Former colonies face a change of name

The British Dependent Territories could be renamed in response to concerns that the title is inappropriate, the Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons said, writes Louise Jury.

She asked whether it was right to describe the places - the last of the former British colonies - as "dependent" and suggested a description such as British Overseas Territories might be more satisfactory.

"Our friends in the Carib-bean dislike the term British Dependent Territories enormously. If it causes anxiety and, frankly, not a little irritation, then it is something worth talking about," she said.

The current problems in the volcano-struck island of Mont-serrat had forced it to look to Britain for help. But Baroness Symons said some dependent territories were quite wealthy and "dependent" seemed a misnomer. Any alternative title would have to be discussed with those affected.

However, there was no suggestion the change would affect the territories' legal status. There has been pressure from some of them for residents to be given full British citizenship rights. A comparison is often drawn with France, which considers its dependent territories an integral part of the country.

But the Baroness dismissed the case for full British passports to be offered in place of the existing passports which do not allow people from the dependent territories to settle in Britain.

The issue was prominent in the run-up to the Hong Kong handover, when pleas to award Hong Kong citizens full British passports, rather than the little-valued British National (Overseas) passports, were rejected.

The dependent territories are: Gibraltar; Bermuda; Mont-serrat; Anguilla; Turks and Caic-os; Cayman Islands; the British Virgin Islands; St Helena and its dependencies;, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Islands; the Falkland Islands; South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory and the Pitcairn Islands.