Blog 6 Dec 20On Monday lunchtime the Isle of Man Government confirmed that the 2021 Isle of Man TT Races was being cancelled for the second year running. This is without doubt one of the most difficult decisions that I have been involved in, and I am not entirely sure how many times the decision to hold, move or cancel was taken before the final decision was made last week in the Department and in the Council of Ministers.

The island’s tourism sector is desperately waiting for the borders to open, and although TT 2021 has now been cancelled we are still hoping to welcome visitors back to the Isle of Man well before 29th May 2021, which was the official start date for the event.

However, a lot will depend on the new Covid-19 vaccination that should be available in the very near future, and if the UK can finally bring this virus under control.

On the island we have a five-stage border framework, and we are currently at level 4, which does not permit travel to the island for non-residents. To deliver a successful TT 2021 then the island would have to be at level 2 or lower, in order to deliver the economic value from the event.

In making the final decision relating to the TT, I have to give thanks to the Visit Agency, the wider Tourism Sector, the Steam Packet Company and Airlines for their input before a final decision was taken.

TT 2022 will be held on Saturday 28th May to 11th June, and we need to ensure that the event bounces back bigger and better.

The Manx Government has confirmed this week that the island will not be moving to level 3a until at least the New Year.

This week we also heard the sad news that Onchan resident and Manx Royalty in many ways, Hector Duff OBE, MM, BEM, TH, LH had passed away peacefully at the age of 101 – more on that sad passing in a moment….

As for my own schedule over the past seven days, Ellen I and headed into town on Saturday morning for breakfast and a bit of shopping before heading back into Onchan to attend the Methodist Church Christmas Fayre, which was a wonderful event and we received a warm welcome from everyone we met. We also left with a few delicious cakes to enjoy at home later.

From there we headed into Laxey to attend their Christmas Craft Market, which was being held in various locations around the village. It really was a brilliant event, well organised and something for everyone.

Christmas is definitely on the way, folks…..

Late on Saturday afternoon I played in the Isle of Man Pool Championships being held in Douglas Snooker Club, which was very busy. I managed to win my first couple of matches 5-3, but my form still isn’t great at the moment. I eventually lost to the tournament favourite and overall winner David Addinall 5-2. David is also the only IPA professional player on the island and he appears to be in good form at the moment.

It was certainly a long day and I didn’t get home until after 20.00, but it was great to catch up with a few old friends over a game of pool.

On Sunday we managed to get out for a walk along the Douglas promenade and South Quay before calling into Cycle 360 for breakfast. We also bumped into a couple of friends, which gave us an opportunity to catch up over breakfast.

Once home we put up a few more Christmas decorations outside before I spent a few hours working on a couple of projects, but still a fantastic weekend.

In the office for normal time on Monday and the morning certainly went by in the flash, and by 12 noon I had gone through the DOI agenda pack, several press briefings relating to the cancellation of TT 2021, department minutes, along with meeting up with a constituent to discuss a very difficult planning situation.

I also had various telephone meetings with regard to potential events that could be staged on the island over the next couple of years. At 12 noon the press release went out confirming the cancellation of next year’s TT, along with details on the support packages available to businesses affected by this next year, especially around the thorny issue of “TT deposits”.

Just after 12 noon there was a presentation in the Barrool Suite on the latest information on Covid-19, but I also managed to get through some of the House of Keys Order Paper before heading down to the Sea Terminal for the DOI pre-meeting and the Department meeting that got underway at 14.00.

We had some good discussions around Public Estates & Housing and on Highway Services before the actual department meeting, which didn’t finish until just after 17.00. Back up the hill to the office, but once home I still needed to catch up with various correspondence.

On Monday evening Ellen and I joined other Tynwald Members and guests for a tour around the Isle of Man Astronomical Society Observatory, which is located near Foxdale.

As we were waiting outside the Tynwald Building to collect the Speaker, Juan Watterson at 19.00 the sad news came through that Hector Duff, OBE had passed away peacefully at the age of 101.

Hector certainly had a full life growing up in Sulby and working for the Isle of Man Railway Company before joining the army in the Second World War, which included being involved in D-Day for which he received the Military Medal. After the war Hector joined the Isle of Man Constabulary and in the 1970s he became a Driving Instructor.

In recent years Hector worked tirelessly to protect the War Memorials around the island and continued to work on behalf of the British Legion, especially the Onchan Branch. Hector will also be remembered for his excellent work in association with many schools around the island in which he shared his experience of war with students and teachers.

For me personally it was great to see Hector again at Onchan’s Remembrance Sunday this year, and at the National Remembrance Service in St. John’s and to share his 100th birthday at Onchan Primary School last year – he will be missed by so so many people.

