Burt addresses passport problems
Passport problems that have plagued some Bermudian travellers are being addressed, the Premier said.
David Burt told MPs in the House of Assembly that the issue was one the Government was “continuing to engage on”.
He said: “It is my hope that we will have final resolution by the time of the Joint Ministerial Council meeting, which is going to take place at the end of March.”
Mr Burt added: “What I can say, however, is the transition will take a while. I’m not certain that it will be immediate, but I am hopeful that it will be able to resolve prior to the end of this year.”
Mr Burt was speaking at Premier’s Questions in the House of Assembly on Friday.
Craig Cannonier, the Opposition leader, said that he had heard “more and more reports” of travel problems.
Mr Cannonier asked Mr Burt to detail what was being done to solve the problem “and relieving the stress that many of our Bermudians who love to travel are having”.
The British Government took over responsibility for printing passports for Overseas Territories citizens in June 2016 because of security concerns.
A new code on the documents has caused problems for some Bermudians travelling through the United States from outside the island.
The Premier highlighted that passport changes were made under the former government.
Mr Burt said that the UK had advised the Government that Bermuda was entitled to have its own passport code.
But he added: “The challenge is this was taken away from us without our permission — and they are asking us to pay approximately $1 million for the privilege of returning it back.
“We are continuing to press this issue and we’re expecting that it will be resolved.”
Mr Burt said that he did not believe that the House should appropriate money to pay to get the passport code back.
He added: “We will hold firm on our position — and I am grateful for the members of the Opposition in their support — in that we do not believe that Bermuda taxpayer dollars should be made to pay for something that we had no choice in losing in the first place.”
Mr Burt was also questioned about the block grant awarded to the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow health minister, asked how the $330 million amount had been decided “given that the BHB has failed to provide audited statements for the last five years”.
The Premier said: “That was a discussion between the BHB and the Ministry of Health.”
James Jardine, an independent senator, highlighted the five-year lag in the audited accounts for the BHB, the island’s largest quango, in the Upper Chamber last week.
Mr Jardine said that situation was “totally unacceptable”, and called on the Government to push for the audited accounts to be released “as soon as possible, and for the hospital board to be put on notice, that they must complete audited accounts within the timeframes allocated to them”.
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