Blog 6 Nov 18With so many things happening this week, I have decided to split this week’s activities into two separate Blogs.

This particular one will focus around my on-island activities up to and including Tuesday evening, and the second one, which will be posted online shortly will give full details of my Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) trip to Jersey this week.

One of the main reasons for splitting my Blog into two parts is because the European Union and Trade Bill 2018 took centre stage in the House of the Keys this week. More on that later, but I think it also fair to say that for the first time in this administration, or possibly the second time, an element of political pressure or persuasion was being applied by the Executive and/or certain key individuals…..

That said, given the importance of the Bill, and the uncertainty facing both the UK and Manx Parliaments at the moment, I am not entirely surprised.

The question that was being asked by MPs in the UK and by Tynwald Members here on the Isle of Man is how much power should actually be transferred from the Parliament to the Executive, in order to deal with Brexit matters over the next two to five years…

But apologies, I am slightly getting ahead of myself, so let me back-track to last Sunday, when Ellen and I attended the official opening of “Mann at War”, which is a new exhibition at the Manx Museum commemorating the role of the Manx Men, Women and Children in conflict.

On Sunday evening we attended St Peter’s Church in Onchan for the Evensong of Remembrance. This special service was also part of the anniversary programme which commemorates the end of the First World War.

I have already posted two separate Facebook posts on these particular events, but as I mentioned in my original post, I felt the Church Choir were outstanding, especially singing “In Flanders Fields” and “On Eagles Wings”.

I also spent a few hours going through various House of Commons reports and debates on their version of our European Union and Trade Bill, ahead of the House of Keys debate on Tuesday – more on that later….

Although I received an invitation to be part of a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) delegation heading to Jersey on 26th October, I only actually started to receive full details on the actual programme over the last few days.

This meant that a considerable amount of time, especially on Monday, was taken up preparing several presentations and notes in respect of the programme.

I was in the office for 8am on Monday, and most of the day was taken up with prep work for my CPA trip.

That said, I wasn’t tied to my desk all day, as I was able to attend a coffee morning at 10.30am, which was being held at the Manx Blind Welfare Centre in Onchan.

The entry fee was an item(s) to sell at the VIP store in Strand Street, which is something different. I was able to donate a few items which I had bought but never actually fitted me.

On Monday afternoon Julie Edge, MHK and I visited Onchan School to present students with unique coins to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.

Central Government announced recently that all full time education students across the island would receive a specially minted coin to mark the centenary of Armistice Day at the end of the First World War.

The distinctive 50 pence coin featuring red poppies was commissioned by the Treasury and comes in its own individual display case.

A few hours on Monday evening were also spent preparing for the House of Keys sitting, but I managed to finish for around 21.30.

Tuesday was definitely a very busy day, I was in the office for 8am to continue preparing for the House of Keys sitting, which started at 10am, as well as my CPA trip.

We went down to the Chamber for 9.50am and the sitting started with 6 oral questions. There were 8 questions down for written reply. Three of those questions were tabled by me and covered sexual offences on the Isle of Man over the last five years.

Once questions had finished we had the first reading of the Criminal Evidence Bill 2018, an amendment of Standing Orders, second reading of the Communications Bill 2018 and the Payment of Members’ Expenses (Amendment) Bill 2018.

Members then discussed the main item on the Order Paper, which was the Clauses Stage of the European Union and Trade Bill 2018, which definitely created a lot of attention this week.

This particular Bill is the cornerstone of how the Isle of Man intends to deal with any eventuality arising from the UK leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019.

Despite what some people may have felt or believed in the corridors of power, it was never the intention of backbench MHK’s to vote down this important Bill, but the original draft Bill was far too wide and open.
The new Clause 1 amendments tabled by Chris Thomas, MHK and Lawrie Hooper, MHK certainly generated a lot of discussion after the House of Keys went into a Committee of the whole House, especially around sunset clauses.

In the end Members went with an amendment tabled by Tim Baker, MHK, which was seen as a middle ground option.

The speech given by Bill Shimmins, MHK certainly changed my mind on introducing sunset clauses, but at the same time we can’t ignore the role of scrutiny and oversight of the executive, especially as a backbench MHK.

The debate around the European Union and Trade Bill 2018 continued after the lunch break, which reconvened at 14.30, and I was disappointed that the House of Keys didn’t go back into a Committee of the whole House to discuss replacing the word “appropriate” for “necessary”.

Just two small words but I spent a considerable amount of time researching these words, along with the House of Commons reports, since Lawrie Hooper, MHK tabled his amendments, in order to ensure that I was fully prepared for the sitting.

In the end the House of Keys went with ‘appropriate’, which I still feel is the wrong decision, but that is Manx Politics. I guess that if I was a Minister I would be pushing for ‘appropriate’, but as a backbench MHK it was right I pushed for ‘necessary’.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the sitting at 15.50 in order to get changed very quickly and head to Ronaldsway Airport for a flight to London City, which left on time at 17.15.

I landed at London City at around 18.30 and after collecting my bag it was only a short journey to the Ibis Hotel, Canning Town for an overnight stay before flying to Jersey on Wednesday morning.

I still needed to catch up with emails, phone calls and to grab something to eat before finishing at around 21.30…….

See the CPS Blog……. for the rest of this week’s activities.