Blog 8 Dec 19The countdown to Christmas has certainly begun, but given the recent incidents in the UK over the past week or so, the true meaning of Christmas does have greater significance this year.

Christmas time is a religious time for some, but for others it means a time to get together with family and friends, exchange gifts, think of those less fortunate and to reflect on another year gone by….

For me personally, it is normally a quiet affair and involves heading out for various walks and just trying to switch off for a couple of days, along with visiting family members.

Christmas can also be an extremely lonely time for some people, and not forgetting the financial strain facing many families at this time of year…

Ironically during this month’s Tynwald sitting members will debate a Select Committee report on “Poverty” together with its definitions and data.

I started reading the report when I got home on Wednesday evening and before I realised over two hours had gone by…..

I enclose a link to the report, which runs into hundreds of pages, but anyone interested in the topic only needs to look through the first 78 pages of the first report.…/si…/20182021/2019-PP-0122(1).pdf

It is a very powerful report, well written and if nothing else it certainly highlights how difficult it is to define the term poverty. The report shows poverty is a result of a single or multiple factors, which normally happen after a sudden change in circumstances, and it can happen to anyone.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation listed some of the consequences of being in poverty and these included: health or housing problems, being a victim of a crime, drug or alcohol problems, lower education achievements, low pay or lower savings in later life, relationship and family problems etc etc. It also shows that poverty in childhood increases the risk of unemployment in later life.

It really doesn’t take much….

Anyway, let’s look at this week’s activities.

With nothing formal scheduled for last Saturday or Sunday Ellen and I were able to do some pre-Christmas shopping on Saturday, along with taking a stroll around Laxey early on Sunday morning.

It was bitterly cold around Laxey harbour on Sunday, but the views were stunning in the bright sunshine, so we certainly didn’t need any excuses to stop off at “The Shed” on the promenade for hot chocolate and something to eat.

Once home I still needed to draft several emails and to read a couple of reports, but it certainly didn’t spoil a very nice weekend.

On Sunday evening I dropped Ellen off at the airport as she headed off to Westminster for a couple of days, which was a little concerning given last week’s stabbing on London Bridge, in which two people were killed.

This is on the back of the 2017 events in which four people were killed and around 50 people injured when someone drove their car straight into a crowd on Westminster Bridge, along with stabbing PC Keith Palmer at the gate of the House of Commons.

Also this week 12 year old boy called Harley Watson was killed and four others were injured when a car mounted a kerb and drove straight into a group of teenagers outside a school in Essex.

You certainly have to question the society we currently live in at times, especially when you see the number of so-called random events happening in the UK and beyond at the moment….

Here on the Isle of Man we are extremely fortunate to live on a safe and peaceful island, and we certainly need to protect this at all costs.

I am a massive supporter of the work permit and immigration systems and as an island we must always have the right to say no….

Monday was somewhat of a back to front day – instead of going into the office as normal I headed to the re-cycling bins as our shed was full of tins, bottles and plastic etc. I then went into town to do some Christmas shopping without Ellen, because it might be the last chance before the Christmas engagements start, which normally end around 23rd or 24th December.

I didn’t actually start work until around 12 noon on Monday, going through the House of Keys Order Paper, along with starting to look at this month’s Tynwald Order Paper until around 18.00.

I also had to deal with a couple of Constituent issues, together with drafting a newsletter that might be needed in January / February 2020.

In the office before 7.30am on Tuesday ahead of the House of Keys sitting that got underway at 10am, which gave me an opportunity to catch up with a couple of things in the office.

I also had a long telephone conversation with a Constituent on a planning application issue, along with heading down to the library as a number of Tynwald members continued to have a few issues with the Boardpad app, which holds all the documentation relating to sittings and meetings etc.

This week’s House of Keys sitting got underway at 10am and started with 12 oral and 6 written questions before the Property Service Charges (Amendment) Bill 2019 received its third reading.

