Quality of life
We should never forget that as a Crown Dependency we are in many respects an independent country. We have a very special culture and live on an Island that not only boasts superb scenery but ecologically and environmentally combined with our very unique culture has led to us being the only whole country in the world that is a UNESCO Biosphere. I was very proud in 2016 to support the Chief Minister in receiving our designation from UNESCO and I continue through DEFA to support that designation going forward.
The UK is no longer part of the European Union so all that was protocol 3 has fallen away but there has been an immense workload in ensuring that we are in compliance with UK agreements and after years of absorbing much EU legislation for trade purposes this has now been refined to what is required to enable us to continue to trade with the UK and then onto the EU.
There are opportunities and also risks, I believe these are manageable but have been compounded by the covid19 pandemic which has resulted in the need for support to various industries including Fisheries, an important industry in the constituency.
Not everyone in life is born equal or has equal opportunities but it is particularly important, especially on an island like the Isle of Man where there are some very rich individuals, that we ensure that the disadvantaged are not forgotten or pushed aside. Locally that means we must ensure a supply of affordable housing for the young and old and that the Social Service provision for the ill and disabled is world class.
The Isle of Man must come first. Whilst we can compete in the world of financial services, with the increased cost and benefit of our small Island economy to smaller businesses and in particular farmers, we must continue to act to protect these industries and put our own economic stability first. Taxes should be kept low. Parliament must exercise proper fiscal responsibility with robust scrutiny.
At the same time we need to grow our economy which will increase our tax base which at the end of the day is what pays for the good things we want, like health, education, law and order.
Historically we suffered a major blow when the UK arbitrarily changed the VAT agreement. Working with the UK and providing information particularly with regard to off island purchases the agreement has become more balanced and we have recovered some ground. The Covid19 pandemic has proved fiscally challenging with the need for personal and company support required over a number of sectors. We were fortunate with closure of our borders that internally the island remained open for business during most of the summer/autumn/winter period.
At the time of writing this we have unfortunately had to lockdown again and provide further support for our businesses across a wide range of activity.
With the rollout of the vaccine programme both here and in the UK there is an end in sight but unfortunately the financial fallout, mental and health issues will be with us for so
me time and will need careful management with prudent politics and certainly not an overreaction in trying to recover the fiscal losses in the short term.
Public services are important to everyone in the Isle of Man. People frequently tell me that our public service is too big, there are too many people working in the public sector and then in the same breath talk about road repairs being required, slow planning, a non-proactive health and safety executive, delays in the health service etc. It could and can be argued that in some cases inefficiencies and poor management are to blame and I for one welcome putting those things right. At the end of the day we are a small nation state with around 85,000 people and government is expected to provide all the services that people have come to see as the norm in the western world.
Perhaps more than ever the Covid19 pandemic has shown how important it is to have critical mass in things like healthcare and also resilience in other areas like food production etc.
Climate Change and the need to adapt will bring further pressures to bear on us all to make changes to way we live. The Climate Change Bill sets the scene but as the governments advisor Professor Curran has pointed out we need to be careful that we don’t go down blind alleys. I think everyone wants a greener more sustainable living model and I for one am all for working in that direction as soon as possible but not at the expense of our overall quality of life and provision of public services. Technological changes are happening at great speed and we need to be careful to adopt long term solution but don’t become redundant.
Human rights have been severally challenged during the Covid19 pandemic. I found it very difficult introducing regulations and laws that restrict freedoms. The sooner we can get back to individuals making their own choices the better it will be for society as a whole and I will be championing that. Our borders have been our best defence but are also our weakest point.
Good government means trusting people and business. Regulation should be as light as possible and support people’s aspirations for home ownership, starting businesses, pensions and health care provision. It should also support family life and marriage but offer respect for those who choose a different path. It should also promote activity that brings the nation together, promoting our Manx identity through cultural activity, sport and the arts. We should be proud of our whole country biosphere status, it’s a real accolade.
Government is perceived as government by most of the public whether it’s central or local. Unlike the UK we have only two tiers of government on Island that is Tynwald and our local Commissioners. I have been a Commissioner in the past and am aware of the limitations both financial and legislatively that contain them. There is a tendency on Island for people to go straight to their MHK’s but we should never forget that there are many local services that are delivered by Commissioners and it is imperative that central government and local authorises work together.
Immigration is not always a bad thing, if managed properly (we have a good work permit system) it can be a driver for economic growth, more working people means more tax paid and with a population that is on average growing older we need to refresh the workforce, bringing in new skills. Sadly a lot of our young people emigrate on completion of their education consequently immigration is a way of refreshing the workforce.
After all I wouldn’t be here and let’s face it, the island wouldn’t be what it is today without immigration. More active workers means a larger tax base and new skills, essential if we are to attract new and grow existing businesses.
On the other side of the coin, many Manx people work and travel abroad and no one would argue with their right to do this. The Isle of Man has no formal border control under non Covid19 conditions, people can move freely within the common travel area between the UK and northern and southern Ireland. Anyone can come and live here, our controls are around work permits. Recently it’s become evident that we have a fall in birth rate on the Island and an aging demographic. Less people paying tax and more people using our health services is not a good precursor for the future. Consequently we must accept that we need some immigration but that is the right immigration, people with skills and those that are willing to bring their families and buy into the Isle of Man ethos.