British Overseas Territories Bill - 2001
The Montserrat Reporter is pleased to offer its readership the links to the relevant documents associated with the proposed granting of British Citizenship to the citizens of the 14 remaining Colonies/British Dependent Territories.
Note we have extracted what we consider to be key sections, but we do not presume that they are the only ones you would consider important, so do follow the links to read the full documents as well.
Key Explanatory Notes:
3. There are fourteen British overseas territories: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena and Dependencies, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
"The total number of BDTC is around 200,000."
7. The Bill is designed to give effect to these arrangements, by supplementing or amending the 1981 Act so as -
(a) to replace references to "dependent territory" with "British overseas territory and to rename "British Dependent Territories citizenship" as "British overseas territories citizenship";
(b) to grant British citizenship to everyone who is a British overseas territories citizen (BOTC) at commencement (except for BOTC of the Sovereign Base Areas);
"BOTC who become British citizens will retain their status as BOTC unless they renounce it; and they will be able to renounce British citizenship if they do not want it."
26. Schedule 2 repeals provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981 and the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983.
Key sections of the Bill:
3 Conferral on British overseas territories citizens
(1) Any Person who, immediately before the commencement of this section, is a British overseas territories citizen shall, on the commencement of this section, become a British citizen.
Proposed Amendments: (Note
that all of the proposed amendments have been withdrawn at the Committee stage)
Important proposed amendments: Amendments 2, 3, 11A, 12
|2||Page 2, line 29, at end insert—|
|"( )||The rules governing European Union citizenship and member states of the European Community shall not extend to British overseas territories citizens who claim British citizenship."|
|3||Page 2, line 29, at end insert—|
|"( )||The conferral of British citizenship by this Act shall not affect the relationship between each British overseas territory and its citizens."|
|11A*||Insert the following new Clause—|
|"British overseas territories: rights of British citizens|
|Any person who qualifies to be recognised as a British citizen under this Act is entitled to receive such rights and benefits as if he were settled in the United Kingdom."|
|12||Page 3, line 14, at end insert—|
|"( )||The provisions of this Act shall not come into force, in a qualifying territory, until such a time as it has been ratified by that territory."|
Baroness Amos' Speech:
Important interpretations by Baroness Amos:
"Clause 3 explains how British Overseas Territories citizens will automatically become British citizens, with the right of abode in the UK, on commencement of the citizenship provisions of the Bill. In other words, they will not have to apply for citizenship, although they will have to apply for a British passport to show documentary evidence of their new status and to facilitate travel. The date of commencement will be decided by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by statutory instrument, once we are satisfied that the practicalities for implementation of the citizenship provisions are in place. We need, for instance, to ensure that arrangements for passport issue are agreed and that the staff who will deal with passport and nationality questions are properly trained."
"Clause 5 further amends the 1981 Act so as to provide for acquisition of British citizenship for future generations having the requisite connection with any of the qualifying overseas territories. British citizenship will mean that British Dependent Territories citizens will have the right of abode in the United Kingdom and the right of free movement and residence, and with it the opportunity to work in European Union member states. In short, my Lords, they will have the same rights as you or I. They will be able to visit friends and relations or travel for business or employment without being subject to immigration controls. I know that this has long been a bone of contention. BDTCs have never seen it as fair that they should be subject to immigration control and have to pass through the non-EU channel on arrival at UK ports and airports."
"We estimate that around 200,000 people could become British citizens on commencement of the Act. The number is an estimate because it is as yet impossible to tell exactly how many people will benefit. Nationality is a complicated area and beyond those who already hold British Dependent Territories passports will be others who will come forward after commencement on the basis of the naturalisation or registration criteria in the British Nationality Act 1981."
"But I should make clear that there is no compulsion about acquiring British citizenship. We believe that most people will want it, but British Overseas Territories citizens, as the Bill proposes they be known in future, will have the option to renounce British citizenship, and to retain their current status, should they so wish."
You can access the full text of House of Lords debates in Hansard at the
If you wished to keep informed on the future progress of this Bill you can do
so by accessing the House of
Commons Weekly Information Bulletin.
In Montserrat public debate has so far been limited to a few statements by Browne and Fergus.
I am unaware of any steps taken by either the GoM or the Governor to make the details of the Bill or its explanations available to the general populace who will all become British Citizens.
