Blog 13 Oct 19It is fair to say that the Isle of Man has been a pretty miserable place over the past couple of weeks or so, especially when it feels like it has rained continually for 40 days and 40 nights.

Forgetting the heavy rain and strong winds for a moment, along with having to spend several weekends clearing guttering and picking up leaves etc, I actually do enjoy this time of the year.

There is nothing better than lighting the fire and shutting the curtains during the autumn months in the gradual lead up to the Christmas holidays.

My weekly Blog has evolved and changed many times over the past three years, and from this week I will remove some of the references to time. I think people reading my Blog after three years know that I head into the office around 8am most days and try not to leave until around 17.00.

That said, I will continue to make reference if I start earlier or having to finish late etc. However if people would prefer that I left all the times in, then I certainly will…

As for this week – things are definitely moving up a few gears with a considerable amount reading to get though and prep work before Tynwald formally reconvenes next week after a three month recess from Parliamentary work.

That said, there was an emergency sitting of Tynwald on Tuesday this week, in order to allow DEFA to pass various bits of regulation in connection to or in readiness for Brexit – if that ever actually happens…

Monday morning was taken up with various meetings and briefings, including a meeting with the Manx Motorcycle Club and someone looking for some general advice and help.

Any spare time was taken up with the Tynwald order papers, along with making several notes relating to various reports tabled for consideration.

At lunchtime I headed up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation given by Manx Radio who outlined their future strategy. It was a good presentation given by the executive team and trustees, but I am not entirely sure how the debate, and importantly how the vote will actually go in Tynwald next week – it could be a close one with several amendments.

Personally, I have grown up listening to the station and in fact my brother Peter and I were Manx Radio “Jolly Bodies” back in the early seventies, which included my very first radio interview at the age of just 4, which I will have to put out on social media at some point in the future.

Not an easy presentation with plenty of questions from Tynwald members during the briefing.

I certainly don’t want to pre-empt the debate that will happen next week, but personally I am disappointed that the coverage of the TT and the Festival of Motorcycling are not included within the report tabled for consideration.

Anyway, let’s park that discussion until next week.

Straight after that presentation there was a further briefing this time by the Department of Infrastructure relating to the House Improvement (Adaptations) legislation that is being tabled in Tynwald next week.

Just enough time to send a couple of emails before heading home. Monday evening was spent going through the Tynwald order and question papers ahead of Tuesday, but also continuing to working through the main Tynwald order paper for next week until around 21.30.

In the office early on Tuesday and the first task was to have a telephone conference call with the Director of Motorsport and to go through my notes before heading up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by DEFA, which outlined the various regulations being tabled in Tynwald later on.

After returning a couple of constituent calls I headed down to the Tynwald Chamber for the extra parliamentary sitting, which had been requested by DEFA.

The sitting started with an emergency question tabled by Martyn Perkins, MHK who asked the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK to make a formal statement on the flood damage that affected a number of property owners in Laxey last week.

We then moved onto the question paper that had 15 oral questions and 1 written question mostly relating to Brexit issues, before Tynwald moved on to the main order paper relating to the various regulations being tabled by DEFA relating to Brexit, which may or may not be concluded by 31st October 2019.

Well I say conclude, but actually leaving the EU is just a first small step on a very long journey for the UK…. unfortunately, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands will be unwilling passengers on that trip…

Straight from the Tynwald Chamber and up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation given by the Isle of Man Post Office, which outlined its network service moderation recommendations, which will go before Tynwald next week.

Again, it was another lively presentation with members asking various questions.

It will certainly be another interesting debate in Tynwald next week.

This was followed by a briefing from Chris Thomas, MHK and others on the Council of Ministers’ Social Policy and Children Committee. Unfortunately, I had to leave that slightly early as I needed to catch up with various bits administration, along with a number of constituent enquiries before leaving.

Just enough time to drop off my stuff at home before driving to St Ninian’s Lower School in Onchan for the public meeting being held in respect of the Rates Modernisation.

The meeting was very poorly attended and I don’t know if that is down to the press coverage or the topics of discussion. I stayed for the first hour or so because I needed to get home to go through the PAG and DfE Agenda packs ahead of Wednesday’s meetings.

Finally finished for around 22.15.

In the office early on Wednesday as I had back to back meetings and I also needed to do some urgent research into the Manx Radio ahead of next week’s Tynwald sitting.

The DfE meetings were also brought forward, given the size of the agenda and number of meetings etc.

The day started with the usual Minister and Political Members catch up before moving into the boardroom for the Head of Agencies updates. We then had a presentation in relation to the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Review.

We were also due to have a short discussion on 5G following the recent PAG meeting, which was organised by 5G IOM AWARE but unfortunately we ran out of time.

Once the presentations, briefing and discussions finished we went through the main order paper, which had several decisions to consider.

