Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting: Coordinator's Summary
In the latest meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, politicians from across Westminster discussed the Supreme Court verdict on Chagossian return, the change of government and plans to win Chagossian right to return in the coming months.
A below summary of the meeting has been put together by the group's Coordinator David Snoxell.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 56th meeting on 21 July.
The Group considered the PQs and interventions since the last meeting on 8 June. Members noted that Mr Cameron had replied on 29 June that the National Security Council had been considering the issue and that an announcement would be made in the coming months and also that the then Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, had stated on 12 July that the decision would now fall to the new Prime Minister.
Members discussed the Supreme Court majority (3:2) verdict of 29 June. While accepting that it was a legal defeat the Group saw it as an ethical victory for the Chagossians, giving them the moral high ground. They were encouraged by the unequivocal message of all five judges that in the light of the KPMG feasibility study the Government should reconsider the ban on the Chagossians returning to their homeland since it may no longer be lawful. Also that if the Government failed to restore the right of abode then Chagossians would be able to challenge it by way of judicial review on the grounds of irrationality, unreasonableness and/or disproportionality. Members took note of the extensive strictures and criticism of the government for the way it had handled the matter and in particular its failure both to disclose documents to the Chagossian lawyers and of its duty of candour towards the Courts.
Members urged the Government to take this censure seriously and expeditiously address the conclusions of the Court concerning the ban.The Group noted that the Court had given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in the case concerning the Marine Protected Area and that this would be taking place next year. The Group endorsed the statement by the Chairman on 1 July on behalf of the APPG and its letter to The Times of 4 July concerning the judgment.
The Group discussed the current situation following the change of Government. It was agreed that the Chairman would write to the new Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Baroness Anelay, the Minister of State at the FCO now responsible for the OTs, to remind them of the need for a decision before the 30 December deadline when the 1966 UK/US Agreement is due to be extended for a further twenty years. Members reiterated their view that extension of that Agreement should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to support and facilitate resettlement. This was enshrined in the EDM of 24 May which now had 51 signatures. The Group took note of a letter that Olivier Bancoult had sent to the PM on 18 July.
The Group noted the decision by the Government of Mauritius on 15 July that it would table a draft resolution at the UN General Assembly in September asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on sovereignty. Members hoped that the two governments could avoid further legal action by agreeing to have discussions on the issue. Baroness Anelay's Answer of 13 July on this issue was noted, and that it was for the UK alone to determine when the Territory was no longer need for defence purposes.
The next meeting will be on 12 October when the Group will discuss its plans for parliamentary action.