Blog 28 Oct 18The first sitting of the House of Keys after the summer recess took place this week and it proved to be an interesting sitting on Tuesday with just a sprinkle of fireworks, especially around the European Union and Trade Bill 2018.

It is fair to say that my workload this week was relatively light compared to other weeks, which gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up with a few things.

Last Saturday I held my monthly Political Surgery, which had a steady stream of Constituents, which ensured the time went by very quickly.

I was also able to spend sufficient time talking to each Constituent, which can be difficult at some surgeries.

As I have said previously, I am always grateful when people take me into their confidence. One particular item was very difficult and it required detailed correspondence to be sent to Treasury, which I did on Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning was all about Constituent work. I was in the office for 8.10am and this enabled me to draft any remaining correspondence from my Political Surgery at the weekend.

Just before 9am on Monday I walked over to the DfE for a meeting with the Minister and CEO, which gave me an opportunity to outline some serious concerns from the previous week.

At 10am I drove into Onchan for a series of constituency meetings, which related to various items including the Trees and High Hedges Act, Planning issues, Social Services & Anti-Social behaviour and Residential Parking Permits.

Straight back into the office at 12.30 and up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation on Domestic Abuse, which is very alarming in 2018….

The presentation was extremely moving and I genuinely thought that this type of behaviour had disappeared in the 1970’s. The presentation also highlighted the fact that this matter needs be put back into the public domain and discussed openly instead of leaving it behind closed doors, which is totally unacceptable in modern society.

I would certainly encourage anyone suffering from Domestic Abuse, women or men, to have the courage to report and to seek the right level of support and advice as quickly as possible, however difficult that might be…

The rest of Monday afternoon was spent at my desk going through the explanatory memorandum notes for the European Union and Trade Bill 2018, along with drafting several letters.

In the office for 8am on Tuesday going through various notes, along with dealing with a couple of Constituent issues and having a discussion with the Deputy Speaker and the Tynwald Clerks.

At 9.50am we headed down to the House of Keys for the first sitting of this Parliament session. There were only 3 questions down for oral answer and one of those focused around Social Housing, which certainly raised a few supplementary questions.

There were also a further seven questions for written reply before the Chief Minister then moved the first and second readings of the European Union and Trade Bill 2018.

I have posted a separate Facebook message on this topic, in order to keep my Blog down to a manageable size.

The House of Keys voted 17-3 to suspend standing orders and allow the Second Reading to take place, with only Kate Beecroft, Lawrie Hooper and Acting Speaker Chris Robertshaw voting against.

I personally couldn’t see a valid reason for not allowing the suspension of Standing Orders and to allow the Second Reading of the draft legislation to take place on Tuesday.

I definitely didn’t have any alternative solutions at that stage and to be perfectly honest it would have only delayed the process and the Second Reading by a further week, which was pointless….

The Chief Minister, Howard Quayle and Kate Beecroft once again exchanged insults across the floor of the House, which is certainly starting to distract Members from the difficult task we face in relation to Brexit.

In the end the vote was 19-1 in favour of the Second Reading after the Chief Minister committed to introducing ’sunset’ provisions, which means that the Bill would have to be reviewed again after a certain time – only Kate Beecroft voting against the Second Reading, but no alternative options were tabled by the member, so I will simply leave that thought there.

The House of Keys sitting finished at 12 noon, which gave me some time to catch up with emails before heading up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by the One World Centre.

Former One World Centre Director Rosemary Clarke reflected on her personal experiences in Israel and Palestine earlier this year as a human rights observer in the West Bank.

This was followed by Laura Cretney who outlined her role as a consultant for businesses, governments and organisations working in the Middle East, along with being the editor of Pink Jinn, a Middle East politics, culture and travel blog.

I was back at my desk for 14.30 and the rest of the afternoon was spent going through the DfE and Public Accounts Committee agenda packs, along with having a catch-up with an MLC colleague.

