, and therein lies the issue of new millennium colonization. The question is will Anguillians allow the British to return us to a system of government resembling plantation slavery in the 17th and 18th century or will we demand a democratic form of governance.

    It is obvious from their postings that expats such as Mr. Mitchell and Scotty seem to prefer the former. Why shouldn’t they? Historically they have a seat at the master’s table and it is uncanny how little that aspect of colonialism has changed! As a concerned Anguillian I prefer the later. Anguillians are taking the British seriously when they talk about freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and go to war to give other people freedom and democracy.

    His Excellency Governor William Alistair Harrison held his first press conference yesterday, and if one were to take him at his word, it sounds as if he is interested in a proper system of democratic governance and not cold war politics between Anguillians and the British!

    In that case the new Governor and the British Government will have our full support. If he "messes up", we are ready to complain against him or "them" as our ancestors did back in the day: by way of petition to her Majesty The Queen.

    Let the colonial games begin!

    Signed: ANNOYED

  21. Annoyed, no one (at least not I) wants a return to the days you speak of. What we want is accountability. Feel free to insert other aspects of an open and honest gov't into that blanket statement. If you feel Anguilla is well managed, corrupt or not, then more power to you. Unfortunately, us "outsiders" see it differently. I'm no expat, nor do I stand to rape and pillage the riches (former) of AXA. Your representatives are doing just fine in that department. Until recently, the UK has brandished a hands-off approach to the insanity, allowing your country to sink deeper in denial. That may have changed last week. We'll see. - Scotty

  22. Of course you outsiders see it differently. You are looking for weapons of mass destruction.


    1= Denmark

    1= New Zealand

    1= Sweden

    4 Singapore

    5= Finland

    5= Switzerland

    You will notice that the Governor's country is not even on the list!

    What is being done right in these 5 countries is what we want to do right in Anguilla.

    The "hands-on approach" British speech is like talking about washing your face with paint.

    Rape and pillage? You are certainly confusing Anguilla with another island if you are only a visitor.

    That old trick has been tried before. In 1969 it was the "gambling mafia".

    The Lord Proprietor system of Governance works most injuriously against the people of a colony. So again I say, thanks , but not thank you.

    Anguillians want democracy, the same as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar. The same as freedom loving people everywhere.


  24. ANNOYED seems to deliberately miss the point over and over again. Mr Mitchell has not been elected to speak for anyone. I understand what he means when he says he is only speaking for himself.

    ANNOYED also misses the point about sleaze and corruption. Yes, the British have as much sleaze, if not more, than we do. The difference is that they condemn it and punish the offenders. We just wink our eye and turn our head away. We want to be the one who benefits. At most, when we condemn the minister who arranges contracts for his brother, we wish we could be doing it for our own brother. The British try. We just act sly.


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