Blog 22 Jan '18I know we have only been elected for a period of 15 months and that there are plenty of difficult decisions yet to be made in Tynwald and the House of Keys between now and 2021, but the Isle of Man Abortion Reform Bill 2018 has finally started its process through the House of Keys this week.

I am certainly looking forward to listening to the speeches on Tuesday next week at second reading, and at the Clauses stage which will follow.

My colleague Dr. Allinson, MHK got leave to introduce a Private Member’s Bill back in January 2017, which was incredibly brave for a new MHK so early on in this administration.

When I look back over this five year period, this particular Bill will certainly stand out.

I think most MHKs have received hundreds of letters, postcards and messages over the past 12 months on this topic, and I can assure Onchan Constituents and the wider public that I have read every single piece of correspondence and duly acknowledged and responded when contact details were provided.

I am not entirely sure if it is because I am male or because I don’t have children, but I don’t have a really strong opinion either way on this very emotive topic.

That doesn’t mean that this decision is any easier.

In fact I would say it is more difficult because I don’t have a firm opinion either way based on religious or personal feelings, but I have definitely wrestled this Bill around in my own conscience and feelings when researching the topic.

However, reading through a mountain of paperwork on this topic over the past 12 months, I would expect the law and the additional support to be there if any woman was having to make this difficult decision, and at this present moment in time the support just isn’t there on the Isle of Man, which I think is unacceptable….

Although I fully support freedom of speech and the right to protest, I don’t believe the behaviour of Abort 67 has helped in any way over the past few weeks and I certainly will be glad to see the back of them.

As an individual MHK, I am also extremely disappointed and upset by the number of people who have contacted me over the past 12 months to say that they would never vote for me again if I voted in a certain way!

As MHKs we are elected to make these incredibly difficult decisions on behalf of the Isle of Man as a whole, and surely MHKs should be judged over a five year period and not on a single Bill or decision made, however difficult and emotive the topic might be.

But I guess that’s just the way it goes in politics, and everybody is entitled to their own views…..

Anyway, after a very busy weekend with a Political Surgery, Constituency meetings, Committee work and trying to catch up with e-mails, I was back in the office for 8.20am on Monday morning.

I cancelled a couple of non-urgent meetings in the morning, which gave me time to draft several letters regarding ongoing Constituent matters which needed to be followed up.

It was definitely one of those days on Monday as I was struggling to stay on top of emails and upon reflection I must have been on the phone for at least three hours throughout the day.

I also drafted some additional questions for the House of Keys on 30th January, along with meeting a few more Candidates looking to be elected to the Legislative Council in March.

From the Candidates I have met so far, there is a big difference between each Candidate, especially when taking into account, age, qualifications, life and other experience. I have interviewed hundreds of people in my life, but interviewing MLC Candidates is very difficult, because I am not entirely sure what a future MLC should do on behalf of the Manx parliament and this island….

I left the office at 17.15 and once home I started to go though a couple of TT policy documents, in order to give the Minister my comments and opinion, along with making several calls to Constituents relating to a planning application, parking tickets and housing waiting lists.

Finally finished at 21.15.

In the office for 8am on Tuesday, which meant that I missed the Abort67 protest outside the back door of the Tynwald Building – more by chance, than planned.

The early part of the morning was spent speaking to the Speaker, Juan Watterson, SHK on a difficult topic that I will be researching over the next couple of months before I consider taking the matter further.

Just before 10am we headed down to the House of the Keys Chamber for an extremely short sitting with only three oral questions and five questions for written reply.

The Abortion Reform Bill 2018, Airport and Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill 2018 and the Central Registry Bill 2018 all had their first reading, and the Credit Unions (Amendment) Bill 2017 was given its third reading.

The whole session lasted less than 20 minutes.

I guess from a general public point of view, most people would think that was my day done – but of course it certainly wasn’t…..

From the House of the Keys sitting, I went straight into the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee which is currently reviewing the IRIS Scheme as we start putting together our conclusions and recommendations.

That meeting finished at lunchtime, which gave me an opportunity to send a few e-mails, before heading up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation given by a group of medical professionals who are asking for the Abortion Reform Bill 2018 to be put into a Committee for consideration.

