Blog 25 Nov 18As I mentioned previously, I still believe one of the best qualities I bring to this role as an MHK is my life experience, my own life’s journey.

It is also fair to say that I was very surprised by my reaction to Tim Baker’s opening remarks and that of other Members in Tynwald this week as he tried to set up a Select Committee to look at the Accommodation for Vulnerable Young Adults on the island.

I wasn’t intending to speak on the Motion being tabled in Tynwald on Wednesday, but the comments in the Chamber brought back so many hidden memories of my own childhood, my time in the care system and the struggles I had to overcome to find work, accommodation, further education, and importantly to find my place in society, which is never easy when you are starting from the bottom looking up….

I guess some people would say that I try too hard, and that was definitely a message given to me as an Onchan Commissioner by some of my colleagues at the time, but the honest truth is that I am simply trying to do my best…..

I never forgot where I have come from or the mistakes I have made along the way, neither have I forgotten the list, and it is a long one, of so many people that have helped me along the way….

Anyway, enough of that for moment. A big thank you to those Constituents that turned up to my Political Surgery last Saturday, which wasn’t the busiest surgery but still very enjoyable…..

Straight after the Surgery I went to look at a particular issue that was raised by one Constituent, which required a couple of emails to be drafted.

In fact this particular issue relating to an overgrown hedge turned into more of an issue than I first thought, as neither DHSC or ODC wanted to take responsibility for the hedge…..

On Sunday lunchtime I was on Manx Radio’s Sunday Opinion with Bob Harrison and the topic of discussion was around Social Media within the political environment.

I was joined in the studio by two Ramsey Commissioners, Juan McGuinness and Luke Parker who do a regular Q & A session via Facebook live streaming, which is becoming very popular.

Juan and I also stayed on for the Mannin Line, which finished around 14.00.

I also spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon going though the Tynwald Order Paper, but I was far from prepared for this month’s sitting. Fortunately it was only a relatively short order paper, but it definitely didn’t lack quality debate amongst the members.

In the office for 8am on Monday and the first job was to go through some documents relating to the Eastern Area Plan, which I will need for a Constituent meeting later on in the day. Just after 9am I drove to Eden Park in Braddan to meet up with some postal workers as I needed to listen and understand both sides of the ongoing situation between Postal Workers, the Union and the Senior Management / Board.

The meeting was very helpful, and it certainly gave an input from the workers’ side ahead of a potential Tynwald debate in December.

On the way back into Douglas I stopped off to pick up Chris Thomas, MHK who was walking in to the office. After dropping him off, I headed down to the Sea Terminal for a joint meeting between the DOI and DfE for a Strategic Seas Presentation, which started just after 11am.

More than happy to put on record that I am very impressed with the approach being taken by DOI in relation to securing a new landing stage in Liverpool, along with trying to deliver a new Steam Packet User Agreement, which takes into account the multiple stakeholders who are all looking for something slightly different.

Trying to put square pegs into round holes comes to mind……..

That meeting finished just after 12 noon and it was straight back to the office before walking over to DfE for a meeting with the Minister and representatives from the Laxey Valley Heritage Trail Guide – the Golden Age for Mining.

The idea is a good one, Laxey already gets the most visitors coming to the island…. they just needed to get the DOI transport division on board, which they achieved later on in the week.

The heritage trail will be trialled in June and July next year, so watch this space…..

Back to the office for around 35 minutes to catch up with emails before walking to DfE for a Motorsport team briefing, which gives me an overview of what work is currently being undertaken by the team in respect of the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling.

There is a lot of work currently being undertaken by the team, especially around promoting the website and the 2019 event etc.

The meeting finished at 16.00, which gave me time to send a couple of letters before taking a conference call at 16.30 with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which was a feedback session from our recent trip to Jersey.

The call lasted around 35 minutes, at which stage I headed home.

At 18.40 I drove to Birch Hill, Onchan to meet up with a group of Constituents to discuss the Eastern Area Plan, which was a constructive meeting and it gave me an opportunity to answer any questions relating to one particular site.

I was back home just after 20.00 and I spent the next couple of hours going through the Tynwald Order Paper before finishing at around 22.00.

I was in the office 8.15am as my focus of attention switched towards this month’s Tynwald sitting as I continued to go through the order Paper.

At 10.30am we headed down to Tynwald Court for this month’s sitting, which started with 14 Oral Questions and 20 Written Questions. The rest of the morning session was taken up with a statement by the DEFA Minister on the 2006 Bathing Water Quality Directive and a new Heritage Rail Horse Tramway Depot, which will replace the current building.

The Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee Members, Clare Bettison, MHK, Chris Robertshaw, MHK and I certainly gave DEFA Minister Geoffrey Boot, MHK a run for his money over the improving bathing water quality, especially in Peel.

During the lunchtime break, there was a presentation by Crogga Ltd who were recently granted a licence by the Isle of Man Government to find and recover gas within Isle of Man waters in an area known as the ‘Crogga Field’, which is situated just off Maughold.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the presentation slightly early, in order to put together some tourism information, which certainly proved helpful.

