tynwaldThank you Mr. President 

Happy to second this motion from my Onchan colleague Ms Edge. 

The motion on the Order Paper is about establishing a Select of Committee of three members to consider and report back on the current procedure and process for regulating the conduct of Tynwald Members. 

These particular Standing Orders were only reviewed and updated back in June 2017, and revised again in April 2021. 

So why am I supporting the motion here today?

Mainly because over the past few months I have gone through the Standing Orders of Tynwald on so many occasions in respect of the “Code of Conduct for Members of Tynwald”, especially when presenting evidence to my own investigation.  

Annex 4 of the Standing Orders of Tynwald Court sets out very clearly the principles around good working relationships, the interaction between colleagues, staff and the public – it also covers bullying and harassment.  

Annex 6 of the same Standing Orders sets out the purpose of the Code, Duties of Members, and more importantly the general principles of conduct that apply to all Members of this Honourable Court in all aspects of their public life, and these include “integrity, objectivity, selflessness, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership”. 

So in theory…

….the general principles as outlined in Annex 4 and 6 of the Standing Orders of Tynwald should work, and to be honest I don’t think the Code of Conduct or the Required Standards of Conduct as written are wrong or in need of any further review, in my opinion. 

However, I genuinely believe that a full and proper review of the structure and membership of the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee should be undertaken, and as a matter of urgency…… 

…..and certainly before any other Tynwald Member finds themselves in the same position I faced back in April. 

Mr President 

Just to be absolutely clear with Members of this Honourable Court. 

I am not pointing any fingers and laying blame here, because I fully understand, acknowledge and respect that the members of the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee have an impossible job to undertake, especially when being asked to look into the conduct and behaviour of other Tynwald Members who are in many circumstances very close friends and colleagues…..

I also believe that a further review of the Interim Guidance of Handling of Complaints about the conduct of Members of Tynwald, which was only adopted on an interim basis on 23rd November 2022 should also be undertaken….

We are fortunate that the number of referrals to the Committee remains very low, but there does appear to be more referrals being made to this Committee during this particular administration compared to many other previous administrations…

…and that should be a serious concern for us all as Tynwald Members, especially when Annex 4 talks about building a constructive working relationship amongst Members and trying to resolve our difficulties by mutual agreement. 

Based on my own experience over the past seven months there needs to be far greater separation between any initial investigation undertaken and the review Panel or Committee who would be tasked to look at the final recommendations or to prepare a summary report for consideration by this Court.

More importantly, the final Review Panel or Committee should also be far more independent, and therefore it should include a mixture of Tynwald Members, lay members and other key individuals relevant to each particular investigation. 

Neither should we have a situation again in the future in which Members of this Honourable Court are being asked to vote on something blindly or without full access to all the relevant facts and information. 

Elected Members of this Court have an absolute right to see all of the evidence available, even if that means the information is restricted to a secure room, in order to ensure that when Members of this Honourable Court are being asked to vote on something so sensitive, it is actually based on a solid foundation of knowledge, information, evidence and fact….

….and not simply on balance of probability, friendship or hearsay, which cannot be defended by an individual under investigation.

Mr. President,

I really don’t want to focus my contribution here today on my own investigation, but I genuinely believe that any Member of Tynwald under investigation in future must have the right to see all of the relevant evidence being submitted to the Committee for consideration, and more importantly to be given a right of reply…

Although I was given a fair opportunity to respond formally to the submissions made by Members, but I was never actually given the same opportunity to respond to any of the evidence being submitted by Civil Servants. 

In fact….I’ve never actually seen any of their evidence, which was described by the investigator as compelling…. 

Unfortunately this unseen and unchallenged evidence led to a conclusion in the final report that I breached Tynwald Standards of Conduct by not acting in a manner consistent with the principle of honesty. 

Was that really a fair process and procedure for regulating the conduct of a publicly elected member of Tynwald….?

