Last weekend it was announced that the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK was one of four island residents to be recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
The Chief Minister is to receive a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for service to the people of the Isle of Man, especially in respect of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and in respect of Brexit negotiations.
It has been a difficult period for so many people on the island, but it is hard to imagine the continuing pressure that our Chief Minister has found himself under, and for prolonged periods of time over the past 18 months. Politically it hasn’t been an easy role, and for that reason alone I think the award is richly deserved.
That said, I think it is disappointing that other key professional officers and frontline staff have not been recognised for their contribution in protecting this island and its community since March 2020.
The other island local residents receiving awards are Christopher Sharpe (MBE) who founded the Manx Bird Atlas Charity over 25 years ago, Joan Marilyn Cannell (BEM) for her long service to the Community of Kirk Michael and to local music. In addition former Ramsey Grammar School Head-boy, Richard Cowin has been awarded an MBE for diplomatic service.
As for my own activities last weekend, there was definitely a lot going on around the island, including Isle of Pride and Onchan’s Party in the Park. Unfortunately, for me personally something had to give, especially with Tynwald Day on the horizon, family visiting early next month and with one eye on the House of Keys general election. Therefore, I decided to stay at home last Saturday, in order get a few things done in the garden during the morning. This enabled me then to switch my focus towards the election campaign in the afternoon, along with continuing to get through a very lengthy Tynwald Order Paper.
On Sunday I was in the garden from 7.30am in order to continue putting the cladding onto the garden room, which I am finding difficult and time consuming. I had to stop at 11.30am, in order to go through some Tynwald tour notes and to get changed before going into the office towards 13.00.
A few months ago I offered to give a tour of our parliament building and its Chambers to a local photography group. In advance of the tour that got underway at 14.30 I needed to get everything ready, along with making the tea and coffee etc.
There were 14 in the group and the tour lasted a couple of hours, and I think the group particularly enjoyed the view of Douglas and Onchan from the Barrool Suite.
Once I cleaned everything up I managed to get home for around 16.45.
Back in the office before 8am on Monday and most of the day was taken up by just three items – this month’s Tynwald sitting, a Douglas Promenade political oversight meeting, along with a tour of the Energy from Waste Plant in Baddan.
The first couple of hours were spent with a general catch up or working on the Tynwald Order Paper before I headed into Braddan just after 10am. I have to say a massive thank you to the staff from Suez Isle of Man for taking the time out of their own busy schedules, in order to show the DOI Minister and political members around the Energy from Waste Plant.
The meeting and the tour lasted around three hours and it was good to look around the facilities once again and to catch up with the senior management team. The EfW Plant continues to incinerate around 50,000 tonnes of waste each year, but it does have the capacity to deal with around 60,000 tonnes.
Something I didn’t know, the electricity generated from the EfW Plant is used in 1 of every 6 homes on the island.
Back to the office towards 13.30, in order to pick up several missed calls and to continue to work on the Tynwald Order Paper, and I was struggling to get through the mountain of reading ahead of the sitting. At 16.30 there was a political promenade oversight meeting, so I didn’t get home until 18.00 and straight after tea I continued to work on this month’s Tynwald issues until around 20.30.
As for Tuesday, I was in the office before 8am in order to finish off any work relating to this month’s Tynwald sitting. I also had to deal with a couple of Constituent issues early on in the morning. I managed to go outside just after 9.30am, in order to say hello to various publicans and restaurateurs who were lobbying outside the Tynwald Building for further support for the hospitality sector.
At 10.30am we headed into Tynwald Court for this month’s sitting, which had a full public gallery as my colleague Claire Christian, MHK asked an emergency question relating to further support for the hospitality sector.
The Tynwald Question Paper had 36 oral questions and 31 written questions and we only managed to reach question 22 by the lunchtime break and only question 27 in the allotted time, which was up to 15.00. During the lunchtime break there was a further presentation on the island’s “Exit Strategy Framework” given by the Chief Minister and the Cabinet Office as the island continues to move towards opening up its borders to family and visitors.
From 28th June residents and non residents who have been fully vaccinated (2 jabs) will be allowed to travel to and from the Isle of Man without having to be tested on arrival. Island residents that have not been fully vaccinated will unfortunately have to continue to be tested on arrival, and there will be a cost of £30.
Opinion of the island’s border strategy continues to be split, but I feel it is the right move at the right time for the Isle of Man.
Straight back to the Tynwald Chamber at 14.30 and once question time finished there was a statement on the BBC TV Licensing before the Treasury Minister moved a motion to borrow a sum not exceeding £400,000,000, which would be used to help re-finance some of the debt being held by the Manx Utilities Authority and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
As was mentioned in Tynwald Court, this isn’t additional debt but simply re-financing, which the Manx Government is facilitating on behalf of the MUA and the Steam Packet Company. This is because the Government can obtain the loan(s) at a better rate than an individual company going to market.
