Blog 19 Dec 20One story certainly caught the attention of national (& international) newspapers and media outlets once again this week, and that story related to lovestruck Dale McLaughlan who rode his jetski from North Ayrshire in Scotland all the way to the Isle of Man in order to see his new girlfriend….

Some reports say that once Dale reached Ramsey he then walked the 15 miles to Douglas to where his girlfriend lives.

Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK said he was astonished by his incredibly reckless and dangerous endeavour, which could have led to others being called upon to risk their lives in a search and rescue operation, and the Deputy Bailiff said his actions were a risk to himself and the Isle of Man population and therefore rightly sent McLaughlan to jail for four weeks.

The top priority at the moment is around keeping the Isle of Man population “Covid-19” free over the Christmas holiday period, and to enable our Manx community to enjoy the festive holidays with very few restrictions to island life.

As for the rest of this week’s activities, last Saturday was spent at home as we were getting a couple of big trees taken down at the cottage. In between making coffee and serving mince pies for the guys cutting down the trees, I was able to continue working through the Tynwald Order paper. One of my jobs over the Christmas period will be to find sufficient time to split the cut wood into logs ready for next winter.

On Saturday evening Ellen and I attended the Manx Youth Orchestra Christmas Festival concert, which was being held at the Villa Marina. As the current Children’s Champion it was a privilege to be invited to such a fantastic concert.

This year the concert was supporting a relatively new charity on the island called the “Teapot Trust”, which brings some colour to young people’s lives through art therapy at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit at Noble’s Hospital, and one of their core aims is to reduce anxiety, help build resilience and encourage self-expression.

For more details please take a look at their Facebook page (Teapot Trust Isle of Man) and any donations would be very much appreciated. As for the concert, it was a wonderful Christmas event and we are truly blessed to have such a wealth of musical talent on the island.

The weather on the Isle of Man on Sunday morning was heavy rain once again, so we took the opportunity to get some shopping done before calling into Cycle 360 for breakfast. Once home I headed outside to help a neighbour clear some roadside gutters, in order to avoid any potential flooding around our properties.

I was then able to take the rest of Sunday off and watch a couple of classic Christmas films (“Wonderful Life” and “Great Expectations”), which was something different.

Back into the office just before 8am on Monday morning and the first job was to draft and send out a couple of “thank you” letters. Unfortunately, my 9am and 10am appointments both were cancelled due to illness, but that in turn gave me sufficient time to go through any remaining Tynwald items and the supplementary papers ahead of this month’s sitting.

I also needed to go through a couple of department papers before heading up to the Barrool Suite at 11.30am for three presentations. The first one was by the Treasury Minister on future capital funding, which was followed by a general update on the UK and EU negotiations from the Chief Minister.

The final briefing was a general update on Covid-19 and Public Health Regulations.

As for the rest of Monday it was spent in the office getting through various bits of legislation for the extra House of Keys sitting that took place on Friday. I also needed to keep working on the presentation, which I need to finish before Christmas if possible.

On Monday evening I still had a few emails to get through before finishing at around 19.30.

In the office just before 8am on Tuesday for this month’s Tynwald sitting. Ahead of the sitting Tynwald Members and Tynwald officers enjoyed a Christmas breakfast in the Barrool Suite.

Tynwald Members paid for the event as usual and it was organised once again by my colleague Clare Barber, MHK. It also gave Tynwald Members an opportunity to exchange their “Secret Santa” presents, which always throws up some brilliant surprises.

Rob Mercer, David Ashford, Bill Shimmins, Chris Thomas, Geoffrey Boot and Kate Lord-Brennan definitely received the best presents this year – I just wish I could publish further details on what they received…..

This month’s Tynwald sitting got underway at 10.30am with 27 oral questions and 33 written questions, which took the sitting up to the lunchtime break at 13.00. From the Tynwald Court it was straight up to the Barool Suite for a CPD training presentation by His Honour Deemster Andrew Corlett, the first Deemster and Clerk of the Rolls.

The briefing focused on the role of the judiciary and the boundaries between the Courts and the Parliament, which was an excellent training session and it gave a brilliant insight into the workings of the Isle of Man Courts.

