Column: Why Are OTs Denied Representation?

September 11, 2015

Anthony W[Opinion column written by Anthony D C Webber]

Prime Minister David Cameron’s dissolution honours list creating of 45 Life Peers has been subject to intense criticism, reflected across the media.

He has been accused of affronting democracy and bringing the British Parliament into disrepute.

The unelected House of Lords, at one time in the past numbering just 50 Members, now has 831 Members, the second largest Parliamentary body in the world after communist China’s National People’s Congress of 2987. [ However, they have about twenty times the UK’s population, at 1,357 million people to the UK’s 64 million ].

The Lords has far too many Members who have been placed there for what can be politely described as the wrong reasons.

Interestingly the Tory supporting media has been in the forefront in expressing distaste and disapproval, believing the appointments will also damage the Conservative party.

What has been particularly surprising has been the arrogance surrounding David Cameron’s inner circle, refusing to respond to or take the slightest notice of those who expressed outrage, both before and after the appointments were announced.

It is behaviour similar to that of a King who feels he can do whatever he likes, grant patronage almost at will, but in the case of David Cameron, is it because he simply just does not care because he has said this is his last term as Prime Minister?

Why should all this bother the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda?

Firstly, because her Majesty the Queen plays a constitutional role in all such jurisdictions, to a varying degree.

The reality of that role is that the Crown has for many years meant the UK government, but the de facto taking over of the granting of Membership of the House of Lords by the Prime Minister, means that the status of the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories [BOTs] have become more diminished and less autonomous.

Although all have their own systems of government and their own Prime Minister equivalents, they all are represented on defence and foreign policy by the British government and whatever happens with the British Parliamentary democracy in some way affects them, even if it is by association only. The British government is ultimately responsible for their good government, and that right has never been challenged.

The problem is that the House of Lords is the UK Parliament’s second chamber, the equivalent to a Senate, and has important responsibilities as part of the British democratic system. The decisions of the British Houses of Parliament do affect the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, including Bermuda, in varying degrees. Unlike other countries, such as France, who have overseas territories representation in both their Houses of Parliament, the United Kingdom still has not brought in similar rights for British overseas voices to be heard.

It would not be quite bad not if there was just restriction from elected House of Commons Membership, but to be kept out of the House of Lords as well is particularly insulting, when the make-up of the House of Lords is examined in detail.

Just why should this ad hoc mixture of people have any say at all in affecting those jurisdictions which the UK has some form of responsibility for?

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the affairs of the three Crown Dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, and the Minister of State responsible has been Lord Faulks, QC, since January 2014.

Lord Faulks has never been elected and was only ennobled in 2010. Lord Faulks is also a Privy Councillor.

Where is the logic of having a person with no previous Crown Dependency connections being put in such a position of responsibility?

This is no slight to the capabilities and calibre of Lord Faulks, who appears to have had an illustrious legal career, but why cannot that position be held by a suitable Crown Dependency person who could quite easily be made a Life Peer and Privy Councillor?

Is this just a little insulting to the Crown Dependencies, that a key decision maker in their affairs is someone they have absolutely no say in appointing.

Why not create a small number of Life Peers and Privy Councillors who could serve on the Committee for the Affairs of the Channel Island as well? Why not have some a Privy Councillor for the Isle of Man too, who are in a slightly different position to Guernsey and Jersey?

The British Overseas Dependencies, including Bermuda, come under the UK’s Foreign Office Minister, James Duddridge, MP, the Falkland Islands under Colleague Hugo Swire, MP, and Gibraltar and the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas under David Lidington, Minister for Europe.

The constitutional procedures are complicatedly different for the British Overseas Territories, with a population of about 350,000 — with some 62,000 of those in Bermuda — compared with the Crown Dependencies’ approximately 290,000, but just why are they all denied representation on affairs which the UK Parliament and the UK government decides for them?

So, on a matter which could easily give such representation, why no Life Peerages given so that they could have some say in such matters?

No one could deny that there are plenty of suitable candidates, from distinguished former politicians to those who have put in outstanding public or business service.

