Chagos Islands All-Party Group: Reformation & Coordinator's Summary
The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group has reformed for the next Parliament. Below the latest appointments are listed and a summary of their first meeting is provided. Thanks to David Snoxell, who continues as the group's voluntary coordinator, for the below summary.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-party Parliamentary Group held its 76th meeting and first meeting of the new Parliament on 29 January. The following officers were re-elected:
Hon President, Jeremy Corbyn MP; Chairman, Andrew Rosindell MP; Vice chairs: Henry Smith MP, Baroness Whitaker, Patrick Grady MP, Lord Steel, Lord Ramsbotham, Iain Paisley MP; Secretary Alan Brown MP. Catherine West was also elected as a Vice Chair. New members Lord Waverley, Philip Dunne MP and Alex Sobel MP were welcomed. The Group has currently 49 members, having lost some at the general election. Members re-appointed the Coordinator David Snoxell and Hon Legal Adviser Richard Gifford.
Members reviewed developments since the last meeting on 17 July and considered how to take matters forward in the new Parliament. They took note of Answers to PQs, the Chairman's letter in August to the Foreign Secretary inviting him to meet the Group, the written ministerial statement to Parliament by Lord Ahmad, FCO Minister of State on 5 November (concerning proceedings brought by Mauritius against Maldives but also reiterating HMG's interpretation of international law regarding Chagos) and the statement by the Prime Minister of Mauritius to his National Assembly on 21 November on Mauritian sovereignty of Chagos.
The Group was concerned that the UK's international reputation was and would continue to be severely damaged by the failure to respect the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the UNGA deadline of 22 November and that at a crucial time for the UK, following withdrawal from the EU, this could contribute to further UK isolation on Chagos. They urged the Government to engage with Mauritius in bringing about an overall settlement of the issues. Members were pleased to note that the two Prime Ministers had discussed Chagos on 20 January in the margins of the Africa Investment Conference and hoped that this this would lead to a resumption of diplomatic talks. They considered that after the forthcoming ministerial reshuffle it would be timely to meet the Foreign Secretary and FCO Minister of State to discuss the way forward. Members would want to discuss their proposal in the Group's statement of 17 July and in the letter to the Foreign Secretary for the appointment of a Special Envoy to negotiate a settlement with Mauritius.
Members agreed that Chagos should be considered in the Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review to reassess the nation's place in the world, covering all aspects of international policy from defence to diplomacy and development, which was announced in The Queen's Speech on 19 December. They took note that HM had also said "My Ministers will promote the United Kingdom's interests, including freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law."
The meeting was given an update on the judicial review of the Government's decision in November 2016 not to allow resettlement which will be heard by the Appeal Court in May. The Appeal Court had agreed that the ICJ Advisory Opinion was a ground for appeal with "a real prospect of success."
The APPG will hold its next meeting on 4 March.