Blog 21 Nov 18I am not entirely sure how to start this week’s Blog, because it certainly started very positively but by the end of the week I was seriously wrestling with a particular situation, and to be perfectly honest I am not entirely sure what to do…….

As MHK’s we are not allowed to interfere with operational or staffing matters – our role is to scrutinise and to help implement policies. I fully understand and accept that, but what happens when those lines become blurred and confusing?

Maybe it is because of the mistakes I have made during my own life’s journey or simply the things I have witnessed sometimes that I am left defending certain situations harder than I should, especially when pushing the boundaries for fairness.

However, I’ve been fortunate enough that in life various people, including many Onchan Constituents, have given me a chance to be successful and to represent their interests, and some people have also given me a second chance along the way…..

Hopefully in time I will be able to explain this little rant in more detail, but by way of a closing comment, I will simply quote a very famous song: “The right to say the things he feels and not the words of one who kneels”………

Anyway, back to this week’s activities: Tynwald reconvened this week after the summer recess, but I certainly haven’t been on holiday over the past three months.

Last Saturday Ellen and I enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the Nutty Chef Cafe before walking over to the Onchan Library to help make some celebration bunting.

It all forms part of a five-week celebration, ‘A Century of Manx Service’ and the marking of a hundred years since the end of the Great War.

What a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours in the morning, not forgetting the tea and a wartime singalong, which was excellent. Before leaving we looked around the wartime exhibition which included pictures, rare paintings, medals and memorabilia donated by Manx locals – definitely worth a visit.

Most of Sunday afternoon was spent preparing for the Tynwald sitting, which got underway on Tuesday.

Although I was in the office for a couple of hours on Monday, most of the day was spent at home reading various reports and papers.

The day started as normal, I was in the office for 8am and I was able to catch up with a few office tasks before heading back into Onchan to attend the Springfield Coffee Morning, which started at 10am.

From there I headed home and spent the next couple of hours in the garden collecting leaves, which is one of those annual tasks in the autumn.

The rest of the day was spent sitting at our kitchen table going through reports and documents until around 16.30. After tea I needed to catch up with emails, but I was able to finish for 19.30.

Back in the office 8am on Tuesday and the Members’ area certainly had that feel of a new term at school with a lot of Members in early, ahead of the new parliamentary year.

The early part of the morning was spent going through my Tynwald notes and addressing a couple of Constituent issues which required urgent attention.

At 10.20am we headed down to the Tynwald chamber for this month’s sitting and most of the morning was taken up with the 25 oral questions and one emergency question on the closure of the Private Patients Unit at Noble’s.

As I mentioned in last week’s Blog, several of the questions tabled could and should have been addressed via a simple email or looking online. There was definitely no public interest in those questions, so you could say they were a waste of time and taxpayers’ funds – but this is one of those privileges given to Honourable Members.

I think the most interesting question was from Kate Beecroft, MHK to the Chief Minister relating to the Chief Secretary and his authority, which I doubt has been questioned in the past.

It certainly generated a few fireworks in the Chambers and it will be interesting to see how this one unfolds over the next few months, especially with an ongoing legal issue in the UK.

The Chief Secretary is the head of the Isle of Man Civil Service and his principal role is to provide impartial advice to the Chief Minister, Council of Ministers and the Lieutenant Governor – personally, I don’t have an issue with the correspondence being signed by an officer providing it was approved by the Chief Minister and / or Council of Ministers.

Just before the lunch break, the Chief Minister also gave his State of the Nation Address, and to be fair it was an excellent speech this year. It outlined many of the challenges facing this island over the next three years, especially around Brexit.

It is also fair to say that a lot more work is still to be done if we are to achieve our aims of an “Inclusive and Caring Society, an Island of Enterprise and Opportunity and a Financially Responsible Government”.

One part of the speech certainly made me smile when the Chief Minister said that “more and more people want to access information and services online, and through social media, and that we have to constantly improve our ability to convey information in a clear and simple way to all audiences, especially younger audiences”.

Either the Chief Minister has been reading my weekly Blog lately or he is about to launch his own weekly Blog, which would be fantastic news…….!

Anyway, during the lunch break there was also a presentation by the Chief Minister on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which will be a very important piece of legislation.

