Chagos Islands All-Party Group: Coordinator's Summary
The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group held it's latest meeting this week. Thanks as ever are due to Coordinator David Snoxell for providing the below summary of the group's discussion. The meeting also served as the Group's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and will be the last before Parliament's summer recess.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its tenth AGM and 69th meeting on 13 June. Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected Hon President; Andrew Rosindell, Chairman; Henry Smith, Baroness Whitaker, Lord Steel, Lord Ramsbotham and Patrick Grady, Vice-chairs and Alan Brown, Secretary. David Snoxell was re-appointed Coordinator, Richard Gifford, Legal Adviser and Oliver Taylor, admin support officer.
The Group took note that its data protection was compliant with the GDPR and that its current membership was now 50, Dominic Grieve having recently joined. Henry Smith explained that the second reading of his BIOT (Citizenship) Bill had been postponed to 26 October and that he would be having a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss it next week. Members reviewed the PQs and interventions since the last meeting, finding that the Foreign Secretary's answer to Catherine West's oral question on 15 May, requesting the Government to review its position on the plight of the Chagosians, baffling.
The Group decided that the Chairman should write to the US Ambassador to invite him to meet members in October. They also decided to ask the Foreign Secretary to meet the Group. The last meeting with a Foreign Secretary had been with William Hague on 15 December 2011. Members agreed that the FCO's proposed parliamentary visit to BIOT would not be practical until after March next year.
The Group was informed about the progress of the Judicial Review (JR) of the Government's decision of 16 November 2016 not to allow resettlement which had now been set for early December and of the UNGA request for an Advisory Opinion (AO) of the International Court of Justice which was due to hear oral submissions on 3 September. The judgment on the JR and the AO were not expected before the end of March.
Members discussed the way forward.They felt that in nearly a decade the only progress towards fulfilling its purpose was that the profile of the plight of the Chagos Islanders had been substantially raised in Parliament, the media and public. Over the years the Group has made several proposals to Government for resolving the issues. At its last meeting on 16 April the Group was addressed by the Prime Minister of Mauritius who emphasised his support for Chagossian resettlement and a negotiated settlement with the UK on the future of BIOT. As it is nearly 53 years since BIOT was created and 19 years since the recent litigation began the Group considered that a settlement was long overdue and very much in the wider national interest and that of the UK’s international reputation.
The next meeting will be on 10 October.