Blog 13 Dec 20On Thursday at 13.00 the Isle of Man said farewell to much loved Hector Duff, OBE, MM, BEM, TH, LH at St. Peter’s Church in Onchan.

As I mentioned last week he certainly had a full life, having made it to the great age of 101, and it was excellent to see St. Peter’s Church, Onchan full for the private service. Unfortunately, it had to be a private service for family and invited guests only because of the number of people wanting to say thank you and good bye to a gentleman who was so heavily involved in Isle of Man life and our community.

The service was streamed live to the Villa Marina in Douglas, and the Isle of Man Road Policing Unit led the funeral cortège, which was a very fitting tribute to a past colleague who served in the Isle of Man Constabulary for 26 years. The service started with the Manx Fisherman’s Evening Hymn and finished with the Exhortation and the Last Post as we said farewell to Hector with the theme of “Ellan Vannin” playing in the distance – a wonderful service for a very special individual.

More on Hector’s funeral in a moment.

Also this week, the UK started the biggest vaccination programme in the history of the NHS after the UK Government was the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine following it being shown to be 95% effective. Around 50 hospital hubs in the UK are being used, and care home residents and their carers are the first be vaccinated against Covid-19.

This will be followed by those aged 80 or over, frontline health and social care workers, before going slowly down through the ages. Two groups that will not receive vaccines are pregnant women and under 16’s. The bulk of the vaccinations are expected to take place between January and April 2021 in the UK.

I guess in years to come quiz shows will ask who was the first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. Well, the answer will be 90-year-old Margaret Keenan….

Here on the Isle of Man the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK confirmed during the press conference on Friday afternoon that 975 doses of the vaccine will arrive on island next week, in order to start the Isle of Man vaccination programme.

In other news, the word “Brexit” is also coming back into the news headlines this week as the UK continues to try and find an EU Trade Deal before the transition period ends on New Year’s Eve. Even if a deal is agreed, businesses and the general public will face significant changes in their day-to-day lives from 23.00 on 31st December 2020.

I am sure that Brexit will dominate the headlines over the festive period, but one thing is certain, 2021 looks set to be another very difficult year….

As for my own schedule this week, Ellen and I went to the Close Leece Farm and to Tynwald Mills for their Christmas Markets last Saturday, and in the afternoon we went to the Onchan Silver Band Christmas concert that was being held in Onchan Parish Hall at the top of Royal Avenue.

A big thank you once again to David Karran and the Onchan Silver Band for a wonderful concert, which included a very fitting tribute to Hector Duff, OBE.

Personally, I loved the section by the Onchan Silver Band Academy in which many of them were performing for the very first time in public.

Sunday was spent working in the house and catching up with a few bits of work, along with putting up the Christmas decorations in the house. On Sunday evening Ellen went to the “Sounds and Sweet Airs” concert being held at the St. George’s Church in Douglas.

The annual concert was a collaboration of the Manx Voices Ladies Choir and members of the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra, and it really was an outstanding event with some beautiful pieces of music.

An excellent weekend in many ways…..

Not the busiest of weeks in the office, which gave me the perfect opportunity to work on a couple of projects, including a presentation that I will be giving at the beginning of January next year.

In the office for 8am on Monday and the first part of the morning was spent in the office starting to prepare for Tynwald next week and going through the House of Keys Order Paper and several bits of legislation that will be going through the Chamber over the next couple of weeks.

Just after 11am I headed into Onchan for a quick meeting with a Constituent before I took full advantage of a quiet day to take a couple of hours off to meet up with a friend that I hadn’t seen in ages. I was back in the office before 15.00 to catch up with any correspondence before walking down to the Sea Terminal for the Douglas Promenade Political meeting that started at 15.30.

It is great to see the promenade project finally coming together, and although it has been difficult sitting on the political oversight board on occasions, it has also given me an insight into managing very difficult national infrastructure projects.

I left the Sea Terminal just after 17.00 and once home I continued to work on my presentation, but I managed to finish for around 20.00. I thought putting together a powerpoint presentation would only take a couple of hours, I think it will be more like a couple of weeks….

Another wet and miserable day on Tuesday as I headed into the office for 8am ahead of this week’s House of Keys sitting, which got underway at 10am with 11 oral questions and 11 written questions.

