Brown turns nose up at Foreign Office talks

  • Walton Brown, the Minister for the Cabinet Office (File photograph)

Bermuda snubbed a meeting with British parliamentarians in London yesterday.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee had invited Overseas Territories to give evidence in an inquiry into the relationship with the Foreign Office.

Walton Brown, the Cabinet Office minister, said the meeting was “not on our agenda”, which included David Burt, the Premier, who was in London before he went to Brussels.

Mr Brown added: “We do not feel that we have to answer to the FCO, and so we did not appear before them.”

A Government spokeswoman later confirmed that Bermuda “declined to give evidence because the Government does not report to the British Parliament”.

Bermuda’s record of disclosure of the beneficial ownership of companies also came up for discussion during the trip to Britain.

Mr Brown attended a round of meetings on beneficial ownership at Lancaster House in London yesterday, organised by Tariq Ahmad, the UK junior minister responsible for the Overseas Territories.

He said that Bermuda was “very clear that we have always upheld the principles of disclosing ownership of certain companies”.

But he added that there had been “concern” among some of the OT representatives at the UK’s drive to push for public registers of beneficial ownership as the global standard by 2023.

However, Mr Brown said that the possibility of “constitutional overreach by the UK Government into the Overseas Territories” had not featured as a concern for Bermuda.

He was speaking as he and Mr Burt prepared to travel back to Bermuda today.

Mr Brown said he was also optimistic about the island’s bid to return the printing and issuing of Bermuda passports to the island.

Passports were taken over by Britain last year and a new code on the documents has caused problems for some Bermudians travelling through the United States from outside the island.

Mr Brown said: “They seemed to have a more sympathetic ear to our position, and I am hopeful there will be progress made.”