Blog 13 May 18

It is a real privilege that this week I celebrate posting my 100th Blog, which is quite a milestone, especially for someone who hated English lessons as a child, and I still dislike writing notes by hand….

After spending some time backdating my website (‪robcallister.im‬) over the past few months, I suddenly realised that I actually started writing my weekly Blog back in June 2016.

I haven’t had an opportunity to do a word count yet, but I believe I have drafted over 150,000 words to date – possibly even over 250,000 words.

The original idea was to record and share my own personal experience in standing for the House of Keys General Election on Thursday 22nd September 2016.

The idea came to me during the first couple of hours of canvassing in and around Onchan. Several Constituents mentioned on the doorstep that MHKs disappear into the corridors of power once they are elected, and then suddenly re-appear about five months before the next general election.

I definitely didn’t want to follow the same path as those MHKs that had gone before me, but I as will outline later on in this Blog, all MHKs engage with Constituents and the wider public in different ways…

As a newly elected MHK, I was keen try something different, especially for those Constituents that placed their trust in me during the General Election for the House of Keys.

So twenty months on, I am still very proud that I am able to continue to write this weekly Blog, which enables me to share this incredible five year journey with people across our island, especially in Onchan and to give an honest insight into my own personal thoughts, along with my workload as one of the Island’s 24 elected MHKs.

It might also be the first time that any Member of the House of Keys has given such a detailed insight into how the Manx Parliament actually works, along with any Constituency work undertaken and the Departmental responsibilities, which are delegated down from the Minister.

I also took the opportunity to go through a few of my old Blogs from 2016/17. They certainly brought back some happy memories and gave me an insight into certain events or how decisions were made, which I had definitely forgotten.

Anyway, back to this week’s Blog, Monday was a bank holiday, so I was able to spend a few hours in the garden during the morning before continuing to go through the various reports relating to the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee and its first report into Phase 2 of the Regional Sewerage Treatment Strategy.

I only spent around four hours working on Monday, but I am glad I took the opportunity to read through the remaining reports while enjoying the summery weather in the garden.

That said, if I had known what was coming on Tuesday and the rest of the week, I definitely wouldn’t have wasted the bank holiday weekend……

I woke up on Tuesday morning with an Isle of Man Examiner headline saying that the Isle of Man Government (subject to Tynwald approval) had agreed to purchase the Steam Packet for £124.3 million.

‪As a backbench MHK you are certainly left feeling very disappointed having to hear about the potential purchase of a major asset by the Isle of Man Government such as the Steam Packet though the front page of the local paper. ‬

‪I guess in Manx Politics there is never a good time to make announcements, but given the fact that the Isle of Man Newspapers had the story, a Tynwald briefing should have been scheduled prior to the bank holiday in my opinion, especially since CoMin have been heavily involved in this transaction for a number of months.‬

Anyway, I went into the office ‪at 8.10am on Tuesday‬ and plenty of my colleagues were already in the office. The first job was to print off the House of Keys Order Paper along with drafting a couple of supplementary questions.

‪At 8.45am there was a briefing for Tynwald Members relating to the sale of the Steam Packet Company for £124 million, but it still lacked a lot of detail. ‬

A further briefing was arranged for Thursday, in order to obtain further details relating to the sale.

‪At 10am we headed down to the House of Keys for this week’s sitting, which started with 16 oral questions, and I asked two questions relating to the Chester Street Site, Douglas and the Coastal Footpaths around the island. ‬

It was a relatively straightforward sitting of the House of Keys, which finished ‪at 11.25am‬. From there I went up to the Cabinet Office for a meeting with the Chief Minister, which was a general discussion on a couple of topics, including the sale of the Steam Packet.

At the time I was unhappy with some of the comments being made, but upon reflection over the week I felt there was some genuine and sincere advice being given, which I have taken on board.

As MHKs we all do the job slightly differently and we all engage with the Manx Public and our Constituents slightly differently. My main reach is through Social Media, which I have been doing since 2012 and I have every intention of continuing, despite criticism from some political quarters.

The next few hours were spent going through my Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee and my Tynwald speech relating to the first report into Phase 2 of the Regional Sewerage Treatment Strategy.

I had to stop at 12.30 to head up to the Barrule Suite for a presentation and workshop on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Law Enforcement Directive (LED).

Unfortunately, I had to leave the workshop slightly early as I needed to finish off going through the speech and to respond to a couple of ongoing Constituent matters.

I left the office at 17.25.

I had a couple of invitations to attend functions, but I had to give my apologies given the amount work I needed to get through before Tynwald next week.

