A new Constitution for the Falkland Islands came into operation on 1 January 2009. It was agreed by the UK Government and the Falkland Islands Government. The Falkland Islands Constitution Order 2008 was made on 5 November 2008 by Her Majesty the Queen in the Privy Council.
The new Constitution can be viewed here: The Falkland Islands Constitution Order 2008 – Final Version.
The Falklands have developed considerably both economically and socially since the previous Falkland Islands’ Constitution came in to operation in 1985, and the new Constitution reflects this. The Islanders’ right to determine their own future has been reinforced, as self-determination is now embedded in the main body of the Constitution. The Constitution enhances local democracy, while retaining sufficient powers for the UK Government to protect UK interests and to ensure the overall good governance of the territory. It provides for greater transparency and accountability through the creation of a Public Accounts Committee and a Complaints Commissioner, and the rights chapter has been brought up to date to bring it into line with international agreements.
The new Constitution makes much clearer Councillors’ responsibility for most domestic policies and that, in general, the Governor will now have to abide by the advice of the Executive Council on such matters. But the new Constitution will also enshrine a power for the Governor not to act upon Executive Council’s advice “in the interests of good governance”, or in relation to external affairs, defence, internal security (including the police), the administration of justice, audit, and management of the public service.
Other important changes include: recognition is given to the Chief Executive as head of the public service, but under the authority and direction of the Governor; and it is in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. There are also some changes to who has Falkland Islands Status (which brings with it the right to vote) through the Constitution – references to Commonwealth citizens are replaced by British citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens will now have to apply for status rather than get it automatically on naturalisation/registration, and spouses will also now have to apply for status.
The previous Falkland Islands Constitution had been in force since 1985 (amended in 1997).
In April 2000, a Select Committee on the Review of the Constitution was set up by Legislative Council, following the suggestion in the 1999 UK White Paper on the Overseas Territories (OTs). It recommends that all OTs should examine their Constitutions and constitutional relationships with the UK to ensure that they suited all the current day circumstances.
The first formal report of the Select Committee was published in October 2005. Following the General Election in November 2005, the Select Committee reconvened to enable the new Council to consider the Report and propose amendments to it.
The Second Report was published in August 2006.
Falkland Islanders were consulted throughout the process through the publication of several documents raising particular subjects for consideration as well as discussions held between Councillors and groups of constituents.
A Final Report was submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in May 2007.
Following negotiations between the Select Committee and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a draft Constitution was produced for public consultation. All Falkland Islanders had opportunity to discuss and comment on it at all stages before it was finalised.
The Constitution is not drafted in the Falklands nor amended in any respect by the Falkland Islands Government. The Constitution is an instrument of Her Majesty’s Government and is amended by the Privy Council on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.