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Dependent Territories

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the outcome of the review of policy towards dependent territories announced by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar), on 23 July 1986; and whether he will make a statement.

Following the concern expressed within the Commonwealth about the security of small states, and the suspension of ministerial government in the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have conducted a review of policy towards our five Caribbean dependent territories and Bermuda. We did so in the light of our commitment to the principle of self-determination and our determination to live up to our obligations under the United Nations charter, and our responsibilities for the good government and development of the dependent territories.The review concluded that we should not seek in any way to influence opinion in the territories on the question of independence. We would not urge them to consider moving to independence, but we remain ready to respond positively when this is the clearly and constitutionally expressed wish of the people.As a result of the review, we are, however, implementing a number of administrative measures to improve the effectiveness with which we discharge our obligations to ensure the good administration, and economic and social development of the dependent territories. The reasonable needs of the dependent territories will continue, as before, to be a first charge on United Kingdom aid funds.We are already undertaking a programme to improve the defences of the Caribbean dependent territories against the threat posed by drug trafficking, as part of a wider determination, in co-operation with the Government of the United States and regional governments to counter the drugs threat in the region as a whole.We reaffirm our commitment to the dependent territories and our determination to discharge our obligations in full.