The UK this week continued to move towards a second national lockdown after recording some of the highest daily Covid-19 totals (more than 6,000 new cases) in the last four months.
On Tuesday evening the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson in a televised address to the nation announced a curfew for pubs and restaurants and tougher rules for weddings, along with encouraging office staff to work from home wherever possible.
The UK Prime Minister was firm when he said that people needed to stick to the new rules or face even tougher restrictions, which could result in a full lockdown once more. He also added that “never in our history has our collective destiny and collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour”…
The UK Coronavirus alert level is also being upgraded from three back to four, which is just one step down from a full “lock-down”, because of the risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed once again – a very scary time from both a health point of view, but also from an economic point of view.
Here on the Isle of Man, our Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK gave a general update on Thursday evening and confirmed that there will be no change to the current border controls. That said, the Council of Ministers are now looking to split Level 3 into 3A (allowing residents to ‘sponsor’ immediate family members off-Island to visit with a period of mandatory isolation) and 3B (‘sponsorship’ stretches to friends and business visits), which may address some of the concerns on the horizon in respect of the Christmas holidays etc.
In respect of TT 2021, the Chief Minister said “Let’s not say no”.
Anyway, let’s move on…
My schedule for Saturday last weekend changed, so instead of having a few engagements I was able to take the day off. As for Sunday, Martyn Perkins, MHK and I went head to head in the Food and Drink Festival “Ready Steady Cook” competition.
On the menu was “Manx Baked Alaska”, which Martyn won, but as I posted on social media, my Tynwald colleague charmed the audience from the start before bribing the judges (Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK and the President of Tynwald, Steve Rodan) with Maltesers and a Manx Flag.
The final vote was with the audience who went for Martyn’s creation, and it was a really good event and great fun. A big thank you to Dot Tilbury and the DEFA Minister, Geoffrey Boot, MHK for compering the event. Overall, the Food and Drink Festival attracted more than 16,000 people over the two day event.
As for the rest of my week, I was back in the office just before 8am on Monday for the start of what could be a very busy period up to Christmas, which is fast approaching. The day started with me responding to various correspondence received over the weekend, along with returning several phone calls.
The phone calls included a discussion around the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020, which was a follow-up from the meeting I scheduled a few weeks ago, plus I needed to deal with an ongoing housing issue, which is extremely difficult and complex.
I also had to deal with a social care issue on behalf of a Constituent who is having to fund their own treatment at the moment due to a shortage of that particular service on the NHS.
I then headed down to the promenade and the Palace Hotel for a meeting involving the DOI, a local business and the police in respect of the policies around closing the Promenade during periods of extremely bad weather, which has become more frequent in recent years.
Back to the office to start going through a few department reports, which included a business case proposal for the island’s tourism sector. At midday I headed up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation and update on the Area Plan for the East, which will be tabled at the October sitting of Tynwald.
The presentation lasted a couple of hours, which gave me time to return a couple of calls before walking down to the Sea Terminal for three presentations. The first one was on the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill ahead of four drop-in sessions being held over the next few weeks. The next one related to the International Maritime Standards Bill 2020 and the IMO III Code Legislation, and the final briefing was on Electric Bicycles and E-Scooters.
I managed to get home for around 18.00, but I still had a few emails to catch up with before finishing for 19.30.
Back into the office for 8am on Tuesday and the first job was to go through the DfE agenda pack ahead of a department meeting on Wednesday. Just after 9am I headed back into Onchan for two Constituent meetings, the first one related to podiatry services and the other related to a housing application.
From Onchan it was straight down into the Isle of Man Business Park in Braddan, in order to attend a meeting scheduled by my colleague Jason Moorhouse, MHK in respect of the conservation of the “Peggy”, which is an 18th Century Yacht that is currently located in a business unit.
Ex-Chief Minister Tony Brown also attended the meeting and I felt the presentation given by Chris and Andrew from MNH was very good.
At 12 noon I drove down to Peel to meet up with my old friend and colleague Tim Crookall for lunch and a quick walk around the harbour and quay to discuss a couple of DOI issues, which I will bring to the Department‘s attention.
Back to the office for 14.30 to catch up with a couple of things before driving to Braddan Church for the first drop-in session relating to the Landlord Registration Bill 2020. A steady stream of people attended the session and lots of questions were asked by concerned landlords.
It was also great to have local charity, Housing Matters and a team from the DEFA’s Environmental Health on hand, in order to help with any questions. I was only able to stay for the first hour and a half, which went by in a flash, but I really did enjoy it…
I managed to get home for around 18.00, but after tea and putting a new delivery of wood away in the shed I still needed to catch up with various emails and a couple of phone calls before finishing around 19.15.
