Question for Short Debate
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what rules and conventions govern whether the extent clauses of Acts of Parliament implementing treaties which the United Kingdom has signed extend to particular Crown Dependencies and British overseas territories.
My Lords, should this debate not run for an hour, the Committee will adjourn during pleasure so that the next debate can start at half-past five. Should there be a Division, we will of course adjourn for 10 minutes, and time can be added on to the time for the Question for Short Debate so interrupted.
My Lords, in many ways this is a debate about a minor issue, but one which is not at all unimportant. I have on a number of occasions raised the question of the extent clause—usually on the fourth, fifth or even sixth day in Committee, at about a quarter to 10 at night when everyone else wanted to go back—and, not surprisingly, have not got very good answers. There is very often obscure wording about an obscure and not very central relationship.
When I raised this some months ago on the borders Bill, the Minister responsible told us a great deal about the problems of maintaining a secure border between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, but he seemed unable to cope with my questions about how we made sure that the maritime border between the Channel Islands and the continent—a fairly narrow border—could somehow be managed and did not pose the same sort of problem for us. Clause 323 of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill was also extremely unclear to us. It proposed that some parts of the legislation should apply to the Bailiwick of Jersey but not to Guernsey, and to the South Atlantic overseas territories but not to the Caribbean overseas territories, let alone the British Indian Ocean Territory.
On the principle that Parliament should not pass legislation unless we understand what it means and, even more strongly, that Ministers and officials should not attempt to get us to pass legislation unless they can explain to us what it means, I thought that now was the time to raise this short debate. Perhaps I may quote someone to whom I spoke about the Committee stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. I was told:
“It is the settled view of officials within Defra that they do not wish to address this issue”.
I understand what they meant by that; it was a very minor issue and there were a huge number of other issues. However, that is part of the problem with the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories. They are not a central issue for anyone except the relevant bits of the Ministry of Justice. However, as globalisation and international legislation expands, the Treasury, Defra and a whole range of other departments across Whitehall increasingly find themselves dealing with issues that overlap into the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories.
The relationship between these territories and the United Kingdom is, as we know, relatively loosely defined. I see that the fifth edition of Bennion’s Statutory Interpretation clearly states:
“As the sovereign legislature of that part of Her Majesty’s dominions, the United Kingdom … has the same undoubted power to legislate for the Channel Islands”—
and the Isle of Man—
“as it has for any other part of those dominions … ‘in modern times the legislation for these islands has generally been by act of parliament’”.
Actually, legislation for those islands is usually by Order in Council, and what we get in the extent clause is that:
“Her Majesty may by Order in Council”,
agree to extend. Certainly, from talking to people in the Crown Dependencies, one learns that that is a matter of consultation. Again, we are entitled to know what consultation means in that process, who takes the actual decision at the end of the consultation and whether it is left to the choice of the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories authorities or whether, in the last resort, Her Majesty’s Government have the final say.
I have talked to people in the Channel Islands on many occasions, and I am conscious that many of them wish the relationship to be left unchanged, but I recall the first piece of evidence given to the committee in another place—whose report will, sadly, not be published until tomorrow morning—as stating that the sheer weight of international legislation from the European Union, the Financial Action Task Force, the OECD and a range of other global and multilateral negotiations and agencies is such that it is impossible for the relationship between the Crown Dependencies, the United Kingdom and the EU to remain as it has. That is even more the case for some overseas territories whose administrative capacities are even more limited than those of the Crown Dependencies.
The multilateral agreements that Her Majesty's Government sign for the overseas territories and Crown Dependencies cover such issues as nuclear materials, drug smuggling, people smuggling, environmental treaties—an increasingly important and complex area—economic sanctions, financial regulation and fraud and the International Criminal Court. They cover a whole host of matters. That is likely to increase further as negotiations proceed.
I have just spent the weekend in Brussels, at a transatlantic conference at which the head of the World Bank assured us that global financial regulation covering tax evasion, tax avoidance and a whole range of other issues was moving rapidly and will continue to move further. Many of our overseas territories and Crown Dependencies are now significant offshore financial centres. Those matters matter for them. They have negotiated with Her Majesty's Government that their international identity shall be respected and that Her Majesty's Government will on occasion provide representation for them, recognising that their interests are not always identical to those of the United Kingdom. That opens up another set of uncertainties, including how the United Kingdom provides such representation in highly complex and technical multilateral negotiations: how it manages to ensure that the dependencies and territories are regularly informed of what is being said and how correct it is for Her Majesty's Government to represent interests which are not their own in those circumstances. There is of course the minor question of who pays for the cost of that representation, which is another issue that I do not want to raise further at this point.
