blog 28 Apr 18Last weekend was very busy with my Political Surgery on the Saturday, which required various follow up correspondence to be drafted and sent out on Sunday morning on behalf of Constituents.

I also attended a Constituent meeting early on Sunday morning, but I did manage to spend some time in the garden on Sunday afternoon with a close family friend and a Garff Commissioner, his wife and their friend who just happened to be walking past our cottage – very enjoyable and civilised as we also ate some scones Ellen had made, complete with jam and cream…

Monday was one of those days that required a considerable amount of reading.

The day started early with me sending a quick email from home to the Minister for Policy and Reform, Chris Thomas, MHK relating to an interview he did on Manx Radio – I wasn’t very impressed to say the least…

I still got into the office for 8.20am and spent the first hour going through some insurance documents that a Constituent sent me over the weekend.

I also needed to print off various reports and documents for later on in the day.

At 9.30am I headed over to DfE to meet up with the Minister and the Director of Motorsport before we drove up to the Pavilion near the Grandstand for a meeting with Douglas Corporation.

This was an initial meeting with the Council Leader, David Christian, Councillor Stephen Pitts and officers as we look to see what could be achieved in and around the area over the next few years, but importantly what improvements could be made around the Grandstand.

Back to the office at 11.15am, which gave me an opportunity to send out some correspondence.

I still had a mountain of reports and documents to work though, and with no real reason to stay at my desk, I took the opportunity to leave the office at 12 noon and to walk home before the rain arrived.

Once home I started go though the next section of Clauses relating to the Abortion Reform 2018, which is now reaching its final stages in the House of Keys before it goes to LegCo for further consideration and scrutiny.

I also went through my DfE agenda pack ahead of Wednesday’s board meeting before starting to go through some 500 plus pages of documents (via my BoardPad) ahead of the Public Accounts Committee meeting also scheduled for Wednesday.

It was a good and straightforward day and I was able to stop at 18.30.

In the office for 8.15am on Tuesday and there were already several Members in the office before me. The first part of the morning was spent continuing to prepare for the House of Keys, which included reading various emails and correspondence received from Members relating to the Abortion Reform Bill 2018.

At around 10.30am we headed down to the House of Keys Chamber for this week’s sitting, which started with six oral questions.

I asked one particular question to the Health Minister regarding the advice given to women in the late stages of pregnancy regarding off-island travel, with special reference to the cost of repatriation for premature confinement – i.e. travel home if the baby is born prematurely off-Island.

The clear message, as I mentioned last week, is to make sure that we all have the right level of insurance in place before leaving the island for any particular trip.

The House of Keys then gave further consideration to the Clauses stages of the Abortion Reform Bill 2018. This started with the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK asking the House for a seven day adjournment to consider some legal points, which was voted down by the Members.

In total there were a further 12 new clauses to be inserted into the bill, 6 of which were subject to amendments.

Again, it was a very detailed discussion and despite reading the Bill and the Clauses for Consideration, it was incredibly difficult to follow the changes line by line at times, especially when Members were arguing a particular point or word.

The House of Keys Sitting finished at 13.30 and as the sitting finished later than expected, it was straight upstairs to the Barrool Suite for the presentation given by the Isle of Man Post Office who outlined their five year strategy to Members.

Finally got back to my desk at 14.30, which gave me an opportunity to catch up with some emails. I also needed to look into some travel arrangements for later on in the year, when I will be attending a conference on behalf Manx National Heritage and DfE, which is also Motorsport related.

I left the office at 17.20 and after tea I continued to go through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) agenda pack before calling it a day at 20.00.

In the office for 8.10am on Wednesday. With back to back meetings scheduled throughout the day, I therefore spent the first hour or so finishing off the PAC Agenda Pack before walking over to the DfE at 9.15am to begin the series of meetings.

We started with the usual Political meeting with the Minister before going in the main boardroom for our Department meeting that started with a couple of presentations as usual.

One presentation was on tier 2 of our immigration legislation, which was a follow up on my meeting last week. The second presentation was on a joint marketing campaign with the Isle of Man Insurance industry that does continue to grow as an employment sector on the island.

We then went through the remaining agenda paper, which had several TT and Visit Isle of Man items for discussion and decision.

The changes to this year’s TT Festival might be unnoticeable, but the work undertaken by the Motorsport team behind the scenes is massive, only a few weeks left to go…

Our Department meeting finished just before 13.00 and from DfE we walked straight back to the Tynwald Building and up the stairs to the Barrool Suite for a presentation on Road Safety, which was given by the Department of Home Affairs and the Isle of Man Constabulary.

Unfortunately, the presentation was running slightly late, so that meant I had to leave the presentation early in order to attend the PAC meeting that started at 14.00.