Back to Tynwald building and straight up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation given by Paul Allen of “Zero Carbon Britain”. Fair to say that I was very impressed by the presentation given by Paul, which was very positive, practical and evidence-based information….

Paul offered small solutions or changes that we all can buy into, in order to achieve zero carbon omissions by 2050 or sooner.

An excellent presentation and I heard later on that the public meeting held in Douglas was also very well attended – an excellent speaker on a very difficult topic.

A quick 30 minutes in the office to catch up with emails and phone calls before going to the Public Accounts Committee meeting, which lasted a couple of hours.

The last hour of the day was spent at my desk starting to look at the history of Manx Radio, especialy around the funding that they have received from the taxpayers since the early sixties.

I continued to work on Manx Radio until around 21.00 before calling it a day, but by the end of reading through various documents and report etc , I realise that Manx Radio has certainly been a political football for kicking annually since around 1968.

Time to stop I feel…..

Thursday was also taken up with back to back meetings until around 14.30, mostly discussing Manx Radio’s report and their recommendations down for consideration in Tynwald on Tuesday next week.

My first meeting in DfE started at 8.45am in order to go through those Manx Radio recommendations particularly with one eye on the delivery of the TT and and Festival of Motorcycle in the future.

Back to the Tynwald building and straight into an Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee, which has several ongoing investigations at the moment.

From there the Director of Motorsport and I went up to Manx Radio for a meeting with the Senior Management at the station, in order to discuss delivery of the TT and their report etc.

Just enough time to park the car before running up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by the DOI on the Road Traffic Legislation (Amendment) Bill, which outlined various changes, which will also be considered in due course.

Finally got back to my desk mid afternoon but by the time I had caught up with various constituent issues, including going through a rental dispute and emails, it was time to head home.

After tea I still needed to go though various DfE budget papers ahead of meetings scheduled on Friday and Monday, before finally finishing at 22.00.

Just not enough hours in the day at the moment so I went into the office before 7.30am on Friday to prepare for another busy day….

First job was to pull together some information relating to the Area Plan for the East before I do a Manx Radio interview on Friday lunchtime.

I then headed off to the dentist for a quick check up, which should be my last visit for at least six months.

Back to the office to park the car before walking to the DfE for a pre-budget submissions team meeting.

Unfortunately, I had to leave that meeting early in order to go to the next room for a meeting with the Vintage Motorcycle Club to discuss the club’s decision to call a halt to the Jurby Day which is a big draw during the Festival of the Motorcycling.

From DfE I went straight up to the Barool Suite for a briefing and a schedule update for the Douglas Promenade Scheme by the Department of Infrastructure and the main Contractors.

The presentation gave an overview of the project so far, along with some of the difficulties they faced along the way, which I think we all acknowledge and accept.

Apologies were also given and promises made, but I am not entirely sure if the DOI Minister and the Department actually expected Tynwald Members to take a closer at the information on display, because none of the timelines outlined were given during the presentation.

Within a matter of minutes of reviewing the information I realised that the revised scheme for the promenade once again included major construction work on the hotel side during the peak summer period in 2020.

Clearly lessons still have not been learned, and promises made to businesses and hotels on the promenade have simply been ignored, in order to push forward the schedule within the timeframe.

I genuinely couldn’t hide my frustration at the briefing or towards the DOI Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK, especially as I am the political member responsible for representing the tourism sector on the island.

Politics isn’t easy at times, especially when you have stand up in a room full of political colleagues, officers and other professionals to say that the Minister or Department has got it wrong.

What is the alternative? Say nothing and wait for the fallout next year….

Some people in the Barrool Suite might have thought it was personal, which it wasn’t – it is politics and me doing my job to represent the tourism sector to the very best of my ability.

Personally I like Ray – we came through local authority together and he is a very approachable person etc, but my current role as a backbench MHK is to scrutinise the work undertaken by government departments.

Therefore, I have to seriously ask why questions around prioritising work on the seaward side during the summer months (April and August) and the work on the land-side, next to the hotels between September and March during the quieter periods in respect of tourism have not been picked up at the department level?

Where is the political oversight and scrutiny within the Department of Infrastructure in respect of a major policy that will seriously affect businesses and hotels on the promenade during the summer months in 2020?

Tynwald Members have had some very difficult briefings this week, but this particular meeting was the icing on the cake for me and I left the briefing with very little confidence in the revised schedule.

Unfortunately, I also had to leave the briefing slightly early because I had already arranged to do a Manx Radio in respect of the questions I have tabled in Tynwald next week.

Daphne Caine, MHK and I then attended a very difficult meeting with a local business, but unfortunately I can’t give further details at this moment because of the nature of the meeting, and given the fact this one could escalate through the government ranks over the next few months.

I decided to head home just 15.15 after what can only be described as a very challenging week, which will certainly carry forward into Tynwald next week.

As for the weekend, I still need to work through the Tynwald Order pack, as I still have several reports to read etc.