Tiny Crown Dependencies and overseas territories are now operating in a global system of regulation—not all of them with the capability to represent their interests, to take part in negotiations or to ensure the implementation of obligations to which Her Majesty's Government have signed up. They raise a number of questions that this Parliament ought from time to time to consider.
It is, after all, the stated belief of Her Majesty's Government and the Department for Communities and Local Government that the minimum efficient level for a local authority in Britain is somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000. Crown Dependencies and overseas territories are all way below that level. In effect, they are like county councils running international activities on a very large scale. Her Majesty's Government are responsible for the good governance of the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories. Her Majesty's Government sign international treaties and conventions on climate change, on financial crime, and on immensely complex international cases. I recall a recent case in Jersey where a well known drug smuggler who had been released from prison in the Netherlands was tried in Jersey for a drugs scam which involved several different countries and is now in prison in the United Kingdom. Jersey is now necessarily dealing with a whole range of different countries even in one case. I am conscious that a great deal of important litigation is under way in the courts in the Crown Dependencies.
When we have consulted the overseas territories and the Crown Dependencies and have sorted out how far, in signing international conventions, Her Majesty's Government are signing on behalf of all the territories under Her Majesty's dominions and are therefore responsible for implementing them throughout Her Majesty's territories and dominions, how do we ensure that the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories implement them? How do we check on the quality of that implementation?
My Lords, the constitutional standing of the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories has always seemed to me to be very mysterious. That is largely due to the fact that the Executive and legislature in the United Kingdom are not separated in the way that happens in many other countries, such as the USA or France. The Prime Minister and his Ministers are the chief officers both of the Executive, when exercising royal prerogative, and of Parliament, when it is legislating. The boundary between the exercise of the royal prerogative and the exercise of the power to legislate is extremely obscure.
Let us start by considering the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. They have never been part of the United Kingdom, but they have come under the control of the sovereign of England or, since 1707, the sovereign of Great Britain or the United Kingdom. One would expect, therefore, that the royal prerogative could be exercised over the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, but not parliamentary powers. That is not how it works out. That is to some extent recognised by the fact that in many cases where an Act of Parliament has been extended to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, that has been done by creating a power in the Act to extend it to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man by Order in Council.
My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire referred to Orders in Council. In constitutional theory, the Order in Council is an exercise of the royal prerogative, not of the parliamentary power of legislation, but we frequently find that an Order in Council is subject to scrutiny by Parliament—using the negative or affirmative procedure, but definitely involving scrutiny. A good example of that is Section 224 of the Extradition Act 2003. Sometimes, the Act operates directly without an Order in Council—for example, Section 152(6) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
Are there any rules and conventions which cover the extension of treaties to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man under an Act of Parliament implementing those treaties? If so, what are they? Does the same principle apply to overseas territories, such as Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Bermuda or the Cayman Islands? What was the process, for example, by which Gibraltar became part of the United Kingdom for the purposes of the European Union, but the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man did not? The British Overseas Territories are dealt with differently from the Crown Dependencies. Very rarely are the provisions on the face of an Act of Parliament directly extended to overseas territories, but Acts of Parliament do sometimes do that and still have an important role.
Whenever independence, for example, is to be conferred on a colony, there is an Act of Parliament to do this. If we look back 75 years to 1935, the immensely important Government of India Act of that year was passed and put India some way forward on the road to independence. Acts of Parliament traditionally had, in some respects, provisions to deal with what was happening in the colonies or what used to be the empire.
If Bermuda sought independence, as from time to time it has suggested that it might, presumably there would have to be a Bermuda Act. But, again, what is the procedure for legislating against the use of Grand Cayman for tax avoidance? What is the power, for example, that enabled the Government to remove from office politicians in the Turks and Caicos Islands on the grounds of corruption? What is the constitutional position of the British Overseas Territories? Does Parliament have more power, or less or the same, as it does in relation to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man? How far can Parliament legislate for these territories, or is that something which is normally left to the FCO or some other part of the Executive?
My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire has raised an interesting and quite important subject. The answers to many of the questions that he and I have raised is notably obscure, and I think we need a better explanation of what the rules are in these matters and what is the reasoning behind them.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire for raising this issue. He asked an important question which forms the theme of what I want to say, and that is: what does “consultation” mean when it comes to the extension of treaties? My noble friend Lord Goodhart has said that the relationship between the United Kingdom and its overseas territories and Crown Dependencies is somewhat mysterious. That, I think, is because it has grown up in an ad hoc way as a result of the various compromises, fudges and deals that have been done between the domestic legislatures of the various territories and the Crown and Governments over many years.
