Blog 20 Jan 19This week was definitely “High Noon” for UK Politics as our Parliamentary colleagues in Westminster finally got to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which has dominated UK media coverage for the past eighteen months.

The debate certainly escalated to a new level when the UK Prime Minister and her Government delayed a “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal back in December 2018.

As I write this section of my Blog late on Monday evening, the Manx Government continues to be a spectator sitting on the sidelines without any real voice or vote on such an important decision, and a decision that will certainly affect the Isle of Man for many years to come.

It has been fascinating to watch these events unfold in Westminster through the BBC Parliamentary and News channels over the last few months.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow also made a key decision during the Brexit debate, in order to allow an attempt to change the rules for the resumed “meaningful vote”.

One particular UK paper described this decision as a historic power shift from Government back to Parliament…..

I guess many people here on the Isle of Man have asked for more powers to be transferred from our Executive back to our own Manx Parliament, the principles of which I do fully support.

I guess as an MHK I also have a duty to follow the debate closely to its conclusion, simply because the outcome will certainly affect the Isle of Man for many years to come.

Unfortunately, no one really knows at this moment in time how Brexit will actually affect manufacturing, travel, utilities, food and house prices etc here on the island after 29th March 2019.

I can only hope that for every negative challenge we must face as a result of the UK exiting the European Union, there is also an equal opportunity for the Isle of Man to flourish in the future.

The Isle of Man Government has produced several reports in the last couple of years on the potential different scenarios, but they are only best guess scenarios at this moment in time.

In the mid-eighties the Isle of Man had very high unemployment and the Government of the day had to take greater risks to generate the industries and opportunities that we have all enjoyed over the past 30 years.

Over the next few years this Government and the next one may have to accept a greater level of risk (& reward), in order to ensure that the Isle of Man does not become a casualty of Brexit.

To be fair to the Manx Government they have continually lobbied the UK Government on various concerns on behalf of the Isle of Man since the UK referendum result was known back in June 2016.

More on this later on…

As for this week’s activities, Monday was one of those administrative days when I had to undertake a considerable amount of reading. For me personally I find it sometimes easier to review things very close to a meeting, in order to ensure that certain key points are not forgotten or overlooked.

I was in the office for 8.10am and it was head down drafting a few response letters to correspondence received.

Just before 9am I walked over to DfE for a tourism meeting, in order to review a few tourism grants / financial support applications.

The meeting only lasted around 40 minutes and once I was back at my desk I was able to start preparing for the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee meeting.

The Committee with me as the Chairman hasn’t sat for several months, basically because the Committee has been reviewing the Strategic Sea Services on the Isle of Man and I have been replaced as Chairman because I sit also in DfE, who are implementing part of the sea services policy.

With so many other things happening lately, especially relating to Planning, the Peel Silt situation, Open Skies and the RTLC just to name a couple, the Committee felt that we needed to have a dual Committee running at the same time, in order to review these things.

At 12.30 I headed up to the Barool Suite for a presentation from the newly appointed Chairman of the Safeguarding Board.

Another excellent presentation, but unfortunately I had to leave slightly early in order to grab files and paperwork for the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee, which started at 14.00.

The Committee meeting had several good discussions amongst the Members and the meeting didn’t finish until around 16.30.

Just enough time to send a few emails and to return a couple of calls before heading home at 17.15.

Once home I still needed to read through a couple of Department papers before finally finishing at around 20.30.

I was back in the office for 8.10am on Tuesday for what should have been a relatively short Tynwald sitting, especially when two Motions relating to Employed Person’s Allowance were withdrawn by the Treasury Minister last week.

The first couple of hours in the office were spent at my desk preparing for Tynwald and catching up with emails.

Just before 10.30am we headed down to the Tynwald Chamber for this month’s sitting, which started with 24 oral questions and 13 written questions.

It was during this period of time that Tynwald Members finally got to put their signature to the Isle of Man Abortion Reform Act 2019, which has suffered from certain delays by the UK Government in recent weeks.

It was a real privilege to support this important piece of legislation.

This was followed by two statements from the Treasury Minister relating to the Public Defender Scheme and the Independent Review of the Isle of Man Health and Social Care System.

During the lunchtime break there were also two presentations given by the Treasury, one of them related to the Dormant Assets Bill.

This month’s Tynwald sitting continued at 14.30 with the Road Strategy (2019-2029) which was being supported by the Department of Home Affairs.

My colleague Bill Shimmins, MHK was the only Tynwald Member not to support the paper, citing the lack of any provision of speed control, possibly 20 MPH in urban areas and the instruction of MOT’s on the island.

The rest of the afternoon session was taken up with the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee Report in the Mental Health on the Isle of Man.