The PAC are continuing to review Noble’s Hospital and its overspend – there was definitely a lot of data and information to get through ahead of the meeting.

The meeting finished 16.30, which finally gave me an opportunity to catch up with emails and phone calls.

I left the office 17.20 and once home one item of post from a constituent caught my attention and it also required me to make a couple of calls and to draft some correspondence to DEFA.

The correspondence related to a noisy neighbour and a matter that has been ongoing for several months, which is totally regrettable and unacceptable.

Finally got finished for 20.00.

Not entirely sure how to describe Thursday and Friday – disappointing, frustrating or should I simply say extremely difficult?

I was in the office for 8.15am and the first task was to draft seven letters enclosing my e-mail relating to a Constituent matter and a noisy neighbour.

I also took the opportunity to draft a couple of questions for the House of Keys sitting on 8th May 2018.

Just after 9.20am I drove back into Onchan for meeting with a Constituent relating to an ongoing planning issue. The planning decision has already been made and work commenced, but this meeting was around how certain decisions were made, especially around interested party status.

At 10am we were joined by a Planning Officer, which gave us an opportunity to review the application and the decisions made in more detail. It was never going to be an easy meeting as there is always a winner, and unfortunately always a loser when planning decisions are being made.

I got the feeling the Constituent felt let down by my comments during the meeting and believed that I wasn’t supportive enough. Again, the whole planning application is extremely difficult and I put on record that I genuinely believe the Constituent should have been given interested party status, but I also have to be respectful to Government officials and their professional opinions.

The meeting finished at 11.45, which meant I was now running slightly late for a meeting with Onchan District Commissioners, which should have started at 11.30.

I scheduled the meeting with the Local Authority to discuss a couple of Constituent matters and to have a general catch up with officers.

The meeting finished at 12.55 and from there I called in to see another Constituent relating to an ongoing building dispute, before driving to B & Q to collect some materials for odd jobs around our home.

Finally got back to the office for 14.30.

Unfortunately, my afternoon didn’t get much better as I received a couple of difficult e-mails, which I had to deal with throughout the afternoon.

I also started to do some prep work for Manx Radio on Sunday and for the next PAC Oral Session.

I left the office at 17.15.

After tea I still needed to catch up with a number of e-mails and then go though the process of filing a Petition of Doleance, which is a procedure for challenging or seeking judicial review of an administrative decision.

I also had a series of phone calls with a Constituent but still managed to finish for 21.15.

I was in the office just after 8am on Friday, which gave me an opportunity to finish off my travel arrangements for the conference that I will be attending later on in the year.

I then got stuck into a planning issue, which was a follow-up on Thursday’s meeting. This meant making a number of calls, along with forwarding on various e-mails and documents relating to the original application.

I also had to deal with an ongoing building dispute between neighbours. I am trying hard not to get too involved as an MHK, but at the same time I do want to give the correct advice, information and help wherever possible to a Constituent.

Despite me getting the Constituent some professional advice and a letter drafted, which I then hand delivered yesterday – all within five hours on a Friday – the Constituent definitely still felt let down yesterday despite my best endeavours.

In fact, I spent so much time on the phone on Friday morning, I actually totally forgot my 10am appointment. Fortunately the meeting was in my office, although it was 20 minutes late starting.

The meeting was scheduled in order to discuss the island Harbour Strategy with a Constituent who has a very keen interest, not only in this particular topic but also the potential waste of taxpayers’ money.

I thought from our initial discussions that we were at the opposite ends of the compass, but once we started to go through the topic in a little more detail we actually share very similar views.

As an island, we definitely need to make sure that we are continuing to attract quality cruise passengers that actually add to the Manx Economy and we don’t simply go for a high quantity of passengers who may actually spend very little onshore during the visits.

We also can’t lose sight of our genuine tourist visitors who stay in paid accommodation from coming to the island or to create a situation that these key visitors are unable to access our main attractions at certain times of the year because of the cruise passengers.

It was a very interest meeting, which I will need to follow up in the near future as public interest in our deep water berth increases over the next couple of years.

At lunchtime I walked over to DfE for an extraordinary Department Workshop, which was an informal working lunch to discuss various topics including GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and how it will affect businesses etc.

I got back to the office at around 14.30.

The rest of the afternoon was spent working on the PAC project on the overspend at Noble Hospital, preparing some notes for the weekend and trying to address the ongoing Constituency matters already outlined.

I left the office 17.15 and after tea Ellen and I went to the Gaiety Theatre to watch Chess, the musical, which was fantastic. Congratulations to everyone involved.

On Sunday lunchtime I will be a guest on Manx Radio’s Present Politics with John Moss.

I still have a lot of work to catch up with over the weekend.