They are very diverse. The Cayman Islands are wealthy with a gross domestic product of nearly $50,000 per capita, which is certainly higher than it is in this country. They are a major banking centre with more than a trillion US dollars invested in assets, which makes the islands by some measurements the fifth largest centre in the world. They also have 80 per cent of the headquarters for hedge funds. All of this is based in an overseas territory which has been so badly governed that the legislature has been sacked and, for a period of two years, it is being run directly by the Government of this country. That is a complete paradox. Bermuda, referred to by my noble friend Lord Goodhart, has had its own legislature since 1605, so it is a very different sort of place. I mention also Pitcairn, which is inhabited by fewer than 50 people. These are certainly diverse territories.
How are these treaties to be extended to them? So far as the British Overseas Territories are concerned, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued guidelines on what sort of consultation should take place. In asking why the overseas territories should be consulted, the answer is that it is a matter of good policy and administration, and that the views of those in the overseas territories may be required to formulate the United Kingdom negotiating position on a treaty.
The next question concerning the guidelines is: when? They state that,
“consultation ... should occur during the course of negotiation of the treaty, if the subject of the treaty is relevant to the OTs”,
so that the Governments,
“can be made aware of the issues and can express any views or concerns”.
The guidelines emphasise that overseas territory Governments,
“must be given adequate time to examine a treaty and its implications, with advice as necessary from the UK … It follows that hurried or token consultation is not acceptable, nor is the assumption that an OT is content to accept, and is in a position to fulfil particular treaty obligations because it has not replied to any consultation”.
That is a very valuable guide. How it is applied is another matter. I have two examples here. Protocol 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty, was ratified in the United Kingdom in 2003 and has been extended to virtually all of our overseas territories, apart from the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Pitcairn. Why they should have no ratification or extension to them is a complete mystery. That is the purpose of my noble friend Lord Wallace's Question: why to some but not to others?
The United Nations Convention against Corruption was applied in this country by ratification in 2006 and, as the Minister knows, was the subject of much discussion when we considered the Bribery Bill. It has been extended only to the British Virgin Islands. Curiously, it has not been extended to the Cayman Islands, which is where corruption has been established and proved and the Government sacked. It has not been extended to any of the other overseas territories. We are looking for some principle that would ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines have been followed in relation to all the overseas territories.
I turn to the Crown Dependencies. A fortnight ago, I was fortunate to be able to give some refreshment to the Chief Minister and Chief Executive of the state of Guernsey and to get some grasp of their problems. As I understand it, a framework of international identity was adopted in 2006 between the Crown Dependencies and the United Kingdom. That signifies that the Crown Dependencies have their own international identity and that the United Kingdom will not act internationally on behalf of Guernsey without prior consultation. The United Kingdom recognises the conflict that can exist because the Crown Dependencies have a different status in the European Union from the United Kingdom as a whole. Obviously, there could be a conflict of interest there.
As my noble friend Lord Goodhart pointed out, the United Kingdom Government have entrusted the Crown Dependencies to negotiate and conclude their own international agreements relating to taxation. A matter of great concern to them is effective consultation. I have been told about three examples. On 17 July 2009, there was informal consultation about the United Kingdom’s intended ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Suppression of Nuclear Terrorism. The request was made on 17 July, and they wanted a response by 23 July, with the explanation that the Home Office team needed to confirm the position in advance of the September 2009 annual treaty event. Here was a serious matter, and a week was given for consultation. On 26 February 2009, the Ministry of Justice sought a response by the next day in respect of work that was being undertaken by Defra on an EU regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer. How on earth were the States of Guernsey Government expected to respond overnight on the issue of depleting the ozone layer? It beggars belief.
The draft Iran (United Nations Sanctions) Order 2009, which was to be made on 8 April 2009, was forwarded by the Ministry of Justice on 1 April 2009, accompanied by the comment that the opportunity to feed into the order had now passed. The Government of Guernsey were told about it a week before it was to be made, but told that they could not do anything about it because the opportunity to make any representations to the Government had passed. This brings me to the critical point that I would like the Minister to deal with. I have referred to the guidelines that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has published on extension of treaties to overseas territories. Has the Ministry of Justice, which for some reason has been asked to look after the Crown Dependencies, issued similar guidelines? Why is there a difference?
