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Mark Simmonds is new British Overseas Territories boss

New Minister for Overseas Territories of the UK, Mr Mark Simmonds. Photo: bbc.co.uk
By Caricom News Network

ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - British Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed 48-year-old chartered surveyor Mark Simmonds as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign Office, replacing Henry Bellingham who was fired last week for under-performing.

Simmonds, who assumed the new role on September 5th, will be responsible for the British Overseas Territories, the Caribbean and Africa.

Simmonds was a member of the shadow health team when the Conservative Party was in opposition but missed out on a role in the coalition government after the 2010 General Election.

In 2012 he apologised to the UK Parliament for failing to declare £50 000 pounds that had been paid to him by Circle Healthcare, when speaking in support of the Health and Social Care Bill in Parliament.

Born in Worksop, Simmonds went to Worksop College, then Trent Polytechnic, where he obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Urban Estate Surveying in 1986. He became an Associate of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in 1987.

He worked as a surveyor for Savills from 1986–88, then was a Partner in Strutt & Parker from 1988-96. He was a Director of Hillier Parker from 1997-9, then Managing Director of Mortlock Simmonds from 1999 until becoming an MP, becoming Chairman. He contested the Ashfield seat in 1997. Simmonds was promoted to Shadow Health Minister in 2007.

Simmonds is married to Lizbeth Hanomancin Garcia and they have two daughters and a son.

One day after he took office, Simmonds faced questions in the House of Commons about the Turks and Caicos Islands.

On September 6th, MP Andrew Percy asked him what representations he has received on the proposed imposition of value added tax in the Turks and Caicos Islands; and if he will make a statement.

Simmonds responded: “During the visit of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham), to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in June this year, the implementation of VAT was raised with him. It was also a topic for discussion during the recent visit to London by the leader of the Progressive National Party, Dr Ewing.

We received copies of letters sent to the TCI Government on this subject, together with correspondence from members of the public. The British Government has consistently made it clear that the introduction of VAT is a decision for the TCI Government.

We support their decision to introduce VAT on the basis of an assessment that it will provide a more stable, fairer and broader based system of revenue. The VAT Bill was signed into law by the Acting Governor on 18 July 2012.”

Percy also asked Simmonds what arrangements his Department made for monitoring the 9 November 2012 elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Simmonds replied: “The Turks and Caicos Islands Government is inviting, with our financial support, observers for the forthcoming elections. They have agreed with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (UK) to organise an observer mission including UK and regional monitors.

Percy also asked Simmonds what steps he is taking to strengthen relations between the UK and its Overseas Territories, to which the new minister replied: “We want the Territories to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people.

Our strategy for the Territories is based oh three practical policy goals: to strengthen the engagement and interaction between the UK and the Territories; to work with Territories to strengthen good governance arrangements, public financial management and economic planning where this is necessary; and to improve the quality and range of support available to the Territories.”

He said the UK Government announced specific plans to support the exchange of expertise between UK and Territory public servants through a Jubilee Programme supporting training and work placements and support the Territories to engage productively with the wider world, particularly the EU and the Commonwealth.

He also noted that from this year the UK will upgrade the annual ministerial meeting with Territory leaders to give it a mandate to lead work to review and implement the commitments in the White Paper on Overseas Territories.

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