From there I headed straight back to the Court to continue with the debate relating to a new Horse Tramway Depot, which was eventually supported by the Court.

I voted in favour of the amendment tabled by Lawrie Hooper, MHK for an Economic Impact Survey to be undertaken before building a new depot, simply because a study into our Heritage Railways etc hasn’t been undertaken since 2011, and this did not include the Horse Trams, which was still under the ownership of Douglas Corporation back then….

This was then followed by Chris Thomas, MHK moving a motion relating to a progress report on the Programme for Government.

The key word here is a “progress” report and unfortunately Minister Thomas didn’t get the brief, as the debate lasted at least two hours longer than it needed to, and at least one hour of that was taken up by the Policy and Reform Minister himself.

Anyone actually listening live to the debate would have certainly described it as nothing more than 2 hours 40 minutes of backslapping and handshakes amongst the Council of Ministers.

This meant that most of the excellent work actually being undertaken by this administration, which includes making many of those difficult choices and decisions ignored by the previous administrations, was somewhat lost in the original speech and the closing remarks given by the Minister, Mr Thomas, who also took the opportunity to slap down Lawrie Hooper, MHK.

No wonder confidence in this Government has slipped from 47% to 39%.

Members definitely deserved a break for a cup of tea and a biscuit, which was taken at 17.30….

After the tea break the sitting continued with the Chief Constable’s Annual Report, then the report from the Select Committee on the Development of Unoccupied Urban Sites, which certainly caused me a few issues when voting.

The Tynwald session finished just after 20.00, at which stage I headed home to catch up with a few emails, but I was able to finish just after 21.00.

I headed back into the office for 8.10am on Wednesday for day two of this month’s Tynwald sitting.

Before the Tynwald sitting got underway there was a Tynwald Scrutiny Committee briefing ahead of a formal meeting with a European Parliament Special Committee on Tax Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (TAX3), which was scheduled to take place later on in the week.

At 10.30am Tynwald Court continued to go through the Order Paper, which included two private Motions, the first from Tim Baker, MHK looking at vulnerable young people.

I am truly delighted to have been elected onto this Committee to look at this very important topic, which will require cross-Government support.

The second Motion was tabled by Daphne Caine, MHK and related to Syrian Refugees and my colleague certainly gave a very passionate speech on another very difficult topic, as did the Chief Minister Howard Quayle, MHK who outlined the Government’s position.

Although I shared many of the concerns raised by the Chief Minister I felt setting up a Select Committee was the right course of action, and in the end the vote was lost 11 to 10 in the Keys, but fully supported 9-0 in the LegCo, which overall meant the Motion was lost.

Two very passionate debates to end this month’s Tynwald sitting, which finished at around 13.40.

After grabbing some lunch and catching up with emails, I headed home at 15.30.

Once home I needed to catch up with several phone calls, along with going through the Visit Isle of Man Agency Agenda Pack, but I still managed to finish for around 17.30.

Thursday was a relatively straightforward day, I was in the office for 8.10am before walking over to DfE at 8.30am for the Visit Isle of Man Executive Agency, which didn’t actually finish until after 13.00.

The agency is certainly starting to find its feet and it is picking up various topics for review and discussion, in order to support industry going forward, but at the same time looking for opportunities to promote our island as a jurisdiction of choice…..

Items for discussion included sector updates, industry performance reviews, new initiatives, product and policy development, just to name a few items discussed during the meeting.

Back to the office and the rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk catching up with emails, phone calls and reviewing a European Parliament draft report ahead of meeting scheduled with the European Parliament Special Committee on Tax Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (TAX3).

I also needed to review several TT related papers.

In the office for 8.10am on Friday, but only for an hour to catch up with a few things. At 9am I drove up to Manx Radio to do an interview on the Select Committee set up in Tynwald this week.

Straight back to office and up to the Barrool Suite at 10am for a further presentation and workshop on the Steam Packet and what items should or shouldn’t be included in a new User Agreement.

It was a very passionate workshop amongst the Tynwald members who attended, especially on my table with Chris Robertshaw, MHK and Bill Shimmins, MHK.

The workshop and presentation finished at 12 noon and from there we headed over to DfE for an informal workshop, which continued the discussion around the Steam Packet and another Political issue.

I finally got back to the office to sort a few things out at 13.30.

At 14.45 I went down to the Committee Room for a meeting with the European Parliament Special Committee that is on the Isle of Man this week to speak to our Industry, Government and Parliament.

They also had a tour of our Tynwald Chambers, and overall I felt the meeting went extremely well.

I finished off a few things before heading home at 17.00.

On Friday evening we headed to Ballakermeen High School Studio Theatre and their production of the award winning musical “Honk”, which is a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Ugly Duckling”.

Once again we received a very warm welcome from Head Teacher, Adrienne Burnett, students and teachers alike.

I am meeting with family and friends over the weekend and on Sunday I have been invited to attend the Champion of Champions Snooker Final, which I am looking forward to.