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The speaker of the House of Commons and his counterparts from the British Overseas Territories (OTs) have met with The Prince of Wales for a special lunch as part of a three-day conference.
Charles hosted Sir Lindsay Hoyle and speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as a representative from Gibraltar, at his official residence, Clarence House, on Thursday.
The group spent time chatting with the prince and toured the gardens during the two-hour visit while in the UK for an inaugural speaker-led conference instigated by Sir Lindsay.
The speakers are meeting to discuss a range of topics, with a focus on how the OTs can get their voices heard in the UK Parliament.
While a Joint Ministerial Council exists to promote security and good governance, as well as the sustainable economic and social development of the OTs, some are enduring hardship.
Speaker Charliena White, of Montserrat, said she was hopeful the gathering would draw attention to the plight of her island after two-thirds of its land mass and the country’s parliament was destroyed by volcanic eruptions between 1995 and 1997.
She said: “Without a Parliament we are having to meet in a theatre, but the lighting is poor so often I have to use the flashlight on my phone to read documents.
“We don’t have security and we have anything from iguanas wandering in, to people also wanting to use the building, and even one person who came in upset and started shouting.”
Sir Lindsay said the visit to Clarence House had been a highlight of the conference, which he hopes will become an annual fixture for the OTs.
The speaker, who is MP for Chorley, aims to use his speakership to give voice to the 14 British Overseas Territories – located from the Pitcairn Islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean to the British Indian Ocean Territory almost 10,000 miles away.
He said: “We are ever so grateful to HRH The Prince of Wales for inviting us to lunch, as I know he is particularly keen to engage with the Overseas Territories and to make them feel welcome.
“From my perspective, the OTs have been overlooked for too long, yet many of the decisions we make here in the UK have a huge impact on their futures.
“They are important to me – they are part of our United Kingdom family – and I want to provide them with a platform on which to speak, to air their concerns, to share experiences and to enable us to learn from each other.
“After all, there is a Commonwealth Speakers’ Conference, a G7 Speakers’ Conference – so why not a British Overseas Territories Conference?’
The visit is the first in-person conference after a virtual meeting of the Commons and Overseas Territories Speakers’ Conference last year.