MP Chedmonde Browne
BROWNE’S TAPED INTERVIEW
Keithstone Greaves for the BBC – July 25??, 2001
I’m talking to Chedmond Browne, MP in the Montserrat Legislative
Council. Cheddie, tell me a bit about this British Overseas Territories Bill
that is now before the British Parliament.
You seem to have some areas of concern as it relates to this particular
bill and Montserrat.
British Overseas Territories Bill has been in the making for quite some time.
In 1999, the British Government issued a white paper that in fact stated
specifically that at some specific point in time, it would grant, not grant, but
I choose to use the term, impose because it is going to pass a law in Parliament
making all natives or nationals of the remaining territories, citizens of
Britain and this has now come to pass.
The bill has now been tabled in Parliament.
It has now has its second reading in Parliament and it is just a matter
of time now before the Secretary of State declares that the law has been passed
and all nationals of the remaining territories are British citizens and I do
have a lot of concerns about the issue.
What are your specific concerns?
Now you are speaking on this matter as an MP in the Montserrat
Legislative Council and as you clearly pointed out before the start of this
interview, not, and I repeat, not as a spokesman of the ruling NPLM Party.
Yes, I can’t claim to represent Government’s position but, I, as a
member of Government and an elected official of this country, I feel I have the
right to state my position and concerns.
And one of my basic concerns about this citizenship bill is, for me,
while it appears to be a positive move and a move in the best interest of the
colonies at the lowest level, at the highest levels, to me, it is an act that is
a blatant attempt to circumvent the UN mandate on decolonization and to use this
false creation of citizenship as a means to impress upon the UN and the
international bodies that the remaining dependent territories are no longer
colonies because they have now been integrated and granted full citizenship into
the British empire.
And for me, at that level, we need to understand that this is where for
me the major concern comes.
So what you’re saying, this British Overseas Territories Bill that’s
before the UK Parliament will in some way put, through off course, for want of a
better term, the moves or the thrust toward self-determination, eventually
independence, that sort of thing?
Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.
I am saying right now that the white paper was written on a foundation of
partnership can be replaced by the term, free association.
If we agree to a partnership with Britain, we are in fact expressing,
supposedly expressing our right to self-determination through free association.
So the partnership in the connection with the citizenship, can also be
also be used by the British Government to say that we have freely chosen to
associate with them by accepting their imposition.
So, this in itself allows them to argue, legally argue at the United
Nations level that we are no longer a colony.
And if we are no longer a colony, our pursuit of self-determination
through the UN protocols will no longer be available to us.
And I am saying that in order for them to be transparent, the British
Government, the British Parliament, should document specifically that this
citizenship bill will not, will not detract, or derail or stop the remaining
dependent territories and especially the island and the colony of Montserrat
from continuing to pursue its right to be a self-determined people and country.
We should insist that they give us proper documentation, specifically
written that states clearly that this integration through the offer of
citizenship will not in any way, form or fashion stop us when we so desire to
break the partnership, so to speak and to take ourselves out of the British
clutches and establish ourselves as an independent nation.
How much discussion, if there have been any, has there been on this
particular bill in the local Parliament and among the local populace?
There has been none; just rumors and gossip, and just individual people
going about pushing it as an extremely positive thing because a lot of people
believe, which I feel is a false belief also, that number one they are going to
get a European passport, which in, the Bill says Dependent Territories
So what we are going to get is a clause that says that dependent
territories are now citizens of Britain, oh yes, the Overseas Territories.
So in the passport, it’s going to say an Overseas Territories Citizen,
in the first instance; that is what it’s going to say.
In the second instance, we are not going to get European Union passports.
In the third instance, we are not going to have free access to the United
these are the things that are being pushed at the street level at the mass level
by people who know that they can benefit from getting this passport.
As far as it relates to your Party, has this come up in anyway as a Party
debate topic or within the ranks of the Party to look specifically and educate
the public on this particular bill?
It has been discussed briefly on one occasion that I can remember and
basically the consensus from them is that they have not looked beyond the fact
that there is a personal benefit to be had … From their perspective, there is
a personal benefit to be had from holding a British passport.
They have not gone beyond that.
So to say that there’s been any in depth discussion on the issue, I
can’t say yes.
I can say there has been discussion on the issue over the argument of the
fact that many of them feel that holding a British passport is of intrinsic
benefit to them.
Would you say that with you coming out and going public on this
particular bill, the British Overseas Territories Bill is in anyway saying that
you’ve lost faith in your Party structure?
