Blog 26 Jan 20Tuesday this week saw the first sitting of Tynwald in 2020, and it was certainly a bumper sitting with several big items up for discussion, including an £8 million Supplementary Vote from the Department of Health and Social Care, the Government’s Climate Change Action Plan, the Children’s Champion’s Report and a motion from Dr. Allinson on Assisted Dying that has certainly stirred up public opinion once again.

I will cover the actual sitting of Tynwald in a little more detail later on….

Just looking at some of the news further afield for a moment, I see that the US President, Donald Trump’s impeachment has now reached the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans.

It is only the third time that an American President has faced an impeachment trial, with that trial getting underway on Tuesday.

For those not aware, an impeachment is a process that allows senior figures in government to be held to account if they’re suspected of committing offences while in office.

Between October and December 2019, the House of Representatives that is controlled by the Democratic Party voted to impeach the US President, and as such the case was passed to the Senate where the trial will take place.

The Senate has 100 seats and a two thirds majority of 67 will be required to oust Donald Trump as the US President, which is unlikely given the fact that the Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the Senate.

That said, it will be interesting to see if the Republicans push for a simple majority of 51 votes early on in the process to end the trial quickly or if they make the US President suffer just a little before throwing out the impeachment – who said politics was boring….?

Also more on Donald Trump in a moment….

Back to the Isle of Man, my first political surgery of 2020 was held last Saturday morning. It wasn’t very busy, but a big thank you to those who came along. Topics that were discussed included employment opportunities, a staffing issue, parking in Onchan and on the Douglas Promenade.

Once the surgery finished I had a couple of Constituent meetings, and one of those meetings related to raw sewage leaving a property and heading down a public highway, which was pretty disgusting…

On Saturday afternoon I spent a few hours drafting emails and going through various Tynwald reports. A big thank you to the DEFA team for responding so quickly to the raw sewage issue.

The island woke up on Sunday morning to a very hard frost, but Ellen and I still managed to get out for a walk along the promenade and the south quay. As for the rest of Sunday, it was spent carrying out various DIY jobs around the house with the Masters Snooker Final running in the background, along with continuing to prepare for this month’s Tynwald sitting.

I also started to receive messages and correspondence relating to Dr. Allinson’s motion in Tynwald this week relating to Assisted Dying, which read:

“That Tynwald is of the opinion that legislation to allow for voluntary assisted dying should be introduced”.

Unfortunately, the motion did cause a considerable amount of confusion for those that do not follow the Isle of Man parliamentary process closely, and why would you…..?

A massive thank you to everyone who sent me correspondence or messages in response to my social media post. The actual post reached almost 12,000 people across the Isle of Man and generated a few hundred comments.

It certainly gave me a better understanding of public feeling on a very emotive topic, but unfortunately it wasn’t a clear enough direction from Onchan Constituents to take onto the floor of Tynwald. I was genuinely touched by the number people that shared their own personal stories or experience on what was a very very difficult subject.

I think by Tuesday morning I had also received and responded to more than 45 separate letters or emails, excluding the hundreds of social media posts.

As for my schedule on Monday, I was in the office for normal time but a considerable amount of time was spent responding to various correspondence in relation to Dr. Allinson’s motion.

Mid morning I headed into Onchan for a Constituent meeting relating to a housing issue and this was followed by meeting with a church leader who wanted to outline their concerns, should Tynwald Members consider bring forward legislation on Assisted Dying.

I then went onto the promenade to have a meeting with a hotel manager, and it is unfortunate that some of my comments during last week’s Isle of Man Visit Agency meeting have been taken totally out of context.

As political member responsible for Tourism and Motorsport, I fully support this particular sector of our economy. I also fully support any scheme that benefits the industry as a whole, even if that particular policy has to start on the promenade and then is rolled out across the island.

Unfortunately, the wheels of government move slowly at times, which does frustrate industry, but as political members we have to make sure that any grants, support or schemes being implemented actually deliver their key objectives.

Back to the office and straight into a Members meeting with the independent panel that looked into Tynwald Members pay, which is another highly emotive topic.

Just enough time to catch up with correspondence before heading down to the Committee Chamber to say hello to a petitioner who was going before the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee.

I couldn’t actually listen to the evidence session because I had to get down to the Sea Terminal for a political meeting relating to the promenade work, which started at 16.00, but I will certainly listen to the evidence session over the weekend.

As for the promenade meeting, it was relatively straightforward and I was back at my desk for 16.45 before heading home just after 17.15.

Straight after tea I continued to work on a few Tynwald items and started going through the DfE agenda pack, which also ran into a couple of hundred pages.

I also continued to respond to a continuing stream of correspondence relating to Dr. Allinson’s motion before I was able to finish at around 22.30.

In the office for normal time on Tuesday to finish off any notes for the Tynwald sitting, but I also managed to pop outside to meet up with head teachers and Ballasalla residents who were protesting outside the Legislative Buildings.

This month’s Tynwald sitting started at 10.30am with an emergency question to the Education Minister, Graham Cregeen, MHK relating to the ongoing teachers dispute.