Most Tynwald Members are like ships that pass in the night, so it was good to catch and to see how the new MLC’s are settling into their new roles.

I have to say that I am very impressed by the current Legislative Council Members, they are certainly standing up to the challenges and taking on their share of the workload.

I left the office at 17.10 but still had a couple of items of correspondence to catch up from home.

Wednesday was straightforward and the day went by in a flash… I was in the office for 8am, which gave me time to prepare a little more for the DfE & PAC meetings.

At 9am I walked to the DfE for a meeting amongst the political members, as the Minister was off island.

The usual board meeting got underway at 10am but we stopped at 10.30am to have a meeting with Della Fletcher and David Corlett from External Relations and the focus of the discussion was around Brexit and the European Union and Trade Bill 2018.

We then continued with the board meeting, which finished around 13.00.

I then took the opportunity to grab some lunch before the Public Accounts Committee, which started 14.00.

That finished just after 15.00 and it definitely was one of the shortest PAC meetings I have attended.

The last couple of hours were spent at my desk catching up with correspondence and returning a few calls before leaving the office at 17.10.

Just after 19.00, Ellen and I attended the Royal British Legion (Onchan Branch) Gala Concert, which was being held in the Village Hall. It was a fantastic evening of entertainment and we finally got home for around 22.15.

A very early start on Thursday as I arrived at the Sefton Hotel for 7am only to discover that the Isle of Man Business Network breakfast didn’t actually get underway till 7.30am.

The event featured a panel of Government representatives, which included Della Fletcher, Director of External Relations, Cabinet Office, Carl Hawker, Deputy CEO, Department for Enterprise and Sandra Skuszka, Collector of Customs and Excise, Treasury – Dan Davies, Interim Chief Executive, Department of Home Affairs was the Moderator.

The discussion around the bigger picture and implications of Brexit.

I still managed to get onto the office for around 9.15am and straight into drafting a few items of correspondence. I also needed to look at booking certain flights for potential trips in November and February next year.

At 10.30am I was able to have a catch up with a few more colleagues over a coffee, which hasn’t happed too much lately – I guess everyone is too busy these days.

The meeting finished around lunchtime so I was able to send a couple of emails before meeting up with an old colleague who wanted a catch-up over lunchtime.

I was still able to spend an hour or so at my desk before going up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation on funding the pension legacy gap.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the office trying to catch up with a few things, but I was able to leave the office at around 16.45.

At 18.45 I drove up to the Grandstand to attend the Isle of Man Marshals’ Association AGM.

Over the last 18 months I have built up an excellent working relationship with the current Chairman, Robert Crane who stepped down from his role at this year’s AGM.

I certainly wish him all the very best for future and I look forward to working with the new Chairman and the Board of Directors.

I managed to get home for 21.15 but still needed to draft several emails before finishing at 23.00.

Woke up to horrible wet weather on Friday, but I still made my way into the office for 8am.

I was only in the office for around 40 minutes before driving back into Onchan to give my support to this year’s Royal British Legion (Onchan Branch) Poppy Appeal that had been formally launched on Wednesday evening.

I was only scheduled to do the first couple of hours outside Onchan Post Office, but boy, was it cold!

After two hours I couldn’t feel my toes or my fingers, by which time I‘d come to the conclusion that I am getting soft in my old age, although the weather didn’t seem to affect Dougie or Peter who are both in their 80s….

I left Onchan Post Office just after 11am I headed into the office to park the car before walking straight over to DfE for an Extraordinary Department Workshop.

The workshop finished at 13.00, which gave an opportunity to grab some lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk catching up on various administrative tasks.

Apart from one particular item of correspondence outstanding, which will need to be considered very carefully, I left the office believing that I had caught up with any outstanding workloads.

On Saturday morning I have a Constituent meeting but I am also hoping to play in my first Pool Competition for three years.

I still have a couple of ongoing projects, which I will continue to do over the weekend and I will also need to draft a suitable response to a letter received from a UK Charity in relation to a Constituent matter.