Back to the Chamber at 14.30 to start going through the main Order Paper, which was relatively light other than the final five motions that related to Banking and Post Office Services, Public Services Reforms Progress Report, Review of the Regulatory Framework, Drugs Policy and a general debate on Visitor Accommodation.

We also had to go through a couple of supplementary papers before this month’s Tynwald sitting finished at around 21.10.

Once home I still needed to respond to a couple of emails before finishing at around 22.30 after a very long day.

I was back in the office just before 8am and I was able to spend the morning in the office at my desk, and although Tynwald finished in a single day there was still a lot of ongoing Department work to get through, along with the extra sitting of the House of Keys on Friday.

I also managed to spend a few hours on the presentation, which is now almost completed. At 13.45 there was a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association branch meeting in the Barrool Suite, in order for Ray Harmer, MHK and me to give Tynwald members an update on the virtual conference that the Isle of Man recently took part in.

From there it was over to St. George’s Church for this year’s Ballakermeen High School Christmas concert, which was truly amazing. Unfortunately, I was a few minutes late arriving due to the CPA meeting, but I was glad that I was able to attend this year’s event.

The overall quality of the readings by the students was unbelievable, and at such a young age, and you have to admire some of the musical items that again highlighted the musical talent on the island.

A massive thank you to everyone involved in the concert, and it was great to see St. George’s Church full to the rafters.

The last hour or so was spent in the office before leaving just after 17.30, and on Wednesday evening Ellen and I were invited up to Government House for their Christmas Reception, which included the usual Christmas carol singing which all guests are expected to take part in.

We finally got home for around 20.30.

On Thursday I was in the office for the usual time and the workload isn’t slowing down at the moment, but the Christmas holidays are just around the corner so I will be able to enjoy a couple of days off next week. Just after 9am I headed over to DfE for a Visit Agency workshop as we continue to focus on the island tourism season for 2021.

Not an easy session in many ways, but still an excellent session as the Visit Agency members look at some of the key obstacles facing the island and the industry as we move towards the 2021 tourism season.

Back to the office just after 11.30am to deal to with a couple of urgent Constituent issues before walking over to St George’s Church for the second time this week, in order to attend the Tynwald Carol Service that started at 13.10, which was another wonderful service.

Just time to get back to the office to return a few calls and emails before walking down to the Sea Terminal for a further meeting with the Manx Landlords Association at 15.00. Fair to say that the meetings are getting more difficult as we try to understand the concerns being raised by the Landlords Association on behalf of its members.

As I have mentioned so many times, we have to get this legislation right, and hopefully we will get a better understanding of their concerns in respect of individual clauses towards the end of the year. I finally got back to the office before 17.00 to catch up with a few things before leaving.

During the Thursday press conference the Chief Minister confirmed that a special exemption certificate has been issued to Father Christmas and his eight reindeers – so Christmas will not be cancelled on the Isle of Man this year…..

Up very early on Friday morning as I needed to go through the DOI agenda pack before getting into the office well before 8am. Once in the office I needed to continue going through various bits of legislation and clauses before the extra sitting of the House of Keys that started at 10am.

The sitting started with two emergency questions on the Covid-19 vaccination, which will be rolled out shortly, along with a question on the Wright’s Pit North tip in Bride, which stores certain types of problematic waste.

We then had 23 oral and 4 written questions, but only reached question 11 in the allotted time. There followed the Second Readings of the Beneficial Ownership (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2020, and the Sky Lanterns and Balloons (Prohibition) Bill 2020.

This was followed by Consideration of the Clauses of the Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Manx Care Bill 2020.

The final House of Keys sitting for 2020 finished just after 13.00, and from there it was straight down to the Sea Terminal for a DOI Department meeting and the usual divisional update, which lasted a couple of hours.

The final hour or so was spent in the office just catching up with a few things before leaving at around 16.45. On Friday evening I was able to take Ellen out for dinner at Bonds Restaurant in Onchan. We normally book ourselves onto the Steam Railway Dining Car at this time of year, but this year we fancied a change.

A big thank you to Peter, Aisha and all the staff at Bonds Restaurant for a wonderful evening with fabulous food, topped off with some great entertainment playing in the background – a perfect evening.

As for the weekend, I have a number of events to attend and of course I will provide full details next week.

Can I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, stay safe and warm, and thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your own busy schedules every week to follow my journey as a Member of the House of Keys.