British Virgin Islands: Country and Foreign Investment
The Islands are a dependent territory of the British Crown, and a member of the Commonwealth. The legal system is based on English Common Law. The Queen of England is the Chief of State who is represented by a Governor appointed by the Crown. The islands are largely self-governing since the 1967 Constitution and to a limited extent rely on UK statutes on international matters. In 2002 the BVI Government said it wanted to increase its establishment and asked for some of the Governor's powers to be transferred over, recognising the BVI's 'constitutional maturity and prudential system of government'. The Chief Minister Ralph T O'Neal was concerned that rules for the conferment of Belonger Status should be brought into line with the granting of nationality under the British Nationality Act, 1993, in order to remove confusion over the granting of passports.
At the end of February 2007, the UK and the BVI government successfully completed negotiations for a new constitution for the islands. Described by Lord Triesman, British Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, "as an important step forward for the territory," the new constitution will devolve significant new powers to the BVI Government.
The new constitution was approved by the BVI Legislative Council in May 2007. This includes a chapter on fundamental rights, setting out the key human rights that will be protected for all individuals in the territory. In the field of international affairs, groundbreaking provisions will allow for the devolvement of extensive new powers to the BVI Government. The new constitution will also give the BVI Premier greater influence in setting the Cabinet agenda. It also creates a new role of Cabinet Secretary to facilitate the workings of the Cabinet.
The Governor appoints an Executive Council, made up of members of the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly comprises 13 elected members (nine representing district constituencies and four the whole territory), one member appointed by the Governor, a Speaker elected from outside by members of the Council and the Attorney-General as an ex-officio member.
Elections in November 2011 saw a victory by the Virgin Islands Party, with the election of Orlando Smith as Premier. The next election is due to be held in 2015.