Thank you Mr. President

I would like to start by thanking the Tynwald Committee and the Chief Minister for giving Hon. Members sufficient time to seriously go through this report in some detail before this very important debate today, which has 24 recommendations for careful consideration.

I think we need to accept from the outset that there many lessons that need to be learnt from the findings of this report, not just relating to the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal, but more importantly the role undertaken by the AG’s Chambers and the interim Chief Secretary at the time during key stages of this Employment hearing.

The Independent Review of the Government’s Management of the Ranson Case was undertaken by Richard Wright KC, and I am extremely grateful to him and his team for the final report.

The report confirms that Dr. Ranson lodged her initial complaint with the Employment and Equality Tribunal in April 2021, and in May 2022 the employment tribunal concluded that Dr. Ranson had been unfairly dismissed from her role as the island’s Medical Director.

Shortly after that ruling, my colleague from Douglas North, Mr. Ashford stepped down as the Treasury Minister, and having worked alongside Mr. Ashford for many years, I am happy to echo the comments from Mr. Wright KC in his final report, who described Mr. Ashford to be principled, open and honest – and I am delighted to see those comments in his final report.

A number of Senior Civil Servants within the Manx Government also lost their position as a direct result of this tribunal, but three years later on we are still discussing the fallout from this employment hearing….

…and it is very clear from reading this report that mistakes were common, and that procedures and guidelines, along with rules and regulations were simply not being followed at the highest level within the Manx Government.

Having worked in the island’s finance industry for many years, I would like to think that I have a good basic understanding of process and procedures, along with looking after statutory, risk and compliance obligations, together with finance and company law.

Anyone that has worked in a well regulated environment that is audited or inspected will understand that following processes and procedures becomes second nature, because they are designed not only to protect you, but also your colleagues, the business and more importantly your customers.

The higher-risk situation you face, the more meticulous attention to detail becomes crucial, especially around recording how those final conclusions were reached….

Mr President

Before I move onto my involvement in this report, I would make a few general observations around the findings of this report before I was appointed the Health and Social Care Minister in September 2022……

From reading the report very carefully, I do absolutely agree with the findings when it says that Attorney General’s Chambers failed to appreciate the significance and complexity of the Claim.

Neither did they see the significant reputational damage to the Isle of Man Government in respect of this high profile employment dispute between the island’s Medical Director and the Department of Health and Social Care from the outset.

I also agree with Mr. Wright’s report and his recommendations when he talks about the allocation of work in the AG’s Chambers, and assigning this particular case to a solicitor whose post qualification experience was mostly in personal injury litigation, and not employment law….

….along with his comments around triaging of all claims and the allocation of work within the AG’s Chambers in the future, especially for those that may pose a greater risk of reputational damage to the Manx Government, and more importantly to the Isle of Man.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it is very clear now that this employment dispute should have been assigned to an employment law specialist from the outset, especially with the individuals involved.

It is also deeply concerning to read comments in this report around a potential “miscarriage of justice”, and the fact that the judgement was highly critical of the DHSC and the way that the Department had approached the litigation before the Employment Tribunal had actually started….

….and again, there are so many lessons that need to be learnt here, in order to ensure history does not repeat itself in the future.

It is also hard for me to comment on the actual Employment Tribunal, because just like so many other people across the island I was following the hearing, but not in any great detail….

…and it wasn’t until I was appointed as Health and Social Care Minister on 20th September 2022 that I started to look at the finer detail of the actual tribunal.

Mr. President,

Some of the key dates for me personally in respect of my involvement in this Employment Tribunal are 3rd, 5th and 10th August 2022…

….because on 3rd August 2022 the Attorney General’s Chambers sent correspondence advising their client, the Department of Health and Social Care, that a legal conflict had been created, and this was after the tribunal decided to hold a “Special Disclosure Hearing” around legal privilege.

On 5th August the DHSC had an initial consultation with Callin Wild, and as Mr. Wright highlights in his report “On or about 10th August 2022 the Attorney General’s Chambers ceased to act for the DHSC in this litigation and Callin Wild, a firm of independent lawyers were instructed to conduct the remainder of the litigation on behalf of the DHSC”.

“the remainder of the litigation” – that is a very important point to remember, because the report talks about the appeal exposing tension from time to time around the narrow best interests of the Department and the wider best interests of the Manx Government, which the AG’s Chambers was very concerned about, which I fully respect.

The report also highlights the fact that the AG’s Chambers had a duty to continue to offer advice to central Government where there was a wider public interest to consider – again, a point I absolutely agree with….

….but in my opinion “central Government” means Cabinet Office, Chief Minister, Chief Executive Officer (or Chief Secretary) and the Council of Ministers.

On 10th August 2022, Callin Wild was formally appointed to represent the Department’s best interests, especially after the AG’s Chambers had themselves highlighted the fact that they were seriously conflicted in the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal.

More importantly, Callin Wild’s legal advice on 11th August “advised the Department in very clear terms that in their view the Attorney General’s Chambers had now become conflicted and could not possibly continue to act for the DHSC in the litigation”.