We then had the first reading of the Benefical Ownership (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2020, Gas Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Sky Lanterns and Balloons (Prohibition) Bill 2020.

This was followed by the Second Reading of the Gas Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2020, Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020.

As I mentioned in a previous Blog, the Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2020 will enable House of Keys Members to evict a future Chief Minister (Daphne Caine, MHK’s words) with a straightforward majority of 13 votes instead of a two-thirds majority of 16 votes, which is the current position.

The Bill went through its second reading by 20 votes to 4.

The Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020 second reading was always going to be a difficult piece of legislation, and the debate started with an excellent speech by Lawrie Hooper, MHK who articulated what he felt was wrong with the legislation that was presented to the House of Keys for consideration.

I spent a considerable amount of time going through this legislation over the last couple of weeks, and I fully understand the concerns being raised by a number of the House of Keys Members during the debate. Putting a piece of legislation out for consultation is one thing, but you have to listen and review any concerns being raised on their particular merits, especially when this piece of legislation will have such an effect on the entire island’s private rental market.

Very few people are against the Bill being introduced, but it has to be right from the outset. Hopefully, over the next few weeks the DOI will continue to engage with the Manx Landlords Association and with MHKs before the Clauses stage in the New Year, because parts of the legislation need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

In the end the Bill went through 20 votes to 4, and a move to set up a Bill Committee also failed 20 votes to 4, but the hard work will now start as the Department tries to put together a piece legislation that is supported by industry, tenants and political members, and which sets the foundation for a minimum set of standards for rental property on the island.

The final item on the Order Paper was the Clauses stage of the Justice Reform Bill 2020 as we continued to work through the second part of the legislation before the sitting finished at 17.00, but I didn’t leave the office until around 17.40.

Once home I continued to work through various correspondence and ongoing projects, along with the DfE agenda pack, before finishing for around 21.00.

I was up early on Wednesday morning putting out a quick Christmas message on social media and updating my Blog because I was slightly behind this week, before getting into the office at 8am. Just after 9am I walked over to DfE for the usual political meeting with the Minister ahead of the Department meeting and the agency updates.

Again, it was a relatively straightforward department meeting this week with only a couple of key decisions to be made.

I was back at the office for around 12.30, which gave me plenty of time to catch up with things before walking down to the Sea Terminal for a Policy and Strategy meeting that started at 14.30. This week we looked at Local Government and the Consultation undertaken in 2017 and its findings, along with having a further discussion around the House of Keys sitting on Tuesday and in particular the Housing legislation before I had to leave at 17.15.

On Wednesday evening I was able to take the night off and play in League Snooker, but it was another defeat on the black.

I was looking to take Thursday and Friday completely off this week, in order to get things done at home, but these things never turn out as planned. Instead I went into the office for 8am. With no meetings or briefings I was able to get my head down to continue going through Tynwald reports and the Order Paper, and to work on a slide presentation.

At 12 noon I drove into Onchan and to St. Peter’s Church for Hector Duff’s funeral, which started at 13.00. His Excellency Sir Richard Gozney and Lady Gozney led the invited guests, which included the President of Tynwald, Speaker of the House of Keys and other invited guests representing Government, Local Authorities and Charities etc.

It was a privilege to be invited to Hector’s funeral as one of the Constituency MHK’s for Onchan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the event held at the Villa Marina later on in the afternoon, because I needed to pick up a couple of urgent constituent issues in the afternoon.

As for Friday it was almost a full day in the office, and although I didn’t have any meetings originally scheduled the day slowly evolved into a busy day. Part of the morning was spent catching up with correspondence and attending a DfE tourism meeting ahead of Tynwald next week.

I then received correspondence from someone requesting help in respect of a “right of way” to a property and parking etc, which meant that I spent a few hours going through Land Registry documents and deeds to see if I can help in any way, but this one isn’t easy….

Other than a quick trip into Onchan to see a Constituent, the rest of the afternoon was spent in the office just trying to stay on top of things before a busy week next week. Late afternoon I reviewed a copy of a long awaited report, which I will need to read over the weekend.

I also have a couple of engagements and I will of course provide further details next week, but I also have to finish off any prep-work for the Tynwald sitting next week and for a couple of meetings.