Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting: Coordinator's Summary
Please find below a summary from the latest Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting, provided as ever by David Snoxell, the voluntary coordinator of the group and former British High Commissioner to Mauritius. Many thanks to Mr Snoxell for compiling the summary.
Issues including Government funding for resettlement, the lack of compensation for Chagossians exiled in The Seychelles and future meetings with Ministers are discussed.
Coordinator's Meeting Summary
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 52nd meeting on 9 December. Paul Monaghan MP was elected as a Vice Chairman. The Group noted that the membership, which now stood at 41, represented all ten political parties in Parliament which was probably unique in the history of All-Party Groups.
The Group considered a letter to the Chairman from the Chairman of the Chagossians Committee of Seychelles concerning fair compensation for Chagossians who were deported from the Chagos Islands to Seychelles in the early 1970s but unlike those who were deported to Mauritius, had never received compensation. The letter made clear that the Seychellois Chagossians were now seeking compensation, which the Seychelles Government fully supported, along side the fight for resettlement. Some members were surprised to learn that they had been excluded from the original compensation, a point made by Dr Monaghan in the debate on 28 October.The Group thought it only equitable that they should be compensated on the same basis as those who had been deported to Mauritius were. It was decided to take this issue up with Ministers.
Members took note of the debates held in both Houses on 28 October and 10 November. They also noted the PQs and Answers since the last meeting on 14 October, the intervention by Henry Smith on 24 November and Early Day Motion 632 which 34 MPs had signed. Members discussed correspondence with Ministers. They were not persuaded that a decision on resettlement had to be made before funding sources were explored. Indeed they felt that the Foreign Secretary needed to know where the funds were to come from before he was in a position to make an informed decision.Since 2009 members had urged Government to undertake this work and make the results available to Parliament. The KPMG study had also recommended that the FCO carry out a "Funding Study". Members continued to take the view that the US should be asked to contribute as part of the renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement, along with the EU (EDF), other Allies, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector. The overseas aid budget could also provide substantial resources given that the OTs were a first call on it.
The Group noted that it was nearly 3 years (20 December) since William Hague had announced that the Government "would take stock of our policy towards resettlement of BIOT" and approaching a year (10 February) since the KPMG study into the feasibility of resettlement was published. Members felt that it was high time the Government came to a decision.
Members agreed that the next step was to invite the FCO Minister, James Duddridge, to meet the Group. They would, however, wait for the Supreme Court judgment, now expected in January, before initiating further debates.The next meeting of the Group is on 10 February 2016.