Monthly Archives: May 2016

27th May

Breakfast meeting with the Construction Forum at their headquarters in Onchan. An interesting meeting with a presentation from Treasury on procurement and an update from the CEO from DEFA on Planning Building Regulation and Health and Safety.

On to Swearing in Ceremony of our new Lieutenant Governor Sir Richard Hugh Turton Gozney in the Isle of Man Courts of Justice. The sun fortunately shone for the parades outside after the ceremony, then to Government House for a reception.

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25th May Islexpo Day

After last nights launch time to see whether this inaugural event was going to work. There were some excellent keynote speakers and workshops covering anything from digital data, social media, getting acquainted, funding and grants etc.

On the ground it looked like a reasonable turnout and it has now been confirmed that over 1500 people attended there were certainly a lot of island business people in evidence, of course with events like this long term results can take several years to come to fruition.

I was very impressed by Jim Mellon’s presentation ‘The third industrial revolution is here:how the island will benefit’ it was inspiring and scary at the same time as he explained the speed at which computer technology is changing our world, although slightly depressingly he explained computer chip technology using present materials has come to a halt in terms of miniaturisation which means without innovation which of course is probably in the pipeline, computers are not really getting any better its more to do with the aps and the technology that goes with them. He was quite blunt in as much that many of the ways in which we do business at the moment and existing big businesses will not be around in 20 or 30 years time but more worryingly for me with my role in DED in the Retail Sector he predicts the demise of conventional retail over the next 10 to 15 years.

A further keynote presentation by George Berkowski ‘The truth behind billion dollar aps and the next wave of opportunity’ also predicted complete change in the way we will do business with super aps such as Uber paving the way and overtaking conventional website internet marketing.

Later in the day a little less grounded, a lecture from Blaine Baggett from NASA on ‘The search for life beyond Earth’ appropriate really when we have an on island space industry and with Jim Mellon predicting reusable rockets he was suggesting that we might think of starting a space vehicle registry, now there’s a thought!

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24th May – Evening Launch of Islexpo

In the evening I attended the launch Gala Dinner of the inaugural Islexpo event designed to promote business growth and development on the island.

I met some interesting people who have come over specifically for the event as well as established business leaders, it was well attended and bodes well for the main event tomorrow.

An excellent talk by Sir Chris Hoy MBE explaining his inspiration and motivations for his cycling success which has much relevance to businesses starting up and looking to the future.

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24th May – House of Keys Sitting

A fairly short order paper, some 14 oral questions of which 12 were tabled by Mr Karran. Members voted to suspend standing orders to allow all questions to be answered as it is unfair on other members when Mr Karran’s copious questions are carried forward and squeeze out current questions from other members.

To be fair a number of his questions were very relevant, revolving around children and our adoption services and how parents who have had problems are able to prove themselves fit to regain custody of their children. Some interesting replies. I will be pleased when we are able to lay the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee inquiry into children and family before Tynwald, hopefully in June.

An interesting question on what happens if and when the Post Office is corporatized will it be competing unfairly with other providers with cross subsidy from profits generated in other markets.

Supplementary questions revolved around how Government could control senior staff salaries after corporatisation. I have to say this is one of my great concerns as it often seems that corporatized bodies that are basically still Government owned have no Government control over salaries and there is a tendency for senior staff to vote themselves much larger salaries for doing the same job.

From my prospective at present there continues to be no imperative to corporatize or privatise the Post Office whilst it is making Government a profit.

Mr Singer asked about the definition of Active Farmer with regard to ADS payments and the Minister believes that this will reduce the amount of ADS payment where farmers are not actively farming but there were no specific figures

A further question brought forth supplementaries about the lack of nursing homes on Island and there maybe future grants available for their development. We are certainly lacking nursing homes at present and something needs to be done in the short term.

The only other business revolved around consideration of council amendments to the Highways Amendment Bill 2015 which were none contentious and passed unanimously.

Lunchtime – Tynwald briefing by Isle of Man Steam Packet following the work we have done on the Strategic Sea Services Working Group. Members of the Committee including myself are no longer restricted in the information we can disclose and the presentation revolved around Isle of Man Steam Packet proposals for extending the present user agreement and also the future of a new Liverpool landing stage.

There is still some work to be done but I am hopeful that the offer of new vessels around 2020 plus retention of a reserve ship and a commitment to a competitive fare structure will result in an agreement that is good for customers, the Isle of Man generally and gives the Isle of Man Steam Packet a future as they employ a lot of people on island, have an island based management and having spent some time looking at comparative fares on others routes some of which are heavily subsidised in Scotland mile for mile the Steam Packets new proposals look competitive and realistic.

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23rd May – Proposed Reconstruction of the Highway and Footways in Higher Foxdale A3

I facilitated a meeting with Patrick Commissioners and Highways Engineers in connection with the above scheme. Explanatories required with regard to length of contract, road closures, alternative access.

It looks as though the work will start at the end of September and run for nine months. There is going to be disruption and the A3 will be closed for between eight and nine months. One of the main reasons for the meeting was to drill down on the detail and see whether this time scale could be contracted or at least partial opening of the road facilitated, but the depth of excavations and services already in the Highway preclude that. Sadly it looks like a much disruptive period but I think most residents of Foxdale agree that the work badly needs doing. More details to follow.

