Blog 17 Feb 19I don’t know if anyone remembers the TV show called “Quantum Leap” in which a former scientist Sam Beckett finds himself trapped in time due to an experiment gone wrong, resulting in him leaping into a different person each week……

Definitely one of my favourite programmes from the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Anyway, the reason for the reference is because I felt I stepped back into a previous life this week when I travelled to Bradford to watch the International Professional Pool Association (IPA) World Championships, which were being held between 5th and 10th February at the Bradford Hotel.

Many years ago I played in several World Eight Ball Pool Championships, which were played at the Hilton, Blackpool.

So my trip to Bradford in the past week certainly brought back a lot of happy memories playing for the Isle of Man National team, but it definitely felt like a different time, and a different place, and a different life….

The reason for the trip was to make initial contact with the IPA Committee, putting faces to names etc, along with taking the opportunity to watch Manx Professional Pool Player David Addinall play a few games in his first World Championship bid.

One of the key objectives for the Visit Isle of Man Agency at the moment is to increase the number of visitors and the number of events outside the peak season, especially those events that are not weather dependent.

So a professional pool tournament would certainly fill that particular brief, and I know that several other Visit Board Members are working on other projects, in order to help bring key events to the Isle of Man in 2019/20.

I am also happy to confirm that the trip was also fully funded by me personally, so if the island doesn’t manage to secure an annual IPA Pool Event going forward then nothing is really lost other than my own time and funds, but it is certainly worth a gamble…..

It was a fantastic World Championships, which were also being streamed live online throughout the event.

On Friday (8th Feb) the Isle of Man was being battered by high winds, but I still arrived at the airport for around 8.30am as scheduled.

Unfortunately, my 9.55am flight to Manchester was then cancelled.

I was actually in two minds whether to cancel the whole trip at that stage and to reschedule my meeting with the IPA for another time and place, but somehow I managed to secure the final ticket on the next Manchester flight, which left at 12.45.

Despite my flight being delayed, I was still able to catch up with plenty of work at the airport, and I guess that is one of the advantages of being mobile these days – your work always goes with you….

There were lots of people I knew also waiting at the airport and I had several conversations on various topics.

The rescheduled flight left on time and on arriving at Manchester Airport I jumped onto a train, with the help of an ex-MLC colleague and friend, Tony Wild, who was spending a couple of days in Manchester.

I had to change train once, but I finally arrived at the Bradford Hotel for around 16.30, and once I had checked into the hotel I met up with the IPA Chairman, along with David Addinall who I have known for over 25 years.

Unfortunately, because my flight was delayed I missed watching David Addinall play in the last 16 of the World Championships against the 2017 World Champion Craig Marsh, in which the Manx player lost 3-1 in sets, but still a fantastic achievement out of 254 players.

The rest of the weekend was spent at the Championships watching a few games and making contact with several IPA Committee Members, along with catching up with my older brother Peter who travelled over from Warrington.

The final was held on Saturday night between the World Number 1, Marc Farnsworth who eventually defeated Tom Cousins 4-3 in a final which lasted almost 7 hours, and finished just before midnight…..

I took the opportunity to go through the Income Tax Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Charities Registration and Regulation Bill 2018 on Sunday, in order to start preparing for the House of Keys sitting on Tuesday.

Fortunately, I did also manage to watch David Addinall play in the Premier League qualifier on Sunday morning, but he wasn’t successful on that occasion.

Monday was all about travelling back to the Isle of Man from Bradford and everything was on time.

I left Bradford at 9.50am and arrived home for 15.30 on the flight from Manchester.

I did manage to go through most of the DfE order paper on the train between Bradford and Manchester as the agenda pack runs into a few hundred pages.

Once home I also needed to return a couple of calls on behalf of Constituents.

Back into the office for 8.10am on Tuesday, in order to finish off going the DfE agenda pack. I also needed to go through various bits of evidence ahead of the PAC Committee session with Dr. Malcom Couch and Mrs. Michaela Morris from the DHSC on Wednesday afternoon.

Just before 10am we headed down to the House of Keys for this week’s sitting, which started with 12 oral questions and 4 written questions.

The Charities Registration and Regulations Bill 2018 received its first reading before Chris Thomas, MHK asked for standing orders to be suspended to take the Second Reading at the same sitting, but this was defeated 13-10 by Members.

Unfortunately, the Policy and Reform Minister has “cried wolf” several times previously, in order to push though Legislation without proper scrutiny and oversight by the House of Keys.

Therefore, on this occasion it was right to push back and say no…….

The Dormant Assets Bill 2018 had its third reading and the Income Tax Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 had consideration of the Clauses.

The sitting finished at around 12.35.

At 13.00 we went up to the Barool Suite for a series of presentations from the Department of Infrastructure, which outlined three Capital Schemes, which will be tabled in Tynwald in due course.

We then had a workshop on the Programme for Government, which was a progress update from the last couple of years….

