The announcement of government plans to purchase the Steam Packet Company caught Tynwald members by surprise.

MHKs and MLCs were invited to a presentation in the Barrool Suite in the Tynwald building at 9am on Tuesday – but were informed only that the topic was a ’briefing on capital finances’.

For those that had not read the Isle of Man Examiner or seen that morning, the briefing by Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan about the £124m deal to buy the Steam Packet came as something of a shock.

With little time for a question and answer session before the House of Keys sitting, a second briefing for politicians was organised yesterday (Thursday), again in the Barrool Suite.

After the Keys sitting, several MHKs said they needed to wait until Thursday’s presentation before they could pass comment.

Ramsey MHK Dr Alex Allinson said they were looking forward to the ’chance to ask some questions’.

Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer said: ’I think it is a really positive development. It is good for the island. It gives value.’

He said the operational side of the Steam Packet would not change. ’It will be very much as you were.’

Mr Harmer added: ’We are going to have a user agreement that is fit for purpose.’

Onchan MHK Rob Callister questioned whether the time was right to buy, rather than waiting until the current user agreement runs out in 2020-21.

He told the Manx Independent: ’We’ve had several briefings over the last year in connection with the Steam Packet and the user agreement.

’But I wasn’t aware of this announcement until I read it in the paper.

’I support the move to buy the Steam Packet but I do question the timing. I look forward to the debate in Tynwald for the reasons why they believe we should be buying it now and not wait until the end of the current user agreement.’

Former MLC Juan Turner posted: ’Incredible. Talk about paying over the odds. Having served on two select committees investigating the SPC running in to hundreds of pages, does the government not learn anything?

’We know all about the utter disaster after disaster of various schemes and operations the government run that lose money hand over fist.

’The government can’t even run a cafe without it haemorrhaging money – wait until they try to run a ferry company.’

Source: IoMToday