I started to go though a DfE Agenda Pack and some of the Tynwald Order Paper.

Finally finished for 21.30.

In the office for 8.15am on Wednesday and I went straight into the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) work before the afternoon session. I also had to walk over to Treasury to collect some documents.

Just after 9.15am we walked over to DfE for the usual pre-meeting with the Minister and other Political Members.

At 10am there was a presentation in the Boardroom by the Airport Technology Gateway, which was a very interesting meeting relating to the business and potential opportunities.

We then had the usual board meeting but again the Agenda was relatively light and I was in the Tynwald building for 12.45.

Just time to grab a very quick lunch, make a few calls and to send a couple of pieces of correspondence before 14.00, when I met up with the other Members for a Pre-PAC briefing.

At 14.30 we took evidence from Mike Quinn, Director of Hospital Services, in the Legislative Council Chamber.

The session lasted just under three hours and it covered a wide range of topics, including Management and Leadership, Staff Levels, Recruitment, Morale, Staff Engagement and Performance and many other topics.

I felt it was a really good Oral Evidence session, which gave a genuine insight into the work within Noble’s Hospital and the difficulties they face on a daily basis.

I left the office at 17.40 and once home my attention turned to the purchasing of the Steam Packet Company, ahead of a more detailed briefing for Tynwald Members on Thursday lunchtime.

I managed to finish at around 22.00 after a very busy day.

In the office early on Thursday at around 8.15am but I only had sufficient time to send out a couple of letters. I also spoke briefly to Treasury about the sale of the Steam Packet before Martyn Perkins, MHK left the office at 9.10am to drive up to Barrule Plantation to meet the owners of the Laser Mayhem.

We arrived slightly early but it gave us an opportunity to grab a cuppa and have a chat before David Cretney, MLC arrived at 10am, along with some officers from DEFA and DfE Tourism.

It was a good meeting and it allowed us to explore and discuss potential opportunities and additional activities in the area.

The meeting finished at 11.10am and it was straight back to the office to go through my Steam Packet notes and paperwork.

At 12 noon we headed up to the Barrool Suite for a more detailed discussion in respect of the potential sale of the Steam Packet, subject to a Tynwald vote next week.

What is most disappointing about the Stream Packet Motion is not the actual sale, but the fact that as a backbench MHK I have only been given around seven days to fully understand the Motion, the Business Case and to vote on one of the biggest decisions I will make in this administration, and a decision that will be in place for the next four or five administrations.

It is important that we make the right decision for the people of this island for the next twenty five years, and I am listening to various views and opinions ahead of that vital vote on Tuesday.

The briefing finished just before 13.50 and from there I went into a meeting with the Chief Financial Officer, in order to answer some questions and concerns I had relating to the sale.

I was back at my desk for 14.30, but I was now seriously behind with my workload. I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee that was taking Oral Evidence from the DEFA Minister, Mr Boot, MHK and the CEO, Richard Lole.

I left the office at 17.20 and once home I needed to catch up with emails etc and to start going through the history of the Steam Packet and the User Agreement, along with the many debates, questions and Committees since 1995.

I finally finished for the day at 22.45.

In the office for 7.45am as I was still well behind on my workload, especially Committee work.

I spent the first couple of hours continuing to prepare for the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee session that was taking Oral Evidence with DEFA Minister, Mr Boot, MHK and the CEO, Richard Lole.

The time was spent reading various reports and documents and drafting numerous questions.

Just before 10am the Committee met for a pre-meeting and went through the questions and topics. At 10.30 we went into the Legislative Chamber to take evidence from DEFA Minister, Mr Boot, MHK and the CEO, Richard Lole.

I felt it was a good Committee Session, which discussed the new Meat Company, Planning, Agriculture Development Scheme, Fishery Disagreement with the Scottish Parliament, the Wildlife Park and many other topics.

The session finished at 12 noon and from there we went into a post-Committee meeting, but I was back at my desk for 12.40. Unfortunately, I was only able to send a couple of emails before driving up to the Grandstand for 13.00, in order to take part in a photo for Tourism.

Back to the office just before 14.00 for a meeting with a Manx Radio journalist, which gave us an opportunity to discuss the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee’s first report into Phase 2 of the Regional Sewerage Treatment Strategy.

The meeting finished at 15.00 and I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with correspondence and emails.

I also managed to look at a couple of items on the Tynwald Order Paper, but I am still massively behind and Tuesday’s Tynwald Sitting is fast approaching.

Anything scheduled for the week is on hold until I finish preparing for Tynwald, so I don’t expect to work less than ten hours over the weekend.