THURSDAY, NOV. 24: Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for the Overseas Territories, hosted the Overseas Territories Consultative Council (OTCC) on 23-24 November 2011 in London with Premiers, Chief Ministers and other elected representatives from Britain’s Overseas Territories in attendance.

On the first day of the annual meeting, the Foreign Secretary addressed leaders and stressed that the Overseas Territories are a priority for the UK Government. He said, “My Ministerial team in the FCO and my colleagues across other Government departments will work tirelessly to ensure that our partnership promotes the best interest of all our citizens and a bright and successful future for the Overseas Territories.”

There were also discussions on the Government’s new Overseas Territories strategy and forthcoming White Paper, as well as sessions on aviation safety; financial regulation, financial crime and taxation. Discussions also covered good governance, financial management and economic planning, with Ministers from the Departments for International Development, Ministry of Defence, Treasury and Transport attending on that day.

A further eight Departments attended the second day, with UK Government Ministers and senior officials participating from the Departments of Education; Communities and Local Government; Culture, Media and Sport; Home Office; Business, Innovation and Skills; Work and Pensions; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and Energy, and Climate Change. They discussed with Territory leaders ways to assist the Territories, in line with the new Government-wide approach to supporting the development of the Overseas Territories.

Henry Bellingham said, “This Government has a clear vision for our Overseas Territories to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people. I had bilateral meetings with the Territory leaders on Tuesday and chaired my second Overseas Territories Consultative Council on Wednesday and Thursday. I was pleased to welcome over 250 guests to a reception that I hosted in honour of Territory leaders. Our discussions at the Consultative Council have been wide-ranging and constructive.

“We have made good progress in the last year in developing our approach to the Overseas Territories. We are investing heavily in the Territories that need the most assistance, including building an airport on St Helena as well as significant development work in Montserrat and on-going work to restore the principles of good governance and sound financial management to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“We discussed global economic challenges and how the UK and Territories are taking action to strengthen public financial management and diversify economic development. We also discussed with Territory leaders ways in which we can build a stronger partnership, including by enabling the Territories to access UK public sector expertise and training – especially through secondments; and by strengthening links and engagement with the Commonwealth and EU.

“I am glad that nine of my Ministerial colleagues from across Government were able to attend the Consultative Council this week, a clear demonstration that the UK Government as a whole is supporting the Territories, and not just the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development. We will continue to work closely with the Territories as we prepare for the publication of our White Paper on the Territories next year.”

The Overseas Territories welcomed the inclusion of other UK Government Departments in the consultations and expressed appreciation for the support they offered, especially in these difficult economic times.