When I was asked to meet the Chief Minister of Guernsey, I said: “Why me? I have never been there in my life”. Then, to my surprise, this turned out to be a Ministry of Justice responsibility: I had not known that. That cost me a tea in the House of Lords restaurant—which was fine, because I learnt why I was being approached. I hope that I have been able to convey some of the concerns that were expressed to me, then and afterwards, about the lack of consultation. There is no point in having this framework in place if it is simply ignored. I await with interest what the Minister will say about that.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, will not have to wait long before we hear what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, says in answer to the questions put by him and other noble Lords, partly because I endorse much of what the noble Lord said. I, too, offered refreshment to the Chief Minister and Chief Executive of the States of Guernsey when they were over here seeing Ministers, my honourable friend Dominic Grieve and noble Lords including myself. I did not know why they were approaching me until they explained that responsibilities had been transferred from the Home Office to the Ministry of Justice. We thought that some of the responsibilities had not even been with the Home Office, but had been with the Foreign Office—
Is that right; it was with the Lord Chancellor? Anyway, they are now with the Ministry of Justice, which is why we are dealing with them today.
My first point deals with extent clauses. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that one does not get very good answers about such clauses because they often come towards the end of a Bill, which, as the noble Lord reminded us, comes fairly late at night on the last day. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, that we will have an opportunity to discuss many of these matters, certainly in relation to treaties, when we reach Clauses 24 to 28 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, which is scheduled for a Committee stage in due course. No doubt the Minister will be able to assist us on its timing when he responds, because that deals with treaties, and it should not be beyond the wit of man to table amendments to tease out the questions that the noble Lord wishes to ask.
As has become clear from the various questions, the relationship between the United Kingdom and all these different territories is pretty loosely defined and rather varied. We have the British Overseas Territories, which are mainly relatively small former colonies, and we then have the various Crown Dependencies, which again have rather different origins. The Channel Islands presumably spring from the Monarch’s role as Duke of Normandy. The Isle of Man is again somewhat odd. There used to be a figure called the Lord of Man. I believe that Lord Derby in the past was Lord of Man and somehow that was transferred to the Crown, but again the noble Lord, with all he has behind him, will be able to explain the relationship between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom and how it varies from that of the Channel Islands.
We then have Gibraltar which, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, pointed out, is now in the EU, as neither the Isle of Man nor the Channel Islands, in their three different states, is. On top of that, within the European area, we have the sovereign base areas in Cyprus, which again presumably have some other relationship, although I do not know how that comes in.
The territories are all varied in their origin, size and populations. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, pointed out, we have some as small as Pitcairn, with a population of barely 50; the British Antarctic Territory, which I imagine has no permanent population at all; and then some with populations of 70,000 or 80,000 or more which have had self-governing Assemblies of some sort or another, such as the one in Bermuda since 1604. They are varied in many different ways, and I rather welcome the diversity. I suspect that the Liberal Democrats do not like the untidiness that this seems to represent, but I would suggest that we should leave these arrangements in place as long as we can be fairly sure that there is a degree of good governance and a means of ensuring—such as those in the Cayman Islands—that things are run properly when the arrangements go amiss.
I was going to say a little more about the States of Guernsey because, as I said, I was also consulted by them and received a similar briefing to the one that the noble Lord received. It was right of him to underline those problems of consultation in which they were given such a short time to respond. I hope the noble Lord will give an assurance that in future they will have more time and ensure that the consultation is fair and proper.
I think that that deals with all the points that I wanted to raise, and I very much look forward to hearing from the Minister who in the department has specific responsibility for some of these issues—and Guernsey is certainly one of them. Perhaps he can assure us that the next necessary consultation will take place in exactly the right manner.
First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, on securing this debate. Parliamentary time is at a bit of a premium at the moment—I am not sure why—but he has done extremely well in getting this debate going. I know from talking to him and reading what he has written that he has had a real interest over many years in Crown Dependencies and overseas territories. I thank him on behalf of the House for raising this today, and I also thank other noble Lords, of course, for their interesting and informative contributions.
I, too, entertained the Chief Minister of Guernsey, whom I am glad to say I know very well. I am delighted for both the noble Lords, Lord Henley and Lord Thomas of Gresford, that his visit took place and that he had conversations with them. Otherwise, both noble Lords would have been shocked, when this debate was scheduled on the Order Paper, to find out that they were expected to speak for their respective parties.
