Bermuda could benefit from UK Lottery - Bellingham
Bermuda could be in line to benefit from charity cash generated by the UK Lottery, according to a British Government minister visiting the Island.Henry Bellingham told a press conference at Government House it seemed “quite wrong and anomalous” for Britain’s 14 Overseas Territories not to enjoy the fruits of the National Lottery.“It raises a vast amount of money and pays out billions of pounds but it’s not allowed to dispense money for good causes in the Overseas Territories,” he said yesterday.“I find that extraordinary. Ninety five percent of Britain’s biodiversity is in the Overseas Territories.”Apart from Bermuda, the other territories are Anguilla, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Island, St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, sovereign base areas on Cyprus, and Turks and Caicos.Mr Bellingham said there was a “complete illogicality” about not having the money available for the “280,000-odd” citizens of the territories and that it seemed “grossly unfair” to withhold it from those with British passports who wish to retain links with the UK.“It seems to me quite wrong and anomalous that they can’t enjoy the benefits of the lottery fund.”The Conservative MP said he planned to meet with the bodies responsible for dishing out lottery cash as a “priority”.The National Lottery has generated more than £26 billion for good causes in the UK, with the money going toward numerous sports, arts and heritage schemes, as well as health, education and environment charities.Mr Bellingham was due to leave Bermuda last night after a three-day visit during which he launched consultation on the UK Government’s new Overseas Territories White Paper, the first such report in a decade.He said the British Government wanted feedback from the citizens of all 14 territories for the White Paper, which will be released next year.The Minister described his trip here as having been “really excellent” and said he’d had a warm welcome from everyone, including Premier Paula Cox.He said Britain wanted to “reinvigorate” its relationship with the territories and make sure it was doing everything it should to support them.“We want to make sure that all the success and expertise in the UK ... can be harnessed in a way that can benefit the Overseas Territories,” he added.“The UK Government does have important responsibilities. We want to carry out those responsibilities to the very best of our ability.”Mr Bellingham fielded questions on a variety of issues at the press conference, including his discussions with Ms Cox this week and the four Uighurs brought here from Guantánamo Bay without Britain’s permission.He said he and the Premier talked about the gang warfare which has seen 16 men shot dead since May 2009 and suggested the situation had improved from a year ago.“I’m not saying it’s gone but it’s certainly a problem that the Government has taken action on,” he said.He revealed that his conversation with Ms Cox also focused on the Island’s financial situation, adding that he told her he would like to see Bermuda diversify its economy.“I think Bermuda could attract more IT businesses from around the world,” he said. “Renewable energy is also very important.”The Minister said the UK remained in talks with the US about the Uighurs, adding: “We are looking to the US State Department to find a permanent solution.”He was asked about Britain’s view of recent damning reports from the Auditor General on the spending of public funds.Mr Bellingham said while it was the responsibility of the UK Government to “keep an eye on what happens in territories” it wasn’t its role to put in place a fiscal responsibility framework for Bermuda.He said he’d met with the independent Auditor General and was impressed with her “absolute passion” for ensuring taxpayers get value for money. He added he expected her to continue working in a “rigorous” way.The Minister was asked about Bermuda’s policy of requiring British guest workers to obtain a work permit, though no such restrictions exist for Bermudians who go to live in the UK.He replied that Britain was a country of 65 million people, while Bermuda had a population of about 65,000.“One has to be realistic,” he said. “We are not comparing like with like and also I think that’s something for your Government to address.”Mr Bellingham added that he wanted to extend the right to work in Europe to holders of the “different categories of British passports”.Useful websites: www.national-lottery.co.uk, www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/what-we-do/overseas-territories, www.ukota.org.