This was followed by 23 out of the 36 oral questions that mostly focused on the potential closure of the Ballasalla Post Office and the Teachers Union. Once the allotted question time was up, the remaining oral questions went for written answer.

Just after 13.00 there was a lunchtime presentation for Tynwald Members on Assisted Dying, and it was a great honour that Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, DBE, a Paralympic Athlete and now a Crossbench Peer was able to SKPE into the briefing to share her own personal thoughts on the topic.

A big thank you also to the Hospice Isle of Man team for scheduling the briefing and for sharing their own thoughts, along with Dr Randall, a specialist registrar at the Royal London Hospital for his thoughts around our duty of care.

Straight back to the Tynwald Chamber at 14.30 to continue this month’s sitting and a debate around the DHSC requesting a sum not exceeding £8 million, which lasted a couple of hours.

The Court then considered the Government Climate Change Action Plan, which was yet another robust debate that lasted almost three hours. Personally, I had various notes prepared for this particular debate, but after the first three or four speakers most of my points had already been made.

In the end, the Government Climate Change Action Plan was unanimously supported by Tynwald Court with a thundering message from the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK that the “rock throwing has to stop”, which is an interesting choice of words….

Unfortunately, the reality is that if this Government or future Governments fail to deliver Professor James Curran’s report or fail to bring the people of this island with them on this difficult journey or even try to put too much financial burden on the general public when implementing this strategy, then rocks will certainly be thrown back…

At the same time Donald Trump was in Davos rejecting environmental “prophets of doom” and calling them “foolish people”….

Anyway, the final item on Tuesday was the Children’s Champion Report by Tim Baker, MHK, which I felt was one of the best reports that I have read in this administration.

I don’t always agree with Tim’s stance when he defends Ministers at times, but he is certainly one of the best Tynwald Members in this administration.

As several members highlighted on Tuesday, the Children’s Champion Report clearly shows Mr. Baker’s passion, dedication and drive to help others and to make those changes, in order to ensure that every child on this island has the right to succeed, and to achieve their true potential in life.

The sitting on Tuesday finished at 20.50 and once home I still needed to finish off going through the DfE agenda pack before finishing at around 23.00.

Back in the office before 8am on Wednesday for day two of this month’s Tynwald sitting that got underway at 10.30am, and in advance of the sitting, I still needed to catch up with emails, which took about an hour or so.

The sitting started with the Tynwald Social Affairs Policy Review Committee Report on Suicide.

The Chairman of the Committee, David Cretney, MLC is due to retire next month after 35 years of loyal service to the Manx Parliament. I genuinely can’t remember him delivering a more heartfelt and passionate speech in the Tynwald Court, he will be missed by so many people, especially those in Douglas South.

It was a very difficult and emotional debate in the Chamber – I think the lunchtime break came just at the right time, because the debate had certainly affected several members who shared their personal experiences.

From the Chamber it was straight over to DfE for the department meeting and a presentation. This meant that DfE members just managed to get back to the Tynwald Chamber with a few minutes to spare.

At 14.30 we continued to work through the Order Paper until we reached the final item, which was Dr. Allinson’s motion on Assisted Dying that got underway at 15.50.

A very powerful and factual opening speech from Dr. Allinson, which set the scene for the five hour debate that was about to follow, and again there were some very passionate and thought-provoking speeches from various Tynwald Members, especially from the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK and the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Right Reverend Peter Eagles.

I think I was one of only two Members that didn’t speak on the motion, but I was certainly engrossed by the entire debate.

Unfortunately, I felt there wasn’t sufficient time for me to get a clear understanding from Onchan Constituents to make a genuine contribution on the floor of Tynwald, and thereafter to represent the majority view of Constituents. I certainly didn’t want to simply repeat comments that had already been made, the topic is too big for that….

In the future we will need draft legislation and a full public consultation, in order to fully understand the public opinion on this very difficult subject. In the end Tynwald Court supported David Ashford’s amendment that noted the debate and individual views of Members, which was the right course of action at this stage.

The Tynwald sitting finally finished at 21.10 and I have to say that I went home feeling physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. In fact, I probably got less than a couple of hours sleep on Wednesday evening, simply because I couldn’t switch off from topics, debates and contributions made during this month’s Tynwald sitting.

On Thursday I was able to stay at home, but I didn’t get too much rest as I was doing various jobs around the house, along with going through the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee agenda, catching up with correspondence and starting to go through draft legislation for the House of Keys sitting on Tuesday.

Back in the office on Friday, which was a straightforward day in many ways. The Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee met up at 10am to discuss ongoing work streams.

I needed to review and send out correspondence relating to the TT launch evening that will be held in this Ramsey this year.

I then headed into Onchan for two Constituent meetings that will require follow up correspondence, before heading back to the office for a third constituent meeting.

The last couple of hours were spent at my desk desperately trying to catch up with correspondence and other bits of work. I also had a long discussion with a Constituent over a planning application which has been ongoing for a couple of years…

As an MHK I simply can’t get the result the Constituent is looking for, which is frustrating for us both.

As for the weekend, it will be all about catching up with things after a busy week.