The House of Keys members then gave consideration to the Clauses of the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill 2019, which I found particularly hard to follow when reading through various sections of the Bill.

This particular Bill is 260 pages long and it took a considerable amount of time to read it through, but once again Dr Allinson, MHK did an excellent job to go through each clause very clearly in the Chamber on Tuesday.

At lunchtime there was a presentation to Tynwald members from three businesses located on the promenade, which gave them an opportunity to outline the serious effect that the ongoing works is having on their businesses at the moment.

Just such a shame that only 17 of my Tynwald colleagues actually attended the presentation, and even more of a shame that only one DOI member stayed and listened to those concerns.

A very powerful and emotional presentation and extremely disappointing that the DOI Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK didn’t make himself available to listen to those concerns personally….

Back to the House of Keys at 14.30 to finish off going through the clause stages of the Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill 2019. One particular clause certainly generated a considerable amount of debate amongst members.

Clause 138 of the Bill was around the “Anonymity of Suspects and Defendants alleged to have Committed Certain Sexual Offences”.

An extremely difficult clause for members to consider, but in the end I went with the anonymity of suspects and defendants in serious sexual offences, but judges on the island will still have the power to lift those restrictions in certain cases if it could potentially encourage other victims to come forward.

Tuesday’s sitting finished at around 15.30 and this meant I was unable to help Onchan School set up for their Christmas Fair, but I heard later on that they raised around £4,500 which is a fantastic achievement.

Once home I still needed to go through the Public Accounts Committee agenda pack before heading down to the airport to collect Ellen just before 19.00.

I finally finished for around 21.00 on Tuesday.

In the office for the normal time on Wednesday and it was all about trying to catch up and to prepare for next week’s Tynwald sitting.

Before all of that I needed to attend a Manx Language awareness session at the Manx Museum, which gave staff and trustees an overview of MNH’s policy towards the Manx Language. It was something different, but still a very enjoyable presentation that lasted around an hour.

Back to the office to send a couple of emails before having a Constituent meeting relating to poor work undertaken by certain trades on the Island. Word of mouth remains the best form of recommendation on a small island, but when things go wrong it can be a nightmare to resolve.

I also needed to review a number of DfE press releases that will be going out next week, along with going through the final few items relating to the Public Accounts Committee meeting, which got underway at 14.00.

That meeting lasted a couple of hours, after which I headed home for the day.

At home I was greeted by a very pleasant surprise after a Constituent had left a bottle of wine, a thank you card and some chocolates on our doorstep.

I was very touched by the gesture, thank you so much….

As I said, I started to read a Select Committee Report into Poverty on Wednesday evening, so I didn’t actually finish until around 21.30.

With regard to Thursday and Friday I needed to give my apologies, cancel or reschedule various meetings in order to ensure that I could get through the Tynwald Order Paper ahead of this month’s sitting.

I still went into the office at normal time on Thursday to print off various reports and documents before heading home at lunchtime, which gave me plenty of time to work though the Order Paper before finishing at around 20.00.

Unfortunately, my schedule on Friday went completely out of the window when Michael Hurley published his report into the Area Plan for the East at 9am, which I certainly wasn’t expecting for some reason.

This meant that the next few hours were spent going through the actual report that ran into 118 pages and sending out around 40 emails to Constituents who have contacted me over the past couple of years, in order to outline some of the proposed recommendations.

At lunchtime Ellen and I headed to our usual noodle bar, but unfortunately it was only a quick lunch as I needed to get back to the office before walking over to DfE for a Political meeting with the Minister, which started at 13.30.

From there the Director of Motorsport and I walked down to Douglas Council for a meeting relating to the Grandstand and Paddock area.

Finally got back to the office just before 16.00, which gave me a chance to catch up with some correspondence before leaving.

As for the weekend, I still have a lot of correspondence and constituent issues to catch up with, not forgetting the Tynwald Order Paper and the Area Plan for the East.

It certainly should be a very busy weekend.