Tynwald Sitting reconvened at item 9. Amendments to the Equality Bill. Despite the fact that this has now passed I have long thought it is a potential minefield and as we are now moving amendments before the Act has received Royal assent my fears are being realised.
Item 17 Licencing and Registration of Vehicles Act 1985 brought forward a lot of debate. As I am in charge through my department of Climate Mitigation Strategy I was in favour of the zero road tax for electric vehicles which falls in line with the UK and the general increase in vehicle licence cost in line with inflation over the last two years. However, some members weren’t and there was a lot of debate. The reality is there are around 200 electric cars on the Isle of Man at the moment against nearly 90,000 vehicles! However a valid point made about having a 6 monthly licence and licence refundable not just on export or scrapping makes good sense. The differential between co2 emissions and engine size which pre dates co2 emissions and still applies to a number of legacy cars i.e. older cars, is not right and needs addressing.
Finally I thought the two last items, item 27 structure review of public services would bring forward some debate. Miss Edge who moved the motion had tried on two previous occasions to bring the same forward. The motion was that there should be structural review of employees within the civil services terms and conditions at executive officer level and above and this should be carried out by an independent body which would report to Tynwald in 2018. My feeling was that this is far too larger scale review which would have the potential to cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds, demoralise staff who are in the main hard working and at the point of implementing our Programme for Government. I felt that a sample of positions independently reviewed would be far more appropriate and an amendment carried that the terms of reference timing and proposed cost of structural review should be approved by Tynwald before the review process starts.
Finally items 28 public libraries and their value particularly with regard to the mobile library engendered a lively debate with all members seeing not only the educational value but particularly with the mobile library social and community value. Consequently an amendment carried that a committee of 3 members would be appointed to investigate the adequacy and structure of funding of library provision on the island and report back by June 2018.
From my experience of the libraries in the UK I believe this is a sensible way forward and will look at using libraries for community services that we have etc, which may give them a new lease of life.
Lunchtime saw me at the first meeting of the select committee appointed yesterday to review the functions of Tynwald setting out a timetable which is quite tight.
Sitting resumed at 2.30pm but finished just after 3pm, then to Peel for a meeting with Ellan Vannin Fuels firstly at their Peel depot then to their offices in St Johns.
An interesting meeting, they are an off island owned subsidiary. They were very keen on their community involvement credentials as well as sourcing much of their shop produce locally and sponsoring in a low profile way at many local events.
From an environment point of view I was interested to hear that there is a new form of diesel available (GTL) which I hope will in due course come to the island that offers reduced emissions of regulated pollutant such as nitrogen oxides particulate matter, carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons.
This is apparently being rolled out in Europe and UK as a friendlier version of conventional diesel which may help lessen the vilification of diesel cars.
It also gave Minister Harmer and myself an opportunity of teasing out the Foxdale Post Office situation.
Instead of closing the Post Office counter in September Ellan Vannin Fuel have now agreed to keep the same open until the end of the calendar year and as part of the shop refurbishment the shop will include a Post Office counter.
However negotiations with the Post Office will result in either 3 full days of operation or 6 half days and the community have been asked to respond to this.
We are informed that if sales are maintained or improved then the Post Office counter will remain open. So it’s now up to residents to use it or lose it. I thank Ellan Vannin Fuels for at least giving the Post Office counter a chance of proving itself.