This week was one of those uneventful and quiet weeks, which I am not complaining about as it has enabled me to focus on various other projects that I want to complete in 2019.
It also gave me an opportunity to start preparing for the Eastern Area Plan Public Inquiry and other Constituent related projects. As always, full details will be given in due course over the next few months.
As for Brexit and the latest from the House of Commons, well on Monday MPs voted to take control of the process with several indicative votes and by Thursday the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May offered her resignation if her own party accepted and supported her Brexit deal.
Unfortunately, by the end of the week all indicative vote options on Brexit were defeated, before MPs also rejected Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement for the third time by 344 to 286, a margin of 58.
All of this happening in the week in which the UK was meant to be leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019 at 23.00….
So what now? Well, the UK will certainly be leaving the EU with no deal, but is the UK about to call a General Election as well as looking for a new Tory Leader? I guess we just have to wait and see over the next couple of weeks.
Back on the Isle of Man and closer to home, I guess I have to start this week’s Blog with an apology, especially to the two people who turned up at the Onchan Community Centre last Saturday hoping to attend the drop in session in relation to the Rates Reform Consultation.
As I mentioned last week the wrong date was published in the Manx Independent – the actual meeting is taking place today (30th March) between 10am and 12 noon, with the Policy and Reform Minister, Chris Thomas, MHK and myself ready to take questions about the Rates Modernisation.
I still thought it would be best that I went up to the Community for a couple hours last Saturday just in case anyone actually did turn up, which was fine because I took some Committee work with me. I was glad I did as a couple of people did in fact arrive so I was able to explain and apologise for the confusion.
On Sunday lunchtime I was working on the house listening to Manx Radio’s Perspective Programme, which I have to say is a breathe of fresh air as Dollin Mercer and guests look at a particular issue in greater detail instead of the usual skirting around the edges.
In the first hour of the programme Chris Robertshaw, MHK gave his view on the purchase of the Steam Packet Company last year for £124 million, which was a bit strange because the DOI Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK was in the second half of the programme.
In the previous programmes both the Minister and backbench MHK(s) / MLC(s) or other guests debated the topic, along with pros and cons for making the particular decision or direction….
Anyway, Chris is an experienced politician, but I couldn’t believe it when he said that current Tynwald Members were far too compliant in this administration…. He is entitled to his opinion, but I don’t agree with his comments.
I think most Tynwald Members, especially the current House of Keys Members are actually listening and representing the views of their Constituents or at least the majority view, along with any manifesto pledges wherever possible.
I am sure that if Chris actually worked in a Government Department or sat in our DfE fortnightly meetings, then he would certainly see a professional, businesslike meeting but also political members actively challenging the policies and decisions being made.
I still believe that I have a better input into actual policy on a Department level than I do within Tynwald Court and the House of Keys from time to time. I also genuinely think that more Tynwald Members in this administration outline their own individual concerns on a particular item and thereafter are not afraid to speak their minds or to represent the view of their Constituents.
Stopping the block vote of the Council of Ministers in Tynwald or in the House of Keys can be difficult at times, especially around obtaining sufficient support amongst backbench MHKs / MLCs. However, that doesn’t mean that Tynwald Members are simply being compliant and having their bellies tickled by the Council of Ministers.
Unfortunately, they just cannot obtain sufficient support for various reasons amongst the backbench MHKs, unlike the Council of Minister that come to a consensus view, which then creates the block vote…..
What Constituents should be looking at is how their MHK actually votes on a particular Motion or Debate that they are personally interested in. Hansard provides a full record of all votes cast for all three Chambers, and all Tynwald electronic voting results are available via the Tynwald Parliamentary Data webpage.
As I put in my 2016 manifesto, this administration and the next one will have to make some major decisions over the next 10 years and the days of sitting blindfolded on the sidelines, throwing a few stones and hoping to occasionally smash a window have long gone… Future decisions have to be made based on the evidence presented.
By way of an example, let’s take the purchase of the Sea Packet Company for £124 million. I still believe that the purchase of the Company was a little overpriced and I personally would have held back on purchasing the Company until 2020 or even 2021.
