The Isle of Man continues to move a further step towards re-introducing unrestricted travel for island residents, but the Indian variant of Covid-19 remains a serious concern for us all.
On Monday (24th May) the island will introduce a shorter period of self isolation, which means that anyone travelling to the Isle of Man who has not been outside the UK, Guernsey or Jersey 10 days prior to arriving on the island will no longer be required to isolate for a minimum of seven days, which will be welcome news for those individuals desperately trying to see family and friends at the moment.
Instead, those travellers can opt to undertake a £30 Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival and to self isolate until they receive a negative result.
If you have travelled outside the UK, Guernsey or Jersey in the 10 days prior to arriving to the island, then you will have to isolate for 7 days instead of 10 days, along with undertaking a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival on the island and on day six.
Alternatively, travellers do not have to undertake any tests, but they will have to self isolate for 21 days.
On Friday morning further information was published by the Chief Minister, which again raised concerns around the uncertainty in the UK at the moment in respect of the Indian variant of Covid-19.
The latest press release asked that all island residents think carefully when considering travelling and to make the right personal choices, along with advising that the current situation can change rapidly and anyone travelling needs to prepare for these eventualities.
Let’s hope that the island can still move to unrestricted travel by the end of June 2021.
As for my own activities this week, last Saturday I was able to hold my first political surgery for some time, and it was great that several constituents called in to discuss a range of topics including planning, registration of buildings, the Isle of Man Airport website, especially around providing additional support to travellers and DOI notices to the public.
Although the surgery started at 10am a constituent had contacted me asking for a private meeting at 9.30am, which I was more than happy to arrange.
I was home for around 12 noon so Ellen and I headed to Close Leece Farm for something to eat before going into Peel to look around the Old Bonded Warehouse, which is run my good friend Stephen Moore, who also has a keen eye on Manx politics.
As for Sunday we managed to get the rubber roofing on the garden room in between all the showers, which were heavy at times. Fortunately, we went for a slightly thicker rubber material and it made all the difference, especially when applying the glue and making some adjustments.
We finally finished for around 15.00 after a long day, but towards teatime I received a call as the Children’s Champion, which involved a long telephone conversation with a very concerned family.
Back in the office before 8am on Monday for what was going to be a long week ahead….
First job was to go through the correspondence sent in relating to my role as the Children’s Champion, which was a follow up from my telephone conversation I had on Sunday teatime.
Just before 10am I headed over to DfE for a meeting with the Digital Agency who gave the political members an update on several projects undertaken by the agency. Straight back to the office to continue preparing for this month’s Tynwald sitting, which always comes around far too quickly.
At 13.00 there was a Tynwald Members briefing by the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK and officers from the Cabinet Office, in order to give full details on the new rules around self-isolation and testing, which I have already mentioned.
Just time to catch up with a few things in the office, along with a couple of constituent issues before a DOI political members catch up, which gave the political team an opportunity to have an open discussion on various ongoing projects and policies without DOI officers.
I left the office at 17.00 but once home I still needed to go through the Tynwald Supplementary Order Papers, along with the Question Paper and any remaining items on the Order Paper before finishing around 20.30.
Again, I was in the office before 8am on Tuesday for this month’s Tynwald sitting, but ahead of the sitting there was still a lot of department work to get through. At 10am House of Keys members gathered in their own Chamber for one last photograph before the House is dissolved in July.
At 10.30am Tynwald Court started with prayers and a glowing tribute to former First Deemster and AG, William Cain, CBE who had died recently. Instead of heading straight into question time, the sitting started with an urgent motion on Corrin Memorial Home in Peel, which has given their residents notice that the business is set to close in a matter of weeks.
MLC and now a House of Keys candidate in the September General Election, Kate Lord-Brennan gave a very passionate opening speech around the closure of such an important facility, especially for those residents living in the West of the island.
The debate lasted more than two hours, but in the end Tynwald supported the motion, which also had three amendments. We then started working through the 31 oral questions, which were supported by 31 written questions, but only reached question 4 by lunch time.
During the lunch break there was a Tynwald Members presentation on the Food Hygiene Rating Regulations 2021, which could have gone better for my DEFA colleagues. Back to the Chamber at 14.30 to continue going through the remaining 27 oral questions on the paper, which took a couple of hours.
The Court then started to look at the main Order Paper that got underway with statements from the Treasury Minister, Policy and Reform Minister and from the Chairman of the Post Office. I have to say that the statement by the Post Office was very unusual, if not a little strange, because none of the information given can be truly scrutinised until after the General Election, as the financial statements for March 2021 will not be laid before Tynwald until October 2021.
After the tea break there were two items relating to the Charities Act 1986 and the Charities Registration and Regulation Act 2019 and various other small motions from the Treasury team.
There was then a debate on Armed Schooner “Peggy” in which my colleague Jason Moorhouse, MHK was asking for the Peggy to be returned and displayed in Castletown within a realistic timeline.