My heartfelt condolences to his family and his many friends across the island.

As for our trip to the observatory, we arrived just after 19.30 and it included a presentation by Howard Parkin inside and outside the observatory, along with a hotpot supper, before giving everyone an opportunity to go into the dome and to look at the planet Mars through the big telescope.

Ellen and I finally got home for around 22.30. A big thank you to the Isle of Man Astronomical Society for a wonderful evening.

Back into the office before 8am on Tuesday morning, which gave me time to go through the rest of the House of Keys Order Paper before heading down to the Chamber just before 10am for this week’s sitting, which started with a fitting tribute to Hector Duff by the Speaker of the House of Keys.

This was followed by an emergency question on TT 2021 before 14 oral questions and 17 written questions. The Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Landlord Registration (Private Housing Bill) 2020 received their first readings.

We then considered the Clauses of the Justice Reform Bill 2020 and the final item on the Order Paper was the third reading of the Human Tissue & Organ Donation Bill 2020 before the sitting finished at around 12.45.

Just time to do a quick interview with Manx Radio before heading up to the Barool Suite for a presentation by the DfE Finance Agency, which finished at 14.00. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the office working on various bits of the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020, along with having a meeting with Lawrie Hooper, MHK on the same topic.

I left the office at 17.15, but once home I continued to work on a couple of things before starting to go through the DEFA agenda pack, which always runs into hundreds of pages.

I finally finished just before 21.15.

Normal start on Wednesday, but I was only in the office for less than an hour before driving down to St John’s for the DEFA Policy and Strategy meeting, which started at 9.30am.

A short break before the Department meeting, which gave me time to respond to a few correspondence, along with going through some work relating to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

The Department meeting was straightforward and from St. John’s it was straight back to the office just after 15.00 to drop off the car before making my way down to the Sea Terminal for a further meeting with the Manx Landlords Association as we continued to review and discuss the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020.

The meeting finished just after 17.00 and it was then a rush back to the office, home and changed and then into Onchan village for the “Night of Lights”, which started in Port Jack Glen, which looked fantastic.

Back to the Park to enjoy the Christmas Market and fireworks. Given the fact Ellen and I were already wrapped up, we decided to head into Douglas to take the opportunity to look at the Christmas decorations along the Promenade, Quay and in Strand Street.

As for Thursday I was hoping to take the day off and do some work at the house, but it just wasn’t possible. I spent over four hours, if not five hours just going through the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020 line by line, in order to compare the draft legislation that went out for public consultation with the legislation that was introduced into the House of Keys last week.

I also had to go through the consultation documentation, because I just couldn’t trust the information I was being given within the department, which is extremely disappointing because in this role trust is everything.

On Thursday afternoon I took the opportunity to go through the House of Keys Order Paper, which included reviewing other pieces of legislation, along with a quick meeting with the DOI Minister, Tim Baker, MHK. I also managed to get some letters drafted before leaving the office just after 17.00.

Friday was all about my role as the Children’s Champion, I went into the office before 8am to get a few things done before driving up to Woodbourne Road just after 9am for a meeting with “Motiv8”, a local charity focused on addiction services and confidential counselling, support, advice and education for young adults agreed between 12 and 18.

I will be posting some additional information over the weekend on this particular charity, but by the end of 2020 they will have offered more than 5,000 appointments, along with 256 referrals relating to drugs and alcohol.

Very much hidden but still a very important charity…..

Back to the office briefly before walking over to DfE for an extraordinary workshop meeting that looked at the DfE financial support schemes, along with the current legislation that sits surrounds them. The second briefing was on the regulatory framework for cannabis-derived products, which is continuing to be developed.

At 13.00 Steve Taylor from St Christopher’s picked me up, in order to look around some of their Children’s Homes, Semi-Independent accommodation and the Secure Units at the White Hoe.

The Manx Government has had a relationship with the St Christopher’s since 2004 and I was very impressed with the facilities and services being offered to children in care on the island, there is a genuine sense of a family environment and some wonderful homes being used, which is how it should be.

It was also great to look around the Secure Care Unit at White Hoe once again for those young adults being held on remand, for welfare reasons or having been sentenced to a period of custody.

I haven’t been in the place since stepping down as a member of the Independent Monitoring Board a few years ago, but I am very grateful to staff for showing me around the building.

A massive thank you to all the staff at St Christopher’s for their time, and for sharing their thoughts.

The last hour was spent in the office before heading home at 17.15.

As for the weekend, I have a couple of engagements and I will provide full details next week.