Later morning Strategic Sea Services Working Group
Almost a final meeting of this group, there will be public announcement tomorrow by the Steam Packet after a presentation to Tynwald members at lunchtime – more later.

A late lunch in Peel and a chance encounter with ‘Pullyman’ an interesting conversation and a great character. I understand that his appearances around the island have been a sell out.

20th May

Lunchtime – Government Actuary’s Department presentation with predictions for the future of our State Pension system and National Insurance Contributions. A very comprehensive and frankly demanding review giving us a number of options, in essence we are looking at sustainability in the short medium and long term trying to ensure that no one loses out and the same is affordable.

The outcome was really that there are many variables so nothing can be construed as a permanent fix and the same will be debated in Tynwald probably in July to set the scene for the next administration and try and ensure that this time it does not get kicked into the long grass.

20th May – St Johns School

St Johns School
This morning a visit to St Johns School with Ray Harmer MHK for a meeting with Headmistress Tracey Willoughby and a look around.

Another excellent school, well laid out with great facilities. I have visited before but it was good to reacquaint and explore possibilities for the future.

We were kindly invited to St Johns School PTA Summer Fair on Sunday June 24th at 2pm, a date for your diaries.

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19th May – Knockaloe’s Future

Knockaloe’s Future
Returned from the Jersey Conference at 5pm and almost straight down to Patrick for a meeting about the future of Knockaloe. This was a public meeting hosted by DEFA with a presentation from DEFA Minister Ronan. It was the third in a series and the culmination of a long work stream with consultation on Knockaloe’s future.

There was a good turnout and a number of valid observations particularly with regard to future use of the farm itself. There are some excellent plans for a Patrick Visitor Centre and footpaths around the site with plaques and varied views of how things used to be also linking the footpaths to the coastal way.

Expressions of interest will be invited next week via Chrystal’s so if you are interested in either looking at the proposals or maybe bidding for a lease then towards the end of next week give Chrystal’s a ring.

In the meantime I believe the site has great potential, as an addition to our tourist trail there are literally hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world who are related to people who where interned who form a reservoir of potential visitors as well as the general historic interest of the site where Pilates were conceived.

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News Release – Knockaloe Tenancy ‘a unique opportunity’

Submissions are to be sought from those interested in leasing Knockaloe Farm.

The plan presents an exciting opportunity for a private investor to breathe new life into the former World War One internment camp and experimental farm.

On behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), local estate agent Chrystals will advertise the ‘unique commercial opportunity’ next week, with a closing date of 22nd July.

Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: ‘This site has an important place in Manx history and is cherished for its natural beauty.

‘We hope to let it to an investor who will celebrate the site’s past and its significance to the area while unlocking its potential in terms of economic growth and increased visitor numbers.’

The Minister said his Department was keen to hear proposals that incorporated aspects such as visitor attractions, education, local food and heritage.

‘We are seeking an ‘anchor’ tenant who, hopefully working with other partners, will create something the Isle of Man can be proud of,’ the Minister said.

Full details of the letting will appear in Chrystals’ advertisements.

DEFA ceased to operate the 337-acre farm in 2010 and it has consulted widely with local MHKs, commissioners and the community over its future.

It updated the public on its proposals at the latest public meeting, held at Patrick Church Hall last night (Thursday).

The site will continue to house the Mart and the Royal Manx Agricultural Show.

In liaison with the new tenant, it’s planned to increase public access to the farm so even more people can enjoy it.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Annual conference Jersey

I have spent the last three days in Jersey with three fellow members Tim Crookall MLC, Bill Malarkey MHK, Jon Joughin MHK and our Chief Clerk Roger Phillips representing the Isle of Man at the 46th British Isles and Mediterranean Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Annual Conference hosted by the States of Jersey.

The Commonwealth seems remote to the Isle of Man and I have in the past been somewhat sceptical about such conferences as they tend to be a talking shop but I have to say that the networking opportunities and ability to learn how things are done in other jurisdictions has been a real eye opener. I will bring back some useful ideas. There were delegates from as far as St Helena and Falkland Isles.

There were five plenary sessions where we covered Voter Engagement in Parliaments, Social Media in Parliaments, Engaging with Young People, Improving the Public Impact of Committee (Scrutiny Reports) and Exploring Different Electoral Voting Systems.

Some of these sound fairly boring but in fact it was interesting to hear the views of the different delegates and in particular about the different voting systems around other jurisdictions.

System simplicity and access seem germane to voter engagement and looking at the systems in Jersey and Guernsey which are quite complicated, leads me to believe that whilst we complain about Tynwald and our Parish system it is probably on the right track.

There is talk of a single legal entity for Government in the Isle of Man but it is plain to see from experiences in Guernsey and Scotland that this does not remove intergovernmental competition for funding nor result in any real savings and in fact probably involves a major expenditure in changing the system.

We had a presentation on E-Government and Digital Rollouts, the tell us once philosophy sounds very attractive in principle but its application is likely to be more difficult with concerns over security and confidentiality of information.

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