Perhaps I can tell the noble Lord why. Not only did I have a cup of tea in the House with the Chief Minister, he was also invited to the parliamentary all-party annual football dinner on the first night that he was in London. I was glad to go along with him: he is a keen football fan and enjoyed it very much.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is right to say that I have responsibility, under the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, for this part of the department's duties. The Committee will know that the Ministry of Justice is responsible for relations with Crown Dependencies, and that Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is responsible for overseas territories. I respond today on behalf of both departments.
The UK is responsible for the international relations and defence of the Crown Dependencies. As has been said, they are not sovereign states. We are responsible for their international relations, and ultimately for their performance of international obligations. They are not part of the United Kingdom and are not represented at Westminster. They are self-governing: each has its own democratically elected Parliament, its own machinery of government and its own justice system. Their legislatures make their own domestic legislation, and Acts of the UK Parliament do not automatically apply to them.
While the constitutional position is different, the overseas territories are also separate jurisdictions, which constitutionally do not form part of the metropolitan United Kingdom, unlike the situation across the Channel. The residents of most territories are served by their own local legislatures, which were established under their respective constitutional arrangements. It is a long-standing convention that UK legislation is not normally extended to Crown Dependencies without their consent. In circumstances where it might be considered appropriate or desirable for UK legislation to extend to the dependencies, the usual practice is to consult them on the Bill and seek their views on whether and how provision should be made for it to extend to them. The overseas territories are not normally consulted on whether a general territorial expansion provision should be included in the Bill—the decision is taken by the UK Government—but it is the practice to consult them before such a provision is used to extend an Act to them.
Where we intend to extend the Bill to the territories, there would usually be prior consultation with them. It is recognised that each Crown Dependency and each overseas territory may have particular reasons for wanting or not wanting UK legislation to extend to it. For example, depending on the subject matter and the circumstances of the dependency or territory, including its own domestic legislative framework and constitutional responsibilities, it may decide that it would be preferable to enact its own similar legislation, instead of having the UK enactment extended to it. I hope that this goes some way towards explaining why any piece of UK Parliament legislation may not extend or permit extension to any or all of the territories and dependencies.
I move on to the question of international agreements. Being legally non-sovereign, the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories do not have international personality, and so cannot enter agreements of their own accord with sovereign jurisdictions. However, the UK can and does enter into such international agreements on their behalf; and where the UK ratifies a treaty or agreement, often it can also extend its ratification to include one or more of the dependencies or territories.
Where this occurs, we, the UK, retain responsibility in international law for all their international obligations. In general, when the UK is considering ratifying a treaty or convention, the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories are consulted about whether they wish the UK’s ratification to be extended to them. As and when the UK ratifies the treaty or convention, it will do so on behalf of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and any of the Crown Dependencies or overseas territories that wish the treaty to apply to them.
However, it is not always possible to include the Crown Dependencies or the overseas territories in the instrument of ratification, even though they may wish that treaty or convention to apply to their jurisdiction. Generally, this will be because they do not yet have the necessary legislation or other measures in force to enable them to comply with the obligations under the treaty. Rather than require them to work to the UK's ratification schedule, which may not be practicable for them or for us, the United Kingdom will sometimes extend its ratification to include them at a later date, once they have the necessary legislation or other arrangements in place.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, will know better than I that many, if not most, treaties are silent on territorial application these days. Only the European conventions and some others have territorial application provisions. Whether extension is to happen at the same time as the UK’s ratification or later, I assure noble Lords that there will be no extension unless and until the UK Government are satisfied that the dependency or territory concerned has all the necessary law or structures in place to meet the obligations of the agreement.
The UK is clearly supportive of the dependencies’ and territories’ understandable desire to promote their identity and reputation on the international stage, and the extension of international agreements to them is obviously an important aspect of that. Having said that, it is recognised that a particular dependency or territory may have good reason for not wishing to have an international agreement extended to it at a particular point, depending on factors such as the subject matter of the agreement, the domestic legal framework in the dependency or territory and the wider context. There may be some situations where we in the UK have a stronger interest in seeing an agreement extended to the dependencies or territories. In these circumstances, we would seek to follow the established process of constructive engagement with the dependency or territory with a view to achieving this.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, invited me to comment on the position where there may be a difference of opinion. If the UK and a Crown Dependency have a different position, we—that is, HMG—reflect that with the international partner. We invite the Crown Dependency to represent its own view to that international partner. For example, that happened between Guernsey and Iceland a few months ago.
We believe that, on balance, the arrangements that I have outlined continue to work well to the mutual benefit of the UK and the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said in his opening remarks, it is true that, just like us, the dependencies and territories operate in a fast-moving, ever-changing globalised economy. That relationship must evolve to reflect those changes.