Another excellent report with seven recommendations, and I genuinely hope that things improve for those individuals that need additional help and support in the future in respect of mental health.

During the tea break Tynwald Members helped David Cretney, MLC to celebrate his 65th birthday with pasty and cakes.

Manx Radio was back on the agenda straight after the tea break, and it was meant to be a simple combined vote as the Tynwald Chambers were split during the debate and vote taken last month.

Unfortunately, there was then 20 minutes of confusion when Mrs. Kerry Sharpe, MLC tabled a further amendment this time to Tim Baker’s amendment from last month, which certainly left many Tynwald Members scratching their heads and looking through the rules in Standing Orders.

On the surface most Tynwald Members felt that the debate was over and it was simply down to supporting or rejecting the amendment tabled last month.

Anyway, the new amendment was rejected and Tim’s amendment went through on a combined vote.

This month’s Tynwald session finished at 18.40.

From there I headed home to catch up with a couple of emails, but importantly to watch the Brexit debate and the meaningful vote being taken in Westminster.

In the end MP’s in the UK rejected the Prime Minister’s Brexit Deal by 432 votes (against) and 202 votes (in favour), which was a majority of 230 and the biggest single Parliamentary defeat for a UK Government since 1924.

So where does the UK go now…..? Only time will tell, and it will be interesting to see how history looks back over these event in years to come.

The Labour Party took the opportunity to table a vote of no confidence in the Government and the Prime Minister, and a debate on that topic was to be taken in Westminster on Wednesday.

I finally finished at around 21.00.

Despite Tynwald sitting in a single day, I was back in the office just after 8am on Wednesday morning, and straight into emails.

I also needed to draft a small quote for a Tynwald press release on poverty on the Isle of Man.

Just before 9am I headed over to DfE for a meeting with the Head of Tourism, which was only a short meeting to look at a particular paper. Back to the office to prepare some correspondence, which I would hand deliver on Thursday, along with updating a Constituency Surgery Poster, which will be placed on Onchan’s Public Notice boards in due course.

I also had to deal with a couple of Constituent matters relating to housing and debt management.

At 12.45 the Director of Motorsport called into my office to allow us to discuss a very thorny TT related issue, which will need to be fully resolved by the end of 2019.

I was planning to attend the Eastern Tourism Drop in Session in the afternoon, but unfortunately I needed to draft various detailed correspondence before close of business.

I also started to go though the Visit Isle of Man Board Papers ahead of the meeting on Thursday.

I left the office at 17.20 and once home it was straight onto the UK BBC Parliament channel to watch Westminster’s debate on the vote of no confidence in the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May and her government.

In the end the UK Prime Minister survived, winning a no confidence vote by 325 to 306, but only just.

So what next, who knows……?

I was in the office just after 8am on Thursday morning, which gave me time to finish off going through the Visit Isle of Man agenda pack. I also needed to refresh my memory on the Energy from Waste Plant fixed costs and historic events ahead of a Manx Radio interview.

Just before 10am I walked over to DfE for the Visit Isle of Man Agency board meeting.

It was an excellent meeting and various initiatives and policies were discussed, and I am starting to see the value in setting up the board especially in obtaining direct input from industry professionals, in order to drive forward the tourism sector in 2019/20.

The meeting finished around 12.40 and once back at my desk I needed to review a Manx National Heritage paper, along with catching up with some correspondence.

I then headed into Onchan for a couple of Constituent issues before driving up to Manx Radio to do an interview on the Energy from Waste Plant.

Finally got back to the office for around 15.00, which gave me a couple of hours to catch up with a few things in the office.

I left the office at 17.10 but pretty much took the night off…

Friday was a very strange day as almost all of my briefings / meetings were cancelled or moved to an alternative date on Thursday afternoon.

I still went into the office for 8.15am, which gave me time to catch up with Tynwald colleagues on various issues and discussions at the moment.

I was able to finish drafting 12 correspondence items, which I should have done last week.

Anyone standing for the House of Keys certainly needs to be fully aware of the amount of correspondence you have to read and respond to.

Members have access to some secretarial support, but personally I find it more satisfying drafting correspondence myself.

Anyway, with an open calendar I was able to clear my desk.

Just one meeting on Friday morning with the DfE Minister, CEO and Director of Motorsport as we discussed a particular issue that needs resolving before TT 2019.

At lunchtime I took the opportunity to head home, but I wasn’t finished for the week just yet, as I needed to read through various bits of legislation and draft bills etc.

I headed back to the office just after 16.00 to print off some paperwork for the weekend.

As for the weekend, I have my political surgery on Saturday morning between 10am and 11.30am at the Onchan Community Hub.