All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting: Coordinator's Summary
Please find below a summary of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group's latest meeting. Thanks as ever to voluntary Group Coordinator David Snoxell for supplying this summary.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 53rd meeting on 10 February.The chairman welcomed new members Helen Goodman MP and Mike Kane MP.
The Group noted the intervention by Alan Brown in the debate on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, in which he recalled the forcible eviction of the Chagos Islanders from their homeland so that the US could set up an airbase on Diego Garcia - "The Government told lies over the years and there was obfuscation about what had happened." The Chairman's second PQ on funding elicited a significant shift from the FCO's previous line (that a decision on resettlement would be taken before considering funding sources) with the reply that "The Government will consider all funding sources in its decision on resettlement". But a PQ on when Ministers had last met Chagossian representatives was side-stepped with the reply that "It would be inappropriate to meet Chagossians until the results of this consultation have been considered".
Members discussed the 'Summary of Responses to Public Consultation' issued by the FCO on 21 January, noting that of the 895 responses from Chagossians 98% were in favour of resettlement. They commended the FCO for this survey but wondered why it had not been undertaken by KPMG in their feasibility study, published exactly a year ago on 10 February 2015, and why it should take a further year.
The Chairman reported on an inconclusive meeting that he and Henry Smith had on 4 February with James Duddridge, the Minister responsible for Chagos in the FCO. Members felt that all parties of the APPG should participate in a meeting with the Minister before a decision on resettlement was taken, for an in-depth discussion of the issues. They reiterated their long standing invitation to the Minister to meet the Group in Parliament.
The Group discussed the exchange of letters between the Chairman and Mr Duddridge concerning compensation for the Chagossians who were removed to Seychelles. While it was understood that the Seychelles Chagossians were seeking judicial review of the Government's refusal to pay compensation members reaffirmed their view that they should be compensated on the same basis as those who were deported to Mauritius. The Group asked the Chairman to reply and reiterate this principle, pointing out the inaccuracies in the FCO letter.
Members discussed what more the Group could do to ensure that the Government, not just the FCO, was fully aware of the issues in the remaining weeks before a decision on resettlement was taken. They decided that the Chairman should write to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Prime Minister and President Obama. Members would make contact with other and former ministers.
The next meeting of the Group is on 13 April unless an emergency meeting becomes necessary in the meantime.