Mr President, 

I mention all that simply because if we are to take formal evidence from civil servants in respect of the conduct and behaviour of a Tynwald Member in the future…. 

….following the Interim Guidance on Handling of Complaints about the conduct of a Member, then we certainly need a very clear and defined process and procedures around handling this type evidence, because at the moment their evidence goes unchallenged by those under investigation, and that in my opinion is not a fair process and procedure. 

I would certainly expect civil servants to have followed the “Fairness at Work Policy and Guidance”, which is designed to support and to help protect all civil servants working on our island. 

I would also welcome the introduction of some form of appeal process before any final report comes before this Court for consideration, given its seriousness. 

This is mainly because I actually raised some very serious concerns with the Committee once I had sight of the final draft report….

….this was simply due to the fact that I hadn’t seen all of the evidence nor was given a fair right of reply in respect of some evidence being submitted. 

These concerns are listed as appendix 4 and 5 in the final report, which are publicly available. 

It was at this particular juncture that I desperately needed to seek some legal advice and support, and to have access to some form of appeal process, rather than at the beginning of the process when I put my trust fully in the Committee and its membership. 

However, it was too late because the report had already been drafted and the Committee had reached its final conclusions. 

In respect of changes to the Committee Structure. 

In the House of Commons they have an independent “Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards”, which has been in place since 1995.  The Commissioner is overseen by the “Committee on Standards”, which has had lay members on it since 2012, and since 2016 there has been an equal number of lay members and elected members. 

It is certainly something we should consider here as a Parliament.  

In Scotland they have an independent “Ethical Standards Commissioner”, but that particular role goes well beyond just looking at Members of the Scottish Parliament. 

Both structures deal with complaints about Members’ alleged breaches, and these can be reported by any individual, including members of the public, which is something we could also consider introducing ourselves. 

Our colleagues in Jersey and Guernsey now share a “pan-island Commissioner for Standards”, which was initially set up in Jersey in 2017 before Guernsey adopted legislation for the role to be shared between the two islands back in September last year. 

However, each jurisdiction has its own complaints system or procedure, and in Jersey members of the public can also make a formal complaint. 

Here on the island we have of course the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee, and a complaint can only be referred to the Committee by a Member of Tynwald. 

If a member of the public was concerned by the conduct of a particular Member of Tynwald, then they would have to approach one of their MHK’s or MLC’s to refer a complaint to the Committee on their behalf, and that needs to be reviewed. 

In addition to a full review of the Committee Structure, I would also welcome a further review of the Interim Guidance Notes on Handling of Complaints about the conduct of Members of Tynwald, especially when I have now seen the process and procedures in practice. 

The interim guidance notes outline an informal resolution and a formal investigation route, and I would also welcome a full review of these particular sections of the guidelines. 

The Committee also has the power to commission an independent officer to investigate a formal complaint, but the final decision still sits with the Tynwald Standards and Members’ Interests Committee, which is only made up of Tynwald Members, and that also needs to be changed in my opinion. 

As I have already mentioned that under section 53 of the interim guidance notes, the decision of Tynwald Court is final and there no appeal. 

Although I fully respect any final decision made by this Honourable Court, I do feel that an independent appeal process should be introduced before any final report is given to this Court for consideration. 

I hope Members will agree that our interim guidance notes issued in November 2022 and our Standing Orders do appear to be out of line with many other neighbouring Parliaments…..

…..and for that reason I fully support the Motion here today, in order to look again at the procedure and process for regulating Tynwald Members. 

Therefore I would urge Tynwald Members to seriously consider setting up a Committee of three, in order to consider and to report back on other alternative structures or options that could be used in the future….

…..instead of simply asking five or six of our friends and colleagues to sit, review and then pass judgement on others. 

In closing, I would to like to thank my Onchan colleague Ms. Edge for giving me the opportunity to highlight some of my own concerns from my investigation, but more importantly highlight where I believe our processes and procedures need to be updated as a priority. 

Thank you, Mr. President.