You taking a particular stance on this, is this a sign or a signal that
you are in anyway going against maybe the Party line or anything of that sort?
No, I wouldn’t look at it like that.
I mean, I’ve been active in the politics of this country for 30 years
and my position has been consistent.
My foundation is based on self-determination.
I entered the Party on a foundation of the need to continue the
educational process for an eventual self-determination issue.
So what I am doing, or what I am speaking on is tied still to that same
have self-determination in our Manifesto and I presume that it is my task as the
person who has singularly promoted it over the years to continue to promote it.
And anything that I see that is going to detract from that thrust, I feel
I have a right to speak on the issue.
So would you say your position is clearly understood or your position is
well known by the other members of your Party?
Yes, I would say that it is clearly understood.
I am not saying that they are going to agree. But I would say that they
clearly understand my direction.
I have been consistent and I continue to be consistent.
KG: Mr. Browne, thank you very much.
Read more from Mr Browne at: http://www.geocities.com/brownec/
Sir Howard Fergus
The Proposed UK Citizenship Status for British Overseas Territories including Montserrat
Professor Howard Fergus
have been invited to comment on the issue of UK citizenship for Montserratians
and therefore offer these observations as a citizen of Montserrat and a UWI
do not necessarily share the view that the British Government has ulterior
motives in granting us British citizenship which carries the right of abode in
the United Kingdom and by extension in Europe, hopefully. In fact, the rest of
the 150,000 souls in British Overseas territories have Montserrat to thank for
whatever benefits the new status brings; for it was our crisis and plight that
dramatized the disadvantageous situation under which supposed British subjects
lived in these colonial outposts, and led in part to the new development.
have long regarded the deprivation of the right to live and work in the UK as
discrimination. During an earlier term as Chief Minister, Mr. John Osborne
agitated about it and continually compared the citizen status of Montserratians
with that of the people of Gibraltar and the Falklands who enjoyed special
privileges with and in the UK. The comparison was also extended to Guadeloupe
and Martinique which are departments of France and whose citizens enjoyed the
same legal rights as persons in metropolitan France. In reply to queries, the
British tended to use the relatively large population of Hong Kong as a partial
excuse. So really, this particular fall-out of the eruption was long desired by
not everyone welcomes the new status, but the vast majority does, and I have
encountered irate persons who are impatient with anyone who suggests that we
should not take the offer. While I do not anticipate any major efflux of our
people to the UK, they will wish to enjoy certain benefits related to healthcare
and education and other options which come with the new status. A number of
Montserratians who have lived abroad are busy trying to obtain Montserratian
passports for their children who are not Montserratians, in order to secure for
them the new rights and entitlements.
my view, what we need to be concerned about is not whether we will be able to
attain independence. The collapse of our economy and the consequent utter
dependence on the British have already setback any independence agenda that
there might have been. And this optional British citizenship which is on offer,
does not prevent the people of Montserrat from gaining independence, if that is
their constitutionally expressed wish. What we really need to be concerned about
is the scope of the citizenship package that we will receive. If, for instance,
Baroness Rawlings of the House of Lords has her way, “the rules governing
European Union citizenship and member states of the European Community shall not
extend to British overseas territories citizens who claim British
citizenship”. This is precisely one of her proposed amendments to the Bill and
it can only mean, if it is carried, that we will not have the right of abode in
or not our people desire to live and work in Europe, I hope we strenuously
resist that level of offer. It will be tantamount, in my view, to an offer to
become an inferior subset of British citizens. The name of discrimination will
have been written all over this long desired right. It may still be a blessing,
but one that is damaging to our self-respect. I hope the British parliament does
not allow this to happen. Members of the ilk of the more understanding Baroness
Young must reject the attempt by Baroness Rawlings to assign to us an inferior
I suggest, may be the real issue and not independence. Not that I do not believe
in self-determination and independence for the future; I am a student of
history, but I am a realist. There is certainly some wisdom in this entry in the
2001 manifesto of the New PLM: “The New PLM does not intend to pursue
independence at this time”.
it is significant that Baroness Rawlings is proposing that the Act not come into
force in a territory until the territory itself ratifies it. We may have to be
careful what we ratify.
Comment: It is clear from the above statements that the Hon Sir Fergus supports a move to British Citizenship. However this particular statement was made prior to the withdrawal of all of the amendments he made reference to. I suspect he will see a need to speak again, especially when he realises that no benefits will accrue unless on is 'resident' in the UK.
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