The meeting lasted around two hours and included a presentation and a Q&A session, but to be perfectly honest I felt extremely uncomfortable on a few points raised during the presentation, relating to some of the example cases they were describing.

From there I started to prepare for the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Wednesday, in which the PAC will take evidence from the Treasury Minister and Chief Financial Officer. Fortunately, the Speaker had already done much of the prep work on behalf of the Committee, as I have to be honest when I say that I haven’t been able to give this Committee session the correct amount of attention, which is disappointing on a personal level.

The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with e-mails and printing a couple of reports for review, along with discussing various topics with colleagues.

I left the office at 17.15, but once home I started to look into the Abortion debate, researching the topic, looking through legislation and drafting some notes before finishing at 21.30.

Wednesday’s schedule didn’t go to plan in the morning. I was still in the office by 8am and was planning to continue with my research into the Abortion Bill, but I got slightly sidetracked by someone asking for advice and help, which I was more than happy to give.

I then had a meeting with another MLC Candidate looking for support in the forthcoming elections.

From there I walked to DfE for the press conference for the new TT Video-game (Ride on the Edge), which goes on sale in March. It really is a fantastic game and the graphics are amazing, I was given an opportunity to play the game at the NEC last November.

Back to the office for lunch and to send a few e-mails before meeting up with the other Public Accounts Committee Members for the Committee Session with the Treasury Minister and the Chief Financial Officer.

The meeting lasted around ninety minutes, which was followed by a post-Committee meeting taken in private.

Back to the office just before 17.00 briefly to send a few e-mails and to make a couple of calls before leaving the office at 17.15.

After tea it was back to the Abortion Bill and my speech, but I stopped at 20.30 as I felt so tired, and I was actually asleep for 22.00.

Not entirely sure why, but I feel extremely run down and tired this week….. It might simply be the topics and enquiries that I have had to deal with the past few days.

Still feeling tired on Thursday morning, but I was still in the office for 8.15am and it was straight into a couple of Constituent matters, which involved making some calls.

At 9.15am I went over to DfE for the meeting with RTLC Chairman, Brendan O’Friel and the Secretary, Noel, as there is a crossover with the Committee and several tourism sectors, especially tourist guides etc.

It was a good meeting and always a pleasure to catch up on the workings of the RTLC, which has a difficult job at times.

Back to the office to catch up with e-mails and to discuss a work permit issue, a couple more TT briefing papers, catch up with a couple of Ministers and go through some papers ahead of a meeting scheduled in the afternoon.

Just after 12 noon I walked to the Manx Museum for a trustee meeting on financing and budgeting for the year ahead, which lasted a couple of hours.

Back to the office for just a couple of minutes before walking over to DfE for a meeting with a local organisation. It isn’t right to name the company at this time, but it was an extremely difficult meeting relating to costs and future finance requests.

I was extremely grateful to have Lawrie Hooper MHK and Tim Crookall MLC at the meeting for support as we went through the financial proposals and costings, in order to ensure that we were getting value for money, especially when costs are being increased….

Despite the difficulties during the meeting, hopefully we all left on amicable terms, but it wasn’t an easy meeting.

Again, the meeting lasted a couple of hours and I returned to the office at 16.45 to send a few e-mails and to return a couple of calls before leaving at 17.15.

I dealt with a couple of Constituent matters after tea but managed to finish at 20.00.

It definitely feels like a long week this week. In the office 8.20am on Friday and I was able to catch up with correspondence and phone calls, along with reviewing several other policy documents.

Mid morning I had two meetings with potential MLC Candidates, along with picking up a couple more Constituent enquiries, which will need following up.

At lunchtime I walked over to the DfE for two meetings, one with the Minister and one with the Motorsport Director as we continue to work through any problems putting together this year’s event.

Those meetings finished at 14.50 and it was a mad rush back into Onchan for a meeting with a local business relating to the anti-social behaviour in and around Onchan at the moment.

From there I went straight up to Manx Radio to do a couple of interviews relating to my questions being asked in the Keys on Tuesday.

Back to the office to pick up any e-mails, along with more Constituency matters relating to housing and a reserved parking space in lower Onchan.

Left the office at 17.15 and on Friday evening we attended the Manx Motorcycle Club Annual Dinner at the Palace Hotel. It was a fantastic evening and we are always made to feel so welcome by the club and its members.

Got to bed just after midnight….