Thank you Mr. Speaker
In accordance with Standing Order 3.29, I would like to move an adjournment in respect of the Isle of Man Constitution Bill 2023…..until such time that this draft legislation has gone through a full and proper public consultation…
….and the findings of that consultation have been presented back to this Hon House for further consideration.
My reason for moving this adjournment is due to the fact that since the Honourable Member for Ramsey obtained permission from this House in November to bring forward legislation that would see the Lord Bishop retain their seat in Tynwald and the Legislative Council, but would lose their right to vote….
…I have, just like so many other publicly elected members of this Honourable House over the past 40 years, genuinely struggled with this particular type of legislation, and the overall general debate around whether or not the Lord Bishop should continue have a vote in the Manx Parliament.
More importantly as a publicly elected Member of this House…I am deeply concerned by the unknown consequences should this legislation be introduced into the branches, and I will come back to this particular point in a few moments.
Just going through the First and Second readings, along with listening to the comments being made here today, I don’t believe the Hon Member for Ramsey, Mr Hooper has presented any compelling evidence or justification to this honourable House…
….but more importantly to our own Constituents, in order to warrant and justify the removal the Lord Bishop’s vote at this particular moment in time.
I also consider the removal of the Lord Bishop’s vote to be a major constitutional and historical change in respect of the workings of our Manx Parliament….
….and I would argue strongly that the people of this island – whether they are in favour or against this draft bill – they should be given a fair opportunity to have their say…
As I mentioned a few moments ago, there are potential unknown consequences, which we cannot ignore as elected Members to this Hon House.
What we do know so far is that the Archbishop of York wrote a letter on this particular topic on 14th November 2017, and I know a number of Members quoted from that correspondence during the Second Reading of the Bill.
In the correspondence the Archbishop was very clear when he said that the removal of the Lord Bishop’s vote in Tynwald and Legislative Council would significantly undermine the case for Sodor and Man being a separate diocese.
Just this week the current Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell expressed his sensuous concerns on the matter so soon after the debate in June.
The Lord Bishop has been part of the fabric of the Manx Parliament for hundreds of years, so if we are to proceed with downgrading the role of Lord Bishop within the Manx Parliament in the near future, then we really do need to fully understand the consequences….
…because there is a real chance that if this legislation does receive Royal Assent, then the Church of England could take the opportunity to remove the ancient role of the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man from the Isle of Man altogether.
The Church of England is in the process of appointing a new Lord Bishop, and that whole process could now be put on hold until this matter has been fully resolved.
This isn’t just about religion or even faith, it’s about the workings of our Manx Parliament, and making the right decision for the people of this island, but more importantly Hon Members fully understanding and appreciating the unknown consequences for taking this legislation forward today.
During my seven years as an elected Member of Tynwald, the Lord Bishop has always represented all faiths and all sections of our community and has also been a fair and strong advocate for the people of the Isle of Man.
The Lord Bishop’s contributions during difficult debates should never be underestimated, and they’ve always been respected and appreciated by honourable Members.
I should also remind this House that during the 2021 Isle of Man census, out of the 74,487 residents who answered the census question around religious belief, 54.7% reported that they were of a Christian faith.
If we are to make a major constitutional change in respect of the Manx Parliament, then let’s do it for the right reasons….
Let’s do it….. secure in the knowledge that the people of this island have had their say and are supportive of the direction that the Hon Member for Ramsey is asking this House to take in respect of the Lord Bishop’s vote…..
…but more importantly that our Parliament and our Community are fully aware of the consequences for making this constitutional and historic change for the people of this island.
In closing Mr Speaker
I just want to underline a point very clearly – I am asking Members here today to support a full public consultation via the Isle of Man Government’s Consultation Hub in conjunction with the Clerk of Tynwald’s Office, similar to other recent Private Members’ Bills, in order to give our constituents a fair opportunity to have their say on the Bishop’s Vote…
The Consultation should also be undertaken in accordance with the “Public Engagement and Consultation Principles” that were published in October 2017.
Anything less than a full public consultation, then I hope Members of this House hold the Hon Member for Ramsey fully to account.
I beg to move the adjournment.