As for Wednesday, I was in the office for the usual time, which gave me time to get a few jobs done before walking over to DfE just after 9am for the political team meeting with the Minister. At 10am we had a relatively short DfE Board Meeting and I was back in my office just after 11.30am.
With a shorter than expected department meeting I was able to take Ellen out for lunch to celebrate our 14th Wedding Anniversary. I think we both still have such fond memories of our wedding weekend in the Lake District back in 2006.
Since then, Ellen and I have travelled the world together and seen some amazing places, and although there have been a few lows (not many), it has been a fantastic 14 year journey so far, along with the previous three years before we got married.
It was only a short lunch break, because I needed to get some research done and to catch up with some vital reading that related to previous Tynwald debates etc, which took up a couple of hours.
At 15.30 I logged into an MNH meeting, which was continuing to look at Viking tourism and the new possibility for the Isle of Man in the near future. The presentation, which included a Q & A session lasted around 90 minutes.
I left the office at around 17.15, and in the evening I received various messages from Constituents on a number of topics, which meant I didn’t finish until around 20.30.
In the office well before 8am on Thursday and the first meeting was with Glenn Johnston, Chair of the Safeguarding Board. Unfortunately, it was a shorter meeting than normal, because I had to attend the Visit Isle of Man Executive Agency meeting from 9.30am.
Another difficult Visit Agency meeting with a few exchanged words, as the board continued to look towards the 2021 tourism season. Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting slightly early in order to get back to our legislative building to attend the 49th British Islands and Mediterranean Region Conference, which was being held virtually this year and involved representatives from around 14 parliaments.
The conference was meant to be held in Malta in May, but it was cancelled due to Covid-19. The Isle of Man delegation was led by the Policy & Reform Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK along with Ann Corlett, MHK, Martyn Perkins, MHK and myself.
The conference was opened with speeches from Hon. Angelo Farrugia, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament of Malta and the Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, the CPA Chairperson at 12 noon.
This was followed by the first plenary session, which focused on “the role of parliaments in managing the impact of Covid-19 on small jurisdictions” and included a key note speech from Deputy Kevin Pamplin from the States of Jersey.
Some great contributions from the parliamentarians as to how different Parliaments have managed and dealt with the pandemic.
At 15.45 the British Islands and Mediterranean Region Conference held its annual AGM, which lasted around 90 minutes, and I was able to leave the office for around 17.15. Just time to grab some tea and get changed before Ellen and I headed down to the Gaiety Theatre for the Isle of Man Newspapers “Community Kindness Show” that started at 19.30.
What a wonderful event! Other than September 2016 I cannot remember another occasion when I have felt so proud to be Manx and to live on such a beautiful island. Through a series of videos and live performances, the show gave us all a moment to pause and to reflect on the events that have unfolded across our island since March 2020.
More importantly, a moment to thank all sections of our Community that have pulled together and supported each other when our people needed it most – thank you…
In between the headlines, the stories, the fundraising and the massive Community spirit over the past six months, the event also showcased some of the very best talent this island has to offer.
The Last of the Summer Wine sketch with Dot Tilbury and the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK on a tandem bike was something special, and at the end of the evening young Dylan Watson presented a cheque to Rebecca House for £27,000 after his amazing fundraising challenge to climb Snaefell despite his difficulties in walking – what a little star…..
I finally got home for around 22.30 and after sending a couple of emails I was able to finish for around 23.00.
In the office before 8am on Friday and the first part of the morning was spent going through the Plenary Session 2 in respect of the British Islands and Mediterranean Region Conference. Just after 9am I headed back into Onchan to meet up with a Constituent, which was a general catch up and long overdue…
Back to the office to start putting together my notes for the Tynwald tour I will be giving Sunday morning, which took a couple of hours.
At 12.45 I headed downstairs for day two of the British Islands and Mediterranean Region Conference, which started with an overview of the first plenary session yesterday.
This was followed by Plenary Session 2, which asked the question “Have Governments adequately addressed the different impacts of Covid-19 on women and men in policy-making?”
After a short break we went into the “Plenary Session 3”, which asked the question “Have the innovations introduced in response to Covid-19 made Parliaments more resilient? and “Can these innovations contribute towards making Parliaments more open and accessible to Members of Parliament and the Public?
Two very interesting debates amongst the conference delegates, and the conference was brought to a close just before 16.30, but I didn’t leave the office until 17.15.
Late on Friday afternoon it was confirmed that Professor Ronald Barr, Chief Executive of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture had left the department after a report highlighted a fractured relationship between the department and Manx schools.
As for the weekend, I have my political surgery on Saturday morning between 10am and 11.30am at the Onchan Community Centre and on Sunday I will be conducting a tour of our Legislative Buildings and our Parliamentary Chambers, along with a few ongoing projects and several department papers that I can’t ignore any longer.
It is definitely going to be a busy weekend.