Mr. Wright, KC in his final report talks about a correspondence exchange on 21st September 2022, which the shows AG’s Chambers, the CEO of DHSC and the interim Chief Secretary were still in full dialogue discussing parts of this particular case.

Having the read the correspondence a number of times, I acknowledge that the correspondence does focus on the Department’s narrow best interests, but it also discusses the AG’s Chambers taking responsibility to find a basis to intervene in the appeal.

It also outlined the wider best interests for Government in play, namely the relationship between the AG’s Chambers and other Departments and Boards, which again I fully respect.

However, based on my own experience from the private sector….

….there shouldn’t have been any further correspondence or communication on this matter between the AG’s Chambers and with DHSC Senior Officers, its Minister or anyone else in the Department once Callin Wild had been formally engaged on 10th August 2022 by the Department of Health and Social Care to conduct the remainder of the litigation.

I know the AG’s Chambers may disagree with those comments, but it is just a general observation from reading the report and as the DHSC Minister at the time when the correspondence was sent.

I think I should also mention that I did not have sight of that particular correspondence as the DHSC Minister until 27th September 2022.

Neither do I believe this same set of circumstances would have happened or even be allowed to happen in a well-regulated Company in the private sector, so why was it deemed acceptable in the Public Sector?

I know that Mr. Wright’s report also highlights very clearly the conflict between the narrow best interest of the Department and the wider interests of Government, and that these conflicts should have been resolved by a formal and transparent mechanism….

Mr. President

…that mechanism was for the AG’s Chambers and the interim Chief Secretary to ask the Council of Ministers to issue a “direction” to the Department, in order to file the “Skeleton Arguments” in relation to the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal, because of the greater public interest.

At no point did the AG’s Chambers and interim Chief Secretary need to involve the DHSC after 10th August 2022, because the mechanism they needed was already available under Section 6 (“Directions”) of the Government Departments Act 1987, which is very clear:

“The Council of Ministers may, after consultation with any Department, give to the Department directions as to the exercise of its functions in relation to any matter which appears to the Council of Ministers to affect the public interest, and the Department shall comply with any such directions”.

Mr. President,

It isn’t rocket science, it’s about following the principles of good practice.

The report also talks about “if Government operated as a single legal entity, then there would be less scope for conflict in such a scenario”…

….but we didn’t need to restructure Government to do this, we just needed the AG’s Chambers and the interim Chief Secretary to follow the Government Departments Act 1987 already in existence, and within the timeframe provided.

There is also a serious conversation to be had around the timeframe available to AG’s Chamber and to the interim Chief Secretary, in order to try and resolve the issues around the narrow best interests of the Department and the wider best interests of the Manx Government.

You could argue strongly that they had six or seven weeks to approach the Council of Ministers between 10th August and 27th September 2022, in order to request that CoMin consider issuing the Department with a “Direction”….

…in order to file the Skeleton Arguments in relation to the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal, because of that greater public interest.

Again, I know again that the AG’s Chambers might put forward a counter argument stating that things only really changed on 21st or 23rd September 2022.

Even using those two dates, the AG’s Chambers and the interim Chief Secretary still had 5 or 6 days resolve the issue around the narrow best interests of the Department and the wider best interests of the Manx Government, instead of allowing the whole situation to exploded our faces late on the afternoon of 28th September 2022.

This was at a time when the DHSC Chief Executive was off on sick leave, and the newly appointed Minister had only been in post for less than five days – again, so many lessons to be learnt from this whole situation….

Mr. President

I was appointed the DHSC Minister on 20th September 2022, and I knew that I couldn’t immerse myself in resolving some of the serious concerns and issues being raised in respect of the island’s Health and Social Care services at the time until the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal had reached a satisfactory conclusion.

One of the first things I did upon arrival in the Department as Minister was to request an urgent meeting with Callin Wild on 23rd September 2022, in order to obtain an update on the Employment Tribunal.

At the time, I was seriously concerned about the ongoing reputational damage to the Isle of Man, and towards future recruitment of frontline staff within the island’s health service.

The outcome of that meeting with Callin Wild was to try and reach some form of remedy and settlement as quickly as possible, which I fully supported as the Minister.

As the report shows, my focus as the Minister quite rightly was on the Department, and to be honest I wasn’t really aware of the “greater public interest” in respect of the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal or the conversations going on in the background at the time when I first arrived in the Department.

There was no mention of the “greater public interest” in respect of the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal in my initial meeting with the Chief Minister on 15th September; he simply asked me to keep him informed, which I was more than happy to do.

Neither was this mentioned by DHSC officers when I arrived in the Department, despite that fact that they were still being copied into the correspondence with the AG’s Chambers and the Interim Chief Secretary.

The report does clearly highlight the fact that as the Minister I wasn’t being copied into various emails at the time, which created the impression that the AG’s Chambers was seeking to influence or put pressure on Department officers
In respect of the ongoing Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal.

Although I absolutely agree with the report that there wasn’t any improper motivation behind excluding me from certain correspondence as the DHSC Minister….

