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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 March, 1999, 19:41 GMT
UK citizenship extended to territories
The United Kingdom has decided to grant all residents of its dependent territories the right of abode, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has confirmed.

The change extends British citizenship to 150,000 people. But the territories will have to change some of their laws in return.

Robin Cook: No flood of settlers from territories expected
In a Commons statement, Mr Cook said the change in status would be made on a non-reciprocal basis as many territories had expressed concern about their ability to absorb settlers.

The White Paper on the future role of the territories, titled Partnership for Progress, had decided to re-name them "UK overseas territories", the foreign secretary said.

The various territories were "energetic, self-governing and anything but dependent", he said.

The changes affect 13 territories scattered across the world. Many are tiny, remote islands - the remnants of the British empire.

They lost their citizenship rights under the Conservative government in 1981. Mr Cook said legislation would return these "at the earliest possible opportunity".

Residents of the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, with a combined population of around 33,500 already have full citizenship rights, while four others, such as British Antarctica, are uninhabited.

The inhabitants of the island of Montserrat were granted full UK citizenship after the volcano there erupted nearly two years ago.

The foreign secretary said a Council of the Territories, composed of the chief minister of each would be set and meet before the end of the year.

The Queen on a visit to Bermuda, one of the 13 remaining territories
Mr Cook said the right of abode and citizenship would be welcomed throughout the overseas territories.

But he said there was scant risk of an influx of people arriving from them to live in Britain, as the majority had a higher standard of living.

"We do not expect this change in status to result in any substantial number taking up their right to live in the United Kingdom."

The territories themselves would be required to make a number of changes in their laws, Mr Cook said.

All the territories would be required to meet in full international standards on money laundering, transparency, law enforcement co-operation, and independent financial regulation by the end of the year.

Equally, their legal systems should be brought into line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

Mr Cook told the House of Commons all the territories had responded positively during consultation with them on the White Paper.

"It is a striking measure of the extent to which the dependent territories view that partnership that during the consultation, none expressed a preference for independence."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Video
Mark Connelly reports: "Some 150,000 people could be affected"
Video
Bridget Kendall reports: Former colonies need to tow the British line
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19 Mar 99 | Business
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