From there we went straight back into the Tynwald Chamber at 14.30 to continue with questions relating to the State of the Nation Address.

This was followed by statements on the Isle of Man Steam Packet, Rates Reform and the Living Wage, which are coming along very nicely, if not a little slow for those affected.

There was also a major debate on the new Manx Utilities Authority pricing structure, which I was happy to support after extensive research.

After the tea break, which included birthday cake for David Ashford, MHK, the Tynwald sitting continued until all business was concluded at around 20.00.

It is fair to say that the Tynwald procedures certainly came to an abrupt end when the new 2018 Housing Policy was pulled during the debate after Lawrie Hooper, MHK had pointed out a serious error in the Policy document. To be fair I had read through the document three times and I didn’t spot the error…..

I certainly had a splitting headache by the end of the proceedings – I still don’t understand why I am getting headaches after some Tynwald sittings. It could be pressure, stress or the lighting in the Chambers, but either way I need to be careful.

After the sitting a few Members went to the pub, so I didn’t get home until 22.00.

Despite finishing in one day I was back in the office for 8am on Wednesday, which gave me time to catch up with a few things.

Just after 9am I headed back into Onchan for a Constituent meeting, which included officers from the Planning Department and it related to an ongoing planning issue.

I was back in the office for around 10.30am and the next couple of hours was spent going through various DEFA reports before drafting an email to a Constituent relating to climate change etc.

At 13.00 there was a presentation from DfE to Tynwald members in respect of the four new Agencies, which gave an update on what work has been undertaken since the agencies were set up.

The meeting finished at 14.30 and other than going to the doctor’s over a problem I have currently with my knee, the rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk until I went home at 17.10 catching up with a few things, especially my in-box along with starting a couple of new projects.

I also took the opportunity to go though the Manx National Heritage agenda pack before the board meeting on Thursday.

Not sure why I was in the office at 7.50am on Thursday, especially when it wasn’t a busy schedule.

Anyway, I was able to spend the time going through the European Union and Trade Bill 2018, along with a few other things.

Just after 10am Martyn Perkins, MHK and I drove into Onchan to attend the Royal British Legion (Onchan Branch) anniversary coffee morning, which was very well attended.

We were back in the office before 12 noon and this gave me plenty of free time to catch up with colleagues, along with continuing with ongoing projects.

I then dropped Ellen off at the garage at around 14.30 to collect a car – she had made the decision to buy a second car, which will make things a little easier, especially in the evenings. We have been struggling with one car since I was elected in 2016, not forgetting that our current car has done more than 126,000 miles – it is definitely like Trigger’s Broom, no original parts left….

From there I went to Manx National Heritage for the Trustee meeting, which started with the usual informal discussion around 15.00. However, at 15.25, after a difficult discussion amongst the trustees it was agreed that I had conflicting interests in my various roles so I left the meeting.

I wasn’t expecting to get home until after 18.00, so it was nice to take advantage of some free time, but by then I really wasn’t in the best of moods.

Back in the office at 8am on Friday and the first hour or so was spent going through planning guidelines and legislation.

At 10am Tynwald Members headed up to the Barrool Suite for the presentation on the Liverpool Ferry Terminal, which generated a discussion and questions amongst the Members.

An excellent presentation by the Department of Infrastructure and I am genuinely very excited by a number of projects being explored by this administration, which will serve for many generations to come.

At 11.30am I started to drive down to St John’s to meet up with a couple of Constituents who are continuing to fight in relation to ongoing planning concerns.

Although the meeting was set with a formal agenda and environment, it was still an excellent meeting and it enabled the Constituents to put forward their concerns in a formal and constructive matter.

The meeting lasted over two hours and it was well after 14.30 when I got back to the office.

On the way back to the office I had to return several calls relating to Constituent matters.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk catching up with emails and also going through the DfE agenda pack before heading home at 16.50.

On Saturday I have my Political Surgery at the Onchan Community Hub between 10am and 11.30am.

I am also hoping to call into Chess.com – the Isle of Man International, which is being staged at the Villa Marina this weekend.

Other than going for a walk, I think most of Sunday will be spent on a couple of ongoing projects.