The meeting finished at 16.20, which gave me time to continue working on the PAC evidence session for Wednesday.

I left the office at 17.10, but I was only home for an hour or so, in order to get showered and changed…

At 18.45 I headed back into Douglas as I was invited to dinner through a local company, which had two very important people visiting and looking around the island last week.

I am sure more details around this particular visit will be made public later on in the year, but it was good to have the support of the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK and my DfE colleague Daphne Caine, MHK.

There were only six of us in the restaurant, so it was a very pleasant evening in great company.

I finally got home for around 22.00.

A very busy day on Wednesday and after getting into the office for around 8.10am it was straight into the ongoing prep work for the Public Accounts Committee ahead of the evidence session.

Just after 9.15am I walked over to DfE for the Minister and Political Members meeting that started at 9.30am.

At 10am it was straight into the boardroom for the Chair and Head of Agencies updates. We also had a meeting with Jonathan Hall and Edmund Southworth from Manx National Heritage who provided the board with their annual update.

We also had a heavy agenda pack to get through, but we managed to finish by around 12.40.

After returning a couple of missed calls it was straight up to the Barrool Suite for a Brexit Regulations update from the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK.

Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for around 30 minutes as I still needed to go through my notes and paperwork ahead of the PAC meeting, which started at 14.00.

The PAC had a pre-meeting between 14.00 and 14.30 before going in to the Legislative Council Chamber to take evidence from Dr. Malcom Couch and Mrs. Michaela Morris on the hospital overspend.

It was definitely a very interesting evidence session, especially around the publication of the island’s Integrated Health and Care Service document, which was pretty much a word for word copy of a document drafted by Wigan Council.

I certainly haven’t seen any evidence to date to show that the Wigan Council document or the Isle of Man’s Vision have been successful, and I certainly have to question how anyone can take credit for something which has simply been copied and pasted.

Definitely not the Departments finest hour……

Local media certainly picked up the story very quickly and it was featured on Manx Radio and the Manx Independent the following day….

The Committee session finished at 17.00, which was followed by a post PAC Committee meeting.

I still managed to get home for 17.50, in order to catch up with a few correspondence and phone calls.

After tea I started to go though the Visit Isle of Man Agency pack ahead of a workshop on Thursday afternoon, but I managed to finish for 20.00.

Thursday was Valentine’s Day, but unfortunately there were no Valentine’s cards for me or anyone else on the Island, as the Isle of Man Postal Workers started a three day strike over pay and conditions.

According to local media outlets, the senior management within the Isle of Man Post have tabled their final proposal this week, so if the reports are correct then I can only hope that the Council of Ministers intervene as quickly as possible, in order to resolve the situation for everyone involved.

I certainly believe the whole situation could, and should, have been handled a lot better by those involved, especially from the Post Office side.

From there my attention moved towards preparing for this month’s Tynwald sitting next week, which includes the Budget.

At 9.30am I attended a motorsport team meeting, which was the usual catch-up ahead of this year’s events which is fast approaching.

The meeting lasted over two hours and once back at my desk I was able to continue working on the Tynwald sitting.

It also gave me an opportunity to draft several items of correspondence before returning to DfE at 13.00 for a Visit Isle of Man Agency workshop with our PR agents, which gave the tourism team an opportunity to review 2018, and to look forward to 2019.

The final hour of the day was spent at my desk before leaving the office at 17.00.

Once home I still needed to read a couple of reports approved by Tynwald in 2015, which related to climate change, which will have follow up questions in the House of Keys on 26th February.

Finally finished for around 19.00.

I only had two appointments in my calendar on Friday, which gave me plenty of time to focus on the Budget next week, and to catch up with any outstanding bits of correspondence.

At 9.45am the Select Committee looking into Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People, which includes Tim Baker MHK (Chair) and Kerry Sharpe MLC walked over to a St Christopher’s facility based in Hope Street.

The property is a base for St Christopher’s officers and a couple of social workers, and the first hour was spent talking to them and listening to their concerns at an officer level.

The second hour was then spent with several young adults who are struggling to find their place in society at the moment, and it is fair to say that many of the systems currently in place are failing those young adults, especially around accessing information and support.

It might have taken a few minutes to get the young adults to open up, but after the initial silence the conversation amongst the group was very very good.

I will certainly follow up on a couple of lines of enquiry over the weekend on behalf of two or three of the young adults who are desperately looking to secure employment opportunities.

The rest of the day was spent in the office preparing for the Budget or simply trying to clear my in-box.

I left the office at 17.10, but at 18.45 I drove down to Castletown to attend the Southern 100 launch night, which started at 19.30.

On Saturday I have a Constituent meeting first thing, and then I will be holding my monthly Political Surgery at the Onchan Community Hub. In the evening Ellen and I will be attending the Southern 100 Annual Dinner, which is always a wonderful evening.

Most of Sunday will certainly be taken up with ongoing work relating to next Tuesday’s Budget.