…..but in my opinion pressure was being applied strongly on 28th September 2022, in order to get those “Skeleton Arguments” filed in relation to the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal, because of the greater public interest.

This was simply due to the fact that the AG’s Chambers and the interim Chief Secretary had failed to resolve the situation, or to take any appropriate steps to resolve the situation prior to 28th September 2022 around the narrow best interests of the Department and the wider best interests of the Manx Government.

Some steps were finally taken to resolve the situation on 26th September 2022, after I provided the Chief Minister and interim Chief Secretary with a copy of the minutes from my initial meeting Callin Wild on 23rd September 2022, as per the Chief Minister’s request to me on 15th September 2022.

Those minutes clearly show that the Department was seeking remedy and settlement in respect of the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal, as per the independent legal advice obtained from Callin Wild.

The interim Chief Secretary then instructed the DHSC officers to prepare a paper for the Council of Ministers meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday
29th September.

As I mentioned in my correspondence to officers at the time, I was happy for a CoMin paper to be prepared but it must not stipulate the argument or the case on behalf of the AG’s Chambers because of the legal conflict.

As the report says, I was again protecting the position of the Department….

…and as the newly appointed DHSC Minister, I didn’t want to pursue the Appeal any further because of the ongoing reputational damage this Employment Hearing was doing to the Isle of Man, and the fact that a clear political decision had been taken in the Department on 23rd September based on independent legal advice obtained…..

As the newly appointed DHSC Minister I would have been very content to receive a “Direction” from the Council of Ministers because of the greater public interest….

On the morning of 28th September, I was of the firm opinion that this matter would be fully discussed by the Council of Ministers on Thursday 29th September 2022, but the actual paper appeared and then was removed from the CoMin agenda at least four times in the space of 48 hours, which created its own confusion.

Things started to escalate very late in the afternoon of Wednesday
28th September when correspondence asked if the Council of Ministers could be convened, in order to consider making a decision as to whether a “Direction” should be issued to the DHSC in respect of the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal…

….and as the Chief Minister advised in his own correspondence to the Department, it just wasn’t possible for the Council of Ministers to come together and for a decision to be made in less than an hour on something so difficult that late in the afternoon.

As I have already mentioned, the AG’s Chambers and the Interim Chief Secretary had sufficient time to resolve this situation before things finally came to a head on 28th September.

I also had a couple of very difficult phone calls with the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister on the afternoon of 28th September around this particular decision….

…because I knew that the filing of those “Skeleton Arguments” in relation to the Dr. Ranson Employment Tribunal on the afternoon of 28th September would not only go against the political decision taken by the Department on
23rd September, but it also went against very clear and professional legal advice obtained from the Department’s independent legal counsel.

Mr President

As I have already mentioned, I wasn’t aware that the AG’s Chambers and the Interim Chief Secretary had sufficient time resolve this situation, and to refer their concerns to the Council of Ministers for further consideration until I read Mr. Wright’s final report.

I can only hope that lessons are learnt and that no other Minister or Department faces the same situation I faced on 28th September 2022…

….because it absolutely destroyed the political relationship and trust in the Department, which hadn’t even got off the ground at the time…..

…..mainly because I wasn’t able to explain at the time to my fellow political members what was meant by the “greater public interest” or why the Department was going against solid and independent legal advice obtained.

Mr. Wright also highlighted the fact that in his opinion good governance had broken down in the Department and this was due to a lack of stable leadership (both political and executive) for many months before I arrived in the Department in September 2022, as a direct result of the massive upheaval caused by the Ranson litigation….

….and I am extremely grateful to Mr Wright for his comments on this particular point, because I raised those same concerns with the Chief Minister and the interim Chief Secretary within the first few days of arriving in the Department.

The report also highlighted the fact that the DHSC had become a “revolving door”, and to be perfectly honest there shouldn’t have been a change of Minister back in September 2022 – but again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

On a personal level I have learnt some very valuable lessons from my short time in the DHSC as the Minister, which had a massive impact on me personally…

….but it has made me a stronger politician, and more importantly I hope other people named in this report take the time to seriously reflect on the findings of this report…..

Mr President

In closing, on 16th May 2023, a Select Committee of three Tynwald Members was established, and in July of that year the Committee asked this Hon Court to approve 5 recommendations.

Recommendation 1, Section 1 states that;

“This review is established by Tynwald, the Parliament of the Isle of Man, for the purpose of holding to account the Ministers, Members and officers of the Isle of Man Government in respect of the specified matters”

I fully respect this report and its findings, and given the significance of this whole case, the reputational damage which has been done on so many levels to so many people, myself included….

…and the level of investment made in conducting this thorough independent investigation, which outlines clear serious failings on the part of the Manx Government, and at the highest level….

….I therefore sincerely hope that that the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer for the Isle of Man Government, along with the Chief Minister take sufficient time to look at the findings of this report very carefully before implementing the changes necessary, and quickly, because we cannot allow these types of circumstances to be repeated in the future.

Thank you Mr President