Therefore, the UK sometimes gives the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories a measure of independence in their international engagement by the process noble Lords will know as “entrustment”. It is increasingly the case that dependencies and territories may, in some circumstances, run their own negotiations with other states under the entrustment, and so the ultimate control, of the UK. Under entrustment, Crown Dependencies and overseas territories may negotiate and conclude agreements with certain sovereign states, but only with the terms and conditions of a letter of entrustment issued to their Government under the signature of the appropriate UK Minister which, where appropriate, includes a requirement that the text of the agreement is submitted to the relevant Whitehall department for approval. This process has been used widely to enable territories and dependencies to conclude tax information exchange agreements and some other related agreements. We are looking at ways in which the scope of entrustment may be widened to dependencies.
The systems of government in the Crown Dependencies and the overseas territories may be somewhat different from those in the UK, but one size certainly does not always fit all. We believe that the dependencies and territories have an appropriate degree of flexibility to allow them to decide what will and will not work in their unique situations. The overseas territories are very different from each other. I emphasise that the UK Government keep a close eye on which treaties are excepted and when it would be desirable for others to be extended.
Before I finish, I need to deal with some questions. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked how we make sure that territories and dependencies comply and about the quality of implementation. Any UK legislation extended to the Crown Dependencies is registered by the islands’ authorities. That ensures that the provisions have been applied to the jurisdiction beyond any reasonable doubt. It also serves as a formal notification to the island communities that the legislation now applies there and reinforces its application. Before any international instrument can be extended to any of the Crown Dependencies, we must be satisfied that the island concerned already has the necessary frameworks in place to perform the obligations that will be extended. Making that judgment is likely to involve scrutiny of their legislation to ensure that it will support extension of the international instrument in question and that they fulfil their reporting obligations under any international instrument to which they are a party.
Can we intervene to ensure that overseas territories meet their international obligations? We maintain close contact with territory governments to ensure just that. Where it appears that a territory Government may be breaching international obligations, we would take up the matter with that Government to encourage them to take remedial action to comply. If that does not happen, we may, where appropriate, legislate for the territory by Orders in Council to ensure compliance. That is one of the issues about which the noble Lord was concerned. That would be a last resort, where the overseas territory would not or could not act to remedy the position itself. We work with the overseas territories to ensure full implementation of existing conventions applicable to them.
I apologise for interrupting, but what happens if the overseas territory lacks the capacity to implement the obligation? I am thinking of the huge issue of marine conservation for which the overseas territories—mostly islands—have large responsibilities. I happened to be listening to an American admiral a few days ago talking about the huge problem of enforcement on the oceans. Very few of our overseas territories begin to have capacity to enforce the obligations that we are taking on in these international conventions for marine conservation. How do Her Majesty’s Government cope with that sort of issue?
I hope that I will have some detailed advice on that in a moment, but I understand that we do not extend international treaties that we enter into to the overseas territory unless we are sure that it can play its part in implementing the treaty. That is exactly why we do not extend all treaties to all territories—for the very reason the noble Lord gave, they do not all have the capacity.
I am conscious that I have spoken for much longer than I should have, but I think that we are still within the allotted time. I shall try to answer the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked me arising from his tea and briefing with the Chief Minister. I acknowledge that from time to time there has been a problem with late consultation. It has largely been caused by departments discovering only at a late stage that a task on which they are working may have implications for the Crown Dependencies. By the time they approach us at the Ministry of Justice, there is sometimes very little time left for the islands to respond. However, I make clear that this is by no means always the case. There are some very good stories of officials in government departments being very keenly aware of the need to take the Crown Dependencies’ interests into account. We accept, however, that there is still work to be done in this field. We are developing documents which, among other things, set out the responsibilities of government departments towards the Crown Dependencies. One of the examples that the noble Lord gave the Committee related to sanctions orders and Iran. Sanctions orders are rather exceptional. The UK must implement UN sanctions resolutions as soon as possible in respect of the entire territory of the UK, which includes for these purposes the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories. Therefore, it is not always possible to offer as much time for consultation as we would wish to give on other draft orders.
I hope that there is one message that we may take away from this short debate—that those of us who look after the UK’s relationship with the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories take our responsibilities and international obligations seriously. I am confident that the constitutional relationship with the dependencies and territories, which is not always easy to describe but which works pretty well, has evolved and will continue to evolve in a way which safeguards our interests and those of the Crown Dependencies and overseas territories.