Blog 20 Oct 19Tynwald took centre stage this week, and it was certainly a bumper sitting with plenty of topics for debate amongst the Tynwald members – but more on that later….

Onchan resident and national treasure, Hector Duff, BEM celebrated his 100th birthday this week, which included a special function at Government House on Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Government House that evening myself because of the Tynwald sitting – although the President did give me permission to leave during the tea break, but by that stage I had already given my apologies.

I did however attend Hector’s pre-birthday celebrations at Onchan School recently, which he certainly didn’t see coming.

Happy Birthday to Hector Duff, BEM!

As for this week’s activities – I was in the office well before 8am on Monday for what was going to be a challenging few days, for various reasons.

First job was to go through the budgeting information once again and to draft a few additional notes ahead of a meeting with someone who is very concerned about potential legislative changes on the horizon for those parents who choose to home educate.

I fully understand why Government is looking to make some changes, but I am also aware of several parents who have home educated their children who in turn have gone on to university and very successful careers.

The Department of Education and Home Educators need to find a satisfying solution before the new draft legislation is approved.

I then continued to work on the Tynwald order paper before walking over to the Treasury with the DfE Minister and CEO along with other political Members, in order to discuss the Department’s budget submissions.

Never an easy experience going before the Treasury Minister, officers and other political Members to outline your Department’s submissions etc.

From there it was straight into the Barrool Suite for a presentation given by the Department of Home Affairs relating to the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill, which will go before the House of Keys in due course.

I then attended a Committee meeting for those Tynwald Members that were asked to look into the Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People, but more importantly to discuss the Council of Ministers’ response to the Committee’s 21 recommendations.

I feel it is an excellent piece of work by the Committee and its Clerks on a very difficult topic, but we now need to drive forward with the changes.

Personally, I felt it was a real privilege to sit on this particular Committee, especially in connection with the evidence we took from St. Christopher’s and other interested parties.

More on this particular item later on….

The last hour or so was spent in the office continuing to prepare for Tynwald, which I then continued to work on from home until around 21.30.

Back in the office on Tuesday to continue working on the Tynwald order paper until 10.15am when the bell rang for the Tynwald sitting.

I am not sure if I have mentioned it previously, but there is a bell that rings throughout the Tynwald building about 15 minutes before a sitting of the House of Keys and Tynwald etc.

It does feel like being back at school at times with the bell and prayers before each sitting etc, but I still love it….

This month’s sitting started with 26 oral and 27 written questions.

I tabled a number of questions to the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK on Tuesday including whether the Isle of Man has a housing crisis and who authorised site (OH011) at Ballachrink, Onchan to be included within the draft Area Plan for the East.

Very disappointing that the Chief Minister didn’t take the opportunity to answer one particular supplementary question during the sitting in-which I asked:

“Most of our beautiful island is classified as areas of high landscape or coastal value and scenic significance, therefore can I ask the Chief Minister if he personally supports further housing development in the Manx countryside, especially when all the evidence shows that the Isle of Man does not have a housing crisis and that any immediate housing shortage could be done within the boundaries of our towns and villages?”

Once question time had finished, the Chief Minister gave his third State of the Nation Address, which highlighted sporting and arts achievements across the island, the next Parliamentary year, Climate Change, Business and Brexit.

During the lunch break Tynwald Members attended a presentation from Mrs Kinnish who is an equality adviser. An excellent presentation that explored the topics of equality on the Isle of Man in the past, here today and what standard of behaviour is acceptable in the future, especially towards those people who move to our island.

Back to the Tynwald Chamber to continue with the Chief Minister’s State of the Nation Address debate before the Policy and Reform Minister, Chris Thomas, MHK made a statement on the BBC.

The Health Minister, David Ashford, MHK then made two statements on licensing and cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use and export, along with providing an update on the health and care transformation and social care.

Tuesday evening was covered by two motions relating to rates modernisation and a policy on means testing, which is long overdue…

The final item for discussion was a motion tabled by Kerry Sharpe, MLC to set up a select committee to look again at the importance of public service media on the Isle of Man.

The debate was halted just after 20.00 for the day….

Just enough time to send a couple of emails before finishing for around 22.00.

Back in the office before 7.30am on Wednesday to continue working on a few items on the Tynwald order paper before the sitting re-convened at 10.30am, which continued with its debate on Manx Radio and the Mrs Sharpe’s motion to look at the importance of public service media.

Mrs Sharpe’s motion to set up a select committee was eventually defeated.

The Manx Radio report for developing a sustainable operational and funding plan also ended up being a very difficult debate amongst the Tynwald Members, especially for me as the political Member with responsibility for motorsport as I tried to keep the actual radio coverage of the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling under the umbrella of Manx Radio.

As I said in my Tynwald speech, it was wrong that the Directors of Manx Radio didn’t try to put the running costs of the TT and Festival of Motorcycling within their subvention submitted to Tynwald for consideration, especially when I found many many recommendations in Hansard since the mid 1960s saying that these events form part of Manx Radio’s overall Public Service Broadcasting.

In the weeks and months to follow leading up to the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling in 2020, I know various people will be asking me and the DfE Minister, Laurence Skelly, MHK why Manx Radio cannot continue to broadcast the coverage of the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling as in previous years….

Well unfortunately it simply comes down to finances, but personally I sincerely hope that Manx Radio wins any potential tender, given its historical ties with the event.

What has confused the situation in recent years is that central Government started to pay Manx Radio separately for these events from around 2003, so you could argue that it is a separate commercial arrangement.

Once the financial amount reaches a certain figure, then financial regulations state that the costs should be subject to a formal tender, which is where we now find ourselves today.

