Most of the UK Overseas Territories have their own local elected governments, yet the British Monarch is the Head of State and the UK Parliament (and, in practice, UK Government) has the power to over-ride local measures. This varies for different territories. 

Although the UKOTs are responsible for running themselves, the UK Government maintains responsibility for international relations, security and good governance. The precise arrangements differ for different UKOTs. It also has ultimate responsibility for the UKOTs on matters whereby the UK is the signatory of international conventions. This split responsibility for international commitments (UK) and the necessary legislation and implementation (UKOTs) was one reason for UKOTCF suggesting the sort of arrangement which the UK and UKOT governments later implemented as the Environment Charters. UK Government has recognised its shared responsibility for environmental matters in both the 1999 (page 36) and 2012 (page 14 and 43) White Papers. For our part, we are most concerned with matters relating to biodiversity and sustainable development; thus we take an active part in informing UK policy. Measuring the impact of this is difficult, but we attempt to do this periodically.

We are neutral in respect of political parties, and so brief all. It appears that briefing (including while the parties were in opposition) has had some benefits in bringing wider recognition as to the existence and nature of UKOTs to UK governments, as well as parliamentarians more generally. 

It is well recognised that attitudes to the UKOTs in the UK Parliament are important for influencing the approach of the UK Government, and that pressure from parliamentary bodies can significantly affect HMG policy. A number of points given in evidence by us to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee have been taken up in the Committees’ reports. We believe that this pressure has had an effect in relation to support for environmental protection in the UKOTs, whether changes are announced or made more quietly.

Crown Dependencies have had domestic autonomy for many centuries and, with the agreement of the UK Government, have been developing their international personalities. On entrustment from the UK, the Crown Dependencies may also negotiate internationally. However, the UK is still ultimately responsible for signing international treaty commitments; e.g. Jersey and Isle of Man have both had the Convention on Biological Diversity extended to them by UK at their request.

By linking the UKOTs and CDs there is much to be gained. They are, for example, of the same geographic scale. Following our early lead, UK Government has tried to include CDs in several initiatives, e.g. JNCC’s former Research and Training group which has seen tools such as Geographic Information Systems integrated into conservation practitioners tool-kit across the UKOTs and CDs.

UK Parliament Committees