Blog 29 July 18Despite being off island this week, I am always keeping one eye on local news and social media, and there has certainly been a lot of media coverage given to the Isle of Man Film Industry and the £27 million mentioned by Kate Beecroft, MHK in a recent Tynwald debate.

As a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Member myself, I am certainly looking forward to being part of the PAC Committee that reviews the previous recommendations in the PAC report that covered the period 1995 to 2009, and then potentially beyond 2009 to date, without fear or favour.

That said, as an MHK and a taxpayer I have to question the timing – if this matter was of such national importance, and it might be, then why now, why not in 2009 or in September 2016 when the new House of Keys was duly elected…….?

Most MHKs, especially the newly elected MHKs, will not be aware of historical events surrounding the Isle of Man Film Industry, but I can’t help feeling there is some political gamesmanship going on at the moment.

I can assure Constituents that if I was aware of a historical issue of such public importance, then I certainly wouldn’t wait until I left the Council of Ministers to air my views.

Anyway, I’d best leave that issue there for the moment.

London Calling, London Calling…..

I will need to start this week’s Blog from last Saturday, simply because it was such an incredibly busy day…

I left home at around 9am last Saturday to drive into Onchan village and the Hub Community Centre for this month’s Political Surgery, which was again well attended – thank you.

At 11.35am it was then a mad rush home to collect Ellen and our suitcase, before calling into the office on the way to the airport.

We still made it to the airport for 12.30, which was about an hour before the Gatwick flight was actually due to leave.

After a busy few days last week, if Ellen hadn’t packed the suitcase I would have been going to London with simply a toothbrush….

There were no issues going through security, but the flight to Gatwick was around 90 minutes late. No complaints on my part as it gave me plenty of time to draft several urgent e-mails on behalf of Constituents.

We landed at Gatwick for around 16.00 but encountered several further small delays before arriving at the Premier Inn Hub hotel in Westminster for around 17.45.

I have to mention our new suitcase: brand new but we didn’t even reach the hotel in London before it broke. Not sure if it was the weather or the fact that it was a rubbish suitcase and the weather in the centre of London at the time was around 25C – very, very warm.

Anyway, we decided to walk from the station to the hotel, which was only around 15 minutes. All of a sudden it felt like I was pulling a body though the centre of London in 25C heat.

Once we reached the hotel and got to our room, I checked the suitcase and one of the wheels now resembled the letter “C” – no wonder I was exhausted!

Back to this week’s Blog – as I mentioned last week, there is a bit of a role reversal this week…….

Over the past six years my wife, Ellen has continually supported me as an Onchan Commissioner and now as an MHK by attending various functions on a local and a national level with me.

So this week it was a great privilege that I was able to support Ellen who was attending a work conference at Westminster this week.

There were two schedules on offer, one for the delegates and one for partners / companions. And before I get asked the million dollar question, obviously I paid all my own expenses, including my travel, my share of the hotel bill, plus the cost of attending various functions throughout the week as Ellen’s guest.

On Sunday Ellen and I enjoyed being tourists and seeing various things that London had to offer, but the weather was incredibly hot.

We walked from our hotel in Dacre Street, along the banks of the Thames to the Tower of London, which was a good 60 minutes’ walk, if not a little longer.

We saw the Crown Jewels and there was a fantastic play surrounding the death of Anne Boleyn. We then headed towards Covent Gardens, which was something different.

In fact we left the hotel around 8.45am and other than stopping for 15 minutes for a drink and spending 20 minutes on a boat ride, we walked continually until we got back to the hotel for around 16.00.

We definitely complied with the IOM Government’s “Active Travel” policy and Bill Shimmins, MHK would be proud of our achievements, despite the weather in London being extremely hot, reaching 30C for most of the day.

On Sunday evening we attended a welcome reception for delegates, which started at 19.00. We then walked back to the hotel for 21.00.

An early start on Monday as we made our way over to Portcullis House for 8.30am for a formal tour of the Houses of Parliament.

I did the tour back in March 2016 with a few of my Tynwald colleagues, but it was good to look around again.
I think the biggest of shock of walking around London this week, other than the weather, was the fact that Big Ben and part of the Parliament buildings are completely covered up and will be until around 2021 – it just doesn’t look right for some reason!

The formal tour finished for around 10.45am, so I headed back to the hotel because it was now reaching 32C in the centre of London.

I spent the next couple of hours starting to go through the last Public Accounts Committee report into the Isle of Man Film Industry.

It is a very interesting report and I am looking forward to being part of the Committee that will undertake the investigation.

At 14.00 I headed off to Buckingham Palace for a formal tour of the State Rooms with other partners on the conference, which finished around 16.20.

The evening was free so Ellen and I headed out for tea at 19.30.

I spent the first couple of hours on Tuesday catching up with emails and messages etc, before meeting my fellow companions and partners at 10am.

From there we made our way to the Globe Theatre for a tour of the facilities. We also enjoyed fish and chips on the Thames at lunchtime before taking a tour around the Tate Modern, which was excellent.

I then took the opportunity of walking back to the hotel, which was around 40 minutes but it definitely felt longer because the weather was still around 32C.

After a couple of hours catching up with e-mails etc, Ellen and I headed out for an informal dinner with other delegates and guests.

We finally got back to the hotel for around 22.30 after a wonderful evening.

Wednesday’s activities for partners and companions was a tour to Kew Gardens, but given the fact that the weather was now moving up beyond 33C, I decided to give that tour a miss.

Instead I caught up with various administrative tasks, e-mails etc and going through some paperwork I had brought with me.

I also managed to do some shopping and I found a local launderette, which was a very interesting experience in the heart of London.

On Wednesday evening at 18.30 there was a formal dinner being held in the Cholmondeley Room in the House of Lords, beside the Palace of Westminster terrace, overlooking the River Thames.

It really was a very special setting for dinner and it is unlikely that we will be invited to enjoy the view from the terrace like that again in the near future…..

Even though my role this week is a supportive one, I have made a lot of new contacts and a few new friends along the way. For example, I met two people from Australia, and during our discussions I discovered that the Parliament of Victoria recently debated “Assisted Dying”, which opened up various avenues for further enquiry for me.

We finally got back to the hotel for 22.30.

Thursday was a networking day for all delegates and companions, and we all met up for 8.30am at Westminster Bridge for a 90-minute boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich.

By lunchtime the weather was now touching 35C in the centre of London.

Once we reached Greenwich there was a tour of the Old Royal Navel College. Unfortunately, the extreme heat got the better of me and so Ellen and I caught a boat back to Westminster in the afternoon.

After a couple of hours’ rest we headed out for tea, but still the weather was incredibly hot. There was an element of wind in the evening, but it felt like a hairdryer on a maximum setting blowing air straight in your face continually, which was not very pleasant.

Friday was a free day for me but for Ellen had to give a presentation on the final day of the conference, which is never easy.

With the weather still well above 30C, I was able to spend the morning at the hotel simply catching up with various things, including this week’s Blog.

I also caught up with any outstanding e-mails, along with drafting a couple of long pieces of correspondence, which I had been meaning to write all week.

I will also post various pictures from this week’s activities and a wonderful trip to London on my own personal facebook page, so feel free to take a look later on this morning……