Anyway, only time will tell if it was right or wrong to bring this particular amendment on to the floor Tynwald Court. Tynwald Members have certainly given me a very clear instruction, which is to put the radio coverage of the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling out to formal tender….

Just to be absolutely clear, as the political Member responsible for Motorsport I will NOT be taking any part in the tender process, which will be undertaken by the Government’s procurement team.

At lunchtime Tynwald Members had a presentation from 3FM, which is celebrating its 15th birthday this week.

We are very fortune to have three fantastic radio stations here on the Isle of Man, with each one offering something slightly different for their captured audience, but also coming together along with MTTV and BBC Isle of Man during national emergencies to keep the people of this island fully informed, as we witnessed in Laxey recently.

Back to the Tynwald Chamber to finish off the Manx Radio debate before moving onto another tough debate relating to the Post Office, which was tabling a motion on the modernising of the Isle of Man Post Office Retail Network.

I supported the recommendations but I do have concerns that we may end up losing more post offices in the rural community.

Straight after the tea break we debated an Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee report on the Douglas Promenade Scheme. This month’s Tynwald agenda certainly feels like we are just moving from one difficult topic to another, and this particular topic has put the DOI Minister, Ray Harmer MHK firmly under the spotlight.

Some very powerful speeches from both Douglas East MHKs, which certainly put the Minister under fire.

During my speech I outlined the new schedule of works to be undertaken on the promenade in 2019 and 2020. Upon review of all the relevant information they do appear to focus most of the forthcoming work on the land side (next to hotels) during the summer period and seaward during the winter months, which is totally bonkers.

Undertaking so much work on the land side during summertime could seriously affect the island’s tourism sector and could potentially damage the sector as a whole for years to come.

I also messed up a couple of my speeches during this particular sitting of Tynwald, which is extremely disappointing for me personally.

I listened back to the audio early on Thursday morning and despite the mistakes, I actually didn’t sound too bad, but in my head and on the floor of Tynwald on Wednesday evening it felt like I had been hit by a train as I sat back in my seat.

Unfortunately, I cannot explain the experience you feel at that particular moment in time, but it certainly wasn’t due to nervousness because I felt I delivered the speech fine, it was just a couple of stupid mistakes.

A few Tynwald Members headed to the pub straight after the sitting at 20.00 after a very difficult day of debating. As Tynwald Members you definitely need to do that from time to time, just like in other places of work, especially when you are challenging each other and holding Government and Department colleagues to account.

Separating the politics at times is very important, I feel.

I arrived back in the office before 8am on Thursday for day three of this month’s Tynwald sitting and we were only on item 16 of the order paper.

The first couple of hours were spent in the office trying to catch up with various things. The Tynwald sitting got underway at 10.30am with a Select Committee report on Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People, which was chaired by Tim Baker, MHK.

Again, some very powerful speeches in the Chamber and it is hard not reflect on my own time in the Manx care system.

The contributions from Tim Baker, MHK, Jane-Poole Wilson, MLC, Lawrie Hooper, MHK the Chief Minister Howard Quayle, MHK and Daphne Caine, MHK in particular were outstanding.

Unfortunately, the debate came to sudden halt at 12.40 when both Manx Radio and Hansard lost power in the Chamber, but eventually the issue was fixed. On returning to the Chamber, 20 of the 21 recommendations went through, with just a few vital amendments from Clare Barber, MHK.

Definitely one of the best debates in this administration, especially if we can drive forward those changes to help Vulnerable Young Adults on the island.

In fact, the whole three-hour debate will be something that I will remember personally for many years to come,

The last couple of items on a very long order paper included a motion from Ann Corlett, MHK to reduce the number of elected Legislative Council Members from 8 down to 6, along with Kate Beecroft, MHK picking up a Petition of Redress in relation to the Code of Conduct for Public Servants.

The President gave a number of Tynwald Members permission to leave just before 18.00, in order to head down to the promenade for a very important “My Prom” meeting, which had the latest plans on display.

An excellent turnout and lots of questions being tabled to DOI Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK, the MUA and the main Contractor.

I noted that the dates on the map displayed publicly on Thursday evening had now been removed since the Tynwald Members’ briefing last week.

I am so glad that Chris Robertshaw, MHK, Clare Barber, MHK and I spoke out so strongly during the Tynwald Members briefing last week against the schedule of works being proposed for 2020.

Since the Tynwald debate and the Members briefing last week both Chris Robertshaw, MHK and even the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK have done MTTV interviews questioning the decision to undertake so much construction work on the land-side during the height of the tourism season 2020.

The DOI has said that they were listening to concerns and are now looking to revise the schedule by switching some of the land side work (hotel side), in order to ensure that some of this is done in the winter months and not all during the height of our summer season.

A big thank you to all the businesses and hoteliers that attended the event and to the Chief Minister, the DOI Minister and the main Contractor for listening to genuine concerns.

Finally got home just after 20.00 after three very long days in Tynwald.

A change of pace on Friday as I took the opportunity to work from home for the first few hours, in order to catch up with various bits of correspondence.

I went into the office mid morning before walking over to DfE for a meeting with the Minister and PWC relating to the Isle of Man Visit Agency at lunchtime.

Back to the office for an hour before walking back to DfE for a motorsport team meeting relating to the Festival of Motorcycling, which lasted around 90 mins.

From there I headed home at 15.40 for an early finish, but I still had a couple of emails to send out before finishing.

As for the weekend, I have my political surgery on Saturday morning at the Community Centre in Onchan, from 10am.

Hopefully, on Sunday we will get out for a walk between the World Cup rugby matches.