Blog 17 Feb 18

As a current Member for the House of Keys, I do follow most topics and threads through social media and the local press, but I particularly enjoy listening to the comments from past Tynwald members giving their views, knowledge and wisdom, especially on the current House, Tynwald or the Government.

I took the opportunity last weekend to watch a video with the previous Chief Minister Allan Bell, CBE with Paul Moulton of MTTV. It is worth watching and I definitely share his views in respect of LegCo and the troubles coming down the line, especially relating to the role they may or may not play in a future Manx parliament.

That’s the main reason I have not nominated anyone for these upcoming LegCo elections.

One point I didn’t agree with was the fact that Mr Bell felt that this administration was one coherent group and that we were a very compliant bunch.

I personally think that current MHKs and our colleagues from LegCo have been very quick to put pressure on the Departments via tabling questions or correspondence, in order for Departments to justify the key decisions being made.

It is important that the general public remember that many of the unpalatable decisions made in the past seventeen months have been made at Department level and not on the floor of Tynwald or the House of Keys.

Although I know Allan Bell described his own Council of Ministers as ‘like herding cats’, I can assure Mr. Bell and the wider public that this Government is probably being held more accountable and being scrutinised more thoroughly by backbench MHKs than during the previous two or three administrations – we are just doing things slightly differently.

Having followed Manx Politics for around 15 years, the best way to describe some of the behaviour of a few backbenchers in the past was ‘Let’s throw out enough allegations, eventually something will be proved right….’

Some of the credit also has to be given to the current Chief Minister for allowing his Ministers far more freedom than previous Governments, in order for them to vote more openly on various topics affecting our island.

So are we more compliant than the previous administration? Definitely not…..

I genuinely believe this House of Keys is more professional and businesslike, but we are not perfect and we definitely still need to engage and communicate better with the wider general public on how these key decisions are being reached.

Anyway, Monday’s Blog is relatively short because I spent the entire day working on my Budget speech. In the office for 8.20am and other than taking a few Constituent calls, speaking to colleagues on various topics and drafting a couple of letters I spent all day at my desk reading through a mountain of notes and budget information, along with starting to put together my speech.

A big thank you to Bill Shimmins, MHK and Ralph Peake, MHK and the Treasury team for answering various questions throughout the day.

The day went by so fast and before I realised it was 17.15 and time to go home.

I had a quick tea and then it was straight back into the Budget until I finished at 21.00.

In the office for 8am on Tuesday and the early part of the morning was spent going through a couple of tourism agency framework agreements. I also took the opportunity to go through a few Abortion documents ahead of the House of Keys sitting, which started at 10am.

There were only three questions down for oral answer and a further five questions down for written reply.

We then moved on to consideration of Clauses for the Abortion Reform Bill 2018, at which time the House of Keys effectively sat as a whole Committee in order to hear testimonies from expert witnesses, which included International human rights activist Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, UK Labour peer Lord Brennan QC, retired gynaecologist Bob Fayle, and legislative drafter Howard Connell.

It was definitely a very technical debate surrounding Conscientious Objections, Medical Supervision, Counselling, General Time Limits, 24 Week Limit, 14 Week Limit and greater Scrutiny.

The House adjourned at 13.30 at which time we went up to the Barool Suite for a presentation given by the Treasury team on an item that will form part of the Budget next week – I am unable to give further details at this stage, but tune in on Tuesday morning.

Straight back to the Chamber at 14.30 to finish off the Abortion debate along with any other business.

From there I went straight into a meeting with the Clerk of Tynwald relating to topic I really didn’t see coming. I can’t give further details on this either right now – let’s just say it is another key lesson learned in this extremely difficult role as an MHK, regarding who to trust and who not to trust…….

Back to my desk and other than driving home at 17.30 I spent pretty much the next five hours drafting a very detailed and complex email in response to correspondence received.

Finally finished at 22.00.

It was definitely one of those sleepless night again and I was up from 5am watching the Winter Olympics in South Korea, which is highly entertaining. I also took the opportunity to catch up with some e-mails before getting into the office for 8am.

I was also slightly behind on my workload because of drafting the long correspondence last night, so I spent the first hour coming through the DfE Agenda Pack, which I should have done on Tuesday evening.

We walked over to DfE just before 9.30am for the usual Minister and Political Members briefing, which was followed by the Department Meeting that finished at 12 noon.

Not the most exciting board meeting in respect of decisions made, but still a good meeting with plenty of reports for reviewing and noting.

We then went straight up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by the new Tynwald Commissioner for Administration, but to be perfectly honest I wasn’t in the best mood following the meeting I had had on Tuesday afternoon, so I left the presentation early and took the opportunity to just work at my desk for the rest of the day.

I also managed to clear any outstanding e-mails, write a couple of letters and to continue with my Budget prep work.

As it was Valentine’s Day, instead of buying some flowers for Ellen, I bought some steaks, chips and a chocolate pudding – only the best in our house, trust me!

I left the office at 17.10 and I took the night off to relax, cooking and eating the steak dinner and watching some TV.

Back into the office for 8.10am on Thursday and a very similar day to Monday’s write-up. With no briefings or meetings I spent the entire day at my desk working on my Budget speech.

Finally finished changing, swopping and adding things and reading previous reports at around 16.00. I genuinely cannot believe how long it has taken me to draft a simple ten or fifteen minute speech…. I just hope it is worth it.

I will of course publish my speech online once it has been delivered on the floor of Tynwald.

With no real pressure on me on Thursday, so I was able to take Ellen to the Noodle Bar on Athol Street at lunchtime, a place I highly recommend.

I also managed to catch up on correspondence throughout the day and I made several calls on behalf of Constituents on various topics.

I left the office at 17.10 and after tea I had to read through an independent report relating to the Iris Scheme but I was able to finish for 20.30.

With no meetings or briefings on Friday I was able to work from home, which worked out very nicely.

I spent part of the morning drafting and sending out a number of letters on behalf of the Onchan 2nd Scouts, as I am helping them to raise some funds for an ongoing project.

With Tynwald coming up next week, I started to go though the Order Paper but other than the Budget it isn’t a heavy agenda – we might even finish in one day, just like last year’s Budget.

After lunch I headed into Onchan for a couple of Constituent meetings, along with following up with a few Constituent enquiries from last month, as the weather and my calendar appointments have stopped me from carrying out site visits until now.

I then had a meeting with officers from Onchan Commissioners as a follow-up on various Constituent matters, but it was good to catch up.

I took full advantage of the easy day by stopping at 16.00 before heading out at 18.30 for the formal launch of the Southern 100 event in Castletown.

A busy weekend scheduled, I have my Political Surgery on Saturday morning between 10am and 11.30am, along with Constituent meetings straight afterwards.

On Saturday evening I will be attending the Southern 100 Annual Dinner, which is always a wonderful evening.

I will also continue preparing for Tynwald next week.