This was followed by a small debate on the island’s National Insurance Scheme, which was supported with a small amendment from Clare Barber, MHK. We then continued to work though the order paper, but we only reached item 18 out of 39 items for consideration by close of business at 20.00.
Before finishing I needed to catch up with a couple of missed calls before I was able to play league pool at 1886 from around 21.00.
As for Wednesday I was back in the office before 8am, which gave me time to go through the Supplementary Order Paper No.1, which related to a number of changes to the Isle of Man’s borders, which will come into force from 28th June.
At 10.30am we headed down to the Tynwald Court chamber for day two of this month’s sitting, which started with the President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan giving a very fitting tribute to the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Richard Gozney and Lady Gozney who will be leaving the island in August.
His Excellency was appointed as the island’’s Lieutenant Governor in May 2016 and just putting the argument around whether the Isle of Man should or shouldn’t have a Lieutenant Governor aside for a moment, I personally feel that Sir Richard Gozney along with Lady Gozney have embraced their role within the island’s community over the past five years, and have definitely set a very high bar for future Lieutenant Governors of the Isle of Man.
I am sure that they will be missed greatly by many island residents, especially in respect of their love for the Manx countryside and our community. The standing ovation Sir Richard and Lady Gozney received by Tynwald Members on Wednesday morning showed the level of respect and gratitude – not 100% certain, but I am pretty sure that it has been a long time since a Lieutenant Governor appointed to the Isle of Man has been given a standing ovation by Tynwald Members.
The Speaker of the House of Keys, Juan Watterson presented the Lieutenant Governor with a painting of a Peregrine Falcon on behalf of Tynwald.
Thank you to Manx Radio for the use of the picture in my blog this week….
Tynwald Court then continued to work through the main order paper, which included approving various Treasury and DOI orders. At lunchtime we headed straight up to the Barool Suite for a presentation by Motiv8, another local charity close to my heart, which has a team of dedicated, highly qualified and experienced counsellors who specialise in addictive behaviour.
Another excellent presentation by a key charity that has supported the Manx Community for 42 years.
Most of the afternoon session was taken up by the Covid-19 Exit Framework that generated a considerable debate amongst the Tynwald members, which is not surprising given the complexity of the island moving to the next stage of fully opening up its borders to family, friends and visitors. The debate lasted more than two hours, but in the end Tynwald accepted the Exit Framework that will come into force on 28th June 2021.
There were then several debates on Single Legal Entity and new Public Services, a Tynwald Commissioner for Administration report on a particular case and on Council of Ministers Collective Responsibility and Joined-Up Working, before this month’s sitting finished at around 20.45.
However, that wasn’t the end of the month’s Tynwald sitting as the Speaker of the House of Keys gave a fitting tribute to the President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan who was stepping down as the presiding officer over Tynwald Court and the Legislative Council.
The President was first elected to the House of Keys in 1995 and since then he has held various ministerial roles before being elected Speaker of the House of Keys for 10 years, along with being the President of Tynwald for the last five years.
It was very emotional to see the President receive two standing ovations, the last one as he walked from his seat and to leave Tynwald Court for the very last time. As I mentioned to Mr President on Thursday, very few elected members on the Isle of Man get the opportunity to leave on their own terms, but he did.
Although it was the last time that Steve Rodan would be presiding officer over Tynwald Court in Douglas, he will of course be still be taking part in this year’s Tynwald Day Ceremony on Monday 5th July before saying goodbye to Manx politics.
I finally got home for 21.30 and although I was caught up with a couple of things, I was able to finish for around 22.15.
Straight back into the office before 8am on Thursday in order to catch up with things, along with going through a couple of department papers. I then needed to work through a heavy divisional agenda relating to DOI Ports.
At 9.30am I had a constituent meeting before I walked to the Sea Terminal for a Ports Divisional meeting, which got underway at 11am. A difficult two hour meeting in many ways as we discussed some very difficult topics relating to the Liverpool Ferry Terminal and relating to the Exit Border changes that will come into force on 28th June.
Back to the office to catch up with correspondence and a couple of calls, but the rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk trying to get through a mountain of paperwork, but I still managed to listen to the latest media briefing by the Chief Minister and the Health Minister before leaving the office at around 17.00.
As for Friday, I was in the office just after 7am in order to go through the House of Keys Order Paper ahead of next Tuesday’s sitting. I also desperately tried to catch up with various department work before an old boss of mine called in for a general catch up at 9.30am.
From there I headed straight over to DfE at 11am for a DfE motorsport meeting as we continue to look at every section of the TT festival, in order to bring it back bigger and better in 2022 and beyond.
That meeting lasted almost two hours before getting back to the office for a quick Constituent meeting. I was then able to leave the office at 14.00 for the weekend. With the Isle of Man enjoying some wonderful weather this week, I got into the garden for a couple of hours, before responding to any final emails and phones at 16.30.
As for the weekend, I have my political surgery on Saturday morning, and I guess Sunday will be spent on the election campaign.