However, looking back at the purchase 2017 it has now secured vital links to and from the Isle of Man to the North West and to Ireland for future generations, avoided potential major legal dispute in 2026 over the linkspans, secured Manx jobs under Manx Law and avoided the Company being run for cash until 2026.
That future cash flow is now being used to fund new vessels, which can only benefit locals and visitors alike.
Our job as MHK’s is to listen to Constituents and to explain why a particular course of action is taken, however difficult it might be.
Anyway let’s move on…..
Back to this week, as I have already mentioned it has been a fairly light week in respect of meetings and briefing, which has enabled me to turn my attention to a few ongoing projects.
Monday was a catch up day although I arrived in the office just after 7.30am.
The first couple of hours were spent drafting various correspondence relating to invitations and an ongoing project relating to the Eastern Area Plan and the Public Inquiry, which has now been delayed until September 2019.
10am I attended the Springfield coffee morning, but I was back at my desk for 11am to continue to work on the Eastern Area Plan project.
I also needed to review a few Department papers, along with catching up with correspondence and to start going through my DfE agenda pack.
At 14.00 I drove into Willaston for a meeting with various Governments Departments and the St Christopher’s charity, which gave me an insight into the work currently being undertake to ensure that young adults in care have the right level of support and opportunity when leaving the care system, along with the right opportunities to gain additional education, support and benefits etc.
With no further meetings or briefings I was able to go straight home at 15.30, but I still needed to finish off going through the DfE pack.
I was in the office for just after 8am on Tuesday, in order to finish off preparing for the Rates Modernisation drop in session with Chris Thomas, MHK on Saturday morning (10am to 12 noon), along with sending out a few letters relating to an ongoing Constituent planning issue.
At 10am we went down to the House of Keys for this week’s sitting, which started with 11 oral questions and 10 written questions. The House then considered the amendments tabled by the Legislative Council relating to the Dormant Assets Bill 2018.
This was followed by the third reading of the Charities Registration and Regulation Bill 2018, along with Consideration of Clauses for the Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2019.
The sitting finished at 12.30 and from there went straight up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation on medical cannabis, which was very educational and informative.
The presentation finished at 14.00 and the rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk going through the Public Accounts Committee agenda pack, along with drafting a few additional letters before leaving the office at 17.00.
The usual routine for Wednesday, in the office just after 8am to prepare for various meetings before walking over to DfE for the Minister and Political Members meeting, which started at 9.30am.
At 10am we had the Department meeting, which was fairly straightforward with only a handful of decisions to be made.
I was back at the office for 12.30 to catch up with correspondence and to return a couple of calls received from Constituents.
At 14.00 we had our Public Accounts Committee meeting, but again it wasn’t the toughest meeting I have attended as the Committee continues to review various avenues of enquiry.
I left the office at 17.00.
As for Thursday, it was an early start as Ellen and I headed out for a walk at 6am, now the light is certainly getting better in the mornings.
With the weather looking fine for the whole day, I took the opportunity to stay at home and to work on the house. I started just after 7am and I finally finished for around 16.30, but there is still so much work to be done over the next few months and I am definitely running out of time already.
I am hoping to start a new further education course in June, so I need to have everything finished before then. I completed the level 5 Chartered Management Institute in Leadership and Management a couple of years ago and I am now looking to sign up for Level 7 before the end of the year.
After getting showered and changed I started to catch up with emails, along with returning a couple of Constituent calls.
I finally finished at 19.30.
I went into the office for 8am on Friday but I only had one meeting at 11.30am, which was a DfE workshop meeting with Treasury once again.
The meeting focused around the employed persons benefits, which will be tabled again in Tynwald in May.
The rest of the day was spent at my desk catching up with any outstanding correspondence, along with reviewing MNH safeguarding policy.
I also went up to Manx Radio to do an interview on patient transfer services and spent a couple of hours on my own projects.
The final job of the day was to return several missed calls from Constituents on various topics including self harm, housing and patient transfers.
I left the office at 17.10.
Ellen and I spent Friday evening looking after our friends’ two boys, so we took the opportunity to go to Views Restaurant in Onchan Park for tea.
As for the weekend, I have my drop in session with Chris Thomas on Saturday morning. Sunday, subject to the weather, will be spent on the house.