This omission is glaring, but in view of the quality of the new Life Peers recently announced, and indeed of Life Peers generally, is not the lack of anyone in the Lords to put forward the views of Crown and Overseas Dependencies, an oversight which has now become an affront to them?

Is it not also an affront to deny all but Gibraltar from participating in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU?

All are affected in various ways by the UK’s membership, but currently will have absolutely no say in the outcome.

Maybe, Gibraltar can assist the case for everyone else?

- Anthony D C Webber served as an elected Member of Guernsey’s Parliament for 13 years, and is now a Crown Dependencies’ and British Overseas Territories political analyst and commentator.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Underwhatrockdoyoureside/? says:

    Unfortunately, no one will be surprised at the arrogance showed by David Cameron.

    Look at the way the OT’s have been maligned as “tax havens or cheats” when London is by far the bigger, when the OT’s should be protected by Cameron.

    Why would he allow us a voice?

    Look at what he has given us, a Governor TOTALLY and DIRECTLY responsible for defense, external affairs and internal security that instead of leading the fight on crime and having an effective judiciary is quite happy to sit back and let local politicians slog it out like they actually have a say instead of being puppets to the whims of the FCO.

  2. San George says:

    Jokes – we are denied representation in our own constituencies. What’s the chance the UK is going to show us any respect? Power is not given, it is taken.

    Quo Fata Ferunt

  3. J Starling says:

    Interesting article.

    I think the entire British democratic system, encompassing its colonies like us, needs revamped.

    To me a federal system makes the most sense. England needs its own parliament, although it might be better to actually create a few parliaments devolved on a regional basis there (the north, the southwest, the southeast and the midlands perhaps?), and a federal parliament responsible only for non-devolved powers, so foreign affairs and defense I suppose.

    As long as Bermuda chooses to remain part of the British system, I do think we should have representation in a federal parliament, and have called for that in the past. Each colony should be able to send at least one MP to such a parliament.

    I am not convinced of the need for a two-chamber parliament. The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly work quite well as single-chamber parliaments, with checks and balances internal to them (greater focus on committees for example). However, if we are to have a second chamber, then it should be elected – and that goes for our own Senate.

    And don’t get me started on the need for an elected head of state! ;-)

    • SANDGROWNAN says:

      JS – I posted this in the other thread:

      I think, in principle, a hereditary head of state (a monarch) who perversely is also head of the state church would be considered by anyone with a functioning synapse to be utterly ridiculous. If you were starting from scratch, you’d never do this!

      All of that said, it works. Only progressives with their unthinking and self-regarding faith in their limited stock of reason, believe rationality should be the sole arbiter of how we should organize ourselves. For example, it’s not a coincidence that the countries which are best at equality overall (e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) also tend to be monarchies. Monarchies remind us that our fate in life is due not solely to merit but to luck, and thus increases public support for redistribution. Is it really an accident that monarchical Spain is more equal than presidential Portugal, or Canada more egalitarian than the US, or Denmark more than Finland?

      And what of the alternative? If we had an elected presidency, what sort of preening, self-loving narcissistic egomaniac would think they were capable of representing and symbolizing the nation?

      An elected presidency would thus symbolize – and so help entrench – our culture of ego, the belief that people are to be valued for who they are as individuals rather than for their roles. By contrast, a monarchy embodies the opposite principle – that people matter for what they do, not for who they are.

      I’m sure you’ve read this before JS, but I think the alternative is so much worse.

      Sure, it could be reformed with minor changes, in 1980 the Swedish Monarchy adopted equal primogeniture replacing its previous agnatic primogeniture system allowing the eldest child regardless of gender to inherit. Similarly the Act of Succession couold be modified to allowing the marriage of Catholics but not the sucession of Catholics to the Throne itself (due to the implications it would have for the Church of England).

      • J Starling says:

        I saw it and mean to respond to you in full there. As you took the time to compose such an argument I thought I’d respect such by responding in kind. Unfortunately errands have conspired against me doing your post justice. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll respond hopefully tomorrow.

        As this thread\post is not really about the monarchy, l hope you’ll forgive me for not responding here.

        Yours,

        Jonathan