Unfortunately, most of the debate focused around the cost, which MNH reported to be north of £5 million.
We then finished the Tynwald sitting with a debate on Red Call Boxes, and given the current situation of the island as a result of Covid-19 I genuinely did not understand the timing of this particular motion.
The sitting finished just after 20.00 and once home I managed to catch up with a couple of items, but I was able to finish for around 21.15.
Back into the office before 8am for day two of this month’s Tynwald, but before the sitting I needed to catch up with a lot of department work, along with a couple more constituent issues.
I headed down to the Tynwald Chamber just before 10.30am and the sitting got underway with a motion from Graham Cregeen, MHK relating to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). This included evidence being taken at the Tynwald bar by Dr. Helen Greig who gave an excellent overview on behalf of the ME supporters group on the island, along with answering questions from Tynwald Members ahead of a general debate on the topic.
The ME debate continued throughout the morning session and into part of the afternoon. During the lunchtime break there was an invaluable CPD training session for Tynwald Members around “Coping with Change” (Managing Resistance and Fear), which was perfectly timed with a General Election on the horizon.
It was a shame that more Tynwald Members didn’t attend this particular training session, because it really was an excellent presentation around coping with stress, pressure, anxiety and depression etc.
The ME supporters group also gathered outside the Tynwald Chambers over lunchtime, and unfortunately I only had a few minutes to say hello before getting back to the Tynwald Chamber at 14.30 to continue with the ME debate.
This was followed by a general debate around the role of the Tynwald Commissioner for Administration, which desperately needs reviewing after obtaining feedback from those that have used the service over the past couple of years.
We had a further debate on Manx gas pricing and regulation, which is now becoming a monthly discussion point in Tynwald, and I am sure that many Manx Gas customers have heard enough – hopefully, the Gas (Tariff Fixing) Regulations 2021 will be the first step towards getting domestic household bills lowered.
The sitting continued with a general debate on the DHSC mandate to Manx Care and any other items on the main Order Paper and Supplementary Order Papers before this month’s sitting finished at around 19.15, and although I still had a lot of work to catch up with I managed to finish for 20.30.
Up and about from 6am on Thursday in order to get through the DfE Visit Isle of Man Agency agenda, along with various Motorsport papers ahead of two meetings scheduled for later on in the day.
It’s fair to say that things are starting to pile up, especially when I am also trying to get prepared for numerous election interviews, not forgetting my introduction letter and manifesto – and all of that before I even think about knocking on doors etc.
It really is going to be a busy few months ahead.
I still went into the office before 8am to continue working through various department papers and agenda before walking over to DfE just before 9am for the Visit Agency meeting. The Visit Agency had two presentations, but as I had already seen them I was able to get back to the office by 10.30am.
The next few hours were spent on department work or desperately trying to get various notes prepared for several media interviews I will be giving next week ahead of the House of Keys general election.
At 14.00 there was a DfE motorsport catch up, which was long over due in many ways. With TT 2020 and 2021 being cancelled, the team have been very much focused on the future of the TT, how to bring the event into the 21st Century and to ensure that we come back in 2022 bigger and better, but some of the changes will not be introduced until 2023.
The next big announcement involving TT 2022 will be made in June – so watch this space.
I had to re-arrange my 16.00 meeting simply because of the amount of work I needed to get through, and I continued to work from home until around 19.30.
As for Friday, again I was in the office before 8am and with a couple of meetings being cancelled or re-arranged I was able to get straight into some research and drafting several notes etc for the media interviews next week.
Just after 10am I walked down to the Sea Terminal for a Douglas / Onchan Traffic meeting, which was very good and gave elected members an opportunity to highlight various traffic concerns that have been raised by constituents.
Just a shame that only 5 out of the 10 members were at the meeting, which lasted a couple of hours.
Back to the office to catch up with things before heading home just before 14.00, in order to take a couple of hours off to get a few of my own chores done. On Friday evening Ellen and I went to the Douglas Golf Pavilion for this year’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Isle of Man Branch annual dinner, which had the Tynwald President Steve Rodan, MLC, OBE as the guest of honour.
The event is funded by the Tynwald Members and it was a wonderful occasion with great company, and the President Steve Rodan gave a fascinating presentation on “When Flares were in Fashion – a Political Journey”.
His political career on the Isle of Man started in 1995, but his political interest actually started in the 1970s when he was a young liberal at Edinburgh University in Scotland.
In July the President will be retiring from Manx politics and it was an honour for me to give the “vote of thanks” at the end of the evening after he received a standing ovation from his friends and colleagues.
We finally got home just before 23.30.
As for the weekend, I am hoping to take Saturday off to work on the garden room. I will post a few pictures once it is finished, which should be in the next couple of weeks.
As for Sunday it will be a full day at the kitchen table trying to get through a mountain of reading, along with going through various government reports and preparing for various media interviews on Monday.